Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Archive for December, 2018

70, 200, 500, 1000 & 86,400 (Hat Tip to Parag M)

Imagine, if you will, that each day, precisely when you awaken, 86,400 pennies are deposited into your bank account. Every. Single. Day. Each night when you go to sleep whatever is left of that 86,400 pennies is removed from your account; every day you have to find some way to spend 86,400 pennies. What would you do? Would you put it in another account and let it grow slowly over time? Invest it in stocks or some other long-term plan? Get a bigger mortgage or a fancier car and use your pennies to make payments? Or would you perhaps give your pennies away, or even use your pennies for your own daily expenses and therefore buy the freedom to do, or be whatever it is that makes you (or those you love) happiest?

Would you spend a penny for the freedom to use your own time?

Of course many of you knew exactly where this little ditty was going to go as soon as you saw “86,400″, the famous number at the heart of Jim Valvano’s famous ESPY Awards speech as he was dying from cancer. There are 86,400 seconds in each day. No more and no less. You can’t bank them and save them for a rainy day. Each second has precisely the same value in that each sentence can only be filled by that which you choose. Valvano asked “how are you going to spend your 86,400?”

Another way to look at this is to ask what is your time worth to you. We’ve all heard the time-worn trope that “time is money”. Interestingly, the more affluent we become as a society, and the more affluent individuals become, the less time we all seem to have. Odd…ironic…isn’t it? I recently came across new terms: time poverty and time affluence. Interestingly, those at both extremes of the income scale can have either. It is striking that even the wealthiest among us, man and women who can (and do) pay to have all manner of the messy and menial tasks of their lives done by others (lawn, laundry, livery, etc.) find themselves swimming in an anxious and ever-shallower pool of time.

To be sure many of these time-poor individuals who are resource-rich are buying time to be busy at that which made them resource-rich in the first place, and those who are time-wealthy cannot use their time to acquire resources for whatever reason. For most of us, though, we do have some measure of control over how we spend those 86,400 pennies. Sometimes you must put a real number, a real value on your time.

This weekend I attended a meeting of a very special professional group that includes some of my very closest professional friends. It meant time away from my practice, time that produces on average some $1000/hour of revenue when you look at all of my activities (note: this is revenue to the practice that mostly goes to overhead, sadly not income to me!). Our meeting was generously supported by some 16 companies that do business in my space, companies for whom many of us consult. One of our guest speakers pointed out that the government has decreed that consultants in healthcare cannot be paid more than $500/hour (though most make much, much less than that), an arbitrary number when you are talking about a physician who might generate $5000/hour (think neurosurgeon). Still, it is possible to “price” time for almost anyone. Heck, your favorite hospital administrator or health insurance CEO would like you to think that they are a bargain at ~$1500-$3000/hour because they, and they alone are responsible for the aggregate revenue (~$10-$100MM/hour) of their institution!

In reality our time is much less expensive in dollar terms but much more expensive and valuable in, well, life terms. My real responsibilities at this meeting ended around 6:30 Friday evening. But these are my people; this is my professional “tribe”. I chose to spend the evening with them, and they with me. Doing so meant another night at the hotel so I shaved some pennies off of my expenses by booking a flight home the following evening at 8 (the meeting was completely done at noon on Saturday), something I instantly regretted the minute I got on my outbound flight. What did I do about that? I found an earlier flight at 4 and “bought” myself 4 more hours with my darling wife for $50/hour.

A bargain, at least for me.

So why stay at all on Friday night you might ask? Well, everyone around you is also making the exact same kind of decisions about their time. Most of my friends chose to spend Friday night together out to dinner just down the street from our hotel. Not only that but at least a couple of them spent a few of their collective pennies playing a joke on me. I didn’t even notice that all 60 or so of them in the restaurant had gathered around the table where I sat as the waiter brought a “Happy 70th Birthday” cake, complete with candle and a whole restaurant serenading me! The fact that I am 58 and my birthday is in January is irrelevant. My friends spent their “pennies” to make me laugh.

