Today, we explore the concept of being in divine time, what it means, how we can organize our lives around this idea, and how to turn it into a habit. Rob shares his experiences with divine time at the Air Force and narrates how they developed a culture and standard procedures based on it.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners wherever you may be in the world today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger. We are so excited to have you with us today. Today, we’d like to talk about one habit that can make a big difference in your life. This habit affects your reputation, your effectiveness and performance, your self-confidence and esteem, your health and happiness, trust levels with others, and it can have a significant influence on your professional success. So, to introduce this habit, I’d like to go all the way back to 1970. When I was living in Montevideo, Uruguay, and I was serving a mission, and my mission president was Gardner Russell, who had been a very successful businessman, entrepreneur, and former spy in World War II. He taught us, young missionaries, who were serving others for two years before returning to college and our careers, so many great lessons. And one of those great lessons is the subject of today’s podcast. He called it being on celestial or divine time. Simply put, he taught us to be five minutes early for everything that we did. He wanted us to develop the habit of being on divine time or five minutes early for meetings or assignments. It was the principle that he suggested that we make a habit in our life. We have a cameo guest today. I am thrilled to have Rob Shallenberger, the CEO of Becoming Your Best and co-author of Do What Matters Most, “Start with the Vision”, and among other books, to share something that he shared with me a couple of days ago in relation to this habit, as he served as an officer and fighter pilot in United States Air Force. So, Rob, you’re a great son. It’s so fun to be able to work together with you and it’s so nice to have you on the show today. So, why don’t you take it from there, Rob? Share your experience, it was so impressive to me.
Rob Shallenberger: Where this started was my son is just starting his university experience. He’s going to be in the Air Force ROTC going, hopefully, to become a fighter pilot himself, that’s what he wants to do; if not, maybe the surgeon route. So, we were having some conversations and he laughed because the morning of their freshman orientation, his alarm didn’t go off and he thought it started at 08:30 but it was eight o’clock when he woke up, and he still had a drive down to the university, clearly going to be late for what he thought was his orientation. Well, fortunate for him, it didn’t start until 11 o’clock, but he was in a total panic: showering, jumping in the car, and driving away. So, we had a conversation about setting two alarms; anytime there’s something important in the morning, always set two alarms. And then my father and I were having this conversation later laughing about it, and I just shared with him that in the fighter pilot world, there’s zero tolerance for being late for something. When I say “zero tolerance,” if you have a flight brief and you’re a wingman for the brief, if you show up 30 seconds late for the brief, the door will close, you’re out of the flight. And not only that, you’ll probably be grounded for a few days. So, if you have an important flight or appointment and you’re late for it even 30 seconds, you’re out. And not only are you out, but if it happens a second time like that, they may give you what’s called Article 15, which is basically a career killer.At that point, you’re not going to get promoted to a higher rank, especially the higher ranks such as Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel General, and so on. That’s how seriously they take it — so, it’s not a joke. We all make mistakes. There is that one case scenario where they say, “Okay, I see it could happen once. But that’s why if it happens twice, I don’t know how it’s settled, then you’re toast — they’re gonna write an Article 15, but you’re in serious trouble.” It’s a very high-performance culture and there’s just no tolerance for that kind of thing. So, when you have a brief — they call it a brief — when you’re briefing for your flight and it starts, say, at four o’clock, you’re expected to be in that briefing room already sitting down five minutes prior to the brief start time. That is just the expectation, and it’s a culture that exists in the fighter pilot world; you’re not five seconds late, you’re not 15 seconds late. The flight leader will start the briefing, they’ll say, “Five, four, three, two, one, alright, here we are at four o’clock, hack. Welcome to x and x flight. And away we go.” Apparently, I never shared that with you, but that’s the culture that exists in the fighter pilot world.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, my goodness. So, now understanding that, Rob, how do you prepare yourself mentally? You set your gauge so that you’re never late, of course, how do you do that?
