Time is the coin of life. Only you can determine how it is to be spent. -Carl Sandberg
You only have so much in the bank. The sad truth is that there is no making deposits into this account to garner more time. Maybe with diet and exercise you can maximize your allotment, but even that is no guarantee.
You will never know when the Banker closes your account permanently, but until then you can:
•Spend it wisely: “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” –Charles Darwin
•Keep it in perspective: “Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
•Balance as you go: “Lost! Somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.” –Horace Mann
•No credit solution: “Of all losses, time is the most irrecuperable for it can never be redeemed.” –King Henry VIII
•Find the value: “Believe me when I tell you that thrift of time will repay you in after life with usury of profit beyond yourmost sanguine dreams, and that waste of it will make you dwindle alike in intellectual and moral stature beyond your darkest reckoning.” –William Gladstone
•Get a return on your investment:“I say, let no one rob me of a single day who isn’t going to make a full return on the loss.”–Seneca
•Work on the micro: “Don’t count the days, make the days count.” –Muhammad Ali
•Remember you are the authorized user: “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you are the pilot.” –Michael Althsuler
•Settle up every night: “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
•Everybody else is at the bank too, so don’t be a turd: “Start every day off with a smile and get over it.” –W.C. Fields
•Savor every bit of it:“Do not spoil the wonder with haste.” –J.R.R. Tolkien
I have noticed at work that two subjects are dominating the conversations. Sports and video games. Nothing unusual, these are the usual topics discussed at work. Sports and video games. To be knowledgeable in either subject takes time. A lot of time. I asked one co-worker how many hours a week he devotes to gaming. His answer was 10. Another co-worker said 10 was probably a very conservative number and the truth was really higher.
I look back on my 20’s and early 30’s. What were the two areas that dominated my life? Sports and video games. I watched all the sports. I played all the video games. I devoted a good portion of waking hours to both of these endeavors. After years of playing and watching, what did I have to show for it? I could hold my own in these work place conversations. What else did I have to show for it? Absolutely nothing!
I have started reading an old book this week, one that last month I never even knew existed. It is Pushing to the Front by Orison Swett Marden. In Chapter 6: Possibilities in Spare Moments, Marden provides examples of some of history’s most notable figures and what they did outside of their normal occupations. I read it and was immediately put to shame when thinking back on my younger years. The possibilities in my spare moments were squandered compared to the examples in this chapter. The examples Marden provides are summed up in this statement:
Many of the greatest men of history earned their fame outside of their regular occupations in odd bits of time which most people squander.
Yep, that was me. But the good thing is that all is not lost. Later in the chapter, Marden provides a bit of hope with the following:
The present time is the raw material out of which we make whatever we will. Do not brood over the past, or dream of the future, but sieze the instant and get your lesson from the hour.
The worst of a lost hour is not so much in the wasted time as in the wasted power. Idleness rusts the nerves and makes the muscles creak. Work has system, laziness has none.
When I hear the conversations in the work place, I hear what is taking place in the spare moments of their lives. It is not for me to judge the doings of others, but I can choose differently. There are so many that complain of their situation. They want more opportunities. They want more money and a better standard of living. They want so much, but what they want for the future takes a backseat to the things they want in the present. The wasting of time to fit in with the popular culture is more important than the action required to change their future. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Things do not change, we change.” If we want something different in our lives, we have to change.
As with all my writings, there is not only a lesson for me to learn here, but one for my son. Life is short. It may not seem like it now. It may seem the days and hours drag out and your death will come in the form of boredom. It is in those times, when you seemingly have nothing to do, that you can separate yourself from the herd. It is in those times, that you can develop the physical and mental strength that will power you to a greater life in the future. You are in control. You get to make this choice in life between action and inaction.
The slack hand impoverishes, but the busy hand brings riches. A son who gathers in summer is a credit; a son who slumbers during harvest, a disgrace. –Proverbs 10:4-5
If you knew today was going to be your last day on earth, what would you do?
For some reason this thought was on my mind as I wrapped up my morning workout. I was wondering whether or not I would exercise on my last day. Granted before I could decide, I would have to know it was my last day in advance. Otherwise, I would have already worked out before the Reaper’s blade would cut me down.
Knowing the short-term benefits of exercise, I think I would have to go ahead and achieve my peak heart rate one last time. I might not benefit from going heavy on that last day, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to get those endorphins flowing. It would give me a boost and help power my productivity to the end. The fact that I workout before the rest of the world is awake is another benefit, since I wouldn’t be taking time away from those I would want to spend time with.
What else would I do on a perfect last day? I might do a little light reading to get my mind right before I see the light. I would also write. I would probably write with a fury all those last minute thoughts that could somehow add to my legacy. Then I would spend the rest of the day with family, preferably outdoors. I would try to speak little and just listen to the voices that would hopefully permeate my soul and accompany me into the next life.
