“… it’s what we want most, but what we use worst.”

My mom and dad ran a family business together (something they warned me repeatedly never to do). Mom worked in the office while dad spent most of his day outside. He’d either be in his car driving or stuck in jams, and when he wasn’t in his car, he was either meeting with prospects or supervising/managing his contractors at work sites.

He spent most of his day in his car. He had spare clothes in his trunk — shirts, ties, pants; he liked showing off his latest gadgets, like a water bottle he used to keep his drinking water cool in the hot tropical weather. He kept a container of fruits by his center console. It was his mobile home-office. There were non-slip mats on his dashboard and trays affixed to the windshield where his notepads and pens sat. He encouraged me to carry a notebook with me always. Earl Nightingale said, “Ideas are like slippery fish. If you don’t spear them with a pencil, they will get away.”

He often had stories for me from his daily adventures, and he liked to test my wit by telling them in the form of puzzles. Here’s an example of one of them:

What would you do if this happened to you? †

One day, my dad accidentally drove his car into an uncovered ditch (while making a 3-point turn). The car hung over the ditch, and no matter how he turned the steering wheel or revved the engine, the front wheels spun freely in the air — the car was beached like a whale.

So I asked him, “Did you call for a tow truck?” He replied, “Didn’t need to. I had places to go and people to see. I didn’t have time to wait for a tow truck.”

A puzzle! That got my little smarty-pants mind racing. The car was too heavy for one man to move alone. I learned about levers at school. Maybe he used a big lever somehow. No… that wouldn’t work. Could he have towed himself out? The car had no winch. I remembered learning about pulleys at school. Maybe he rigged together a pulley to pull the car out with his bare hands.

He shot down all my answers, “Nope. Nope. Nope. Do you give up?” He boasted that he only used the tools he had in the trunk of his car… and that he was out in a few minutes, without breaking a sweat. “Without breaking a sweat?” Now I was starting to disbelieve him. After all, he liked to play jokes on us and this started to sound like one of them.

While I remember these fun puzzles today, I also remember how soul-sapping it was for my dad. He fought the grind with mind-over-matter determination and positive thinking. He did this every day for decades, long after he got sick of doing it. When I got my driver’s license, he enjoyed the simple pleasure of having me drive him around, since he spent so much time at the wheel for work.

It wasn’t until later that I realized the limitation of my dad’s approach. It chained him to the car every day. If he didn’t get out there and meet people (and play the numbers game), the business would fold and die. He was responsible for getting new clients in person, one at a time.

The trouble with that is that there is only so much time in a day. He went downtown a lot, which meant wasting lots of time in painful stop-and-go traffic. It also took time to get from one place to another. There were only so many people he could meet a day. And this was manual labor; cold prospecting — not very different from the soul-crushing drudgery of door-to-door sales. I respect him for sticking with it to provide a comfortable life and opportunities for us, but I wish he knew what I know now, because there’s a better way.

It’s important to respect our most valuable resource… the ultimate equalizer: Time. It is blind to race, language, status, wealth or health. Success or failure depends on how craftily we use time, and even how well we cheat it. Yes, cheat.

My dad showed me the importance of discipline and a bulletproof work ethic. But what I learned was that you will never be free (and continue to be enslaved by your business) until you discover how to multiply your time.

E.g., instead of meeting people 1-to-1, you can meet people 1-to-many (with group presentations, workshops, seminars, webinars, etc). Instead of conducting 100% of the sale in person, automate as much of it as possible (by investing in direct-response advertising and marketing systems to sift and sort prospects, such that you only have to spend your valuable time on pre-motivated, pre-qualified and pre-interested people.) Instead of delivering a presentation in person, you can capture the presentation in video, print or audio, for distribution online or offline. Instead of communicating to people individually, you can broadcast (Email, auto-responders, blog, social media, etc.)

Listen — I have bad news for you. You’re dying. You only have 24 hours each day — and while you may delay, time will not. If you are a parent, remember that you only have 940 Saturdays between the day your child is born and when he/she turns 18.

Your time is the most valuable resource in your life. And it is not renewable. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

So focus on what’s most important, and spend less time on the unimportant.

Focus on the 20% of your business that brings in 80% of your revenue. Create systems that require a one-time investment of your resources, but can be used and reused with minimal extra cost, indefinitely.

Everything you do should be a building block, not a sand castle.

Next: amplify yourself

(† The solution to his puzzle involves a car jack and a piece of wood. See awesome visual here.)