The Most Expensive Free Resource That Will Determine Your Success

Photo by Boris Pavlikovsky

“Be careful not to compromise what you want most for what you want now.” – Zig Ziglar

I am grappling with a life-defining decision. My thirteen years old son wants to leave home to go after his dream. How would you advise I respond to this request? Let me give you a little background to help.

After a two-year absence, I am relishing my time at home with the family. I have come to appreciate better the simple things I would before take for granted. Having family dinner, watching TV together and driving to and from school feels refreshing and fulfilling.

One day, I had to pick up my daughter from a late afternoon after-school activity. While she was waiting, her friends asked her how she would be getting home. “My dad is picking me up,” she replied. My daughter later told her mum that she felt great being able to say to her friends, “my dad is picking me up.” 

That made me feel the pain of my long absence. Yet, I am grateful to be around to help them in deciding on the next critical step in their young adult lives. Understandably, my eldest daughter is preparing for university life. I am happy to be here asking the questions that will unfold the answers she needs.

David’s situation is unexpected and unfamiliar. I was not thinking of having the “leaving-home” conversation with him just yet. He just turned 13! But he was prepared. He decided he wants to go to an academy in Spain to develop his skills and have a chance of making a football (soccer) career.

The five games I have watched him play were an absolute delight. My head could not fit into the car after the praise and admiration from other parents. On that evidence, I had to agree to meet with his coach to discuss what was next for David. The meeting was lovely. And David waited anxiously to hear what we had agreed with his coach. So, after dinner, my wife and I had an adult talk with the newest teenager in the building.

We laid out two conditions. First, education is a must – no compromise, no negotiation and no buts. You need a proper education if football does not work out. You need an excellent education to manage your affairs if football works out. And you also need a sound education to manage life after football.

The second condition was timing. We said to David, “to increase your chances of making it as a professional player, the timing of your move is vital.” If you move too soon, you will deflate your confidence and may never recover. There are examples of players who moved to new clubs too early and never fulfilled their potential. Similarly, if you move too late, you might struggle to leave your comfort zone. David plays the keyboard, so we used the metaphor of playing music.

You must hit the notes at the perfect time to play a beautiful piece. Too early or too late, the music will be off-tune. So it is with life pursuits. Success depends on perfect time. He understood and agreed to spend another season with his club in South Africa before looking abroad.

I had dinner with an ambitious and hardworking gentleman on my recent and first visit to Gaborone, Botswana. I asked him how he decided to leave employment to start his IT firm, which now has local and international clients. He told me it was easier for him to take the risk because he was unmarried and had no dependants. He probably would not have done it if he had waited after starting a family. It was all about timing.
In career, business or life in general, discerning the right time to do a thing might be the superpower you need to succeed. Sometimes things can be by chance, but if we are deliberate, we can choose the perfect time to execute our dreams and desires by practising the following habits:

1) Don’t set unrealistic deadlines or targets. Young Dunstan set a target to become a CFO by 35. Then I realised I needed to build more skills to be a successful CFO. I got my first CFO job at 44. Was I nine years late?

2) Work hard, be disciplined and stay committed. Consistency over a long period breeds lasting success. Work on yourself, develop the skills and have the discipline to stay the course.

3) Resist instant gratification. Resist the urge to eat the marshmallow. Stay focused on the ultimate prize.

4) Study your environment, trends, and patterns. David is taking the time to understand how the football system works. We are showing him trends, patterns and examples from current professional players.

5) Trust the process. We had to make David understand that he needs to go through a process to get to where he wants to go. It takes time to build anything good.

6) Be resilient and agile. You might will face challenges and setbacks. But never back down on your dreams. You must keep moving, ask for help if you must, and take a break if you should. But never quit. Be ready to alter your approach, but not the goal.

7) Be gentle with yourself; practice patience. You are not in a race with anyone. Know the difference between a deadline and the right time. Remember Colonel Sanders?

We all have 24 hours a day given to us at no charge. Yet popular wisdom advises us to “spend time wisely.” You spend time because you cannot recover it after it is gone. And how you spend your time now might cost you later.

So whatever dreams you pursue and whatever you do, please do it well, do your best, and above all, do it at the right time.

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