About intensity vs. consistency

Consistency, patience, and hard work can shape better organizations and better designers

“Great culture—no matter where we are no matter how big the organization—is not about intensity, it’s about consistency. You can’t get into shape by going to the gym for nine hours. It won’t work. But if you work out every single day for 20 minutes, you will absolutely get into shape.

Intensity is like going to the dentist. It’s fixed in time, we know exactly what date we’re going, we know how long we’re going to be there, and we know that when we come out our teeth will feel smooth and look pearly. But if that’s all we do, all our teeth will fall out. In other words, intensity is not enough. So we’re also supposed to brush our teeth twice a day for two minutes in the morning and two minutes in the evening.

What does brushing your teeth do for two minutes? Nothing. It does absolutely nothing. Unless you do it every single day.

Can you leave out a day? Sure.

How many days can you leave out? I don’t really know.

How many times you have to brush your teeth before before it works? I don’t know that either.

And this is why companies don’t do it.

Because we like intensity. We like things that are fixed in time and easily measured.

We want to make leaders, what do we do? We have a company offsite, we invite a whole bunch of speakers, everybody gives the event an 8.5.

Leaders? No. No. We like intensity.

How do we fix broken companies? Reorg. New management. Aha. We can see the results. Layoffs. We love it. Look at the savings. Yeah, in the short term.”

Simon Sinek

RSA has turned that presentation into a really good animation, here:


I’m usually not a fan of motivational speeches, but this one really resonated with me. Consistency is how I deal with most things in my life and my career. From the way I nurture relationships, to how I solve design problems, to how I mentor designers, to how I approach writing and blogging.

Intensity brings instant gratification, but also ends up creating professionals that are weak and brittle inside. You only become a specialist in something when you spend 10,000 hours doing it, over and over and over. Consistency, patience, hard work. One-hit wonders fade away pretty quickly.

Designers, brush your teeth everyday.