How to make the most of your (alive) time.

“For most of us, decades of low-level jobs would be a recipe for dead time. In fact, every moment–good or bad in those years–was expanding Robert’s larger picture of the world.” – Ryan Holiday 

A few night ago I couldn’t sleep, so I got out of bed and returned to an article I was reading the day before. The article, written by an author that I respect – Ryan Holiday, author of my favorite book The Obstacle is The Way –  gave 31 points about how he gets work done. One of the points was a variation of “if you can’t sleep, wake up”. I recalled it, and decided to finish reading the article.

Ryan makes a strategic effort to create a deft of links in his material. Mostly linking to his own work, sometimes externally, always relevant. He linked to an article that explained how his mentor, author Robert Greene, showed him that there is “alive time and dead time”.  I found it fascinating

If there is alive time and dead time, does this mean that if you’re not using your time living you’re using your time dying?

In short, Yes. 

In Western society, if you’re not progressing, you’re regressing – returning to a less developed state. Put another way, if the value your’e offering society is not increasing, it is decreasing. Society is moving so fast around us that if you’re not increasing our value to society, even if you think you’re not losing your valuability, you are, in fact, losing value.

Some people will be more productive than others. They leverage their time, scale their abilities, and make their interactions with others as valuable as possible. They optimize their lives at every corner. They do this by realizing what Robert Greene told Ryan Holiday: any time you’re not improving yourself  & being alive – increasing your value to society – you’re inching closer to being useless, rather than useful.

Some people are OK with this.

It takes a lot of physical and mental energy to be constantly improving, and it can be stressful thinking that one year might be great while the next year might be terrible.  Sometimes people want consistently “good” years. Those people are not going to be Michelin-Star Chefs, neuro-scientists, or professional athletes, and they don’t want to. And that is OK for them– they have their reasons.

But some people have a deep desire to harness their alive time – these are the people that optimize at every corner. They understand that the tools are around them to make progress in their lives, and they’ve got the energy – or they know how to create that energy – to make that progress happen.

The tools are available if you’re willing to make them available to yourself: self-education, a willingness to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and the mindset that understands how progress is possible.

How can you increase your alive time? Work to create something every day.


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