Then the thought comes, what would I not do? I know I couldn’t drink alcohol. If I justified one drink, I would probably justify a second which would lead to more. Who would want to waste away their last day in a drunken stupor? In addition, I wouldn’t watch any television, play any games, or scroll through someone else’s life or the political landscape on social media. I might leave a few messages, but that would be it. Anything that would be a drain on that last day would have to be scrapped, because it simply would not be worth it.
This is the mark of perfection of character –to spend each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, laziness, or any pretending. –Marcus Aurelius
There is so much I would want to do, and so much I would try to avoid. It makes me wonder, why am I not living that way now. How could I have so easily wasted away days, content in complacency, with never a thought to the preciousness of time? And though I can never recover the day gone by, I can begin fresh with this day and all the days to come. Few are occasioned with the knowledge of their last day, but all can live life as if it were their last. I would hope that on my last day, I could say I truly lived. Not just on the last day, but that when I woke up and realized any day could be my last, I never took another one for granted. Memento Mori.
Sometimes I take a moment and reflect on my past and wonder how I got to where I am today. Where I am today is not where I want to be tomorrow. I am not in a bad place now, but could it be better?
I want to live my life so that my nights are not full of regrets. –David Herbert Lawrence
What are the things I regret the most as I look back upon my past? I would like to say it was just isolated incidences of making wrong choices, such as a moment of weakness or indecision that has always haunted me. Of course, those things have happened, but what I regret the most is the all the seemingly insignificant actions that led to those bigger mistakes. There were careless decisions I made that didn’t seem important at the time. But one decision leads to another, and eventually I found myself on a road that I didn’t intend to travel. What happens when you go down the wrong road? You are not where you are supposed to be. You are wasting time either trying to find a new route or backtracking back to the straight and narrow. Have you ever read John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress? It is a book that I am always thinking of. All the temptations are trying to pull you off the road. They don’t want you to reach your destination.
I look back on all the time I have wasted. Not the time lost backtracking, but the time I so carelessly threw away. I remember the days I didn’t have any plans and so I slept in. I watched a little television or played a few video games until a little became the whole day. At the end of the day, I told myself I would do better. The next day, I would do it all over again. I didn’t have much discipline then, and I was too blind and too young to care enough to change. It is sad when you don’t appreciate the precious little time we are given. Often it is not appreciated until you are old and wondering where the time has gone.
Live each day as it were the last day of your life because, so far, it is. –Richard John Colangelo
The regrets I contemplate are a reminder. They are also my biggest fear. I am on the road I want to be on, which means all my decisions, even the seemingly insignificant ones, are important. My fear is that I slide again into complacency justifying the occasional bad decision. If I allow even one, could it lead to more?
It is the complacency that I fear the most, the fear that I could once again take that small detour and then blindly cruise down a road farther and farther away from my destination. All it takes is settling into mediocrity. All it takes is choosing to idly stand by and not live life to the fullest each and every day.
It is disgraceful, instead of proceeding ahead, to be carried along, and then suddenly, amid the whirlpool of events, to ask in a dazed way: “How did I get into this condition?” –Seneca’s Letter #37: On Allegiance to Virtue
I used to joke in the past with some of my associates. We would have deadlines to meet and in passing, I would notice the conversations were more focused on the previous night’s event rather than the current task at hand. I would tell them, “More work, less talk.” I wasn’t hard on them, but I wanted to steer their focus back to the work.
Those days were long ago. I no longer have associates that work for me, but this lesson of working more and talking less is even more important now than ever. And who needs the lesson the most? I do. Which is strange, because I really thought I was working as hard as or harder than anybody else. My work is primarily all on myself. I work out every day and eat mostly the right things so that I can improve my body. I read as much as I can and try to write daily. Heck, I even meditate two to three times a day so that I can be in that ideal state of mind. When I am actually at work or involved in other projects, I try to stay productive, even relentless. But for all that I am doing, there is one area where I have failed and failed miserably.
I told my wife that I was going to support her in her business. I told her that we were in it together, and I would be there. What I told her and what I did were two different things. Over the last week, I have been thinking about what went wrong. Why was I so gung-ho to help in the beginning and then so lackadaisical later? Why was I not following through on what I said I was going to do? Here is what I came up with:
I became selfish. I was so focused on improving myself that I sacrificed the team. It is not all about me. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get better, but it will come with a cost. If I want to continue on this self-improvement journey, I need to manage my time better. I tell my son all the time that he cannot always do the things he wants to do, but instead he needs to do what he is supposed to do. I need to listen to my own words and apply them to myself. I need to be better balanced.
I was uncomfortable. I don’t know the business as well as I could. Because it is not in a field where I have experience, I am not as passionate about it as I should be. Couple the lack of knowledge with the lack of passion and it equals discomfort. Instead of taking the hard road of learning the business, I took the easy path of not being fully involved. What a mistake! The hard road is where growth occurs. Not only is the growth in the business, but within me. Take public speaking for example. Some people have a fear of it. They want nothing to do with it and so they avoid it. But if they confront their fear, slowly immerse themselves in it, they have a chance to overcome that which is holding them back. And there it is. I need to confront that which makes me uncomfortable. I need to grow.
