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Law 35: Master the Art of Timing (The 48 Laws of Power)

Law 35: Master the Art of Timing

The Patient Hawk
The Patient Hawk

Space we can recover, time never. Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769-1821

Being in a hurry will make it seem that you lack self-control. Don’t rush. Be a student of time, learn how to master it by being patient and striking at the right moment.

Mr. Shih had two sons: one loved learning; the other war. The first expounded his moral teachings at the admiring court of Ch‘i and was made a tutor, while the second talked strategy at the bellicose court of Ch’u and was made a general. The impecunious Mr. Meng, hearing of these successes, sent his own two sons out to follow the example of the Shih boys. The first expounded his moral teachings at the court of Ch‘in, but the King of Ch’in said: “At present the states are quarreling violently and every prince is busy arming his troops to the teeth. If I followed this prig’s pratings we should soon be annihilated.” So he had the fellow castrated. Meanwhile, the second brother displayed his military genius at the court of Wei. But the King of Wei said: “Mine is a weak state. If I relied on force instead of diplomacy, we should soon be wiped out. If, on the other hand, I let this fire-eater go, he will offer his services to another state and then we shall be in trouble.” So he had the fellow’s feet cut off Both.families did exactly the same thing, but one timed it right, the other wrong. Thtts success depends not on ratiocination but on rhythm.

LlEH TZU. QUOTED IN THE CHINESE LOOKING GLASS. DENNIS BLOODWORTH, 1967

We made up the idea of time to make sense of the eternal universe we are in. And since it is a human construction, there are ways to bend it to out will since it is not absolute. A child’s perception of time is long and slow while an adult’s perception is incredibly fast. Experiencing a flurry of emotional turmoil will speed time up – thus, controlling our emotions can slow time down. This means we can lengthen our perception of time in the future and will create possibilities that would not have been recognized because of anger and fear. The key to controlling our perception of time is learning to become patient.

There are three kind of time and each has its own problems. 1) Long time: years-long, should be managed with patience and care. 2) Forced time: short-term, can use as a weapon against enemies, upsetting their timing. 3) End time, when a plan has become apparent, this is when we should execute without hesitation.

Long Time

Rushing things because of fear and impatience will only make things worse for you. You will create new problems for yourself that didn’t exist before. This will put you in a state of constant crisis. Instead, deliberately slow down when faced with danger – do not act. Eventually, you will see opportunities that you didn’t before. But this won’t be easy. Those around you are rash and will try to push you into action because they mistake action for power. It’s not only you that you need to control, but others too. As for your rivals, you can encourage this mistake.

“If you let them rush headlong into trouble while you stand back and wait, you will soon find ripe moments to intervene and pick up the pieces. This wise policy was the principal strategy of the great early-seventeenth-century emperor Tokugawa Ieyasu of Japan. When his predecessor, the headstrong Hideyoshi, whom he served as a general, staged a rash invasion of Korea, Ieyasu did not involve himself. He knew the invasion would be a disaster and would lead to Hideyoshi’s downfall. Better to stand patiently on the sidelines, even for many years, and then be in position to seize power when the time is right—exactly what Ieyasu did, with great artistry.”

Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power 

To better play the game of power, controlling time is essential. Uncluttering your mind from artificial dangers will free you up to think more clearly about the future. Thinking clearly, not emotionally or rashly, will allow you to avoid the bait that is dangled in front of you by people. You will also become more flexible in this way, seeing more opportunities that will inevitably arise. To build the foundation for your power is a long process that will take years, being patient and in control of time will allow you to complete your projects before moving on to other ones, resulting in more solid foundations that you can later rely on.

You will also have a better perspective of the times you live. You will be able to distance yourself from your immediate surroundings, whereas the impatient sucker is quick to mistake surface phenomena for a real trend, you will see things for what they are – even if the truth is unappealing in the short run.

Forced Time

This is about upsetting the timing of others. When you make others hurry or wait, and move them off their pace, you distort their perception of time. This gives you a big advantage, since you have created time for yourself as you remain patient.

Joseph Duveen, the famous art dealer, knew that if he gave an indecisive buyer like John D. Rockefeller a deadline—the painting had to leave the country, another tycoon was interested in it—the client would buy just in time. Freud noticed that patients who had spent years in psychoanalysis without improvement would miraculously recover just in time if he fixed a definite date for the end of the therapy.

People tend to abuse time. Don’t let them abuse yours. Set deadlines, for others, this is an effective remedy against indecision.

End Time

You can wait as long as necessary for the conclusion to come, but when it comes it must come quickly. Use speed to paralyze your opponent, cover up any mistakes you might make, and impress people with your aura of authority and finality. With the patience of a snake charmer, you draw the snake out with calm and steady rhythms. Once the snake is out, though, would. Once the snake is out, though, would you dangle your foot above its deadly head?

No matter how artfully and skillfully you patiently white for the right moment, it will count for nothing without killer execution. Don’t be a paragon of patience but hesitate once it’s time for action.

There is a tide in the affairs of men, / Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; / Omitted, all the voyage of their life / Is bound in shallows and in miseries. (Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare, 1564-1616)

Read The 48 Laws of Power

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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