Every day is filled with tremendous learning opportunities. With each passing day, we learn things about ourselves and the world in which we live. As a proud parent to a beautiful three year old, I witness on a daily basis the degree to which she absorbs the world around her and incorporates those lessons learned into her personality. As an adult, much of my own lessons learned have centered on personal and professional themes – the importance of integrity and kindness, the value of giving back to others and even how to deal with challenging individuals in our work and personal lives. And yet no lesson has been as powerful, impactful and lasting as understanding the value and preciousness of time.
Much of my professional career has centered on my love of building products and services that solve large problems and leave an indelible imprint on the world around us. Of course, financial success is an important component to many business endeavors and much of my career – starting from my days as an investor at Goldman Sachs, through successful and not-so-successful startup endeavors – has been driven by that desire to provide for my family. And almost to a fault, my happiness and satisfaction in life historically has come from the incredibly high degree of emphasis I place on professional successes.
Recent world experiences, such as witnessing firsthand the fragility of life have taught me to respect the value of time. This doesn’t mean that business success (financial or otherwise) and social impact are less important to me, but I now measure the cost of my efforts in the form of time.
My college baseball coach used an analogy that still sticks with me today: You have 27 outs (9 innings * 3 outs / inning) in a game, spend each one preciously like you would pieces of gold. The same can be said for time. Like an opaque hourglass, we each have an unknown amount of time on this wonderful earth to leave our mark.
So many of us measure things in dollars spent when our most precious asset is the finite amount of time we each have. Shifting our perspective forces us to think carefully about how we spend this asset in both our professional and personal lives. That 100th 16-hour consecutive workday or taking unnecessary and time-consuming meetings that don’t deliver real value doesn’t make sense anymore when viewed through the powerful lens that is the value or our time.
Occasional shocks to our lives – the loss of a loved one or a major health scare, forces us to take stock of just how precious our time is. I’ve lost loved ones. Friends and peers have passed away far too young. And I was personally knocked down by a near-death experience in which I spent days in the hospital and months recovering from a life-altering seizure. And yet as the days tick by coming out of these types of experiences, so many of us forget and revert back to our old ways.
Harvey Mackay said it best: “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.”
How do you think about time as it relates to your own personal and professional endeavors?