Time: We’ve Got it All Wrong

Why are we forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing?

Time.

It’s the asset that we all eagerly wish we had more of.

More time to read.
More time to spend with friends.
More time to follow our dreams.
More time with loved ones.
More time to create art.
More time to see the world.
More time to go to the gym.
More time to make a difference.
More time to become the person we want to be.

However, time is fixed. We can’t make any more of it. It’s our most precious and least renewable resource.

However, truth is, there is, in fact, enough time. Life is long enough. There is enough time to accomplish the things that we desire to do most.

The real problem with time? We waste most of it.

We waste it watching TV.
We waste it spending time with negative people that we don’t care to be around.
We waste it in meetings.
We waste it doing things we aren’t passionate it about.
We waste it consuming things that we don’t need.
We waste it searching the internet for “life hacks”.
We waste it on facebook.
We waste it complaining.
We waste it by not capturing our brilliant ideas.
We waste it by holding grudges.
We waste it by making excuses.
We waste it talking, instead of listening.
We waste it talking about people, instead of about ideas.
We waste it waiting for things to happen.

We severely underestimate how much time we spend doing these things.

It is not that life is short, but that we make it that way.

Life is long, if you know how to use it.

The Well-worn Narrative Flywheel

Speed and efficiency are usually thought of as great things. As two measures that improve outcomes and increase optimization. Yet, often, we are moving so quickly that we fail to stop and think about the costs associated with speed and efficiency.

One such cost is being born day in and day out in the news media we consume. It is the cost of anti-intellectualism, or the inadvertent decision that insights, theories, and truth are inferior to speed and efficiency.

We have no one to blame but ourselves. This is the system we have built. We have constructed the incentives. We have abided by the rules.

In this structure, there is no great reward for speaking truth.

The truth is complicated.
The truth takes time to sort out.
The truth doesn’t neatly shine through the lenses through which we view the world.
The truth causes consternation.
The truth is attacked.
The truth is hard to measure.

Therefore, instead, we have set up an incentive system that is faster and more efficient than the system that would be needed to seek out the facts.

We have resorted to what is easy to measure – clicks, likes, followers, views. We have opted to optimize around these measures, seeking to become ever more efficient in maximizing them in harmony.

This system works like a flywheel.

Consumers want content that is easy to digest, easy to share, fun, and most of all convenient.

Under the pressure imposed by consumer’s, ratings, and tight deadlines, traditional media outlets rally around the well-worn narrative. The sound bit. The information that fits the worldview of the outlets most loyal consumers. It rallies around a focus on personal conflict, at the expense of the taking the time to understand the merits of both sides of the narrative.

The well-worn narrative gets repeated over and over again until it eventually becomes a hard particle of reality.

In turn, consumers, being busy and short on time, welcome the well-worn narrative. Its quick and easy to digest. And we are in such a hurry, these well-worn narratives lodge a place in our brains, without us ever stopping to question them.

Ultimately, it’s easier on everyone.

The problem with the flywheel of the well-worn narrative is the weight that it adds. This weight stresses and strains the truth and underneath it, the facts get lost. They get ignored.

It is the absence of agreement on the facts that puts each well-worn narrative on equal footing. Eliminating the possibility of learning, thoughtful reasoning, and an eco-system that facilitates the asking of thoughtful questions.

The only way to stop a flywheel is to throw a ratchet in it. However, this is harder than it sounds. It takes courage. It takes momentum. It takes the masses. It takes time.

Maybe the first step is the recognition that fast isn’t always better. Easy isn’t always preferred.

Simple isn’t always the best.

The Lek Paradox & The Myth of Better

We too, as the female peacock have been socialized to always strive for better. Yet, we run ever faster toward the finish line of “better” to get there and realize that it is merely the start of the next race.

Peacocks have an incredibly unique and intriguing mate selection process. This process of seduction is known as “Lekking”, after the Swedish word, “Lek”, which is the word for play.

During breeding, males gather in Leks, where they cluster together and mark out their territories. Once their territory is marked, the males wait for the females to arrive.

The female peacock is incredibly selective. She spends several days contemplating the goods on offer, with the ultimate goal being to select the best male.

At the core of it, she intends to acquire the best genes for her offspring and as asserted, and since confirmed, by Charles Darwin, the female makes this decision based on the length and ornateness of the tail of the male peacock (they are not actually tails but elongated rump feathers that cover the tail).

