The book is an exploration of how different cultures experience time, and how our current notions of time came to be. In layman's terms, it's why when you're two minutes late in New York City, you're late, but in Brazil, you'd be a half hour early. The book sites studies of how fast people walk across the sidewalk, how long people said they'd be willing to wait for someone else who was late, and how long after a light people start honking, among other measures, to get a measure of the tempo of a city. As it turns out, the pace of a city is directly correlated to per capita income and GDP. The more earning potential have, the more you equate time with money. When an economy is poor, it's not like you can squeeze in another customer call or pitch email in your extra time, so what's the rush?
I was thinking about this when I went to go to breakfast with one of the founders of our portfolio companies. She was about six minutes late and arrived in an apoligetic bluster, literally running up to the outdoor cafe. That's when I noticed that I really didn't care at all.
In fact, I quite enjoyed my six minutes outside in the sun, reading my Kindle app. There's lots of stuff I can do on my phone. I can answer e-mail, read from ReadItLater, play my baseball game, jot some thoughts down for a new blog post. Given that I generally plan to show up to places right on time, I often don't get a lot of free time in the day, so I have no trouble making the most of it--or simply doing nothing at all. People watching works just fine, too.
I think we're all a little bit too tied to the clock. We overschedule, doublebook. Slow down. Very little in your life is make or break. If it doesn't happen today, you'll get it done tomorrow. That's tough to hear as an entrepreneur, but I think the bigger risk is burning out too fast. It wouldn't be so bad if a lot of people slowed down just a bit.
Fred Wilson echoed the same sentiment this morning. He showed up about 15 minutes early for our breakfast at Coffee Shop and I said that I was sorry, but I was still on my way. His response was "No worries. I love free time. Just wanted you to know."
I'm not advocating that we should all suddenly start showing up late to stuff. I can only speak for me, but to be honest, don't rush. If you're late, and we had 30 minutes in the calendar, we'll now we have 25. So what? It's not the end of the world. Thanks for the few minutes. I probably did something useful with them, even if that something is nothing at all.