The Value of Your Time: Lessons from an Inquisitive Teenager

Value of Time

Sometimes you only get a minute. A minute to talk with someone after a meeting, a minute on the phone call, a minute at the cocktail reception. Ever stop to think how valuable that minute could be?

Not long ago, a teenaged girl timidly approached me after a speech to thank me for my talk and to ask me a few questions. We had an intriguing, focused dialogue, as if no one else was in the room, although there were hundreds. The conversation was not lengthy, yet surprisingly in-depth about an issue bouncing around in this teenager’s mind like a ball in a pinball machine.

After our talk and before she disappeared into the crowd, she told me I was her “life changer,” hugged me, and was gone like a puff of smoke.

That moment moved me deeply… it was a head-scratcher. Before I moved on to the next person, I took a minute. What I had initially perceived as a routine dialogue after a leadership speech turned out to provide a spark and a connection within someone who was deeply struggling on the inside.

Then I remembered my teen years. Aside from my parents and grandparents, very few adults ever stopped to talk with me about what was on my mind. But I remember to this day, those who did. And I can count them on one hand.

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world”—an expression scrawled in my office—swirls in my mind.

Right now you might be someone’s life changer—that random person who’s keeping the life-line going, who has sparked a change, and who is a life changer. Many people have low self-esteem, perhaps even suicidal thoughts every day. They may not have anyone who truly listens in their lives. Others may perceive their words as irrelevant and unworthy. Taking a moment to care and listen gives them worth. Our time matters.

Consider the power of a mentor. It’s undeniable, particularly when coupled with the value of one’s time. Then it’s immeasurable. Ask a senior citizen and they will tell you that time is all they want from you. To spend an hour visiting in person, no cell phones or distractions, just pure conversation.

We’re busy people, we have little discretionary time, and frankly we don’t have to take the time for others—and barely time to read this post. But it’s those who mentor, who truly are valued and connected to another’s life, who form connections that come back as a gift, reaping rewards and changing lives.

Prior to that “life changer” day, I’d never placed a value on my time—and I’m not talking billable hours. In fact, none of us can place a value on our own time—others do that for us in their words and actions towards us. That’s how we can confirm that the time we spend listening, helping others work through things, being there, have high value. We know this from others’ eyes, or their tears, or their appreciative hug, or their future performance—that’s what tells us that we’ve truly made an impact. That our time was valuable and valued.

Powerful lessons that day from the inquisitive teenager are as follows:

  • Don’t be afraid to share your weaknesses as life lessons for others. They matter and they change lives.
  • Listen intentionally and between the lines.
  • Minimize distractions while you are with others. Give them total focus.
  • Truly show compassion with a hug and a smile.
  • Give others a “life” frame of reference by passing on knowledge.
  • Let others leave knowing someone truly cares, understands, relates. Kind, relatable, loving words might be all they need to kickstart a movement in their lives.
  • Make the value of your time a part of your lifestyle, your modus operandi.
  • Be available—for questions or to bounce ideas off of—anytime.
  • Be the force—an influencer—in others’ worlds. Watch the value of your time reveal itself.

Turns out that inquisitive teenager—who I likely will never see again—was my life changer.

Kristine "Kristi" K. Hoffman, MS, is an award-winning television host and producer, past PBS-TV media personality, businesswoman, and CEO & Founder of Total Package Global, a leading professional and personal development corporation. Kristi's Total Package Lifestyle is quickly becoming recognized as an effective way for individuals to reach their dreams and ultimate success for life—by their own definition.