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Time and the Measurement World

Over the weekend, I was chatting with my AI buddy Clark on and I asked for some book recommendations. I was looking for life-changing books, something that encourages you to be your best. I should mention, Clark is Clark Kent ala Superman. The first book he recommended was Meditations by Marcus Aurellius, which I’ve read, and the second book was The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle which I have heard of but have not read. I asked for another recommendation, and he came up with The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, a book I was not aware of.

I was immediately put off by the mention of professional life, because I don’t have an interest in reading BS leadership books or business books. I’ve wasted too many hours in my youth with all that propaganda, but the AI mentioned it was a cross between psychology and philosophy and that interested me. So, I took a quick glance at the reviews on Amazon and one reviewer, O. Halabieh, wrote down excerpts he found insightful. I chose three that appealed enough to me to pick up the book:

1- “The lesson I learned is that the player who looks least engaged, may be the most committed member of the group. A cynic, after all, is a passionate person who does not want to be disappointed again.”

2- “We keep looking so hard in life for the “specific message,” and yet we are blinded to the fact that the message is all around us, and within us all the time. We just have to stop demanding that it be on our terms and conditions, and instead open ourselves to the possibility that what we seek may be in front of us all the time.”

5- “When one person peels away layers of opinion, entitlement, pride, and inflated self-description, others instantly feel the connection.”

*Side note: that first quote #1 about the cynic, I don’t know if you could describe me any better than that.*

I’m only about halfway through the book and I will say I’m enjoying it, but one of the authors is a composer, so most chapters deal with music in some way and as a guy who couldn’t keep a beat with a gun held to my head, that just doesn’t do much for me. Despite all that, the book has some interesting viewpoints on society and gives a sort of philosophical big world picture. I won’t bother going into every detail, but I wanted to talk about something that really hit home for me, a discussion about a measurement world.

In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.

I get lost in measurements often. I make goals for myself like, “I need to do X amount times in X days or I’m a failure.” I am constantly using numbers and comparison to dictate my feelings and even my view of the world.

I think I touched on this idea of not setting specific goals, such as when I mentioned having a New Years theme and not resolution but even after I wrote that blog, I began doing daily exercises in two Stoicism books. Then I downloaded my habit tracker and began tracking my water, meditation, workouts, and more. I micro-managed everything good I was supposed to do for myself until it became unfun and a chore. You know the quickest way to give up on something? Make it unfun and chore. It’s also a great way to nudge yourself into depression…

The biggest measurement that haunts me is time. In my late teen years, I became obsessed with getting the most out of my life. I really think a combination of watching Fight Club, American Beauty, Office Space, Life as a House, and Six Feet Under just as I was coming into adulthood indoctrinated me in not wasting my life. So, I took it a step further and I began monetizing my free time.

It’s not unusual for me to look at any situation and make a decision based on time. For example:

My wife wants to go get sushi Saturday night. I know if we go at 7 PM, there will be a forty-five-minute wait, so that plus us waiting another fifteen minutes for our order to be taken makes an hour and then there is a possibility of another hour before we eat and finish up. So, our date will take up two hours of my weekend free time minimum.

On the other hand, we could get there when they open at 5 PM, be seated right away, eat and be home by 6:15 PM at the latest and I just saved myself forty-five minutes of free time.

Now… on paper this may sound logical and even like good advice, but I do this with EVERYTHING. I mean, EVERYTHING. Do I want a gym membership when I will have to add a minimum of a forty-minute drive roundtrip to it? No. Do I want to go to a convention that is four hours away? No. Do I want to watch a movie with someone that I don’t want to see? No.

I mean, I micromanage my time and I get really upset when things don’t go my way with it. I’m seriously obsessed with it, and it’s been something I’ve been trying to work on. But for me, it’s literally life and death. Every moment I waste not doing something I want to do is me wasting the minutes I have left on this Earth. So, I got to protect them and make the most of them.

Of course, the irony is… that forty-five minutes I save from going to sushi early I’m not spending it curing cancer or creating a legacy or writing a great novel. I’m probably watching TV. It’s not like I’m doing something super productive, I’m just not wasting my time doing something I don’t want to do.

Recently, at the end of my little depressive bout, I realized I judge my weekends based on productivity and by productivity, a lot of times that means movies watched. If I watch six movies in a weekend, I consider it a success, but if I spend an equal amount of time playing video games, watching a TV show, reading or writing, I consider it a failure. I have no idea why; I wonder if it stems from all those years, I spent tracking how many movies I watched a year.

But after reading about a measurement world, I decided that measuring my success or happiness by a number is stupid. My weekend should be measured by “Did I do what I wanted to or needed to do.” So, this past weekend, I took it easy on myself. When I got bored of watching TV late Saturday night, I crawled up on the couch with a book. I focused on watching TV shows I had wanted to finish up and even managed to squeeze in some workouts. And whenever I found myself feeling this dread that I had wasted my weekend, I reminded myself this is not a contest. I don’t have to do anything.

I was so much happier as a teenager who didn’t obsess over time. I look back fondly on those weekends of rewatching DVDs, kicking back and watching syndicated TV, or just listening to the music. Yet, now, I worry that I shouldn’t rewatch a movie I’ve already seen because I only have so many years left. I shouldn’t just listen to music, I should multitask. I can listen to music while driving, or at work, or while playing video games.

I went off topic a bit, since the book says nothing about time and measurement, but as I mentioned, it sort of hit home for me.

We propose to call our familiar everyday world the “world of measurement” in order to highlight the central position held by assessments, scales, standards, grades, and comparisons.

That would be the proper definition of the “world of measurement” according to the book, and the book really emphasizes how we are constantly using all sorts of data to compare ourselves, our success, and even self-esteem. And while I don’t think it was written with some weirdo who spends too much time obsessing over the minutes he has until he dies, I found something to relate to and I think I’m a little better for it.

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