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Timing is Everything!

A neighbor recently gave me a tour of the boat he and his wife bought. They purchased it from a couple who spent their savings preparing it for an extended cruise, outfitting everything just the way they wanted. But the couple's dreams were shattered, and instead of taking their cruise they sold the boat.

After buying the boat and retiring in their early sixties, the two original owners both had strokes! They kept the boat for another ten years, but by the time they reached their seventies it was obvious that the dream cruise was not to be. This tragic story has played out many times, not just for would-be cruisers, but for all manner of people with hopes and dreams. Indeed, timing is everything, and in life, when we do things is just as important as what we do.

At the higher levels of sailboat racing, getting a good start can account for 80-90% of the race, with much of the start being about timing. In major league baseball, the margin of error in the timing of the batter's swing has been estimated to be seven thousandths of a second. In the Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps won the gold medal in the 100m butterfly by a margin of only one one-thousandth of a second. Even the timing of when we eat and exercise matters. It is now understood that changing the timing of our meals can help burn fat and produce better health outcomes, while people who exercise in the morning are three times less likely to skip a workout than people who exercise after work.

The difference between a long foul ball and a home run is timing!

And then there are decisions. Sometimes we do things before we are ready, but more often we wait too long to make the decision. According to retired general Colin Powell, he would wait to have about 60% of the required data, then use gut instincts, intuition, and personal experience, to make the call. We can fail spectacularly by doing exactly the right thing, and with great execution, but at the wrong time. Consider the fall of Blockbuster Video, a well-managed company that missed its opportunity to get into digital distribution because they did not recognize the timing of the sea change that was happening.

And haven't we all had the experience of missing a plane, train, bus, or boat, by mere moments, only to have that cascade into a huge disruption in our plans and schedule? While it may be an overstatement to say that timing is EVERYTHING, the importance of timing is widespread throughout sports, business, investment, and all aspects of life.


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