My son Tsoof is studying composition at Griffith University’s Young Conservatorium with Ralph Hultgren, who is a very inspiring person. Ralph is a very talented musician, composer and probably an excellent teacher, because he has managed to build one of the best music schools for young people in Australia.
One expression Ralph has used with his students and stuck with Tsoof was
On time is late and early is on time
Now, Ralph is a funny man, so some kids may take this as a joke. He is also in his 50’s, so some kids may take it an “old man’s saying”. But I thought that if Tsoof understood this idea, he would have a much, much, much, much better life.
Many of us are “last minute” people. They plan their life by the clock and if they need to be somewhere at 2pm, they plan to be there at 2pm and think they are being punctual. When they need to submit their assignment on the 16th, they write notes and reminders to hand it in on the 16th and they think they are being organized, but they are not, because on time is late!
I was not an organized person all my life. Until the age of 21, when I started going to college, I was a last-minute person, much like everyone around me and lucky me, my first year of my degree was sooooooooooooooooooooooooo hard and so fullllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll and so hecticccccccccccccc that I learned very quickly that on time was late! I can give you a short description of what I had to remember to do, on time, every week.
- I studied 5 days a week from 8am to 5pm. When I say studied, I mean I had 40 hours of studying. It was 12 full yearly courses.
- Out of the 40 hours of studies in the first year, 4 of them were practical. One day a week, we would teach at a school for 4 hours. It meant that for every practical day, we had to prepare 3 lessons.
- I worked in the special education workshop every week for 10 hours (I had to make some money to cover for my studies and living). I went there early in the morning, during breaks, whenever a class was canceled and sometimes after hours until 7 or even 10pm in order.
- I had to tutor a student for 2 hours every week in order to get a small scholarship and I had to have a lesson ready for him every week. I did that on the weekend or during breaks.
- I could borrow about 6 items from the library every week. Some of them had to be back at the library the next day, some after three days, some after a week and some after 3 weeks. Some days, the library closed at 3pm and others at 5pm. I could not leave the books and go – I had to hand them to someone who took the book off my card physically – so returning a book to the library sometimes took 10 minutes out of my precious break. Not returning books on time would cost me more than a whole week’s worth of work at the special education workshop could cover.
- On the sixth day of the week, I worked a full day (again, to make a living) on a special project. I was teaching creative thinking and had to prepare the lessons and keep a record of the levels of the 80 kids who participated in that project every week. I gave them activities, worksheets and homework and I had to know what each of them did in order for them to succeed in their assignments.
- Each of my college courses had homework assignments every week. It meant that every day, I had to submit an average of 4 assignments, exercises and/or lesson plans.
- Each course had an exam or a big assignment to submit every 2 months.
- Within that timetable, I had to include paying bills on time, shopping, cooking, cleaning and traveling about 3 hours by bus once a month to see my family in another city.
Last month, a couple of things happened to us that demonstrated yet again to everyone in my family why on time is late!
The first thing was that we were preparing to leave the house for a one of Tsoof’s music competitions. It was a very important competition and it took place during Election Day in Australia, so we had to find time to vote during an already full day. We agreed we would vote outside of our electorate and find a place close to the competition venue. We had a relaxed morning and left home on time to be there at 1:30, knowing it would take half an hour to drive there.
On the way, I asked Gal, “Did you take your driver’s license (to vote)?” and he said, “No”. We stopped the car and had to make a quick decision: make sure Tsoof gets there on time and miss some of his performances in order to go back for the driver’s license or driving back immediately and risking Tsoof being late for his competition?
When you do things on time, everything must be perfect and you must think of all the possibilities that could prevent you from doing things on time. You know what, no one is perfect and no one can predict that an accident on the road would be the difference between getting to the competition on time or not.
We went back home and Tsoof got there a little late. Luckily, he was scheduled last in his first section, but he had not time to practice his piece. You could think, “Well, no harm done”, or you could think that if you want to run a family and make sure that people are not stressed all the time, on time is late!
The other thing that happened to us, which was way, way more serious, was a composition competition in Japan. Last year, Tsoof spent every spare moment to write a 15-minute orchestral piece for the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award. As a person who adopted the “On time is late” philosophy 25 years ago, I said to him that since the composition needed to be in Japan at the end of September, we needed to send it by the end of August.
So we did. Tsoof sent his composition on time and it arrived in Japan in the middle of September. Cool! Right?!
Well, No. The day they received the composition, they found out that the last 4 bars (out of sometime like 600) had too many percussion players, which meant there was a need for another set of hands for 10 second of the piece and that violated the conditions of entry, which specified that only 4 percussion players would be required.
Can you imagine how he felt? A whole year of work during his breaks, studies and otherwise packed timetable could be going down the drain…
The people from the competition were wonderful enough to send him an email straight away, telling him they could not accept the score to the competition, but if he wanted to make a change and send it again, they would accept it, as long as they got it on time.
Fixing the score took about 1 minute, but we needed to print it on A3 paper (which we did not have at home), bind it and send it the same day on the fastest service we could in order for it to arrive on time!
On the 29th of September, a day before the closing date of the competition, Tsoof got an email from the competition organizers, saying his composition had arrived on time!
Many times, the concept of “on time” is translated to “at the last minute”. Running a family is very similar. When your “on time” means “at the last minute”, you are going to have lots of problems, stress and heartache, not to mention raising kids with that philosophy who grow up to miss opportunities and fail in situations that otherwise could be very successful.
Join me next week for the second part of this handy family tips chapter and I will give examples of how to shift from “On time is last minute” to “early is on time”.
This post is part of the series Handy Family Tips:
- Handy Family Tips: Dishwasher
- Handy Family Tips: Pre-Marinating
- Handy Family Tips: Kitchen Scissors
- Handy Family Tips: First use date
- Handy Family Tips: Kids’ Artwork
- Handy Family Tips: Keys
- Handy Family Tips: Smelly bins
- Handy Family Tips: Treasure box
- Handy Family Tips: Glass jars
- Handy Family Tips: On time is late
- Handy Family Tip: Early is on time
- Handy Family Tips: Electric toothbrush
- Handy Family Tips: Make a Note
- Handy Family Tips: Laundry day
- Handy Family Tips: How to Peel Avocado
- Handy Family Tips: Bathroom Art
- Handy Family Tips: Easy Healthy Spread
- Handy Family Tips: Wake Up With a Smile
- Handy Family Tips: Color Coded Keys
- Handy Family Tips: Road Trip Games
- Handy Family Tips: How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables
- Handy Family Tips: What to Do When There is No Shaving Cream?
- How to Control Your Kids’ Mobile Phone Use at Night