I was once obsessed with time. Yeah, that’s right…me. The guy that everybody says is “so laid back” and has such a calming presence. Little do they know that I used to be so impatient that, as a kid, I didn’t want to wait to put my cereal in a bowl. Why couldn’t I just pour the milk into the cereal box; cut out the middle man? It made so much sense. When you’re done, just put the cereal box back in the fridge. Next morning just grab the box, and start chompin,’ Jack. No muss, no fuss…but mostly, no waiting. The reaction of cornflakes sitting in milk didn’t occur to me in those tender years. I was a kid on a mission. I didn’t have time to do things like everybody else. I was busy plotting the shortest distance between the kitchen table to the playground. Besides, I was convinced that my “milk in the cereal box” idea would work. So, I tried it.

As the milk leaked from the bottom of the box and spread across the table, my mom came in and witnessed the early stages of my scientific genius. She wasn't as impressed with the result as I was with the effort. And against my protests, she grounded me. Thus slowing my progression to the playground much more than I’d anticipated. Still, I was certain that the problem was faulty box construction, not my impatience. My theory was born out when the cereal companies finally made cereal boxes that you could pour milk into without a problem. I was way ahead of ya, fellas. I could’ve been worth millions if I could’ve patented my idea...or if I knew what a patent was. But that’s when I knew I was destined for greatness, of sorts.

Realizing that I just might be ahead of time didn’t slow me down, though. I still wanted to speed up time somehow. When I was twelve, I hatched ways of getting my homework done in half the time. Get two of my girlfriends, as in “girls who were my friends,” to help me do it. One on the first half of the assignment, the other on the second. I only did this once because their joint effort ruined my straight “A” homework streak. Thanks, ladies. Never again. While all this was going on, popular family drinks were corroborating my impatience with new inventions like “pre-sweetened” beverages. Thank you. Who’s got time to put their own sugar in the pitcher? Just add water. Done. Middle man be damned. I want my beverage and I want it now.

I was plagued even more by this desire to “do more faster” when my sister got a piano. It was horrible. There sat this magical instrument. Black keys, white keys…it looked so elementary as I analyzed the symmetrical arrangement of its construction. Pfft! How hard could it be? In the hands of a master it was magic. I knew this because I'd heard it on the radio, and it sounded majestic. But our piano sounded like crap. Must be something wrong with the thing. I changed my posture. I adjusted my elbows just so and swayed gently, like I'd seen on television. But my fingers went to all the wrong places. "Hm...must be this dang bench." Then, I channeled the spirit of Beethoven (yeah, I was into classical music as a wee inner city lad). But it sounded more like Beethoven the dog galumphing and drooling across the keyboard. Hunting for notes just kills the mood. That’s when I realized that it had nothing to do with our piano, but with me. Maybe my nose was too big. Or...maybe there was more to this music thing. I loved it so, but I couldn’t possess it; couldn’t master it in a sitting or two; which drove me nuts.

As the summer progressed, so did my piano skills. I'd advanced from Neanderthal to early Cro-Magnon. But I was not very happy about it. Too many wrong notes for me. Meanwhile, the kid next door had gotten his piano around the same time. And he was working on a song, an actual ditty. I'd listened as he practiced and practiced with his stubby little digits. Soon the klankers, missed fingerings and sluggish passages disappeared. Now he was playing beautifully. I was olive with envy. Hot Crossed Buns never sounded so good. As I passed by his house on my way somewhere decidedly more fun, I nodded in his direction. You go, little dude. He’d won my grudging respect. He was better than me, or "I" as the case may be.

As I entered prep school seeking instant gratification wherever I could find it, mass market publications screamed at me from their covers and spurred me on. Speed read in 10 days! "Yep, I’ll take it." Lose 30 pounds in 30 days! "See, I knew it was possible." Learn a foreign language in 3 weeks! "Now that’s what I’m talking about." Pick up foreign babes in no time flat! Whaa?! How’d that get in here?

Where was I?

Prep school! In prep school I did something that changed my life forever. I joined sports teams. I’d already been a pretty good athlete, but now I had coaches, and practice...every day. There were fundamentals; there were drills that I could only do with my left hand that I had to practice with my right hand, and there were kids who were much better at it than I was. That was a problem for me. So I started to practice the fundamentals, and I learned the plays, and even though I was still impatient, I did the drills over and over. I got better…and better. I began to internalize the adage, "practice makes perfect."

Still, the obsession with collapsing time followed me through college and into adulthood. I wanted the fast track to many things: music theory, scriptwriting, flat abs, problem-solving, and gourmet cooking; project management, video directing, lighting, editing, success, you name it. I didn’t want to wait. But I learned two things from sports; 1. Any skill worth acquiring takes practice and time, and 2. There’s no fast track to experience.

That’s why I’m surprised whenever I see very astute training professionals talk about learning concepts in “minutes.” Expectations grow, but training time shrinks. I'm concerned. Somebody clearly knows something I don’t know, cause I’ve never experienced a time in my life where I could learn any skill worth learning in a short period of time. And believe me, I’ve tried…and tried. It may put the client at rest to hear that their people will spend less time with that pesky training and more time doing their jobs. But isn’t it part of their jobs to learn how to do their jobs more effectively? Since when were quality skills picked up without daily practice and periodic reinforcement? Is short and sweet realistic when we’re talking about soft skills, or positive impact on the bottom line...or company culture? What about when we're talking about meaningful skill acquisition or behavior change? I'm confused. But let me know when you figure it out because I don’t have time to think about it. I'm busy trying to stuff a 10 day workload into an 8 day week.