Immediate gratification. I saw the money going out to support the business. I saw the time invested and even some of the frustration involved with a new business. I was not seeing the rewards. It is an easy thing to do when you are looking on the outside and not getting fully involved. I am spending a lot of time on my own personal businesses. None of which are expected to make any money in the near future. I am hoping my investment in them will eventually pay off. I get little or no gratification out of it, yet I still do it. Shouldn’t I have the same attitude with my wife’s business? Should I evaluate her business differently than my own ventures? No. So I let her down again in this area. And it comes down to attitude. I shouldn’t look at my investment from a “what can I get out of it now” perspective. I should be looking at it from a “what can I do to help you build it” viewpoint. I truly believe the business has the ability to be very profitable in the future. I need to keep my eyes to the future as I help lay the foundation now.
So of course, I have had my reasons for not helping. None of them good. However, all of them can be corrected, which puts me on that path to becoming a better person. I have some work to do. My wife can’t trust me to be there for her. I have to rebuild that trust. I can’t tell her that I am now willing to help. I have tried that line already and let her down. It is not in the words but in the action. This is how I can rebuild the trust. I have to do the work. I have to become faithful in what I do and just maybe I can come back into the fold. More work, less talk.
Lesson for my son:
In all labor there is profit, but mere talk tends only to loss. –Proverbs 14:23
We all know that death could come for us at any moment. But we usually don’t give it much thought, until we, or the ones close to us, near that threshold. When we are not mindful of death, when it feels far away, we tend to find importance in things that are really not very important at all. But when we are at the gate and the time is near, suddenly the time becomes more precious and a sense of urgency to live becomes paramount.
No one knows when the time will come, but all could live in a way that when the end fast approaches there would be little left to do. Even if the mission was left unfinished, you could leave knowing you did all that you could. You could leave knowing a moment wasn’t wasted or a transgression wasn’t rectified. We could go in peace from this life into our next without a regret.
Show me that the good in life does not depend upon life’s length, but upon the use we make of it; also, that it is possible, or rather unusual, for a man who has lived long to have live too little. –Seneca, Letter #49: On the Shortness of Life.
This was one of the thoughts I originally had when I started writing for my son. That if I was to go before he grew up, he would have this as his legacy. I wanted him to know the treasure of wisdom and the value of searching for it. I wanted him to know the path I have travelled in my own quest to find it. Often I went down the wrong road. I had to learn to hard way. But an easy to find treasure really isn’t a treasure. You have to dig for it, often into the depths of the hell of your own making to find it. My dream is that he will find the path and then stick to it, not forsaking it for an easier way. If I can’t be there for the journey, maybe the writing I leave behind will help. Maybe it will even help others.
For those who loved one is nearing the threshold, my heart is breaking for you. I can’t imagine your pain, but I can see your bravery during this time. Remember, death is not an end but a gateway into the next life.
Seneca writes that his works are going to last throughout the ages. He even states that he has the ability to take others with him in his legacy. There may not be a lot known about the life of Lucilius, but his name has lived on through the letters addressed to him by Seneca. You have to be rather confident to believe your works will have that kind of lasting power. By the way, Seneca lived in the first century of the Common Era and his works are still being read to this day.
What will your legacy be? Will the work you do impact future generations? If you are only living for yourself, your scope of influence will not be very large. But if you are reaching out and offering the world your talents and skills, you may just find your name lasting through the ages.
The deep flood of time will roll over us; some few great men will raise their heads above it, and, destined at the last to depart into the same realms of silence, will battle against oblivion and maintain their ground for long. –Seneca, Letter XXI. On the Renown Which My Writings Will Bring You
Today, I find myself wanting to waste time. [Even writing that first sentence was a chore.] I wanted to write over the weekend, but I never got around to doing it. I slept in both weekend days. The residual effects of last week’s flu are still lingering, and the idea of sleeping in seemed to be a good use of my time.
I did not have a plan for the weekend. I did read a lot (started Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules of Life), but I didn’t write. I completed many items on my to-do list, except the one I deemed most important. I now have a backlog of handwritten stories. All I needed to do is type them up. And now these stories, if I don’t hurry and get them completed, will become in my mind less relevant. If they don’t get finished, they will most likely get shelved. Possibly, permanently.
The weekend went by quickly, but I had the same amount of time as everyone else. I didn’t make the best use of it. There was no sense of urgency. This reminds me of Seneca’s Letter on the Shortness of Life (XLIX):
In other years time did not seem to me to go swiftly; now, it seems fast beyond belief, because I feel that the finish-line is moving closer to me, or it may be that I have begun to take heed and reckon up my losses.
When I consider the things I should have done but did not do, time is indeed moving swiftly. This is a lesson to make the most of the time alotted to us. This is a lesson to not waste time, a lesson to not let it slip away carelessly. If time is truly precious, then it is our duty to protect it. Seneca goes on to write:
Show me that the good in life does not depend upon life’s length, but upon the use we make of it; also, that it is possible, or rather usual, for a man who has lived long to have lived too little.