The KPIs of Life and Time

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Everyone including my wife often asks me why I eat so quickly during my meals. It is a habit that came about when I was studying in university. The truth of the matter is that I felt that there is so little time left for so much things out there which I want to do. As time goes by, I feel more reluctant to lose an ounce of time to anything mundane. To me, a meal is a mundane task that is time wasting. Unless i really want to enjoy a meal in a fine dining restaurant, I will hope that the time for mundane tasks wasted can be compensated elsewhere. Intrinsically, this little habit has implications to how I am driven to move forward and not back.

As human beings, our lives are limited to a short span of time compared to the age of our Universe. In the bigger scheme of things, we seemed insignificant. My personal philosophy in life is that we should move to achieve the milestones we set ourselves and not wasting time. It has dawned on me at an early age that I have a purpose in life and I should seek to attain that purpose. Of course, whenever I face a setback or failure, that lost time become more precious for me. The hardest part for that period of time is to cope with the impatient of wanting to make a comeback instead of taking a break. As I am coming close to my forties in two years time, everything you want to do also becomes harder but not impossible. Of course, I have learned and come to the realization that family life and children, even mundane as they are, are just important as achieving the milestones in my life.

In retrospect, I enjoyed learning about things a lot. Whenever I am on the road with the long hours required for travel, I find solace in reading books. For weekends, squeezing as little as an hour to do some programming, learn a new skill and reading a chapter of a book gave me solace. While to some, the processes seemed just as important as the milestones. I prefer to focus on the milestones because we are only measured by the outcomes which we set ourselves to reach. Unfortunately, in any environment, we are measured by the milestones we set for ourselves, from my own performance management in a company to my own personal goals for the future. Learning is an intrinsic thing which can never quantified as a milestone. Let me put it in a rather simple way, we can discuss our milestones in life by saying, “I made $X by the age of Y.”, “I have built product Z within P number of days.”, but I can’t say that “I have learned X today” and “I have read Y yesterday.”. No matter how much the processes of learning can be enjoyable, there are no quantifiable milestones or rewards for learning new things. It does not mean that we should not learn but rather, focusing on an outcome is more important than the processes that move towards that outcome.

That is the argument I have against people asking me to enjoy the processes and not just focus on the milestones. If there is no measurable milestone or outcome, it does not matter whether you enjoy the processes. One of my favourite principles in Physics is the least action principle, where a particle will take the shortest path to move from point A to B. It does not matter that there exist all other paths, but the only measurable quantity is the amount of effort to move from point A to B.

I often feel that I live everyday as if it is the last. The fear of not able to reach the milestones before my time is out made me cherish the time I have on Earth even more. Of course, I hope that I can find more time to enjoy what I do best.

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Bernard Leong

A Pragmatic Idealist