Achievers like Einstein, Ali and Musk all found time to reach their goals. How come you say you don’t have enough to reach yours?
Just like The Beatles sang it out loud in the 1960s, many people today silently wish they’d have “Eight days a week”. Not only for loving someone, as suggested in the song. But mostly to catch up on what they’d have missed during any given week.
Since Roman Empire Constantine made it official in 321 AD, though, “normal weeks” only have 7 days. Each of 24 hours. For a total of 168 hours per week.
Something that didn’t seem to bother Humanity. As it made possible all of its achievements, big and small, way before time management workshops and apps became the commodity they are these days.
How come then, so many people say they run short on what previous generations seemed to have plenty ahead of them?
How come many of those who deeply want to make a difference in life come short on achieving their goal?
“BACK IN THE DAY…”
“Things were so different, back in the day”, “You didn’t have to work two jobs to make a living back then”, “People didn’t have to make it on time at the daycare, after work, to avoid a 20$ penalty”, “They didn’t have to put a weekly calendar on the fridge to keep track of their kids multiple activities during week-ends”, “People didn’t have to put up with a job or boss constantly requiring to either stay late at work or bring some files at home”, “They had it easy back then!”, “We’re expected so much more than before. I can’t keep up with all that is asked from me. At work or else. I can’t keep up with all interesting things out there neither, or those I’d like to do too”.
Wasn’t there anything interesting to do 5, 10, 20, 100 years ago? Weren’t there any expectations, neither? One thing for sure, though, life expectancy was shorter than today.
So if you wanted to “accomplish something in life”, “make some sort of an impact”, you had to make it quick, sort of speak. Something many did, actually.
How have they made it?
IT WASN’T ABOUT ADDING THINGS ON TOP OF YOUR TO-DO LIST BUT…
For one, adding things like “mindfulness”, yoga classes, or “me time” to your weekly schedule or to-do list was, either impossible or very limited back then.
Impossible, because people in the Western World, for instance, weren’t even aware yoga and mindfulness existed. Very limited, because the average workweek (at least in Europe and North America) extended above “40 hours a week” up until the 1950s. [read here for North America, and here (p8-9) for the History of working hours in Europe]
Secondly, “work-life balance” wasn’t even part of people’s vocabulary up until the late 1990s. When the French government implemented the 35hours workweek. [read here what circumstances led to this important change ]
Moreover, the average worker didn’t rely on a life coach, a personal assistant (let it be virtual or made of flesh and bone), a ready-to-cook meal delivery service (like Blue Apron or else), or a housekeeper.
They did what anyone can do best with the time they have at hand; they made choices.
They picked where they’d put their energy at. So, if all went well, they’d get the most out of it in return. Such return increasing their chances of making a positive impact in their work, at home, or wherever they felt mattered the most.
It sure forced them to display some ingenuity, at times. Because of the lack of mastery at doing “X” they needed to compensate for. More importantly, choosing to be good (or excellent) at one thing required them to accept they’d probably suck at something else.
Which is maybe a core lesson of what previous generations can teach us. Even more those you might consider as great achievers or role models.
It’s not about doing it all. Or being it all.
It’s about choosing.
Doing and being the best you can in one, if not in very few fields or parts of your life.
Not by adding “activities to get better at _____” or “topics to get a deeper knowledge/understanding of” to your week. By actually removing some of them.
So you have more time, headspace and energy to accomplish or achieve what matters most to you.
ACCEPTING YOU’LL SUCK AT MORE THAN ONE THING
Einstein was great at understanding and explaining how physics works. He’s not renowned for being an accomplished yoga practitioner. Oprah Winfrey was (and still is) very good at connecting with guests and the public through her interviewers. She’s not famous for her athletic skills. Richard Branson is very good at building teams that can bring something missing in various industries. He’s not known as an Italian cooking expert.
The same as other people before them, Einstein and the likes became good at what they did (or still do, in some cases) because they “made time” for it. They put in the hours, the efforts and sometimes even the money. On top, they discarded what they believed couldn’t really help them achieve their primary goals.
Achievers tend to accept they’ll fail. That they’ll also suck at more than one thing. So they can truly succeed at what they decided to truly invest themselves in.
On the other hand, imagine if, by wanting to be good at everything… Elon Musk and his team had decided to only put half their time and energy into developing Tesla electric cars. If Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak wanted to pursue – at the same level – organic foods farming and personal computers development. If Michael Jordan or Phelps said “Sport is important. I’m very good at it… but I’ll keep doing it only part time. I’d also like to become a doctor”. To what extent their level of achievements and mastery in their field or industry would have been? Probably not the ones they ended up reaching.
We tend to mistake “living life to the fullest” with “doing and experiencing all the humanly-possible-things we can”. In doing so, we only tend to stay on the surface of things. Never really getting deep in knowing someone or understanding a topic or an issue. Somehow because of the belief that “If I miss on something, I might not live a fulfilled life”.
Hanging to such belief for too long leaves a trail of “halves” behind us. Halves of “great ideas” and “master plans” to improve our everyday lives. Halves of commitments into relationships (romances or friendships). Halves of “jobs done”. Halves of “interesting places” we don’t stay a little longer in or come back to. Halves of discussions we listen to because our mind or thoughts are somewhere else. Halves of satisfactions also. For not having followed through a personal or professional project we invested ourselves in. Halves of momentums. For having decided to “take on something different and easier” when the first signs of an obstacle to overcome appeared. Problems half-solved. Halves of achievements as well.
Making a difference isn’t about the great many things you do but how great or deep of an impact one thing you do has on the people you do it for.
What is it you’d like to choose to spend your time doing?
You’ve got 168 hours, every week, to help you do so. The same as Einstein, Musk and any other achiever you can think of.
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Photo credits: Loupiote
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