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Chapter 11, Your Most Precious Commodity. Part 1
Well-arranged time is the surest mark of a well-arranged mind.
Sir Isaac Pitman
“You know what’s funny about life?” Julian asked me.
“By the time most people figure out what they really want and how to go about attaining it, it’s usually too late. That saying, ‘If youth only knew, if age only could,” is so true.
“Is that what the stopwatch in Yogi Raman’s fable is all about?”
“Yes. The naked nine-foot-tall, nine-hundred-pound sumo wrestler with the pink wire cable covering his private parts slips on a shiny gold stopwatch that someone has left in the beautiful garden,” Julian reminded me.
“How could I forget,” I replied, breaking into a grin.
By now I had realized that Yogi Raman’s mystical fable was nothing more than a series of memory pegs designed to teach Julian the elements of his ancient philosophy for enlightened living, while at the same time helping him remember it. I shared my discovery with him.
“Ah, the sixth sense of a litigator. You are quite right. My wise teacher’s methods appeared odd at first and I struggled to understand the significance of his tale just as you wondered what I was speaking of when I first shared it with you. But I must tell you, John, all seven elements of the story, from the garden and the naked sumo wrestler to the yellow roses and the path of diamonds, which I am soon getting to, serve as powerful reminders of the wisdom I learned in Sivana. The garden keeps me focused on inspiring thoughts, the lighthouse reminds me that the purpose of life is a life of purpose, the sumo wrestler keeps me centered on continuous self-discovery, while the pink wire cable links me to the wonders of will power. A day doesn’t pass without me thinking about the fable and considering the principles Yogi Raman taught me.”
“And exactly what does the shiny gold stopwatch represent?”
“It is a symbol of our most important commodity — time.”
“What about positive thinking and goal-getting and self-mastery?”
“They all mean nothing without time. About six months after I made the delightful forest retreat in Sivana my temporary home, one of the sages came to my hut of roses while I was studying. Her name was Divea. She was a stunningly beautiful woman with jet black hair that fell just below her waist, and in a very gentle and sweet voice she informed me that she was the youngest of all the sages living in that secret mountain abode. She also said that she had come to me on the instructions of Yogi Raman who had told her that I was the best student he had ever had.”
“‘Maybe it is all the pain you suffered in your former life that has allowed you to embrace our wisdom with such an open heart,’ she stated. ‘As the youngest of our community, I have been asked to bring you a gift. It is from all of us and we offer it as a token of our respect for you, one who has travelled so far to learn our ways. At no point have you judged us or ridiculed our traditions. So, though you have now decided to leave us within a few weeks, we consider you one of our own. No outsider has ever received what I am about to give you.'”
“What was the gift?” I asked impatiently.
“Divea pulled out an object from her homespun cotton bag and handed it to me. Wrapped in a fragrant cover of some type of paper was something I never thought I’d see there in a million years. It was a miniature hourglass which had been made from blown glass and a small piece of sandalwood. Seeing my expression, Divea quickly told me that each of the sages had received one of these instruments as children. “Though we have no possessions and live pure, simple lives, we respect time and note its passing. These little hourglasses serve as daily reminders of our mortality and the importance of living full, productive days while advancing our purposes.'”
“These monks up in the highest reaches of the Himalayan mountains kept time?”
“Each and every one of them understood the importance of time. They each had developed what I call a ‘time consciousness.’ You see, I learned that time slips through our hands like grains of sand, never to return. Those who use time wisely from an early age are rewarded with rich, productive and satisfying lives. Those who have never been exposed to the principle that ‘time mastery is life mastery’ will never realize their enormous human potential. Time is the great leveller. Whether we are privileged or disadvantaged, whether we live in Texas or Tokyo, we all have been allotted days with only twenty-four hours. What separates those who build exceptional lives from the ‘also rans’ is the way they use this time.”
“I once heard my father say that it was the busiest people who have time to spare. What do you make of that?”
“I agree. Busy, productive people are highly efficient with their time — they must be in order to survive. Being an excellent time manager doesn’t mean that you must become a workaholic. On the contrary, time mastery allows you more time to do the things you love to do, the things that are truly meaningful to you. Time mastery leads to life mastery. Guard time well. Remember, it’s a non-renewable resource.
“Let me give you an example,” Julian offered. “Let’s say it’s Monday morning and your schedule is overflowing with appointments, meetings and court appearances. Rather than getting up at your usual 6:30 a.m., gulping down a cup of Java, speeding off to work and then spending a stressful day of ‘catchup,’ let’s say you took fifteen minutes the night before to plan your day. Or to be even more effective, let’s say you took one hour on your quiet Sunday morning to organize your entire week. In your daily planner, you wrote out when you would meet with your clients, when you would do legal research and when you would return phone calls. Most importantly, your personal, social and spiritual development goals for the week also went into your agenda book. This simple act is the secret to a life of balance. By anchoring all the most vital aspects of your life into your daily schedule, you ensure that your week and your life retain a sense of meaning and peace.”
