Compound Interest

In The Journey we touched on how our efforts in time exhibit the properties of Compound Interest.

This is a deep truth.

If, in this very moment, you take effort to find greater fulfillment then you are more able to do so in the next moment.

This adds up.

How is it that people can become Olympians? They have to have the good luck to be born with the genetics that makes them special, and further good luck to be connected to tribes that give them access to training throughout their life.

As a metaphor this is true of all achievement. All greatness takes some good luck.

And each person has their limitations. It is improbable that I will become and NBA star, for example.

But I can take actions, typically following my passion, that add up.

An action sooner – right now – is worth 10 actions later, and worth 100 actions that happen even later.

The olympians with all their luck would go nowhere without their actions taken repeatedly, adding up over time.

You still have time! You still can achieve fulfilling results that bring you deep and lasting joy. The best time to start compounding interest towards those goals may have been long ago. The second best time is now.

The thing is, the more you become aware of this, your awareness compounds. You become intolerant of spending your time on things that bring you down, you find greater and greater reward for having your mind become more aware of fulfillment.

This moment, this one right now, take it and spend it on something that starts to add up more than the last. Delay no further.


I have stressed that the most important factor in how you spend your time is your health. Good health gives you more time, and great health improves how you experience time, giving you vibrant energy. You are alive to the degree you are healthy.

For most, the next most important factor is the people in your life. Given the normal state of sufficient health, you have a much greater opportunity to improve your life fulfillment by improving your relationships.

Of all your relationships, your life partner is the single most impactful decision.

You need to understand if you have the right people in your life. Allowing yourself to continually be in the presence of someone that detracts from your fulfillment, or blocks greater fulfillment, removes your ability to notice. Continuing to allow negative people in your life is literally the single most negatively impactful factor. It’s possible that you are reading this and thinking that you aren’t chronically exposed to negative people because you’ve stopped noticing and have lowered your bar.

You need to understand if you are doing to most with the right people in your life. If you have only consistently good people in your life, do you act like it? Do you understand how privileged you are? Are you “paying it backward” to these people? Are you leveraging this incredible power to be the best human you can be? Do you all recognize each other? Have you formed a tribe that is organized to create great things or go on great adventures?

People in your life present the most impactful opportunity.

June Gloom or Bloom?

Hey Team Time,

We have made it halfway through the year.

And what a year.


Did you have goals for the year?

If you didn’t have any goals, now is a great time to start to think about your goals for 2020. You know so much more about the year – things you would have never predicted! So take a few minutes – literally, just jot down your first pass, off the cuff, casual and possibly silly list of goals. Get started.

So much energy and clarity will come from even beginning to clear your mind about what you want this year.


Maybe you had some vague ideas for 2020 that you were reaching for, groping for, but that weren’t really articulated. If so, now is a great time to get clearer about them. We keep our mind vague about what we want – a habit that is sadly common – to protect our dreams from getting crushed by reality.

One of the fears we have about our dreams is that the future will reveal something that makes those dreams impossible. Why even bother getting clear about them when the future is just going to shatter our dreams? Losing hope you once had can rob you of energy and purpose. Some people don’t recover. It is no wonder that people protect themselves by hiding their own hope from themselves. And 2020 sure has shown the ability of the future to surprise you and possibly crush any dreams you had. I have a friend with a brand new restaurant launched in January. I have another with a brand new airline launched in February, the product of a decade of preparation. He shut it down after a month of operation. Ouch.

But given that 2020 has played such strong cards in the first half of its game, now is a great time to revisit those vague goals. Maybe there is actually a new advantage that’s possible! Maybe there is a great pivot that has revealed itself. Maybe they wont work anymore and you have the incredible benefit of clarity, and recognizing that will allow you to see new goals that really excite you.


Many of you, by virtue of being adherents and acolytes of the Church of Time, had clearly defined goals for the year.


Now is a crucial moment for you. The year is halfway through. It was nothing like we planned. Are your goals still the right ones? Are the assumptions that they depend on still true? Is there a greater advantage that has revealed itself, or a new threat that needs countering? Can you now achieve something better or more relevant.