Rob Shallenberger: Unless there’s an emergency or something we didn’t foresee, it’s just simply part of our nature. My wife understands that. I’m not sure if she’s thrilled with it all the time, but we’re just never late. It’s just part of something that’s been reinforced in my DNA. So, it’s just like any type of mission planning you do in the fighter pilot world, you say, “Hey, if we need to be there at four o’clock, well, how long is the drive time? Okay, well, let’s back it up a little bit further from that. How long does it take to get in the car and get everything ready? Okay, we probably ought to pad that by five minutes because we know it can take longer to get the kids in.” So, we work backward. And if it’s four o’clock, the time we’re supposed to be there, I mentally say, “Okay, 03:55, that’s our time.” And we work back from there. But if it’s early morning, there are always two alarms: there’s my watch, there’s my phone. If it’s something where it’s involving others, I always had the time a little bit. So those are the things that I do, and for us, it’s worked out well. Sometimes you have to be patient in the process when it’s other people, it’s not just son or daughter, or whatever the case might be. But that’s what we do.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, I can attest that Rob has kept that habit after all these years. And actually, it’s an inspiration and it’s a real help to our organization. So, thanks for doing that, Rob. Any other tips while you’re here before we let you go, our cameo guests today?
Rob Shallenberger: No, that’s it. I mean, we all know that things will slip up once in a while, and that’s okay, that’s part of being human. But the idea is that it’s very rare and far and in between, and it’s the exception and not the norm. For me, this is just my perspective on it, it’s part of being respectful of other people’s time. If you have an appointment with someone at four o’clock, well, then that’s part of being respectful to their time; we don’t show up at 04:20, 04:30. To me, that’s an indicator of what that looks like. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the flat tire, or the things that can come up naturally in life. But that’s something that, for me, has been an important part of building trust with others is being respectful of their time. And if we set an appointment, being respectful of that appointed time.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, thanks so much for joining us, and I appreciate all you do, Rob. I love working with you. You’re just a great guy.
Rob Shallenberger: I love you, love working with you, and everyone have a great day. Great to be with you again.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s a powerful illustration of how vital this habit is of being early for your meetings and responsibilities and what it could mean to your success and future. So, today, in this podcast, I’d like to go over eight benefits that you will experience as you exercise divine time in your life. So, here you go. Number one: You feel great about yourself. To tell you, it’s an accomplishment to be on divine time; you feel more confident. And to be there early and overcome distractions, setbacks, traffic, and surprises that come up to get you there in time is pretty impressive. You feel good about yourself. And it takes planning an organization to live a life of being on divine time. You develop the reputation of being dependable and reliable. When Rob and I do a live seminar, we frequently get in the evening of the day before our seminar to be sure everything works and is fully dialed in. That way we could sleep well the night before and focus on just having a great experience with our client. So, that’s number one: you feel great about yourself. That’s quite an accomplishment, gives you confidence.
Number two: Other people notice that you were there early. They understand that it is an accomplishment to be early to meetings. So, being on “divine time” builds trust; people can count on you. That’s number two: other people notice you are there early.
Number three: You feel less stressed and much more at peace. When you’re early, it is happy and peaceful, you can relax. When you leave with plenty of time to arrive early, your trip is safer and more enjoyable. You don’t feel like you have to rush to arrive at your destination or meeting. And when you feel less stress and greater peace, other people feel this as well. And it can lead to a greater desire by others to want to feel the same thing. Your example, without even saying a word, influences others to similar behavior, especially if you are the leader. There are so many studies that establish that the less stress you have, the healthier and happier you are. Stress is such a huge contributor to heart disease, strokes, and high blood pressure. Being early to meetings or commitments can greatly reduce or remove the stress altogether. So, that’s number three: you feel less stress and feel much more at peace.
Number four: You can get mentally prepared to have a good meeting. This mental preparation helps you to be ready to get as much as possible out of the meeting and reflect on ways that may be able to contribute to your success and your organization’s success, and that is worth a lot. So, while you’re peacefully sitting there, you can get mentally prepared to have a great meeting.
