How Much Is Your Time Worth?

It's fair to say that everyone who works wants to get paid.

In times like these, as our economy staggers out of the gray uncertainty of recession we probably spend a lot time thinking about money and how much of it we should be getting. How much in wages we earn for our time and expertise. How much free time we get to enjoy the money we make. How much more money we could have if we just had more time, or used it better. How much more time we would have if we just had more money, or used it better.

Assigning a money-value to our time is a necessary evil sometimes: we need to know how much we should be earning in order to sustain ourselves and to provide basic life necessities and comforts. But at the same time, defining our personal value in terms of dollars-per-hour is a deceptively slippery path to defining our self worth by how much money we can make in a day. When we work for a wage we exchange a portion of our life for the resources that will help us experience more of it (life, that is). Work gives us food and shelter and status but is the money we receive for our work really where we should be getting our satisfaction and self worth from?

Consider the adage: "Time, Money, or People: if you want to get something done you need two of the three." A clever turn of phrase to remind entrepreneurs that they need to have resources if they want to accomplish their goals. But what about Inspiration? In the equation of Time + Money + People where is the motivation? Are these the only reasons that anyone would accomplish anything?

For independent filmmakers there is never enough Money. There is never enough Time. And there are never enough People. There are no guarantees of Status or Success and there is an obscene amount of Work that needs to be done. So how do independent films get made?  I was lamenting this lack of resources to a friend who is an industry veteran and who has a great deal more experience than I do.

"You learn to gain other currency. Creative Currency, Inspiration Currency, Celebrity Currency, Communication Currency; you use them to get the things you don't have the money to buy."

The bottom line is that although we all find ourselves working to earn money what we are really trying to earn is a sense of self-worth. We occasionally find ourselves drawn to projects like producing an independent film in which we earn the right to define ourselves as a filmmaker instead of earning a profit. Professional actors pursue an opportunity to communicate to an audience- occasionally at the expense of eating. (Starving Artist, anyone?) Directors and crew members will pursue creative projects that let them explore their art form and, dare we mention it: have fun. Even ordinary folks want to have their brush with celebrity- to say they met/shook hands with/rubbed elbows with someone they admire.

The point that I want to make is this: the need and desire for money is never going to go away, but not everything of value can be assigned a price. As an Artist (or filmmaker, musician, athlete, computer tech, astrophysicist, neurologist, ethnobotanist- whatever you are) you will always save your best work for yourself because no amount of money ever seems to be enough to be worth exchanging it for. If we as human beings want to bring out the best in one another- for any project- we must first realize that it cannot be bought with money and secondly discover that we may still have the currency that we need at our disposal.

In the end, time may be money, but value comes from the things we invest our time in, not the things we spend our money on.

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