It’s mid year. Do your progress inventory. Revisit your SWOTs, your plans, your assumptions, your goals, your team. Make sure your ship is outfitted right, crewed right, and pointed in the right direction.

The middle of the year is such a powerful moment.

Seize it.

Stress and Crisis

I’ve been thinking about stress lately. Time we spend in stress is time lost. And worse, time not launching our future. Time spent in stress is therefore a permanent loss – all the future you might have had if you were only calm enough to prepare for it.

Also, the higher up you go on the Y-axis of fulfillment, the more challenging experiences you open yourself up to. Think about a musician who moves up from playing nightclubs a couple times a year to playing a stadium every three days.

Imagine being the president of a country.

Or having kids!

There is potentially more stress as you pursue greater fulfillment.

So it is absolutely crucial that you learn to remove stress from your reaction portfolio. Note that I did not say “handle stress better”. You need to absolutely remove it. Because if you are “handling” your stress that means you are experiencing the stress but taking even more energy to do something with it!

Imagine modifying your response so stress just isn’t in the portfolio, or is so hard to trigger it nearly never shows up.

You will still want to practice feeling stressed. This is like not needing to lift heavy objects all day in your job, but still going to the gym. This is important so that should stress come back you are ready and don’t fall apart. For example you could take Krav Maga and spend a few hours a week with that really big Russian guy kneeing you in the stomach for practice (somehow I don’t think he felt me like I felt him). It is a fantastic practice to regularly put yourself under stress in a controlled environment and train yourself to respond with Bias to Action.

But your day to day should have no stress. Maybe “stressful” challenges come your way, but you need to feel happy, confident, and calm in response.

If you don’t then – aside from all of the incredibly negative impacts to your health and productivity – you are simply not handling the situation in a way that lets you grow to have more fulfillment.

I recently had a dear friend ask me to engage in some potentially dangerous activity for their personal advantage. I love my friends and wanted to help, so I almost did. I asked four people I trusted, including a lawyer and got universal emphatic guidance to *not* help my dear friend. I tried to talk to this dear friend about it, and every conversation raised more red flags than a Tverskaya Street May Day parade in ’72.

So I didn’t help. This was really disappointing to my dear friend and I hate disappointing my friends.

I got very stressed. I had significant physical reactions. My shoulders and neck seized up. Rashes broke out on my body. I felt generally unwell. All at once.

I did some work with my exec coach and she was really helpful in identifying my relationship to stress had some real opportunity (we don’t say “you are really messing it up with your stress”). She asked: why do you so consistently choose stress?

It was a good question. I am going to figure out how to respond with no stress, so that as I get bigger and bigger problems – and I plan to – I can feel at home, in my natural habitat.

I am so eager to have those bigger problems and I want to be ready.

Here is David Allen talking about managing stress and “mind like water”. It’s helpful.

Timing and momentum

We have this ad campaign. 42 people have spent millions getting ready. We executed well; the campaign looks good! We bought millions in inventory and are committed.

Let’s go!

As the Christmas tree aside the racetrack drops light after light and our foot is poised above the metaphorical gas pedal, every heart on the team is beating fast and hard.

At that moment we get an unmistakeable signal of enormous risk.

It is unambiguous.

Our brand, by chance and through no fault of our own, is caught in a global mess. It is obvious to everyone from the CEO to the bright eyed intern that we no longer understand what impact our campaign will have.

We should probably reevaluate everything.

But we don’t have time.

What to do?

We would lose millions. The opportunity cost of failing to run it is that our very able competitors will eat up the mind share and we will fall behind. We need to appear competent and make competent executive decisions so the the boss or the shareholders don’t abandon us.

We can’t do nothing. We have to do something.

Ok, let’s run a teaser, a trial balloon.  Let’s see how people react.  We will use some of that commitment on social – we lose it anyway at the end of the month.

