Slow Down You Crazy Child

“Vienna” was written by Joel and released as a part of his 1977 album The Stranger, but it wasn’t the hit then that it is today. In fact, “Vienna” was released as the B-Side to “Just the Way You Are,” indicating that Joel likely believed the song’s destiny was to remain a deep cut, buried in his discography. Today, however, the tune is one of Joel’s most streamed songs. On Spotify, for example, “Vienna” is the second most played song from the Piano Man. How did this happen? “Vienna” simply grew on people; it aged well. And with a boost from the wide-reaching influence of social media and streaming platforms, “Vienna” has become one of Joel’s most beloved tunes.


The Meaning of “Vienna”

Most broadly, “Vienna” is a metaphor for growing older. It is, though, an unusual carpe diem-styled song. Rather than encouraging its listeners to grab the bull the horns, “Vienna” suggests that everyone take the time to smell the roses.

“Slow down you’re doing fine

You can’t be everything you want to be before your time

Although it’s so romantic on the borderline tonight.”


So, Joel’s opinion of aging is a positive one as he proclaims that there is so much life to live in quote-unquote old age. Further, the literal place of Vienna stands to represent the decades that many have to make the most of this crazy thing called life.

“But you know that when the truth is told

That you can get what you want

Or you can just get old

You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through 

When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?”


Inspired by Joel’s Father

In this song, Joel’s perspective on getting older almost entirely stems from hearing his father’s take on aging. His father, born Helmut Joel in Germany (he later adopted the name Howard), was a pianist and businessman who felt out of place in the United States. When Joel was a child, his father and mother split with Helmut, returning to Europe—Vienna, Austria to be specific.


“He went back to Europe and I pretty much never heard from the guy again,” Joel said in a 2008 interview. “I didn’t know if he was dead or alive. When I did my first tour of Europe, I was in my early 20s, and I was looking for him… I got word that my father was working in an office in Vienna, Austria. I said ‘Oh my God, he’s alive.’”

Upon hearing this news, Joel went to visit his estranged father in Vienna. Soon after, during a walk around the city with him, Joel was struck with the inspiration for his song of the same name.

“We were walking in the city and I remember seeing an old lady sweeping the street and I said, ‘Dad it’s kind of sad that that poor old woman has to do that kind of work.’ He said, ‘No, she has a job, she feels useful, she has a place in our society,’” Joel recalls.


Billy Joel Thoughts on Aging


“I realized they [Europeans] don’t throw old people away like we tend to do here in the States. They allow for people who are aged to have a useful place in the scheme of things, and I thought, ‘ya know that’s a good metaphor for someone my age to consider.’ You don’t have to squeeze your whole life into your 20s and 30s trying to make it, trying to achieve that American dream, getting in the rat race, and killing yourself. You have a whole life to live. I kind of used ‘Vienna’ as a metaphor, there is a reason for being old, a purpose.”

All in all, “Vienna” sounds like a pretty nice place to be.”


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How to Slow Down 

Let’s talk about how to slow down and stop feeling so overwhelmed all the time. Now, you need to know that slowing down takes a ton of discipline. You’ve got to choose to go against what the rest of the world is doing. But it’s worth it—I promise.

Here are a few practical ways to slow down.


1. Pay attention to what gets your attention.

Part of the reason we stink at slowing down is that we try to divide our attention between a million things all at once. We think multitasking will help us get more done, but it really only leaves us stressed and frazzled.

One way to address this is to spend some time considering where your attention is directed—the people, thoughts and circumstances that you focus on the most. If you don’t like what you discover, it may be time to make some changes.

2. Be present.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Just be present. Just be where you are. But if it were easy, we wouldn’t struggle to do it. In our busy lives, with so much competing for our attention, it feels almost impossible to focus on what’s in front of us.

That’s why you should take some time to identify what gets in the way and keeps you from being present. When you do that, it becomes easier to guard your attention so you can live in the moment.

So, ask yourself, What gets in my way? What keeps me from being present? Make a list, then think through how you can put guardrails around the things that come up.

3. Put the cell phone away.

Yes, it’s time for the cell phone talk. Truth is, we’re addicted to our phones and the temporary rush we get from looking at them. The noises, alerts, dings and little red dots keep us feeling hurried because there’s always one more to check.

It’s like we’re on call every minute of every day and the entire world is competing for our attention through news, social media, texts, emails and app notifications.

You’ve got to stop letting your phone run your life. Don’t give it the power to steal your time, attention and peace of mind. You’ve got to set boundaries around your phone so you can control it—not the other way around.

It may be time to delete social media apps from your phone and just keep your accounts on your computer. Or maybe you need to lock your phone away in a drawer or container when you get home from work until your kids go to bed.

Look, drastic times call for drastic measures. It’s time to take your life back and stop letting your phone own you. That’s a huge key to slowing down your mind.

4. Focus on the people in front of you.

When we rush through life, we often push people to the side—whether they’re friends, family or even the cashier at the grocery store. As a result, we miss out on relationships, and those are super important.

You need to stop, slow down, put your devices away (yep, we’re really hammering that one home), look your loved ones in the eyes, and spend quality time with them. The connection that comes from those moments will help you slow down and be at peace.

5. Drive the speed limit.

If you want your world to slow down, you might make some progress by literally slowing down your car.

Forcing yourself to drive the speed limit and experiencing slowness on a physical level will help you slow down mentally and emotionally.

6. Accept your limitations.

Do you ever feel like it’s your job to save the world? Have you ever signed up and said yes to something you didn’t even want to do because you worried that if you didn’t show up, the whole thing would fall apart?

Accepting your limitations allows you to give yourself some margin for rest, and you need that.

7. Make time to have fun.

The older we get, the harder it becomes to make fun a priority. We might even feel guilty for having fun—like it’s a luxury we can’t afford. Or we might completely forget how to have fun in the first place. But you’ve got to slow down and make time to have fun, because it recharges your batteries. It lets you laugh and connect with people, and it infuses your hectic life with some much-needed joy.

So, what do you enjoy doing? It could be taking a cake decorating class, traveling, training for a race, or even playing video games. Whatever brings you joy, whatever reminds you of what it was like to be a kid, make time for it.

8. Practice silence.

Most of us aren’t very good at being still. After all, we live in a world full of noise where it’s possible to fill every single second of our day with a song, podcast or TikTok. All those options and distractions often cause us to lose touch with the world around us and ourselves. But what if you could just stop? What if you could tune out the world for a little bit? And what if you could replace it with silence?

Here’s one way to make that happen: For just one week, try spending all your time in the car in silence. No radio, podcast or music. That will definitely help calm your mind, and you may even decide to make it a permanent part of your commute.

You can also choose to be intentional about literally scheduling periods of silence throughout your week. Put “Time to Be Silent” on your calendar, and make sure to keep that appointment. However you decide to make time for silence, just do it. You’ll be glad you did.

9. Journal.

One of the problems with being too busy is that we don’t make time for reflection. We never pause to check in with ourselves, think back on the day, or consider whether we even like how we’re spending all that time.

The best way to fight back against that kind of mindlessness is journaling. It’s an awesome way to slow down and connect with yourself. If you’ve ever had a regular journaling time, you know just how valuable it is.


If you need help with slowing down and redesigning your life for peace and lasting happiness, reach out to me below.