Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom): a tendency to take action opportunely. Not tied to past accomplishments, not attached to any outcomes, you’re free to take effective action. [It’s another water thing, I am thinking. If you watch a stream, you notice that the water moves the best way it can over, under, around…and gets to the sea eventually just doing that. Cool.]
I bet you’ve heard it a time or two, the old chestnut about how “timing is everything.”
I bet you’ve noticed that there are times when everything you do is magic. It all works. The pieces easily slide into place and the thing you’re doing takes off, dragging you along with it.
Other times, I bet you’ve puzzled over why nothing you do or make or try – no matter how sensible and sincere, no matter how much earnest effort you put into it – just sits there like a lump as you sink slowly down into the Valley of Despond, a bristle of arrows stuck all over you.
It would be a wonderful thing if it always worked out like these looping motion graphic animations designed and produced by Stockholm-based artist Andreas Wannerstedt and collected in this 2018 YouTube video published by Fluid Art Studio.
The video is part of a series of wonderful “Artist Spotlight” videos curated by artist-vlogger Nicky James Burke. Her collection of Wannerstedt animation loops that have been shared with thousands of followers on Instagram was shared by her with permission from the artist.
Burke dubs herself an “acrylic paint pouring, fluid artist.” Her own offerings are another fascinating glimpse at working with flow.
Wannerstedt crafts 3D sculptures and then uses them to make his looping animated bits that he posts on his Instagram page. The page has over 600K followers.
You can click the button to check out his page. Be prepared to get lost in there for a while. They are remarkably arresting.
Wannerstedt’s bits of beautifully ordered motion are vaguely based on real world behaviors but, probably, no real-life industrial designer will ever be able to reproduce them. Like the classic “perpetual motion machine,” the things are wonderments that will remain in the Dreamtime.
Pesky things like material tolerances, and forces like friction and gravity have a way of gumming up the works.
It doesn’t matter. All that endless flow of motion of the cleanest order is wonderfully soothing to a jangled brain.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TIMING
America’s top unicorn investor Bill Gross is the founder of Idealab, the extraordinary startup incubator based in Los Angeles that has helped to launch many a wild-eyed dreamer’s vision.
He got curious about why some of these start-ups succeeded beyond their Maker’s wildest dreams while others, which were as good, just whimpered and faded away.
Gross gathered data from hundreds of companies – his own and other people’s – and ranked each company on five key factors. He shares his findings in this short 2015 TedTalk, “The Single Biggest Reason Why Start-ups Succeed.”
In the video, Gross explains how, based on his twenty years as a highly successful groomer and nurturer of unicorns, he came up with the five key factors that make up any kind of business. These are:
- Business Model
Gross tells how he set up a study of 200 companies – 100 of which were connected to Idealab and another 100 which were not. He used his knowledge, experience, and intuition to rank the strength and effectiveness of each of the five factors for these individual companies.
He crunched the numbers, and the result surprised him. The old cliché, “timing is everything,” proved to be true. More than any other factor, Timing played a major role in the success or failure of the companies he studied.
SO, WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED TIMING?
The ancient wisdom wiseguys keep telling us that time is just a human construct. They say it really does not exist except in our human minds. We made it up and now we play with it (and are played by it).
This YouTube video, “The Psychology of Time” is a TEDTalk published in 2009 featuring the influential American psychologist, author, educator and deep-thinker Philip Zimbardo talking about his then-new concept of Time Perspectives.
Zimbardo talks about how we humans tend to divide up time into categories – past, present, and future — and how we play as a result of the Time perspectives we choose (often without thinking) to use when we are doing our dance in the world.
According to Philip Zimbardo, all of the Time Perspectives and their variations are tools we can use to help us walk through the world in the best-for-us way possible.
The book Zimbardo wrote with his colleague John Boyd in 2008, THE TIME PARADOX: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life, is an in-depth exploration of the concepts the good doctor presents in his talk.
Many of the ideas in the book have since found their way into more recent offerings on the self-help shelves of your local bookstore, but this one is one of the earliest attempts by the guys in the white lab coats to get a handle on that slippery construct called Time.
(Whether it “changes your life” or not will depend on how you read it and what you take and use from it.)
The key thing Zimbardo tells you is the same thing that ancient wiseguys have been saying forever:
In order to deal appropriately with whatever is in front of you, you have to let go of being tied to past accomplishments and forgive yourself for all the old mistakes and messes, and you cannot get lost in your future visions either.
In other words, the only time that you have any power to affect anything is NOW.
The question then becomes what can you do NOW – in the middle of the world as you know it – to move what you want to do forward?
