A fortune cookie insert I once came across read ‘a lion while hunting never roars.’ As one on which my mind lingered for sometime, it remained in my wallet for many years until time tattered it away. It served as a signal to suggest that one needs to keep one’s head down, focus to deliver the deliverables.
However, I was reading ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ by Robert Greene over the holidays and it made me look at this same pearl of wisdom in a different light. More in the context of timing- there is an appropriate time for everything. If the act is appropriate but the timing is off, the outcome may still be wrong or sub-optimal. The ancient Greeks actually have two words to describe time- χρόνος (chronos) and kairos. Kairos means the right or opportune moment (the ‘supreme moment’).
So the story goes…
Sertorius (123-72 BC) was a Roman statesman with extraordinary skills as a general. Brave, noble, and gifted with eloquence, he repeatedly defeated forces many times his own size. His camp swelled with troops and tribes wanting to join forces with him. Despite the increasing numbers, he was always troubled by the lack of discipline and overconfidence among the new entrants. They would constantly egg him to attack the enemy and were impatient with his delaying tactics. He tried without much success to win them with a rationale argument. However, when the discontentment persisted regardless of the circumstances, he finally relented and allowed them to engage the enemy. He hoped that they would suffer a defeat without being completely crushed and learn a lesson. The event turned out as he expected and Sertorius came to their rescue and brought them back safely.
To cheer then up and drive the lesson home, a few days later he called a general assembly and introduced before it two horses, one utterly weak and already quite old, the other large-sized and strong, with a tail that was astonishing for the thickness and beauty of its hair. By the side of the feeble horse stood a man who was tall, robust and strong. By the side of the powerful horse stood another man, small and skinny in appearance. On cue, the strong man seized the tail of his horse with both hands and tried to pull it towards him with all his might, as though he would tear it off; but the weak man began to pluck out the hairs in the tail of the strong horse one by one. The strong man gave himself no end of trouble to no purpose, made the spectators laugh a good deal, and then gave up his attempt; but the weak man, in a trice and with no trouble, stripped his horse’s tail of its hair.
Then Sertorius rose up and said: “Ye see, men of my allies, that perseverance is more efficacious than violence, and that many things which cannot be mastered when they stand together yield when one masters them little by little. For irresistible is the force of continuity, by virtue of which advancing Time subdues and captures every power; and Time is a kindly ally for all who act as diligent attendants upon opportunity, but a most bitter enemy for all who urge matters on unseasonably.”
By contriving from time to time such exhortations for the Barbarians, Sertorius taught them to watch for their opportunities and have patience for the right moment.
Garrett Hedlund says…Timing is Everything in Love as well
And in business as well…
Plutarch- Parallel lives