I had the honor of working with one of Canada’s great Alpine skiers. Near the end of his career he was fortunate enough to win a Super G World Championship race by .45 of a second, but the next day, he lost the top of the podium by just .12 of a second!
Think about that for a second (which is more time than the time he had to win or lose by the way!), how little time that actually is!
Take out your cellular phone and go to the stopwatch mode. Set it up and push the button as fast as you can to start it and then stop it.
How long did it take you to stop and start it?
I bet you could not stop it in under a tenth of a second.
Probably the first time you were up around .3 or .4 seconds. Isn’t that crazy? In the time that it took you to simply start and stop a stopwatch, someone’s life will be in the winner’s circle and someone else’s will not!
Why is this important?
Basically, it’s that time is of the essence, but not necessarily the way one would expect. You see, we would normally react to this concept by saying that in order to win, or to reach above your competitor, or simply be better at what you do, you have to go faster, do more, and just get after it.
You need to succeed, not fail.
But that’s not what I am saying. In fact, I want you to think of it from the exact opposite perspective.
I want you to think of it not in a manner that should cause anxiety, or stress, or a sense of urgency. Don’t think of it as a win or a loss, or a success or a failure, but think of it as an opportunity.
Life is about every moment. Every moment has an effect on our lives.
In the movie “Sliding Doors” when the main character played by Gwyneth Paltrow arrives at a train she needs to catch, the movie plays the moment out in a tale of two choices.
In one scene she catches the train, and then shortly thereafter, the scene plays over again and she misses the train. The rest of the movie is played out revealing what might have happened had she made the train, and what might of happened had she not.
The moment of catching or missing a train can change your life.
More importantly, we understand these metaphoric forks in the road are happening every second of every day or every tenth of a second.
Neither story that gets played out is the best one or the worst one, they are just the story that gets played out. In every life story, there will be moments that we have been socially influenced to view as positive and moments that we might regard as negative, or as some would say successes or failures.
You won or you lost.
But are they really successes or failures, or are they actually just opposite sides of a piece of blank paper ready for the next line to be written?
In “Sliding Doors” catching the train, which would normally be considered a positive outcome leads Paltrow’s character to the disparaging reality that her partner is cheating on her, which would most likely be considered negative!
The point is to label the outcome as our failure, not the outcome itself.
The outcome just leads to other moments, moments we need to embrace, live, and experience.
Moments create the shape of our lives while we live them.
The paradox of .10 seconds is that the choices you make along the way change the outcome.
Sometimes very slight course adjustments can be the difference between winning and loosing, or the difference between making the sale, not making the sale, or getting the project or not getting the project.
So the key is not to overthink each moment or try to pre-define each moment but to spend more time in each moment. Live it rather than manipulate it because all of the above examples are neither successes nor failures but just further opportunities.
There is never just one race, one project, or one sale, there are many, and each one offers you an opportunity to refabricate your pathway, make choices, and find a new line.
Stop thinking about the one result or the outcome and start investing in the moments and the process. Understand that by beating yourself up about every choice you make, you slow down, and that by thinking too much about how you will get there or what you must do better to get there, you lose time rather than save time.
We get so focused on being first, or being the best, that we lose track of the fact that what separates first from second, or second from third is tiny adjustments, momentary risks, instantaneous challenges, and many things you can’t control. So stop trying to control them, stop trying so hard to win, and focus more on the process of getting there, and the feelings you have along the way.
Looking at life as a constant flow of opportunity and not as a journey to a destination, with hardened socially acceptable outcomes will allow you to live in the moment, live freely, and realize that life really is about letting go, not holding on!