I think one of the defining things about Mentors is their impeccable sense of timing. I think it was Gandalf who said “A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.” And he couldn’t be more right. Whether it’s swooping in at the last possible moment to stop a hero from getting caught up with a band of Goblins or arriving just before the last piece of cake is gone, timing is everything.
Today, I want to share with you my greatest trick when it comes to timing. It’s my secret key to making sure that I, like Gandalf, never arrive late, or early, but instead, precisely when I mean to. No, it’s a magic clock, or special spell, or even a Google calendar. But it is a kind of magic, the kind heroes of every century have had to learn for themselves. And it’s wrapped up in this question: what is the most important time in a hero’s life?
Some would say the past, and with good reason. Every hero has a backstory. Sometimes the story is a sequel, and the hero’s past is full of stories of valor and grandior. But more often, in my experience, the backstory is painful, full of old wounds and unresolved trials that speak deeply to our present condition.
Some would say the most important time in a hero’s life is their future, with equally good reason: the future is where we can see who we could be, what our lives would be like if we accepted the call to adventure and fulfilled our potential. The future is where dreams lay, where we can imagine something worth leaving the comfort of home for.
But I think both of those answers are wrong. In his book Calendar of Wisdom, Tolstoy writes “You make your decisions in the present, and the present exists out of time; it is a tiny moment where two periods—the past and the future—meet. In the present you are always free to make your choice.”
Your past is important. It holds keys to understanding the parts of yourself that are hard to see. But you cannot make choices in your past.
Your future is important. It’s the place where your dreams live, where you can see a vision of who you could become. But you cannot make choices in your future.
That’s my secret to having perfect timing. I don’t plan it out. I don’t lay careful strategies about exactly when to stumble into a hero’s life. Because heroes aren’t made by the mistakes and triumphs of their past. They’re not made by the dreams or nightmares they have about the future. There is only one place they can be made: the present. The only time any of us truly have.
So if you’re reading this, you’re right on time. It’s the present. The place where the past and the future meet, when you have the choice to take on this moment with courage, strength, and hope. Let tomorrow worry about itself—today’s got a hero to contend with!
May the road rise up to meet you!