October 2021

Timeless

Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

I interpret the word ‘timeless’ in two ways:

  • Something that transcends time, like great design that becomes immortalised.
  • Something that is dead, starved of time.

What else do we truly possess but the time we are granted? Time to live, time to wander, time to expend and time to waste.

To be ‘running out of time’, it seems, is to eventually run no more.

Up to this point, I have thought about and considered time as an asset but I now think that this comparison is misplaced. An asset that performs optimally can be expected to grow and expand in its value as time passes. The time we are granted in this life is more akin to a finite ‘resource pool’ that can never be topped up, one that was also designed from the very beginning to have a small leak from the bottom of it.

What this means is that, whether the resource pool is acted upon or not, it is perpetually draining by default. There is nothing we can do to stop this from happening (yet).

Time is designed to expend itself, the default mode. With this in mind, what should then be surprising are those moments in our lives when we get to witness time being expended well.

Matter does not just arrange itself into shelter or clothing, and living things do everything they can not to become our food. What needs to be explained is wealth. Yet most discussions of poverty consist of arguments about whom to blame for it.

- Eric Beinhocker

Life well spent

As optimistic about this world as I would like to be, with an idealised vision of expending time well, I recognise that there are a multitude of external constraints that come into play that influence the decisions we make when it comes to how we spend our time. While we might be the rightful owners of our time (and therefore our lives), it does not necessarily mean that we have the ability to control every aspect of it. An owner is not necessarily an operator and vice versa.

For example, what if one were forced into a position of servitude? The controller of that person’s time becomes the controller of his life.

If your time lays in the hands of anyone else but yours, you might be the rightful owner but not the operator. With that control abdicated, you will never be a free man.

When you lose the capacity to walk away at any moment, you lose your sovereignty as an individual.

If the hand that feeds you can wring your neck, you’re a turkey.

- Farnam Street on the topic of Complexity.

Does this mean never to commit? Never to work for a greater purpose, one that lies beyond the individual self?

No, but this question should serve as a reminder to be extremely conscious in deciding who or what you give and subordinate your time to.

If you choose to subordinate your time to a some self-selected purpose, at the very least there is a conscious decision.

How you expend your time is how you expend your life.

Humans are designed to work, and perhaps there could be a purpose out there for you. One that you would willingly choose to subordinate your time and your life towards.

Where the time you expend would be effort invested towards the ultimate destination of having ever increasing freedoms from externally imposed constraints. A pathway towards becoming more of an owner and operator of your life.

As I think about my own career trajectory, I worry about how the typical runway of a professional worker as it stands today can be resembled by a noose around one’s neck — the longer one commits, the tighter the noose gets, the more difficult it becomes to opt out of the game without breaking one’s neck.

I have come to see that corporate machines do not exist to serve any one individual employee within it, but instead it does everything it can to serve the customer. Every employee, all the way through from shop floor to chief executive officer, is a servant to the machine.

In a previous post, The Eminent CEO, I went through an exploration of the hourly rate of a CEO and discovered the idea that even the top ranking individuals in an organisation are very likely not doing their job just for the money.

How to contend with all of this?

Aspire beyond just working within a machine by aiming at becoming an owner of the machine.

Perhaps within this search lies a runaway of becoming more of an owner and operator of your life.

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Julian Goh

Julian Goh

‘200 crappy words a day’ | Perth, AU | Find more of my writing on juliangoh.me/blog