What do you think of time and money, besides hoping for more of both?
Our relationship to the concepts of time and money are rooted in our childhoods. While many of us hope to accrue more of both, whether through efficiency or success, few of us stop to ask ourselves how we think about them, and why. Are you constantly hunting down the latest time management techniques? Chances are you’re thinking of time as a scarce resource, which can adversely affect your relationships. Or perhaps you’re hustling hard for that extra sale, hoping to save up in case there is a pending disaster. It’s time to think differently.
Dr. Sharon Spano has a Ph.D. in Human and Organizational systems. She's an author, business strategist, workforce expert, professional speaker, and former radio host of Work Smart Live. She empowers business leaders and entrepreneurs to maximize performance, improve employee engagement, and to increase bottom line results. Her new book is, The Pursuit of Time and Money: Step Into Radical Abundance and Discover the Secret to a Meaningful, Prosperous Life.
I recently interviewed Dr. Spano for the LEADx Podcast, where we talked about how to properly think of time and money. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: What's the big premise of the book?
Dr. Sharon Spano: There are several. But I would say that really what I'm trying to do, Kevin, is start a conversation because one of the things that I teach and believe is that with the first moment of awareness come the opportunity for change. And so when we're younger, many of us think our thoughts are fact and we don't have the awareness to realize that we create our own meaning. And when we shift meaning and adopt broader perspectives, that's where we grow and develop into higher levels of not only consciousness but performance and fulfillment and that whole meaningful experience of life that I'm alluding to.
So the premise is that I'm asking people to examine their early childhood stories because that's where we develop our earliest paradigms. And then I'm looking at it through the lens of adult development. That's what my field is. What we know from the research is that there are 12 stages of development, as we call them. And within those stages are 26 lines of development. You, for instance, might be at an earlier stage of development and maybe your lines are fairly significantly developed, maybe your emotional intelligence or your cognitive capacity, but maybe your moral is a little bit lower than it needs to be. Or, your interpersonal skills are lower than they need to be.
All of these things combined with personality, create what I like to call our ‘Meaning-making systems.’ That's really just the lens that we look at life through. If you think of it as kind of a mountaintop and there's 12 base camps on this whole mountain, you're going to have a broader, more experienced, robust experience of life or perception of life, I should say, if you're up on the summit on a clear day, imagine that, versus being at the base camp where you can only see basically what's around you in that immediate moment.
So, it's not quite a hierarchy in that way when we talk about development, but it's a good way to kind of get a visual. And yet, you can have a very robust experience of life, no matter what stage of development you're at. But my contention is that often because time and money—the book isn't really about management of time and money, again, so much as it is about examining your paradigms around it because those two resources impact us every day.
I mean, in a zillion ways we're making choices and decisions all day and some of them are at a subconscious level based on these stories and narratives that we carry, and the hidden dynamics within our family systems and even our work environment systems and all that.
It's really an opportunity to just explore where you are. In the book, we've got practices that I've developed to help people go deeper into those internal dialogues so that they can determine where they fall on the spectrum between scarcity and abundance. And if, in fact, there's any need for change or improvement in specific areas.
Kruse: What would be a new perspective on time that we should be striving for?
Spano: Well, that's a great question because, again, I'm not getting into time management so much. And first, let me back up and say that I'm looking at the two of them as very, very closely related because we flip it and we say time is money. But in reality, the two of them really impact us in the way that I alluded to earlier, in very direct and concrete as well as abstract ways.
When we're looking at time, it's perception. Many of us feel because of the influx of technology and all the amazing benefits of that, that we're being chased 24/7. But you'll find, for instance, in the assessment—I have a free assessment on the website called The Time/Money Inventory that we developed a couple of years ago. We've been gathering data on that. It's anonymous. I welcome your listeners to go on and take it.
One of the things that we are seeing that is really fascinating around the issue of time and/or money is that the scarcity is fairly, well, obvious, to me. I didn't expect any big news there. And the abundance is fairly obvious. What's exciting is the moderate scarcity and moderate abundance categories because they often look alike. By that I mean, often, the individual who's falling in the category of moderate scarcity is doing so for all the right reasons and because they believe themselves to be responsible.
