I could write for days about 2013. In fact I intend to at some point write a book of my adventures…and this blog covers those in detail pretty well. I’m writing the reverse of a new year resolution (depending how you look at it), I’m writing a ‘resolved last year’. I am testing the theory that celebrating what I achieved/how I grew is more motivating than only saying what I have to change to be successful or happy.
I will always see my travels as an invaluable experience…not because I saw the Taj Mahal and Victoria Falls (though they were wicked awesome)…but because of what I couldn’t have learned as clearly anywhere else, at least not in such a short period of time. If I ‘took away’ three things from this year they would be: the value of time, the fortune of good health, and choosing to see the beauty in everything. This is the first of three posts deconstructing my experience and theories about those three ‘learnings’ or ‘take aways’ if you will.
The Value of Time
Time is money. We’ve all heard it, and most likely said it. The expression typically implies that we mustn’t waste our time at work because the more we waste the less cash we make. Have we ever actually thought of it like that in terms of the value of time instead of the value of money? Perhaps we should think of it in terms of our donations to our community or our overall wealth. I would even argue that many of us are more afraid of not having enough money over not having enough time (in days, not in a day).
With volunteer management being part of my role and having upwards of 1000 recorded volunteer hours under my belt, you could say I think volunteers are an integral part of society. My approach to my job is that volunteers are donors and should be treated as such. If Jane gets paid $25/hour at her day job and volunteers with us 3 hours each week we could argue that she makes an annual contribution of nearly $4000 to our foundation. As a young person I have taken this approach to volunteering: I don’t have the money, but I do have the time [to donate]. Without the volunteers to canvas a charity doesn’t reach the people with the money to donate…both play equal parts in the growth and sustainability of the not-for-profit sector.
Second, in regards to wealth…would you rather be the richest person in the world with a week to live or earn an average income and have 50 years…even 20…even 1? Maybe the answer to that is less obvious to some than it is to me, but I see just as much value in the time I have as my bank account. No, I won’t say time is more important, because I do think that you need to earn a living to support a healthy lifestyle…but (especially as a 20-something) I think our concept of wealth is extremely distorted. First, we don’t actually ever know how much we have left. Have you ever stopped and thought of how amazing it is that you are as old as you are…thought of all the things that could have gone wrong, things you’ve overcome, or people you know that haven’t been as fortunate? Do it.
We tend to panic about investing money to RRSP’s and buying houses completely forgetting how much time we have that we won’t get back. (Note: I am investing in that stuff too…but the key is balance) I have seven years before I hit ‘thirty’…in quotes because society has turned it in to a successful life checklist instead of an age. That seems like a terrifyingly close time to be married with kids with a white-picket fenced home in suburbia (not that those are my specific goals)…but then I remember that 7 years ago I hadn’t even applied for university, I was working at Starbucks part time, and wanted to be the next Mia Hamm. In that seven years I have visited over 20 countries, completed my degree, had three other jobs, met 3 times the people I knew then and moved out (among other things). Had I chosen to just work to make money scrapping travel and my 4-year degree my bank account would probably (definitely) be quite a bit prettier, but I would never doubt how much wealthier I am today because I invested my time.
Third and last: relationships. Intimate or friendships, I am standing up for myself and my time. For some reason it is really easy for me to identify one sided relationships my friends are having with their significant others while I am the same person in some of my personal friendships without even realizing it. Many of our friendships will last longer than most of the relationships in our lives so all the more reason to demand respect and chose individuals that will support your success as you do theirs.
Yoga teacher training helped me in removing myself and my bias from situations. That act alone has helped me see how ridiculous some of my friendships were and the toxic effect they had on my life. The good news (which is better than this Debbie downer mumbling) is that it has also helped me see the people in my life that are great. The people that have seen me at my worst…which has been pretty questionable at times… and still balls to the wall support me in anything I do. The cliché ‘people I can count on’…but most of all, the people that make me better (and that I think I’m making better in a non-manipulative way).
How do you make people better? How can you tell if people are making you better? I am convinced (for now) that I have deduced this to 3 points. (I like lists…and odd numbers).
1) Challenging each other. Not to a pokemon duel or a kegstand contest… but do you ask the hard questions? Maybe you answer them. Having the trust to be honest without repercussion. Maybe it’s a little bit of healthy keeping up with the Jones’ to keep you on the bandwagon in the latest diet fad. May I add the disclaimer that good intention is the magic ingredient…competition or comparison are different ball games.
2) Who you are for each other. Not buying flannel and skinny jeans because somebody is totally into hipsters… but does being ‘there’ for this person mean more to you than staying in your comfort zone? By ‘there’, maybe you have to be a better listener, have more compassion, meet new people…not changing who you are fundamentally but strengthening friend/life-skills to be ‘there’.
3) Believing in each other. Both ways. Do you respect that person enough to be their voice of ambition and confidence when they feel like there is no winning? And is that person there to tell you who they know you can be when your head is stuck in a fog? Once again I stress: BOTH WAYS.
I have cut out SO many people from my life. If you are still not convinced on my time vs. money comparison let me put this into more quantifiable terms than ‘being there’. What my life had become after university and working in a youth dominated retail environment was a portfolio with 100 unpredictable stocks. I had to try to tend to all of them because I didn’t know which ones would become valuable or stay in my portfolio, and many of them fooled me because I couldn’t do my research. Now I have 10 well-researched, reliable stocks that I will continue to invest in because I know I will get a good return. Shit does happen, but ultimately I know I can count on them in the long run. And because I feel secure and stable, I have time to do, learn, and live much more.
In one easy summary: My time is valuable and limited, I will not waste it to please others, I will invest it to making myself and those who invest in me better.