TIMING = YOU + YOUR PROJECT + WHEN
Zimbardo’s book is a great guidebook to all the different ways you can look at time and how using them affects you and what you do. It (and others like it) can help you figure out why you are doing what you do in your everyday dance and can provide tools to help you dance better.
However, at the end of the day, knowing why you do what you do is just a part of the whole time/timing equation. Your WHY, let’s face it, does influence what you do, but it may not really give you any clues about the WHEN to do what you want to do.
As any good fisherman will tell you, knowing when the fish are running your way makes a big difference in how much fish you will catch.
The big problem is the world and Life Its Own Self is way too big for one little person to suss out. You can never encompass or embody all of the everything all by yourself. That is just NOT going to happen.
A whole crew of people – peers, mentors, and minions – all together cannot figure out the absolutely right WHEN. Adding in electronic brains and nanosecond-fast number crunching machinery just makes the confusion bigger faster.
What will happen if you try to focus on all the possible variables that can affect your moves and the timing of them is that you’ll drive yourself nuts and go into lockdown (analysis-paralysis) or else you’ll say, “Whatever…,” shrug, then take off running in every direction all at once and turn yourself into a drooling mess (burnout).
OUR HUMAN BIRTHRIGHT (WE ARE BORN TO DO THIS)
This does not mean, however, that you need to give up all hope of successfully making your dreams come real. It does not mean you are doomed to spin your wheels in some mud hole or other, digging yourself deeper and deeper into the suckiness of it all.
Think on this:
Appropriate action in the middle of untenable situations or problematic circumstances is actually a human birthright.
We were born to do this, guys! How the heck do you think any of our ancestors ever managed to survive their mean old world long enough to produce offspring? It’s hard-wired into our DNA!
We are the descendants of survivors. (Yay, us!)
AND THEN, OF COURSE, THERE’S NOW
The wiseguys tell you that NOW is the only time you can do anything, big or small, that will make any kind of difference in your life and in the world.
And they also tell you that all you really need to know — the only action you need to take if you are trying to make an effect on the world — is the all-important Next Move.
After that, in the next moment (or maybe a week from next Tuesday), you get to make your next all-important Next Move.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
The question then becomes: What is your all-important Next Move going to be?
FIGURING OUT YOUR NEXT MOVE
Productivity guru David Allen is my hero. I stumbled over his first book in the pile of old books at a Maui Friends of the Library book sale recently and re-read the thing again.
It made me remember the origins of a number of practices and mindsets I’ve embodied in my own life as a result of reading his work.
That book, GETTING THINGS DONE: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, is a winner. It was published in 2001.
This YouTube video, “Getting in Control and Creating Space” was published in 2004. Allen did this TEDxTalk at the TEDxAmsterdam event.
In this video, Allen presents his “Natural Planning” model. It’s a five-part process and the sequence of it is all-important. Here’s how it goes:
- PURPOSE. The first thing you have to do is figure out what you want to accomplish.
- VISION. Next, you need to picture what success will look like.
- IDEA. Then, you are ready to consider all the options and actions that are available to you that look like maybe-ways to bridge the gap between your vision and what is currently in your world.
- STRUCTURE. Once you’ve got a bunch of ideas, you look at them all, then choose the best ones (three at most) that can get you moving on the road to where you want to go.
- You organize the things, making sure that the ones you choose are just maybe doable.
- Then you choose the best option of those three.
- NEXT ACTION. You slice and dice that idea until you come up with a bunch of stuff you can actually do to further your cause. Every single action-step has to be just one, very specific and pertinent move.
And that there is your all-important Next Move. Keep all the other ones and put them in order of what-comes-next after you make your first move and then the what-comes-next after that and so on and so forth.
Your plan is ready to go. You are ready to go. So, go….
Allen does say that people tend to stall out after they’ve come up with their Natural Plan because “most people don’t trust that they know how to plan.”
He tells them, “Don’t worry. You’re a natural, as long as you want to be.”
Here’s a poem….
TERZA RIMA STUTTER
Everything is up in the air
And the dance stutters to a halt.
Here’s me as wallflower, a sigh in a chair.
I’m rarin’ to swirl and vault…
But, aw, nothing’s righteous in ‘tween-time.
(Look back, and you’re a pillar of salt.)
Ahead, only detours and slime…
Yuck! The flow’s gone all aglay.
No running, no rhythm, no rhyme.
There’s gotta be a better way
Than sitting here all in a grump.
Isn’t there some other way to play?
Some way to get over this hump?
Or better still…
Let me outa this dump!
By Netta Kanoho
Header photo credit: “At the Edge of the World” by Lauri Sten via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]