In response to your question, for example, around time, it could be the individual who has so rigidly scheduled every moment of their work day that they're not able to handle things that come up unexpectedly.
They're not able to relax and enjoy recreational moments with the people they love in their lives. They're so focused, for instance, on planning for the far out future and then that's where the money comes in. I've seen this more times than I care to think about where the individual is so focused on saving for this unpredictable future that they're not even enjoying the trip along the way. Literally, I have someone here in Orlando where I live who would not take his children to Disney World when it's right here because he was “saving for retirement.”
And people always say to me, “Sharon, what do you mean by ‘scarcity?’” There's a lot to unpack there. But the simplest way to think about it is if I'm making fear-based decisions of any nature, it's often grounded in some form of scarcity thinking or perspectives that are limiting my capacity to move forward in ways that produce what I call ‘Radical abundance and prosperity.’
Kruse: I happen to have a ‘time scarcity’ mindset. We only have 1,440 minutes every day and we don’t get them back. Is this a limiting train of thought?
Spano: We are complex beings and nothing is ever hard and fast. That's why I'm saying let's just have the conversation and explore the questions because each of us will have a different answer depending on the circumstances in our life.
To your question, what I would say and what rises up for me as I listen to you, I would say just without even any further analysis or assessments, my guess is you're an entrepreneur who is what we call the ‘Achiever Stage.’ That's where a lot of entrepreneurs fall. In fact, the expert and achiever two stages, those are two different stages, is where 60% of the US workforce falls as we know it today based on the research.
So, often the achiever is going to be more conscious of all that they're doing and asking themselves, “Am I maximizing all of my resources to the best of my ability?” Because you have a lot on your plate. What I would say makes me think that it's more an abundant perspective than scarcity and, again, only you would know that, because to me you're coming from a place of stewardship. And so, you're looking at it through the eyes of, “These are the resources that I have and how can I use them wisely?” But what really triggers abundance for me is what you said about it's linked, that time is not, even though you're looking at it in a very concrete way, you're looking at it in conjunction with your values.
So in the book, when I get to the last chapter, which when I started I thought, “Boy, this is a big leap, Sharon, how are you going to make this leap?” But I'm really saying, “How do you use these resources and how do you use them to indicate to the people you love most and value most, whether it's employee or my wife and children, that they matter?” Because there are signals in terms of how we invest time and money to those around us as to where they fall in the pecking order, as you well know. I see that a lot in my business.
I've actually realized in myself, for instance, that I came from a divorce family and I often tell the story that my dad took us and dropped us off at my grandmother's and that was the end of his responsibility. My parents weren't around. And so, the message that I received as a child was, and I didn't even know it, actually, Kevin, until I wrote the book, was my parents didn't invest time or money in me. And so, then, how valuable am I? If you're not valuable to the two most important people in your world, how valuable are you? I had a lot of worthiness issues as a young woman that, fortunately, I met a great guy that was all about abundance and has invested time and money in me for a lot of years. And I was able to get past all of that worthiness stuff. But it can pop up.
Again those early childhood stories pop up for us whenever we move into a new venture or a new direction in life. So, it's there for me and I've very conscious of it and I see it a lot with my clients. As for you, it sounds to me like you, the ‘1440’ is a trigger to help remind yourself that, “I need to be a steward of my resources and make sure that I'm handling all of this in relation to what really, really matters to me to the best of my ability.” And to me, that is prosperity.
Kruse: In my 20s, I really pushed myself to the brink when it came to work. I was unhealthy, unhappy, and depressed. It was really in my 40s that I started understanding my issues.
Spano: See, that's the interruption that in my coaching and consulting practice—because I see it in corporate environments as well, from the top down—So that's the interruption that I want this work to be. For people to just stop long enough and really examine those practices.
And again, just as an aside, we put together a PDF that we're sending out when people buy the book to help them have something alongside the book itself. But we're saying, what are the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that you're having in specific contexts related to the book? So you can, as an individual, start to see. Because all of those things are telling us something about what's working or not working. When I talk about radical abundance then I'm saying life prosperity is a place to come from, not a place to get to.
