Posts tagged with #Time
Time is the only resource in life that you can never get back. This fact makes it one of the most valuable resources in the world. It is also one of the most controversial and complex resources in the world.
For example, when one is young, time seems to be the thing we have an abundance of. Aside from the required daily school and occasional parent-inflicted extra curricular activity, one has very few demands on one’s time at an early age such that we’re often left with an abundance of it. “I’m bored” is probably the most common complaint among children, and is one that spans all ages, races, genders, ethnicities, and every other imaginable distinction.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have people in their 50s and 60s who spend all their life’s savings and energies on trying to get back more time. Whether that’s by offloading things from their lives that demand too much time, or by attempting to prolong their life and add more time to it, there are many in their sunset of life that seem to never have enough time.
Why is that? What’s the catch here?
What is valuable?
One very unfortunate reality of our current social norms is that in our developing years we are taught (often implicitly) that our primary purpose in life is progress along a fairly well-trodden path.
From our first breath we are put on this neverending conveyor belt of progress and expected to spend our lives entirely on it. We were taught to walk so that we could run. We were taught to run so that we could play. We were taught to play so that we could interact with other children at school. We were put in high school so that we can get into a good college. We strove to get into great colleges so that we can get good jobs. We strive for good jobs so that we can make money to start a family and support them. We have children so that we can teach them and help them speed up their process along the same conveyor belt.
Every step along the way, we were told that our accomplishments and achievements are the things that we should be striving towards, and yet no one ever explained to us why these things hold value. Nowhere on that belt are we taught to take the time to discover what is valuable to us. Instead we’re taught that the next step, the next thing, those are what’s important.
Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t plan for tomorrow, that we shouldn’t have goals and progression paths that we want to be on. Quite the contrary. Plans and goals are great. However, the problem of too much planning for too far in advance is that we don’t focus on the here and now. Living constantly for tomorrow means that you will never enjoy today, will never actually “get there”. There will always be another “there” to go!
When we were children we assumed our parents’ values. But because we were never taught to discover our own values in our developmental years, many reach adulthood still on the conveyor belt their parents set them on. As children we’re told that the future has value so we should work towards that.
That unfortunately causes us to miss the reality that childhood is not a training ground for adulthood! We rob our children of half of their lives when we treat it as such, and we set them up to perpetuate the same cycle with their own children in future generations. When we treat everything we’re doing - life itself, in other words - as valuable only insofar as it lays the groundwork for something else, we miss out entirely on the beauty of the present.
Instead, we need a range of inputs, learnings, and experiences. We need to balance the time we push to the future with the time that we enjoy the present.
Our society is structured such that we rarely think about the present. Our immediate choices don’t create meaning in the here and now, but rather create the possibility for meaning later. Many live as though the present moment is an obstacle which they need to overcome to get to the “right” moment in the future. The present is never quite right, never quite good enough.
We must learn that the present is not only a gateway to the future - It is an end unto itself!
At some point along the journey we realize the hidden wisdom in the old riddle, that the thing that is always coming but never comes is tomorrow. Enter the midlife crisis.
This is a time where many realize that the incessant striving towards tomorrow is not the mark of a life well lived, that the pursuits of wealth, fame, fortune, and success do not satisfy as we had hoped. We therefore seek to find ourselves, to find the things that we believe we should pursue for the remaining half that will give us meaning.
It is typically not until the sunset of life that we realize the truth behind the matter - that regardless of our choices, our experiences, our relationships, and our chosen career paths, things have value because in choosing them we could not choose any alternative. They have value because in pursuing those things we had to explicitly choose not to pursue everything else.
When we accept this, and accept that life is finite, then things become meaningful. If we had infinite time, choices don’t matter, as there is no sacrifice for them. But because time is finite, each choice we make explicitly is at the expense of another choice, and therefore makes the choice itself valuable. The fact that we have a limited amount of time when our children are young, that we have but 4 years in our college experience, that we have only two weeks for our upcoming vacation - these are why our choices matter, and what gives them meaning.
Managing your time
It therefore behooves us to consider the question of time management. How does one do it? How should one prioritize the finite time that one has on this earth?
