What does it mean to truly live?

W. H. Davies


WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare? —

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Machines have changed the world. They have made life so much easier. Tasks that once took five people to complete, now takes one person? However, the invention of machines brought about a pendulum shift in the way we think about time. With the invention of machines, the routine of our daily work lives was forever transformed.

For years people have scheduled their time around machines. The time you slept, ate, or woke was scheduled around the machine. As long as the machine was running, industries expected employees to stay in tune with the machine for production. The problem is machines never sleep but humans too. Machines brought about an increase in the pace in our daily lives.

The funny thing is even though technology has evolved, we are still bound by these very thoughts. The time we wake, eat, sleep is still scheduled around production. Hence the inherent meaning of the saying, time is money. But should time really be just about making money? What is the point of life, if all we do is make money? Studies have shown that once we meet a certain threshold, making more money does not make us any happier. So, what does it mean to truly live?

What does it mean to truly live?

What motivates you? Is it bigger profits, higher revenues, more employees, etc.? If your business is only focused on bigger and higher then you will certainly hit the wall emotionally someday. This will happen even though you have a huge bank account. So, if bigger profits and higher revenue does not fulfill us then we spend so much time focused on these measures? You will think the more money you have, the more time you should have to enjoy life. But I have found this is not the case. People who are successful are driven to become even more successful. Thereby spending even more time working.

However, the real problem is not the hours we put in at work, but how much we give up to put in those work hours. In other words, what do we trade for money? We tend to see life in sequences. I cannot do B unless I do A. This is the foundation of our problems and this is why we have the work life balance debate. Sequencing forces us to put away the important for the urgent. One big example that comes to mind, is sequencing time with our loved ones after we have put in 12 hours at work. The problem is your loved ones get the least energetic part of you. Another example is waiting to start a family till your career is “successful”. The problem with sequencing is “life is short” and by the time A happens, B is too late. Your 5-year-old daughter will be 24 by the time you finally have the time or your ability to have children has greatly declined by the time your career takes off. Life consists of a series of event, a lot of which we cannot control. So, the idea we can control life by having perfectly sequenced life is absurd. So why do we do it? I think the reason is because everyone else does.

So back to my original question, what does it mean to truly live. To truly live, means to love. First, we love God and then we love man. This is the very essence of life. When we love, we feel deeply, we seek to push boundaries and we are not limited by the ordinary. We strive because we love. When we love, sequencing holds less significance because we are moved by something bigger than time or profits.

How does this apply to business?

You can choose to see your business as a set of systems whose primary goal is to make profits? Or, you could choose to see your business as a community of people working together to achieve a common meaningful goal. Meaningful in that families and society are better because your business exists. In other words, the lives of the people who work for you are better because of their association with you. And in turn they produce work that matters to society.

A very well sequenced business will aim for bigger profits by creating well oiled system that churns profits. However, this type of business lacks a soul. Bigger profits and higher revenues as a primary motivation is not sustainable. The business owner is sure to hit an emotional wall which begins the downward spiral of the business.

A business that operates because of love, cares about people as well as the vision. It attracts people who share the vision to change the world. People who work for this business learn to integrate life with work. And the love they feel at work is transferred to the home. In the short run, a business like this might look like a fool’s game but in the long run it reaps the most rewards.

In summary, tick tock says the clock. No one knows when they will hear the last tock. Why keep deferring the important for the urgent? Choose to live, laugh and most important of all is to love …