That means that I have a meaningful life of joy and prosperity no matter what my circumstances are. There's a level of contentment that is not necessarily linked to all the toys that I have. There's nothing wrong with having those toys. But one of the things that I talk about is the flow of money because there is a reality that sometimes we have more than other times. I've really learned on my journey and my husband has really been the one that taught me that premise is, sometimes you invest in things and they're always there for you for a great period of time, and then we had the crash in '08.
And a lot of people had resources that kept them going through that. And some people didn't. But it's not always tied to the bank account or what your watch says. Because, again, the interesting thing to me about time and money is they're both concrete and abstract at the same time, which is what adds to the complexity of how we maneuver our way up through the use of them and the utilization of them each and every day.
Kruse: What are your thoughts on people raised in the 70s without all these luxuries we have today versus parents who spoil their kids now?
Spano: Again, I think it depends on the family system. But I was a helicopter parent. So I totally get that. I think we have overdone a lot of that. I see it with a lot of the younger families. But to me, it's more about the quality of time than even the quantity.
So, one of the things that I've been kind of on my pedestal about because I'm just noticing it so much now, and it's not to make anybody wrong but maybe just to have people ask themselves the question. I'll see parents out with their young children, maybe at breakfast, and maybe Dad has the kids for the weekend or whatever reason he's there by himself. And the whole time through breakfast, he's on his phone and the kids are just sitting there bored, kind of playing with their food. And I see this so much.
It's just kind of scary to me because to me meal time was always a time where we sat at the table and we had conversations. I was kind of Leave It To Beaver about that. That was the deal for our family. And I just feel like maybe we're missing something there. We're doing so many pictures of our kids and putting them on Facebook, but are we really spending time talking with them? Again, every family's different. I don't know that we can say which is right or wrong. You never really know until you see how they turned out. But just ask yourself the question, am I having meaningful moments? Am I creating memories with the people that I care about? Do I take the time in my business to listen to what my staff or employees are saying or am I just shouting tasks at them all day?
I had someone in a company I was in the other day, for instance, that said, “I've been here for three years and I'm on the same floor with the CEO and he's never said more than two words to me.”
It’s not a big office, that floor. I mean, it's a big company but she is right there. And that's kind of sad, I think, that the CEO could be buzzing through the office and not even cognizant of a young woman that really is a very significant leader in the organization.
But to your point, when we look at the stages that I alluded to earlier, expert versus achiever, there's huge differences between those stages. And one that I could offer you is the difference between efficiency, the expert will focus more on being efficient and being more task oriented by nature, which is great if you're a technician in a company. But I work with a lot of CEOs, for instance, who fall into that stage. And so, efficiency rules over the achiever mindset, which would focus more on effectiveness.
And so, those that end to fall into that stage of development, effectiveness for them often looks more relational and they're more about developing. I always say, “Leadership is about developing and influencing people.” And so, that's just an important component. And if I'm only task-oriented all the time, I'm going to miss the opportunity to have those relationships such that I create different results between me and the individual but even for the company overall. That's where people, I think, get disengaged and the moral starts dropping because they don't feel valued or they don't feel a part of the bigger picture.
Kruse: I always like to challenge our listeners to become 1% better every day. I'm hoping you'll challenge us.
Spano: One of the things that I do with my clients is I have them take two sheets of paper and write down, what do you believe about time? Just do a stream of consciousness writing and see what comes up. And what do you believe about money? And you might be surprised how that indicates a lot of paradigms that you maybe aren't aware of.
And then, of course, in the book we go a little bit deeper in terms of what were the childhood stories you heard. There's a lot of different practices, as I said, related to each of the chapters. But start with that and just do a page, or on your computer just type a page. What do you believe? Because that belief around those two constructs is, in some way, impacting how you lead and run your businesses and what you value.
Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, host of the popular LEADx Leadership Podcast, and the CEO/Founder of LEADx.org, which provides free world-class leadership training, professional development and career advice for anyone, anywhere.