When I was young my father gave me some advice that I didn’t quite understand at the time. I was in high school and busy with homework, sports, and extracurricular activities, so his advice didn’t quite resonate at the time. I remember thinking, as most teenage kids do when their parents offer insights learned from years of experience, “OK, Dad… sure. Whatever you say…”
Now, 20 years later, I have not only realized the wisdom in his advice and taken it to heart, but offer the same advice to my kids… and anyone else that will listen.
So here it is:
“David, when you grow up, graduate from school, and find yourself working full-time, life will seem busy. You’ll be working late, you’ll have obligations to church, family, and friends. You’ll have yard work and car repairs. You’ll have all sorts of things to fill up your time, and every night when you finally get home from a long, hard day, the only thing you’ll want to do is sit in front of the TV, and get some well-deserved rest and relaxation. DON’T DO IT! It’s a trap!”
You see… my father understood a simple truth in life: Everyone is busy, but what separates the highly successful people from the average Joe is what that person does with that extra one or maybe two hours per day. The hard part is that the one or two hours is usually from 10PM to Midnight, or 6AM to 8AM. It can be any time really, but the point is, it’s the time when everyone else is “taking time off.”
So with this piece of advice, I also offer five alternatives that will help you avoid “The Trap”
1. Go back to School
Maybe it’s a Master’s degree, or maybe it’s a professional certification that will help you advance in your career. Most every school offers online and evening classes that will enhance your resume and solidify your skill set.
2. Start a business
Many of us dream of being our own boss or creating a successful business. The problem is, most of us would rather watch Late Night with Jimmy Fallon than spend an hour or two putting together a business plan. After the kids go to bed is prime time for entrepreneurship.
3. Put extra time into your current job
Starting your own business is not for everyone. For many the stability of a corporate job is preferred and rewarding. But if you plan to climb the ladder, you won’t don that from 9-5. Take time in the evening to review what you plan to do the next day. Think ahead. Think outside the box. Go above and beyond on a project. These small tasks and accomplishments completed from home at night may be what set you apart from others for the next promotion.
Take this one or two hours to focus on your financial portfolio. Research and choose the best options for your 401K, IRA, and Investment accounts. Take this time to plan for your kid’s education and get the right 529 plan. Start looking at real estate investments and acquiring properties. Substituting time spent on your investments in place of Thursday night sitcoms will pay significant dividends in the future.
5. Learn a new skill or hobby
Perhaps you can spend time learning how to code. SQL is in high demand, and employers can find candidates with this skill fast enough! Even a class in public speaking can go a long way to boost your career. But remember that success isn’t always defined in the workplace. Become successful by picking up a new hobby. Learn to fish, ski, write, or paint.
As I look back I remember my dad coming home from work and calling in to get his stock prices, thumbing through the newspaper looking for real estate deals, or learning how to program on his DOS black and green screen. (This was before the internet.) Did he sit down and watch TV once in a while… sure! But this was the exception, not the rule.
So next time, you think you’re too busy or don’t have enough time. Think again. Take that one or two hours per day where you find yourself in “the trap” and turn it into a success story!