While performing the monthly underhood inspection of the ol’ Camry this past weekend, I realized that I’ve never had to adjust the engine timing on my cars since I sold the Honda way back when. I don’t even remember when I sold my old engine timing light either. For those folks who are unfamiliar with the basics of internal combustion engines, perfect engine timing is crucial as to whether or not an engine runs smoothly–or even at all.
Each of your engine’s pistons has a power stroke–fuel-air intake, compression, ignition for power, and exhaust. The piston must be in the proper configuration and the sparkplug must fire at precisely the right instant for the explosion to provide power for engine operation. Engines are designed to enable adjustment to obtain optimal timing. On my older cars, I had to adjust this after each engine tuneup. In modern vehicles, timing is automatically accomplished by software that is programmed by the factory in one of a car’s computer chips. There are other factors such as basic alignments and so forth that mechanics must perform, but explanations of those are unnecessary for today’s discussion.
It has been noted by many folks that success or failure in life is a matter of bad or good timing. Although time is relatively constant, the occurance of events is variable. We’ve heard people exclaim that their success was largely due to having the good luck of being in the right place, with the right knowledge, at the right time. Being lucky or unlucky can be influenced to a certain degree by our levels of knowledge and the state of our mental attitude.
One of the most common examples of good timing is the skill of comedians to provide the punchlines to jokes at precisely the right time. The length of the pause between a joke’s setup and its punchline has to be just right. The successful comedian understands whether the pause is too short, too long, or just right. We’re more prone to laugh at jokes with well-timed punchlines.
“You know, sometimes, when they say you’re ahead of your time, it’s just a polite way of saying you have a real bad sense of timing.”–former South Dakota Senator, George McGovern
It is possible to formulate excellent ideas that come to fruition before society is able and willing to accept them. For example, solar electric cells were first demonstrated experimentally in 1839. Functioning versions of them were not built until 1883. However, solar cells were not effectively used until the Space Age beginning in the mid-20th century. Today, they’re widely used for power generation and in consumer electronics. So, the people who invented the first solar cells were merely ahead of their time.
Meantime, William Morrison constructed an electric automobile in 1891. It was incapable of traveling fast and it had a very limited range, so Morrison was also ahead of his time. It hasn’t been until fairly recently that practical electric cars like those made by Elon Musk’s Tesla and a few other manufacturers have been widely sold and driven. We might say that Musk had good timing in the marketing of his electric cars.
It can be argued that events fall into place at the right time and place on an individual level. With a sense of timing and patience, we persistantly keep our noses to the proverbial grindstone, hone our skills, and are watchful about when to present our idea or product publicly. If we’re being mindful about our working goals, we realize that passion and patience in equal amounts are necessary.
We might compare our work to good engine timing–our effort and patience are the fuel/air mixture, while passion is the spark that gets everything going. All of these together with knowledge and wisdom, increase our ability to exploit good timing.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Lord Acton (John Dalberg Acton). “A wise person does at once, what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times.”