Never Give Yourself Time

This is the 105th* article and the official two year mark of publishing my own writing every week. I was interested in sharing some of what I’ve learned over these two years: things that have gone right, things that have gone wrong, life lessons, etc. However, I want to tackle one thing I’m constantly asked: How do I have time to keep up with this?

If I’ve learned anything, it’s to never give yourself time because you will find a way to abuse it. This following story perfectly illustrates exactly this.

“The sultan [of Persia] had sentenced two men to death. One of them, knowing how much the sultan loved his stallion, offered to teach the horse to fly within a year in return for his life. The sultan, fancying himself as the rider of the only flying horse in the world, agreed. The other prisoner looked at his friend in disbelief. ‘You know horses don’t fly. What made you come up with a crazy idea like that? You’re only postponing the inevitable.’ ‘Not so,’ said the [first prisoner]. “I have actually given myself four chances for freedom. First, the sultan might die during the year. Second, I might die. Third, the horse might die. And fourth … I might teach the horse to fly!” —The Craft of Power, R.G.H. Siu, 1979

The sultan of Persia made the mistake of giving the first prisoner time, and so often we do that with ourselves. When we give ourselves time, we create opportunities to avoid responsibility and to further procrastinate. Making the commitment to write every week was my way of not giving myself time. Had I loosely committed to it, you wouldn’t be reading this.

The more time you give yourself, the longer it will take you to complete what it is you’ve set out on. We share this kind of experience in various aspects of our lives. When you have a large cup, you’re more inclined to fill it up all of the way. The easiest way to lower the amount you put in is by fetching a smaller cup.

“Space we can recover, time never.” —Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769–1821

Just as you need to be weary of the time you give yourself, share the same concern and discipline with others. Many times you will be the sultan, and you need to refrain from giving your prisoners time, even if they promise to make your horse fly. Always define timelines, be clear in doing so, and persistently follow up. This goes for your clients, employees, and especially yourself.

*Wouldn’t the 104th article mark two years? Yes, however, when I first started writing I kicked things off with two articles, making 105 the mark of 104 weeks.