According to this “life weeks” chart, I have a little over ¼ of my allotment of weeks left in this lifetime. If you do the reverse math, you will work out that I will be 60 next year. As much as I would like to deny it, I’ve got limited time left on this Earth.
So do you.
One of my teachers once said to me “Don’t waste my time,” in response to my stubbornness to do one of my assignments. Seen through my eyes, I thought, “What the hell. I’m paying you good money!” Seen through the teacher’s eyes, it was simple. He would not work with anyone who was not willing to show up. Yes, he was getting paid. But his work was helping me reclaim my life, and if I wasn’t willing to show up, why should he?
This awareness was refined even more when I heard a venture capitalist say “Losing money doesn’t bother me. Losing money is part of my job. What bothers me is for someone to waste my time.” Now that’s a different way to think about money. It’s so easy to think of everything of value as tied to money.
Bringing that awareness to the forefront has all kinds of consequences. My first thought is “Surely that timeline is wrong. I feel young and vital and healthy. Maybe if I eat better, exercise more and be really, really careful, I can cheat death.” The truth is that 4000 weeks is not guaranteed – not even close. There are a lot of ways to exit this life.
So, yes, I can bury myself in a big ole Texas-sized pile of denial. But is that useful?
It seems more useful to appreciate what I have and count every moment as precious. This awareness sharpens my focus.
Seen through the eyes of reality, time becomes much more valuable than money.
Do I really want to let myself get sucked into giant time wasters? What about saying yes to things I really don’t want to do? How much power do I want to give other people over my calendar? What happens to my everyday priorities when I am aware of the sand running through the hourglass?
Practically speaking, it’s made me change several things. First, I’ve quit giving so much attention to the news. Instead of turning on the TV first thing in the morning, I start with setting my mindset for the day. Absolutely no inputs from email, text, social media or the news until my framing for the day has been established. Every day, that involves going into deep meditation. Many days, it involves a creative burst to capture insights and problem solving pouring out of my rested brain.
Second, I’ve become much more likely to say no to things I either don’t want to do or can’t add real value to. Sorry if you are one of those people who has heard that message. Now you know why.
Third, it’s sharpened my focus on my power to choose my response to circumstances out of my control (which I’m learning more and more is almost everything.)
My response is the only place where I have real power.
Gratitude becomes necessary, as fundamental as breath. Love becomes the sweet nectar of life. Presence is the true gift.
Where in your life are you “wasting time?” In what ways do you make money the most valuable thing you have? Where do you give your power to outside circumstances, reacting from your habitual patterns instead of from your true core? What gifts are you here to share? How many weeks do you still have left to offer those gifts? What are you going to do about it?
I’m still working on it. Will be for the rest of my 2050 weeks. Or days.
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The idea of value has been on my mind lately. Think about it for a minute – how does one create value? In so many ways, that’s what business should really be here to do. It’s just so damn easy to forget. Where was the last place you spent money? Think about the value they created for you.
I spend money at our local grocery store almost every day. The value they create for me has grown over the years as my perception of what it takes to grow our food in society has met reality. For the last two years, we have been keeping our own chickens. We started with 24 hens plus a big ole, bad ass rooster. Free eggs, right? Nope, that’s not how it works. We are down to 8 hens and the rooster. What happened to the rest? Illness and mayhem. Mostly mayhem. About a dozen of them were killed by predators. They give us delicious eggs in ever shorter supply. The cost of keeping those chickens has not gone down.
My point? My eggs cost me north of $20 per dozen to produce when I factor in my hard costs (not including my daily time to feed, water and otherwise care for them.) The super expensive eggs in the grocery, the ones that I simply have to walk 30 seconds to the aisle, pick them up and pull out some cash? $6.50. Factor in all the food in that store that I don’t have to catch, kill, harvest or grow and suddenly the value of the store is exponentially higher. (Please don’t tell them; I don’t want to pay higher prices!)
Every business should have the same idea. We take resources of some sort, add our unique value to them and return something that has much more value than before. I’m surrounded by examples, from the crew that painted our walls in our house to the team that handles landscaping on Mystic Waters to the financial advisor who gets that his perspective is so much more than safekeeping my money.
I came face to face with this concept early in my leadership career, when I might as well have been a telephone wire for upper management. My team brought an idea to me that was well within my authority to approve – but I saw it as a little edgy. So my response? “I will have to ask.” This was not the first time my response had been a weak “Let me check with my superiors.” Evidently, I did it all the time. After a while, the team started wondering why they needed me and they told me so. Good point! What value was I adding? Not much to be completely honest! When I came to understand that, I began to offer so much more value and I was happier to boot. (The ego hurdles I had to overcome in order to understand that are a story for another day.)
It’s a question that we all can consider more: Where is the value? Way too often I think “I don’t want to pay for that” for things I can do myself. Looking at it strictly from a cost viewpoint, it makes sense. That massage that feels like a luxury? Is it really a luxury, when it makes me significantly more effective for the next week?
Recently, I’ve had a transformational experience that has blown my “I can do that” viewpoint to pieces.
Late last year, when I was thinking about doing more workshops here, I started a conversation with my daughter about some of my plans. She offered some good insights. Better yet, she is a masterful event coordinator and I find the logistics side of workshops way too distracting. Ok, I hate it. Opening the gate, unlocking the center, making the coffee, turning on the AC, checking for bugs on the floor was enough to make me think about retiring altogether. Except I love what I do when you take the event and back office stuff out of it. Our seed of an idea turned into a full-time job offer. I hired her before I could afford her. Best decision ever.
She has created untold value for me. She posted this blog. She takes so much off my plate, my new focus is unreal. And she is actually a damn good coach to boot. There are reasons she is so good – and there are reasons that we can work together. Not perfectly but joyfully. (We have started a podcast/vlog to share our stories.)
Stay tuned for some of the back story about the value we create together as mother and daughter. There is so much more to come.
Think about this for yourself. What value do you create? When you are working in your office or your business are you clear on how you create value? What are your tangible results? What are your intangible results?
The essential question: Are you a value maker or a value taker?
Don’t use these questions to beat yourself up or question your value as a human. That is not the intent.
If you question your value as a human, call me. I will give you my spiel on that!
These questions are being asked to free you to get clarity and to be a badass at what you do. When you look at what you do through a lens of adding value, watch out world. You will be a creative spirit unleashed!
Know someone who would love this article? Email or share below!Lynn Carnes accelerates change and unleashes leadership performance in organizations, especially in context of challenges without easy answers. She loves to hear about how your experiments with these ideas turn out. To contact her or share your experiences email firstname.lastname@example.org
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