GET A CLUE
I don’t know when it happened, but the rules for getting ahead have changed and nobody got the memo. We plugged into a belief system that promised our hard work would enable us to pay our bills, send our kids to college, enjoy retirement, and live a balanced life with time for our family and friends. How’s that working so far?
We’ve had to run faster and faster just to stay in place. Job security is an oxymoron. Rising expenses and high debt levels weigh us down. Taxes and inflation take a huge bite out of our ability to save for our future. Our solution? Cram more into our already overscheduled calendars without determining how or if these commitments and responsibilities are getting us closer to our ideal life.
This solution is clearly not working. We’re overextended and overstressed. We aren’t any closer to achieving our goals because we have been chipping away at the one thing that can give us more meaning and income—the other 8 hours.
But before you can use the other 8 hours to close your gaps and achieve your ideal life, you first must recognize the power of your free time. Here are a few things this section will teach you:
• Almost everything important you’ve ever experienced occurred during the other 8 hours.
• The time you sleep and work helps you survive, but the other 8 hours can help you thrive.
• The problems with the traditional approach to work, saving, and investing.
• Why it has become harder to get ahead.
• Why the other 8 hours is the answer to closing our gaps, improving financial security, and living a more meaningful life.
We spend the first quarter of our lives learning and growing, but then something happens and we stop investing in ourselves. This section is your wake-up call to the challenges we face if we don’t use the other 8 hours.
LIFE BEGINS AT 5:00 PM
The Other 8 Hours Determine
Your Happiness and Net Worth
Six years ago, Mark and Sarah were on a cruise ship touring the South Pacific when a violent tropical storm damaged the ship’s hull. Several passengers were knocked overboard and into the dark, churning waters nearly fifty feet below. Mark and Sarah were two of the passengers who plunged into the cold waters that night. They frantically grabbed pieces of debris and hung on tight—doing whatever they could to keep their head above water.
The next morning, Mark washed up onto a small and uninhabited island. Sarah washed up onto a neighboring island, also uninhabited, about two miles from Mark.
After the initial shock of the situation wore away, fear and anxiety overcame them. They knew that it would not be easy. They would have to work hard to build a shelter, pick fruits, locate fresh water, and fish for food. The first few days were scary and difficult, but they both managed to build makeshift shelters to protect them from the rain and sun. They found freshwater streams deeper into the islands and plenty of fruits and nuts. As the days turned into weeks, they even got good at trapping crabs and spearing fish.
In the late afternoons, Mark had some time to relax after a hard day’s work. He’d climb to his favorite bluff and watch the waves crash against rocks. As the sun set and the stars lit up the sky, he’d dream of galaxies far away and pray that he’d be rescued soon.
Sarah struggled to survive each day, too. Like Mark, her day began when the sun came up. Chopping wood, climbing trees for fruit, picking nuts and berries, fishing, and getting water kept her busy. At the end of her daily routine, she’d long to relax on the beach, but she knew she wanted more than just to survive. Sarah wanted to get off the island.
Each afternoon, Sarah spent a couple of additional hours gathering and storing wood. She tested nearly every type of vegetation on the island to see which produced the darkest and thickest smoke. She collected rocks of all sizes and used them to spell "H E L P" in gigantic letters on the beach in four areas around the island. Sarah also dug fire pits on the beach in several areas where she kept a large supply of dry wood and special vegetation.
Because it rained often, Sarah found it necessary to continuously replace wet wood and vegetation with dry supplies. Her rock signs around the island also needed care and attention. Not wanting to place her fate in the hands of a rescue team that might never come, Sarah started building a raft out of bamboo and vines—a little bit each day.
Of course, she’d relax as well. Her favorite time of day was sunset. Sarah would take a handful of nuts and berries she’d picked earlier in the day down to the beach and sit under her favorite palm tree. She’d daydream about her family and how wonderful a big piece of her mother’s special chocolate cake would taste. During these daydreams, she’d also spend a few minutes going over her rescue plan.
Day after day, without any fanfare or recognition, Mark and Sarah did what they needed to do to survive. After several noneventful weeks, that day finally came. Sarah was picking fruit near the beach and Mark was trapping crabs when they both—almost at the same time—saw a small plane in the distance.
Sarah jumped into action. She ran to the small fire and used it to light the large pile of wood. She dumped the vegetation on it and used her homemade tiki torch to light the other stacks of wood on fire. She then ran back to add more wood and vegetation to the fire. Huge plumes of smoke rose into the air and filled the sky above her island.
