Time is a perception

I still remember when I was assigned to a team of 10+ members a year ago. It was exciting and challenging at the same time given the team was on another continent, entirely new to each other, and we were in different time zones too. Like many other teams, we went through the “Form, Storm, Norm and Perform” process but much more dramatically than the other teams.

Things went terribly wrong with arguments, stress, politics and all sorts of negative feedback. I was on the edge and worked 12 hours a day, but it didn’t seem enough to make our team any better. Especially, I am a very strong person, or at least I’d like to think so, and sometimes my personality got in the way to make the situation even more intense. I raised my concerns; people kept telling me over and over again “give it some time, it will be better, you guys have just started” . It didn’t settle me. I didn’t agree time would fix my problem. I changed the plan; I flew 10,000+km to sit with the team, I tapped their shoulders and asked for an update twice a day, I solved any problems they might have right away. I challenged and encouraged everyone to work toward our goal. We committed to release 8 projects in one month time, and if we reached our goal on time, we would go rafting together. I must tell you rafting was awesome, 20kms down the river, through rocks and waves, you could imagine the rest. Time was not what fixed our problems. It was us and lots of hard work, an extensive amount of collaboration, inspiration, determination and motivation that made a great team. The note they gave me said “You are crazy, and we love your craziness.”

Let’s look into another example. If you look into chemical reactions, classically, they encompass changes that involve positions of electrons in the forming and breaking of chemical bonds between atoms, with no change to the nuclei. In nuclear chemistry, they involve the reaction of unstable and radioactive elements where both electronic and nuclear changes may occur. Almost everything in life is essentially reaction and interaction. One will be the result of a chain of reactions and be the prerequisite of others. Time has nothing to do with it. It’s the speed of reaction and interaction that decides the period of the process.

Biotech is another great example. It took the Human Genome Project 7 years, from 1990 to 1997, to sequence 1% of the human genome, mathematically it was predicted to take another 693 years to complete the whole process. Simple math x = ((7/1) x 100) – 7. However during the next 7 years, the amount of sequenced human genome doubled up every year. The Project was completed in 2001, early and under budget. NDA sequencing of one whole human NDA Profile cost US$10,000 in 2007 which reduced to US$1,000 in 2014, scaled 10,000x in 7 years. Time didn’t play a great influential role here. It was not time that decided the period of the process. In the 1900s, the industrial age, it took 20+ years and hundreds of thousand of people to build a billion dollar organization. Moving to Information and Innovation age, a team of 20 – 30 people could build a billion dollar organization in a third of the time. In business, timing is what draws the very fine line between success and failure, not time!

Let’s soften our talk with a bit of love. Recently, I had a great chat with a friend and we both agreed that time does not heal your broken heart. Couldn’t agree more! People often say, “Time heals.” Nope, it’s not time, dummy! It’s you who heal your heart. It’s what you do along the way that heals the wound. It’s the new people whom you meet, the new things that you focus on, the positivity that you get from other sources that heal you. If you do nothing and keep wailing your pain, you will be forever in pain and die with it eventually.

Time does not make you old; it’s the oxidation process that makes you old. Google “Why do we age?” You will understand that ageing has nothing to do with time. Time does not make us any smarter in our human evolution. Humans are born as babies, blank as a white sheet of paper. Then we grow up, and we learn, we fill in the gaps and paint our minds with different colors of life. If you stop learning, you will stay exactly where you are while the world keeps moving forward, without you.

So let’s say your success formula is f(x,y,z, Time), you give Time a great deal and believe everything depends on it. Remember Time is not elastic, stretchable or extendable; that’s why we have “deadlines”! If I remove Time from that formula, I’m no longer limited by Time, in other words, a limited, fixed resource. Now I can add more of other elements such as workforce, innovation, technology, and so on… to speed up my process. I can think and do things in many different ways, I can look at everything from other angles, innovate and disrupt the status quo.

Time is a perception that we make up to measure an unmeasurable unit. When you say 1 day or 1 year, it’s as similar as 1 km of distance and 1 liter of water or a little more than half a mile of distance and roughly 33 ounces of water. Time is the most untouchable and unaffectable element that I have ever come across. You can’t change it or do anything to it, it just stands there and terrifies the hell out of you, like a clock with unstoppable moving hands. However, it’s not the time that matters; it’s what you do with the time that matters.

I had written this blog before I started reading the book “The Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking with the hope that I could capture my own thoughts before they became influenced by others’ thoughts.