Ask a baseball hitting coach, “What is the single most important factor to a great hitter’s success?” Is it their strength and power? No. Is it their size? No. How much practice they perform? Yes, but practice improves most factors, it’s not the skill itself. Is it good hand-eye coordination? Bat speed? Not exactly but you’re getting close. The success of a great hitter comes down to this – how often the bat meets the ball at the intended location on the ball and the intended place in space.
In other words: Timing.
How often do we hear someone tell us that “Timing is everything”? Well it may not be everything but it is such an important factor in so many consequences to warrant a discussion of its importance. On a technical basis, ranging from the internal combustion engine (think your gas-powered car) to the electronics device you are reading this on, timing isn’t an after thought. It IS the thought. For virtually everything using modern technology, proper timing is mandatory for proper function. It simply doesn’t work if not timed correctly.
I’m not a baseball player, you might say, nor an engine designer, so why should I care about timing? How about if you’re a politician, comedian, or actor? What about a writer, business person, or anyone that’s ever been in a relationship? If you perform an internet search on famous people who’ve said that timing was critical to their success, you might be surprised to find a wide range of people from all walks of life that attribute their success to good timing.
Knowing when is the best time to do something, anything, can make the difference between success and failure. It certainly isn’t the only factor in success, but depending on the circumstances, it can often be the largest. That’s certainly true in business. Remember the Apple Newton? Hint: It was a ‘smart’ device, capable of keeping your calendar, editing documents, reading your handwriting, had a touchscreen, and you could play games on it among other features. No, you don’t remember it? That’s because it was introduced in the early 1990s and failed quickly. So how can a device similar to what most of us use today have failed so badly? It was simply ahead of its time. In fact, some would say that all ‘smart’ devices (or PDAs as they were called) might have been ahead of their time in the 1990s. The Newton and its competitors (Palm Pilot, for example) went by the wayside relatively quickly. Along with feature issues, the consumer was simply not prepared to incorporate their use on a day-to-day basis. By 2000, few people used them at all. Fast-forward 10 years from the Newton’s discontinuation, when touch-screen technology is massively improved, the internet has exploded, and technology becomes essential to the everyday person, and Apple takes a similar, albeit far better product (the iPhone) to the moon. The timing was now right.
Whenever I have a new product, idea, or company I want to start, I always consider timing. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars creating products that I’ve had to shelve because I failed to consider the timing of their introduction. It doesn’t mean one day I won’t be able to sell it, but at the time, I failed to see that it wasn’t – the right time. I don’t do that anymore. I perform test marketing. I perform consumer surveys. I gather as much information as I can on the usability NOW for a product before putting in motion the actions to build it. I seek out forecasts in the area that I’m working in to understand where the masses believe it is heading. After all, where the consumer masses believe something is going, it tends to go.
As for my personal life? I just believe – Believe that timing is indeed critical. With many decisions it’s sometimes never the ‘right time’. But, there are certainly better times than others. Consider the decision of when to start a business. Starting a business at any time may seem challenging, scary, or hard work. But if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have waited until my late 30s to start my first business, I would’ve done it in my 20s. Ideally, the best time to start a business is when you have the least amount of obligations to others. It’s hard enough to keep that ball rolling until you achieve critical mass, but when you have to consider the time spent on your spouse or family, or keeping up payments on a mortgage, it makes succeeding in the business harder.
Similarly, one has to consider the best times to be in serious relationships. When I was starting my first business in 2010, my restaurant-owner Lynne told me, “Chris, don’t have a girlfriend when you start your business. She’s going to complain that you don’t spend enough time with her…” I ignored her. And found she was right. In the end, I couldn’t keep up the 80+ hours a week I was spending on the business and a relationship at the same time. It wouldn’t have mattered if I thought my girlfriend was the perfect person for me in every way. The timing wasn’t right if I wanted that business to succeed. Lesson learned…
I did meet a woman one year after starting my first business. She was intelligent, beautiful, charming, and I wanted badly to see where the relationship would go. But I’d learned my lesson. I was still working many hours on my business, and I decided it wasn’t the right time. Fortunately, she understood because the timing wasn’t right for her as well.
2 years later, my business was doing great and we reconnected. The timing was now right. Today, we’re married.
Finally, I timed it right. And hit a homerun.