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What the barcode’s 27-year journey can teach us about timing…

Last Updated:

March 22, 2024

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Did You Know? with Gorick is the weekly newsletter by Gorick Ng, Harvard career adviser and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author of The Unspoken Rules, where we deconstruct the untold paths to success — of people (or things) you know!

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Did You Know? Good timing can change your life!

Today’s Preview

How good timing…

(1) …Revolutionized retail

(2) …Can help you achieve more

(3) …Applies to your daily life

(1) A story from the past

Did you know? The barcode (those vertical black lines you see on every package) took 27 years to come into existence.

What happened?

So, the next time you find yourself scanning a barcode at a store checkout, remember that it took 27 years to exist… and 45 years to make its inventor famous.

Joe Woodland (L) and his original patent (granted in 1952). A replication of the first ever scanned item: a pack of Wrigley's chewing gum (1974). Images via Smithsonian Mag and Smithsonian Institution.

(2) A study of the present

Did you know? Just because an idea exists doesn’t mean the world is ready for it. Timing, as Woodland’s story reveals, can be everything.

The importance of timing is backed by research. Technology entrepreneur and investor Bill Gross analyzed over 200 companies from Airbnb to LinkedIn and found that…

  • Timing accounted for 42% of the difference between startup success and failure, followed by the team (32%), idea (28%), business model (24%), and funding (14%).

So what? Good ideas aren’t enough. You need the world to be ready for your good ideas. And if the world’s not (yet) ready, wait for the right moment!

(3) A strategy for your future

Did you know? Good timing is also important when it comes to planning your daily life!

According to research, the best time to…

I know it because I’ve experienced it: All my life, I suffered from food comas… and next to zero productivity in my early afternoons. That is, until I realized while writing The Unspoken Rules that I shouldn’t be writing at 2pm, but 6am. It made all the difference!

Find the right time!


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