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Free Time Ain't Free Unless You Use It

Learn to use spare time to think and re-energize. Some recent management works I recommend: Star Trek: Voyager, The Wire, and the biographies of Steve Jobs and Jack Kennedy.
Relaxation Beach Scene

Recuperation is a good opportunity to reflect on the nature of free time—that is, time you cannot spend working. I should know because I recently passed my waking hours seated in a chair and keeping my surgically-repaired foot elevated.

So what did I do with all this down time? Thank goodness for streaming video, and two great new biographies.

I still have more than 150 more episodes of Star Trek: Voyager to watch. But I am nearly through the second season of David Simon's masterful The Wire. (I began the series with Season 3 so I am catching up.)

There are plenty of leadership lessons in both series. Voyager, for the uninitiated, concerns the stories of a Federation crew that have been lured into the Delta Quadrant on a rescue mission only to find themselves marooned 70,000 light years from home. (Even at Warp 10—ten times the speed light—that's quite a distance.) In one episode the captain must decide between getting home via stolen technology or abiding by Federation regulations. She opts for following the rules though she wonders if she did the right thing; after all is not a captain more responsible for her crew than the rulebook?

The Wire focuses on the trials and tribulations of specially formed police unit trying to round up an entrenched drug gang. A lasting lesson of the series is that people in senior positions consistently sell out those under them as a means of holding on to power (police) or more money (drug gangs). In other words, power corrupts. The heroes of the piece are those that buck the system—be they petty criminals or beat cops and detectives.

I also caught up on my reading. These two biographies are must-read for any student of leadership: Walter Issacson's Steve Jobs and Chris Matthews' Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero. In the Jobs biography there are as many (or more of) what not to do's as well as what to do's when it comes to leadership. Mercurial as he was creative Jobs was a force of energy that as he sought to do "put a ding in the universe." Jack Kennedy, as book's subtitle implies, is a hero not simply for his wartime bravery but for living each day—despite pain and infirmity—without complaint but with much conviction.

Free time—even when enforced by doctor's orders—should not be taken lightly.

"Time," wrote the late leadership author Jim Rohn, "is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time."

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Last updated: Dec 21, 2011

JOHN BALDONI | Columnist | President, Baldoni Consulting

John Baldoni is the president of Baldoni Consulting, an executive coaching firm. John speaks widely on leadership and has written 10 leadership books; his newest is Lead With Purpose: Giving Your Organization a Reason to Believe in Itself.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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