Time: our most precious resource (1 of 3)

In 2014, my best friend, Barry, died in a tragic motor accident while traveling in Vietnam. This week would have been his 34th birthday. It is sad and cliché, but authentic to say, that this is the first genuine appreciation I felt for the phrase “life is short”. Ever since, I have spent a lot of time… thinking about time.

One reason time fascinates me is it is truly an equal resource. Everyone has the exact same 24 hours in a day, no matter how rich, educated, or successful you are. Once it’s spent, you can never get it back. Despite this, it’s really easy to ignore time and let inertia or life’s distractions and general busyness take over. Most people can relate to the feeling of ‘wow – that week just disappeared’!, or “Wow – where did the month go!”, or even “wow – the whole summer flew by!”. From what I’ve observed, it’s rare for someone to be extremely deliberate and intentional with how they use their time, even though it’s arguably our most precious resource.

When you’re young, it’s especially hard to appreciate time. From ten to twenty years old, your life is changing at a rapid pace. Each year is materially different. There are so many unknowns. From twenty to thirty years old, your life is probably still rapidly changing, but maybe you’re starting to settle into a routine in certain areas; possibly your career, your social circle, your significant other, or where you live. Maybe you’re starting to hone in on your interests and passions. Of course, your life will continue to evolve and change in significant ways from thirty to fourty, fourty to fifty, and fifty to sixty, and so forth… but probably at a slightly muted pace with each passing decade. This isn’t a bad thing in my mind. We tend to know ourselves much better as time goes on, and so in theory, we should be able to become increasingly intentional and deliberate with our use of time as we age.

There are several ways of framing time that highlight to me, how limited it is. For the last three years, I’ve read an average of 22 books per year. Let’s be generous and say I’m fortunate enough to live to 90. Assuming my average doesn’t change meaningfully, I will only read ~1,230 more books before I die. Have you ever finished a weekend and felt like you didn’t do too much? Well, if I live to 90, I only have ~2,900 weekends remaining in my life. Only 56 more summers.

I find these data points empowering rather than depressing. Fundamentally, if we recognize the scarcity value of time, we can be much more conscious and purposeful with how we use it.