"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Stealing Time for Your Dream

Jack Smith: “God created time so that everything wouldn't happen at once.”

Atchity: Then how come everything keeps happening at once?

Dreamers know that if you follow your dream, by definition, you can't fail. Success lies in the pursuit. If you have a dream, you have the responsibility to yourself and to the source of dreams to make it come true. 

But that means finding time to do what you have to do--the very opposite of "marking time." Our minds experience life on a timeline of their own invention, a continuum that stretches from our first moment of consciousness to our last. "The end of the world," said Bernard Malamud, “will occur when I die. After that, it's everyone for himself.”

And finding time for dreams in our accelerated world where we hear of "flextime," "time-elasticity," “the sweet spot in time," “virtual time,” “time shifting,” and "time slowing down” is more confusing than ever before. A little over a century ago, if you missed a stagecoach you thought nothing of waiting a day or two for the next one to come along. Today you feel frustrated if you miss one section of a revolving door! So many of today's "time-saving devices" prove to be frauds---requiring more time to select, install, maintain, and update than it used to take without them. It's hard to believe that a few short years ago we had not yet become addicted to email, voicemail, FAX machines, microwaves, VCRs, earphones, IPods, I Phones, blackberries. All these inventions, as helpful as they can be to your onboard Accountant’s output level, suck up our time in ways that, unless they are examined and acknowledged, become quite destructive to the realization of the dream. More and more demands are being made on our time. Faith Popcorn (The Popcorn Report) puts it this way:

We're pleading to the big time clock in the sky: "Give me fewer choices, far fewer choices. Make my life easier. Help me make the most of my most valued commodity--the very minutes of my life.”

Things have gotten so bad that we can¹t really manage time any more. We’re now forced to steal it, invoking the assistance of Mercury, messenger, salesman, trickster, and thief of the gods. Like any professional thief, Mercury insists on knowing as much as possible about the object of his theft and its natural habitat and characteristics before he goes into action. This series combines observations about the nature of time and work with practical suggestions about employing Mercury’s caduceus--that magic wand with the snakes entwined around it--to steal the time you need.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Bokonon: “Busy, busy, busy.”

Ecclesiastes: “Consider the ants. Yes, you are busy. What are you busy about?”

Our Puritanical upbringing has led the Accountant to want us to keep busy. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” One day I was consulting with an attorney who, by everyone’s standards but his own, is quite successful. We were talking about forming a new marketing company. “Why do you want to do this?” I asked him.

“Because I want to get rich.” He added: “I have to stop selling my time.”

I nodded. “That’s interesting.” I was thinking of the reversible equation I’d written about in A Writer’s Time: “Time is money, money is time.”

“What brought you to this conclusion?” I asked him.

He told me that a self-made, wealthy, genius friend of his kept coming to California for a visit. Each time, he’d say, “You’re so smart--why aren’t you rich?” The attorney had no answer for him, but the question continued to gnaw away at him.

Finally, on one visit, the friend had to sit in the attorney’s law office for an hour waiting for him to complete some phone calls. He observed what was happening in the office.

On their way to lunch, his friend said: “You know that question I’ve been asking you all these years?”

“Yeah, of course I remember it--it drives me crazy. If I’m so smart, why aren’t I rich?”

“I know the answer now.”

“Tell me.

“You’re too busy to be rich.”

Doing the wrong things, no matter how fast, or how well, you do them, or how many of them you do, will not advance your dream. One of my partners put it this way: “Don’t confuse efforts with results.”

Those who break out of busy work and into the success they’ve dreamed of have learned to redefine time. If you recognize that time is merely a concept, a social or intellectual construct, you can make the clock of life your clock; then determine what you do with it. More than the quantity of activities or completed projects I’ve experienced in my various career transits, what I value most is the quality of time I’ve managed to steal from all those committees and examination-grading sessions. When someone asked me years ago to make a list of “things I do that I don’t enjoy” I was happy to realize that it was difficult to think of anything other than my two or three hours per week of desk work that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. Then I found a way of enjoying desk work, too! By hook or crook, you need to steal the right kind of time for your dreams.

[first in a 5-part series] next: “What is time?”

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