It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. It’s all about having a good intuition for when the time is ripe for making a move. It’s all about timing. Timing is everything. The easiest part about the importance of timing can be explained with practical examples.
You should buy a stock when the price is low and sell it when the price is high. To be delicious, every meal has to be cooked just right. You don’t ask for a raise when the company is about to go bankrupt. You don’t ask your friend for a favor or go partying when one of his grandparents just passed away.
It’s a little harder to parse what right timing really means. In this blog post, we will do exactly that. Why does it make sense to do that? Because you are the one controlling timing. You are the one taking action. Even if you do nothing, that is your move.
You are the one with a specific life strategy and tactics. And you definitely must count timing into your strategy. To understand timing, you have to first really well understand the connection between your goals and your environment.
“The right timing” analysis should always be part of your Goal Journey Mapping.
A connection between your goals and your environment
There is you. There is you, together with all the goals you have and the moves you want to make. And there is the environment you operate in (the external environment). The environment are all the external forces you have to stir. In general, we can divide the external environment into the business one, where you make money, and the personal one, your home life and relaxation time.
Your environment consists of different non-key and key relationships, trends and paradigms, social norms and values, developmental directions, other people’s goals, common social goals and visions of humanity, and many other factors. Here are the most important ones for both environments:
- Business environment: Boss, coworkers, mentors, stakeholders, market trends, company’s goals, company’s culture, economic situation, opportunities available etc.
- Home environment: Spouse, family, friends, family culture, family goals, country you live in, domestic values, infrastructure etc.
By making a move you create a change in the environment. You shake the environment at least a little bit and that causes stress. Every change is always stressful for a system, processes and people involved (and an opportunity for everyone affected).
We could say that by making a move you form a new small force and all the elements affected in the environment have to respond. They become polarized, they have to be for or against your move. They have to declare themselves as blockers or backers.
That means that for every one of your actions, there is a reaction in your environment. The key idea is that you want to align your own goals (or to be more exact, the path how you will get there) with environmental forces as much as possible to cause the least amount of stress and friction. Nevertheless, there is always stress present, which leads us to the change “formula”.
If you want to successfully make a move, the force of the resources available to you (energy, time, money etc.) together with all the backers has to be greater than the force of all the blockers and effort needed to achieve the goal. If you want to easily achieve any goal, you want to have a huge difference between the forces, in your favor. The right timing is nothing but a mechanism for balancing blockers and backers in the right way.
Successful affected change = Your resources + Backers > Blockers + Effort needed
Backers, blockers and neutrals
The forces in your environment can either support your goal achieving, block it or they have no effect on it at all (neutral effect). The forces can be clearly seen or they can be hidden or at least very well disguised. You always have public supporters and haters (well, haters gonna hate), and hidden cheerleaders and enemies. Backers and blockers are not only people but all external forces.
For example, if you want to start your own business and your wife supports you, the chosen market is growing fast, you have access to capital and you already have a team of people in place, these are all backing forces. Your best friend convincing you that starting your own business is stupid, a health issue that you currently have and fierce competition are all blockers and obstacles on the way towards achieving your goals. Your mother-in-law convincing your wife that she’s crazy for supporting you is a hidden blocker.
For every goal you want to achieve, there is first the natural effort needed. If you want to move an object from one place to another, you have to put some effort in. Besides the natural effort needed, there are additional outside forces that make your object moving easier or harder, as we have seen. One big positive advantage are your resources (inner and outer resources).
But there are also always backers and blockers influencing the effort needed. Blockers are always present (and hopefully also backers). The blockers demand additional energy investments to achieve a specific goal. They are the ones messing with your right timing.
The hidden or visible forces in your environment in relation to your goals are:
- Backers – People and forces (market trends, tech trends etc.) supporting your goal
- Blockers – People and all different kinds of forces working against your goal
- Neutrals – People and various forces that don’t affect you (but can quickly be turned into backers or blockers)
Regarding these forces, there are a few simple rules. You want to make sure that blockers aren’t too strong. Neutrals can also very quickly turn into backers or blockers. If needed, you want to convert as many neutrals into backers as possible. For many of the neutrals to step on your side all is needed is a little push or an honest talk. At the same time, you also want to make sure you aren’t creating new unnecessary enemies.
