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Learning over Time over Money

We frequently get confused on how to prioritize our time. It is very difficult to assign priority to Learning or Money.

It is harder to realize that time is also one of the dimensions that can be prioritized or de-prioritized.

Which priority can lead us to live a better and happy life ?

Lets explore.

Importance of Money 

Money is important for many reasons.

1. Provides the ability to pursue our dreams.

Whether it is an exam you want to take, or attend a college, or class, you need money to do that. 

2. Gives us confidence to operate. 

We all know this – money is closely related to confidence.

There is an allegory in Sanskrit called ‘ Dhanamev Balam Loke’ meaning ‘Money is the only power in this world’.

It goes this way – a mouse keeps on jumping high to eat a farmer’s grain stored near the ceiling. The farmer consults a wise sage who advises him to dig in the mouse hole. He was surprised to discover hidden money in the hole. The mouse did not jump once the money was removed.

The short story indicates that money is the fuel that powers us for our material endeavors. 

3. Gives us assurance and protection

Money helps us be assured in case something worse happens – illness , unpredictable situations. Money can always protect us and our loved ones. 

4. Helps bring joy through ability to help family and society

Money can help us pursue social and family related goals. Be it a tour for your parents, or helping the underprivileged, money is necessary. 

And since money is very important, we frequently fail to realize when we get lost in making it the top priority of our lives. 

During the first couple of  years of my career out of college, I was focussing solely on money as an indication of my professional growth. And I did good, but there was something missing. The real growth potential did emerge only when I realized that there is something more important than money. 

Importance of Time

Time is even more important and needs to be prioritized. 

1. Time is irreversible. 

While money can come and go , lost time does not come back. 

2. Cannot be replicated. 

You have to allocate a particular time for only one task, while money can be simultaneously used or spent automatically at the same time

3. Does not compound 

While money can compound, time cannot be compounded. It is perishable instead and just keeps getting lost. 

In fact, the amount of  time you spend thinking or working  on something in a particular day has a close association with the person you are evolving into – and so it has to be judiciously prioritized. 

In the next phase of my life, I focused on time as the sole criteria to make my decisions. I was not spending time on anything that was not leading to my dreams – personal or professional. 

It had an advantage that I grew very fast in my professional career in those days. Better than those who were not prioritizing on time. Or were just prioritizing money. 

For example, I decided to take a year off for my expensive MBA  – a clear victory of time over money . I based my decision on the prioritization of time over money I spent to get that education. Some people would calculate the money I lost as the summation of the amount I spent as fees and the amount I lost during the year I could have worked. I did not see it that way though. For me, the calculation was still the same, but the ‘spend’ was actually an ‘investment’ in myself. 

However, it was not far when I would come to realize that even time is a state of mind. And to put it philosophically, it is also a big illusion like other states of mind. 

Learning is greater than both time and money

To achieve material success, understanding the second concept is more than enough. If you spend your time well consistently as a system, you are bound to achieve material success.  (Read : Ditch Goals and Build Systems that Work Everytime.. Guaranteed !

The disadvantage of this approach, though, is that it makes you impatient and restless. Impatience has its roots in the feeling that time is perishable. When you focus too much on the importance of time, you miss out on the pleasure that deep focused work and learning through it can provide you. 

If  you have a longing for making a meaningful success in life, you must prioritize learning over all other things.

Focusing on learning helps us get to our closest self. 

I have made the best decisions of my life when I focussed on learning. 

When I was at a stage where I was not able to scale my startup , I decided to get back to a job. 

But I also  decided to only work with people from whom I can learn scalability. 

An obvious answer was to work with founders who have achieved in their lives what I aspired to. 

The decision framework became simple. And I was able to turn down offers from top companies and choose stable startups where people had made a substantial impact through their work.

Learning is also one of those things that compound in life. Something that compounds in life must be taken seriously – 

Learning Yields Exponentially

The graph below explains the path of people who focus on learning. Typically, they are risk takers who have the farsightedness and deep understanding that they are continuously improving – irrespective of how others see them. 

Exponential Growth Curve Learning
Learning compounds strongly with time and consistent efforts leading to exponential outcomes

When you focus on learning you keep on accumulating a hidden potential – sort of  ‘karma’ points in yourself that multiply by the rule of compounding. And they show up immediately as the compounding multiples become large and evident. At this point, your success and growth is visible to everyone.  

One example from history is that of Edwin C Barnes mentioned in the first chapter of the classic – Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This was an ordinary man who was able to get into a business partnership with Edison through his willingness to learn and “earn” his way into the deal.  

Barnes did not get his partnership with Edison on his first interview. He did get a chance to work in the Edison offices, at a very nominal wage, doing work that was unimportant to Edison, but most important to Barnes, because it gave him an opportunity to display his “merchandise” where his intended “partner” could see it.

Think and Grow Rich, Napolean Hill

Learning is everywhere

Learning can come from various domains – work, life, relations. But the word ‘relation’ is closely associated with learning. As learning is a by-product of your relation with work , life, others, and your own self. 

Once you start prioritizing learning over time, seemingly risky and hard decisions become easy for you. You start focussing on basics of life – character, habits, mindsets, love. And you start surrounding yourself with people with whom you can trade these base qualities , thereby dramatically improving your quality of life. 

So choose learning over time over money. At different stages these priorities can be different, or even mixed at some times , two of them overpowering the remaining. 

But that’s okay – for as long as you are learning your lessons. 

Let me know what you think. 

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