Once she has found her match, the male mounts atop the female. Minutes later his job is done.

At the lek, one or a few males achieve most of the matings. A single male may perform half of all mating’s at one lek.

Interestingly, female peacocks display a great degree of choosiness, yet choice matters the least within the species – otherwise known as the Lek Paradox.

The Lek Paradox arises because, if all of the females choose to mate with the same few males – those with the ‘best’ genes, then there will be much less genetic variety in the population in the next generation, and over a number of generations we might expect this to lead to no variety, making it impossible to sustain any choice.

Therefore, for the females, there is no reason to be as choosy, as the males they are choosing among were all fathered by the same few males in the previous generation.

Why does this process continue? Why do female peacocks continue to be choosy in selecting to mate with the few males with the most ornate and longest tails?

It is because the cost of doing otherwise, or mating with a short tail male, are perceived to be too high. Any female who bucks the trend, and chooses a short-tail male, will have a short-tailed son, condemning him to celibacy, given the selection criteria of the rest of the females.

In turn, each female is on a treadmill. They dare not jump off, as it potentially jeopardizes the fate of their offspring. They are constantly running (by being so selective), yet staying in the same place (having no variety to select from).

So, what does this have to be with human beings?

We too, as the female peacock have been socialized to always strive for better.

A better job.
A better salary.
A better title.
A better house.
A better car.
A better school.

Yet, we run ever faster toward the finish line of “better” to get there and realize that it is merely the start of the next race.

The solution is to realize that “better” is, in fact, a myth. You don’t have to run in the race. You can dare to jump off of the treadmill, recognizing that it is, in fact, not a race at all. You can change the narrative.

Instead, it’s about doing things that you care about.
Things that make an impact.
The house you can afford.
The car that merely gets you from point A to point B.
The school that is in your best interest – the one that facilitates the environment in which you will best be set up for success.

While this narrative, as the Myth of Better, doesn’t have a finish line and is just as grueling, it’s sure to be a much more fulfilling journey.

The choice is yours.

Don’t end up like the female peacock.

Where it All Started.

It started with our parents.

It quickly came to involve their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, or cousins.

It started with a sacrifice here and there — less sleep, less time with friends, less of doing what they wanted to do and more of doing what we wanted to do.

The little sacrifices quickly turned into large sacrifices — altering career trajectories, postponing the pursuit of passions, moving to the neighbored with the better school, living in a smaller house, working the job that allowed ends to meet.

It started with a teacher.

It quickly became teachers, professors, educators or individuals that shaped how we viewed the world.

It started with a mentor.

It quickly became mentorship, a foot in the door, an internship, the first job, a career.

While we all come from different backgrounds — socioeconomic statuses, family structure, access, exposure, and will ultimately all end up in different places, it all started with someone other than ourselves.

We all have had the help of others to get to where we are today.

And will need others to get to where we want to go tomorrow.

While at times it may seem like it, we can’t go at it alone.

We need each other.

Why is it Easy to do Nothing?

Why is inaction so easy?

Three recent life experiences:

  1. The credit card machine at the local sandwich shop wasn’t working. The guy behind me is informed of this after placing his order, which totaled $4. However, he did not have any cash. Yet, I did. I could have given him $4 to buy his meal. I didn’t.
  2. We recently had a new neighbor move into the apartment across the hall from us. One day, we happen to be walking into the building at the same time. We haven’t formally introduced ourselves. He didn’t speak. I felt the urge to say hello. I didn’t.
  3. On a recent beautiful fall day, I’m walking down the street, in a rush to no where (business school life). The guy walking in-front of me is carrying two bags of fruit. One of the bags, filled with apples, breaks. Apples roll across the sidewalk. I thought about helping him pick them up. I didn’t.

Being aware is simply not enough.

I wanted to do these things. I wanted to lend a hand. I wanted to help. I wanted to speak.

What stopped me?

On a weekly basis we are confronted with a number of situations similar to the ones I experienced recently.

However, taking action is hard. Action is hard because it requires intentionality. Intentionality takes effort. Its not enough to simply be aware. We must be aware and be intentional.

On the train yesterday I gave my seat to an older lady. I was aware that she likely would like to sit down. I was intentional and acted on this awareness.

Not only must we be aware in life, we must also show up.