There are many time management philosophies out there, and I will neither pretend to be aware of them all nor will I provide any prescription on what I think is best. Rather, I will suggest that if your time management philosophy doesn’t help you neglect the right things then something is wrong! In this life there will be infinitely more things that you don’t have time for than those that you do. Any effective philosophy you adopt must therefore help you choose what not to do as much as it helps you choose what to do.
Effective time management is about more than just slotting in the right things into convenient time slots and playing calendar Tetris. It is about prioritizing, and about realizing that you will never have enough time in a day to accomplish all that needs to be done for the given day, so you need to prioritize. It ought to allow us to face our limitations, our time constraints, the finite nature of our lives, and our inability to control it.
When we don’t thoughtfully and intentionally apply an effective system we find ourselves giving up control. This is natural - having some other external force take control and make a choice for us which precludes us from making some other choice is much easier than owning the responsibility of that choice ourselves.
Sadly, many of us choose to escape the fact that we in fact are responsible despite our desire not to be, so we relinquish control and allow ourselves to be swept away by the currents of the day. This allows us blame something else for our misfortunes and allows us to save our pride.
For if we never try, we can never fail, right?
Unfortunately the reality is that this relinquishing of responsibility often ends up with us being bored. Boredom ought to lead to a realization that we are in control of how our experience is unfolding, and thereby bring about a visceral understanding of the reality that this is it, this life, these choices, these experiences - these make up the sum of human experience.
This is why we must train children to figure out what to do with their own boredom. We must teach them to self-motivate, because without that ability, they will inevitably turn to something else - social media - to fill their time instead of taking control of it and wrestling with their own finitude. We must teach them to better manage this valuable resource that each of us gets a finite amount of in our lifetimes.
Time is a networked resource
Time is a valuable resource, no doubt. And it is absolutely better the more we command it (ie similar to money). However, it is also a networked resource, which means that it has more value the more people have control of it as well (ie telephones, internet etc).
This means that despite our desire to have absolute control over our time, it actually benefits us for others to have some control over it as well. When we have friends and family that feel like they can impose on our time and help direct what we do with it, our lives become much richer. When we have shared experiences, they have the potential to have much more depth than our individual ones.
This, like many things, requires balance and good boundaries. We cannot exert complete control, but we also cannot relinquish complete control to others. We must have balance for how we manage our time, whom we allow to make demands, and what our criteria are for granting those demands.
Regardless of how we label the axis - patriarchal vs individual, eastern vs western etc - we must find the balance along the axis that allows us to have healthy boundaries with our relations. It is not a surprise then that in her book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, author Bronnie Ware finds many on death’s doorstep regretting living the life others expected of them instead of having the right boundaries to live the one they desired for themselves.
And so my boys, my hope for you is that you learn the value of time, that you learn of its role in determining value and meaning in your life, and that you establish early on a great set of boundaries that will keep you on a balanced filled with great relationships along with great freedoms to forge your own way. I love you boys!
The French have a lovely phrase - “la joie de vivre” - which loosely translates into the joy of living. This phrase has been floating around in my head all week, and as I sit on the deck of the S. S. Catherine, docked presently in Avignon on the Rhône River, I thought I’d share some of the thoughts that have been marinating.
What are you about?
We are constantly bombarded with a steady stream of messages telling us what we should do, how we should dress, what we should think about, and what our lives ought to look like. These mimetic models come in the form of ads trying to sell us not just a product but a lifestyle, curated and idealized Instagram photos showing us that our friends have it all, and everything in between.
So how do we find signal in all that noise? How do we find out not what others think we should do, but what we want our lives to be characterized by? How do we find that joie de vivre that allows us to live lives consistent with our values in a way that brings us a daily and sustained joy?
First, we need to look up. Someone once said that
“If you’re never looking up, you’re always just looking around”
There is immense value of having a viewpoint which transcends the mundane. Life is a series of connected moments that may at many times seem random and disconnected. It is up to us to add value and meaning to those moments such that over the course of our lives they string together to build a beautiful tapestry of our history.
