Home » Archive » The brilliance of moments: how success is ultimately determined by now

, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

I travel from Edmonton to Calgary and back almost every week.  It’s a three hour drive one-way, so I have a big chunk of time to listen to podcasts.  This week I listened to an interview, by Todd at 800CEOread, of Sander and Jonathan Flaum, authors of The 100-Mile Walk: A Father and Son on a Quest to Find the Essence of Leadership and a series of talks given by Alan Watts. Both include fragments of discussion around the importance of the present (versus the future or past).  This is something that’s been nipping at my attention. 

I’ve learned, and am naturally inclined, to greet all new things in life by trying to understand how they relate to the future.  I look past everything.  It’s not only because I naturally lean forward but, as Watts explained, our society teaches us to look forward to “arrival”.

Alan Watts describes how we, from kindergarten on, are taught that next year is better than this year and the end is better than now.  In kindergarten there is grade one!  In secondary school there is post-secondary school.  Then graduate school.  Then our first job and the ladder starts again until sometime in our forties we decide we’ve arrived and can’t figure out what we’ve worked so hard to get.  We realize we’ve lost or never knew all the things we had.  We trade our moments for our future.

In his interview, Jonathan Flaum suggests that the most significant leaders he interviewed have learnt how to recapture their moments.  They block out the past, the future, and all other distractions to simply achieve within the moment.  Using elite athletes as an example, Jonathans describes how spectacular success is achieved by the accomplishments of single moments.  Unlike our education or employment system, athletes are taught to improve momentarily:  in this moment, strive to exhaustion; in this moment, lift to failure; in this moment, be one-hundred thousandths of a second faster.  And, tada, almost unexpectedly, Olympic gold.

It’s an important reminder as I paddle through all these new things in my life, especially as I seek to understand success in this new position

I’ve been looking far into the future, trying to understand how the chaos and monotony of today relates to the things I hope to do.  These metaphors suggest that I am at risk of missing the lessons and beauty of this moment.

Watts illustrates this opportunity the best when he compares a journey to a dance.  In a journey we are constantly seeking our destination.  One hour more today is an hour less to spend tomorrow.  One last step now is a step I’ll never have to take again.  But in a dance we aren’t seeking the end.  We are seeking the moment.

We don’t dance to get anywhere; we don’t sing to finish songs.  We do these things for the joy they bring to our moments.  And anyone focused on some climactic conclusion will miss the brilliance of the moments.

Our lives, our careers … my life, my career … isn’t just a series of steps to the end.  It can be a series of brilliant moments where I touch the art of all that lies before me. 

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That Watts stuff is awesome eh?

Yeah! I might have first seen it because of you, actually.

Whenever someone I respect points out a good podcast, I throw it into a file on my PDA. But always forget where I got the pointer from by the time I get around to listening to it.

But yes, he’s delightful.