Ever wished you could jump forward in time and be wiser, more experienced, and just generally have your life together? In a way that you just don’t right now? Maybe you need to fall through a wormhole.
If you’re a sci-fi fan, you’ll be familiar with the concept of wormholes. They’re a generally accepted way of passing from one world, dimension, or time period to another. Or as defined by Space.com:
“A wormhole is a theoretical passage through space-time that could create shortcuts for long journeys across the universe.”
Wormholes are convenient, plot-adaptable portals, widely used by authors and film makers, allowing characters to travel quickly and easily through time and space.
Metaphorically speaking, wormholes are also a way for you to hack time, and step forward into your future, potentially cutting out some of the more boring bits of your own life story.
The idea of falling through a wormhole into your own future may seem frightening and unlikely, but it happens more often than you’d think. And usually to the advantage of the metaphorical time traveller.
I was introduced to this way of looking at life by Benjamin Hardy, author and top Medium writer. In his book, Slipstream Time Hacking, Hardy talks about how one simple decision can send you hurtling through a wormhole, and decades into your own future. It seemed a whimsical notion, until I realised it had already happened to me, multiple times.
Hardy’s personal examples of how a single decision acts as a wormhole are simple to understand (if harder to implement). He married someone from a vastly different financial background to him, advancing overnight from debt-plagued recent graduate to comfortably off homeowner. That’s one way to propel yourself 20 or 30 years into your own future. Hardy and his wife also decided to foster three children: a sibling group aged 5, 7 and 9. As a newlywed couple, that’s a hell of a way to neatly step ten years into your own future.
In fiction, a wormhole is often scary and disorientating, as well as useful. The same applies in real life. I know from personal experience that parenthood is hard to adapt to. I imagine that fostering children (three at a time) is harder.
Wormholes don’t provide an easy way to hack time. They more often involve taking on a crazy challenge or intense experience (that you may not be ready for), in order to bypass years of plodding along. You arrive at a similar destination, but years earlier than you might have done on a more conventional path.
Wormholes come in different forms. Here are a few that have happened for me, although I’ve only realised their significance in hindsight.
When you suddenly come into a significant amount of money (for you) there is potential to jump forward into your own future. Windfalls are generally out of your control, of course. They happen when they happen. You probably think they never happen to you, and you may be right, or you may not.
Maybe you will never experience an inheritance, lotto win, favourable compensation claim, or divorce payout. Maybe you’ll never sell a business, flip a property, receive a chunk of severance pay, have a long-forgotten investment pay out, or find that your pension is larger than you thought, and you can take it early. But, perhaps, now I’ve listed a few of the ways it could happen, it doesn’t seem as ridiculously unlikely as before.
Some windfalls are a few thousand dollars. Some are much more. If you want to step into your own future, it’s all about what you do with it. It’s surprisingly easy to receive a huge cash injection and make little or no lasting changes to your life. It’s not unusual for Lotto winners to blast through their winnings and have little to show for it. The kids of the wealthy often live it up on their trust funds until there’s nothing left, which is why you might have heard it’s possible to go ‘from rags to riches, and back again, in three generations’.
The trick is to use any windfall not just wisely, but in a way that will move you forward into your own future, quickly and decisively. There’s no formula to work out what that might entail. It might be starting a business (if you know you can make it work long term), paying off a mortgage, traveling the world or starting a family. If you ever get that windfall, consider your options carefully. Only you will be able to identify the one thing you could do that will send you through your wormhole.
Finding a mentor
This one is a little more under your control, though not entirely. Finding the perfect mentor can give you the tools, information and attitude you need to get to where you’re going, faster, and without the zigzags.
Learning from our mistakes is valuable. Learning from someone else’s is incredibly time efficient. Remember, mentors can be formal or informal, part of an organized program through your college or workplace, or some guy you meet at a networking event. Your mentor could be a boss, teacher or next door neighbour you chat to over your backyard fence. When looking for the perfect mentor, you just need to find a person who is where you want to be, and be willing to find out exactly how they got there.
Mentorship isn’t always about your career or business. Want to build an amazing marriage and raise an awesome family? Find someone who has done it already. Want to travel the world on a shoestring budget? Talk to someone who’s done that. Want inner peace and calm satisfaction? See if you can get the calmest, most satisfied person you know to mentor you.
Long-term mentors aren’t the only people who can send you through a wormhole. Sometimes it’s more about a chance meeting with someone who totally turns your ideas around. I’ve met people on my travels and had just one conversation with them, and never looked at life quite the same again. Be open to chance meetings. Start conversations. Listen with both ears and an open mind. You never know when a wormhole-opening opportunity may show up in your life.
Reading a paradigm-shifting book
This is even more accessible than mentorship. If you live in a First World country, it’s often as easy as dusting off your library card. In his book The Greatness Guide, author Robin Sharma encourages us to ‘drink coffee with Ghandi’. Sounds ambitious, and logistically impossible, but it’s as simple as brewing up, and opening his autobiography.
