By Madeline C. Gerwick
Year after year we run frantically through our work lives, often wondering if there isn’t a better way to approach business or our work. Indeed there is! And it involves our attitudes, expectations and use of time. Time is one of those things we tend to “swim in” so we often forget to consider its impact.
Most of us have heard constant advice about successful attitudes and using our time well. Unfortunately we usually haven’t heard that days are not created equal and that there are larger cycles or patterns that underlie each day’s potential. In fact, it appears that the Universe has a completely different view of what good time management is!
We would laugh at someone trying to get a tan at midnight, but many of us make this same mistake with other, less-obvious cycles. What we’ve long forgotten is that there really is a time for every purpose under heaven. And astrology, which is essentially the study of time and cycles, contains the key to understanding the best times for our purposes.
In business, we expect constant forward progress in sales and growth, our speed to market, our daily performance, and product or service quality. (No wonder we’re so stressed out!) Many of us also experience every minute of every work day completely filled with more work than can be accomplished. And to top it off, even though we’ve never experienced a year without challenges, delays or setbacks, there’s an unspoken belief that we shouldn’t encounter any obstacles or delays if we’re competent.
Regardless of how unrealistic these ideas may be, they permeate all aspects of business life. We’ve nearly developed a religious belief in always accomplishing something, and pushing forward at all costs. But the Universe seems to have a different agenda. Instead of constant progress, we see a well-considered order to the Universe that closely resembles what we see in nature. And when was the last time you saw constant growth and progress without rest and renewal in nature?
Now consider how completely inappropriate our expectations must seem when viewed from the perspective of the Universe. Unlike our goals and expectations, which tend to look like straight lines with an upward slant, our creative and learning processes are nonlinear! As in most things, the Universe created regular cycles for these processes instead. What has creativity and learning got to do with business? Just about everything, including the results we achieve.
The Gestation or Time-Out Period:
The Universe set up regular periods for renewal and replenishment as a part of the creative process. In astrology these periods of time are shown by void-of-course Moons or Time-Outs. The Universe believes there is a need for down time as part of the creative and learning processes. It thinks we need gestation periods to develop new ideas, gather all the information, and prepare ourselves for the right time to birth our projects or action plans.
These Time-Out periods are also perfect for renewing ourselves and our energy. They occur from two to four times per week and can last anywhere from a few minutes to nearly 2½ days. Most important, is that when we push forward during these times with important actions and make key decisions, the Universe rewards us with nothing.
Nothing? Yes, if you’re lucky you get nothing or nowhere with your actions and decisions. When you’re unlucky you get led down a dead-end path with one obstacle and difficulty after another, and in the end it leads to nothing. The worst examples I watched over 15 years were when management approved new products to develop during these Time-Out periods. The result: several hundred thousand or millions of dollars later the projects were canceled. Nothing for a lot of money. That’s because, just as in sporting events, you can’t score during a Time-Out.
The Wall Street Journal once published a report of a research project conducted by astrologers. They randomly selected 1400 bankrupt businesses to review their incorporation charts (using the date, time and location they were incorporated). It turned out that 100% of them were started during Time-Outs! Certainly nothing came of those bankrupt companies. Imagine what happens when we introduce new products, launch web sites, hire new employees, sign contracts, or place ads during Time-Outs.
When I was working in the corporate world as a marketing professional for an international test equipment company, we learned about bad timing the hard way. Once our division signed off on a cost-cutting change to a major product line during a Time-Out. We had tested the change and it would save money. But somehow we missed a major problem with that change. A few months later, we had to internationally recall the products for a safety issue. The recall cost us nearly $900.000, no savings at all!
When we’re in a Time-Out period, we’re either missing, or we misunderstand, some critical piece of information. When we make the decision without the correct data or understanding, we march down a dead-end path, going nowhere fast. When we finally get the correct information, we scrap what we did and start over. Can you remember encountering those scenarios? We’ve all had them. Wouldn’t it be more productive to wait for the right information and a better time to push forward?
Consider the time when a small retailer unwittingly chose to hold a big promotion on a day with an all-day Time-Out. They spent $1400 on advertising, and bringing in special products for the event, only to have no one show up. Not one person came.
Or consider the manufacturer of decorative, metal tins, who inadvertently placed an order for new tins during a Time-Out. Something strange occurred with the computer file for the artwork on the tins, and his contractor couldn’t make it work. This savvy manufacturer knew about timing and after several failed attempts to get the file to work, he checked the date the purchase order was placed. Sure enough, it happened during a Time-Out! So he cancelled the order and waited for a good day to resend a new purchase order. Shortly after he resent the new purchase order, (the file was still the same), the contractor called to tell him that the file now worked perfectly.
