How To Waste 100,000 Hours

I save my most powerful message for the end of each of my keynotes and workshops. I gotta admit, it makes a great closing thought. But today, I’m stickin’ it right up front

If you work full-time you’ll put in somewhere around 2000 hours at work this year. You’ll spend more time working than any other single activity, even sleeping. Most people work 8-9 hours each day. Sleep specialists say you should get 7-8 hours of good sleep each night, but I don’t know very many people who follow that prescription, do you? My point, exactly.

Now for some math (I KNEW I’d use it someday):

Most adults start working full-time in their early twenties. And, sadly, most adults that are currently in the workforce will have to work into their seventies because they don’t have enough money to retire. But that’s a whole different lesson for another time. Back to the math…

Age 20-ish to age 70-ish is 50-ish years of full-time work-ish.

50 years x 2000 hours/yr = 100,000 hours of work life.

Holy crap, that’s a lot of hours. And the majority of them are wasted. 

Oh, sure, many of those hours are spend producing useful widgets or information for the company you work for, serving customers, and earning a living for you and your family. But the majority of those hours are still wasted…in negativity. 

Know why?

Because you didn’t enjoy them. Because your mindset was negative too often. Because you let your co-workers, boss, the economy, or some other devil drag you down. Because you had a fight with the kids before school. Because you were late. Because you’re having a bad hair day. Because you didn’t bring your A game. Because, because, because, because, because…because of all the horrible things life does. If you sing that last line to the tune of “We’re Off To See The Wizard” from the Wizard of Oz, it becomes slightly less depressing, but not much.

So, how many of your 100,000 hours have you wasted in negativity so far?

I’d love to say it’s easy to change, but that’s simply not true, is it? You can’t choose to be happy, in spite of what motivational gurus or your grandma says. I do believe you can chose to be positive in most situations, although that, too is easier said than done.

Here’s the secret sauce, ready? 

What you can always choose is to choose to do everything in your power to create positive energy in your work life. That’s the real secret.

That’s different than choosing positivity. Choosing positivity (or happiness) is kind of like choosing bigger muscles. I can’t just choose them. If I really want bigger muscles, I have to do everything in my power to create them. If I lift a 5lb weight every other month, I’m not going to see any results. But if I work out like a madman and make it my top priority, eventually I won’t look so silly in my skin-tight Under Armour t-shirts.

So choosing positivity at work becomes an ongoing series of choices, not a single life-altering moment. Some examples include choosing to:

– walk away from gossip instead of listening or (gasp!) participating.
– get organized instead of fighting through my mess every day.
– get enough sleep instead of staying up late.
– read a positive book instead of watching a ridiculous “reality” show.
– encourage a co-worker instead of criticizing him.
– be on time for meetings and appointments instead of always trying to squeeze in “one more thing”.
– avoid negative people that practice the dark magic of sucking all positivity out of me and replacing it with their negative mojo.

This list could go on and on and on. And this list is drawn from just my own experience and many of my own wasted hours. Imagine if I added yours to the list. Did you just shudder? Me, too.

100,000 hours is a lot of time. Will you waste a few here and there? Absolutely. Impossible not to. I’m sure even Mother Teresa wasted at least an hour.

This has become a big motivator for me: When I’m 70-ish, I want to look back on my work life (and the rest of it as well) and know that I didn’t waste it. Think about that for a second. Could there be anything worse than realizing that you had 100,000 hours to use, and during that entire time you had the choice, and the power, to be anything you really wanted to be, and you chose to be negative? Just the thought of that scenario depresses me! And simultaneously propels me to do everything in my power to make sure it doesn’t happen.

The good news is that every minute of every day carries the possibility of a fresh start. You might get 100,000 hours, you might not. But you do get  this moment, this day, right here, right now. It’s all we ever get, no matter how long we live or work. Our choices are not made in the past or future. They’re always made in this moment, this day, right here, right now.

So, if you’re choosing to do everything in your power to create positive energy, what is first/next on your list? Email me and let me know. Better yet, post a comment here on our blog so you can inspire others with your choices.

Oh, and thanks for not wasting your 100,000 hours.


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