Sydney Zombie Walk 2011 | Photo by Oliver Damian
Sydney Zombie Walk 2011 | Photo by Oliver Damian

The price of time

By Oliver Damian

Roughly speaking, the price of something goes up as the demand for it exceeds supply and vice versa.

For example, oil has a low price around this time because its supply has increased due to large shale oil deposits recently found in the US. Aiming to put shale oil producers out of business, OPEC countries pumped up their production. This further increased supplyand depressed the price. Shale oil becomes uneconomic to produce if the barrel price of oil falls below a certain price point.

Diamond maintains its high prices because the few companies that control its production and distribution has kept the supply low in order to maintain the high price levels.

Price in situations where people are free to trade with each other becomes a way to measure the value of something.

If more people want something that is limited in supply, the price goes up. That thing becomes more valuable. The higher price signals the producers to make more of the things which could drive the price down. Thus, like how the push and pull of the earth, moon and sun creates the ever changing tides of the ocean, the push and pull of supply and demand creates the ever fluctuating prices in a free market.

Applying this to my life, I realised that the most valuable thing I have is time. I have an unlimited demand for time. There are oh so many things I could do if I had the time to do them all.

While my demand for time is unlimited, its supply is very much limited. Actually, the total quantity of time I'm supplied with is essentially unknown to me. I don't really know how much time I've got left. Sure, I can look up statistical tables of life expectancies but statistics is no match for accidents, mishaps, unexpected diseases and other vagaries of life that can suddenly curtail the supply of time at the drop of a hat.

So if the demand for time is unlimited and its supply limited, its price should skyrocket to the heavens. Yet many of us sell our precious time at a bargain. $21, $60, $100, $1,00 or may be even $10,000 per hour. Until time travel is invented, not even the richest person on earth could buy back a precious minute already spent. On his death bed, Charles Foster Kane would have gladly given up all of Xanadu to have more time with Rosebud.

If time is our most precious resource the our goal should be to design our lives in such a way that we could spend every precious moment doing things we love to do. Yet many of us suffer boring stressful jobs in the hope that one day we can retire and at last our “free time”. By then we might be too old or too sick to do what we really want to do. Retirement is not free time. It is low quality time bought at the high price of wasting our prime years to enrich abstract corporate memes the people ride this gravy train. As Nick Naylor said “99% of everything done in the world, good or bad is done to pay a mortgage.”

The idea is simple. Yet it took me half of my statistical lifetime to realise it enough, down to my bones that I finally pulled the trigger to do something about it. I thought I was smart but like most people I was conned by the herd mentality of normalised success. The voices that say “if you want to succeed, you should really do well in school, choose a course at university that will provide you with a good paying respectable job to build a stable career. I did economics then law at university even although my heart lay in the creative arts. I got a fab job at a kickass law firm. I enjoyed it for a while. There was joy in learning new things, meeting tough challenges, thriving under pressure and all the adrenaline rush of being a gun for hire. After 7 years, I hit a wall. My heart wasn't in it. I was going against the grain. Instead of building on and amplifying my strengths, I was continually confronting my weaknesses.

I've pulled the plug. I have rebooted my life. I jumped into the meandering darkness of the unknown. I am now swimming in the mess of emergent reality.