A Penny or a Million Dollars?

So far this year, I’ve given a ton of talks around the country and without fail, the same thing happens.

I reach a certain point in my presentation, and it’s like I pushed a button:

“Is this a trick question?”

It always make me think of Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day” Same scenario, same question…

I want to see if you think the same thing but before I give you the details, first, a quick recap…

The other day, I told you how a piece of pizza pushed me over the edge and forced me to hit my “rock bottom.” Well, to be fair, it wasn’t the pizza’s fault, it was a combination of a lot things.

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(If you missed that post, you can read it here.)

First, I was stressed all the time, disconnected from my family, and working wayyyy too much.

Then, the company I had co-founded was floundering (does that mean I was a co-FLOUNDER?).

Next, my little three-year-old daughter basically decided she needed to raise herself because apparently I was incapable of making her a priority over my work.

And then…actually that’s enough for now. I could go on and on but let me just sum it up like this:

My life was way out of whack. (<– understatement of the year!)

Identify the 20 most influential people in your existing network

(most likely to whip out their phone and send the intro of your dreams)

Here’s what it looked (and felt) like:

Work Life No Balance at All

The reason? I had completely lost sight of WHY I was on this never-ending “hamster wheel”.

As a result, I kept overworking, overstressing, overcommitting…and on and on it went.

It sucked. Until it all went off the rails and I got that “wake-up call” in my kitchen.

Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation — you know you’re not on the “right path”…
> because it just feels so exhausting and overwhelming…
>> but you can’t push the “pause” button long enough to re-evaluate
>>> so you just keep doing what’s “comfortable” (even though it’s really not!)
>>>> because you’re scared to stop for fear of what might happen if you slow down even one little bit.

Right? Yup. Been there, done that. For way too long.

Before we go any further, let me ask you a question:

If you wanted to build a new house (assuming you know what to do with a power saw and nail gun…), would you start cutting lumber and pouring cement without:

  • Having a blueprint?
  • Ordering the proper supplies?
  • Putting together a game plan of what needed to be done in which sequence?
  • Knowing your budget?
  • Figuring out if the land you were building on could support the structure?

…and about a dozen other factors?

Of course not!

Yet this is what we do with our time, our priorities, and our to-do list! We don’t figure out WHAT we’re trying to accomplish and WHY before we jump in and start before we have a clear plan.

(If you’re sinking down in your desk chair right now and thinking, “Ummm… yeah…” don’t worry! We’ll address that in just a minute.)

The other day, I gave you some “homework”:

  1. Leave a comment on this post (or email me directly)
  2. Finish this sentence -> If I had two “free” hours each day I would… Write down whatever came to your mind first (don’t judge, don’t worry, just write)
  3. That’s it! (There is no step three 🙂

I got a ton of responses & comments and read through every single one.

And, to be honest it was a bit of an “emotional roller-coaster ride” for me because…well let me just share a few of them with you and you’ll see what I mean:

coffee-son body-25

fun-and-plan business side-biz


See what I mean? It was tough for me to read these because I could identify and relate to every single one!

NOTE: If you didn’t do your homework, here’s your “late pass”. But I want you to take a minute and do it NOW! Even if it’s just writing it down for you. The class will wait. 🙂

Okay, since we’re all on the same page…

Now you know WHY (it’s where you’d be spending that “spare” time):

  • “Spend more time with my kids”
  • “I would work on developing an online presence to solidify myself as an expert in my industry. I would also try to figure out how to make some side income.”
  • “I would relax, meditate and dance.”
  • “I’d take a nap on the couch, do a craft project with my daughter (or play baby dolls), play a game with my son.”
  • “I would work on getting my chaotic house cleaned up & in order.”
  • “Sleep. Read that stack of books next to my bed. Watch TV guilt- free. Go on a date with my wife. Get to the doctor for my nagging injuries.”
  • “I would spend it on two things 1. On improving myself by reading, exercising, meditating more and 2. Spending time with my friends/ girlfriend.”
  • “Focus on creating a great sales funnel for my company”
  • “Paddle board more and 2 more hours would be spent on planning on focused work and personal time.”
  • “I would devote an hour to finish my book, 30 minutes to produce content/articles as paid work & 30 minutes to spend one on one time with my girls”
  • “I’d spend one of them with my kids, and one of them SLEEPING!”
  • “Spend more time with my wife and with close friends to re-strengthen once strong relationships.”

