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If experience were the best teacher, then all of the “mature” people would be running the world. They would be the CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, have all the wealth, and hold all the most influential positions. Of course, that is not the case because “experience” is not the best teacher. Evaluated experience, on the other hand, may well be the best teacher. To put it another way, “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.” Einstein sure got this one right, and I have to admit it took me a while to figure it out.

For many years, I would approach each day the same. I would approach each day with optimism, a solid plan, and hard work. It worked pretty well, but it wasn’t propelling me into a life of significance. Hard work, attitude, and planning are essential. That is what many of us do, but rarely does it alone lead to the type of success we dream of as young adults. The thing is anyone worth their salt is doing the same thing hoping for results that require more.

It doesn’t take a lot to set yourself apart, but it does take more. For me, the change occurred when I started to view “time” differently. I noticed that the world was so busy being busy that our productivity was declining despite that fact that we were working harder than we ever have. Or are we? A recent New York Times article reported that the average American spends 30 – 50 hours watching TV each week. I didn’t dare to look at the additional time we spend wired to our computers and smartphones.

The one thing that every human on this planet has in common is the amount of time we have in a day. Why is it then that some people are more productive than others? After all the President, the Pope, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates have the same amount of time in a day that we all have. I have not met any of these folks, but I can’t imagine that they would respond “busy” if I asked them how they were doing. I suspect they are way busier than most of us. Do you think Bill Gates, the Pope or President watches 30 hours of TV per week?

In my leadership lessons, I encourage everyone to spend time each day reflecting. Many like the notion, but contend they don’t have the time. Most everyone I know has a daily to-do list and a process of planning for the day. In my opinion daily to-do lists are counterproductive. Leadership Guru, Stephen Covey, famous for his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, discussed the habit of “sharpen the saw.” Sharpening your saw is critical to your success. Think of the flight attendants instructions before take off. They ask you to put the mask on yourself before helping others with you. The act of reflection is a great way to sharpen your saw and gain evaluated experience.

Reflection is taking the time to think about what happened in your day and how you can do it better the next. This usually leads to recognizing barriers to your success and better prioritizing your activities. Fifteen minutes a day can impact your life significantly. By taking time away from “busy,” you can build your production capacity. Rest assured Gates, the Pope and Zuckerberg understand the value of reflection. It is their evaluated experience that has contributed to their success.

Time is the great equalizer. Time can not be bought, it can not be stored up for later use, it can not be traded, we all have the same 24 hours. Our time is finite, but our opportunities are not. In my leadership lessons, I often say “Success happens when preparation meets opportunity.” How are you using your time to prepare for opportunities?

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