“Surely you’re not suggesting that I take a break in the middle of my busy work day to walk in the park or meditate?”
“I sure am. Why are you so rigidly bound to convention? Why do you feel that you have to do things the same way as everyone else? Run your own race. Why not start working an hour earlier so that you will have the luxury of taking a serene mid-morning walk in that beautiful park across from your office? Or why not put in a few extra hours at the beginning of your week so that you can cut out early on Friday to take your kids to the zoo? Or why not start working at home two days a week so that you can see more of your family? All I’m saying is plan your week and manage your time creatively. Have the discipline to focus your time around your priorities. The most meaningful things in your life should never be sacrificed to those that are the least meaningful. And remember, failing to plan is planning to fail. By writing down not only your appointments with others but also those all-important appointments with yourself to read, relax or write a love letter to your wife, you will be far more productive with your time. Never forget that time spent enriching your non-work hours is never a waste. It makes you tremendously efficient during your working hours. Stop living your life in compartments and understand once and for all that all you do forms one indivisible whole. The way you act at home affects the way you act at work. The way you treat people at the office affects the way you will treat your family and friends.”
“I agree, Julian, but I really don’t have the time to take breaks in the middle of my day. As it is, I work most evenings. My schedule is really crushing these days.” As I said this, I felt my stomach tingling at the mere thought of the mountain of work I was facing.
“Being busy is no excuse. The real question is, what are you so busy about? One of the great rules I learned from that wise old sage is that eighty percent of the results you achieve in your life come from only twenty percent of the activities that occupy your time. Yogi Raman called it the ‘Ancient Rule of Twenty.'”
“I’m not sure I follow you.”
“Okay. Let’s go back to your busy Monday. From morning until night you might spend your time doing everything from chatting on the phone with clients and drafting legal pleadings to reading your youngest child a bedtime story or playing chess with your wife. Agreed?”
“But out of all of the hundreds of activities you give your time to, only twenty percent of those will yield real, lasting results. Only twenty percent of what you do will have an influence on the quality of your life. These are your ‘high-impact’ activities. For example, ten years from now, do you really think all the time you spent gossiping at the water cooler or sitting in some smoke-filled lunch room or watching television will count for anything?”
“No, not really.”
“Right. So I’m sure you will also agree there are a number of activities that will count for everything.”
“You mean like time spent improving my legal knowledge, time spent enriching my relationships with my clients and time invested in becoming a more efficient lawyer?”
“Yes, and time spent nourishing your relationship with Jenny and the kids. Time spent connecting with nature and showing gratitude for all that you are so fortunate to have. Time spent renewing your mind, your body and your spirit. These are just a few of the high-impact activities that will allow you to design the life you deserve. Direct all of your time to those activities that count.
Enlightened people are priority driven. This is the secret of time mastery.”
“Wow. Yogi Raman taught you all that?”
“I have become a student of life, John. Yogi Raman certainly was a wonderful and inspiring teacher and I will never forget him for that. But all of the lessons I have learned from my varied experiences have now come together like pieces of a big jigsaw puzzle to show me the way to a better life.”
Julian added: “I hope you will learn from my earlier mistakes.
Some people learn from the errors others have made. They are the wise. Others feel that true learning comes only from personal experience. Such people endure needless pain and distress over the course of their lives.”
I had been to many seminars on time management as a lawyer. Yet, I had never heard the philosophy of time mastery that Julian was now sharing with me. Time management was not just something to focus on at the office and discard at closing time. It was a holistic system that could make all areas of my life more balanced and fulfilling, if I applied it correctly. I learned that by planning my days and taking the time to ensure that I was balanced in the use of my time, I would not only be far more productive — I would be far happier.
“So life is like a fat strip of bacon,” I chimed in. “You have to separate the meat from the fat in order to be the master of your time.”
“Very good. You’re on to it now. And though my vegetarian side tells me to do otherwise, I love the analogy because it hits the nail right on the head. When you spend your time and precious mental energy focusing on the meat, you have no time to waste on the fat. This is the point at which your life moves from the realm of the ordinary into the exquisiteness of the extraordinary. This is when you really start to make things happen, and the doors to the temple of enlightenment suddenly swing open,” Julian observed.
“That brings me to another point. Don’t let others steal your time. Be wary of time thieves. These are the people who always call on the telephone just as you have put the kids to sleep and have settled into your favorite chair to read that thrilling novel you have heard so much about. These are the people who have a knack of dropping by your office just as you have found a few minutes in the midst of a hectic day to catch your breath and collect your thoughts. Does this sound familiar?”
“As usual, Julian, you’re right on the money. I guess I have always been too polite to ask them to leave or to keep my door shut,” I confided.