And our justifying minds tell us, now, that “this’ll show em!”  The world needs to see that we are still here. That we are unafraid.  We need to renormalize the practice of seduction of our customers.  They may be in shock around our brand but let’s whisper in their ear once again and they will learn again to love it.

So we put this on Twitter and your dear author sees it this morning in his twitter feed:


Wow, I say, out loud in my bed at 4am as my partner sleeps beside me.

What were they thinking?  I don’t imagine this will go over well.  I just spent thousands of dollars last night shoring up my disaster readiness, Because of my position of privilege and insomnia I am read up and informed and ready.  I am relatively safe.  I am not agitated.

Others May be more stressed about this.

Maybe my often-wrong social instincts have failed me again. Maybe people think this campaign is fun!  Let’s look at the comments…

Ok, no.  My instincts were not wrong.

You must not let momentum or false urgency drive your decisions.  You must master the urge to “do something”.  You must train your organization to do this systemically, to be able to arrest momentum, to pivot, to carry the bad news safely to management who may still be stepping hard on the gas.  To be able to stop.  To be able to pivot.

Easier to say than do?

It isn’t that hard if you have prepared for it. Here, let me make up an alternate strategy for Corona: stop all ads immediately. Sunk costs and each impression wounds so in this world there isn’t any opportunity cost because no advertising opportunity exists.   

Ramp up PR at the parent company brand.  Redirect any uncommitted capital from the campaign to the CDC or the Red Cross or to communities or hospitals for preparedness.  PR can manage a careful exposure of this that feels organic.  The company should be seen to be just helping and must not be seen telling people about it. Renegotiate with the channels to donate the inventory commitments to the government or a public service charity to get the word out.  Do not put your brand on that repurposed outreach although it will be tempting to your ad team.  This can also be carefully leaked.  It’s ok to make the news but if you do you have to be on message. “This moment isn’t about us.  Yes it’s a bad brand situation but we want to turn our resources that we can’t otherwise use into a civic good, if we can.  So let’s take the rest of this discussion to talk to Dr. So and So, who we brought with us  to discuss how to prepare.

I’m no marketing whiz.  The above may be wrong. The point is there exists a pivot to every awful situation – to every single one.  Inculcate habits of being aware and nimble in yourself and your team.

Remove the behavior of intertia pushing you forward.  Inertia destroys time. It is deadly.

Regarding the risk of the Corona virus, don’t let inertia leave you unprepared. Pivot now to a strategy of preparedness.  Someone you respect may have told you “the Flu is worse”.  They have a fundamental misunderstanding of the risks involved.

In the sense that more people die from cows falling on them than terrorism, people argue we worry too much about the latter.  But the risk of death-by-cow cannot grow into the ruin of a nation death.  Accidentally murderous cows have no growth strategy and do not need to be countered.

The flu is killing more, and heart disease will kill more.  But the math on the corona virus has exponential growth built in.

Take the time immediately to be prepared.  If I am wrong you will be out some hundreds of dollars and you can elicit my sincere apology later.  If I am right then you can significantly raise the probability that you and your family don’t lose all the rest of your time.








time and mind

I spoke of the body and time: it is the platform with which you experience time.  Your body is the most important thing.

The most important part of your body is your mind.  It is the only irreplaceable part*.  Let’s talk about how it interacts with time.

We are often not precisely conscious of our mind**, merely living through it.  But we can perceive it as a system that produces artifacts such as perceptions, thoughts, feelings, impulses, memories, and so on.

Each of these artifacts are incredibly sensitive to time.

Consider perception.  Each of us has experienced the few minutes that seemed to pass as slowly as an hour, and the hour that flew by in a few minutes.  Memory is our mind’s attempt to grapple with looking backwards in time.  Imagination helps our mind look forward.

Memory and imagination are very fallible.  When we remember an event, we basically make it up from haphazard signals we stored, and then store than made up version, resulting in severe copy error over repeated memories. How many of your prejudices about things are based on anything that actually happened?

