The Pursuit of Excellence Practical steps toward happiness

20Jan/123

86,400

Years ago I was sitting in high school business class contemplating just how awesome the new Nirvana album was, when into the room walked a stranger who looked very out of place in his suit and tie.  This clean cut young professional started shaking hands with every greasy 15 year old in the room, introducing himself as if at a sales conference.  It turned out that he was a “motivational speaker,” whatever the heck that meant, and over the next hour and a half he was going to teach us how to live.

Light a fire under your ass

Given my adolescent attention span and the new-fangled ideas he was peddling, I’ve since forgotten the finer points of the lecture, but the premise of his argument has stuck with me, even fifteen years later.

“What would you do if you had a bank account that was filled with $86,400 each morning, and whatever you didn’t spend at the end of the day simply vanished?”

He was, of course, using money as a clever metaphor for something much more valuable: time.  Each day every one of us is given 86,400 seconds to live; not one more or less.

The happiest, the greatest, the most remarkable individuals in history have made do with the same allotment that you and I enjoy.

Think about how much potential that leaves us with!

Our choices have great power.  Acts of heroism stem from decisions to spend our seconds fearlessly.  Each great work of art comes into being through an artist’s commitment to pool enough seconds labouring toward bringing a vision to life.  And without exception, civilizations have risen and fallen based on the quality of choices that men and women made about the use of their precious time.

Each day, all remarkable human beings withdraw from their banks the same block of time as you and me.  In this sense the playing field of life is remarkably level.  Of course success is influenced by birthplace, race, sex, and parental wealth.  But this is a weak excuse to avoid asking yourself: “Am I living my days the way I want?”  I have a hunch that most remarkable people would answer yes to that question.

No one can know for certain if we receive a second chance in an afterlife, but what we can bank on is that we have a fixed amount of precious seconds each day to spend.

Use them wisely.


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  1. I like this perspective. We often forget to notice the resources we all have at our disposable. And time is one of the most valuable resources there can be. Good article, looking forward to seeing where you go with this blog.

  2. I really like this article, it’s a great reminder of how much people CAN but don’t do. Got me thinking about how much I could accomplish if only I made the conscious effort to invest more of my time wisely. I especially like your comment of how “each great work of art comes into being through an artist’s commitment to pool enough seconds labouring toward bringing a vision to life.” The fire is lit.


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