Time Is All You Have
To paraphrase a few things I heard on a podcast this week: time is all that you have; nobody knows how much time they'll get; and divided attention disappoints everyone involved.
This is a really hard lesson for me. I struggle with having too much ambition. When I start to enjoy consuming something, I start to want to become a producer.
I have discussed the idea of starting a podcast with more than one friend. I have dabbled in making and posting videos to youtube and occasionally lust at the idea of being a youtube personality in one niche or another (for me, it's usually woodworking or skydiving videos...), and I am constantly flirting with the idea of making some money from my woodworking hobby, but haven't yet.
That's just the first three things that come to mind. I've flirted with streaming video games on twitch (with the thought of involving my kids in that), and considered buying or building a sawmill and producing & selling lumber. I'm sure my HOA will frown on the noise, "eyesore" (even if I think it's beautiful), and other aspects of me having a big sawmill in my back yard. Some ideas are easier to let go than others. Chances of me having a sawmill in my yard are dangerously close to zero, which makes it hurt less to think of it as not even an option. (Maybe after I retire, if we move somewhere a little more rural?)
On the other hand, if I were to put some effort into it, I'm sure that I could make some money selling furniture or cutting boards or something; or I could build an audience for a podcast or videos. The ideas that could actually work are harder to let go.
This is not new: When I was a teenager I wanted to be a pro skateboarder (because I loved watching the x-games) even though I couldn't ollie to save my life; I wanted to play the guitar and piano (who doesn't at some point?) because I listen to a ton of music and often find it very meaningful. All my life I've had to fight the urge to pick up more hobbies. More to the point, I've occasionally chosen to actively quit some hobbies so that I could dedicate more time to others. At some point I decided that I no longer wanted to dedicate the time to practicing the guitar so I sold all of my guitars and amps and gave up the dream of becoming a rock star. It was hard to do, but once the artifacts were gone I felt a great sense of relief.
When you're young, time is abundant and money is hard to come by. As you get older, free time becomes more and more scarce and hopefully money becomes a little bit more attainable. I would go to great lengths today to get the free time I had when I was 16, and I'm sure that 16 year old me would have gone to great lengths to have access to the discretionary money I have available now.
Not at all to disparage them, but I'm sure that moving into the chapter of my life where I started a family of my own was a big inflection point on that spectrum. Having a spouse and children is a big commitment of time, and further to the original point: the kids are only going to be around for so long before they go off into the next chapter of their own lives which will involve me less. That limited window increases the importance of getting enough quantity and quality time with them.
Time is all that you have.
You can spend it gaining money, ostensibly to increase the quality of the (now reduced) amount of time that you have with family and friends. You can spend it going to the gym to improve your health and hopefully extend your life. You can learn to solve a variety of shapes and sizes of "twisting puzzles" (rubik's cubes). There are effectively an infinite number of things you could do with it; but in the end, everything comes back to time.
Be deliberate about how you spend it. Take inventory every once in a while and really ask yourself if each interest is worth the time that you're investing into it.