the scrambled egg theory of productivity

scrambled eggs

Physics tell us that one of the laws of the universe is this:

You can’t unscramble an egg.

Think about it. It can’t be done. You can freeze liquid water, then heat it and turn it to gas and back to water, but you can’t unscramble an egg. It just won’t unscramble. Hit it with gamma rays, do whatever you want and it won’t unscramble.

scrambled eggs

The same principle applies to finance. If you spend an hour of your life earning $20, then you spend that $20 on a CD, it’s gone. Your life is gone. If you spend two hours getting a listing ready on eBay and you make a profit of $1.34 selling a CD, that time is gone, too. Was it worth that $1.34? Was the initial purchase of the CD worth $20?  That time is gone, and that egg can’t be unscrambled.  The money out – unless you spent it on something that will return to you like education, or an investment – is money gone.  In the cosmic sense, it has been scrambled.

Your time works the same way, too.  Every time you watch TV, for example, you lose a piece of your life. Whether it’s worth it or not is up to you.  I’ve seen many movies that inspired me, or made me laugh.  That might have been a good use of my time.  Everyone needs to relax and be entertained from time to time, but you do have to choose how to spend your life.  I know it may sound like an obsessive focus on money, but that is time you could have been working on your education, or coming up with money-saving ideas, or studying investments.  Watching an episode of Gilligan’s Island for the third time is not what Benjamin Franklin would have done.

Tony Robbins has a good bit about watching reruns of programs: he says we have two driving forces in our life, the desire for surprise and the desire for consistency, which are constantly at war. We want to watch a funny TV show for the second time because we know it’s funny; but we also hope something new will happen or we’ll see something we missed before. The chances of both of those desires being met decreases each time you see the same show in reruns. As he says, if you ever watch any TV show or movie more than once – get a life.  And trust me, I do this all the time. I have seen The Matrix and The Russia House so many times I can practically recite them – but I do know it’s time wasted.  This tendency to watch movies multiple times is one of the main reasons my family cut the cord.

So the next time you think about buying that CD or wasting time “making money” on eBay or seeing “that great episode where Gilligan breaks the Professor’s coconut-powered radio” just ask yourself if you really want to scramble that egg. Time is short, and it always – always – moves forward.

Creative Commons License photo credit: swanksalot