Timecounting 101: The True Price of Waiting.

15,000 Days.

That is the number of days most people spend in “working life” till retirement (assuming that you start a career in your early 20’s and retire in your early 60’s). Yes, that is not a typo: fifteen-thousand days. That’s it.

If you are not are reading this on your mobile device, go pick it up now, open the calculator app and type in your age. Multiply by 365. Read the result out aloud.
That’s roughly how many days you have already lived. 

When I did this a few years ago I found this exercise very unsettling.

  • The average life budget is somewhere around 27,000 days. Compare that to your number.
  • If you make it to 30,00 you are in very a small minority.
  • If you make it beyond that it won’t be by far, and you are an exception.

The problem with life is that we are not given a budget at birth. So, with a credit-card mentality, we spend liberally the most precious thing we have, as if there was time to do the meaningful stuff “later”. For a great part of the world’s people the precious available “now” is spent on totally worthless consumables: TV and “pulp” entertainment. Life is spent watching other people’s stories. Or it is spent in careers that fulfil other people’s expectations, not our own.

The problem is that “later” has a frightening price-tag. If your life right now is not the way you had intended, then the absolute worst thing you can do is stay on that track for another second!. It is quite simply put, your most expensive option, by far.

Why?

  1. It costs your time: You have one wallet, with an undisclosed limited amount of time in it. It is always less than you think. You must spend it, and can only spend it once.
  2. It costs you opportunities: while you wait to decide, someone else is taking the chance that you may have wished for.
  3. It costs you health: discontent and frustration deteriorate your health. The worse it gets the harder it is to recover and repair. Bad health also charges a hefty interest to your days credit, reducing the time you get.
  4. It costs you relationships: unhappy people propagate unhappiness, and the social cost of this is staggering. Time spent with bad company and mindless activities reduces the time available to spend with the people you care about most.
  5. It costs you money: For most, every dollar you earn is generated by “spending” your minutes. But while you can always multiply the dollars, you can NEVER multiply your minutes. It is a “spend once” commodity. There is no re-draw facility, no ATM where you can withdraw another 1000 days, no bank that can extend your limit. Real fulfilling success can not happen in this space.

I excel at procrastinating.

Most of us do, we are masters at it.

From small insignificant activities to big changes, we postpone with refined skill. We excuse ourselves with great eloquence: “just need to get a few things sorted, and then I will…”, or “now is not a good time…”.

But we know that later is always a WORSE time, as it is already reserved for a future activity, and we know those things will never get sorted UNTIL we make that change. It is easy to mask our lack of courage with justifications, but it does not stop the clock!.

Fortunately, we do not have to excuse ourselves, because we don’t have to embark on that daunting journey alone.  Most paths in life have been walked by someone before you, they are always willing to help, and have the tools you need.

Fortunately, no matter how many days you have used up, you can live amazingly, irrespective of how much is left in your time-wallet.

The important thing is not to postpone the decision to do so. Anyone can avoid paying the five great expenses of waiting.

One day – sooner than you think – you will draw your last time-penny out of your time wallet. Will you gasp with a knot in your throat and say “Wait…now is not the right time!” or will you look back, smile and say “Wow – what an awesome life I’ve had!”?

Today will be charged to your time credit. Spend it on “wait!” and it is wasted, spend it on “Awesome!” and you create a memorable legacy!.

[I enjoyed reading a book published early this year “20,00 Days and counting” by Robert D. Smith, which explores this subject in depth and is worthwhile and inspiring reading. I am however in no way affiliated with the author, there are many other books on this subject.] 

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Start Pedaling – there is no such thing as balance!

For most of my life I have always sought to attain and live in a state of balance. For all my efforts, it still eludes me, and you may have found it elusive too.

 
Because there is no such thing as balance in its purest form. There is always change and movement.

 
The problem is that life is more like riding a bicycle: your level of control increases with your speed – (within reason of course, there is a range of optimal speeds!).
 
First of all, you need to move, you need to exert effort in order to advance.
And secondly, you need to have some idea where you are heading.
 
If either one of these is missing you will eventually succumb to gravity. This is not a matter of choice, it is only a matter of time.
 
In my two decades as a Architect, I have seen how entire associated industries have desperately attempted to stay in control while balancing in the same spot, at a terrible cost. While other industries have undergone profound transformations, we still do business like we did half a century ago. And unless we decide on a course, and begin pushing the pedals soon, there will be none left standing. It is only a matter of time.
 
And time is what we what we do no longer have much of. We must use our ability to solve complex problems, and solve our own problem quickly. We need to accept that we got it wrong, that we gave up pushing the pedals and are no longer moving forward.  We must now commit to rapid learning, and to a willingness to reinvent the profession completely. By that I do not mean we need to re-learn design, but instead to learn how to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world, to rediscover how our imagination can make a meaningful contribution.
 
Getting into motion will most likely hurt. There are no roads, not paradigms, no signposts, no case studies, no templates. It is our role to think up what is possible, what is desirable, and to bring that into being, for others to travel along safely. Standing still will almost certainly kill us.
 
Because when you are not moving, there is no such thing as balance.
 
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Who are you influencing?

What are you doing?

I mean that seriously, what are you doing? What is your influence, your cause?

So what is my point?  – First, some context:

The “forces” that are the most powerful influences on the future of our planetary ecological integrity are driven not by corporations, but by people. People who have forged a capacity to make and influence such decisions. They may deliver those decisions through corporate or political channels. But ultimately a person or group of people, driven by a conviction, and agenda and a value system, make a decision.