The purchasing department of the electronic test equipment once signed an annual contract with one of the major suppliers for accessories during a Time-Out. We had horrendous problems with that contract, including several stop shipments, lots of quality problems, and late shipments. The following year, after I informed the manager about Time-Outs, he selected a good day to sign the contract. In one year, the supplier went from being our worst to being on our best list.
One time a major manufacturer’s computer system crashed so badly that none of the technicians could even fathom where to start fixing the problem. Fortunately two of the technicians knew about timing and they noticed that this occurred during a Time-Out. Since they had no idea where to begin, they decided to wait until the Time-Out was over and then start fixing it. To their great surprise, when it ended a few hours later, the computer system fixed itself. It literally came back fully functional.
With stories like this, why wouldn’t we all want to use good timing? I know; I know. We have deadlines to meet! (What does that word mean? Are we going to be dead if we cross the line and don’t meet them?) Even self-employed people have them. How can we work with good timing and still meet our due dates?
I like to tell my own story in answer to that question. One time I was late getting a newsletter written and to the printer. When I finally finished writing it, a 20-hour Time-Out had started and I knew it was a bad idea to take it to the printer then, so I waited. I was completely irritated with myself. I knew that Time-Out was coming and I still didn’t manage to get the newsletter written before it started.
What followed was an eye-opener, even for me. By the time this period was over, I discovered five mistakes in my newsletter. Even more important, someone sent me a critical piece of information that needed to be incorporated into it. I was overjoyed that I hadn’t printed it yet. After integrating those changes, my newsletter was far better, and my credibility was preserved. Yes it was mailed out a day later than it would have been, but in the overall scheme of things, that was a better choice.
It’s interesting that we seem to understand that babies are born when they’re ready to arrive. As inconvenient as it might be, we realize we cannot control the timing for this. Yet when it comes to our other babies, our projects at work, and other creative efforts, we seem to think they should be born according to our schedule. Seldom do we consider that the creative process is organic in nature, a process that requires us to be open, instead of tied to an arbitrary schedule.
Since nothing positive comes of actions and decisions taken during Time-Outs, it seems only logical to stop wasting our energy, money and time by using these periods more appropriately. These are great times to file paperwork, catch up and clean up. They’re the perfect time to finish anything, read, review, gather information and do paperwork. Brainstorming for new ideas is also favored. Whenever possible, don’t plan anything at all, and just follow your instincts. Meditate, get centered, and renew yourself. Just don’t start something new, especially anything important.
Does your company have a department or division that needs better results? Ask that group to try an experiment by using good timing for a year. Just have the group avoid taking important actions and making important decisions during Time-Outs. I’m convinced that if we simply observed only the Time-Out periods, we would save trillions of dollars annually in businesses worldwide.
The Catch-Up and Fix-Up Period:
As part of our learning process, the Universe also set up regular times to review, find our errors, catch up and make corrections. The Universe expects us to learn by looking back, rethinking and redoing things. Here’s another reason why our constant desire for forward progress thwarts our goals. We don’t want to take the time to look back and rethink our erroneous decisions. Even the old song admonished us, “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow”, but until we do, it’s hard to make a course adjustment.
For some reason we’ve all gotten it into our heads that we shouldn’t have to make corrections, change our minds after learning more, or make changes to a project in mid-stream. But I ask you to seriously think of any long-term project of at least 6 months in length that didn’t have or need any changes. If the Universe is right, it’s not possible.
The major periods for catching up and fixing our mistakes are known as Mercury retrograde. Basically when Mercury appears to move backwards from the Earth’s perspective, we experience schedule delays and difficulties in communications, transportation, and computers. This occurs three times per year for about 3½ weeks each time. Anyone who has studied astrology at all has heard of these difficult times. But we wouldn’t experience so much frustration if we used this time more appropriately.
What does the Universe want us to do instead of speeding forward? It thinks we need some time to catch our mistakes, correct our erroneous assumptions and decisions, and fix them. It also thinks we need time to look back, reflect, catch up with people we haven’t communicated with in a long time, and get organized. It wants us to have time to learn, and very few of us learn by looking forward. Instead we need to look back, review what happened and take the time to understand what went right and wrong.
None of this can happen while we’re pushing full speed ahead. So guess what the Universe does with these periods? It fills them with delays. Computers and all forms of transportation break down, along with our communications. (The UPS strike was during one of these periods.) I’ve always imagined that the planet Mercury changes outfits and shows up as Murphy and his crew, making everything go wrong that could go wrong. And it’s usually what happens!
Business-wise, this is a terrible time to sign contracts. One or both parties may misinterpret the agreement or wish they hadn’t signed, and contracts often have mistakes in them. Even more important, we’re all reconsidering our needs during this period and usually we’re not clear on what they really are until the period is over. I’ve had several clients sign contracts during Mercury retrograde, only to regret doing so later, when they discovered their needs were different than they had thought.
