Delayed fuse

A mental model, concept and framework that can help you in many different situations

For some reason I've been thinking about this concept almost the whole day today. It's nothing new or groundbreaking, and it might even be known under different name, but never the less it has helped me cope mentally with worries and stress that life throws at you. Therefore, after preparing for upcoming holidays and decorating the Christmas tree, I decided to put it down in words and try my best to explain it as simple as possible.

It's the concept I call - the delayed fuse.

I actually got the name and the idea from a movie The Wolf of Wall Street. In the movie there is a scene where main characters take rare, but expired drugs aaaaaand nothing happens. Anticlimax.

Nothing happens until it actually happens and when it happens, it happens big.

This is the mental model in a nutshell, but let's expand it a bit.

For me personally it's a concept, a mental model, and a framework that has three parts to it: the fuse, the blast and the shockwave.

The fuse#

Let's first talk about good ol' dynamite. You know, the kind you see in old movies where a couple of villains want to blow up a bank vault and take all the money. In those movies there is usually a scene where the fuse is lit and people run for cover not to be affected by the blast.

This is important because the length of the fuse is your safety margin.

There are different kind of fuses. Some burn fast and some burn slow. This knowledge allows you to plan. Controlling the length of the fuse gives you enough time to get to a safe space.

This concept is also true for hand grenades and traditional OTC fireworks and I bet you have seen a couple of clips on Youtube where things don't go as planned.

But what does that have to do with anything? It has to do with action, reaction and time. The time between action and reaction is the delay.

The gist of this is that nothing happens overnight, and you probably know that, but knowing it doesn't help you worry less or to get less discouraged when you launch something (product, newsletter, course, saas) aaaaand nothing happens. It's hard to hide the disappointment.

But thinking in terms of the delayed fuse helps you plan and also control the impact, which leads me into the second part of the concept - the blast.

The blast#

After the fuse has burned out there is a reaction, a blast. This is your launch. However, before the blast, while the fuse is still burning, you can have plenty of time. During that time your goal is to gather as many people as possible and tell them that things are about to blow, or if it's fireworks, to enjoy the show.

This is you building your audience. How do you do that? By being helpful, by sharing your knowledge and good vibes.

Things are easier if you already have an audience around you, just let them know. But if you don't, you have to work hard for it and prove your worth first. It's not hard, but it takes time. Just be helpful, share your knowledge and tips with people around you.

The time factor is important and it's the length of the fuse and its burn rate that controls it. Don't choose a fuse too short and don't pick one has fast burn rate if you don't have any audience yet. Let things take time.

It's equally important not to choose a fuse that burns for too long. If you do, people will get tired of waiting for the show. You need to find a balance here.

Another positive thing of choosing a slightly longer fuse is that it will allow you to safely extinguish it and prevent the blast. That is if you fail to attract an audience.

How ever you now choose to do it you must let your audience know. The man in the weapon shop in the video above lit the fuse, but failed to notify his audience. The blast sure was impactful, but not so much the reaction of his audience. This is what happens when you don't warn your audience and just drop the bomb on them.

The situation is the equivalent of locking yourself in the room working on your next big thing with hopes that the day you are finally done you will instantly become an overnight success only by just letting the world know about it once. The world just doesn't work that way. Sorry.

If you did everything right you hopefully have gathered a few people around you to enjoy the show. Things are about to blast. The impact, the blast radius and how far the shockwave will travel, mainly depend on the number of people you managed to gather around you at that very moment.

The shockwave#

If you set off a firecraker it will go poof and not KABOOM. If you have many people in your audience some of them might still get impressed and excited, but most probable is that many of them will instead just say meh, go home and not think about it anymore.

But if your audience is small and you set off a Tsar Bomba instead of a tiny firecracker, I am sure it will be something for them to remember and talk about. Both the blast radius and the shockwave will be huge. The sound and the light will reach people living far far away. The shockwave, in this context, is other people talking about the launch and the product and that way helping you spread your message.

The two examples are extreme opposites of each other. Both can create a sizeable impact, but if you try to maximize both factors the impact will have the biggest effect.

Small blast + Large audience = Impact
Big blast + Small audience = Impact

Your goal should be to attract as many people as possible by telling them about the awesome show that is about to happen and to get them curious.

The takeaway is that almost nothing happens overnight. There is always a delay.

You lit the fuse, nothing happens, nothing happens, and then KABOOM!

Understanding the delayed fuse concept can help you cope with stress and worry, because you now know that delays are natural. It can also help you plan and control the impact - the blast radius and the shockwave.

But if you don't light the fuse nothing will ever happen.