I woke up 45 minutes late this morning but I ended up 15 minutes late for work. How did that work out? No, I didn't drive beyond the speed limit - not that Goldilocks was able to go much beyond 100km/h really.

One of the previous episode of Masterchef was particularly interesting to me. In an elimination round, the half crying contestants were asked to pick their ingredients and whip up a dish in all in 20 minutes. The 'safe' winners were then picked and the remaining losers were to do the same thing in half the time, just 10 minutes to fetch all ingredients, cut and wash them and complete their cooking. The final 2 screwed up losers ended up facing each other in the last round - to cook something in mere 5 minutes and that of course include choosing materials, preparing and cooking.

The final round was the most exciting of all. I am not a fan of Masterchef but this one caught my attention. The winner of the final round performed so well that you wondered why she ended up in the final knock out stage in the first place. She chose picked strawberries and some white stuff (yoghurt or cream), nuts and sugar. That probably took her 1 minute at least. Then she proceeded to cut leaves out from the strawberries, desperately gave the nuts that she spread on the table a smart slap with her saucepan. Then she shoved all the nuts into the pan, blasted the flame to full and chucked sugar in. In a flash, she chucked the strawberries into a blender and started the machine. With her left hand on the blender and her right hand on the pan, conjuring caramel from the melted sugar, she was a sight to behold. Her final product was an elegant dessert with the white stuff and strawberry mix in a glass topped with caramel coated nuts. All in 5 minutes. She survived the elimination and the other chap who made a modest salad was made to kiss goodbye.

In an interview with one of the contestants who took part in one of the elimination rounds, she commented that everyone did wonders in 20 minutes, it made her ponder if they could have done much better in the normal competition rounds they experienced previously with 60 minutes or more.

I had no idea why I was late by only 15 minutes and not 45 minutes. In theory, I could have woke up 30 minutes later each day and still make it on time. But that somehow doesn't happen in practical, this happens to everyone and you know it's true. This tells us one thing, when a human is properly focussed on a particular task he performs in pure optimal efficiency that he can not imagine possible. Alas most of the time any one of cannot muster this supernatural ability once he is given even a single second to doubt.

The Singaporeans whom I met in Perth all asked me if I have some kind of HDB flat rental which I can fall back on, or huge savings or whatever. I have none of these safety nets thus that 'I would never had done  what you did' statement will follow. I would never have done what I did if I stopped to think. It was just a 'you have 5 minutes to do this' moment.


  1. The nature of life, humans included, is to slack when not in danger, and then to super-focus in life-or-death situations.

    To be a superhero at all times likely will cost that living thing to burn out its lifespan fast.
    Compare the short existence of an always diligent worker ant (1 to 2 months) to a slow and steady giant tortoise (about 200 years).

    Of course I don't think most of us want to be at either extreme in our final moments.
    I think the wisest trick is to always do what keeps us at our best.

    And no, it's not cheaper, better, faster.
    It is more of educationalist Ken Robinson's (TEDTalks) The Element.
    Much closer to what you have described in this post.

  2. I know this very well. I am a serial procrastinator. At my job, I am always pushing the deadline, then meeting it at the eleventh hour.

    Then after that I would think to myself, I could have produced a much better product if I started early. Alas, the focus just isn't there when you start early. If only we could always have that focus.

    1. Dear Moi,

      You're right.
      How I wish too, for uncompromising, always-on laser-precise focus. :-)