In early January, Kobe Bryant got a note from a reporter at ESPN. She was working on a story about a moment in Lakers’ history and she wanted to feature Kobe in the story. That’s one of the perks of the job right? To be courted by the media? To have people care about your opinion? To have a legacy and a brand to maintain?
It would not have taken Kobe long to answer that inquiry. Maybe fifteen minutes. Maybe a few emails. At worst, they would have sent a camera crew to his house for a brief sit down. There would have been benefits to it too—for Kobe’s shoe sales, his social media following, for his film and VC projects. Like with so many requests, it would have been so easy to say yes.
But that’s not what Kobe did. “Can’t right now,” Kobe messaged the reporter. “My girls are keeping me busy. Hit me up in a couple of weeks.”
Some two thousand years ago, Seneca wrote eloquently on how we have “laid waste to your life when you weren’t aware of what you were losing, how much was wasted in pointless grief, foolish joy, greedy desire, and social amusements—how little of your own was left to you.” It’s not that we were given too little time to live, it’s that we wasted too much of it. Saying yes to things we’d be better off politely declining, jumping on every opportunity as if we had an unlimited amount of time. We protect our money, we protect our reputations, we protect our property, but our time? We act like we have more than we need.
We say that our families matter to us. We say that we want to be happy, that we are looking forward to things slowing down, that we love peace and quiet. Yet far too often our choices betray a sadder truth—that we are addicted to obligations, that we lack the stout heart required to deliver bad news and say the dreaded words, “No” and “Sorry, I can’t.”
Kobe didn’t get much more time after he sent that text, tragically just a few more weeks with those girls he loved so much. And you? How much time do you have? That’s right, you don’t know. Which is why you have to be firm, you have to be strong, which is why you can’t let people steal the one thing you can never get back: your precious time.