Cheating Yourself in Your Spare Time

There’s a young man I know — someone I’m mentoring — who has great potential but no obvious advantages. He doesn’t have an impressive education, has no money to speak of, and has only one beneficial business connection — me.

He has good natural talents, a good mind, a good attitude, the willingness to work hard, and good values.

But he fills up his spare moments by surfing the Internet or engaging in similar amusements. There’s nothing terribly wrong with that, one could argue. He finishes the tasks he’s assigned. He works extra hours when asked. He doesn’t complain.

But for him — and his future — it’s a shame. Because each of those spare moments presents an opportunity for him to move himself forward. Each is a chance for him to learn something new, refine a skill, or make a new contact.

Whether he realizes it or not, he is competing against others who are about his age, have similar skills, and earn similar incomes. From the perspective of his employer and future employers, his value will grow or diminish relative to the rest of these people.

To the degree that he can exceed them, he will become more valuable and his income and his opportunities will expand. If he slips behind — and he surely will if he gives up too many of his spare moments to fooling around — he will gradually be thought of as just ordinary and, eventually, expendable.

We are all busy. We all have multiple responsibilities. But success is a result of your behavior. And the way you act when you have spare time is a crucial part of it.

Every 15 minutes invested in your future is a deposit that will grow and compound over time. It may not seem like a big deal now — whether you spend that time surfing the Internet or updating your Rolodex — but in the long run, it will make all the difference in the world.


[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]