Timing Matters

How the "when" relates to the "what"

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Something that I’ve become more and more aware of lately is the idea that different experiences can (or perhaps more accurately, “should”) only be realized in specific stages of life. If you do what would otherwise be the right thing but at the wrong time, it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole: it just doesn’t work.

Let me give you an example from my own life right now.

Two years ago, as a 24-year-old who had just left his job, I flew to Barcelona on a whim. No return ticket, no plans other than a 5-night stay in St. Christopher’s Hostel, and no responsibilities. This trip eventually became a near-year-long journey around Europe and South America, including stops in Prague and Budapest.

I was, quite literally, living out of a backpack, buying new clothes and discarding old ones periodically to match the changing seasons, living off of kebabs and gyros, and sharing rooms with 7 strangers.

It was stupid and fun and a bit reckless, but I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world.

I would also never do any of it again.

Two weeks ago I flew to Barcelona for the beginning of a three-week trip that would take me from Catalonia to Ibiza to Mallorca, Marbella, Budapest, and Prague.

On this particular trip, I had a planned itinerary, I knew exactly who I was traveling with every step of the way, I stayed in nice hotels and Airbnbs, I actually sampled the local cuisine, and I packed clothes for nicer dinner reservations.

Sure, I’ve gone out a few times (particularly in a certain Mediterranean party island), but unlike two years ago, the purpose of the trip wasn’t to “go out,” per say.

If I tried to run back the trip from two years ago now, I would hate it. It would feel forced, out of place, and exhausting. Similarly, if I embarked on this year’s trip two years earlier, it would have been boring (and not to mention, much shorter given my lack of cash flow at the time).

Many of the same cities, but two entirely different trips. One chaotic, adventurous. One refined, planned, relaxed. If the order was switched, they would both be train wrecks.

I feel like oftentimes, we oscillate between being in a rush to make everything happen at once (“I need this job right now”, “I need to get married right now,” “I need to start my own company right now,” “I need to grow up right now”) and pushing things off to some undefined time in the future (“I’ll go on that trip at some point,” “I’ll take that risk one day,” “I’ll figure it out later”).

This constant back and forth between “right now” and “someday” is the root of a ton of anxiety in the world right now.

Life comes in stages, and certain things need to be done in certain stages. This applies to jobs, to relationships, to taking risks, to everything. Forcing yourself to speed run too many things, such as marriage or starting your own business, before reaching the stage that you’re “ready” for such endeavors increases your risk of failure. Likewise, indefinitely putting off goals and dreams increases the likelihood that those goals and dreams won’t actually be realized.

It’s important to understand the season of life you’re living in right now and what seasons are coming in the future, and act appropriately.

No one likes the 45-year-old trying to relive his 20s, and no one likes the 22-year-old exuding an un-earned air of self-importance.

Timing matters.

- Jack

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