There are a lot of famous quotes about the importance of timing, probably the most famous being the Latin ‘Carpe Diem’, which demands that we seize the day and embrace opportunity when it presents itself. Certainly, taking advantage of opportunity is a big part of finding success in life. It’s also one aspect out of several that lends weight to the significance of timing, both in personal and professional life.
When I visit universities to speak about my career and what I’ve learned during my years in the mining business, I’m occasionally asked by students and faculty what advice I have for today’s younger generation, the generation of professionals who are perhaps just entering the workforce.
It’s a question I enjoy answering, in part because I think providing words of advice to younger generations is part of a responsibility and a tradition, and also a way of giving back.
In answering a question like that, one piece of advice that I find myself offering is the significance of setting specific, accomplishable career goals and working to achieve them through dedication and diligence.
That point of guidance, however, comes with a firm caveat: in working to achieve these goals, whether that’s completing a new degree or working one’s way up a company, it’s important not to worry about tomorrow’s problems. Far too often, I hear and see people getting caught up in what may happen, and so they scramble to try and solve tomorrow’s problems today. Problems, that mind you, don’t exist yet and may never exist. That’s a lot of energy and worry that could turn out to be very much wasted.
What I’ve found interesting is that this need to worry about potential problems seems almost ingrained in our brains. So, ignoring or taming this voice is not easy. But, I do feel, based on my own experience, that trying to tame this voice is a worthwhile task and can eliminate a lot of unnecessary stress.
Besides carpe diem and taking advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself, one also has heard of the idea of being at the right place at the right time. This is a second layer around the importance of timing. The fact of the matter is that I do believe luck and being at the right place at the right time plays a role in success.
I think that’s frustrating for many because this concept carries with it the acceptance that not everything is under one’s control, that in many ways we have to follow what the universe wants, not vice versa.
From my own experience, I remember that in 2001, timing and good fortune played its part when my partner and I founded Wheaton River Minerals Inc. This was a gold mining company founded at the time when the price of gold was quite low. Sure, when we established Wheaton River, my partner and I had a feeling that gold prices would improve. But, to say that we knew that over the next ten years, gold prices would surge from the 200 USD/oz mark to more than 1,800 USD/oz would give us far too much credit. We did the right thing at the right time and that went into Wheaton River’s success.
In the end, I emphasize that luck and happenstance plays into success not to dissuade from the importance of hard work and persistence, which are critical, if not necessary for success, but to perhaps give comfort to those who thought they had all the ingredients for success and are what wondering where they went wrong. The world may not be ready yet for the innovation you’ve been working to bring to market; the time may not be right for the new business you want to start. But, one good thing about time is that it’s always moving and what may not work today may be a brilliant innovation tomorrow.