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Heretics, dangerous ideas, and all things extraordinary. Welcome to my blog.

Dec 03

Practically Subversive: Be a Time Traveler

This post is part of a series called Practically Subversive. Each of the posts in this series is a brief glimpse of the “how” of changing the rules. Posts appear on Tuesdays. More Practically Subversive here.

Time is something we take for granted—we treat it as a constant, a straight line in which what happens today will continue to happen pretty much the same way tomorrow. The clock on the wall is as unyielding and invariable as a stone.


For something so supposedly inelastic, time has a way of changing our perceptions–and vice versa. Here’s an experiment for you:

Pick something you’re working on right now, something you worry about what people might think. Maybe you hope people really like what you’ve done. Maybe you’re trying to turn around a disaster. Perhaps public opinion is going against you. Think about what you’re worrying about today.

Now ask what people will think about your subject a month from now. A year from now. Five years from now. What changes? Does the issue lose its edge? Does it seem less weighty? Could you make some decisions differently in this moment knowing that they will be perceived differently with the passage of time?

Time works in the heretic’s favor.

Change is scary and unfamiliar in the moment, but it usually seems like a minor blip with enough hindsight. It’s true that resistance and backlash are pretty rough in the moment, but the storms of adversity tend to give way to acceptance over time.

Think about any large social movement: women’s suffrage or civil rights, for example, or maybe the Arab Spring. In the moment the resistance, death threats, violence, and efforts by the establishment to shut them down are enough to make anyone give up. The status quo has a way of wearing down even the truest believers.

Songs like “We Shall Overcome” and speeches like “I Have a Dream” get how hard change is in the moment, and they place their emotional bets on the future.

What will people think 50 years from now?

The heretic is a time traveler. She knows that today is temporary, and that while time is inelastic, perception isn’t. She knows that tweaking time frames is the key to building tenacity. She consciously reframes the timeline for her cause, asking how people might feel in a year, 10 years, a century.

Time is on her side.

Question: what are you working on that could use a time perception shift?

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