Typically on Sunday’s I run a post where I collect all of my tweets from the week and include a trivial fact about Sauerkraut. Today, I’m going to run a musings post (one that’s about a subject a little bigger than this blog normally covers) instead of Sauerkraut because with traveling this week I had few tweets and many musings. The musings come from a simply amazing five days in Australia. The trip reinforced several of my core principles, the most relevant of these I’d like to share with you.
Being objectivist, I believe that the very thing that makes us human is the ability to produce more than we (or our offspring) consume, we are the only creature on earth that can leave this surplus of creation for others as a legacy. Furthermore, if this is what separates us from other life forms, is it really even being human to simply provide for ourselves and our family? I don’t believe so, I believe that each human life should have a “life’s work”, something that is worked towards for a lifetime and remains to serve mankind. In this pursuit, I live a fairly dedicated life. I am usually on my fourth cup of coffee and my third hour of work when the emails start coming in at 8am. When I fall asleep at night it’s often with an email half written on my bedside laptop. My mood is often dictated by work and usually even those who I care the most for sometimes have to bend to my work schedule. I am not ashamed of any of these statements, nor do I ever apologize for them. Australia reaffirmed this belief over the course of two days of meetings. I got the chance to see how some of the work that my company has been doing for the last few years can impact companies throughout Asia and how our next steps could prove even more valuable.
Given my stance on my life’s work, you might think that my life is all work without time for relaxation or play. You’d be mistaken. In fact, I believe relaxation and play are vital parts of any successful life. However, as with my life’s work, I think relaxation and play need to be done for a reason. Fortunately, I have three good reasons that play and relaxation are imporatant.
First, if you don’t play and relax enough, you can be too focused to learn. If all you do is focus on getting from A to B, how will you learn where your next stop should be? or even if B is worth getting to? For this reason I believe that you must take the time to learn (both formally and through experiences). Take the time to talk to people you respect; see how/why/what they’re doing. Read on subjects that interest you, you may find that they are a part of your life’s work that you never knew was missing. This is especially true If you don’t know precisely where your life’s work is taking you at the moment. Then maybe it’s best to take some time away and play a little until your purpose becomes a clearer. There are people whose life’s work I respect immensely that played for years before (or in the middle of) pursuing their life’s work. This point was underscored in Australia because I got to observe a couple of people I came to respect while they were at play.
Second, there must be enough relaxation in life to allow for introspection. Even the best intentioned people can get lost in their life’s focus only to wake up and realize they’ve been off course for years. This trip underscored this point for me in the form of two 22 hour travel days. I was able to think through a number of things in that time, including the thoughts recorded in this post.
Third, you must have enough flexibility in your life to be able to take advantage of opportunities (events, people, experiences) that are once in a lifetime. I hate that so many people work so hard that they can retire and “do all the things they want to do”. Really? All the things they wanted to do? Can they hike through India when they’re retired? Sail a yacht competitively? Nope, these things require youth, so if you want to do them, you better get busy. Youth isn’t the only resource that’s fleeting either, many opportunities are here one day and gone the next… opera tickets, an invitation to go out sailing in Sydney harbor, the chance to learn from someone in a foreign city etc… When these opportunities come along, you need to take them. I relearned this lesson from people who’ve taken time to do things while they were young and by having an amazing time taking advantage of opera tickets and a sailing opportunity.
My main point is that life is far too long and we are capable of far too much to simply live to feed our families. We need to find a purpose for our lives and make it our life’s work to further that purpose. On the other hand, much of life is fleeting and if we don’t take the time to smell the roses we will miss opportunities to learn, reflect and experience everything we should.