There are 86,400 seconds deposited in your account each day until the day when they’re not. Each one of us gets to decide, at least some of the time, how much each one of those seconds is worth and how we will spend them. Sometimes, like my first 70th Birthday Party, those seconds are the perfect gift.

Each in its own way priceless.



Sunday musings…

Sunday musings…

1) 41. George Herbert Walker Bush, patriot. RIP.

2) C8. The next version of the Corvette will no longer have the engine up front, thus ending the prominent proboscis  responsible in part for the iconic look.

Count my vote as “unlikely” for any new mid-engine design making middle-aged men look any less ridiculous driving one.

3) Tree. Why is decorating your Christmas tree called “trimming” the tree? Anybody?

The more stuff we put on ours the less “trim” is looks. Just saying…

4) Nexus. Readers of my drivel are aware of my fitness tracker…ahem…problem. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried and eventually abandoned no fewer than a dozen of the so-called “wearables” in my quest to record some actionable measurement of my exercise. I’ve been through simple steps trackers (not useful at all in my not humble at all opinion), HR monitors (reasonably useful as a marker of relative intensity), and instruments that measure HR variability (likely a useful measurement of both “stress” and recovery). (As an aside, measuring PO2 is pretty cool, but probably only useful if you are exercising at altitude.) While they all represent pretty cool tech, not a one of them is really useful when it comes to measuring the things that I think are meaningful when we discuss real fitness: work and power.

And not for nothing, none of them is anywhere near as much fun as my first ever tracker, the late and (at least for me) much lamented Nike Fuel Band.

But I think I’m onto something real. Big-time sports programs of all sorts have found it valuable to measure power and acceleration, and a company called “Push” has been supplying an instrument that can measure both. A couple of years ago folks in the fitness world started asking them if their tracker could be used to measure work done during a something like a WOD. After 2 years of fine-tuning the movement acquisition capabilities of their tracker and the sophistication of their algorithms I think we may finally have a gadget that measures your workout. I┬áhad great hopes for the Biostrap but gave up after finding it nearly impossible for it to recognize movements. The Nexus package of tracker and app are worth exploring.

Once again I am drawn back…

5) Three. Number of funerals we had this weekend. We were one wedding short of some kind of anti-RomCom (neither Andie Mcdowell nor Hugh Grant made an appearance). A beloved coach, a beloved peer, and a beloved mother (in-law) were all memorialized. We could only attend one, but I’ve been in touch with friends who made it to the others. All three were similar in that everyone seems to have taken my friend Bill the Surgeon’s advice and made their peace with the departed. This left us all with only our memories of the love we shared with our coach, our friend, and Beth’s Mom.

I’ve written this before, but on such a weekend it bears repeating. One should say 4 things often and with ease, not only in the course of completing a life’s work or concluding a life’s relationships, but in the course of living a life:
Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

Sounds simple, huh? Maybe even a little trite, but none these is easy to say. Each one of those little phrases is a bit of a minefield, laden with a hidden meaning and a back story, each one the mid-point in a little journey with a “before” you know, and an after you can’t predict. There’s a little risk in that “after”, and that’s why those 4 little phrases aren’t really all that simple. Why considering this is not at all trivial. All 4 or those little phrases make you look outward, look at another, and in so looking they force you to put yourself at the mercy of that other.

With so many farewells I’ve spent a lot of this weekend thinking about those 4 essential things and about how they fit into a life. We are, each of us, part of a tiny little ecosystem; thinking about using these phrases encourages us to look outward and see the others in our own worlds. Saying them let’s us follow the guidance of Bill, shared most recently and succinctly in a note last week: “Say it now, for we know not when.” It was heartwarming to hear our friends and family so openly expressing not only their love for the three cherished ones we’d lost, but also to and for each other.

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

It’s been a long couple of years and I’m ready to stop thinking about death and dying for a while.

I’ll see you next week…


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