By constantly looking around us and never looking up at the loftier things, we reduce our lives to the mundane and meaningless drivel of existence. However, if we deign to look up every so often and fix our eyes on the grand, we turn that mundane existence into rich and meaningful life. We begin to see our place in the grander scheme, and are able to take things in stride.
Looking up gives us context. It puts our lives in perspective. It allows us to see that we are a part of a greater whole. As the saying goes,
“If the vision is big enough, the details don’t matter”
If we’re able to see the grand story of Life with a capital “L”, then we are able to see our our lives fit into the picture, and when we’re able to do that the little bumps along the way seem to matter much less.
No matter what you see, no matter what the bigger picture looks like for you, no matter what piece of the big puzzle you believe you ought to play, live it. Run towards it. Constantly refine it. Nurture it. Engage with what you see upwards so that you can know what you value and believe and can therefore apply those things all around you.
Having a sharper view on what we’re about is but a starting point. We need to apply that understanding to our present reality.
From a young age we’re taught to think about the future. Even before children enter a hyper-competitive school system young parents are constantly trying to give their children a leg up by signing them up for enhanced learning classes, math camps, language lessons, and everything under the sun that they can manage to afford and cram into an already-too-busy schedule.
Kids are then ushered through a grueling 12 year program designed with one single purpose in mind: college acceptance into the best school that you can both afford and qualify for. The next four years after that are designed to mold you into the perfect cog to fit into the American economic machine so that you can make good money and have a wonderful life.
Well what is that wonderful life? Having a family and kids of your own of course. And once you’re past parenting your own kids through to college, you’re saving for retirement to make sure you can end life well.
Surely somewhere along the way life itself must actually be lived, right?
While none of these things themselves are bad (I’m not at all advocating for us to abandon education) they are incomplete. They are not the only important thing in life. They are not even the most important thing in life.
It is good to think about the future, to plan for it, to be prepared. However, that needs to be balanced with living in the moment and being present.
Focus on each moment
To be present, to fully enjoy that joie de vivre, we need to learn to focus on each moment and to be present in it.
It’s worth explicitly pointing out that we should only begin focusing on the moments after we’ve taken the big picture context in mind. This is because the big picture context acts as a lens through which we filter each moment and allows us to view them with the right perspective.
It is in our nature to see the worst in each moment, to see fear and danger everywhere. This is an evolutionary imperative and has worked well for millions of years in keeping the human species alive. As such, it is a trait that we automatically apply to every situation, regardless of the fact that there are no longer bears, tigers, and other natural predators out to get us.
Filtering our experiences through the big picture context allows us to strip out that initial reaction and see each moment through the lens of our values. It is through this lens that we should focus on each moment, allowing ourselves to fully feel, fully embrace, fully love, fully cry.
La joie de vivre doesn’t only mean happiness; rather, it means a richer experience of each moment, happy or otherwise. By focusing on each of these moments, by being present through them instead of thinking about the next ones, and by releasing ourselves and allowing ourselves to fully be in them, we are more able to experience a richer, more vivid, and more sublime world.
My sons, my hope for you is that you’ll be able to experience life fully, that you will have no regrets about how you responded to the situations and circumstances that life threw your way. I love you boys!
We are all blessed with the same 24 hours in a day. Father Time is unbiased In this regard (though some may question His fairness in His numbering of our days). Whether rich or poor, young or old, big or small, male or female; we each get the same 24 hours to apply to a day.
We explicitly say apply here because some may choose to inefficiently lose it, some may choose to squander it, some may choose to invest it, and some may choose to thoughtfully spend it.
Being unintentional with one’s time
When one doesn’t thoughtfully consider how to apply one’s time and apply good intention and boundaries around it, we may inadvertently lose much of it without having anything to show for it in the end.
We all know of that person who may have the greatest intentions to be incredibly productive with their afternoon, but on her way out she remembers that she had a half written email from the night before she wanted to finish, so she sits at her desk to finish that up. In doing so, she sees an ad for that thing she had been wanting, and, seeing no harm, clicks on it and spends a little while tangled up in articles and videos about It. Realizing that a half hour has gone by, she then gets up, resolved to go about her day, but in the 30 minutes since, she notices that the clouds have come in more than she had thought, so she decides to put on a sweater. In going to her closet, she realizes that the laundry needs to be done, so she begins that. Starting her laundry reminds her that some dishes from the previous day are still in the sink, so she begins to clean them. Pretty soon, her entire afternoon is gone and she still hasn’t gotten out of the apartment to do the productive things she had intended to do in the first place.
