The Most Sensible Way To Think About Time

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The Most Sensible Way To Think About Time

Brazilian pianist Madalena Tagliaferro lived for 93 years from 1893 to 1986. What’s remarkable, among others things, was her ability to play beautiful pieces and enthrall her audience even in her nineties.

One of her performances was attended by Ricardo Semlar, the CEO of Semco. While watching her play Sibelius, he realized that she’d been born when Brazil was a monarchy, witnessed the invention of the automobile and the airplane, lived through two World Wars, and was still performing.

It changed how Semlar viewed time[1]To the extent that he stopped wearing a watch.. In Maverick, the biography of Semco, he wrote:

“It struck me that time should be measured in years and decades, not minutes and hours. It is impossible to understand life in all its hugeness and complexity when one is constantly consulting a minute encounter.”

Most of what we cherish today took years to pan out. Our work, achievements, relationships, and the things we love doing—none of them appeared overnight. Even our self-identity is a result of our experiences over the years.

Then why do we focus on the minutiae? Why do the hands of a clock hold us for ransom? Why do we behave like we’re always short on time?

Time isn’t less; we squander it on the wrong things.

We spend every minute being busy, chasing goals others have set for us, and abandoning them when the results don’t materialize instantly.

We treat life like it’s Instagram when in reality, it’s a book. We flip between tasks as if they’re one-minute Instagram reels. But over years and decades, we have enough chapters to put in a book. That’s when we wish our book had a better story, that we’d spent more time on the important than being prisoners to the trivial.

This feeling is called regret, and it’s worse than even fear.

Don’t change your goals each week. Don’t change your actions according to the hands of a clock. Choose something you want to do for the long term, and look at it through the lens of years.

You’ll build patience and resilience, feel proud of your achievements in a field or two, and realize the vastness, wonder, and beauty of life.

Life is not too short to do anything you want, but it is too short to do everything you want. Do what’s important. Then do it again and again, so much that it crowds out everything else.

You might not end up as busy as others, but you’ll be happier. The results will take time to become visible, but when they do, they’ll be a windfall.

As my friend loves to say, “Just give time, time.”


1 To the extent that he stopped wearing a watch.

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