The prize is, from this day forward, your bank account will be credited with $86,400, every morning, for the rest of your life. But, as with most contests,
there are certain rules that must
be followed:

Rule #1 — Whatever you do not spend each day will be forfeited.

Rule #2 — You may not transfer these funds into another account — they must be spent within 24 hours.

Rule #3 — Each morning when you roll out of bed, you will find another $86,400 in your account.

Rule #4 — The bank can end the game at any time and without warning. Game over.

Rule #5 — Once the game is over, the account is closed.

What is this crazy game? It’s life, of course. The $86,400 serves as a metaphor representing the 86,400 seconds in a day. So, tomorrow, as you are groping for the snooze button on your alarm clock, think of it as starting a stopwatch that will click away the seconds, accumulating into minutes and hours until you crawl back into bed for a good night’s rest.

Yesterday’s seconds-minutes-hours are gone and there’s no way to get them back. Tomorrow’s time allotment is not available because it has yet to be deposited into your account. For all practical purposes, we have little control over whether we will be granted another 86,400 seconds or when the account will be closed.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, the idea for this column did not originate with me. I “borrowed” it from a church bulletin, penned by Pastor Jim as a thought-provoking example for his parishioners to
ponder.

In the spirit of the recent holidays, I am re-gifting these thoughts for you to consider in the New Year’s 31,536,000 seconds. And, in case you aren’t aware of it, 2012 offers a bonus 86,400 seconds because it is a leap year. (Trivia note: the added day offsets the difference between the length of the solar year [365.2422 days] and the calendar year of 365 days. Thus, every fourth year is a leap year.)

The Gift of Time

Time is a valuable commodity. It often passes too quickly, but happily. Sometimes, however, time passes too slowly, sadly and painfully. The great thing about the gift of time — especially in the free world — is that we have considerable latitude in the ways we can spend it. And, optimistically, we hope our accounts will be replenished tomorrow, the next day, and the next.

While I’m borrowing good ideas, I’d like to share another that David Brooks offers on The Opinion Pages of The New York Times (Oct. 28, 2011), when he asks readers to share “the story of your life so far.” He frames the request around the thought that some of those stories could serve as “lessons for the rest of us.”  He asks readers, particularly those over 70, to jot down the things they did well, those they did not so well, and what lessons were learned along the way. It might help, he explains, to divide these life experiences into categories — career, family, faith, community, self-knowledge.

With great insight, Brooks continued: “These essays will be useful to the young. Young people are educated in many ways, but they are given relatively little help in understanding how a life develops, how careers and family evolve, what are the common mistakes and the common blessings of modern adulthood. These essays will help them benefit from your experiences.”

I’ve read several of the “Life Reports” posted at http://brooks.blogs.nytimes.com/. Most are, indeed, filled with valuable life lessons.

New Year’s Ritual

Many folks make New Year’s resolutions. I tend to avoid them. But Brooks’ story-of-your-life-so-far approach certainly has merit and requires sincere reflection. Maybe I’ll give it a shot.

If you are so inclined, and you are willing to share your life report as it pertains to your career in the pork industry, I’d love to have a look. And, no, you do not have to be 70 or older to share your story. Just focus on the landmark events, the critical decisions, the life-changing mentors and events that have guided your career, your life so far.

And with your permission, I’d be happy to post these life reports in a special section on our newly redesigned and updated Website: www.nationalhogfarmer.com.

Having had the opportunity to listen to and share many of our readers’ life stories over the years, I know that many are filled with great wisdom, family challenges, blessings and faith. With the barrage of newer, bigger, better, faster technologies that our young people face today, I have no doubt that people’s reflections on how a life unfolds could be more valuable than ever.

I’ll close then, wishing you all the best that the 31,622,400 seconds the leap year has to offer.