You might argue that some of those things are good. The laundry needs to be done, the dishes need to be washed, so why is our heroine being frowned upon?
The answer lies in our ability to direct the course of our lives.
Back to our heroine. If we take individual time slices of what she ended up spending her time on and simply tally the time she has “wasted” (more on wasting time later), she may measure up quite favorably. Doing the dishes, doing the laundry, finishing her email correspondence - those are all useful and necessary things, and do effectively move her life forward. Time spent on ads and videos may be arguably useful as well, especially if those activities lead to more clarity and ultimately a purchase decision on something.
When we take a step back however, we see that our heroine has not intentionally moved life forward in any measurable way. Her initial intention was to be productive with her afternoon, which we assume to be an afternoon spent in activities that move the macro needle of her life forward (for example studying, learning some new skill). We may be tempted to give her a pass this time, as her overall time was spent usefully, and in this single instance it may be fine for us to do just that.
The problem arises when we look not at this single slice of her life but when we apply the principle to all (or at least, the majority) of her days. Without the skills and the tools to combat this type of approach to life, we may quickly find weeks, months, or even years have gone by without our explicit direction. Worse, we may decide that the ability to have any input into the grand scheme of our life was a farce to begin with and remove our hands from the wheel altogether.
So what do we do?
Increasing our time
When it comes to our professional lives, it is pretty common for us to think about how to maximize our time. We have trainings and seminars about how to be more productive, and our teams are always trying to optimize processes so that we can be the most efficient in our application of the time we allocate to our professional endeavors. (I’ve recently shared a few thoughts myself on the matter: here and here).
How do we apply similar principles to our personal lives so that we can get the most there as well?
Think Big first
This might be a bias from me working at Amazon long enough to adopt the “Think Big” terminology, but it’s the right term to use here. We must first start by thinking big, thinking long term, thinking grand. What is it that brings us satisfaction and fulfillment in life? What is it that causes us to have that Joie de vivre we’ve heard so much about? What is it that makes us tick, the thought of which brings a smile to our face and an inner warmth in our hearts?
Once you’ve figured out what your “big” is, remind yourself of it daily. Whether you like mantras, sticky note reminders, hung phrases above entryways, or scheduled conversations, you need to remind yourself of your “big” frequently. It needs to be always hovering close to the top of your mind so that you can channel it and recall it instantly.
Our brains need regular reminders of what’s important. We are lazy by nature. Humans are creatures of inertia. When left to our own vices, we always choose the path of least resistance, both physically and mentally. By reminding ourselves of our “big” regularly, we create an environment that aids us in our thinking big and gives us natural prompts to orient our lives accordingly.
It’s worth calling out that there can be many big things in your life, and some of those things can be contextual. That’s totally okay! Put your reminders and in appropriate places in your life so that you have the right frame of mind for the right context.
Once you’ve determined your big things, you then need to ruthlessly prioritize everything else under them. I say ruthlessly because it’s often easier (and much less effective) to say that a number of things are as important as one another.
This is the burning house test, but for your own initiatives (if your house was burning down and you could grab one thing, what would it be?). Remember that if everything is important, then nothing is important. You can only have one best friend. You can only have one top priority.
“But wait!”, you say. “What if I have qualifiers? I have a best work friend and a best childhood friend!”. That’s all fine and good, but taken to its logical conclusion, every person could be “best” in their own category, which means that every friend you have is some type of best friend. This of course makes the title “best friend” utterly meaningless.
The same is true of our priorities. While it is tempting to say that my top work priority is such and such, and my top personal priority is this and that, this still fails the burning house test. Given you have a finite amount of the singular most precious resource in the world (ie time) which you can only allocate once, where will you allocate it?
Now, I’m explicitly not suggesting we starve any of the lower priorities. This isn’t a serialized, only work from the top down type of list. But when push comes to shove and we have conflicting things to do, ruthlessly prioritizing will allow us to drive our life’s course in a direction consistent with our values.
