“Get ready for take-off and wait for my signal.”
I raise my eyes to the bayonet catch that dangles above my head and pull sharply at it to make sure it’s closed. Next I check the chinstrap of the helmet and take a final look at the Velcro fastening of the parachute. There is nothing more to check, and I’ll have to face up to what is coming.
My hands enclose the aluminum frame, and the wind takes control of the nylon cloth. I stare at the row of wind vanes that mark the path, the path toward the abyss. Jesus Christ, what on earth have I gotten myself into? How could I ever be such a fool to volunteer for this nonsense? Have I gone crazy? The vision of a cartoon, featuring Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote, flashes through my head. Wiley is outfitted with a set of wings of the ‘ACME Wing Company’ strung to his back and is waiting for Roadrunner to come racing by. He will then plunge off the mountain with the intent of turning Roadrunner into a tasty meal. Regardless of what Wiley cooks up in his brain, the outcome is always the same. He will crash but then miraculously reappears onto the scene, fully intact for his next attempt. He keeps trying but never succeeds. The next time he may turn up with a gigantic rocket motor on his back or with a truck load of dynamite. This time it’s the ACME wings. Looking at it, you know right away what is going to happen. He will crash to the ground. Upon landing, you’ll see a cookie-shaped hole punched out in the desert soil. The only difference between Wiley Coyote and me, other than the shape of the crater, is that I won’t revive within a few seconds for another try. This is probably my one and only chance.
Douglas is standing some fifty yards from me holding the megaphone, keeping an eye on the wind. In mere seconds an eternity of feelings of terror rushes through my body. It is now or never. Dear God, if I survive this I will never do anything stupid for the rest of my life. I’ll always behave, brush my teeth, curse no more, do my homework, call my mother, donate all my savings to charity, do volunteer work. I promise God! Honestly, I’ll better my life. Just let me live, save me! I can still mean so much for you! Just give me one more chance, that’s all I ask of you. I beg you!
Douglas told me that this would be just as easy as the practice runs. “Don’t think too much, just do it. You’ve learned it perfectly, so just trust your skills and your instinct and it’ll go fine.” Instinct, my foot! Here I am standing with my ACME wings, and he’s over there with his damn megaphone. It’s me that’s got to fly, not him! I am going to get killed, and no way that he is right. Why in the world did I have to sign that waiver just a few minutes ago if it was all so safe? Jesus, practicing on a stupid little hill has nothing to do with jumping into the abyss. Or has it?
The wind is picking up. Douglas puts the megaphone to his mouth and gives the sign: “Get set… ready… go!”
I pick up the hang-glider, aim its nose into the wind and start running as fast as I can. The wind vanes flash by. They look like they are waving at me, waving goodbye. Our Father, hallowed be thy… wait! … I’m flying! Honestly, I’m flying! Oh God, thank you, thank you so much. I’ll never forget you! I’ll behave better more often, brush my teeth at least once a day, I won’t curse as much, will try to call my mother once in a while, give half of my savings to charity, I’ll even consider doing volunteer work. Honestly, I promise.
Would you believe it, I can fly! Douglas isn’t so stupid after all. Look at me with my ACME wings! You know what, I’ll try to do a bit of adjusting. All right, that went fine. Once more, now in the other direction. This is going great. Let me take a look around. Wow, this is a good way up! You know what, I’ll just fly a circle. Never thought I could, did you? I can do this like a pro, no problem at all. This is great, just look at me. Look ma, no hands!
All right, God. Maybe I have been a bit impulsive. When I touch the ground again, all in one piece, I honestly won’t forget you. I’m grateful to you. I assure you that I’ll think about all my promises, and I’ll let you know.
Look, the ground is getting close. Landing isn’t as exciting. Just steer a bit in the right direction, feet forward, then walk a few steps. Whoopee! That was far out!
I want to do this again!
All right, God, we’ll set a date. You’ll hear from me, honestly!
Don’t waste time!
Time is the critical factor in everything. It is the measure of life, making it the most valuable asset. Health, love, fame, wealth, everything we consider valuable, that we hope to attain, that we may experience for a short while, mean nothing if there is no time. Things get and hold value exactly because they pass. Time is therefore the most valuable gift that we are given and that we may possess.
Time is limited. You never have enough, it seems as if it is always in short supply. It cannot be bottled. It does not let itself be manipulated. I wish I had more time! I still have so much to do but so little time.
When you are a youngster, time cannot go fast enough. And when the years pass, the moment comes when you want to turn the clock back: please give me some more time!
We measure results based on time. These could be the return on an investment, the performance in a race, or the time needed to get from A to B. In other words, the attainment of our goals. Everything in life revolves around time. We wake up with it, and we go to bed with it. There is school time, work time, and free time. Time for reflection, time for ourselves and time for others, a time for coming and a time for going. We carry time with us in the shape of a watch, to make sure that we are always on time.
At specific times we are reminded that time passes equally fast for everyone. A birth, an anniversary, or a funeral mark time: time that is still to come, time that is, and time that has passed. The close of an amount of time is at the same time the start of a new time period.
