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Time Is Our Most Valuable Commodity. Are You a Buyer or Seller?

time watch

One of my biggest pain points when speaking to my fellow peers comes from this exact concept: if you are stuck in an endless cycle of selling your time for money, you will never know true freedom or happiness. Not sure you agree? Why is it that most people covet the day they get to retire? Well, because they have the opportunity to own their time again. Their days of selling it are now over. But it's sad... because they've spent the better part of ~65 years doing so, and now have maybe a few decades left (with inevitably declining health) to try to enjoy it. Why do we envy the rich? It's not just for what's in their bank accounts, it's for their lifestyle. They are free to do seemingly anything they choose every single day, because they don't need to be a slave to a conventional workplace every day where they are told when they can come, when they can leave, and what they have to be forced to do in exchange for a (delayed) paycheck. Now that I've got you on board with the concept at hand, let's dive a little deeper.

So how did you get stuck selling your time in the first place?

Well, that's because you are part of a system. Starting with your earliest influences, most parents work a typical 9-5 job, and have taught you how this is "a part of life." Bullshit. That's what they were taught, and that's the life they chose. That does not need to be your life - not now, not ever. But it's not their fault, and I think most parents truly mean well and offer their children the best they can. If they need to keep a roof over the heads of their loved ones and put food on the table, and they know that is effectively guaranteed if they keep their head down and follow the rules on the hamster wheel of their job every day, then they will - often selflessly. Choosing the other path is much harder, and much more risky. And that's why it's so valuable and admired.

Take this example for instance: I have been a business owner since I was 22 years old. I was in the business of buying time from other people (my staff), and then selling that time to customers (my students). (For reference, this was at the first music school I opened where we offered different types of lessons and music education from a brick and mortar location.) Could some of these employees have left my company and started up their own with the skills and knowledge they possessed? Of course they could have. But that wouldn't have been in the best interest of me, my family, or my bottom line. I did not, therefore, have a vested interest in sharing that awareness or encouraging it. I don't consider myself to be a bad person in life or in business, but this is just the way it goes. I don't feel it's my job, in this scenario, to teach others how to live - and many of my former staff frankly didn't possess the nerve, drive, or resources to be in business for themselves anyway, if I'm being honest. But regardless, I want you to see the purpose of this exercise here. If I, as a small business owner in Stamford Connecticut, didn't have the motive to empower my staff to not show up to work for me every day, then neither does any other business owner or corporation in the world. Because people who buy time for a living want to have the opportunity to sell that time to as many people as possible for their own benefit, or use it themselves. The biggest money on the planet is made through mass time-purchasing of human labor. That's how people get rich. It sounds nasty, but that's just the way it works. And if this makes you angry or you don't like it, then why don't you stop wallowing and actually do something about it? (And I say that with tough love, in the spirit of motivating you.) But if that idea puts you back on your heels and makes you come up with a million excuses for why you can't or won't, then quite honestly, you're not serious about it and you don't deserve to complain. Go back to work. And I hope you like your job enough to do it until you're old and gray, and I pray by then you've saved enough money and invested it well enough to find some happiness at the end of the road, with enough good health to enjoy it.

The school system is designed to develop obedient employees. That's why it's set up the way it was many years ago. Public schools were organized like factories on purpose, with different classrooms and spaces you need to bustle around to, a bell to tell you when it all starts and ends (just like in the old days), a regular lunch break, an exchange of sitting quietly at your desk completing tasks (working) with good grades (a paycheck), and an almost identical workday schedule with 7 or so hours running morning to end of day. This is not some fringe idea, it is a well-researched and known fact. The government likes productive and obedient citizens, and likes to employ them, just like corporations do. There is a very obvious motivation here to create generations of good workers, who are not only prepared to spend a lifetime selling their time, but are clamoring and fighting for a spot to do so in many instances.

It's probably not your fault, but you have been conditioned to think this way. It's almost Matrix-like in nature, if you understand the movie reference. Keep the hive busy, so the top earners and producers can continue to thrive, and afford to buy more and more time to make more and more money and resources for themselves.

So how do you stop being a seller, and become a buyer?

There are only a few ways to stop the cycle. The first, is becoming independently rich through family money, or an unexpected and unlikely windfall (think: lottery winning, inheritance, or finding out the land you live on has precious materials underneath it that has high value to someone else... something crazy like that). Since that will not be the scenario of sudden wealth for most people, the next is starting your own business. It is true that most businesses fail and entrepreneurship is certainly not for the weak, but it is a way out of being a time-seller and becoming a time-buyer. And at scale, has changed and continues to change many lives. (I say this while sitting here typing up this article on a random Wednesday afternoon, from my beautiful sunroom overlooking the unobstructed water view at my lakefront home, in one of the most affluent counties the country. I am exposing this reality not to brag in any way whatsoever, but to prove to you that it can be done, and I am living proof of that. Now when I sell my time, I do so consciously, and in small doses, by choice.) And finally, wealth can be achieved through investment - in businesses, real estate, funds, creating or buying intellectual property, good plays in the stock market, etc.

Only people with disposable income can buy time from others.

You can't buy time without money, that's the bottom line. Simple example: is your yard overgrown and needs to be cut? Well you have three options here: take the time and buy the necessary equipment and materials to do it yourself, buy the time of someone else (like a landscaper) to do it for you with their investments, or let it overgrow and look like shit. Those are your choices. But if you decide you don't want to spend the time laboring over doing it yourself, then you need to pay. But how do you pay? With the money earned from your job. But your money is finite, right? Well, now you have to get back to work and spend more time there in order to earn that back, so you hopefully don't feel the financial strain on your lifestyle in the form of needing to cut back or suffer somewhere else as a result. Does this make sense?

Some people even get confused over being a business owner and being an employee of their business. If you create your own business just to work at, then congratulations! Ya messed up kid! All you did was create a job for yourself, where you now have way more liability in terms of actual time commitment, insurance, legal exposure, government-mandated requirements, taxes, fees, and more. Don't fall into this trap! Sure, you can feel like you get to "make your own schedule" and honestly, that may be enough for some people, and probably a better option than whatever else they were doing previously. But we're talking about creating real wealth here with real freedom attached to it, and you will never find that if you're still selling your time, even if it's direct to consumer. (ie: If you worked for a plumbing company and then broke out on your own - you're still a plumber, you just took out the "middle man," but did so in exchange for still delivering the same services yourself on your time, but with hopefully a little more money to take home, except with the trade off for much more liability too. And that has costs far beyond what most people initially realize.) You want to create a means to earn money without you needing to be the one spending all the time and labor creating that value to sell every day.

Money = Freedom. Freedom = Ownership Over Your Time. Never trade that again, if you don't have to.

The best thing you can do for yourself, wherever you are in your life right now, is to make a plan to stop selling your greatest and most valuable commodity right away. It won't happen overnight, but putting the pieces of the puzzle in motion immediately will get the momentum going that you need to break free from selling the limited, and precious time you have left in your life.

Life should be enjoyed and celebrated. It should be spent doing the things that make us feel alive. Set yourself up to earn the money you need to become a buyer of time, so you have more of it to use however you choose. True freedom is found when your time is yours, and not owed to someone else. What is yours really worth?


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