Today I’ve started reading HBR (Harvard Business Review) once again. It has been a long time since I’ve read it. I do have a few books (I love “On Strategy”) but the magazine was never among my priorities, maybe because I don’t enjoy bite sized education.
After 60 – 70 pages, I can say that I’m hooked. As my old self would say “this is good stuff, bro”. Then I’ve asked myself one thing.
If instead of playing video games … watching TV shows … engaging in activities that brought me zero benefit to my life (eg: smoking), how would my life look now if I would have read HBR or The Economist instead?
Let’s take “House MD” a drama movie I watched twice because romanticizing my suffering under the pretext that I am too smart and being smart means obligatory suffering is 177 episodes. Each episode took 40 minutes. I’ve watched this twice. That is 14160 minutes aka 236 hours invested in a movie that brought me zero practical benefit.
In 236 hours, I could read 59 editions of HBR aka almost five years of top macro level business education. Ouch.
I’m not getting my time back. That’s a given. What’s also a given is that if you read 59 editions of HBR, you read probably 59 more editions than your competitions and everything you read there translates to actual income down the road.
But this is mental masturbation. I can not get back my time fantasizing being a sociopath in House of Cards … the misunderstood genius in House MD … the suave secret agent in Burn Notice … or the criminal mastermind in The Black List. That’s gone.
Nor can I get back the +150 hours I have invested in World of Warcraft … a game where ironically, I’ve never reached more than level 26. Nor can I get back the hundred or more likely thousands of hours spent playing on the PC, on the XBOX, on the WII that brought a very small return to my development as a person.
Again, this is mental masturbation. Wanting that time back is like fantasizing about the sex you’ve had with some girl from your past knowing that she’s not yours anymore and she’s never going to be yours.
If anything, it is a harmful exercise that brings a lot of emotional pain. But you know what? When you go through pain, you learn avoidance behavior quite fast. And if I can associate pain now with wasting my time on trivial time wasters, then I will not do it anymore or at least, this is how the theory goes.
And this is not a confessional. This is a cautionary tale. I am 27. I am quite ahead in many things because I have invested a lot of time in the right areas. Yet, this is a fraction of the time I could have actually invested.
You though maybe you are 16 or 18 or 21. You have quite a lot of time ahead. You get a lot of discretionary time to invest now. Nobody makes your schedule. If you want to sit up late in the night watching reruns of Seinfeld, there’s nobody telling you that you can’t. So my advice to you is to treat each hour of your life like it is worth at least $100/hour because it is.
Don’t waste time. Time is precious. One hour invested now in the right things is going to bring you ten hours in a few years. Your time is more important than money.
Which leads me to the second part of my article.
A few days ago, I’ve started researching the life of Harvard and Yale students – Ivy League in general. All of them say the same thing. The main currency at Harvard or your favorite Ivy League university is time. They don’t waste it. They invest it in their day as a skilled banker would invest in the marketplace.
You have no idea how efficient they are and how much they pack in a single day. And this is why students at Harvard become the leaders of tomorrow. It is not by accident nor it is because they’ve attended a famous university. It is because they get very good at achieving results at a very young age.
I am at a point in my life in which I have zero tolerance for wasting time. Not everything I do is high productivity but generally, it is meaningful. This means that while I do meet, quite often, with old and new friends – I do it only with those that bring me joy or that intrigue me.
While I do engage in entertainment, I do it only when I’m too tired or burned out to do anything else. You’re not going to see me at 12:00 watching a movie. I even did play video games for a bit recently but I’ve done it after a long and productive day because I was feeling overwhelmed.
I look at people on Facebook with photos in night clubs and bars and I ask myself – why? I’ll go there, I’ll get drunk, I’ll waste an entire evening and then the next day I’ll feel lousy. That night out will cost me real money in terms of opportunity costs and I don’t like bars anyway.
For all intents and purposes, I think I’m a boring person for most people around me. I’m obsessed with my mission. I care more about my metrics than having fun. I get bored easily with small talk. I have no idea about the latest movie or the latest music. I don’t suffer fools gladly.
And yet, while my approach to life is boring for those around me, I’ve never felt more alive. So many things are going for me.
- This year I’m going to write and launch one or two books.
- I’m in some great partnerships with people that respect and appreciate me.
- I’m a runner again (well, technically I’m an injured runner).
- I meet 3 – 4 new people per week and they tend to be ambitious, intelligent, mature people with which I can discuss. I think I’m growing my social network by 50% – 60% per week here in Taiwan.
- Oh, yes, I’m in shorts and eating ice-cream while in London is freezing cold.
- I’m investing about 15 hours per week in improving my skills and each day I’m feeling smarter.
- I’m doing a lot of personal work with myself, building mature masculine boundaries and fixing emotional issues that date as early as childhood.
- Oh … and I’m kicking ass workwise, putting more productive effort in one week than I did in some months last year.
So my life is not looking like a clip from “The Chainsmokers” and that’s okay. I don’t want it to look.
But when I wake up in the morning, I feel like a warrior ready to conquer the world and that is more than fulfilling to me.