Lee Colan’s essay challenges you to consider whether you’re trickling away the minutes on the trivial, only to realize that the hours, days, months…years have vanished without real accomplishment.
A Moment To Act
Lee J. Colan
Reprinted with permission
Picture this – at birth, all you have is a jar of 27,375 jellybeans – one for every day of an average 75-year life expectancy.
Since that first birthday, you’ve taken a jellybean out with each passing day. By the time you were 21 and ready for your first full-time job or to begin your career, you have used up 8,665 jellybeans, leaving only 18,710 pieces in the jar of your life.
Over our lifetime, you’ll spend approximately 28 years sleeping, 25 years working, 14 years watching TV, 8 years eating, 7.5 years in leisure or miscellaneous activities and 3.5 years getting dressed.
Our lives are a countdown. Time is our most precious resource. It’s all we have. Whether prisoner or prince, world leader or struggling citizen, we each have the same amount of time to excel. Once we lose it, we never get it back. As a result, life rewards those who seize their time and take action.
Sometimes our actions get lost in our intentions. Have you ever heard someone say, “I intended to tell her how important she is to our team before she left,” or “I intended to volunteer last weekend,” or “I meant to vote this past election,” or “I intended to keep my commitment, but…?” Well, the truth is, we judge ourselves by our intentions, but others judge us by our actions.
I remember talking with a good friend who was 30 years old at the time. He really regretted never going to medical school but still carried a passion for being a doctor. One night, he started his familiar lamenting, “Well, it was just a dream. It’s too late now. It takes at least five years and I will be 35 years old by the time I am finished with medical school.” I then asked, “How old will you be in five years if you don’t go to medical school?”
My friend understood the point. In five years, he would be 35 years old whether or not he acted upon his dream. At that moment, he decided to make every minute count.
Life’s rewards – a winning team, loving relationships, meaningful work, financial security, time to recreate, leaving a lasting legacy – come to those who act to bring them about, although life isn’t always easy and there are plenty of excuses not to excel. Excellence belongs to those who let their actions rise above their excuses.
Here is my favorite poetic reminder of the value of every minute.
- To realize the value of four years, ask a graduate.
- To realize the value of one year, ask a student who has failed a final exam.
- To realize the value of one month, ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.
- To realize the value of one week, ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.
- To realize the value of one hour, ask a job candidate waiting for his interview.
- To realize the value of one minute, ask a person who has missed the train, bus or plane.
- To realize the value of one second, ask a person who has survived an accident.
- To realize the value of one millisecond, ask the person who has won a silver medal in the Olympics.
Time waits for no one.
Treasure each moment you have and act on each one you can!
Lee J. Colan is an executive advisor and leadership expert. Get more of his insights at The L Group’s website.