Meanwhile, Mark was frantic. He ran around trying to figure out what to do. He fumbled, trying to light a fire, and once he had one lit, he was disappointed that it produced very little visible smoke. He sprinted into the jungle and grabbed any kind of vegetation he could find to throw on the fire. Unfortunately, the vegetation he used quickly suffocated the fire and Mark wasted several precious minutes trying to light another one. Each time he threw new vegetation on the fire to create more smoke, the fire would die and he would waste time trying to restart it.
The plane turned and started heading toward the islands. As it got closer, Mark realized it was not flying toward him but was headed several miles off course. The plane circled Sarah’s island and touched down a hundred yards offshore. Two rescuers jumped out of the plane and started paddling toward her in a raft. As they got closer, she looked around her island one last time and dove into the ocean and swam toward the raft. Minutes later, Sarah was airborne. The pilot asked her if there were any other survivors and Sarah told them that she had been alone.
Desperate to get their attention, Mark resorted to running up and down the beach waving his arms in the air and screaming in desperation. As the plane flew out of sight, Mark realized that he had missed his chance.
Mark survived. He survived the fifty-foot plunge into the water, lived through the violent storm, made it to dry land, built a shelter, and found food and water. Sarah also survived. She did what was necessary to make it each day, but she had a bigger plan—she wanted a better life. She wanted to see her family again, to taste chocolate, and to read a love story. She wanted to hug her friends and hear the sounds of her church choir. She wanted to pet her dog, attend a play, and grow old with her husband. She needed to survive on the island, but she made the decision that surviving was just not enough.
Mark and Sarah’s lessons aren’t reserved for castaways on remote islands. Their story is played out every day around the globe—in small towns and in big cities, in diners and in corner offices, and for those working for minimum wage and those pursuing advanced degrees.
If you feel like you are stranded on an island of monotony, unpaid bills, and forgotten dreams, or if you find yourself daydreaming of a different life but have no idea how to achieve it, there is only one solution . . .
THE OTHER 8 HOURS
Your day doesn’t start when you crawl out of bed. Your day—and even your life—doesn’t really start until 5:00 PM. What you’ve done with your time after 5:00 PM last week, last month, and last year has determined where you are today. How you use the other 8 hours today, tomorrow, and next year will determine your future—they are your only hope to radically improve your life. The 8 hours you sleep are lost. The 8 hours you sell for a paycheck are gone. What you have—really, all you have—are the other 8 hours. Life not only happens in those the other 8 hours, but life is the other 8 hours.
Where you work, the size of your paycheck, the amount of debt you have, what you weigh, the number of people you can count on to help you in an emergency, your connection to God, the relationship you have with your spouse and children, and just about everything else that is meaningful to you is the result of how you’ve used the other 8 hours.
Look at each of the areas below to see the profound effect the other 8 hours has had:
Even if you met your partner/spouse at work (I did), you needed to put time and energy into your relationship after work if you wanted it to grow and mature. The dates you went on, long walks, and falling in love all occurred during the other 8 hours. Even the disagreements and arguments that make you the couple you are today occurred after 5:00 PM.
If you have children, surely their conception and maybe their birth occurred during the other 8 hours. All of the diapers you changed, Elmo you watched, and homework you’ve helped complete—all of the things you did to build connections with your children today—wouldn’t have happened if it were not for the other 8 hours.
The reason my daughter runs up and hugs me when I come home from work is because of the other 8 hours I’ve "invested" in her (then again, it’s probably the M&Ms I bribed her with).
The love your spouse and children feel toward you—and, yes, the abscence of love—are entirely the result of how you have spent the other 8 hours. The connection you feel toward your siblings and parents is based largely on what you’ve done during the other 8 hours. If you invested them wisely, you probably have some good relationships. If you didn’t, you probably don’t.
The nine-to-five working hours are a great time to meet people and develop friendships. I met most of my nonchildhood friends while working. It’s no surprise. We come into contact with more people for longer periods during working hours than we do at any other time of the day. But to convert your work relationships into real friendships, you have to spend some of your other 8 hours hanging out with and getting to know those people on a di?erent level. It’s one thing to chat around the water cooler about the latest American Idol contestant to be voted off or to relive Sunday’s big game in the lunchroom, but it’s an entirely different thing to share a drink or dinner with someone and really get to know him. Your close friends—regardless of where you met them—became your friends during the other 8 hours.
