Two statements are a common occurrence in conversations about computers, programming and business: “I wish I had more time…” and “Things come so easy for you.” Both references are made in regards to the speed at which I’m gathering knowledge in my field, and I’ve come to find both insinuations insulting.
On the one hand the insinuation is that I couldn’t learn these things if I didn’t have so much “free” time. On the other hand It just comes easy for me. Both comments, whether intended to or not, indicate that the accomplishments are not a result of hard work but rather in some way they’re just handed to me.
Because of these comments and their insinuations I started tracking all of the time I spent doing tasks which are not related directly to my family or some form of personal enjoyment (Eg: Gaming, reading leisurely, etc.). What I found in doing this, is an explanation as to how I find so much free time.
Work While They Sleep
In the last year I averaged about six hours of sleep per night. Though recently I have been acquiring eight, and I’m finding I’m actually more productive. But for most of the year, I would work late into the night while others were sleeping.
It is a fairly typical routine to get up with the family at around 7 AM, help get the kids together for the day, slip into the office and work. After numerous interruptions throughout the day, I’d take a break and help tuck them into bed, only to return to the office and work until somewhere between 2 AM and 3 AM.
Running my own hosting and development business that occasionally takes on computer repair means I’m the technician, system administrator, IT guy, code monkey, lead developer, accountant, and marketing manager. Add to that reality the fact that I’m almost 100% self taught with the exception of asking good friends questions and it should be easy to see that my days are full. There is no “paid vacation.”
I have logged nearly 2000 working hours already this year.
Learn While They Party
While others are devoting their time to leisure activities, I’m learning. I skip a lot of the public outings (which in fairness I don’t like anyways) and spend that time learning. While others spend their time gaming (which I love to do) I’ve chosen instead to spend my time in education. Rather than read fiction book after fiction book about whatever makes me feel good, I am reading material that adds to my education. Finally, while most people are on vacation once again I’m also using that time to learn.
This year I currently have over 800 hours into education – most of which are actually devoted to learning and excelling at Python. It’s not a matter of easy it’s a matter of commitment. This year alone I’ve learned Python, and have a good start on both the C and C++ languages. That’s on top of learning more about virtualization, networking, and general electronics. I read an 800 page text book (dry!) to better understand how networks functioned at the hardware level – the level that the machine speaks in purely 1 and 0. I never intend to directly work with hardware, but the foundational education has already benefited me by giving me a better understanding of why certain things do what they do.
So between my educational hours and my actual work hours I’m nearing 2800 hours this year. Those 2800 hours do not count the education hours I spend reading books focused on my faith, or parenting. This leads me to a better understanding that when people are saying they wish they had more time, or that things come easy for me, what they really should be saying is “I wish I used my time better,” and “I wish I took the time to learn!”
It’s not a matter of “having more time”, everyone has the same number of hours in a day. The take-away for me is that people saying these things aren’t actually interested in what they’re claiming they “wish” they could do. If they were actually desiring these things they would spend their time in such a way as to accomplish them.
We spend our time how we want to spend it. We all have the same amount of it. There are 24 hours in a day. It’s how we use them that makes the difference. Understanding this more clearly has allowed me to relax, and stop questioning myself because of the comments which in turn helps me “Live like they dream.”
Live Like They Dream
The graphic I used to feature this article has been something of a mantra of mine for a little better than a year now. I love it. While the idea behind it is all success based, and perhaps focused on “the American dream” I think of it a little differently. As my family budgets, saves, and gets by on less money than we ever have, I’m finding we’re able to do more with less.
Discipline in finance has been a big part of learning to “Live Like They Dream.” See, I’m not chasing millions of dollars or a 20 hour work week. I’m learning to build a life I don’t need to take a vacation from. Most people work 40+ hours a week looking forward to the weekend. They pound in 2000 hours a year, looking forward to the 80 their boss “allows” them to take off paid, along with their “holiday weekends”. I work close to 3000 hours a year (education and actual work) because I have learned to love what I do and I want to be better at it.
It took a while to realize that as long as the end goal was a financial one, I’d never be “living the dream” because enough would never be enough. Now I am slowly realizing I am living the dream. I might make near minimum wage if we average all my hours out, but if I’m doing what I love, who cares? I hear people frequently complain about how much they are paid, or what they are offered for pay. At the same time, I work my butt off to provide quality services to a customer group that can’t afford to pay a lot, and I do it at cheap rates. But even though I work near 3000 hours a year for less money than maybe I should, I have something most people don’t. Contentment.
I get up every day, I put jeans and a t-shirt on, slide my slippers and hoodie on (in the winter), help make my children breakfast and set the early stages of the morning routine with my wife. Then I slip off to work. I get to punch out whenever she needs a hand with the kids during the day, and once in a while sit down in the middle of a work day and read my children a story. I get to tuck them in every night (okay some times that’s stressful – their usually exhausted and can’t stand themselves), and my children get both parents at almost every medical appointment. They know we are here when they get up, and when they go to bed. We eat meals together more often than not, and I get to be around them all day to be the primary influence on their life… Maybe that parts not such a good thing?
I’m not interested in working 20 hours a week. I’d go crazy sitting around like a sloth the rest of the time. I’m interested in working, but I want that work to be something I love. I love technology. I love programming, and I love having the time to spend with my kids. In fact, part of my non-3000 hour time was spent teaching my 14 year old how to program. I’m pretty sure he’s made more commits than I have now to the D&D 5e Tool we wrote to help keep track of our D&D sessions.
Controlling Your Resources
If you find yourself one of those people who are constantly feeling like you don’t have enough time, I’d suggest you do a time study. Tracking my time, broken down to 15 minute intervals, was a fantastic study. It showed me exactly where my times was going. If it’s going to help you learn something about yourself, and help you change time wasting habits you might have, you’ll have to be honest with yourself.
If you find yourself using credit cards, or constantly barely making it paycheck to paycheck, I would suggest you do a financial study as well. Learning to budget money, and being honest about what you can, and can’t afford can literally be life changing.
Budgeting both time and money have proven to be outstanding benefits to my family’s quality of life. Not at first, because how we used both time and money was embarrassing. But making financial plans and setting time goals has allowed us to stay focused on the tasks. Of course you have to be disciplined enough to stick to those plans. I learned a lot about that discipline through my dieting when I did it.
Admittedly discipline has a way of ebbing and flowing. The key for me has been in recovering when I recognize failures. It does no good to beat myself up when I don’t maintain control. Rather the successful accomplishment of goals is in continuing to try until you succeed.
The End Game
While money isn’t the end game for me, it’s certainly necessary to survive life here. There are times when I consider giving up and going to work at some 9 to 5 job. After all, if I punch a clock at least people will recognize the “hard work” invested in an 8 hour day. When people making inferences to how much more time I have, and how easy things come to me, I tend to get frustrated. When I start feeling like this I just remember that some of the most successful people alive today worked long hours to get where they are and probably had people around them saying the same things.
- Elon Musk is said to have had a significant period in his life where he worked 80-90 hours per week.
- Bill Gates is said to have had an extended period of time in the early years of Microsoft when he worked 7 days a week, 80 to 120 hours per week.
- Grant Cardone in a fairly recent interview was quoted as stating he works 95 hours a week.
I ran across a quote a while back by Grant Cardone. I found it during a time when I was frustrated by the comments. It’s in reference to the fact that people don’t get rich working 9-5: “There’s no shortage of money,” Cardone writes. There’s just “a shortage of people doing 95 hours each week.”
In the end, rich or not, It’s worth working hard, even when others think I’m doing little to nothing all day.
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