Just A Minute?

or –

Just A Minute!

The great strategist Napoleon has said that he was able to win so many battles because he understood the value of a minute. In The Art of Maneuver he is quoted as saying:

It may be in the future that I may lose a battle, but I shall never lose a minute. … I act not by laws but by minutes.” -Napoleon

Napoleon was talking about how to strategically use timing. That is, a strike on the enemy at just the right time was far more effective than the identical strike at a different time. A maneuver executed at just the right moment, when the enemy was advancing, was far more effective than the same maneuver executed when the enemy was nowhere in the vicinity.

Life is no different for the rest of us. The same rules apply.

When I was a little punk kid I got a really cool electric guitar and I thought I was the 8 year old Ace Frehley of KISS. I jumped around holding my guitar, catching all of the poses and randomly plucking strings in a way that I thought looked cool. Yeah, just like you see in the pic at the right … but without the hair (well, that was the 70s … maybe I did have the hair too — Mom?).

It may have looked cool … but it sounded like hell! Nary a musical note ever came from that guitar until the day it died. Grandpaw always used to watch me with amusement but would kindly say

“learn the timing”, “work on your timing”, “it’s all about the timing” – Grandpaw

Yeah, ok Gramps — whatever! (was what I thought but did not say). You see, Grandpaw wasn’t a guitar player but what he was trying to tell me was that the way to make music was to learn to effectively time the placement of the fingers on the neck with the strum of the strings to make the musical notes. Ha! What did that old timer know???

He didn’t understand that this was hard rock guitar — not that old hillbilly stuff like he was talking about. Hard rock guitar was different — he just didn’t get it. Eventually I moved onto a new phase and forgot about the guitar.

That didn’t stop Grandpaw. On many of my other adventures, whether it was learning to shoot a flying duck, hit a baseball, ski a slalom course, or any number of other things, Grandpaw always said the same thing:

“learn the timing”, “work on your timing”, “it’s all about the timing” – Grandpaw

Gratuitious picture of Bob LaPointe, my waterskiing hero

… again, “yeah, ok Gramps” … whatever … it’s not like you’ve ever skied through a slalom course being pulled 36 mph like Bob LaPoint — what in the heck do you know?”


Well, it took well into my 30s before I realized, um, yeah … right.

Grandpaw was right about each and every one of those things. So was Napoleon. Correct timing of

  • striking the enemy wins the battle
  • maneuvering out of the enemy’s path avoids destruction
  • strumming the chords makes music — not noise
  • pulling the trigger shoots the duck
  • swinging the bat hits the ball
  • acceleration, deceleration and turns gets you through the slalom course

Now here’s my challenge for you: think about how many other things in life depend on the right timing, whether in your personal life or in your professional life. How many times would one minute have made a difference?

  • calling home 1 minute before getting the call of “where are you?” is responsible — one minute later and you’re in trouble
  • calling the client or customer with a status update 1 minute before they call asking for it makes you proactive and responsive
  • filing that document at 4:59 is timely whereas 5:01 means a notice to your malpractice carrier
  • walking into a meeting 1 minute before the other participants makes you appear one way, 1 minute after is quite another (and there may be a strategic reason for either!

These are just a few examples that randomly came to me as I was writing but we all know there are thousands of others.The point is, however, that to some people, having only a minute is often an excuse not to do something while to others, it is an opportunity to do something at just the right time — with only a minute to spare! How you view a minute — understanding that timing that is key to all of life — may just change your life one day. Gramps understood this and finally, after so many years, so do I. Oh, and by the way, timing in playing hard rock guitar is no different than any other, just in case you are still wondering!

Leave me a comment and tell everyone what your example of a 1 minute difference maker would be (and we all know it starts with conception … so move on to something else! haha). Do it NOW — don’t let someone post exactly what you were going to say one minute before you do!

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