Now here is the key part, so let me repeat this sentance again:
The right timing is a mechanism for balancing the forces of the investment needed, blockers and backers.
Since timing is everything, here is how to hit the right timing
Now that we understand the importance of the environment, it’s time to take a step further. You manipulate backers, blockers and neutrals (people, market forces etc.) with the mechanisms listed below.
- Find the right context
- Directly reduce the friction
- Mobilize enough resources
- Stay flexible and align your goals with the environment
- Listen to yourself very carefully
Now let’s explore each of these tools.
Finding the right context
The first rule of right timing is to find the right context. You need a very strong context that supports your move. When you find the right context, your move can be seen as natural and as effortless as possible. With the right context, it should be obvious for the thing you want to happen to really happen. The good news is that you have a lot of power to create the right context.
Let me give you a few examples:
- You ask for a raise, because a coworker just got a raise. Bad context.
- You ask for a raise, because you just brought a big new client to the house. Good context.
- You see a movie star walking on the street and you ask her out, because she is so awesome. Bad context that will probably get you sued.
- You meet a girl at a wine-tasting event, you talk about common interests for hours and then you invite her for dinner. Good context.
- You have a line of people who want to buy a product you are making as a hobby and so you decide to start your own business. Good context.
- You just lost your job, you have no idea what to do with your life, so you decide to start your own business. Bad context.
- You were studying a particular investment type for months, you analyzed the markets, risks and rewards, legal aspects of the investment and decided to make a move. Good context.
- A salesman convinced you to invest into a mutual found, because now is the right time to invest, now is the right time to make money. Bad context.
- You made a new friend with whom you exercise a few times per week and as a nutritionist professional, he explained how to make a transition to a healthier diet step by step without damaging your health. You decide to follow his advice. Good context.
- You just had a burnout and you decide to go on a diet. Very bad context.
As you can see, there are several ways how you can get to the right context. The best way to create the right context is to follow the so-called micro-conversion strategy. You make a series of small moves that lead to the context that enables you to make the big move successfully.
We do that all the time in online business with micro-conversions (subscription to a newsletter, leaving an email to download a file etc.) that lead to the macro-conversions (buying a product). Here are examples of such micro-conversions you can use in personal life that create the right context and that slowly leads you to achieving your main goal:
- You achieve something that is important for the environment, and then you ask for something that is important to you in return.
- You engage in a new more proper environment or social group.
- You make sure you get the right people involved, the ones you already know or new ones.
- You prepare an extremely persuasive presentation based on superior insights.
- You empathically listen to what the needs and problems are, and you find connections between solutions and your own goals.
- You wait for a change in your environment that becomes your opportunity.
By changing the context, you can reduce friction a lot. By changing the context, you can get yourself to much more suitable timing. The right context often leads straight to yes. But sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to directly confront the blockers to additionally reduce the friction. When changing the context doesn’t convert blockers into backers or at least into neutrals, direct friction reduction is the strategy to go after.
By creating the right context, you can simply hit much better timing.
Directly reducing the friction
The second rule of the right timing is to directly reduce the friction as much as possible. All the environmental forces that are working against your goals are causing friction. They are the ones creating bad timing for you.
Friction is preventing you from making your move as smoothly as possible. Friction is bad, it means you have to use more resources to make your move or to get even more backers to support you, which again requires additional investments. No friction present means that the timing is perfect, a lot of friction and blockers means that the timing is awful.
Changing the context can reduce some friction, as we’ve discussed. But sometimes changing the context doesn’t do the job. You have to directly confront the opposite forces. Many times, the friction is only a result of poor communication, lack of understanding, stereotypes, general opinions and lack of knowledge. You can address these issues with better communication.
The second big reason why friction is happening is because there are no benefits and rewards for the blockers. They lose something and gain nothing. So you can reduce friction by redistributing rewards or adding new rewards for certain parties involved. Doing that in a legal way means finding a better “win-win” deal. An illegal way would be bribery, which I strictly dissuade you from. You can also reduce friction by lowering the margin costs.
