Law 35: Master the Art of Timing


Never seem to be in a hurry—hurrying betrays a lack of control over yourself, and over time. Always seem patient, as if you know that everything will come to you eventually. Become a detective of the right moment; sniff out the spirit of the times, the trends that will carry you to power. Learn to stand back when the time is not yet ripe, and to strike fiercely when it has reached fruition.

Time is an artificial concept that we ourselves have created to make the limitlessness of eternity and the universe more bearable, more human. Since we have constructed the concept of time, we are also able to mold it to some degree, to play tricks with it. The time of a child is long and slow, with vast expanses; the time of an adult whizzes by frighteningly fast.

Key Lessons in the Art of Timing

1. It is critical to recognize the spirit of the times.
2. You must always work with the times, anticipate twists and turns, and never miss the boat.
3. Recognize time not by what is loudest and most obvious in it but by what lies hidden and dormant.
4. Recognizing the prevailing winds does not necessarily mean running with them.
5. Any potent social movement creates a powerful reaction, and it is wise to anticipate what that reaction will be,
6. Rather than ride the cresting wave of the moment, wait for the tide's ebb to carry you back to power.
7. Upon occasion bet on the reaction that is brewing, and place yourself in the vanguard of it.
8. Without patience as your sword and shield, your timing will fail and you will inevitably find yourself a loser.
9. Do not struggle, get emotional, or strike out rashly.
10. Keep your cool and maintain a low profile, patiently building support to your rise to power.

Recognize the moment, then, to hide in the grass or slither under a rock, as well as the moment to bare your fangs and attack. Space we can recover, time never. Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769-1821

Time depends on perception, which we can be willfully altered. This is vital in mastering the art of timing. If the inner turmoil caused by our emotions tends to make time move faster, it follows that once we control our emotional responses to events, time will move much more slowly. This altered way of dealing with things tends to lengthen our perception of future time, opens up possibilities and allows us the patience that is the principal requirement in the art of timing.

Three Categories of Time

1. Long time: the drawn-out, years-long kind of time that must be managed with patience and gentle guidance. Our handling of long time should be mostly defensive—this is the art of not reacting impulsively, of waiting for opportunity.
· When you force the pace out of fear and impatience, you create a nest of problems that require fixing, and you end up taking much longer than if you had taken your time.
· Hasteners may occasionally get there quicker, but papers fly everywhere, new dangers arise, and they find themselves in constant crisis mode, fixing the problems that they themselves have created.
· Sometimes not acting in the face of danger is your best move—you wait, you deliberately slow down. As time passes it will eventually present opportunities you had not imagined.

2. Forced time: the short-term time that we can manipulate as an offensive weapon, upsetting the timing of our opponents.
· The trick in forcing time is to upset the timing of others.
· To make them hurry, to make them wait, to make them abandon their own pace, to distort their perception of time.
· By upsetting the timing of your opponent while you stay patient, you open up time for yourself, which is half the game.

3. End time: when a plan must be executed with speed and force. We have waited, found the moment, and must not hesitate.
· Waiting patiently for the right moment to act, putting your competitors off their form by messing with their timing—but it won't mean a thing unless you know how to finish.
· Do not be one of those people who look like paragons of patience but are actually just afraid to bring things to a close.
· Patience is worthless unless combined with a willingness to fall ruthlessly on your opponent at the right moment.
· 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.

Mastering Time

First, when your mind is uncluttered by constant emergencies you will see further into the future.
Second, you will be able to resist the baits that people dangle in front of you, and will keep yourself from becoming another impatient sucker.
Third, you will have more room to be flexible. Opportunities will inevitably arise that you had not expected and would have missed had you forced the pace.
Fourth, you will not move from one deal to the next without completing the first one. To build your power's foundation can take years; make sure that foundation is secure. Do not be a flash in the pan—success that is built up slowly and surely is the only kind that lasts.

Finally, slowing time down will give you a perspective on the times you live in, letting you take a certain distance and putting you in a less emotionally charged position to see the shapes of things to come. Hasteners will often mistake surface phenomena for a real trend, seeing only what they want to see. How much better to see what is really happening, even if it is unpleasant or makes your task harder.


With the patience of a snake charmer, you draw the snake out with calm and steady rhythms. Once the snake is out, though, would you dangle your foot above its deadly head? There is never a good reason to allow the slightest hitch in your endgame. Your mastery of timing can really only be judged by how you work with end time—how you quickly change the pace and bring things to a swift and definitive conclusion.