Take the richest person on the planet alive today and compare this person with any other. Does the richest person have more talent? Maybe. Inherit much of their money? Possibly. Compared to every parameter the richest person alive today might have an advantage over you, save one: time. Both you and the richest person alive have exactly the same amount of time every day. No one has an advantage. Or do they? What is the most valuable asset?
What you do with your day compared to the richest person alive or any other successful person is of interest. For example, sports superstars make it look so easy everyone thinks they can do the same thing. What the star performers do to get that good is a daily commitment to excellence. It looks easy because they have trained so often the motions become fluid and look natural, easy. You have to put in the time.
Of course we all know the time wasters: internet, email, phone, video games and people in general are good distractions if you allow them to be. Putting on the time to achieve your goals leaves no room for time wasters. Remember, everyone gets the same 24 hours.
Then there is the massive time waster: worry and other negative emotions.
Example: You leave home for an important meeting when some dumbass pulls out in front of you in traffic causing you to slam on the brakes. He waves an apology while you fume and cuss. Your heart rate and temper rise. Anxiety takes over.
At the meeting you are still fuming. You tell everyone there about the stupid driver who cut you off. That night you tell the story again to your significant other, kick the cat, break an ornament, stub your toe and cuss some more. All because of the dumbass!
And the dumbass goes blissfully on with his life without even a moment’s thought you even exist.
A moment of attention (avoiding a driver) turns into wasted hours and even days as the anger swirls in your mind.
This bring up another very serious point. Humans live to about 100 if lucky and many live to 70 or 80 in the Western world. The first 20 years you spend in diapers and school. Maybe longer! Most people would like to retire by 60 or shortly thereafter. That leaves 40 productive years of life. Not very much time to get things done when you think about it. And you pissed away hours, even days, pissed off at a driver that hasn’t given you a thought since.
Not very smart, gentle reader. Not very smart.
So is time your most valuable asset?
Wasting time and distractions are not a new disease in human society. Listen to these words by Blaise Pascal from the 17th century:
All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone. —Blaise Pascal
Even in the middle of the 1600s, a time without cell phones, TV, radio, internet, email. . . people still had a problem focusing on the moment. Life in a quiet room alone was (and still is) punishment.
Dick Proenneke built a cabin in the wilderness of Alaska in the late 1960s. He then spent nearly 30 living alone in a wilderness with only his mind to keep him sane. In his journals he commented on if he had what it took to spend a winter in isolated solitude. You already know Proenneke did have what it takes. The question is: Do you?
I’m not asking for 30 years. Can we make it 10 minutes? From my observations it seems people instantly pull out their phones for a distraction whenever there is an idle moment. Could it be that we have made no progress since Pascal warned us of the root of all our problems: our inability “to sit in a room quietly alone”. The the clock keeps ticking away the finite minutes of the day.
The Most Valuable Asset in Life
If spending hours or days fuming about being cut off in traffic is a poor use of limited time, what does an ideal day look like?
First, the skeleton of a good day applies to everyone, not just people between the ages of 20 and 60. Second, I am only providing a skeleton. Most of the things that make up the flesh and blood is determined by you. What excites you? Interests you? I can’t tell you what to read, but I can tell you that you MUST read every day. I provide the backbone, the skeleton; you provide your personal interests, goals and dreams. Oh, and I can provide some suggested reading material.
Reflective Time: Some people call it meditation. I don’t want to go that far because it sounds too formal. What I am referring to is time where you think deeply about whatever topic you wish to think about. It might be something at work, a hobby, family, an interesting tidbit you learned about, anything. But it has to be focused and deep. Yes, you can let your mind drift to where it needs to go. At minimum an hour each day needs to be in a quiet place alone where you can contemplate.
Read: Many of the things you will think about while you contemplate will come from your reading. I like to call it my studies. Even novels can teach a lot about a good many things. Good novels tell us something about, well, us. Nonfiction is pure learning. Articles are excellent reading. Read what interests you. Also read difficult books; books above your reading level in your chosen topic. Stretch your mental muscle. Read things outside your normal reading. Always expand your worldview. You never know what you might enjoy reading until you give it a shot. At least an hour per day should be dedicated to reading/learning.
Exercise: There are levels of exercise. Your physical condition will also dictate what exercises you can do. Walking is about the best exercise there is. I walk often in the park next to my office. Sometimes I meet too many people I know and my walk is short. (Be sure to find a place where you can really get a walk in without interruption.) Walking an hour per day can also double as reflective time. Running is powerful aerobic exercise. No gym membership required. Running is low cost and can be done almost anywhere. If your health permits, consider strength training. A gym helps with this, but is not required. There are many YouTube videos to train you on strength exercises using only your body. Aerobic and strength training 3-4 times per week is ideal for most people.
Time. You have no more and no less than anyone else every single day. What you do with that time will determine your outcome.
All too often we waste days that add to weeks, months and years playing with our phone, answering emails or playing computer games designed only to distract us from life. And then life reaches the end and all that remains is regrets. Time we could have spent with family and friends; time we could have used to reach for excellence.
Life is too short to waste! Nobody shortchanged you on time. You get 24 hours today. 1,440 minutes. 86,400 seconds. Eight of those hours should be spent sleeping. Nothing good happens without adequate sleep. An hour thinking, an hour reading and an hour exercising leaves you 13 hours every single day to pursue your dreams. Make every second count.
Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. You can’t go wrong reading any of Holiday’s work. This selection is of special note as ego is the root of much wasted time.
The Way to Wealth A quote from this blog post: If time is our greatest possession, then wasting time is our greatest crime.
Sunday 17th of July 2022
Great reminder to us, Keith. After hitting 50 a few years ago, it hit me hard that the clock is ticking and there are many more days behind me than in front of me. Really makes me take stock of the special times with friends and family.
Friday 15th of July 2022
Great article! I catch myself wasting far too much time worrying about things that I don’t need to worry about. Plus, our phones have become almost an addiction. Time to put the worry aside and the phone down!
Keith Taxguy, EA
Saturday 16th of July 2022
Tony, your bring up a Stoic point. Take action on things you control and don't worry about things you don't have control over. Very observative and an important point.
Friday 15th of July 2022
Thank you for that great blog!
Keith Taxguy, EA
Friday 15th of July 2022
Glad you enjoyed, Gav.