During his graduation speech at Princeton University, Jeff Bezos explained how we should prioritize our time and work mentality. When we reflect on life while on our deathbeds, we’ll remember the choices we made over the accomplishments we earned.
This mentality contrasts with a common assumption many students accept. Whenever I hear the saying “enjoy the moment,” I groan inside. It sounds like a Hawaiian-themed bobblehead stranded in a thrift shop somewhere, or hasty advice called out on your wedding day.
This mantra’s greatest vice implies that working hard can’t be fulfilling. Heck, if the moment is what actually matters, why would anyone take a hard job or try something risky in pursuit of a bigger dream? Facing fears, confronting adversity, or acting out of our comfort zones couldn’t be valuable. And if we tried those things, other people who actually “enjoyed the moment” would have reason to scorn us.
During my time at college, I have confronted many difficulties and challenges that have helped me grow as a person. I’m not near graduation day yet, but what I have learned has been an incredible experience for the real world. Education is an investment that rewards hard work far into the future. If my experiences don’t meld with this mantra I’ve heard, what is the correct mentality to adapt?
I was blessed with an amazing conversation with a mentor this past weekend. We were talking about “college years” and if they really are the best time in life. She described her difficult journey through college and beyond, and it impacts how she treats time now. “Give every season in your life the best shot you have,” she said. “Work hard and be diligently faithful with what you are given. When the season is over, you can move to the next time in life without any regrets.”
This advice struck me to the core. Her focus shifted from finding value in fleeting emotions to a deeper purpose for existence. Just as college is an educational investment, we can shift from the “moment” and pour ourselves into purposeful reasoning. Every season, including high school, college, marriage, parenting, singleness, retirement, full-time work, or more won’t last forever, so worshipping its temporary value drives us mad with nostalgic thinking.
I think Jeff Bezos’ speech was aiming at this concept because it directly impacts our reactions in life situations, adapts an outward approach towards others, and doesn’t treat time as an infinite commodity. And the results are blessed. We develop an enduring stamina that can handle delayed gratification. If we use everything to fight the battles we encounter with every ounce of effort, then doubt or regret are abandoned. Change becomes bearable, and our minds are held accountable.
What can cause someone to work the hardest they can during an incredibly difficult season? If you feel like life is solely in your hands, the dreaded shadows of emptiness and worry will find a home in your heart. I believe each of us have a deeper calling, that there is an ordained reason for each of us on this earth. Receiving value, not achieving it, eradicates insecurity and imposes a foundational desire to live life fruitfully. Our value is invested in a priceless account that no physical circumstance can touch. Failing isn’t possible when our purpose is asking who we can help, not what we can gain.