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Ever since I was little, I heard this expression: "time is money". Usually in the context of "don't make me waste my time, you are making me lose money". It is a strong symbol of our society: it means the best use of our time is to make more money. Anything else is a waste of time. Well, I beg to differ.
There was a polemic some time ago in France. The communication advisor Jacques Séguéla said on TV, some five years ago:
Si à 50 ans on n'a pas une Rolex, on a raté sa vie.
If at age 50, one doesn't own a Rolex, it means their life is a failure.
Given the number of people around the world who don't own a Rolex despite being over 50, you can imagine how much of a polemic that raised. I believe that, just like "time is money", this little sentence says a lot about today's society and its general values. Of course, after this polemic, Séguéla tried to explain himself, saying he meant you should be able to offer yourself whatever you want at 50, if your life was a success.
While I can understand the concept - at 50, you have accomplished a lot, and you should be close to how you want your life to be. What I'm seriously questioning here, is the fact that success as defined by Séguéla, is being able to afford whatever you want to buy. The symbol of it being an incredibly expensive watch - which is ironically within topic here, with a Rolex watch, time IS money. A lot of it.
But is success really defined by how much money you have, by being able to have whatever you want?
The high levels of stress and low levels of happiness in rich "Western" countries tend to prove otherwise. Unless success is defined by having money, whatever it costs in terms of health and well-being.
This traditional vision of success is starting to be questioned these days. In France, there is this phenomenon, of 30 somethings who did everything by the book - business schools, high profile desk jobs, decent salary (for most at least) - but feel cheated because they didn't receive the happiness that was promised to them if they followed these rails.
Some of them enter grave depressions, others quit their jobs and open farms or travel the world. But they understood that the model of success promoted by society isn't working for them. They don't believe that their life will be a failure if they don't own a Rolex by age 50. They find success, and happiness/contentment, elsewhere. For those who can get out of depression, that is.
Now, how could we define success if it isn't spending our time making as much money as possible, so that we can buy whatever we want?
In the Huffington Post's Third Metric, Daniel C. Baker asks: what is success? He too, explains how society models a certain type of success for us, that we should follow - success as measured by how much money we have. But he questions the validity of this traditional success:
I had no idea that behind the veil of a "successful" appearance, for many people, there could be a mountain of turmoil and unhappiness.
I have often found myself overworked, sleep deprived, neglecting my family and friends and tolerating a general state of unhappiness, all in pursuit of somebody else's version of "success".
If having as much money and as many possessions as possible - preferably possessions with a high social symbol value, such as a Rolex - is someone else's version of success, then what is yours?
Money is TimeI can't quite answer for you, but I can give you an idea of what I've come to belive my version of success is. I would like to offer you the opposite mantra: "Money is Time". All the hours you spend at your job earning money, is time you give away to your employer - if you don't enjoy, or grow at your job, that is.
In 2007, soon to become French president Sarkozy based his presidential campaign on one slogan:
Travailler plus pour gagner plus.
Work more to earn more.
In the face of French citizens becoming poorer, and since most of us worked 35 hours a week, his idea was to encourage us to work extra hours to get extra money. Money earned from extra hours wouldn't be taxed. And I remember thinking: " I don't want to work more to earn more, then I won't even have time to spend that extra money". Daniel Baker seems to agree when he says:
It seems that one of the most important factors, more than money and things, is the ownership of my own time. It might just be the most crucial thing of all. I have to be free to pursue what I believe to be right, what I think is most important.
I think time is a more precious currency than money is. Time is all you have in your life, but it is also the one thing you can never get back. What good is money if you don't have time to enjoy it anyway?
I believe success is becoming who you want to be, becoming who you really are inside. And I don't think you can grow to become that person if you don't have time to level up. Figuring out your goals, wishes, the motivations that really drives you from the heart, then work toward these goals, honing your skills, your relationships...
All of this takes time, and while you are spending all that time getting more money because "time is money", you end up at 50, Rolex at your arm (if you're lucky), having accomplished nothing else than what's on your bank account. Unless your most inner dream is to own a Rolex, chances are it went unfulfilled.
Making TimeI have read several times that "you don't find time for what really matters, you make time". Especially in our busy society, free time doesn't just pop up in our agenda, we have to block time to work on our priorities.
It is said that our real priorities are wherever we spend our money, I say our real priorities are whatever we spend our time doing. Without going into career makeover, let's start with our free time. Is your life priority really facebook or TV? When something really matters, we make time for it. I guess it starts with asking oneself what does really matter in the first place. It can be family, travel, time spent with friends, but it can also be a project, writing, music...
For example, I know that one thing that really matters to me is writing. I have started writing poems, short stories and chapter one of novels since I was 8 years old. As Elizabeth Gilbert would say, writing is my home. I imagine myself at age 50, and I would feel successful if I have written even a fraction of all that floats around in my head.
I don't care much for Rolex watches, and, to be honest, I don't care much about earning money from my writing either, but I care about making time for that. And if, at age 50, all I have to show for is a few childhood poems, half assed short stories and a dozen of unfinished novels, I will feel like I have failed. Even if I somehow managed to get a Rolex watch on my wrist.
On the contrary, if at age 50, I've had a rather average career because I decided to "work less to earn less", no Rolex anywhere to be seen, but have managed to write, and even publish, some of the short story collections and novels I have in my mind (and on my drafts today), I will feel successful. Even if I never get famous, even if I never make money out of these.
I don't really know where I wanted to go with this post. Talking about time and money, about the definition of success maybe? Maybe because I'm slowly leaving my 20s, that defining decade, and start wondering what I really want to do with my life?
As a conclusion, I'll say that in my opinion, you make your own definition of success. It might be as an unknown writer, as a housewife (or husband) of a large family, or even as a Rolex owning CEO, but in any case, you shouldn't let society tell you what success is. You should find your own success, then make time to reach it. Imagine yourself at age 50 (or 70, or 90, if you are reaching 50 already), what would really make you feel accomplished?