Most, if not all of us, measure success and what we strive for in the unit of money. Even if we tell ourselves we don’t think it’s the most important thing, we subconsciously do, as we think about what money allows us to do.
Your primary unit of measurement defines how you think about your priorities.
While we all believe (or hope) to think about money only as a proxy and a means for experiences, it will become our master if we treat it as the primary unit. There can never be enough of it – it’s the thing that supposedly enables everything else.
As I was just reminded by reading ‘Digital minimalism’ by Cal Newport the other day, we need to think about time as our primary unit. Time is the thing that doesn’t scale. Time is limited. Time is what we cannot get back. Time is when experiences happen and where they live.
Following ideas that are as old as society, we must start from time. We need to figure out how much money we need to optimize our time, and limit our money-creating to that – not the other way around!
The more material stuff we have, the more money we need to keep it up. When we focus on getting a lot of money to support amazing experiences, we might end up not having enough time left to actually live those experiences.
Here is what Thoreau tells us:
“If I should sell my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I am sure that for me there would be nothing left worth living for…. I wish to suggest that a man may be very industrious, and yet not spend his time well. There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.” – Thoreau in ‘Walden’
And as always, the Chinese knew it a long time ago already:
“Those who know they have enough are rich.” – Lao Tzu
Get your primary unit straight and optimize for it!
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