Plan for (and value) rest
The Good Book tells us that on the seventh day God rested “from all His work which He had done” (Genesis 2:3). He instructed His people to observe the Sabbath. He intended for us to rest. For some reason that has gotten lost in translation in modern day America, and we’ve somehow begun mistaking slacking off for rest.
First, we think that after a long week’s work, we owe it to ourselves to veg out in front of the TV and call it rest. It isn’t.
Next, because we think resting and slacking off are the same thing, we think that those who rest are slacking off, which our workaholic culture tells us is an ineffective use of our time.
I had a European coworker say once that they don’t want our American workaholic culture to be carried over onto our Europe team. (For those of you who read that and think, “those Europeans are slackers”, I hope this section speaks particularly strongly to you)
Let me begin by asserting that:
Resting is not slacking off
We need rest. We were made to require it. It is healthy, necessary, and nourishing to our bodies and our souls.
Rest is not simply ceasing to work. It is not slacking off or shirking one’s responsibilities, nor is it passively sitting on the sidelines and letting life do its thing.
It is active. It is intentional. It is thoughtful. It is practiced.
We are all wired differently. We have different motivators, different passions, different fears. And we all rest differently. What is restful to one may be stressful to the next, and vice versa. Just as we must spend the time and effort getting to know what our dreams are, what “big” means to us, so too must we spend the time to know what rest looks like for us, what that soul-nourishing, rejuvenating rest is.
My sons, our world is increasingly hectic. We are bombarded by countless vies for our attention. The world gets smaller, more connected, and more noisy everyday, with a million and one things trying to steal your time. My hope is that you learn to manage your time well and stay in the drivers seat of your lives, so that you can live the lives that you dictate, that you desire, and that you strive for.
Much has been said on the topic of time management, and with good reason. Our world seems to be obsessed with it, with the ability to be ever more efficient, and with the relentless pursuit of higher output and productivity. There is much research and many lifetimes of thought that have gone into the topic with many different techniques and practices that I won’t get into.
Instead of focusing on how to manage one’s time, I want to muse on the topic of what it means to manage your time well.
Why do you want to manage time well?
The first question we need to ask is a question of purpose, of motivation. Why do we want to manage our time well? What is the primary purpose? While there are no objectively wrong answers to this question, there are a few dangerous ones that will make success very difficult.
For example, some great motivators for time management are to have more time for one’s pursuits, to have more time at one’s disposal for things of value, and to free up time for others to claim. Some bad motivators are to be more efficient so that we can get more work done, or so that we can cross more toil-based tasks off our seemingly neverending todo list.
We’ll get to why those are bad motivators later, but for now let’s suffice it to say that our motivators not just whether we’re successful but also the nature and the route by which we’re successful in managing our time well.
How we work
Whether we’re discussing our professional work life or making progress in our personal life, the way we work tends to be similar across both. Some of us are list people, some are chaotic feeling-driven people, some are guilt-driven, and some are externally driven.
Regardless of your preferred style, there are a few things that are simply limitations of the human brain that affect us all.
First, the human brain is only able to concentrate on one thing at a time. Contrary to popular belief, multitasking is not actually possible for the human mind. Our brains perform similarly to single CPU-based systems - we switch between each of our multiple tasks at a rate that is passable (ie not immediately obvious but easily noticeable to the keen observer).
For our brains as it is for CPUs, this is expensive. This is because context switching wastes cycles. In computing, this means that each time the CPU switches tasks, the context that it needs is recalled from memory. That recall process wastes time and cycles. This is also true of our brains - switching context back into focus wastes our brain energy and takes time.
Studies tell us that it takes on average 23 minutes for an average adult brain to get from one task into a flow state on a different task. This means that each time we context switch, it takes us 23 minutes to be back to working at full strength!
All this is to say that we cannot, and should not attempt to multitask.
As such, we must prioritize. We first build a list of all of our priorities. Then we need to remove our distracting priorities. This means that for anything that doesn’t fall into our top 5, we must actively avoid them because they were priorities that didn’t make the core 5 but are close enough that they can (and certainly will, if we allow them) distract us from accomplishing our top ones.
