$20What would you be doing if you had to pay $20 an hour to do it?

In the early twentieth century, physicists devised a technique to test the new theories of relativity and quantum mechanics dealing with the very large and very small – places where you couldn’t actually go.  The technique was the Gedanken experiment – gedanken being the German word for thought.  In a gedanken experiment, you imagine a situation and then consider what would happen from a particular action – traveling at the speed of light and turning on a flashlight pointed straight ahead.  Would the light from the flashlight be going twice the speed of light?  (No, it wouldn’t.)

This technique has application far beyond esoteric physics.  I once shut down an argument by asking the question, “If I were to double the salary of every teacher at midnight tonight, what difference would it make in the classroom tomorrow?”  The point being that salary was not the only determinant of what happens in the class room but includes training, supplies, techniques, culture, etc.

Which leads me to the question I began this post with.  My dissertation professor once challenged me to consider my time as being worth $20 an hour and to ask myself if what I was doing was worth $20?  Today I have much more control over my time and what I do with it and I find myself sometimes spending my time on activities that are not particularly productive.

I’m not saying that every waking moment must be spent in productive labor – that’s a self-imposed slavery that robs the joy from what you are doing and destroys all enjoyment – don’t go there.  Rather, consider if you are getting the most of what you need from what you are doing.  For example, when you go to bed are you getting real sleep or tossing and turning over worries you can’t control?  When you spend time with loved ones are you focusing on your relationships or social media on your smart phone?

So, all this leads me to ask if you had to PAY for what you are doing, would you be doing it?

What would you be doing if you had to pay $20 an hour to do it?

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.