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An informal, stream-of-consciousness reflection on business ideas, events and issues in modern business, modern life and with some specifics to the web-software industry by Paul Tomori, Internet Entrepreneur

There's No Substitute For Time
By Paul Tomori
Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 05:17:53 (EST)

Well, here I am at 4:30 in the morning writing a blog post... awakened by steady ghostly sounds. It's those howling Atlantic winds off the southern coast of Florida where I am wrapping up a one month "working sabbatical" (how's that for a contradiction of terms!). I always imagined that those hurricanes we read about back home were freaks of nature, episodic bursts of extreme gusts. But, I have a new sense of what they are all about and have concluded that: basically, it's always REALLY windy here all the time, and sometimes it's just more windy than other times (and that's when they call it a hurricane). Unlike the Santa Ana's in southern California, which originate inland and blow out toward the ocean, these Atlantic air currents blow in from the ocean and pound the shore and they leave a fine film of salt on everything.

So, instead of falling back asleep, I pondered recent experiences and as I am apt to do, tried to fit them all into the fabric of my understanding of the world. I don't always succeed and am often left dumbfounded, but tonight (er, this morning), I know one thing for sure... as John Mayer sings: "there is no substitute for time".

In such an age of entitlement, people may expect happiness to just come their way... they may just expect that their dream partner will just emerge out of the chaos... they may just expect that a rewarding career will materialize for them... they may just expect that their children will automatically grow strong and well-adjusted


They can invest time in these things. And, I mean REAL "engaged" time. Not the absent-minded passing of hours, hoping that one's desires will somehow be delivered automatically by osmosis. Not the "putting in time" or "giving face time" like so many folks try to do as a replacement for meaningful action. I mean the "roll-your-sleeves-up, get-your-hands-dirty, sweat-the-small-stuff" kind of time. I mean doing things that really engage you in your passions, that compel you to think, that force you to stretch, that challenge your complacency, that undermine your prejudices... and that hopefully result in a fresh perspective or a new understanding. Specifically, I am thinking of how rewarding it has been to spend so many full days with my wife and son... all the little things like getting up together, making breakfast, changing diapers (his, not hers!), going for walks on the beach and watching a little boy overcome his fear of the crashing waves, making grilled-cheese sandwiches, tending to a "boo-boo", sharing a Starbucks drink with my wife as we chat and walk casually through palm-tree lined streets, reading kids stories, reading big people's stories, meeting new people, going to the zoo and seeing giraffe's again (for the first time) and giving a bath, and sharing some wine (with her, not him!)... then watching the daylight fade as we all retire early... happy, content... and momentarily oblivious to what some newspapers say is a depression. It's funny how happy one can be in a depression... if one wants it bad enough. It's funnier how some newspapers call it a recession as if by not calling it a depression, it won't actually be one!

In response to a man who complained that he had trouble finding time for his family due to work demands, Nathaniel Branden asked "if you love your family so much, how do you possibly have time for work!?".

Notwithstanding the above... and in fact, in support of the above, I have found (i.e. made) time to get a lot of work done. But, I have learned to offload certain things to people who are more capable than me... and I have learned to "embrace the constraints" of my work/life time balance. The progress I am seeking is not going to be delivered overnight by FedEx and I don't anticipate that fateful knock on the door where the big contract will deliver my companies into the endless green fields of success. My idea of success is to build little by little over time, to grow in my understanding while my customer base grows. All of this takes time and patience. I am not in any hurry to pull this off without paying the necessary dues any more than I am in a hurry to "slip the surly bonds of earth". It's all part of the journey, right?

In Malcom Gladwell's book, Outliers, he describes how so many performers have ten years of work before they have their "overnight success". He cites the Beatles and others. He conjures up the 10,000 hour rule and basically says in his own words that there is no substitute for the time commitment. How did McCartney and Lennon turn such memorable tunes? No doubt, there was some innate talent or artful fascinations that originated in their youth, but at the end of the day, those guys refined their sound by putting in the time. They practised together, performed thousands of hours in clubs in Germany and Liverpool.. and all that honing smoothed out their delivery. When George Harrison's hand slid along the fretboard, it was like the guitar was an extension of his body. That can really only come from a dedication of time to one's craft. You simply call it "wood-shedding" or you can fancy it up with one of my favorite expressions: "the miraculous pedagogy of relentless repetition".

As I reach the 10,000 hour mark in my programming career, I am excited to think of the future that I am forging... My journey as a husband and dad is not nearly as far along yet, but hey, my thousands of hours with them will forge me as much as it forges them and I look forward not to "finding" the time for them, but MAKING the time.

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