Tick Tock

Long lonely railroad tracksTime is limited. It is a non-renewable resource. We don’t know how much we have, but we know we will eventually run out. That could be tomorrow, or 50 years from now, but it WILL eventually run out. Death appears inevitable (unless we actually figure out immortality…TBD).

As Steve Jobs stated so elegantly at a Stanford commencement speech in 2005:

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

As with almost all things in our world, the greater the scarcity of a commodity, the greater the value of that commodity. Gold, diamonds, works of art…you name it. If it’s very rare, and very desirable, it has great value.

So why don’t we value our time the same way? We’re all going to die, and we don’t actually know when that will be. It could very well be today.

I’ve had the chance to talk to a number of dying people over the years, and also to read accounts of many individuals on their death beds. Do you know what the most common regret of the dying is?

It’s having used their time poorly, having never really lived the life they wish they had.

To me, this is the saddest thing that could ever be. A life, wasted. Time, wasted. I hope, with all my heart, to go to my deathbed knowing that I lived life to the fullest, really lived. Regret free is the way to be.

As I’ve thought about this over the years, I’ve come to a rather simple but profound understanding of why we do this.

Fear drives us to spend our time surviving, instead of living. We focus on avoiding failures, instead of pursuing successes. We pass on grand experiences, and instead opt for a safe and boring existence.

Fuck that noise!

The most important choices you will ever make will concern how best to use your time. When you die, do you want to look back on life with regret? Me neither. I want my last words to be, “That was awesome!”

For me, the choice is simple: I spend as much time as possible on the things I love, and as little time as possible on the things I don’t. I don’t neglect important things, I just make sure my “have to do” list is as short and efficient as possible.

As far as I’m concerned, work is nothing but a means to fund the life I want to live. In order to maximize the amount of “living your life” time available to you, you need to minimize the amount of time you spend working.

One of the keys to minimizing work time is maximizing your income per hour worked.

I first heard this concept in 2007, when I read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss (my all-time favorite book; thanks Tim!). Tim opened my eyes to the real value of my time, and taught me how to make the most of it.

Thanks to the lessons I learned in The 4-Hour Workweek, I’ve been able to increase my average income per hour worked 1,200% in the last few years, and my peak hourly income over 6,000%, which has totally transformed the quality of life that my family and I get to enjoy. It has literally helped to set me free.

If you want others to value and pay for your time, you first need to determine what your time is worth, and then work to convince others that it’s worth that.

When I talk to people about self-worth, the thing I tell them most often is, “Know your worth.” Your time is your most precious asset, and when you truly come to know your worth, you’ll value your time accordingly.

And while your time has great intrinsic value, the actual worldly value of your time is a two-sided equation, based on the age old principle of supply and demand. The more people who want your time, the more that time is worth.

Because your supply of time is automatically limited (and largely out of your control), if you want the world to value your time as highly as you do, you need to create something of value for which there is a demand.

I’ve spent a lot of time studying wealthy and successful individuals, trying to understand how they got to where they are.

If we subtract lottery winners and those who inherited their money, most of those who are left have something in common: they have provided something of value to a very, very large number of people.

How about a few examples?

  • Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, is one of the youngest self-made billionaires in history. At present, his creation adds value to the lives of over 1 billion people worldwide.
  • Robert Downey Jr., an American actor who has made one hell of a comeback, has provided incredible entertainment to tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people all over the world in movies like Sherlock Holmes, Iron Man, and The Avengers, amongst others.
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the creators of Google, are worth about $30 billion, each. Why? Because over 1 billion people use Google to search each month, which amounts to roughly 2 trillion searches per year. 2 TRILLION!

There are plenty of other examples,

and these are certainly extreme outliers, but the common thread here is that these people all create or participate in businesses that add value to the lives of many millions, if not billions, of people.

Of course, value at scale is only one side of a spectrum. To have wealth, you need to either provide some value to many people, or a great deal of value to a few people. For example, Rolls Royce produces only a few thousand cars per year, while Toyota produces over ten MILLION cars per year. You get my drift.

Of course, acquiring wealth and keeping that wealth are two very different things. While there are tactics galore, you can largely boil them down to 3 principles: spend less than you earn (preferably much less), invest the excess in income generating/appreciating assets, and minimize liabilities and wasteful spending. You can dig deeper by reading things like I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi, Principles by Ray Dalio, and Money: Master the Game by Tony Robbins.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to this: If you want the world to value your time as much as you do, you need to learn to create true value. If you want to become wealthy, you need to learn to create sufficient value at sufficient scale. And if you want to stay wealthy, you’ll need to put your assets to work creating value over time.

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Sam McRoberts

Author of Screw the Zoo. CEO of VUDU Marketing.