This is hard! These are things that we actively want to do and believe there is much value in doing, so letting go of them will be incredibly difficult!
Next, once you’ve finished the top 5, don’t just automatically get to the next one - re-evaluate your list at that time to determine if the next things still are the next right things to do. We often find that they aren’t!
Lastly, management experts suggest no more than three things going on at a time. Many successful executives who seem to do so many things at once in fact limit themselves to doing one thing at a time - they get that thing done well, and then move onto the next.
For example, Mozart is the only known composer who was able to work on multiple works at once, all of which were masterpieces. Bach, Haydn, Handel, Beethoven - they all worked on a single piece at a time, and didn’t move onto the next until the first was finished.
Chances are, you are not a Mozart.
Incredibly effective executives have focus, concentrate on one thing, and concentrate their organization on one thing. Know where you need to concentrate your time and your team’s time, and do so intentionally.
Know what we can realistically accomplish
As we progress in our lives they become increasingly busy. Professionally, we have more demands and requirements of our time, and our added value to our organizations mean that more weight is placed on the things assigned to us. Personally, our lives expand to include dating, spouses, children, social obligations, taking care of aging loved ones, and hopefully, going on vacation and seeing the world!
What do we do with all of these demands?
We attempt to do them all. We try to make time for everything that feels important, but the problem is that constantly adding more without taking away anything is a fools errand, but we’re often too foolishly optimistic (or too stubborn) to see that.
Part of the problem is that what is important, or what “matters” is subjective. What matters to each of us may be quite different and very nuanced. It therefore behooves us to be thoughtful about processing our inputs so that we determine for ourselves what matters, instead of simply adopting the beliefs and opinions of others.
Another problem is that the minute you start feeling “on top of things”, the goal posts will move and more things will get added to the list.
This is because with each time-saving invention, the bar simply moves to accommodate. For example, the advent of the washing machine made it such that now that you COULD keep all your clothes cleaned, you SHOULD have them always cleaned. As a result, our inventions do not free us but rather enslave us further.
This is made explicitly clearly when we consider those much less fortunate than us. It is a common adage that those living in countries with much less are much happier. This is because they are not burdened with the ever increasing set of things that are possible with some effort and as a result don’t spiral into cultural expectations of making all the possible things required with much effort.
The answer then, lies not in finding ways to do more and to accomplish everything that we think is remotely important. Instead, it lies in us being thoughtful about what truly is important.
So how do you know what is important?
A common strategy here is to do a small amount of work to generate some vague definition of importance in one’s life, and to allow that amorphous cloud unpredictably determine one’s actions. For example, we may decide that we value relationships and friendships. This is such a broad value that it is almost meaningless when it comes to being an input for how to manage one’s life. There are many types of relationships, and each individual relationship is unique in its nature, its time requirements, and therefore its value. As such if we simply act on the value system that we value relationships, a bad relationship may in fact cause us to make bad decisions.
Professional success is another such amorphous value. Not only is this vague description harmful, but it has the additional unfortunate reality that it expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. No matter how much time you give it, it will always use that time, and more. This is why being more efficient so that one can get more work done is a fools errand - there will always be more work.
As such it becomes critically important for us to ensure we have the right boundaries around work, and the amount of our lives that we’re willing to give it. These boundaries need not only be restricted to time boundaries! A common misconception when it comes to work is that boundaries here simply mean time restrictions. Work takes up more than just our time - it takes up our thought space, our emotional capacity, our relational capabilities. We need to ensure we’ve got healthy boundaries across all of those.
Adjustments, not solutions
As always, my aim here is not to provide solutions but rather to stir thought and conversation around the topic at hand. As such, I will also not offer solutions but rather a few suggestions for tweaks that we can make in our journey towards managing our time well.
- Realize you won’t get it all done. This realization leads to freedom. Ancient farmers knew this - they would get done whatever they could in a day and do the rest the next. They knew that they were not capable of rushing a harvest or of growing a herd, so they accepted that pace of life. Somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten that and try to cram more in a day than is humanly physically possible.