It’s definitely not the time to start new projects, since the purpose of this cycle is to catch-up. Project schedules run into “Murphy Time”, as mistakes are uncovered and need to be fixed. It’s better to put some extra time into project schedules to cover the changes needed and delays encountered during these periods. If you do start a project during Mercury retrograde, spend the period rethinking and replanning the project. It will work much better if you do.
Products and services introduced or promoted under this cycle are unsuccessful, in terms of actual sales versus forecasts. Sales can be as low as 40% of the forecast. Why? Customers misunderstand what is being offered, or miss the offer (they’re busy catching up too!), and fail to buy it. Equally often, the product is incomplete or ineffective, especially in terms of documentation, or software. The promotion may also “miss the boat” and fail to create desire for the product.
Generally when we look back at these failures, we see that we rushed to market, or to complete our project, in time to fail! We took short cuts that didn’t work, or refused to reconsider previous decisions, even when we were warned otherwise. In short, we used the period inappropriately and paid the price. Sometimes we pay dearly.
Once a large company I worked for decided to build a new distribution center. This new center incorporated a major change in software, and a whole new way of picking the products to be shipped. The time came for the new distribution center to be opened and it was scheduled to open at the beginning of Mercury retrograde. By now warning bells should be going off in your head. Even though everyone on the transition team had reported they were ready, no one was ready.
Of course, since no one admitted to not being ready, the transition to the new center was a disaster. Several months and millions of dollars later, they were still sorting it out. This disaster could have been prevented by using this time to work out the bugs before making the transition. Whenever your project introduction coincides with Mercury retrograde, you can be sure you’ve missed something critical. It’s a warning to slow down and fix it.
What’s truly amazing about these Mercury retrograde periods is that even though they occur regularly, three times every year, for at least three weeks each time, we still ignore them! We still pretend that we don’t need time to correct our mistakes. We still expect that we can do projects without any delays or changes. We still believe that constant forward progress is achievable. No wonder we’re frustrated!
But in fact, according to Mother Nature, constant forward progress is not only unachievable, it’s undesirable as well. I believe that the Universe is trying to tell us that creativity, learning, and productivity are intimately linked together. When we fail to make room for the complete creative and learning processes, our productivity declines. Unable to replenish ourselves, or use what we’ve learned to remake better decisions, we burn out and become zombies, chasing the same problems over and over again.
Inherent within the creative process lies the unknown, which is the seed of our mistakes, as well as what we need to learn. But we need these elements of the creative process or we couldn’t create something better. Without the unknown, we wouldn’t have anything to learn. It’s all part of the cycle, a process to be repeated again and again.
How do we know this about the Universe? When we look at all other aspects of nature, we find that there are no examples of constant forward progress. The seasons change; plants grow and then rest. The Sun rises and then sets. The tide comes in and goes out; the Moon grows in light and then gets dark. There is a regular rhythm of increase and decrease throughout the Universe. How can we then expect something completely different for our businesses and the way we manage them?
The Strategic Planning Period:
Another cycle, Mars retrograde, when Mars appears to move backwards from our perspective on Earth, provides us with a strategic planning period. These last for ten to eleven weeks and occur once every twenty-seven months. Mars represents our energy, vitality, motivations, actions, goals, and how we compete. The purpose of this cycle is to reconsider the direction we’re headed, what motivates us to take these actions, and determine the organization’s strategies and goals for the next two years.
While this biennial, ten-week cycle seems very inconvenient, used appropriately it can save companies from throwing a lot of money at bad ideas. Often it coincides with the time companies are about to make mistakes in their directions, activities, or new products. Major disputes can occur between the urge to continue down the same path and the need to reconsider a course adjustment.
One large company I worked for was normally the poster company for cooperation and collaboration among the different departments. But during Mars retrograde screaming matches could be heard whenever issues related to a course adjustment were raised. Mars also represents anger, and during these periods whatever resentments have been swept under the carpet are brought to the forefront for resolution.
Since Mars represents our physical energy and vitality, it’s very important to assess them at this time and determine what fuels us and what drains us. Often we get to this period and just feel exhausted. That’s because we often find ourselves in projects or jobs that no longer invigorate us. It’s important to follow our energy, in terms of where we want to go and what we want to do next. This period helps us refocus on that.
Between October 1 – December 9, 2005, we had a very tough Mars retrograde. This period was known for people being tired, even exhausted, and needing to work even harder to meet goals. It was time to stop and reconsider what needed to change, in order to be able to grow again. During this time Ford Motor Company was in the news quite a bit, related to their strategic planning process. It’s doubtful they knew it was time to do this. They were just responding to the natural energies in their situation, as were many other companies and individuals who decided to do the same thing.
