Time. It’s a commodity that is both rare and plentiful. It’s something that all of us have but none of us can buy, and it is something that all of us, at some point, will wish we had more of. Some of us spend our days wasting away the time we have, and others simply cannot get enough of it. Time is seemingly unlimited, until it isn’t.
We all know that our time is limited, but because we have an unknown quantity of it, we have to consider our future as an abstract timeline with an indefinite end. Because of this, it is challenging for us to adequately allocate and wager our time against our priorities and goals, and because of this challenge, many of us fail to accomplish some of our biggest aspirations in life.
When we decide to go to college, pursue a fellowship, or choose a particular career path, we are forced to become aware of the time it will require to accomplish the goal. When deciding to go to college, most of us realize it is a 4-year commitment in which we won’t be accumulating sizable wealth or work experience, but we make this decision with the assumption that the 4 years spent at a university will enable us to accelerate our path towards our desired career outcome. A similar decision is made for grad school, fellowships, and pursuing many professional certifications.
Typically, college is one of the most pivotal points in life in which we consider the contribution of time. In fact, many of us consider the time requirement more than we contemplate the amount of money required to attend (thanks to student loans, scholarships, and other financial means). Many people who don’t go to college cite the time contribution as a major reason. Something that astounds me, however, is that for many people, this is the last time they will consider large-scale time commitments until they approach retirement, end of life, or have a mid-life crisis.
Take automotive loans, for instance. It is commonplace for people to take loans that span 6, 7 years (or even longer) to purchase a new vehicle. Boats are commonly financed 10 to 20 years. Mortgages are commonly 30-year loans. Part of this is due to the exorbitant cost of these items, but the perplexing idea is that people decide to purchase these items with extended finance terms without considering the amount of time required to pay it off (or the value that the item will have after the loan is paid).
I’m not here to advocate against taking out loans to acquire these sorts of products — I’ve taken out many loans myself, and I understand that there aren’t many people who can pay cash for high-value products like cars and homes. My point is that people tend to take out these loans without consideration of the time commitment. Loans are a wager against ourselves, betting that we are going to be alive and produce enough income to pay the loan off by the maturity date; however, many people don’t tend to think this way when they take out loans. The general consensus I tend to hear is that “time will pass anyhow” and “I’m going to work so I might as well get what I want if I can afford it.” No argument here.
The interesting idea, however, is that people will make major decisions about their finances without time considerations, but then will use time as an excuse not to take action on their goals and dreams. They won’t take action to start a startup, side-hustle, or change careers because of the time required to do so. They won’t go and get that graduate degree because it takes ‘too much time’. They won’t write a book because it takes ‘too long’ to write. They won’t take action on bettering themselves because of the time commitment. To that, I say that “time will pass anyway,” and the only difference between who you are today and who you will be 5 years from now is how you utilize that time.
“The only difference between who you are today and who you will be 5 years from now is how you utilize that time.”
Let me be absolutely clear: I am not suggesting that one should back out of obligations to their family or put themselves in a dangerous or difficult position to accomplish a professional or personal goal. But I am saying this: if you will go and purchase a new car with a 7-year finance term, why are you afraid of the time commitment to start a side-hustle? In 7 years from now, the new car will likely be well worn and ready to be replaced. But consistent work towards a side-hustle or other goal over 7 years could lead to a life-changing income or a world-changing product. Investments in personal growth, education, and professional development could change your life forever — so why hesitate to get started? Let me remind you that binge watching Netflix tonight pays negative returns, as it costs you time without providing any tangible benefit or skill.
The difference in those who are successful and those who are not most largely rests in how they allocate their time. While all the self-help books will tell you to wake up early, listen to audiobooks on the way to the office, work out in the afternoon, etc., the point that many leave out is that it isn’t important when you wake up, work out, or read books. What is important is that you allocate your time efficiently and make some level of progress towards your goals. If you sleep half the day, watch television all night, and never make an attempt to better yourself, you won’t be a better person in 5 years. But if you get started, make incremental progress every day, and commit to it, you will be a different person in 5 years in some form or another. The time is going to pass anyway, so you might as well get started now!