Time, time, time
See what’s become of me
While I looked around
For my possibilities
I was so hard to please
A song in your head that just won’t go away. We all have that experience, right?
For me, this week it has been A Hazy Shade of Winter by Simon and Garfunkel. Or — for an 80s child, like me — The Bangles.
Why does a song that you haven’t thought about for more than thirty years suddenly reappear? Did you hear it somewhere? Did you have a “deja-vu moment” related to the song?
Human memory is a mysterious technology.
But, this time, for me, there was an obvious reason. This week was my 50th birthday.
Birthdays suck, but…
Birthdays. A time to reflect on what you have made of your life. A “time for time.” The perfect time for Paul Simon. And, even if you don’t want to think about your life, other people make sure you do.
There are the more negative comments: “I heard you will soon turn 50 and realized you are getting old.” I got a lot of that over the last few weeks.
What? Are you kidding me! Luckily, there were also some positive comments: “50 is the new 40. Life begins at 50. 50 is the youth of old age.”
Reflect. Understand. Change.
I am happy with my life. I have achieved most things that I wanted to achieve. I am happily married. I work with interesting people and organizations. I get to travel a lot. See exotic cultures.
I teach. I write. I try to inspire people, helping them to achieve their dreams. I feel lucky.
But lately, I have the feeling that “achievements” don’t matter that much for my sense of happiness. At least, they matter far less than I previously thought. When I was young(er).
Then, there was plenty of time. Time didn’t matter. And whenever people reminded me of time, I “hated” them for it. Time never went fast enough. I wanted to have my driver’s license. I wanted to be able to vote. I wanted to finish school. I wanted to finish being taught. There was an urgent need for achievement.
And what made me happy when I was younger were these “achievements.” A diploma. A job. A better job. Promotion. More money. New clothes. A car. A house.
I was ambitious. I wanted more. I was “so hard to please.”
And what I really wanted was a longer list of achievements. Signs of success. Recognition. From the world and for me.
Achievements don’t matter!
But recently, I have come to see how achievements alone don’t make you happy. Achievements have gradually been replaced by a different sense of happiness.
Aged 50, time is now a diminishing resource. Time is “catching up” with me. And using my time well matters so much more.
So, people are right when they tell you to be careful with people or activities that “burn” your time. I want to spend my time wisely. I hate it when my time is being wasted. I want to do things that I love. And not only because of the achievement that follows. But because I love doing what I do.
For me? I don’t want to lose my entrepreneurial self.
And to be constantly entrepreneurial, you have to love the process. The process of living. Since you can’t buy time; you shouldn’t waste the time that you do have.
Of course, it’s okay to hate your work sometimes, but you must love going to work. You shouldn’t let the things you don’t like doing distract you from the core activity that you must love doing.
Too many times, I hear people complaining about trivial or otherwise unimportant things. That’s wrong. Focus on the things you do like. Focus on the actual process.
Even if it results in a fantastic achievement. If you don’t love the process anymore, you have to rethink what you’re doing.
And, if you really don’t like what you do, but have no clue how to change it? Well, Paul Simon has a suggestion:
Hang onto your hopes my friend
That’s an easy thing to say
But if your hopes should pass away
That you can build them again
That sounds miserable! There must be a better way?
My advice? Look around and find something that you do love doing. These things don’t immediately have to replace your main work. Hang tight. Start doing other things as well. Embrace self-learning. Embrace the unending possibilities of a digital world.
But I forgive Paul Simon. He wrote this song in a different age. In A Hazy Shade of Winter. When we didn’t have the opportunities and choices that new technologies now give us all.
And these opportunities continue to come. Technology has the potential to make us happier. It will make us more entrepreneurial. It will help us see there are so many more things for all of us to do. To connect. To build an audience and community. To engage in meaningful communication. To write a book. To build a business. To do anything you like.
This is the main reason why you should not be afraid of emerging technologies. Yes, there are (and always will be) challenges. But they create so many more opportunities to love the process of life.
Living well is not about ambition and achievement. It is about not wasting your time. “Success” and “happiness” are about spending the time that we do have in a personally meaningful and entrepreneurial way.