Money doesn’t buy happiness. It buys time.
That’s what we’re all chasing whether we realize it not. Author Shane Parrish sums it up perfectly.
We want a clean schedule. We want other people to do the things we don’t want to do. We want to spend money to buy time.
I don’t care if you post a picture of a new Lambo, or you own $1 million of cryptocurrency, or can afford a luxury holiday. The biggest form of accomplishment is having control of your calendar, without answering to anybody about what you’ll be doing today.
“You will never be wealthy as long as you are spending time to create money”
Wealth is best expressed by spending money to create time — Shane Parrish
I spent most of my career trading time for money. If I didn’t earn money then I couldn’t pay bills.
Early in my career I was afraid to take a sick day. I only got ten per year. That may seem like a lot, but it’s nothing if you suffer from a dark mental illness that causes you to vomit all the time out of fear.
What changed is I stopped spending money on collecting more possessions and started spending money to buy back my time.
Practically this involved investing in financial assets, learning new skills from online courses, and going to live events where I could learn and meet people smarter than me.
The results took a few years to manifest. Eventually I managed to work less and go down to a 4-day workweek. After 7 years I was able to 100% own my time and not work a traditional job anymore.
The work isn’t finished though. I still have an online business that takes up time every day. My next goal is to use money to employ people to do some of the daily tasks I do. What’s bizarre about my approach is I have no interest in running a business again with over 100 employees. I’m happy with 1-2 people helping me and that’s it.
A big business seems like a good idea.
If you love owning your time it’s a bad idea. Businesses suck away your time. I prefer to use my time to express my creativity through art, as opposed to seeing dollars hit a bank account.
Know what category you’re in. Do you like the status of business owner, a free calendar, or lots of money? Secretly, the answer is probably time if you think long and hard enough about it.
I used to be impressed by people with fancy houses, cars, and degrees.
Now I’m impressed by people with passive income, quality networks, and complete control over their calendar — Brian Feroldi
How to Own More of Your Time
Let’s go through some practical steps you can implement today.
Start smaller than you think
The ideas that lead to the money that will help you buy back your time can be problematic to implement. For example if I said start a Substack newsletter and build it to 6-figures, it might sound like a great idea. But where the heck do you get started?
When you think of a passive income idea the key is to make it small in your mind. It’s to start small. If your decision is to start a paid newsletter then start with the name of your publication first. It’s an action so tiny you can’t mess it up. Then do the next small step.
When you move from small step to small step it’s much harder to become overwhelmed. Whereas if you start with enormous goals, you will overwhelm yourself and procrastinate.
10,000 bets, not 10,000 hours
Entrepreneur Daniel Vassallo taught me this one. Working hard at one goal can be stupid. When you’re figuring out how to buy your time back it requires plenty of trial and error.
You could work hard at a goal, but it might be the wrong goal. Don’t get romantic about it. I began writing startup press releases for grandpas. Now I run an online academy.
How you start this journey is not how it will end.
Don’t be available for everyone
People steal our time. Some do it on purpose for their gain, and others don’t. Be available to the people you must. Be unavailable for strange requests of your time that don’t make sense based on your goal to become time wealthy.
Work on it in the morning
If you go to a job and then come home to work on your side hustle, you’ll most likely be too drained to do the creative work.
Mornings are best for productivity. Laborits Law states that you should do your biggest or most mentally difficult task first.
Do you love it?
I hear from people all the time who want to buy their time back. They struggle. I dig deeper. The most common reason is they choose goals that they don’t love.
A goal you love is easier to execute on every day than a goal you’re simply doing to earn money to own your time. The journey to time freedom is actually better than when you arrive at your goal.
The bizarre problem that makes buying back your time difficult
The more you spike your dopamine the more depleted the pool of dopamine your system can release becomes.
The more depleted your dopamine, the lower your baseline state of motivation becomes. Basically, if you try to keep spiking your dopamine you’ll just feel worse and worse — Dan Shipper
I’m guilty of being a dopamine spiker.
Too much social media. Too many afternoon gelatos I didn’t earn. Too many spine-tingling movies at home.
Our lives are full of dopamine. If your dopamine levels are always high then doing normal work that helps you eventually own your time again will be extremely hard. You’ll keep accidentally chasing dopamine highs instead of the natural dopamine release you get when you work on a goal.
Be aware of what spikes your dopamine.
Make these tasks less frequent and schedule them after you’ve done the real deep work that makes you time wealthy.
The desire to get rich and buy a Lamb is stupid. What we chase deep down is a meaning for our lives and the time to do whatever we want.
Experiment with goals that can one day make you enough money to own your time. Remember that if you lower what you need to own and spend money on, you can get there faster.
Lastly, many people who have time freedom don’t have millions of dollars in the bank. They simply changed their relationship to money, and therefore, how much they need to own their time.