Life lesson: Speeding cars and time management


The only way to get relief supplies into war-torn Bosnia was through the ports of Croatia. Abbas and I set up a warehouse on the coast. The border would open from dawn to dusk, allowing us just enough time to deliver goods to the city of Mostar and return. Being late could draw fire due to the nighttime curfew. Driving fast was critical to staying safe.
I started to enjoy speeding.
I carried this habit to the US on my return. My job involved driving around the US to raise funds. Speeding became an addiction. I was crossing 100 mph (160 kph) in 65 mph (104 kph) speed zones. Next came radar detectors to evade police, then renting of sports cars. At times I would hit 125 mph (200 kph).
It was wrong. Yet, I continued. Why?
1. I loved the rush of adrenaline. It was thrilling. Average speeds appeared dull.
2. There was a sense of accomplishment in my skills. I stood out. Dashing on the Highways in 4000 cc, eight-cylinder sports cars, I drew looks of admiration.
3. The more skilled I became, the bolder I grew. To reduce the risk of getting caught, people will speed in groups. Imagine a pack of powerful cars speeding, taking turns to lead: the leading vehicle will get fined if you get clocked by the police car. Visualize a lion hunt. A poor deer gets caught while the rest in the pack continue to run and escape. I mastered the art of group speeding.
4. If you attempt to drive at 65 mph, the average comes at around 55 mph, which is approximately 14 hours between Chicago and New York. Aim at 100 mph; the average is about 85 mph, translating into 9.5 hours. That is a whopping 4.5 hours saved in a single day! I was saving a lot of time.
5. Sins are like viruses. You infect others. The word spread, and I started teaching the art of speeding, which also included managing a police officer on getting caught so that you walk away with a warning or a little fine. I understood the psychology of law enforcement. I had worked for the student security, a division of the Lincoln Police Department at Lincoln, Nebraska.
What were the cons of this?
6. I was endangering myself and others.
7. The quality of life suffered. I should have used these heightened skills to increase the quality of my driving, raising the bar of safety and teaching others safety instead of recklessness. The thousands of hours driving could have been spent in reflection and contemplation, maybe listening to valuable audiotapes. I could have been more present in the moment. There is no reflection or consideration of the intricacies of life when you are speeding at 100 mph: your hands clutching the steering wheel; watching the slightest movements of the cars around you; alert to any sign of police, and the ears tuned to the radar detectors.
I could have walked away wiser and more mature if I hadn’t sped the way I did.
8. As speeding became a way of life, it started to affect other areas of my life. My relationships failed to become deeper and more meaningful than they could have been; my knowledge acquisition suffered.
Time management is like speeding!
It is generally defined as doing a lot in less time. There is multitasking, doing things faster, delegation, prioritization, schedules, and to-do lists.
It is exhilarating, exciting, and adventurous. And at times, it is necessary, like speeding for my humanitarian missions to Bosnia.
The tragedy is that mostly we don’t know when to stop. We justify crossing the speed limit. When confronted by kids for more time, fathers justify by saying that they are working for their future. Sometimes it is true, but mostly it is denial.
Metaphorically, all points listed above for speeding apply to time management. It is thrilling and exciting (point 1). We love to be in the fast lane; business class international travel; expensive fast cars; meeting people in exotic places; five stars hotels; American Express Platinum Cards; executive airport lounges; business deals, and the list goes on.
With improved time management skills comes a sense of accomplishment and achievement (point 2). We start to take pride in meeting strict deadlines, working with multiple projects, sitting on various boards. Our sense of worth starts flowing from this, and we don’t allow ourselves to forget that we got here because we became competent to do all of this. Slowly, this starts to become a part of our psyche and, ultimately, the definition of who we are.
As our skills improve, we take on more and more tasks (point 3).
There are laws against speeding, but there are no speed limits for the vehicle of time management in societies afflicted by secular capitalism. While the players continue to pound each other in boxing, causing damage to the brain tissues, the crowds keep cheering them on. There are knock-outs, grave injuries, and permanent brain damage, but the system is so commercialized that society allows and encourages it.
Time management without limits starts to damage relationships, our health, and our very sanity. Yet society urges us on like boxing players, and we keep finding excuses and justifications. We speed in groups; develop our radar detectors; and learn to sweet talk ourselves out of trouble.
This paradigm of thought is infectious (point 6), sucking people into its fold. We become its propagators and win converts all over.
This notion of time management creates a massive imbalance in our lives where our health, relationships, inner peace, and meaning of life suffer. It creates a vacuum within us (point 7), an emptiness that starts to gnaw at the very existence of our being. Soon the symptoms appear: stress, anxiety, depression, and complex psychological disorders.
As we fail to be present in the moment, the finer intricacies of life are lost upon us.
As I landed in Lahore today, I was moved to tears when I saw a son carelessly helping his aged father onto a wheelchair. The father’s feet kept slipping off the wheelchair, and he would wait for the attendant to put them back on. His disgust was painfully clear.
As time management speeds up, our growth suffers; our maturity diminishes; and a lot of wisdom that life offers is lost.
The notion of time management in secular capitalistic ideology has very vague and obscure limits. As I reflected upon my life and experiences, I realized how powerful the Islamic perspective is on time management and how Islam defines the speed limits so clearly.
The speed limit on time management-in the Islamic perspective- is the concept of balancing the different roles in our lives like being a father, a son, a husband, a father-in-law, an entrepreneur, a trainer, and so on. Islam clearly defines minimum performance levels (MPLs) in each role of our life. Furthermore, Islam encourages us to excel in each role (speed, time management) if the MPLs are not violated (speed limits).
On arriving in Islamabad for a crucial meeting, my colleague discovered that his father was a little ill. He was uncomfortable. When he shared this with me, I told him to return immediately, and he did. The meeting was necessary, but the MPL in his role as a son was at risk. This decision for both of us came easily and naturally. I have lived and worked in North America and Europe for many years, and I know deep inside my heart that if I didn’t have the Islamic paradigm, my thoughts and outcome might have been different.
I have been teaching strategic time management (STM) for 26 years, and for a long time, I used to teach the balancing of roles in the course. Later I moved it to the Strategic Visions workshop. I have now decided that I will move it back to STM as I can sense that without the balancing of roles, people may miss out on the importance of speed limits.
So dear brothers and sisters, what is your speed?

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