Here are a few options and examples of how you can directly reduce the friction:
- Have a vision that is inspiring and creates a lot of monetary and social value for everyone involved.
- Talk face-to-face with people who are blocking you and try convince them of the cosmopolitanism and greatness of your goals. And don’t forget to list their benefits.
- Comfort any fears before making a change, make sure people understand your goals very clearly, and smash any general negative opinions with arguments. Bring data as proof.
- Reduce any unnecessary margin costs, like unnecessary logistics, unfair costs etc.
- Look for a better win-win situation.
- Talk with people when they are in a good mood, positive and happy.
If there is no friction, the timing is usually perfect.
Staying flexible and aligning your goals with the environment
Achieving your goals and visions is never a straight line, but always a path full of detours, setbacks, steps back and adjustments. Thus the third rule of the right timing is to stay flexible. If you want to achieve your goals, you need many creative ideas for how to overcome different obstacles. By staying flexible you can influence the timing by:
- Waiting for better times
- Speeding things up to make sure the window of opportunity doesn’t close
- Changing the direction a little bit (branch pivot)
- Changing the direction a lot (fork pivot)
- Leaving goals behind and going after another goal (deciding the timing will never be right)
You can do a lot in your environment to reduce friction, but most often you also have to align your goals with the environment at least a little bit. You make sure the environment takes one step towards your goals and you take one step towards the environment by aligning your goals with the environment.
In practical terms, staying flexible means that you are able to easily disinvest your resources (ego, beliefs, values, time, energy and money) from one thing and start investing them into another that has bigger potential or works better. Being flexible means you have no problem to stop doing one thing, and start doing another. Disinvestments can be big or small, depending on the friction in your environment.
Branching and forking is the strategy that can help you stay flexible. Branches in personal life are small deviations from the main path, micro adjustments and mini new experiments you decide to perform in order to find a better way to achieve your goals. They are not-too-big diversions from the main path that don’t require any colossal changes in strategy.
Forks are a little bit different from branches. They are bigger pivots in your life. They are bigger changes you make in order to go forward. You take one big project or activity into a completely new direction. You take what you’ve learned, you keep the good parts, but the general direction changes a lot. The main idea of branching and forking is that you reduce friction based on the feedback you get from the environment.
Environment constantly changes and the amount of friction with it. Sometimes you just have to wait a little bit for the perfect timing.
Your resources greatly influence the right timing
As you have seen in the formula, there is one more important aspect in achieving your goals. Your resources. Having sufficient resources greatly influences if the timing is right. It’s obviously a no-brainer. If you don’t have enough resources, the timing is never right.
Your resources can be internal or external. It’s best to have the right combination of both. Internal resources are your competences, knowledge, skills, willpower, creativity, innovative ideas and everything else that is a part of your personality and your agency, the ability to influence your environment.
Your outer or external resources are all the beneficial elements to your agency in terms of money, connections, contracts, assets and everything else that gives you power in the society and isn’t a part of your personality.
If you have no external resources, your internal resources must be really huge and you need the right combination of them to influence the external environment in any way. That is what self-made entrepreneurs usually do.
When you are looking for the right timing, always compare the resources available to you with the effort needed to achieve a certain goal. If the gap is too big, accumulate enough resources first; then you can easily hit the right timing.
If you don’t have enough resources (inner, outer or both), the timing is never right.
On evolutions and revolutions
There is one more important aspect of environmental changes. Changes can happen as an evolution or revolution. Outside changes can happen in a sustainable, predictable way or unexpectedly in a disruptive way. Evolutional changes are quite predictable.
If you analyze the trends, paradigms and projected developments on different markets (and even individual’s behavioral patterns), you can very easily align your goals with the human and markets evolution. Part of hitting the right timing is to analyze and understand these changes.
Revolutionary changes are much trickier. They are impossible to predict, they happen suddenly, and they present great threats as well as great opportunities. When a revolutionary shift happens, new winners arise and many successful people fall to the bottom. You must always be on prey for the revolutionary changes.