Just recently I’ve had coffee with Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey and Nelson Mandela. I love having coffee with Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell and Arianna Huffington. There’s no good reason to drink alone.
Books that send you through a wormhole don’t have to be noble, or globally significant, or even well-written. A very mundane example is a free ebook about blogging I downloaded around the time I started my first blog. I genuinely don’t remember the title, author or details of this free download. I do distinctly remember thinking that I had learned at least a dozen things in it that were going to enable me to make big improvements to my fledgling blog. And some of them were not things that anyone was talking about at the time. I’m fairly sure that free ebook propelled me a few years into my blogging future.
The same happened with my freelance writing career when I read Writer Mama by Christina Katz. I was struggling to make money as a freelancer and was convinced that the sensible thing to do would be to wait until my two children were older and I had more time. Writer Mama showed me how to grow my writing career alongside my family and, again, there were at least a dozen actionable items in there that might have taken me years to work out on my own.
Other books that have been wormhole books for me are The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Simple Abundance, and The One Thing. Sometimes you learn enough from one book to advance two, five, or ten years into your own future.
Travel is potentially the most enjoyable wormhole. Unlike with sci-fi stories, you don’t have to travel through time or to an alternative universe (though some of my more bizarre travel experiences have felt like one or the other).
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience long-term, open-ended travel, both as a twenty-something backpacker on a work-your-way-around-the-world trip, and as a forty-something digital nomad with two home-schooled-on-the-road kids in tow.
Here’s how long-term travel works as a wormhole. Firstly, it allows you to pack in a huge variety of different experiences, cultures and ideas. You learn more in a year-long round-the-world trip than you might in a lifetime in your hometown.
Secondly, travel slows down time by changing our perceptions and the amount of information we process. Steve Taylor, addresses the perceptual theory of time in his book Making Time: Why Time Seems To Pass At Different Speeds and How To Control It. Taylor claims that:
“The speed of time seems to be largely determined by how much information our minds absorb and process — the more information there is, the slower time goes.”
This explains nicely why travel slows time. When we’re travelling, we’re experiencing new things, we’re out of our routine and making more decisions than we’re accustomed to, so time seems to pass more slowly than when we’re in our largely automatic, day-to-day routine at home.
It even goes some way to explaining that two-week vacation phenomenon you might have experienced. You know the one, where the first week goes slowly, but the second rushes past. Maybe it’s just that the first week, everything is new. You’re in a strange place. You’re processing brand new information, and you’re having to think about everything. The second week, everything is more familiar and automatic, and before you know it, you’re back at the airport checking in for your homeward bound flight.
When I returned from over a year backpacking, my friends back home were surprised to hear I’d been away that long. “Seems like you just left last week,” was a common reaction to my return, from the people who had basically been living the same week 60 times over since I’d been away. To me? It felt like I’d been away a lifetime. I’d seen so much and met so many people. I’d bungy jumped, and skydived and snorkelled with whale sharks. I’d crewed on a yacht from Darwin to Sigapore, spending a week at a time out of sight of land. I’d packed what would be, for some people, a lifetime of experiences into that year.
If you have trouble seeing how long-term travel works as a wormhole, consider how many people go away for a two-week vacation (at most) every year. You can pack 26 years of vacations into a one-year trip, propelling yourself 26 years into your future in terms of places you’ve seen, people you’ve met and cultures you’ve experienced.
Long-term travel is easier for some nationalities than others, especially if you have no money. Working your way round the world is more feasible for some than for others. Some countries are generous with their ‘working holiday’ visas. Others aren’t. Commonwealth countries often have work visa arrangements with other Commonwealth countries that exclude the USA. If you have a passport from a European Union country you can work in other EU countries. US citizens find it much harder to work legally in Europe.
The rise of the digital nomad has helped, of course. If you want to jump 26 years into your future, you may well have to work remotely for a year, or create a side hustle you can run online from any far-flung destination you end up in. Do it, if you can. Cramming 26 years into one is great time management.
I’m not talking about formal education here, though I have nothing against it, and more of it than I’ve ever needed. But formal education is not a wormhole. You spend 4 years getting a degree and you have a 4-year degree. There’s no sleight of hand. You end up with exactly what you signed up for.
Education works as a wormhole when you get a lot of it very quickly, usually in a non-formal setting. When you take a high-value, extremely actionable, intensive online course (and implement on it straight away) you can potentially step into a new opportunity or a new level in your business that might have taken you years to get to. The same can happen when you go on an intensive, creative 2-week retreat, stretch yourself to do a 30-day challenge, take on a high-level internship, or step boldly into any highly-concentrated learning experience.
Wormholes are out there. They’re not obvious and they don’t always come to you. You step through them most often and most effortlessly when you’re alert and open to new experiences. You maximise their impact when you’re fully aware of their potential, and you walk straight past them (more often than you’d think) if you’re not looking out for them. Maybe your next wormhole is already in your life. You just haven’t stepped into it yet.