Saturday, 13 June 2015

Life--The Investment Theory


I've done some searching around, and, though I will own the exact wording of this quote, I fear taking credit for the sentiment would border on plagiarism.  It has definitely been around in various forms over time, but, nonetheless, it is with this in mind that I write the following...

One could argue that not all things/people are created equal. Some of us are born into money, some of us aren't. Some of us overflow with musical talent, others..not so much. Some excel in physical pursuits, others in the arts. Some of us are great listeners or great thinkers, and some assholes are just generally good at everything. And that is all fine, and, for heaven's sake, don't waste time measuring or trying to place value on what God gave you, but if you're looking for the great equalizing factor, the one thing that no one person has over no other, don't look too hard. Find the nearest clock, and watch sixty seconds tick by. Now pick a person, ANY person, rich or poor, friend or foe, famous or humble—I'm going to pick Bill Gates—and now picture that person engaged in the same exercise—Bill Gates, sitting still watching one minute tick by. 60 seconds is 60 seconds is 60 seconds no matter who are, where you've been, who your friends are, how much money you have, what your talents are or aren't, or what letters you have behind your name. TIME—the great equalizing factor, a currency bestowed in equal measure throughout all humanity.

To me, it is self-evident that how you spend this currency is the greatest predictor of the future outcomes of any of those other things I talked about. If you spend time being educated, you will be educated. If you spend time playing the flute, you will be a flautist. If you spend time with your family, you will have a rich family life. If you spend your time doing nothing, you will not do much. The exceptions to this rule are surprisingly few and far between. When put this way, it seems so obvious, but if you're like me, knowing this and actually living it are two different things.

The example I'm going choose to illustrate this point is neither here nor there and, by no means, am I suggesting that you have to agree with me on this particular subject, but I do encourage you to critically examine how you are spending that most valuable time currency in your own life and if it aligns with the goals you have in mind for yourself or your family.

So I believe in 'play'--free, largely unstructured, outdoor, physical play. Looking back on my childhood, this is something I was blessed to have in great quantity. I am exceedingly grateful for this and credit a solid foundation of 'play' for many things I have enjoyed in my adult life—namely, an innate desire to move/exercise, a love of the outdoors, an outlet for stress, a creative mind, strong intrinsic motivation, among other things. And, in all honesty, I desire that exact same thing for my kids, kinda like 'free range children.' But you know what I did yesterday? I spent the better part of two hours on hold with the City of Saskatoon registering the kids for their swim lessons which are at some god-awful inconvenient time and location and which will inevitably involve our entire family spending the next 10 Sunday mornings packing bags, driving around, and doing swim laundry all for the gain of a half hour swim lesson of which they will spend at least 15 minutes waiting for their turn. Now, you'll remember that I didn't promise you'd agree with me on this particular issue, but, when I look at this from a 'time-investment' perspective, I am not overly wowed by the return. Now obviously, free play is not the only goal I have in mind for my family, and I realize that my children are not going to learn to swim in my own backyard, and that the whole packing bags/driving/laundry process is a necessary evil, but there's a nagging voice in me saying, 'wouldn't it be easier, wouldn't they engage/learn more if we all just went swimming for a few hours?' But swimming lessons—here we come!
Now I'm not one to toot my own horn, but I am actually not an epic failure at this whole 'free play' thing. My kids and I spend lots of time 'playing' and, as a result, they are great 'play-ers,' and I hope that they'll reap the benefits of that over time. And I have the odd moment of clarity, like when I see them run out the door and hop on their bikes at the first sight of spring, where I feel pretty good about this particular time investment! And that is encouraging!

But going into parenthood, I also had this notion that 'music' was going to be a big part of our lives. But here we are, 6 years in, and my kids' greatest musical accomplishments consist of naming the Top 5 Shazam songs in Canada and being able to croon out the lyrics to 'Animals' (I know, scary) with freakish accuracy. But, as the old adage go, we reap what we sow...should I expect anything other when my children's musical exposure consists almost entirely of listening to pop radio in the van as we drive hither to tither? It's not like we've been regularly frequenting the symphony or jamming in the basement. Poor kids. Perhaps it may sound as though I'm making light of it, but this situation, for me, serves as a reminder that how we invest our time, even inadvertently, becomes our reality. Never mind the haunting feeling I have that that same time investment is responsible for the development (or lack thereof) of any talents or gifts they might have—it's all well and good to have a talent for such and such, but that talent will amount to nothing without a corresponding time investment.

Far beyond being a simple investment with a return, time (or, more specifically, how we spend it) defines us. Recently, someone called me a 'blogger,' and it was like a slap in the face...well, that's a bit dramatic, but my thought was, 'Whoa. Back the truck up. Like, yes, I may engage in some blogging activity from time to time, but that does not make me a 'blogger.' But the fact of the matter is that when you start the engage in any “thing” on a regular basis, you, by proxy, become a “thing-er”. Like if you invest your time into teaching, people will probably call you a “teacher,” or if you spend enough time singing, eventually you'll have to accept the title of “singer.” How you spend your time, outside of what is strictly functional (few have ever bragged that they are a “toothbrusher”), becomes who you are, how you will be remembered, how people will describe you, and ultimately how you will describe yourself. And there is some heavy weight in that.

So I've decided that I dislike any theory without any practical application, so here's where I've decided to go with this...Next time you have a moment like one of those I've described, where you find yourself wondering 'why am I wasting my time registering/doing such-and-such?' or 'I really should start putting some effort into my musical pursuits,'--consider that your 'DING-DING reminder that it is time for an investment review (I know, groan, but you'll be glad you did it once it's done). And here's how I propose you do it...

Pick a few “thing-er”-type descriptors as your time investment goals for yourself or your family. I'm going to pick three for myself:
1. Listener
2. Musician-er
3. Blogger
And then start to consider how you will invest/reinvest your time to become those things. Maybe, it will be a small change to your personal behaviour, maybe you will want to register for a class or sign up for a league, maybe it will be designating Monday nights as X-night, or maybe even just bringing these goals up to a more conscious level will be enough. That's up to you. And if you're like me and find that you simply don't have time to spare for investment, consider the flip side of the coin. Pick a few descriptors that you'd rather not have surface in your eulogy and steal a bit of time from those areas. Now if you'll just control your inner Jenny-Judgie, I will pick:
1. Candy-crusher
2. Reality tv-watcher

Now, maybe your time investment portfolio is more-than-satisfactory to you, but that begs the question? What are you doing reading this article? Just kidding. But my feeling is that if you can get to a place where you are satisfied with your time investments, there is no reason that you can't be as 'rich' as Bill Gates himself.