If you sense such a revolutionary change before everybody else, you can hit the right timing big time. It's what massively successful people do. They are the first one in a new industry that has potential to grow huge.
Much like you can be quickly risen, you can also be quickly destroyed if you don’t keep track of the changes in the outside environment. If you ignore (r)evolutions happening, you can hit the worst timing ever to be anywhere on top or anywhere newar. I raised a VC fund just before the financial crisis. It was awful timing. That was a big and hard lesson for me that markets always win.
Your timing greatly depends on how you align your goals with evolutionary and revolutionary changes. Paying attention to what’s happening to the environment must always be part of your superior life strategy. Understanding your environment is an important part of smart work.
Every revolution begins with a spark. Pay attention to the sparks; or start one.
How do you know your timing is bad?
You may not have the power to always hit the perfect timing in life, but you always have a chance to greatly improve your odds. As we’ve looked at many different ways how you can improve your timing, there are also a few huge red flags indicating that the timing is not right.
The first huge mistake you can make is not to pay attention to the timing at all. In 99 % of cases when you act impulsively, the timing is wrong. You may get lucky from time to time, but that isn’t even close to enough to be really successful in the long term. You want to be smart, not only lucky. If you have invested zero effort into hitting the right timing, there is definitely room to optimize the decisions of how and when to make your moves.
In the same way, you may feel deep down that you aren’t ready for a change yet, but push it hard. There is absolutely never the perfect timing for anything, but there is a big difference between making a smart move and taking a smart risk or making a stupid decision. If you feel deep down that the time is not right yet, if you’re only trying to fake it until you make it, without adequate resources, strategy and commitment, you are only going to hurt yourself.
You may not have the power to always hit the perfect timing in life, but you always have a chance to greatly improve your odds.
The next big mistake you can make is to go against the markets and other environmental forces based on wrong assumptions. Wrong assumptions are the mother of all fuckups, including assuming that the timing is right when it’s not. When you are trying to do something opposite from the majority, you need to have real data to confirm your hunches. You need superior insights to hit the right timing. So ask yourself, do you have superior insights that support the move you are about to make?
Last but not least, the timing is definitely wrong if there is no justifiable effort-risk-reward factor. Effort is needed to achieve any goal and there is always some risk that you won’t achieve the goal and will only lose resources. You want to find opportunities where risk is low, effort is optimal and reward is huge. That means hitting the right timing. If the ratios are off, you should definitely wait for better timing or reshape your strategy.
Timing is everything, so start calculating it into your moves
In the high-tech startup world, timing is everything. If you are on the market too early and the market is not yet ripe for the new technology, you fail miserably. And if you are on the market too late, only breadcrumbs are left for you. Unless you really know how to refresh and reinvent a stable market (like Virgin Corp often does).
It’s no different in personal life. With the right timing, you can achieve your goals with substantially less effort and much lower risk. So it’s definitely worth it to take timing into consideration and calculate it into your strategy. Always mind the timing, always calculate if your decisions about when and how to make your next move are safe and sound.
As we said, you are the one choosing the timing, you are the one who has the power to create the right circumstances. Here is the sum of all the tools you can use to hit better timing:
- Make sure that Your resources + Backers > Blockers + Effort needed.
- Create the right context where your move seems like a natural and expected thing to happen.
- Analyze and always mind the paradigms in the environment – evolutions and revolutions.
- Mobilize enough inner and outer resources to successfully make the move.
- Use the micro-conversion strategy to lead things to the perfect timing step by step. Them make the big move.
- Directly reduce the friction as much as possible with honest and persuasive communication.
- Find as many backers and supporters for your move as possible.
- Turn neutral forces into backers.
- Brainstorm new win-win situations that could greatly reduce the friction.
- Wait or speed things up if possible and when necessary.
- Make a small or big pivot and adjust your goals to environmental forces (forks, pivots).
- Make sure you are confident about the change (you are ready for it deep inside).
- Leave goals behind if the effort-risk-reward ratio is not justifiable.
- The only way you can hit better timing than others is if you have superior insights.