Posted by: ryanmccoskey | January 29, 2009

Do More With Less or Do Less With More – It’s Your Decision

If you want to go far in life and make an impact on your family, friends and others, you’ve got to harness the power of leveraging. The term leverage is most often used in a fiscal sense; however, it’s a universal concept, not exclusive to any specific discipline. A technical (and financial) definition of “leverage” is: the use of a small initial investment, credit, or borrowed funds to gain a very high return in relation to one’s investment, to control a much larger investment, or to reduce one’s own liability for any loss. Let’s ponder how this applies to you.

For those of you who think in images, picture a mechanical lever. Utilizing a lever, in the tangible sense, will allow you to lift a heavy object without exerting much force. For example: a 50 lb. bag of salt cannot defy the power of gravity unless a lifting force is applied to it. If someone required you to lift this bag of salt 4 feet from the ground 100 times in a row, would you rather grab it with your hands and muscle that bag into submission, or set it on one end of a teeter-totter and pull down on the other? Unless you’re a glutton for meaningless punishment, you would opt for the lever. Essentially, lifting the bag with your hands and using the teeter-totter both accomplish the same task; the only difference is the amount of force needed to accomplish it. That is the power of leveraging.

No matter who you are or what you do for a living, there are two items that can always be leveraged: time and money. I want to focus on time, so let’s begin with money. Leveraging money is most effective when it’s applied to assets that do not follow the trend of the “exponential curve.” Static appreciation, regardless of net internal value, is a perfect storm for leveraging. We’re just going to leave it at that for the sake of time and your sanity.

Although leveraging time is similar to money, it’s also different in one important aspect: availability. Warren Buffet will always be able to out-leverage me in the realm of money; however, he enters each day with 1,440 spendable minutes, just like me – no more, no less. At this point, you may be wondering, “how do I leverage my time?” Let’s use automotive maintenance as an illustration. Your vehicle manual most likely instructs you to have your oil changed every 3,000 miles or 3 months, whichever comes first. You now have a choice. You can either take the time to maintain your automobile or just drive it until it no longer runs. If your objective is to have a functional automobile, and you never take the time to maintenance it, your vehicle will break down earlier than you’d like, and you’ll have to invest the time to make enough money so you can buy a new vehicle. If, on the other hand, you take the time to maintenance your vehicle, it will last much longer and save you time in the end. That’s leveraging time. You’ve accomplished the same task, namely having a functional vehicle, but you’ve exerted less force (or in this case, time).

That’s a very tangible example; what are some less tangible applications? Think about parenting. Should you leverage by taking time to discipline early on or fight premeditated rebellion in the future? Consider exercising. Would you rather leverage by exerting yourself 20 minutes a day or take the time to combat preventable health issues in the future? This is highly applicable in organizations. Is it more favorable to leverage by taking the time to construct effective policies at the onset or clean up unnecessary messes after the damage is done? Honestly think about your own life. How many of your 1,440 minutes do you flush down the toilet? Are you leveraging your time now in order to prevent and prepare, or are you lazily delaying, only to invest much more time to accomplish the same task later on? Think about it.

It’s impossible to leverage without discipline. A desire for immediate self-gratification will not lead you to leverage. However, you cannot possibly be disciplined unless you are focused. You’ve got to be able to tune out the fruitless noise and keep your mind on the goal. But you will not focus unless you are passionate about accomplishing a goal. And finally, you won’t find a goal to be passionate about until you decide what’s important in your life.


  1. Ha I like how you put that, ‘glutton for meaningless punishment.’ Brilliant! As always

  2. Having just started a 2nd job, I can certainly relate to this. The biggest challenge is not so much functioning on less sleep, but on being that much more purposeful with the time I do have. The hardest part about that is working out the discipline to make it happen. Good words, my friend.

    • Tim, I here you there, brother. It’s incredible what someone can accomplish if they wake up every day with an intentional mindset – not a passive “good things come to those who wait” mentality, but a go-getter vision of life. Also, I don’t know how to display your blog on my page; or at least, I don’t think I do. Any advice?

  3. Great words my friend. Great words indeed. Thanks for the encouraging and motivating blog.

    • Hey man, I’m doing all I can to listen to myself on this one, too!

  4. I always enjoy your writing, Ryan. I do however, feel the need to make a juvenille comment about the little picture you’ve chosen to place at the end. The large round black object that the little red man has just lifted up using his lever looks like it will most likely roll down to the other end soon and crush the poor fellow. Is there an intentional methaphor behind this? I’m sure you can come up with one. 🙂

    • Ryan, that’s a good point. In this recent economic crisis, the real culprit was the over-leveraging by individuals and mortgage loan providers. If you over-leverage and don’t have the collateral funds necessary to back the investment, bad things can happen, and will happen in a soft economy. So perhaps the image is a testament to the power of leveraging, and a caution to avoid dangerous over-leveraging.

      My apologies if you were looking for a more humorous answer!

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