Ashley Montagu once said, “The deepest personal defeat suffered by human beings is constituted by the difference between what one was capable of becoming and what one has become” Putting this statement into perspective, I realize that the difference between who you are and who you aspire to be; what you have and what you desire or ought to have; whom you are and who you were destined to be; is a measure of the possible transformation of self which can occur within a space of time.

In other words, every success or transformation whether in leadership or life in general is attained within a space of time which may be referred as “delay”.  Therefore in this context we may define delay as a length of time taken to realize or actualize an envisioned destiny or transformation on change or goal.

According to the dictionary the term delay connotes the element of leaving doing something until later or at a postponed time. There are those things which are bound to happen within a given time frame and we say these are “non-optional delays”. For instance, a mother carrying a pregnancy has to go through the nine months periods. If the mother cannot persevere through the morning sickness, she will not get to enjoy the laughter of the baby. Another example is where a hen sits on the eggs for twenty days and on the twenty first day a special chemical forms on the beak of the chick which cracks the shell. The mother then continues to crack the shell for the chick to hatch. That is the prescribed process.

However, the large part of life does not happen on a known prescribed natural process. Instead it is left to choice which leads to options. You can choose or opt to delay a management, leadership or personal decision for a future date (i.e delay the decision). The question now comes; how can we manage optional delays for greater benefits?

If you have ever been caught in a traffic jam, you might have noted that some drivers go ballistic, honking their horns, screaming and even slamming car doors. There are those who turn this delay of movement into a positive by pushing back their seats, pop a cassette in the stereo (or crack open a book) and use the time to learn and grow instead of whine and moan. This is indeed same event but different choices. I mean some know how to manage delays others don’t.

Louis Amour said “up to a point a man’s life is shaped by environment, heredity and movements and changes in the world about him. Then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Another’s forthright wisdom boils down to the common adage that says, ‘choices have consequences’. Make good ones, you prosper and make lousy ones, you suffer. I mean if you manage your optional delays well, you will succeed in everything you do.

You can manage the optional delays in several ways. One of the ways is staying sensitive and scanning for the signs of opportunity. Remember for example that in a game of football, the game is won or lost in the second half. It is possible to have made some mistakes in the first half, and had time to recover, but it is harder to do this in the second half. You have to remain sensitive for any opportunity to score because what looked like an eternity a head of you is now within reach and the clock is running.

You have to defy all present odds and forge forward knowing that even hares in the savanna never run into the mouths of sleeping dogs. Failure to manage one’s delays like” I am only a little behind” forgetting that a little late is too late and a miss is as good as a mile. All those who aspired to become members of parliament but became number two are not in parliament. They are all outside with other losers not withstanding how close they came to winning.

Learn to manage delays by training your eyes to be keen on details. Do not look at things through the memory of what others have thought. Nothing is got without a keen eye. People always make casual statement that Bill Gates simply dropped out of college and became one of the top billionaires in the world. He did not simply become a billionaire but put in energy and the hours in his work without unnecessary delays. In fact after he dropped out of Harvard, he had been programming practically nonstop for seven consecutive years. He never wasted time as a teenager and was way past ten thousand hours at the time he dropped out of school. I say ten thousand hours because this is the number of hours researchers have settled on what they believe as the magic number for true expertise. The neurologist Daniel Levitin said, “The emerging picture from our studies indicate that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world class expert – in anything.”  How many teenagers in Africa have the kind of experience Gate had at his age? If there are even ten, I’d be stunned. To increase the numbers all must manage delays well.

Be keen on time. If you’re keen on time, you will wake up early and avoid unnecessary delays. Ben Franklin once harshly said, “Why do you oversleep, there will be enough time to sleep while we are in our graves”. Those who say there is enough time simply console themselves that there are better times coming. Do not wait for better times but walk towards them. Walk as slow as it may force you but don’t stop and remember that slow but sure wins the race. Abraham Lincoln had faith in time and time justified his faith. Dolly Parton was once asked by a TV fan why she became successful in her performances while others failed, she answered, “I never stopped trying and I never tried stopping.”

Be disciplined at all times. The best definition of discipline I have read was given by Scott Peck, who wrote, Discipline is the art of scheduling the pain and pleasure in life in a such way as to confront pain first so as to enhance pleasure later’. A businesswoman who has 10 things to do today, one of which is to phone unhappy client is disciplined if she makes that phone call first. She then feels better about herself and enjoys the rest of the day. However, if she delays the pain to the last thing on the agenda, the foreboding of the call weighs on her throughout the day. I mean to know and not to do is not to know at all. The discipline of action although it may give rise to mistakes, is far preferable to safe and stationary living. It was Lloyd Jones who said, ‘The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed.’

Leo Tolstoy in one of his books speaks of an ancient sophism consisting of Achilles that could never catch up with a tortoise he was pursuing in spite the fact that he was running at ten times as fast as the tortoise. By the time that the Achilles had covered the distance that separated him from the tortoise, the tortoise had covered one tenth of that distance ahead of him. The reasoning behind the Achilles inability to overtake the tortoise is deduced from the fact that motion was arbitrarily divided into discontinuous elements, whereas the motion both of the Achilles and of the tortoise was continuous.

In the Saharan Jungle the wildlife is one of the amazing practical examples where one can learn how to manage delays. In the Jungle, the slowest gazelle must out run the fastest lion to survive while on the other hand the slowest lion must out run the slowest gazelle to survive. Life is depicted as a fight for territory where one must content for what one wants or else what one does not desire takes over. I am convinced for example the difference in the level of development between developed and developing countries is lack of delay management for the case of developing countries.

Therefore from the foregoing, it is important to manage optional delays if one has to attain great success. A wrong majority decision can delay right thinking individuals within a group and mistakes of an individual group member can delay the whole group. It is more important to be guided by facts and truth sound information and not necessarily popular opinion. Move carefully without delays and without stopping. Remember what Martin Luther Jnr said,” If you cannot fly, run, if you cannot run, walk, if you cannot walk, then crawl…..”. In other words never stop and remember that people don’t drawn by falling in water but by staying in water.