The Time We’re Losing

Watches are only the beginning.

On my flight tonight, I had time to read and time to think. I didn’t watch the seatback televisions, though I’m grateful for JetBlue for providing them, should I want them. Instead, I used my time to think and consider and practice and plan.

In my hotel room, on the eve of another speech, I didn’t go back into Twitter and Google+ to see what was being said about the passing of Steve Jobs, though I feel that same melancholy that may be tugging at you (I’ve been an Apple customer since 1983, when Guy Kawasaki first told me about the Macintosh at the Boston Computer Society). I didn’t turn on the television. I ordered a fruit plate and some water, and thought some more.

I could ask anyone, anywhere, with most any role, if they had enough time to do the things they wanted to do. They would all answer no. I ask people how their businesses are going, and most everyone says “busy,” even the liars. We are all in a hurry. We all have somewhere to go. And oddly, I think it’s because we are accidentally losing time all over the place. It falls out of our watches like folded up money slipping out of your jeans pocket at the end of a long night, lost like leaves rattling down the street.

We’re Losing Time

We lose time when we check our phone every time it beeps and bings, especially if someone we love is sitting beside or across from us. We lose time every time we turn on the glowing box instead of pursue our future visions and goals. We throw away time every time we agree to an hour meeting when 20 minutes will do. We lose time chasing that extra six cents a gallon we heard they were getting for gas across town, not stopping to think that we’re only getting back $1.30 for that effort.

Every time we don’t say sorry first and end the stalemate, we are losing time. Every time we focus on our regrets, we lose time. Whenever you look in the mirror and judge yourself a failure, you are losing time. Strangely, this made me think of golf balls.

There is not one golf ball in the world that judges itself a failure. Sometimes they land in the hole. Other times, they get lost in the woods. But they are still primarily the same object. The same is true for you. Failure is something about a moment. Failure is a great thief of time. Learn. Embrace your learning. Move. Time only goes in one direction, and that’s away from you.

Make that call. Pick up that course of study. Practice that new idea. Experiment with that plan. Accept that you are who you are, and that change isn’t the goal: awareness and adaptation are the goals.

Set your phone to silent. Check it as infrequently as you can stand. Before we all had cell phones, our children all lived. The boss wants you to be responsive. Fine. Be responsive, but not a slave.

Time, friends, is the most difficult of the currencies to leverage, and we all spend it like it’s free.

This doesn’t mean “hurry.” This means “live.” Live in the way that suggests you know what time it is, with or without a watch. Because it’s your time. And that’s what matters while you still breathe.

And for the bonus round? Think about how you can use your time to extend value to people after you have stopped breathing. That’s why the world is thinking so much about Steve Jobs today. For every flaw you want to mention, for every truth about his temper or his choices, he built a legacy, more than once, with the time he had.

Be brave with your time.

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