Would you trade 10 years of life for 1.8 million dollars?
Just for fun, let’s make an upfront decision to either take the cash or not. I’ll admit that my first answer was “YES, GIMME THE MONEY” before I sat down and really thought about it. What’s your answer?
Got it? Ok, let’s move on and try to figure this out for real.
A standard method of creating a relationship between money and time is to follow this line of reasoning:
“Well, I make $30/hour at work, so one hour of my life is worth $30.”
Using $30/hour as a starting point, let’s assume that you’re awake and conscious for 16 hours/day, which means that each of those waking hours is worth $30. So each day of your life is worth $480. Let’s make it easy and call it $500. Each day of your life = $500.
Would you trade a day of life in exchange for $500?
Would I? Maybe! Probably yes.
What if we stretch the timeline to cover 10 years? $500/day x 365 days in a year x 10 years = $1,825,000.
Would I take $1.8 million and give 10 years away? Ooooh, things just got tricky. $1.8 million is a shitload of cash! I could do great things with that much money. I could quit working and just surf and travel, I’d only work when and if I felt like it. That much cash would give me so much freedom!
Before YOU take the cash though, let’s take a closer look at the fine print:
The sacrificial years come from your WORKING life, not your retired life. You’re not getting the $1.8 million and dying at age 70 instead of age 80. You’re skipping FORWARD 10 years, then getting the cash, then still dying at age 80.
In other words, we’re trading our youth for the money. Why the fine print? Because that’s exactly how it works in reality. We trade our days for cash during the best years of our lives, and we have access to the bulk of our money in retirement.
So for me, Lia and I would skip to age 40. Our daughter would skip from 1 to 11 years old, and we’d get paid a bunch of money to do it.
Does the deal sound a little shittier? It should! It definitely makes it harder to say yes to the money.
The problem with how we compare our time to money is we’re short-sighted. We think we have all the time in the world, but we don’t. And while we’re trading our time for money, we’re trading our best years first.
Not convinced? Let’s say I made the timeline longer. If I were to skip to age 80 at $500/day I’d be trading the next 50 years of my life for $9.1 million. Would I take that deal? Fuck. No.
The key concept: money becomes LESS valuable and time becomes more valuable as we get closer to death.
And the added kicker is we can always die at any moment. We don’t think it’s true, but it is. People die all the time. I could die today, you could die tomorrow, and both of us WILL die someday.
We’re all gonna die!
We don’t have a choice about that. But we do have some choice over what we spend our time doing before we go tits up. Let’s spend our time like champions, and make the choices necessary to be happy now AND happy later.
How in the fuck do I do that???
A basic tactic I’ve stolen from Chris Guillebeau is to write down 4 sentences before I go to bed, answering these 4 basic questions:
1: What didn’t I like doing today?
2: How can I do less of it tomorrow?
3: What did I like doing today?
4: How can I do more of it tomorrow?
Answering these 4 questions every night has revealed that I tend to automatically just do shit at work that I don’t really enjoy. These are things that I should either minimize or eliminate entirely. By writing them down after the fact, I gradually become more aware of the bad parts of my day, and I become more active in minimizing them.
Answering these questions every night has also revealed that I enjoy doing other things, like going on small outings with Lia and Isla, working on side projects, and playing organized sports. These are things which I should be doing more of every day. Seeing it all in writing every night is a useful check-in with myself to see if I’m on a good path or not, and forces me to think about how I can make small changes in order to create days that add up to be pretty damn enjoyable.
Love you all. Thanks for reading.