OTHER 8 EXPERT
Leo Babauta is one cool cat. He is the author of the best-selling book The Power of Less, and of the popular and enlightening Zen Habits blog (zenhabits.com). Here’s how he answered the question, What one thing should readers do with their other 8 hours that will have the greatest positive impact on their lives?
Pursue your passion. Find out what you’re most passionate about, and pursue it with everything you have. That might mean doing something with your children, or it might mean creating something brilliant or starting a new enterprise. It might take some experimenting to figure out what you love, but it’s worth the effort to find it. Once you’ve found that passion, really pour your soul into it. Clear away everything else to make space for this, and really focus on it until the world around you disappears. If possible, start to make money from it so that you can eventually quit your day job and make a living doing what you love.
The notch you use in your belt, how out of breath you feel after climbing a flight of stairs, and how comfortable you are in a bathing suit are almost entirely dependent on how you have used the other 8 hours. What you choose to eat for breakfast, dinner, desert, and snacks is usually determined during the other 8 hours. If you’ve chosen wisely, it shows. Do you exercise? If so, when? While you sleep? No. While you work? No. During the other 8 hours? Yup.
This category includes your hobbies, educational pursuits, travel, reading, art, and other activities that you find enriching and are passionate about. One of my hobbies is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and mixed martial arts. I’m not very good, but I enjoy it and I’m better than when I started. I also enjoy learning Spanish (even though those verbs confuse me). Another of my favorite pastimes? Reading. My clients wouldn’t appreciate it, and I wouldn’t be very successful if I spent my hours between nine and five practicing jujitsu, learning Spanish, and reading books. No, I can only do these things that I love and am passionate about—these things that help define me as a person—during the other 8 hours.
Your spirituality and faith should follow you wherever you go—during work and during the other 8 hours. But, unless your nine-to-five job is in ministry, chances are your spiritual growth and deepest connection to God occur during church/temple, small group meetings, Bible study, chanting, volunteering, meditation, or whatever.
Surely your financial health is the direct result of the hours between nine and five. It is during this time that you work and earn a paycheck. Your paycheck determines your financial health, right? Not so fast. Obviously your working hours play a significant role in your finances, but you might be surprised at the role the other 8 hours play in the size of your bank account.
Your financial health is determined by just two things . . . your income and your expenses. That’s it. No more, no less. Your income is based on what you do for a living and how well you do it. The best snow cone maker in the world may make a fine snow cone, but her choice of occupation limits her financial success. Likewise, a brain surgeon who botches every surgery isn’t going to be financially successful either.
What you do for a living is based on hundreds of factors . . . where you grew up, your intelligence, your parents’ encouragement, your personality, your interests, chance, etc. What you do for a living is also determined partly by whether or not you graduated from high school, spent the extra years getting an advanced degree, took online courses or night classes to earn an important industry designation; by how hard you studied, and your personal network of friends and acquaintances. It is these factors—those that you can control—that have a huge impact on what you do between the hours of nine and five. And guess what? All of these other factors are the direct result of how you have spent the other 8 hours.
So the other 8 hours have a huge impact on our income, but what about the other half of the financial health equation . . . our expenses? You guessed it. Your expenses are the result of the decisions you make during the other 8 hours. How much you choose to spend on rent, the type of car you drive, the clothes you buy, the entertainment you experience, and the toys you purchase aren’t decisions you usually make while you are working, and they definitely aren’t decisions you make while sleeping. Every single one of these spending decisions—and thousand of others, both big and small—occur during the other 8 hours.
Still aren’t convinced? I need you to buy into just how important the other 8 hours are. If you read this book with the same skepticism you have when you read those tabloid headlines in line at the grocery, it’s not going to work. Go ahead. Drink the Kool-Aid. Because once you do—once you realize the power the other 8 hours has had on your life—you will respect and appreciate the power that the other 8 hours can have on your life.
To prove just how important the other 8 hours have been in your life, take this quiz . . .
Directions: After each question, put a checkmark in the "sleeping" box if the event occurred while you were sleeping, a checkmark in the "working" box if it occurred while you were working, and a checkmark in the "other" box if the event occurred in the other 8 hours.
Excerpted from The Other 8 Hours by Robert Pagliarini.
Copyright © 2010 by Robert Pagliarini.
Published in January 2010 by St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.