“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” (H. Jackson Brown Jr.)
This quote has cost me hours of silent questioning, and sometimes doubt, over the course of my life. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard of time as an equalizing factor among people. Hypocritically, I have also preached the essence of this quote to others during many of my inspirational convulsions. Most times, I was simply restating what I had been told and aspired to do while subconsciously wishing that practice makes perfect, or in this case “words have power,” might transform my words into ways. At the end of some days I am left asking myself…
- Why didn’t I accomplish more?
- What is wrong with me?
- I did many things, but did I accomplish enough?
From the Nelson Mandela’s and Einstein’s to the Steve Jobs’ and Jefferson’s, most of the people to which we compare our 24 hours of time are those that have in some ways had great impact on the world or those that we deem to be more productive, successful, or more well-known than ourselves. Some days the greatest impact that I feel like I have is changing my clothes, exercising, laughing, having a solid work performance, and on a great day, maybe inspiring a person or leaving a footprint in someone’s life. And after a day, I then, in the back of my mind, compare my daily feat to that of others both dead and alive and question whether my time was really spent doing anything that really matters, because then again, I didn’t change the world like everyone in the quote. Why are passing days not more like the Michaelangelo’s of the world? Better yet, am I even supposed to be like the Michaelangelo’s and Mandela’s? In reality, the only question I probably should be asking myself is if I am using time to the best of my ability to produce the greatest version of myself. Maybe my hard work is changing the world in different yet just as meaningful and memorable ways as that of the “great ones.” But, of course I am human so the societal pressure to be a superhero or die forgotten overtakes my over-analytic mind.
On the pendulum of emotions, feeling like Mother Theresa one day and an ant the next, I think I’ve discovered something about this quote on time that might grant me some mental peace and freedom from comparison to the “heroes” of the world. It is impossible to do all things in one day, even if you never sleep. It is true that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, however, everyone does not have the same life, purpose, skills, resources, attitudes, health or goals. Since these factors prevail, it is therefore impossible and foolish to continue to toss this concept of time around as a reason that everyone in the world should and can achieve what looks like the same greatness.
But seriously, how are “they” able in one day to exercise, cook, clean, study, read, respond to all emails, stay informed, plan, work, pray, take care of family, talk to friends, start and finish a new project, maintain and build intimate relationships, change the world, and make a list for how to do it all over again before I have even finished half of that! The truth is that most of them do not complete all of that in one day. They prioritize, organize, take small steps, take huge steps, fail some days, and succeed in others more than we care to notice. We tend to look at the picture without acknowledging the pieces of that picture. It is most likely because we are human and do not enjoy the process of success, but I digress.
I think will try to stop condemning myself for not producing a masterpiece at the end of a every day and start spending more time examining if my time was spent purposefully and productively for my given goals, dreams, and life’s work. Instead of expecting to do the same amount as others, I think it better to analyze if I spent my time as meaningfully. In this case, meaning is sometimes found in quality over quantity. After weighing your personal differences and goals, make sure each day is filled with things that will productively allow you to die having few regrets. And when looking at the moguls, heroes, and highly successful, examine how they find ways to complete tasks more efficiently and steal (or borrow) that idea/practice and then consistently give the same dedication and discipline as they did/do. That my friend is a good use of time.