The Necessary Value of Unstructured Time
I want to dedicate a column to the next generation. For me, this means addressing Uncle Leo and Ellery, my youngest son and grandson respectively. May they have the space to explore in the vast treasures of childhood and lose a sense of time while playing. There seems to be an unconscious conspiracy against the people having free time to relax, create, and simply enjoy life.
The Downward Spiral of Always On.
Pressure is always on. I keep hearing this phrase with intense insistency at conference after conference: consumers want what they want when they want it. This phrase is always punctuated with a verbal exclamation point for anxiety-provoking emphasis. It is spoken with Gospel-like fervor: it’s truth.
My friends in Marketing say this is just how people are today. To meet demand for the culture that must have it now they work up to 70 hours a week. My friends in the Start-Up world tell me that is why they go to Accelerators, to quicken the pace. Faster is better it the mantra of the era.
The billboard outside of my hometown tells me that the large, upscale outlet mall will be open all night, from 8 PM on Thanksgiving evening until Black Friday is over. My clutter box and my email are glutted around the clock with temporary offers, special deals for a limited time. Deals only for those smart enough to Act Now!
Every brand, company, organization, and news outlet are competing for your time and attention. If the powers that be expect us to be always on, when do we recharge? When do we reset? When do build relationships? Enjoy life? Tap into an uninterrupted state of high-productive flow?
This onslaught that demands your time can highjack your inner life, your sense of freedom, and your most creative responses to the universe. Advice: don’t let it. Resist the entrancing and addictive uber-productive narrative. You’ll have a better life, do better work, and be a better friend, dancer, lover, team members, and human.
I grew up in a sleepy, agricultural, equestrian suburb of Memphis, TN. There was ample time to explore nature. To imagine other life forms. To live out epics from another culture, another time. A magical time. A different time: mythological time. A time that Cable TV, Smartphones, computers and AI may have hidden away forever.
Rediscover the Pace of Rea Life: Slowdown. Be Present.
Leo and Ellery, may you live your days with an element of quicksilver of inhabiting your life, knowing that you have the right, at any moment, to unplug and dive into the deep current of life that exists away from the siren’s call of the addicted Now culture.
This is my love-letter to the possibilities of your future and a lover’s quarrel with this age of systemic destruction and dehumanization of our culture. Flourishing means living well, taking time to get you know your muse, your purpose, and discovering what motivates you.
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Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.
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