top of page

How To Be On Time

[Listen on Spotify]

It was a morning that started off like none other for me.

I woke up naturally with a smile on my face. My bedroom is pitch black, thanks to blackout blinds, and without any clocks or natural light, I have no concept of time. This is intentional.

That morning, as my eyes opened, I softly said out loud to my voice assistant, ‘hey Google, what time is it?’. The voice responded ‘ten thirty-six AM’.

In what felt like a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a second, I calmly observed to myself how I already missed four meetings that morning.

And then I became curious, still lying there in bed in my pitch dark bedroom, how this could have happened. I wondered, has this ever happened before? I could not think of a single example of when I had slept in this late.

Then I slowly got out of bed, went into my bright sun-filled living room with a sweeping view overlooking Lisbon, and picked up my phone. Without even checking text messages, Whatsapp, email or the missed calls I had, I said to my other voice assistant, ‘hey Siri, call Ricardo’.

The ringing stopped as Ricardo answered the call, not with a ‘good morning’ or ‘hi Kunal’, but with a shameless ‘are you alive?’.

Yes, I respond.

You slept in, he says to me with full confidence.

Yes, I respond.

Ok, don’t worry, I’ve rearranged your schedule. How long until you can make it to the office?

I’ll be there in 20 minutes.

Okay, see you soon.

And like that, I proceeded with my day. It was only then that I realized what had happened. My body, having just returned from New York the day before, had adjusted to New York time. There was a delay, as in New York I was waking up at three thirty AM, which was normal for Lisbon time.

Timing is everything. And often underappreciated.

I shared recently a reflection about how I have accepted my pattern of being late to everything. This continues to be the case, at a micro level.

At a macro level, the big stuff, I have learned a lot about how to be on time.

When I am in flow with time, choices become easy. When I am attempting to force time, everything feels difficult.

My journey as an entrepreneur and investor has been a clear example of learning about timing. I've had my fair share of trying to force outcomes - like squeezing out a product launch within an unrealistic deadline or trying to secure funding in an unfavorable economic climate. These were mostly uphill battles, like swimming against the current. And never worked out well, as I was trying to force something.

On the other hand, flowing is more akin to floating down the river of time. Like when I moved to Portugal spontaneously on three days notice. I didn't force it; instead, I allowed myself to be carried by the tide. When I reflect back on my journey here, it seemed as if the universe was conspiring to make it happen. I was on time.

Last night, I was at a group dinner and met a charming couple who have been splitting their time between Puerto Rico and Lisbon. When I asked one of them how he ended up in Puerto Rico, he shared that after living in New York for a few years, he had moved permanently onto his boat and during one of the tropical seasonal storms, he got shipwrecked in Puerto Rico. Fast forward six years, he has set up a beautiful life, several businesses and a loving relationship. When I asked his partner how they met, she shared that they met in Puerto Rico however they were both from the same neighborhood in Los Angeles, had been at the same events and weddings, even at the same high school briefly, yet had never crossed paths. Until they did.

Another reminder for me of how timing is everything.

Back to business, I started my first tech company in the mobile apps space, before the iPhone existed. Shortly after starting the company, while graduating from university, Apple launched the iPhone. Some of the first mobile apps on the iPhone, for the likes of TIME magazine, CNN, Bloomberg, and more, were built, hosted and run by my company.

We were 21 years old and had absolutely no idea what we were doing. Neither did anyone else in the space for that matter. The technology at the time was difficult, very difficult. Yet it did not feel like we were forcing anything, despite running into continuous execution issues. The business flowed, as we were on time.

To recognize when I am too early, on time or too late on the big stuff requires me to sit in an observer state. I have to get out of the daily routine and grind, step back and gain perspective. Perspective that is informed by a breadth of information. I need to know what’s going on around me and within me, to assess timing.

It often does require a leap of faith, and that is the hardest part. If I wait for all of the information to become clear, be it about a business opportunity, a romantic interest, a health routine or a travel destination, I am probably too late.

As I have grown older and experienced first-hand being early, on time and late, I've developed a different rhythm, a generally slower beat that often puts me on a different timeline than those around me.

Living in Portugal has taught me to surrender to the flow of time and to embrace the unpredictability of each day. It has taught me that life isn't just about business meetings and ticking off items on a to-do list. It's also about spontaneous dinner dates, long walks along the beach, and savoring a three hour lunch in the middle of the day. It's about how I feel in the present moment, irrespective of the ticking clock.

Although I often poke fun at the Southern European culture of being late to everything, there is a deeper wisdom here that I am slowly learning. How to flow and not force. The relative lack of reliability compared to the North American machine I have grown up with on the simple daily living has helped me learn to relax and pay attention to what actually matters in life.

As a result, I am less agitated when the handyman doesn’t show up, when the real estate viewing gets canceled after I’ve showed up, or the restaurant closes early for a private event right as our main course was served.

A few days in New York last week reminded me of how I was and showed me how I am changing. Now, I choose to flow with the rhythm of my day, and, in doing so, allow myself to fully engage in each moment, rather than constantly thinking about the next.

I will continue to be late on the small stuff in life, and be tolerant of when others are as well. It is the big stuff that I’m most interested in being on time for.

Join My List

Join over 20,000 people who receive my recent reflections by email.

Thank you

bottom of page