40 Things In Our Life

Hello my friend.  How’s your day so far?  It’s the 6th day of the Chinese New Year, and the 44th day of 2016.

How has 2016 treated you so far?  How have you treated 2016 so far?

One day late last year, I was on my way to the toilet when I was thinking through the various items on my plate.  (Readers, do not try this at home.  haha)  I thought about how each of these projects would take a certain duration of time to reach fruition.

In particular, there’s this mini project that I’m writing (Leave and OT claims system that is slowly becoming a mini-HRM!) and I was thinking about how given that each program requires a certain amount of time to write, that there is a certain limit to the number of programs or apps that I can write in a year.  This is what I fondly call my little ECA (Extra-Curricular-Activity … what Singapore schools called the activities that students took part in, outside of classroom time).

That got me thinking.  By inference, there is only that many programs I can possibly write in my life!  And in turn, if we apply this to the other aspects of our life, after all, not everyone write code, then there is a finite amount of things that we can do.

No rocket science here really.

But I wondered, how many things in my life?  In our life?  Given that the average person is most effective between 25 – 65, assuming that our early years are spent learning things and honing our skills, and our post 65 years, we may find ourselves dwindling in health, energy and mental faculties, so we have the magic number 40.

This has a close proximity to 42, which as we all know, is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.  However, it is a mere coincidence.  Either that or, there’s a miscalculation in Deep Thought.  But I digress.

If we consider any non-trivial major event or thing we set out to accomplish, it would probably take up anywhere between 3 – 6 months, some even taking up to a year, or years.  So, if on average, each item take up a year, then we would have about 40 things that we can do in our life.  Things that matter that is.

Things like bathing, eating, sleeping, etc, is what I call utility activities.  Things that we need to do to get by.  Essential but not quite our life goal.  Now, for those of you whose childhood dream is to do that when you grow up, I’m not judging you.

Another major utility activity we engage in is work.  It is something that we do to pay the bills.  Great if you also like it, especially if your colleagues are nice and your boss is amicable.  But if you don’t get any of these, remember, the contract T&C is about you producing work / results, and the company compensating you for your time.  Ever wondered why the salary is also called compensation?  haha

Don’t get me wrong.  By all means, find a job that you have passion for.  But don’t fret if your job is not something that you have a lot of passion or interest in.  There’s a term for that.  It’s called a hobby.

When people come to me for work / career counselling / life coaching, and they tell me that either the pay is lousy, or the work is tough, or the boss is demanding, etc, I ask them this.  If the pay is good, the work is easy and the boss is easy going, why hire someone to do it?  The boss can do it himself!

Anyway, like it or not, we spend approximately 2/3 of our wakeful hours at work.  9-11 hours out of 16 hours (assuming 8 hours of sleep).  And guess what, we mostly work from 25 – 65!  The effective and productive years of our life!

There’s no crime and shame in earning our keep.  But it means that we are spending almost 2/3 x 40 = 26 units of the 40 things we can do on work.  We are left with around 14 things to do.

So on one hand, we should try to find something we have passion and interest in, on the other hand, if we can learn to take interest in what we are doing, and find ways to make a difference, then the 26 units of work don’t go to waste.

We can limit ourselves to just doing X things in the 9 – 11 hours per day at work.  Or we can ask ourselves, how can we learn something new everyday at work?  If we can do more, why not?  It is our precious human life, our 26 units that is spent, whether we while our time away at work or we learn something new, or we help someone through our work.

And beyond work, what are we doing with our remaining 14 units?  If all we do is work, then it is like buying a car just to wash it and pump it with petrol, driving it just to burn the gas so that we can pump more petrol into it.  If one were to buy a car, drive somewhere.  The car is a tool to get us to our destination.  Work is likewise, our tool to bring us somewhere.  Don’t get caught up with the tool.

But what about life itself?  What is the destination of our life?  Is it simply to use up all the gas in the tank?

My dear friend.  I used up a bit of my gas writing this blog.  I hope it will help you to think about the 14 or 40 things in your life.

Oops, I have about 22 things left to do.  What 40 things are you gonna do with your life?