- Time should not be your own. Because time is a networked resource, it has Much more value the more people around you have control over it. This means that having an abundance of jealously hoarded free time is not useful, but having time where friends can drop by, loved ones can reach out for help, and children can demand your time to play with them is what makes time infinitely more meaningful.
- Realize that there are important things and there are urgent ones. You must not starve the important for the urgent. And there are always enough urgent things to take up all of your time, if you let them. Therefore we must ruthlessly prioritize!
- Invest in systems that evolve over time. Set aside some time to build systems that will scale for you over time. Learn to make more categorical decisions - choices which once made allow you to eliminates dozens of other choices.
My sons, it is never too late or too early to start learning to manage one’s time well. As such my hope is that you will begin now, no matter when “now” happens to be. Managing our time well will allow us to get more out of the limited time on this earth that we have. And that is a truly beautiful thing.
As you know by now, I try to be a pretty intentional person. I heard something the other day that I absolutely loved, so I thought I’d share it with you.
Wherever it is you want to go, there is a long and conventional path, and there are shorter, less conventional approaches. The long conventional path is the outcome of not paying attention. It’s what happens when you let other people dictate your life.
I’ve found this to be extremely true in my experiences.
While I do believe it is sometimes beneficial to not pay attention, those times should be explicitly decided upon. Some of the best memories I’ve had were days where a few of us had no firm plans or designs, but rather played the day by ear and presently discovered that we had a fabulous time as a result. Those are days that are intentionally unintentional, and aren’t the subject of my attention today.
What I’m referring to today is the consciousness and critical nature that is required at a grander scale. It is more than just ability; it is a trained state of mind, a refined attribute that may take years of intentional practice to adequately acquire.
It is the art of knowing what pieces of input to process and come back to, and what to discard and not spend time on. It is the discipline to remember to step back and look at the bigger picture ervery so often. It is having the audacity to challenge the norms that are given to you, that you’re supposed to just accept.
The truth is that society doesn’t want you to do that. It wants to raise a geeration of people that are easily influenced by the latest greatest marketing trends that are out there. Capitalism is selfish by nature, and so it will do everything in its power to numb your senses and have you follow the path that profits it the most.
If you don’t have a plan for yourself, someone else will and you’ll fall into that.
My challenge to you today is to make sure you’re paying enough attention to be able to intentionally choose which path you take. Because even if there are many paths to your destination, time is the resource that you’ll never get back. So make the most of your time and pay attention to what you’re doing, where you’re going, and who you’re going there with!
One of the most sobering realizations that you’ll have in your life is that your life this side of heaven is finite. As I noted last month, time is the only resource in life that we will never get back. Each moment that you spend is one that you’re never going to get back. So how do we make the most of it? And what’s that got to do with self-respect?
Quite a bit actually.
Self-respect is the thing that lets you own your own destiny, that lets you fearlessly choose the path that you want to take. You are beautifully and wonderfully made - own that. Claim it. Run with it.
There are all sorts of benefits from having a strong sense of self-respect, of self-esteem, but the fundamental thing is that it gives you confidence to be your own man, to do things that may not be popular, to stand up against opposition, and to do the things that you believe in.
- Confidence to fight for the little guy.
This one is arguably the most important. In this world, there are so many people without voices - the sick, the poor, the scrawny kid in class that gets picked on, the girl on the bus that no one wants to sit with. To each of these, Jesus asks us to love them as He loves us. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus tells us that "whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me". In my own life, I've found that this one is extremely difficult. It's so hard to step outside the norm, to go against the grain, to put yourself out there to stand up for the little guy. But just think - how much harder is it for them?
- Confidence to stand up for what you believe.
We live in an age where the social norm is to not offend, to not have beliefs that could show disapproval to anything that popular culture deems is acceptable. We have axioms like "it's the nail that sticks out that gets hammered". Never in the history of our world has there been a need for people to stand firm in what they believe in, to have a deep rooted sense of morality, and to be that light on a hill for all to see.
- Confidence to be alone.
It's tough being alone. Whether it's being circumstantial - being home alone for an evening, going to an even like prom alone, or even taking a vacation on your own - or if it's a longer term thing like being single while your friends are coupled off, being alone is tough. Having self-respect gives you the confidence and sense of self enough to be not just okay with those situations, but to stop seeing them as inflictions and instead to start seeing them as opportunities.
