MySay: No amount of money ever bought a second of time

This article first appeared in Forum, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on March 23, 2020 - March 29, 2020.
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How often do we find ourselves racing against the clock, feeling pressured to get things done and getting flustered whenever we cannot meet our work deadline?

We are always rushing off somewhere and our mind is fixated on the next thing to do and the next meeting to attend. It feels the same every day and although we feel we have accomplished much, in actual fact, we have not. We feel that we simply do not have enough time in a day. Our days ahead look just as hectic.

I felt that way from the day I started my career right up to when I was building my group of companies and taking them public. Working 16 hours a day was the norm. My work was not confined to specific hours. For as long as there was work to be done, I would get on it and still felt that there was not enough time. Often, I wished that there were 25 hours in a day so that I would have more time to do more things.

I am sure many share this feeling. There are just too many things to do in so little time. Whatever route we take in our life, whether in a familiar direction or into uncharted territory, we cannot escape giving our focus and spending time to get things done.

It was not until recently that I truly understood the concept of time. One day, I woke up quite early at around 5am. I did my tahajjud prayer, followed by recitations in remembrance of my Creator. Then I went to the surau to do my obligatory fajr prayer at dawn. Coming back from the surau, I felt that I wanted to read the Quran, which I did. When I finished reading, I did some work on my iPhone and iPad. Looking at the messages one by one, I was soon engrossed in matters that required my attention. My mind was as clear as glass, and I felt a sense of calmness that allowed me to focus on the essential, and give dedicated, uninterrupted time to the tasks that mattered.

What I achieved that early morning, I felt as if I had worked the whole day. I looked at my watch and saw that it was only 7.30am. I was not even rushing or chasing time but I had done so much in so little time.

When I reflect on that experience, I recall what my mother once told me: “Jangan lupa nikmat masa dan rezeki.” To my mind then, she was reminding me to not forget to appreciate the value of time and the pleasures of having rizq (godly provision or sustenance). At the time, I thought I had understood her. It was not until that fateful morning that I realised what she really meant by nikmat masa.

I learnt that day that if we do not use our time wisely, time will abandon us. If we use our time rightly, it will be kind to us. In a similar vein, if we are wealthy but we do not do justice to our wealth, it will abandon us. If we use it well, our wealth will come back to us manifold. If we are an entrepreneur, for instance, when we fully and fittingly utilise our time and wealth, both will respond kindly to our business. If we do not do justice to them, they will abandon us, too.

In relation to this, there is also the aspect of happiness. We have heard many stories of billionaires who are not necessarily happy people. So, how is it that people who do not have much can still be happy? It all boils down to the appreciation of using our time and our possessions to benefit many. The beneficial use of time is even more crucial as it is a perishable commodity, something that finishes quickly. Once it is finished — a day, an hour or even a second — it cannot be bought.

This reminds me of a scene from the movie, Avengers: Endgame. The short dialogue between hero Tony Stark and his father, Howard Stark, resonated with me. Tony, having travelled back in time and with the benefit of hindsight, poignantly advises his father, “No amount of money ever bought a second of time.” Priceless to those who understand.

Time is also relative to different individuals. Assuming we are in the same time zone, the watch on my wrist and the one you are wearing tell the exact same time as the clock on the wall. However, time to me and to you is not the same. It is subjective and depends on how we do justice to it. Some understand and accord the required respect to time and time feels aplenty to that person while some feel they are always short of time, although they are forever chasing it.

Ever wondered what life would be like if people did not have a clock to show the time? I believe that those days, people enjoyed the pleasures of time a lot more. This was because their minds were not conditioned by the hour. They just went on to do what had to be done regardless of the time.

Everyone has 24 hours per day but to one person that may feel very long while to another it may seem very short. It is also common to hear people saying nowadays how time is flying much faster than ever before. However, if we take a hard look at what we do in a day and break it down, we will find that not everything that we do is necessary.

Often, we waste a lot of time doing something that is truly not important, mostly via social media and the internet for hours on end. What is vital for us to complete often remains undone. This is when time abandons us. To avoid this, we must do justice to time. This is something for us to think about.

It does not matter whether we are young or old. The young may think that they have a lot of time and the potential to do more things in their lives, while the old may say that they have already done so much and it is now time for them to get more spiritual or religious.

Yet, we now see more people dying at a young age. Not everyone dies old. This again shows that time is indeed relative to the individual.

If we truly understand the concept of appreciating time and how it can abandon us, we will develop a behaviour that reflects a respect for, and better enjoyment of, time. Let us look at time from a different perspective. It is not only a very precious commodity but it is also our “capital” in this life. It can be likened to ice that melts on a sweltering hot day. The ice is the “capital” for an ice seller. He will make a loss if his capital melts in the heat. And we as ordinary people will lose in life if we let our capital (time) simply melt away. Our capital is time. Waste it and we will incur a terrible loss.

Another thing that we must be mindful of is that we must not rush when it comes to utilising time. Do everything in good time and to the best of your ability. We must believe that we will get what we work and ask for at a time that will be good for us. Good things do come to those who are patient.

Other than filling time with work and leisure, we can also fill it with good deeds, such as those that provide beneficial use of our time: prayer, charity, support for the needy, good ethics in business dealings and so forth.

Only then will our life justify the gift of time.

Datuk Azrin Mohd Noor is Sedania Group founder, an innovator, author and IP expert

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