Products introduced during this time are like launching battleships to go to war without weapons and ammunition – very unsuccessful! This is not a time for new beginnings, since all actions, goals, strategies and motivations are up for reconsideration. Consequently new products and services are not well received. Actual sales for new products introduced can be as low as 15% of the forecast, especially if it coincides with Mercury retrograde.
What’s really going on is that products or services introduced during this time have one or more of the following issues:
- The product or service isn’t ready for the market or vice versa
- The product or service wasn’t defined correctly for the market.
- Mechanical or quality problems exist with the product.
- The promotion isn’t adequate to create desire and the expected sales for the product.
Test marketing and fixing these problems during Mars retrograde, prior to introduction, can make the difference between success and failure.
Once Boeing invited a large group of VIPs to take an introductory flight of a brand new jet during Mars retrograde. During the flight, the oxygen masks came down and the flight had to land unexpectedly. The papers reported a mechanical problem caused the malfunction. They repeated this same VIP flight again a few weeks later, after they had supposedly fixed the problem. But it was still during Mars retrograde and the flight repeated the same malfunction. If only Boeing had waited until the end of the Mars retrograde period, they probably would have had a successful introduction flight.
Stock prices can also go down during this cycle, especially if a company continues to pursue inappropriate directions or activities. Some companies have lost as much as 75% of their stock price when investors disagreed with their assessment of which direction the company should take. Momentum is not viewed as a “good excuse” by the Universe or stockholders for continuing down a wrong course! The consequences can be serious and can include bankruptcy.
This is what happened to Net, Inc. in May 1997, when they tried to transition prematurely from low-tech, cash-generating operations to new, Internet transaction services before they had enough high tech customers. If they had reconsidered their strategy and adjusted their timing accordingly, they could have made a successful transition later.
Why does the Universe seem to create such challenging periods? First, it’s important for us to check in every two years and find out if we’re still doing the things that really make us want to jump out of bed. What’s juicy for us and brings us energy? What fills our cup of tea and what drains it? What invigorates our organizations? The Universe wants us to stay on track, focused on what brings us joy. This changes over time, so the Universe thinks we need to re-evaluate this periodically.
Second, although we may not be conscious of this, all the actions we take are sacred, in the sense that we cannot undo them. This is important because when we take the right actions for the wrong reasons, we end up with the wrong outcomes. This is why it’s so important to examine our motivations during these periods. It’s vital for our actions to be fully in alignment with our intentions in order to get the results we want. These ten or eleven weeks every twenty-seven months are vital to ourselves and our companies.
Can We Work In Harmony With The Universe?
So what’s a person to do when the business world has no comprehension of the natural cycles designed by the Universe? Since the Universe is not going to change its design, we’re left with learning how to match its patterns and cycles. Indeed, the root meaning of the word “consider” is with (con) the stars (sider). When we contrast that to the root meaning of the word “disaster”, which is against (dis) the stars (aster), we get a clear idea of how we manage to create so many debacles.
What could we expect if we used good timing in business? Both J.P. Morgan and Walt Disney used astrological timing for their businesses. J. P. Morgan used it for his investments and became a billionaire doing so, back when millionaires were rare. Walt Disney used astrological timing for signing contracts, introducing his movies, products, and opening his theme parks. Asians have used good timing for centuries and see an astrologer for a good date/time to open their business or sign contracts.
Are you ready to take a different approach to your work? Are you ready to work in harmony with Mother Nature? If so, I challenge you to begin prospering with the use of good timing. Anyone can know what time it really is, and plan schedules accordingly. All you have to do is check the daily cycles of any astrological calendar.
When we begin planning our schedules according to what time it really is, and consider the potentials for each day, we’ll make major headway in the way we do business and how we feel about our work. We’ll have fewer losses and better outcomes for our projects, products and services, and we’ll find better ways to be productive while renewing ourselves too. Best of all, we’ll have the wind at our backs! We’ll prosper with ease as we work in harmony with the natural rhythms of the Universe!
© Madeline Gerwick, 2006. All rights reserved.
Madeline Gerwick is a certified business and personal astrologer, an international speaker, and author. Her background includes a BA degree with honors in economics, and over 15 years of industrial marketing and sales. She’s listed in several Who’s Who books, including Who’s Who in the World. She annually writes The Good Timing Guide: Time Codes for Success, and its corresponding quarterly, Good Timing Newsletter. She also co-authored The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Astrology. She’s heard monthly on the radio at www.renseradio.com. Call her in WA at 877-524-8300. Please visit her at www.polarisbusinessguides.com.