- Confidence to strike it out on your own.
It's a basic human instinct to seek safety, and to seek safety in numbers. Striking out on your own goes against that very nature and by definition isn't easy. But so much of life, so much about being a man, so much about an enriching experience is only accomplished and experienced when you strike out on your own. Being your own man isn't easy, but it's absolutely essential.
- Confidence to ask her to marry you.
Nothing is more nerve wracking than when you find yourself on one knee holding a little box with a ring that costs 3 months of your salary in it. Nothing. And no matter what anyone else tells you, nothing should be. Finding a life partner that you can run with, laugh with, celebrate with, and mourn with is so hard, and when you finally find her, asking her to be yours as long as you both shall live is nerve wracking. As it should be. Having confidence in yourself lets you realize that it's just as hard for her, and that it's just as big of a commitment for her as it is for you. And that's a good place to be.
So my prayer is that as you grow into a young man that you would have confidence in the man that God is created you to be, and that out of that understanding of self, of self-worth, of self-respect and self-esteem can come a heart for the world that is kind, considerate, protective, bold, and courageous. I love you, my boy.
There’s a natural tension in life between today and tomorrow. As you know, time is the only resource in life that we will never get back, and so we naturally want to maximize that. This creates the dilemma of whether we should invest in tomorrow or if we should spend on today.
As much as I would love to give you a hard and fast rule for which choice to make, the reality is that the richest lives are lived somewhere in the middle - investing enough in tomorrow while still spending time today to live your life.
So then what are we talking about today?
A rich and full life is one that balances our investments in the future - school, learning, reading, developing skills and interests - with our enjoyment of today - shooting the breeze with friends, sitting on the deck and enjoying the sunset, standing in awe of the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen.
Asian culture tells us to invest in tomorrow. We’re taught to save our money and to invest it. We’re constantly reminded to work hard today so that we can be successful tomorrow. We’re reminded to think about the big picture, about the life that we want to have later, about our next job, our future wife and family, our retirement plans.
And yet there’s no emphasis on today.
In that sense, tomorrow is something that is always coming but never comes.
And that’s my challenge for you today. While investing in the future, make sure you take the time to smell the roses. Make time to do it. And do it big. Whether this means turning on your noise-cancelling headphones and cranking up your favorite epic song, sitting outside with a glass of wine and watching the sun set over the horizon, or taking a walk down a familiar street with the love of your life.
Those are the moments - those perfect, timeless moments - that give you strength to keep pushing forward. Those moments you’ll remember for a lifetime, and will ultimately confirm for yourself that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
I love speed. You know this. But every so often, life needs a speed check.
Don't get me wrong - speed is great. It's exhilarating. It's adrenaline-inducing. It's memory-making.
But there comes a time when you need to slow down and take special care to the details that you might miss at high speeds. Here's why.
- Speed requires you to be looking forward always - since things come so quickly at you, you need to be focused on what's ahead to make sure you don't slam into a wall. And this is a great thing - focus enables us to do great things. It gives us purpose, gives us goals, gives us a drive to continue onward. But it also makes the things not in front of us relegated to our peripheral vision only.
- Speed requires you to act on instinct and intuition. Again, this can be a great thing - if we know the path ahead and are sure footed, this isn't a problem. But when the road becomes less clear and the path less obvious, speed gives us less time to react and adjust.
- Speed dulls your other senses, and you can get tunnel vision.
While all of those things aren't bad in themselves, life is about balance. Sometimes you have to slow down in order to see clearly. Sometimes, you need to take in all that's around you, examine the details, and see the hidden beauty in the things that are all around.
Remember that life isn't just about having a singular goal, even though at times those may be there. Life is about more than that - it's about the journey, about the people that are with you, about the small unexpected circumstances that you may find yourself in. It's about the small shared moments of disappointment. It's about the shared experience of comfort. It's about walking together through struggles. It's about celebrating together through victories. It's about making the most out of every moment that you've got, and sometimes, sometimes, you need to slow down to notice those things.