So now that you have a purpose… the next question is HOW???

How can I get this “free” time each day?!

Confession time…

Want to know what I used to think the answer was? One of these:

  • Make BIG sweeping changes! (this usually worked…for about three days)
  • Completely switch-up the way you work AND radically adopt complicated productivity systems overnight (this always worked…for about 45 minutes)
  • Get inspired. Get motivated! And try to really improve your willpower! (this one worked perfectly…until someone cut me off in traffic or I went on vacation or I woke up late or… you get the point)

And you know how well these worked out for me, right? 😛

Actually, one of the best pieces of advice I ever got about time management came from a financial wizard…and this is where that “trick question” came from.

Ready for it? Here you go.

What would you take:

  • $1 Million in cash right now
  • 1 penny that doubled in value every day, for 30 days?

Got your answer? Ok, let’s break it down…

If you chose the cash up front, you’re not alone…

Most people would take the million because it seems SOOOOO much more than a little tiny penny, right?

And for the first 27 days, you’re looking pretty smart because you’d have that cash while the penny would only be worth about ⅔ of that.


But on day 28, everything changes and by day 30…

This is the tipping point where all those pennies add up and make the guy who opted for the upfront cash look like a real doofus:


That’s NOT a typo. On day 30, that lousy penny that you probably wouldn’t even go out of your way to stop and pick up if you saw it in the middle of the sidewalk is now worth over$10 MILLION DOLLARS!


Through the power of compounding interest…or for our purposes “incremental improvements!”

So what does this have to do with time management and helping you get “extra” time each day?

If you want to free up two hours each day, you have to start small. Here’s what I mean…

> Can you free up 1 minute of time today?

>> What about 2 minutes the next day?

>>> And then 4 minutes the day after that?

I think you know where I’m going with this…

You don’t have to make big scary changes in order to get massive results. Or as John Wooden, one of the most successful basketball coaches of all time, put it:

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement, one day at a time, as the only way it happens. When it happens, it lasts.”

Once I really absorbed this fact, my approach to time as a limited resource really changed. And I realized some of the big mistakes I’d been making.

The 3 Big Mistakes

Mistake #1: Going for the “Big Drastic Shift” instead of small, consistent improvements.

Mistake #2: Radically upending the way I approached my day, thinking the more “complex” (i.e. complicated!) the system, the more it would help (when the opposite is true).

Mistake #3: Trying to barrel through obstacles by way of sheer willpower and figuring that if it didn’t work, I just wasn’t “good enough,” (instead of finding ways to make change that didn’t depend on how much sleep I got the night before or what phase the moon was in).

Like a lot of people, I thought I just had to figure out the big stuff and the little stuff doesn’t matter.

But it’s actually the opposite…

When you figure out the little stuff (minutes), the big stuff (months and years) takes care of itself.

Just like the million dollar example…once you have the right strategy with the “pennies”, you just keep moving forward, day by day, and magic happens.

In a couple of days, I’m going to tell you my secret to reaching the time equivalent of that $10 Million I talked about earlier. If you’re ready to become a “productivity millionaire,” be on the lookout for that blog post.

Ready for today’s super simple “assignment”?

#1: What’s one way you can save (or free up) 1 MINUTE of time today? Just one, little tiny block of 60 seconds.

(It can be silly, realistic, creative, mundane… but it has to be something you could REALLY do to save/free up 60 seconds TODAY.)

#2: Remember the power of compounding? Now that you know how to save one minute today, how can you free up 2 MINUTES tomorrow?

(Yes, you can break it apart into two chunks if you have to! 🙂

#3. Leave a comment below and share your answers to #1 and #2!

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