This authority to influence was established in the course of their lives.

The point is, we all have this capacity. We can move the same magnitude of ideas and of values in the direction of our conviction, of our agenda. And we have been given the same uncertain lifespan to do so. We influence daily. The  question is, are we nurturing the influences that we desire, or are we allowing ourselves to be swept along to another current, unwittingly donating our small part towards its strength and power? We find ourselves contemplating a very real possibility of a horrific future for us, but even more so for our children, heralded by the announcement of 400ppm of atmospheric CO2 this week.  The number may be academic, but its meaning is far from it.  The plain truth is that we have chosen to support the influence of people whose views we may never have agreed with in the first place.  We do so when we purchase products that come branded with an indelible stamp of collateral damage, in a faraway country.  We do so when we fail to build the visions that are in line with what we believe in in quiet moments alone. We do so when we consent to propositions because challenging them may cause us inconvenience, or cost us a friendship, or possibly a job.

 
We have the permission, in fact we have an obligation, to excercise this influence.
Now that you know, it is in your awareness, you can not afford to ignore your capacity, nor give it away with a clean conscience. The price is too high. This is your problem too.
Align yourself with people who believe what you believe.
Buy from them, work for them or with them, make them your clients, your customers, your allies.
Your voice, your influence will be multiplied.And one day, ten or so years from now, when your children ask what you did, you can proudly tell them that you did everything you could. 

And it made all the difference.

Why you should not care about the climate change debate.

As we pass the very unsettling milestone 400ppm of atmospheric CO2, more than ever the climate denialists are turning up the heat of their campaign. A completely irrelevant campaign. After all, that is not really the issue.

Sure, to argue that CO2 is not a problem is in essence saying that it is acceptable, necessary – and in fact unavoidable – to pollute, to squander non-renewable resources for short term gains, and deplete all our planetary ecosystems for our economy and business to prosper. An we don’t need to be scientists to understand how unethical and morally corrupt this point of view is.

The real issue is not climate change.

Climate change – whether it is happening or not, and whether you believe it is man made or not, – is simply a symptom. And it is only one of many.

The real issue is that we can not continue doing business as usual: we need a healthy ecosystem for our economy to exist, and for us as a species to exist. So besides the obvious ethical and moral hypocrisy embedded in pro-pollution arguments, we know that fossil fuels are a temporary source of energy and will – by choice or by force of nature – be phased out within our lifetimes. We know that waste and consumerism are phenomena with a limited lifespan, and will also change.

So ultimately, 400ppm or not, our current business and industry models are wrong, and by choice or by force they will undergo profound change within our lifetimes. To argue against this is as clever as the guy in that famous cartoon sawing the branch off on which he is sitting…

What was Your Doha Climate-Talk Wish?

So another round of Climate Change Talks is over, and its back to business as usual.

In fact, so usual that the appalling failure to come up with anything at Doha ended up being barely commented on by the news media, more a footnote than a headline. No bigger headline than Durban, Cancun or Copenhagen.

There is a frightening side plot possibility to this, and it is not the melting permafrost.

It is the melting confidence in global governance, be it through its political title or corporate position. History informs us that this invariably leads to mutiny, and that is not a desirable outcome.  At a time when we are about to face our most serious global challenges in history, we can not afford weak leadership.

So what is required?  What is possible? What could have been the outcome instead?

The action list is too long to discuss here, but a few things are so obvious they need no further explanation. One of these is the use of fossil resources as fuels.

Doha could have delivered a framework to phase these out with simple strategies.

Here is my suggestion: Start with the subsidies.

In 2012 the total (global) subsidies supporting fossil fuels were over 5 times those allocated for clean energy. Now imagine a simple rollback over 5 years that could reverse this ratio. Not only would it remove a grossly distorted financial model that makes fossil fuels falsely affordable, it also removes the crippling market disadvantage faced by clean energy right now.

Then next year another problem could be addressed. Over 5 years we could set up a series of tipping points that instead of leaving us rolling backwards (Think about this: fossil fuels is legacy technology from the late 1800’s! ), build upon one-another and steer us forward towards ecological balance, and away from our current trajectory towards ecological collapse.

I’d like to invite you to leave a comment, sharing your future-building thoughts and ideas. What would you have liked to see as an outcome from the Doha Climate Talks?

We need a Hero!

As the 2012 Doha Climate Change Conference nears its end (and it looks like it will boast the same results that have plagued every previous climate summit), one thing is becoming increasingly evident:

The people and organisations who have the resources to drive the necessary changes are not going to do it. Not this time, and probably not the next time either. Most likely not any time until they are under severe duress, or simply when their authority and influence ceases to be relevant.

As a parent I am worried where things are heading. How will my kids will live when they reach my age?.

The outlook is not good.

Lets face it, the same process of analysis, comparison and probability that we generally refer to as science has provided a reliable foundation of knowledge that makes it possible for you to read this post.
It enabled us to build Lamborghini’s, space shuttles and hearing aids.
It enabled us to create iphones, implant artificial hearts, and extract drinking water from the air. There are a thousand and one things within your arms reach right now that were only possible because someone somewhere observed, tested and proposed a “most likely result”. If science was not reliable none of that would be there.

So when science advises that by pumping pollutants into the atmosphere we will most likely bake ourselves (and everything around us), its worth taking that advice as seriously as someone saying “Stepping over that cliff will cause gravity to continue doing what it normally does”. Unless you happen to be Clark Kent, you cant afford to ignore the advice.

So then, what next?

Continue reading “We need a Hero!”