We’d love to hire you – just not right now.
I’m sorry, I’m just not ready for this relationship.
That joke is inappropriate!
I caught you in the nick of time!
That song moved me.
We got in just at the right moment.
You should have seen the look on their face!
Oh no I left it in the oven for too long!
Sorry we’re closed.
This steak is tough.
It was our anniversary yesterday, not today.
Oh my gosh, that’s so 1980’s.
Um, you missed out sorry.
Timing rules our lives. From cooking an edible meal to a decent sleep, spending time at work versus with friends or getting a late payment fee, timing is the backbone of our day.It’s started and ended wars, started and ended relationships and created (and lost) riches.
Most timing is relatively innocuous; a coffee now or in ten minutes probably won’t matter. Other timing however is kind of a big deal. A speeding fine, missing the shops for dinner, running a red light and getting into an accident; you get the picture.
Building a newspaper or a DVD rental company right now is likely to be bad timing. Selling easter eggs right now is possibly bad timing. Proposing to the girl you met yesterday is probably bad timing. There’s no coincidence that movies and songs vying for awards are released to cinemas and radio stations just before their prospective ceremonies.
If your timing is just a moment off, it can mean the difference between victory and defeat. One step early or one step late could mean life or death. I think my mate Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday sums this up nicely.
From the boardroom to the dating dinner table, you can have everything aligned and you’re perfect on paper; you expect that you’ll be showering in victory any day now. So why doesn’t it always work out this way?
Music might be the same few chords but it’s how it’s timed that creates the movement. Jerry Seinfeld built a career out of stating the obvious – he was just very good at timing his delivery. Steve Jobs was a master at timing his marketing pitch and revealing the product with maximum suspense.
Politics, advertising, business, pop culture, fashion and the arts are all about timing. Too much too soon is just as detrimental as too little too late. It’s a constant juggle to get the timing just right. Those who get it right (and whom we celebrate) also get it wrong; they just don’t focus too long on the times they got it wrong. Everyone else who gets it wrong, also get it right but these people let the failures dominate their world.
Sometimes there’s an obvious signature to timed success; sometimes it’s a complete leap of faith. Sometimes the product is perfect and the need is high, but people just aren’t ready. Do you wait? Do you move on?
One could argue that serendipity isn’t a phenomenon but rather just an alignment of timing and the ‘stuff.’ Poor timing doesn’t mean the stuff you did was ‘wrong’ or less valuable. Would you try again if I told you that your work was great but the timing wasn’t right?
When my watch battery died, it read 12:14 for about three weeks before I got it repaired. I still wore it due to force of habit and people would comment that my watch was wrong. I laughed and quipped that rather, twice a day, it was right on time.
If it feels like the planets are aligning for you, appreciate that you matched timing with the ‘stuff’. If it feels like they’re not aligning for you, just realise that the timing may not be matched with your ‘stuff’ at the moment.
With this knowledge, you can choose to shelve it until the timing is right, force things against their will to ‘make it work’, pivot slightly to align with the market (sometimes at the cost of originality) or focus on something completely different that would be better timed.
The fact timing exists is why you get that euphoric high when you get the last item on the shelf; it’s also the cause of the sleepless nights about the opportunity that was so close but fell short.
Timing will be regularly on your side, so embrace those moments. It’s important to celebrate your victories and share it with others. Don’t bask in your own glory indefinitely as it can be embarrassingly short-lived; instead humbly enjoy the acclaim.
Timing will also be regularly off side and you must embrace those moments too. This is why musicians keep practicing, sporting heroes get faster and why entrepreneurs get smarter. Don’t wallow in your own failure as it can be painstakingly long; instead humbly enjoy the lesson and get back on your horse.