One realizes the full importance of time only when there is little of it left. Every man’s greatest capital asset is his unexpired years of productive life.
– Paul Weeks Litchfield, Goodyear executive and ACF Trustee
Though this is perhaps the most famous of the quotes of “P.W.” it’s by no means the only one that people credit to him with fondness. Under his guidance, Goodyear became the largest tire and rubber manufacturer in the world.
Litchfield was one of the first executives of large industries who showed care and compassion for both his employees and his community. Had there been more executives like him, the union movement may never have taken hold because it wouldn’t have been needed.
This quote is something of a lament as he observes a characteristic of human nature over which he seems to feel he has little control. In general, people are careless with their time until they believe they have little of it left.
Read anecdotes of people who have had near death experiences, or “come back from death,” or who have a death sentence ahead of them as a consequence of terminal cancer. Most say that those days were the most precious or their lives.
Not all. I once had a neighbour who was told that he had cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and at least one other affliction (heart problem), any of which were expected to end his life within months or weeks. He went on alcohol and drug binges for days at a time, only recovering long enough to buy more. After about eight months, he realized that he wasn’t about to die, so he cleaned up his life and gave the boot to the leaches who had been drinking and snorting on his dime. He became, for the first time in his life, a good father. His story was the reverse of most.
Too many people live most of their lives as if they subscribe to the “life sucks, then you die” philosophy. Rather than arranging their lives so they accomplish what is important to them and bond more securely with those they love most, they focus on what’s bad in their lives then seek relief in thrills, depression, mental illness, addiction or acquisitiveness.
Once they realize that their escapes have done nothing to improve their lives, often when their end is near (sometimes never), they cast off the crutches and live to the fullest for their remaining days. They live, in effect, their whole lives within a matter of days. And they love those precious days and hours more than anything else they have experienced.
Why do so many people wait that long? Because we don’t teach children the wisdom that we gain over a lifetime. Since children aren’t prepared for the ups and downs of life as they grow through adolescence and into adulthood, they adopt escapes of their own, often the same ones as their parents had before them. Like their parents, they feel the need to experience something positive, even if it’s a drug rush that is followed by a long and agonizing recovery.
No matter how much money a person has, that person cannot buy a day, an hour or a minute of time for life, any more than you or I can. Let’s teach that to our children.
This is not to say that we should teach nihilism, existentialism or some version of “live today for tomorrow we may die” philosophy as they tend to be cast off eventually as unacceptable over a whole lifetime. However, we can teach kids that they need to focus on what is good in their lives instead of what is bad.
They need to know that most times they can increase the good and decrease the bad once they learn how. We can teach that too. They need to know that they should prioritize their lives so that they accomplish what is most important to them, even if they do not accomplish what is less important.
We need to teach them that what benefits industry and politics does not necessarily benefit individuals, that people need to live their own productive lives irrespective of what industries and politicians tell them through their advertising and propaganda campaigns.
We need to teach these messages to young children before they’re old enough to suffer the misfortunes that are visited upon them by life and by devotion to what society’s establishment wants them to do.
Many of us need to realize that what we have believed (what we have been taught) is wrong, that we can teach our children different from the way we were taught and we can improve our own lives by not being puppets to advertisers and professional snake charmers.
That can’t be done in schools because that subject will never make it onto a curriculum. School curriculum is largely controlled by industry: what industry wants, schools provide. That’s how the system works.
If we want our children to learn the value of each day of their lives, we need to teach them that value in our homes and in whatever other activities the kids may be involved with.
It’s up to us. Industry and politicians only teach them how to be followers, believers, sheep.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the valuable lessons of life they will need to live healthy and successful adult lives.
Learn more at http://billallin.com