Tomorrow will become today, and today will tomorrow be yesterday. By definition, the past has no future, but it is everything that we are. The past and the present are all that we wish to be. The past, the present and the future are all that we can be. The past cannot be changed, and we cannot live in the past. Tomorrow is what we make of it today. Today is the moment, today it is happening, today is now. There is no better moment than now. Next year I’ll stop smoking; when I have more time I’ll finish that job; someday I’ll take that course. Tomorrow, tomorrow… why not today?
We will not have to account for what we have been or what we can become but what we are today. What we can achieve evolves from what has been achieved and that which we want to achieve. Without wanting to achieve chances are that we will not succeed.
If time is everything in achieving our goals then now is the time to act. Right now is when we have to give direction to what we want. Act now!
Remember the past, plan for tomorrow, but live today!
The fact that our time is finite forces us to act in order to achieve our goals. We have no time to waste. Wasting time is indifference. Indifference in whatever form is the most repugnant trait a human being can possess. It is the trait of an organism that simply exists and ‘is’. Such an organism cannot exist. Indifference to ourselves, to our surroundings and neighbors, also to what is farther away from us, is no option.
For a human being, mere ‘being’ is meaningless. We have to want to live, to want to achieve. Only that is life. Everything that lives must want to achieve something. If there is nothing left to achieve, then life is over.
If our goals are fully clear, then choosing what we can and must do with our time becomes less difficult. But such total clarity does not exist. We therefore cannot only do things that lead us directly to our goals. That is because our goals are not preprogrammed. They are also shaped by our environment.
The possibilities that we encounter on our way are the options from which we must choose. These possibilities cannot with certainty be set in advance. If the goal is vague and appears difficult to attain, then trial and error is needed before the right way comes in sight. Only by making wrong steps do we know that we are leaving the right track. A wrong step is inseparably linked to the way toward our goal. It is therefore not a wrong step as such but an inevitable sidestep. It allows us to gauge our compass. If the goal and the way towards it are clear, then making choices is easier. A good example is the effort of an athlete to become successful. For the professional athlete the goal is crystal clear. He wants to excel through a specific performance that can be quantified in advance, such as the world record in the marathon. Everything that the athlete does to reach this goal is based on that clearly measurable result, the world record. With this in mind, many choices fall away immediately. For him, choices are based on improving his abilities important for reaching that one specific goal. Reaching it has not become easier, but the way towards the goal is now marked more clearly. The choices to be made have become clearer and are as a result easier to indicate.
The improvement of a specific performance can be divided into a cycle. This cycle is based on three phases that follow each other until the goal has been reached: the measurement of current abilities, the realization of improvements of current abilities, and the performance. The professional athlete must complete this cycle and keep repeating it. He must become good at this in order to excel. The necessary requirements can be identified almost as easily as the goal itself. If the athlete works at these requirements with the proper attitude and dedication, he will be able to head toward his goal in a straight line. In a situation where the measurement of abilities, their improvement, and the performance are less objective, the complexity of the cycle grows.
Often there are abilities that are less specific. More subjectivity requires more sidestepping to allow us to determine the specific requirements to get us where we want. More trial and error is needed to remove that subjectivity. As we do this the clock keeps ticking. Time ticks away without mercy. If we tend to stray too much, for whatever reason, the goals may well remain unattainable.
Since time is limited, actions must be carried out efficiently and effectively. Efficiency is performing on time, effectiveness is performing well. Plan and set priorities. Priorities are not based on what you like to do or what your good at, the simplicity of tasks, or the sequence in which they come up. Instead, priorities are set by the importance of actions and their urgency in relation to time available.
Timing is essential in the execution of actions. An action that is not performed at the right moment has only limited value or none at all.
Failing to plan stands for planning to fail. You should therefore determine what you will do within a specific period of time based on realistic deadlines.
Create the preconditions necessary to meet your planning. Use tools for planning purposes, such as an agenda or action lists. Set criteria to measure your performance. Do so based on your knowledge of your mental and physical abilities. If you encounter unforeseen circumstances, adjust your planning.
Determine your ‘time-benefit ratio’ and keep monitoring this in order to adjust your planning progressively. Based on the value, which is the result, you know how much time must be spend on what action. You know that the value of actions can change, depending on the amount of time spent on them. By monitoring the time spent per action, you can determine whether and when you should better spend your time on other actions.
If the time-benefit ratio doesn’t alter substantially, complete the actions you have started.
Relaxation is also an action in your planning. It is a precondition that will enable you to keep performing.
Do things right the first time around. This prevents you from having to do them over again and thus wasting time.
The combination of efficiency and effectiveness determines success. Limited time equals pressure. You must therefore perform on time to reach your goals. To complete things successfully, based on the knowledge that time is the deciding factor, you perform like a marathon runner. To perform well in a marathon, it is not the final sprint that matters but everything that happens between start and finish: the entire race. Know your mental and physical limits by testing them. Extend them through training. Don’t start your training the day before the marathon. Instead, preparing well ahead enables you to perform at the crucial moment. Depending on your goals decide where the balance lies between testing, training, and performing. The proper balance between available energy and strength is determined per situation. Testing and training are not goals in themselves but they enable you to keep performing.
Be able to perform under pressure. Don’t yield to pressure but offer resistance. Use pressure to improve performance and function optimally.
Take advantage of opportunities that arise. Moments of opportunity create circumstances and chances that must be utilized by acting decisively.
Don’t waste time!