Miyamoto Musashi was a legendary renaissance samurai poet and painter. He invented the technique of fencing with two swords. According to legend, he won over 60 sword fight duels. He was so talented, that he killed an adult samurai with a wooden sword at the age of 13. He single-handedly fought of an ambush wrought by a samurai school. Personally, he fought in 6 wars.
These Rambo-esque legends weren’t his greatest contribution, though. On his deathbed, he penned a treatise on strategy called “A Book of Five Rings”. As he had the ability to kill of so many opponents in duels (i.e. being on the right side of 60 duels), he became a master of the psychology of battle strategy. The book contains his insights into how he thought about this process.
“Whatever the way, the master of strategy does not appear fast….Of course, slowness is bad. Really skillful people never get out of time, and are always deliberate, and never appear busy.” Some people can cover 120 miles a day without breaking a sweat. Others will look tired within a minute of starting to run.
What’s really at stake here?
How you feel about urgency and speed is a reflection of your habits in a personal context. If you have bad time management habits personally, then of course you will feel discomfort about time going by. And the opposite is also true. If you have good habits and you live in accordance with your priorities, you look forward to time passing. It works in your favor.
I can definitely see this when I do my daily stretching routine. Even though I might not be happy with the point where I started, if I do my stretches every day, my flexibility increases. And I see progress over time. So I look forwards to time passing, because if I have increasingly better results.
This observation is fractal. In a professional context, it’s about the quality of your company’s systems. If you have well thought through and optimized systems, you look forwards to achieving your goals. Time feels like it’s on your side. The competition isn’t as important as the stopwatch. Like in a road race. If you have poor systems, you’re constantly harried and monitoring and firefighting. And there’s no time to do anything longer term.
If I can extend the metaphor a bit to building shareholder value, particularly in software companies or in knowledge work: “Wealth is built with time as an asset, not as a liability”.