Our imagination of the future is powerful, but often powerfully wrong.  Everything around you was once someone’s imagination, a testament to what imagination can create.  However looking only at what imagination has wrought is a profound fallacy.  Most imagination results in nothing.  Much imagination is harmful – we stifle ourselves with fear, or hurt ourselves with overoptimistic thoughts leading us into risks that are realized upon us as loss.

Finding ways to improve our record of past time, or our prediction of future time, is immensely valuable.

Audit yourself.  Am I engaging in practices that allow me to better know what actually happened?  Do I keep a journal?  Do I make videos on my iPhone to myself about how I am feeling – an action that takes just a moment i.e. has almost no cost to myself?  Do I review these things periodically to get a clear window to what I knew in the moment?

Am I engaging in writing down my predictions to see how amazing or very sorry they in fact are?  Do I learn from this, spotting patterns of bias and habit of false thought so that I can catch myself in the act of neurotic fear or arrogant blindness?

Imagine how beautiful and strong you would be if you had a better grip on the past or the future.  It would be a superpower!

Imagine if you practiced and slowly got better at teaching this to your children.  They would have a far better chance at thriving.  Since we don’t generally teach this, it’s like we choose to blind our children before sending them into the world.

You could argue that progress on thinking about the past and future is the hallmark of civilization.  History.  Planning.  When we had neither we were savages.  It’s amazing how much upside remains at taming our baser instincts and modern biases to better place ourselves in time.

You might still have some time left to improve on this, and reap the benefits.

* “…only irreplaceable part”: today only certain parts of our body are replaceable by synthetic, human designed parts.  But all parts are replaced – by you – at the cellular level within 10 years, except the mind. The cells in your brain are never replaced and exist for your lifetime.  This is telling.  You can transplant a stranger’s heart and they are dead but you live.  If you transplanted their mind into your body, they would live and you would die.  With enough engineering all parts will be replaceable by human-made synthetics.  But if we designed a replacement for your mind, it would have to be,… your mind.  The only replacement would have to be a Ship of Theseus replacement, meaning, replacing underlying components one by one until the ship is entirely new, yet the ship is essentially the same.  Something so hard or expensive that even millenia of natural selection has never selected this, despite the obvious advantages of being able to heal the mind.

Your mind is irreplaceable.

Consider that when you next decide to take a mind altering substance.

** for the purposes of this article I explicitly reject any discussion about the mind/body duality.  Is the mind our brain? Our brain plus our nervous system?  Plus the hormonal organs and the hormones flowing through our body? Our whole body?  Where the body begins and the mind ends I do not care.  The mind exists, and it is supported by some infrastructure that we partially understand.  That’s enough for this text.

The noble act of firing employees

We move through time.  Each moment is cumulative the the meaning of our life.

We often keep people in our employ for far too long.  It’s understandable.  There are many forces that impel us to keep working with someone who is holding the team back.  Regulation creates real risk in termination . Reputations can be damaged by a popular ex-employee saying bad things. Our own dysfunction can make us feel dependent upon someone leaving us powerless. Inertia and our fear of losing momentum keeps us glued to today’s configuration, afraid of change or apathetically allowing us to keep “getting by”.  A meaningful and even positive personal relationship can be a local good, clouding our view of the critical global maxima.

It’s a wonder we ever dismiss anyone!

What happens when we fail to face the hard thing is that we destroy valuable time:

  1. The time of the team, wasted in sub-optimal configuration.  All those hopes and dreams nullified by requiring they work with a crumby partner who holds them back.  Failure to deal with this is the opposite of leadership.
  2. The time of your vendors who interface with the dysfunctional employee.  They were counting on you to be a true partner in a win-win relationship where your transactions build you both up.
  3. We should be terrified of living with our own pain in any relationship.  We get used to it, and after a while we don’t even notice it.  It becomes normal.  And that means we are ready for the next step down the spiral staircase to lameness.  Allowing yourself to lower your standards allows you to lower them further.  So the arc of your whole life is altered.  It’s not just today’s problem that was beneath you, that you wasted all that time on.  It’s the twenty thousand future times you weren’t even really alive anymore because you were used to living so poorly because it became normal for you.

