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Let's say, if the first step of the reaction is the slowest step, the overall reaction cannot proceed any faster than this first elementary step. So the slowest step is always the rate- limiting step and therefore it determines the overall rate of the reaction.
I agree with the comment above. If you want to conceptualize it I considered limiting reagents from earlier this year, where the limiting reagent determined the overall amount of product created. Similar to reaction rates, the overall reaction is depended on the slowest elementary step, and so we focus on this steps effect on the rest of the reaction. Totally different topics, however the idea is relatively similar.
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