Will You Choose Alive Time or Dead Time?
Not having control over our circumstances is frustrating, but it doesn’t mean we’re helpless
A few years ago, I was really stuck. I had accepted a one-year consulting contract that required me to commute from Austin to Los Angeles. It paid very well, but the gig was a disaster.
Everything was in chaos. No one could get anything done. We were at the complete mercy of a Wall Street hedge fund and a bunch of lawyers who were battling for control of the company.
I was frustrated. After I ran into a brick wall multiple times, it was like learned helplessness. What could I do? What was the point? I decided to just sit there and collect my checks while I waited for my contract to end.
Then I remembered a piece of advice I had gotten from the author Robert Greene many years earlier. He told me there are two types of time: alive time and dead time. One is when you sit around, when you wait until things happen to you. The other is when you are in control, when you make every second count, when you are learning and improving and growing.
Robert knows a lot about alive time and dead time. Although most people think of him as an incredibly productive and accomplished writer of amazing books, they don’t know about the 20 years he spent in obscurity, working something like 80 different jobs — most of which he hated—where he was at the mercy of horrible bosses.
As he said, “The worst thing in life you can have is a job that you hate, that you have no energy in, that you’re not creative with and you’re not thinking of the future. To me, might as well be dead.”
This does not mean you should quit your job immediately if you don’t love it. What Robert did during those years greatly influenced his writing. He wasn’t dead in those dead-end jobs; he was alive — researching, learning, studying, and observing the forces he would document in 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, Mastery, and The Laws of Human Nature.