Inside the heads of people who are always late, as explained by stick figures.

This article originally appeared on 04.07.16


This post was originally published on Wait But Why.

I woke up this morning to a text. It was a link:

"optimistic-people-have-one-thing-common-always-late."


Intriguing. Nothing's better than the headline: "The reason people are [bad quality that describes you] is actually because they're [good quality]."

I got to reading. And as it turns out, according to the article, late people are actually the best people ever. They're optimistic and hopeful:

"People who are continuously late are actually just more optimistic. They believe they can fit more tasks into a limited amount of time more than other people and thrive when they're multitasking. Simply put, they're fundamentally hopeful."

They're big-thinking:

"People who are habitually late don't sweat over the small stuff, they concentrate on the big picture and see the future as full of infinite possibilities."

Late people just get it:

"People with a tendency for tardiness like to stop and smell the roses…life was never meant to be planned down to the last detail. Remaining excessively attached to timetables signifies an inability to enjoy the moment."

By the end of the article, I had never felt prouder to be a chronically late person.

But also, what the hell is going on? Late people are the worst. It's the quality I like least in myself. And I'm not late because I like to smell the roses or because I can see the big picture or because the future is full of infinite possibilities. I'm late because I'm insane.

So I thought about this for a minute, and I think I figured out what's going on. The issue is that there are two kinds of lateness:

1. OK lateness. This is when the late person being late does not negatively impact anyone else — like being late to a group hangout or a party. Things can start on time and proceed as normal with or without the late person being there yet.

2. Not-OK lateness. This is when the late person being late does negatively impact others — like being late to a two-person dinner or meeting or anything else that simply can't start until the late party arrives.

John Haltiwanger's Elite Daily article is (I hope) talking mostly about OK lateness. In which case, sure, maybe those people are the best, who knows.

But if you read the comment section under Haltiwanger's article, people are furious with him for portraying lateness in a positive light. And that's because they're thinking about the far less excusable not-OK lateness.

All of this has kind of left me with no choice but to take a quick nine-hour break from working on a gargantuan SpaceX post to discuss not-OK late people.

When it comes to people who are chronically not-OK late, I think there are two subgroups:

Group 1: Those who don't feel bad or wrong about it. These people are assholes.

Group 2: Those who feel terrible and self-loathing about it. These people have problems.

Group 1 is simple. They think they're a little more special than everyone else, like the zero-remorse narcissist at the top of Haltiwanger's article. They're unappealing. Not much else to discuss here.

Punctual people think all not-OK late people are in Group 1 (as the comments on this post will show) — because they're assuming all late people are sane people.

When a sane person thinks a certain kind of behavior is fine, they do it. When they think it's wrong, they don't do it. So to a punctual person — one who shows up on time because they believe showing up late is the wrong thing to do — someone who's chronically late must be an asshole who thinks being late is OK.

But that's misunderstanding the entire second group, who, despite being consistently late, usually detest the concept of making other people wait. Let call them CLIPs (Chronically Late Insane Persons).

While both groups of not-OK late people end up regularly frustrating others, a reliable way to identify a Group 2 CLIP is a bizarre compulsion to defeat themselves — some deep inner drive to inexplicably miss the beginning of movies, endure psychotic stress running to catch the train, crush their own reputation at work, etc., etc. As much as they may hurt others, they usually hurt themselves even more.

I come from a long line of CLIPs.

I spent around 15% of my youth standing on some sidewalk alone, angrily kicking rocks, because yet again, all the other kids had gotten picked up and I was still waiting for my mom. When she finally arrived, instead of being able to have a pleasant conversation with her, I'd get into the car seething. She always felt terrible. She has problems.

My sister once missed an early morning flight, so they rescheduled her for the following morning. She managed to miss that one too, so they put her on a flight five hours later. Killing time during the long layover, she got distracted on a long phone call and missed that flight too. She has problems.

I've been a CLIP my whole life. I've made a bunch of friends mad at me, I've embarrassed myself again and again in professional situations, and I've run a cumulative marathon through airport terminals.

When I'm late, it's often the same story, something like this:

I'll be meeting someone, maybe a professional contact, at, say, a coffee place at 3:00. When I lay out my schedule for the day, I'll have the perfect plan. I'll leave early, arrive early, and get there around 2:45. That takes all the stress out of the situation, and that's ideal because non-stressful commutes are one of my favorite things. It'll be great — I'll stroll out, put on a podcast, and head to the subway. Once I'm off the subway, with time to spare, I'll take a few minutes to peruse storefronts, grab a lemonade from a street vendor, and enjoy New York. It'll be such a joy to look up at the architecture, listen to the sounds, and feel the swell of people rushing by — oh magnificent city!

All I have to do is be off the subway by 2:45. To do that, I need to be on the subway by 2:25, so I decide to be safe and get to the subway by 2:15. So I have to leave my apartment by 2:07 or earlier, and I'm set. What a plan.

Here's how it'll play out (if you're new to WBW, you're advised to check this out before proceeding):

CLIPs are strange people. I'm sure each CLIP is insane in their own special way, and to understand how they work, you'll usually have to get to some dark inner psychology.

For me, it's some mix of these three odd traits:

1. I'm late because I'm in denial about how time works.

The propensity of CLIPs to underestimate how long things take comes out of some habitual delusional optimism. Usually what happens is, of all the times the CLIP has done a certain activity or commute, what they remember is that one time things went the quickest. And that amount of time is what sticks in their head as how long that thing takes. I don't think there's anything that will get me to internalize that packing for a weeklong trip takes 20 minutes. In my head, it's eternally a five-minute task. You just take out the bag, throw some clothes in it, throw your toiletries in, zip it up, and done. Five minutes. The empirical data that shows that there are actually a lot of little things to think about when you pack and that it takes 20 minutes every time is irrelevant. Packing is clearly a five-minute task. As I type this, that's what I believe.

2. I'm late because I have a weird aversion to changing circumstances.

Not sure what the deal is with this, but something in me is strangely appalled by the idea of transitioning from what I'm currently doing to doing something else. When I'm at home working, I hate when there's something on my schedule that I have to stop everything for to go outside and do. It's not that I hate the activity — once I'm there I'm often pleased to be there — it's an irrational resistance to the transition. The positive side of this is it usually means I'm highly present when I finally do haul my ass somewhere, and I'm often among the last to leave.

3. Finally, I'm late because I'm mad at myself.

There's a pretty strong correlation here — the worse I feel about my productivity so far that day, the more likely I am to be late. When I'm pleased with how I've lived the day so far, the Rational Decision-Maker has a much easier time taking control of the wheel. I feel like an adult, so it's easy to act like an adult. But times when the monkey had his way with me all day, when the time rolls around that I need to stop working and head out somewhere, I can't believe that this is all I've gotten done. So my brain throws a little tantrum, refusing to accept the regrettable circumstances, and stages a self-flagellating protest, saying, "NO. This cannot be the situation. Nope. You didn't do what you were supposed to do, and now you'll sit here and get more done, even if it makes you late."

So yeah, that's why I'm late. Because I have problems.

Don't excuse the CLIPs in your life — it's not OK, and they need to fix it. But remember: It's not about you. They have problems.












Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

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