Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Timing is everything

Alex Morgan, USA Women's Soccer Player
From sports to humor, from health to happiness, timing is everything. You can throw a zinger to first base, but it doesn’t do a bit of good if the runner beats you there, and who cares if you have a killer swing if you’ve already missed the pitch? In these Summer Olympics, over and over again we’ve seen split-second timing make all the difference. Suppose the women’s water polo coach hadn’t called a timeout with one second left in the game against Australia; no nail-biting overtime would have ensued. On the other hand, what if the most recent women’s soccer game hadn’t gone into overtime? We would have missed Alex Morgan’s spectacular header, the game-winning goal over Canada that sent the U.S. team to the gold-medal round. And half the art of telling a good joke is timing, too. Even with a great punch line, you won’t get any laughs if you deliver it too early or too late.

For everyday health matters, we’re bombarded with timing recommendations. For example, a recent “Success-Nation” post on Facebook advocated that “Drinking water at the correct time maximizes its effectiveness on the human body.” Apparently, we can avoid strokes and heart attacks by simply waking up and going to bed drinking proper amounts of water. Bogus or not, such straightforward, life-saving information is constantly served up as gospel truth. How nice it would be if having good health were that simple!

Wouldn’t it be great if we could rely on similar clear-cut counsel for the timing of our critical life choices? What if someone could just tell us, “Be sure to do this when you’re 12 and that when you turn 20, and if you marry so-and-so at age 25, your life will be peachy”? Oddly, we don’t fully control the timing of matters far more important than hitting a home run, cracking a joke, or enjoying good health. As Malcolm Gladwell illustrates in Outliers: The Story of Success, even though the world is wide open to possibilities, much of what we become and whom we meet can be traced back to when and where we happen to be born. In other words, so much of our success is tied to timing. Finding a good marriage partner, for instance, is so much about timing. In fact, I’ve always thought choosing a spouse is much like finding a good book; one half is content and the other half is timing. Let’s face it, Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck is a great read if you’re married with kids, but it’s probably going to be a bit of a slog if you’re fifteen years old and still get a thrill out of roller coasters. In the same vein, in your early twenties you may walk right past a person who you realize later is a real catch.

Poets have long tried to explain this conundrum. Garrett Hedlund, in his lyrics to the song “Timing Is Everything,” puts it this way:

And I could've been another minute late
And you'd never would've crossed my path that day
And when it seems true love is hard to find
That's when love comes along
Just in time

You can call it fate
Or destiny
Sometimes it really seems like its a mystery

Cause you can be hurt by love
Or healed by the same
Timing is everything

It can happen so fast
Or a little too late
Timing is everything

So, plan as we might, we can’t always design the timing of some of our most important decisions. Even having children isn’t a choice completely in our hands; in that case, to some degree we’re all at the mercy of God and nature. So, in many instances I guess we just have to trust God’s timing, choose the best we can, and hope our destiny is blessed.

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