But the point of this post is the time you wast of that very person who is the problem employee.  By enabling them, you prevent them from having to confront their own lies that they allow themselves.  “I’m cool, see I’ve got this job.”

“You sure do” you say, keeping them on track to never change.

Or worse, you pretend to deal with them via repeated admonishment.  Toothless.  You aren’t just wasting everybody’s time, you are ruining your own integrity, and as noted above, your ability to recognize it.

And one more point: sometimes it’s hard to see past the negative impact of terminating the problem employee.  They have a family, a mortgage, and you are human and compassionate.  You don’t want to bring them into crisis or worse, ruin.

That’s real, and to be a human manager, you have to consider that and have it impact your decisions.  To inure yourself of your impact, in time, results invariably in very bad business practices, and greater waste of time than is being discussed here.

Balance that care, however, for the care of the next employee you haven’t met yet.  They are also a part of a family.  Also have obligations, needs, and people counting on them.  Perhaps you are wasting time working with someone who is taking up the rightful spot of a devoted and righteous person who will do better for the community than the person you now enable.

Liberate them soon, humanely, so that they can learn and grow.  Welcome the next person who will more clearly deserve the opportunity you give them.  Free your team to better trust each other, to thrive.  Rescue yourself from a fate of low standards that are of use to no one.

Talking about the future

We talk about the future all the time.

“I will pick that up”

“I’m going to learn Spanish”

“I’ll set up that meeting with Sasha”

In my family we have made it a habit to NEVER EVER talk about the future without putting a time boundary on it.  The more specific the better.

It looks like:

“I will pick that up NEXT”

… or NOW or TODAY or NEXT WEEK or…

“I’m going to learn Spanish … BY THE END OF NEXT YEAR”


“I’ll set up that meeting with Sasha … BEFORE 5pm”

… or THIS WEEK or…

Why always do this?

Speaking about the future with no time boundary means,… nothing.

…except that it is not happening now.

If I say that I am moving to Germany, and that’s all I say, then if I haven’t moved to Germany ten years later, I can still keep repeating the statement and it remains true.

And meaningless.

This kind of speech dilutes our message.  It is noise.  Dilution and noise rob you of scarce time – talking about nothing when you could be sharing something meaningful.

So talking about the future without a time boundary is a negative statement.  It robs you of precious words, that took up precious time in your immeasurably valuable life.

Adding in a time-boundary transforms it into a positive statement.

If you say you are moving to Germany in a year, and the year passes, it’s true you have to face your failure to do the thing you said you would do.  But that is overwhelmingly offset to the positive by the automatic measure provided by noticing discrepancy between your intent and your action.

If you do not put a time-boundary on your statement, then you might never notice that you aren’t achieving your hopes and dreams.  If you do put a boundary on it, and you miss the mark, and your rituals include recording the bounded statement, and later reviewing it, you are provided with the measure, and have a much better chance of noticing, and improving!

This measure works even if the original intent has changed and the goal is no longer important.  For example, say that you notice that you don’t actually care about moving.  In that case you have an opportunity to get to know yourself better, and revisit you big goals; you can create new ones that better match who you have become.  Without this you might still have the fuzzy goal of moving, and it remains in your consciousness taking up the space of goals that would really matter to you.

We should require of ourselves the habit of always putting a boundary on statements invoking the future.

(edited to complete the thought about the “Germany” example)



James Clear on Time

When I talk about time I try to talk in stark terms.  I do this to emphasize how important it is.  James’ tone here is lovely, and his references wise.  And among them the clearest most severe of points:

You are richer than 93% of people. Not in money, but in time. 108 billion people have lived throughout history. 93% of them are dead.

You have what every king and queen, every pharaoh and ruler, every CEO and celebrity of the past would give all their wealth for:


Yes!  Imagine your final moments, you are literally dying.  Wait! If you do X you get to live another year!  I would give everything I own!  Life is precious.  And yet how much if it today will we waste?

James makes other great points about time in that one post.  I just discovered him, and will go back to see what else he’s discovered.