My Circus Life is a weekly livestream broadcast in which I share lessons I’ve learned in over a decade of pursuing flying trapeze and trampoline, and how they apply to life and business. Today was Episode 91: Navigating Human Timing. This is part 2 of The Art of Timing. Last week, I spoke about natural timing, and how we must work with the timing of nature. This week was all about human timing, and an introduction to one of my favorite terms: Renée Timing.
Timing a Trapeze Catch
On the flying trapeze, you practice tricks to eventually throw them to a catcher. Assuming the flyer throws a good trick, making the catch is all about timing.
Trapeze is a sport where the difference between success (a catch) and failure (missing the catch) can be millimeters. The catcher must plan how to get himself (or herself) and the flyer to the peaks of their swings at the same time so they can make the catch.
The catcher will cue the flyer when to takeoff from the platform. The timing of this command must be precise to make the catch.
A catcher considers many factors in determining when to call the flyer off the platform. One of the most crucial factors is how long it takes the flyer to take off from the board.
When it comes to flying trapeze takeoffs, there’s a general range of “normal,” there are people with very fast takeoffs, and people who take longer. I don’t know if anyone has done a study of this, but my guess is that the range probably falls onto a bell curve. If it did, my takeoff would be at the tail end of the curve.
You might say I’m “slow” off the board. In my trapeze classes we call it a “long” takeoff. This means that it takes me longer than the typical flier to be off the board after the catcher calls “Hep.” This means that a catcher must call my command earlier than he would for other fliers.
In my small community of fliers, this timing is knowns as “Renée Timing.” Each flyer has his or her own specific timing. But because I’ve been flying in the same place for so long, with the same group of catchers, and because I am extremely consistent in how long it takes me to take off from the platform, the coaches and catchers often use “Renée Timing” as a frame of reference when defining the timing for other students.
For example: It’s slightly later than Renée Timing.“It Is What It Is”
There are two crucial points I want you to understand about René Timing:
(1) No Judgments
Renée Timing is a description and a metric. It is not a judgment.
A long takeoff isn’t “better” or “worse” than a short takeoff. Neither is “good” or “bad.”
Nobody tells me that I must speed up my takeoff. Nobody tells my friends who have quick takeoffs to slow down their takeoff.
(2) Reasons Don’t Matter
Also, we don’t waste time trying to analyze why my takeoff is longer than the norm. There are some obvious reasons, and some less obvious ones. But the reasons don’t matter.
It is what it is.
What Matters Most
From my perspective as a flyer, what matters most is that my takeoff is effective to help me generate a high swing. As the saying goes, a good beginning is half the task. I am always working to improve my takeoff, not by making it faster, but by making it more effective.
From the catcher’s perspective, consistency, not speed, is most important. When a flyer is consistent, the catcher can plan accordingly.
The catcher does not force the flyer to change her timing. Instead, the catcher adjusts to the flyer’s timing.
The relevance of this concept outside the trapeze rig may be obvious, but, just in case, let’s review how this applies.
We often make judgements about others people based on their natural pace.
We create stories about others based on timing: slow, late bloomer, behind, ahead of the curve.
We may try to force or pressure others to change their timing.
And, of course, we do all of these things to ourselves, too.
So much of our frustration and suffering in life comes because we either resist other peoples’ timing or we resist our own natural timing.
Here’s the challenge: most of the time, we may not even to notice that we are in this dynamic. We might feel frustrated by a situation, but unless we stop to consider why it aggravates us, we may not realize that we are resisting other peoples’ timing or our own timing.
The first step toward easing this resistance and coming to terms with acceptance is to bring awareness to our resistance. Here are some of the ways this shows up.
Other People’s Timing (OPT)
Any time you are frustrated because another person isn’t doing something at the speed that you ideally want them to do it, you are resisting that person’s timing.
We all find ourselves here more often than we would like.
There are two categories of OPT that we encounter regularly:
First, the strangers who are in charge of things we experience throughout the day. The barista, the checkout person at the store, the customer service agent, the taxi driver, the bus driver, and so on.
How often do you get frustrated while waiting in line? The person in charge of doing the thing isn’t doing it at the speed you desire, and you’re in suffering because of it. Even worse, sometimes we take out those frustrations on the people serving us.
I confess that I have had moments where I unleashed my frustration at someone who was trying to help, because that person wasn’t doing things on my timeline. Those are not my finest moments. But it happens. The more we can step back and become aware of this, the more we can stop the tirade before it start.
Friends, Family, Clients
Second, the people close to us. Often, we feel a personal investment in their outcomes, or we depend on them for our outcomes. Think: your clients, children, your team, your friends.
I know many parents who start to panic if their kids aren’t walking or talking by a certain age, or their kids aren’t married by a certain age.
Pushy Salespeople Resist Other Peoples’ Timing
Most salespeople come across as pushy and salesy because they try to push a client or prospect to make a decision out of sync with the client’s natural timing.
If you’re in a sales or client-service role, you must be aware of your prospect’s or client’s natural timing. How long does your client need to make a decision, or respond on an issue?
In my real estate business, I view it as a core function of my job to protect my clients from the external pressure to make decisions on a timeline that is out of sync with their natural rhythm.
I know some of my clients make decisions quickly; others need more time to process and reflect. If I try to pressure a client into taking action before she is ready, I won’t get the result I desire. Each takes the amount of time they need. I don’t set deadlines.
When it comes to working with others, we must be like a catcher on the flying trapeze: understand and adapt to their timing.
Our Personal Timing
Nothing causes more suffering than resisting our own nature.
Trapeze is not the only place Renée Timing applies in my life, but for a long time it was the only place where I accepted Renée Timing without trying to change it.
Many things take me longer than I think they “should.” Writing blog posts. My workouts. Packing for a trip.
In almost every area of my life, I constantly notice how often I resist my natural pace. I have a firm grasp of how long it takes me to do certain tasks. I often view it through a lens of “it shouldn’t take that long” or “I should be able to do it faster.”
When we make these comments to or about ourselves, we create our own suffering.
It’s a waste of energy. And energy is more important than time.
Even if I can do something “faster,” it’s worth asking: is faster really the goal?
In most cases, it’s not a worthy outcome.
What are we really after?
More efficient? Perhaps.
More effective? Definitely.
Faster is not a metric that matters, unless you’re in a race.
And life is not a race. Because each of us has our own timing.
Fighting Human Timing is a Waste of Energy
The fight against our natural timing or the timing of others expends energy that we could be using elsewhere.
When I find myself going into thoughts that “I should be faster,” I now respond with a reminder to myself about Renée Timing. It is what it is.
The more I can accept my natural timing, the less energy I expend in the game of mentally beating myself up over it. That leaves more energy available for the actual task, which generally results in increased efficiency and effectiveness.
What if it’s that simple?
What’s Your Relationship With Human Timing
What if the true obstacle is not how long it takes you (or someone else) but the resistance you have to how long it takes?
I invite you to test this for yourself. Give your timing a name. Celebrate your own time zone.
Notice where you are resisting your timing or other people’s timings. Try this for a day, or a week. You will likely see it everywhere. No judgments. Just notice where it shows up.
And then consider:
- How much energy could you free up for your projects if you learned to work with your natural timing and with other people’s timing?
- What opens up for you if your pace or the pace of others isn’t good or bad?
- What if you didn’t try to change your timing, or another person’s timing, but simply accepted that it is what it is?
I’d love to hear what comes up for you. Please share in the comments.