A couple weeks ago, the Lakers defeated the Suns in a three-overtime game, concluding what I would deem one of the more thrilling games of this NBA season. With 30 seconds left in regulation-time, Grant Hill of the Suns shot a three-pointer to tie the game. The first five-minute overtime was tied by the Suns’ Frye thanks to three successful free throws with 1.1 seconds left to play. In a similar free-throw situation at the end of the second overtime, theLakers’Gasol retied the game with twenty five seconds left to play. And finally, the Suns lost in a third overtime when they arguably took “too long” to release the ball in the fourteen seconds left to play. TheLakers won by two points. One shot.
It’s rare in sports for us to celebrate minor victories. Hill’s three pointer, for example. All we remember (especially as a biased Lakers fan) is that the Lakers “destroyed” the Suns in a 3-OT game.
Today, down by five with twenty seconds left in the game, the Lakers’ Lamar Odom made a beautiful three-pointer to bring a win back within reach. The shot reminded me just how much can happen in less than half a minute. Especially when it comes to sports. When the Lakers ended up losing, however, that three-pointer became part of the forgotten past.
In life, no matter what the journey looks like, the outcome is determined in just a matter of seconds. The last week of my grandfather’s life was not a steady decline. It was a roller coaster. In fact, the day before he passed away, we were told that he was doing better. That there was hope. Which is why when I received the dreaded call on a summery day in June, I was indignant. But I thought he was improving yesterday! What happened? I exclaimed as my eyes welled with tears.
Since December, I have been observing my brother’s quest for a summer internship. After tens of resume drops, for months he waited on responses. Increasingly discouraged my brother mentioned to me that the outlook seemed grim. Finally, three months later, he heard back from one company. The deadline for him to respond to the offer from this company was utilized to accelerate a response from another. And this for another. After months of waiting, in a single day, my brother was contacted for the first time, first-round interviewed, final-round interviewed, and extended an offer by the company at which he will finally be interning.
Considering the seemingly obvious benefits of taking your time with big decisions, the rapid decisions made by these organizations was eye-opening to me. But as I am beginning to realize, sometimes the benefit lies in who makes the big decision sooner. In the end, time is the ultimate decision-maker. As it becomes limited, it trumps every and all other facets of a decision. Simple as that.
In a similar vain, that’s why it can seem like large, established corporations with long-term plans and steady track records of success can feel like they are playing catch-up with small scrappy start-ups. Because start-ups are born losing, with twenty seconds to win. With their only goal being to defeat time.
This recent post in one of my favorite blogs describes how people with last names that begin with letters late in the alphabet jump at opportunities and make more immediate decisions than their A-M counterparts. Turns out having to stand at the back of the line or being mentioned last in roll call during all those younger school years actually has long-standing effects. I can point out a number of times I’ve had to work alone when everyone else had partners. Or gotten last pick at free-time activities. Tired of being last, understanding the disadvantages of waiting too long, M-Zers apparently waste less time hemming and hawing.
Today, as I watched the last twenty seconds of the Lakers game, I was frustrated. Upset. Why didn’t they have this intensity and drive to win before? When they actually had time? They obviously have the skill and desire to win. It just seemed dormant until the last minute.
When we could actually have control, why do we let ourselves become victims of time? Because, as with most things in life, we don’t realize how precious something is until it is limited, or worse, gone. But the goods news, as described by the Last Name Effect, is that we can learn from the times we’ve lost out. We’re not forever doomed.
By living each moment like there is 1.1 seconds left in overtime, by learning to perform well under pressure before the pressure exists, we can transfer control back into our hands, and more importantly, set ourselves up for a sure-fire victory every game we play.