The years are gathering speed with infinite subtlety, the most seductive of con games. Time is a thief; it deceives us in our youth with a siren song of false permanence and a forgiving calendar.
Twenty becomes thirty, thirty becomes forty and..well..scattered luminous moments happen once, then roll away into the past. If only we knew that then. Now it’s “faster”or else.
Everything is relative. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Gordon Johncock once told me, “The surprising thing is that at a certain speed, everything is reversed: you’re driving the car, racing past pits, faces in the crowd, signs and buildings…and then, you’re not; you’re not driving anything. You’re sitting in a kind of trance, absolutely motionless, a levitating projectile, and all those faces, flags, and poles are streaming at you, with a purpose all their own. That’s when it becomes most dangerous.”
I remember thinking this was profound imagery and years hence relate to it as time gains velocity like Johncock’s blur around the brickyard. We are making haste. Our software, our Blackberries, our sex lives, our prayers and our agendas all run faster than ever before, filling our lives with Techtronic devices. The faster we go the more rushed we feel, with a rising whisper that reminds us that if we go too fast, we’ll miss the only things that really matter. “Faster” is a mirror held up to our times, a reminder of why our businesses, our colleagues, our friends, are all moving at inexorable speed as though we’re grouped on a moving walkway without an exit at an ever increasing pace.
No all that long ago, all time was “real time”. It’s a phrase we casually include in our lexicon yet in 1980 “real time” appeared in the New York Times on only four occasions, 1n 1990, thirty-nine times, and by 2000, multiple times daily; along with “quantum leap” and “cutting edge”. Semanticists use a term called “retronym”: snail mail, rotary dial, or acoustic guitars. This gives old things new names made necessary by new things: e-mail, I-Phones, and electric guitars. The dilemma in this accelerating race is that it’s in direct conflict with our personal and business reality. Try as we may, faster pace cannot force or improve higher creativity. It can’t bridge rising levels of relationship tension in a cohesive group charged with connecting with other human beings. We are living in a time when the present becomes the past right before our eyes, like Gordon Johncock’s sensation of “not driving anything” when speed reaches critical mass and reverses who and what we are.
Everyone wants their meal instantly super-sized, to lose ten pounds while we sleep, or to remedy business maladies by watching CNBC for an hour. Technocracy is magnificent, “faster” is king. But it’s part illusion. When we put speed in front of the leader-follower transaction, it’s a very dangerous time indeed.
Strategic creation, goal setting and personal development all have a limit to their time-compacting. Direct contact is still called “communication”, and reflective listening will always trump clock efficiencies. Twitter, text, IM and a myriad of innovation all represent important breakthroughs in our time, yet the human spirit requires human response. Be very careful when you hammer the accelerator. You just might leave something important behind.