Number five: You can rub shoulders with the leaders of the meeting. This can allow you new insights into your job, your responsibilities, and how to make a difference. This can give you an edge to make a greater contribution to your work and think of ways to help you and your team to be among the best at what you do. Since you become more like the people you associate with, being together with others who are there early will give you a leg up on opportunities and ideas. So, that’s number five: you can rub shoulders with the leaders of the meeting.
Number six: You will have higher trust in others by being on “divine time”. The higher the trust, the greater the opportunities; the greater the trust, the easier it is to work with another person. And remember, “divine time” doesn’t just refer to meetings; it refers to any project that you have committed to take on or are part of. When you are on divine time, you are not scrambling to come up with lame excuses. So, that’s it, you have higher trust with others by being on divine time.
Number seven: Use the time that you are early to be more productive. By being early, you have the time to review your pre-week planning, check in on your schedule, look at ways to be more efficient and effective, or you may just meditate. All of these things help you be more productive, happier, and healthier. So, that’s number seven: use that time that you’re early to be more productive.
Number eight: You avoid all of the negatives that come with skidding in at the last minute or being five to 10 minutes late — high stress; hurrying to get there, which is more risky and could cause accidents; high pressure; you may miss the first part of the meeting when instructions or the purpose of the meeting are typically given, and your life can seem to be somewhat out of control when you’re in that mode. So, let’s face it, being early to a meeting or getting an assignment in early just feels good all the way around. So, that’s number eight: you avoid all of the negatives that come with skidding in at the last minute or being five to 10 minutes late.
So, it did occur to me that it may be helpful to just think about some of the things that get in the way of divine time. Here are a few that I can think of that you can avoid. One is the attempt to squeeze in just one more project or call before you leave or start your meeting. Sometimes when you do that, you just lose track of time. Another one is not taking into account the traffic or the distance that you need to travel, like Rob said, it’s nice to give yourself an extra cushion; you’re not pushing it. This is an issue in itself, a push into traffic, and all the stress that it causes. Here’s another one: Not doing pre-week planning, so you start getting behind the curve of productivity and the wheels start coming off. Another one is you may not cheer fly your day in the morning seeing yourself being successful and get into meetings early or getting a project out ahead of time. And of course, there’s always a true emergency and I just don’t know how you avoid those. But fortunately, those don’t knock on wood happen frequently. So, it is a lot easier to prepare ahead and be early than it is to have the stress of always running behind.
So, there you have it, those are the benefits — eight benefits — of being on “divine time”. You feel great about yourself, it’s an accomplishment to be on divine time, and you feel more confident. Number two is other people notice that you’re there early; your stock goes up. Number three is you feel less stress and even more at peace. Number four is you can get mentally prepared to have a good meeting while you’re sitting there ahead of time. Number five is you can rub shoulders with the leaders of the meeting. And number six, you’ll have higher trust with others by being on divine time; you start becoming predictable; you start creating a reputation of reliability. Number seven is to use that time that you were early to be more productive even. How nice is it to be able to just sit back and think about, peacefully, the things that you have coming up. And number eight is you avoid all the negatives that come with skidding in at the last minute or being five to 10 minutes late.
So, I will be forever grateful to Gardner Russell for teaching me about celestial time or divine time. This podcast has been stirring for me because this is something that I want to do better at and I can do better at. So, today, I wish to invite each one of you to commit to yourself to being on divine time and watch the difference. I join you in accepting this invitation that can be such a life-changer and be transformational. Being on divine time is definitely part of the 12 principles of prioritizing your time. One of the very significant of the 12 principles of highly successful leaders, along with Principle 11, which is “Live in peace and balance.” Being early is one thing you can do that helps you to become more effective in using and prioritizing your time and in living the traits of highly successful leaders.
Well, we would like to thank you for joining us today. Kudos to you for working on becoming your best. You are really a total inspiration. And because of your efforts, people realize that and they want to do better. So it’s been great being with you today. This is Steve Shallenberger wishing you all the best today and always.
Leading authority on leadership and execution, F-16 Fighter Pilot, and father