Dang! Is Timing Really Everything?
If there is one regret most of us have, it's "bad timing"...
If we're honest, we've all spent time regretting the timing of events in our lives. If only we bought Apple stock when it was $22 a share (in 1980 at its IPO). That one share - in part due to stock splits - would be worth ~ $28K today. If only we had sold our Enron stock when it was $90.75 a share on August 23rd, 2000 instead of later when it dropped to 12 cents (on January 11th, 2002). Don't even get me started on Bitcoin!
We can think of times when we should have moved faster or moved slower, made a decision to speak up in the moment or hold our tongue. We are time-bound creatures with no way to avoid that reality - but we can do something about the regret.
We can avoid regret about "bad timing" by becoming more conscious of time in general. It's very common to feel like we have nothing to say about "timing" - it just happens to us, doesn't it? In reality, most "bad timing" regret is created by our unwillingness to be intentional about how time bound our decisions are. Let me give you a few examples - and I will apologize in advance if they seem clichéd or maudlin.
Everyone Is Given The Same Amount Of Time Each Day
I'll offer the lyrics to "Season of Love" from the Broadway musical "Rent" to make the point we forget that we have a specific allocation of time in a year - 525,600 minutes. There can be no additions to this allocation, no way to borrow from the past or stash in the future. When these minutes are spent, they are gone forever. To be even more specific, today you are allocated1,440 minutes to use in some manner - sleeping, eating, working, exercising, talking with friends, researching Bitcoin investment strategies, watching YouTube videos, Zoom calls, playing with your kids, doing household chores... and we tend to be relatively poor stewards of those minutes unless we are vigilant and aware that their passing can not be undone.
“Give People Their Flowers While They Can Smell Them”
Not to be morbid (on top of clichéd or maudlin), but I've been to a lot of funerals that had mountains of floral arrangements - have you? There's nothing wrong with giving flowers as an expression of compassion or sympathy but I've often wondered if we shouldn't focus more on flowers for the living? The reason we often fail at this is humans have a tendency to avoid thinking about the fact that "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..." and we don't take advantage of the current (and never repeatable) "NOW" to act in an expression of gratitude, concern, appreciation or love - you get the idea.
The Future Is The Result Of Today's Investments
A last example to consider - when do Olympic hopefuls start working with their coach(s)? It's not 3 months before the start of the next Olympic Games and it's not 3 years before the trials for the next Olympic Games. As soon as there's a glimmer of a desire to compete at an Olympic Games level, the athlete makes the investment to surround themselves with coaches who can assist and guide them in preparing for the ultimate athletic challenge those Games represent. That investment doesn't mean they will win or even make the team but without a proper grasp of the time (and effort) it will take to prepare, the probability an athlete - other than Forrest Gump - will realize their goal is statistically ZERO. It's the "Law of Compounding Interest" in non-monetary terms but there is a common thread - you won't receive interest off an investment unless you have made that investment.
Don't Think Like Uncle Rico! (Finally, the Napoleon Dynamite payoff!)
A central character in the cult classic "Napoleon Dynamite" was Napoleon's Uncle Rico. Uncle Rico was a funny but somewhat tragic figure because his life's trajectory was forever altered on the day his football coach failed to put him into the playoff game in the fourth quarter, keeping him from scoring the winning touchdown and (as a result) stopping him from "going pro, making millions of dollars, living in a big old mansion somewhere, soaking it up in a hot tub with my soulmate." It's not hard to understand why Uncle Rico is also interested in time travel - giving him the ability to go back and make things different.
But Uncle Rico doesn't realize is that being transported back in time to the championship game would not make everything different. Instead, he needs to be transported back to his freshman year, where he could start the process of becoming the hardest working, most devoted football player on the team. Every day, from his freshman year to that fateful day he's dreaming about, he would need to be the first one on the practice field and the last one off. He would need to be the one who listened closely to the coaching staff when they gave him pointers on his style or the skills he needed to sharpen. And if they weren't giving him enough coaching to raise the level of his play, he needed to go find someone who could. He would need to invest in developing the skillset required to make a coach's decision to put him in the 4th quarter of the championship game a foregone conclusion. That, my friends, is where Uncle Rico - and we - get lost...
Being time-bound creatures, we need to become increasingly aware of how we invest our time and ensure that we are doing things today that position us for that success we are looking for in the future state. We need to do things today that will properly position us for the success we are looking for. And just as importantly - we need to do the things today that will allow us to avoid the unpleasant consequences of not being intentional today.
Let's get very practical - how would you rate the investment of your time in:
Meaningful significant relationships (spouse, kids, friends & family)?
A healthy "you" that will be able to tackle life's challenges and enjoy the ride?
Your professional skill set (books, courses, coaching, mentors)?
Your "spiritual" health - your connection with things that are bigger than you?
Giving back to your community and making the world a better place?
None of this is to say we can't (or shouldn't) relax and recreate - we need that too! This is not an either/or scenario but simply a reminder that the best way to avoid the regret associated with "timing is everything" thinking is to be a better steward of the time that we actually have today - right now!
Thank you for investing your time to read this - let's make the future a better place to be!
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