Time is money, right?
In case you’re new here, I preceded this piece with two others. I wrote about what I have learned performing magic for millionaires, in short, the first thing is the importance of being generous and the second is do the thing. Here’s the third most important thing I learned from spending time with some moneyed magnates.
Time is invaluable.
I once heard an anecdote that went something like this: Bill Gates is walking, and the wind blows a rare, ten-thousand dollar note, right under one of his feet. He keeps walking, because he’d be losing money if he stopped and stooped to pick it up.
Regardless of the lack of credibility, it’s an interesting story. A little outlandish, but a good exercise for us to consider to the main point. The skeptic in me wants to question so many missing pieces, in hopes to disprove such a wild claim. For you fellow over-analyzers, I’m sure we can agree that whether or not it’s true really depends on a lot of different factors. None of which I will list, since this little anecdote has already taken up too much of my brain’s energy (debating it with some mates).
With this in mind, what really strikes me worth considering is that if I replaced the name Bill Gates with a different, less notable one, it would change the almost believable and render it absolutely unbelievable. As Hamlet would (almost) say: “Therein lies the rub.”
In reality, billions of people trade their time for money. I have, and frequently still do. You decide you want mystery entertainment at your event. You contact me, hire me. I show up, spend time with your guests. There’s magic, mind-reading, story-telling, comedy, drama, maybe a goldfish. Hopefully your guests laugh, wonder, and enjoy. Forging new memories, and a shared experience. Wonderful. I’m paid. You go back to work at some point, and I go on to do another gig. We spend hours working, to earn an income. Income that we then spend to do the things we love, buy the things we want and share in memories with people we love.
Money is just a math equation that allows us to take part in a very complex, albeit perplexing, transaction – Life.
As Calvin Chu writes,
“If I asked you to trade a $20 bill for your $20 bill, you’d look at me and say I’m crazy — what difference does it make? There’s no point […] But this is exactly what people do when they work hundred-hour work weeks at the expense of their family, and then pay for things like a housekeeper or babysitter to clear out time back in to their schedules, except even worse — people are often trading something they would love to do, and instead volunteering for something they don’t love — work.”
Granted, the age-old adage “Time is money” was first coined by Bejamin Franklin, when he was advising a tradesmen audience. Though there is some degree of truth to Franklin’s words, technological advancements have made it easier for work to seep into more areas of our life. From a purely pragmatic frame, we can disprove this notion quite easily. I’m easily accessible through one of my many mobile devices. I’m just a ring, vibration or coo away from being reached. (Some people still insist on sending me carrier pigeons…the magic community is a strange place.) If I’m solving a performance related problem for an upcoming event, while fishing with my family, and then my phone rings simultaneously – I can’t look at you in that moment and tell you with any sincerity that time is money.
In this case, not only am I not being paid to excogitate on Grandpa so and so’s upcoming surprise 65th birthday, I’m also definitely not being paid to pick up the incoming call with a potential live performance inquiry. Before you quick-witted lot tell me, “But Alex, you may make your show better by thinking about it…You might get the booking which will pay you, therefore rendering your silly argument void, because you technically WILL be getting paid for picking up that phone.”
Be that as it may, time is time and money is money.
To quote one of many well-to-do people who have said this to me, in some way or another (I think the first time I heard it was from Tony Robbins): “Time is not money. Time is INVALUABLE. You can always make more money. You can never have more time.” It’s so important to start shifting this little belief into a new one, and transforming that belief into a habit. I’m sure some of you know this already all too well. You are very fortunate. You are very well off just for possessing this little piece of knowledge. I invite you to share it with the uninitiated. It is my intention to keep reminding and drilling that thought into my own head, as well as the people around me. This blog is a real-world example of my journey towards breaking out of the hamster wheel.
For fear that you see me as unappreciative or uninterested in performing live, and being paid for it, I will make an important distinction. My passion is my work. I am one of those rare and fortunate people, that considers playtime and work-time as synonymous. I absolutely love what I do. I am so happy to do what I do. There are difficult days, just as there are amazingly easy days.
Thus my point is not I wish I didn’t have to work, rather, I wish to never regret having worked.
All things considered, once I started thinking this way, I have two balances that float in the back of my mind. One is much more prevalent than the other. The first, is the money balance. It is there, sometimes it is more stressful and ominous when it becomes a conscious consideration, sometimes it is less. The second, and far more important, one that I wish to never refer to as stressful or ominous, is the time balance. If I had to describe it, my time balance isn’t a number or an agenda, it’s like a red LED alarm clock screen, but one that’s sort of broken. It’s not a time tracker in the sense of a clock, it’s not a timer, counting down to some proposed death-day, rather it’s a series of red lines, that almost show me the time, but not quite. They shift, and they move around in my mind, semi-spastically and serve as a consistent reminder to ask myself things like:
Am I doing this just to feel activity? Or is my activity, productivity?
If I died tomorrow, would I be happy with what I’ve done so far?
On a less intimidating and more strategic level, here’s a flow-chart I printed out 4 copies of and taped to every wall\window I see the most often. I took it down, only once I started running my decision making process through it unconsciously and automatically. I invite you to do the same, even if it’s just saving a copy of it to your cell-phone.
What would you do if you “had the time”?
How can you make the time?