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How much money is your time worth?

“I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.”
– WH Henley

Nemo me impune lacessit

I have just been offered more money than ever before to give one single talk.
I am flattered. I need the cash. It would be great for my speaking profile.

But the date of the event is right in the middle of the chunk of time I have blocked out for a summer expedition.

I had a dilemma.

Should I rearrange or even cancel the expedition? It’s not even up and running yet. My partner is injured. And I need that money. Surely I have to do whatever it takes to get this speaking gig?

But why am I living this life? Why do I make my living as a speaker? I love speaking, but I do it to pay the bills. It is the adventures and the journeys that define who I am.
Years from now what will I hold most dear: a slightly healthier bank balance, or a sweet memory of an epic expedition?
What will I be most proud of decades from now: a juicy cheque, or the nicely composed, beautifully exposed photograph that captures a moment of pure and simple happiness?
What will do more good for my life: a very well-paid corporate talk, or staying true to my path, being the captain of my soul?

I turned down the talk.

Am I an idiot? Let me know in the comments below.
Fancy booking me for a talk at your school or business? Get in touch.

Read Comments

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  1. good decision. you will sort out how to get money anyway and will have one more adventure! And we also have more interesting posts to read 🙂

  2. graham k Posted


    Without the expeds …without the experiences…without the photographs and memories – you wouldn’t have a story to tell.

    Correct decision no doubt about it !

    Graham K

  3. Call me controversial, but I think you should go back & tell them you made a mistake. It sounds like you’re talking about enough money to make a real difference to your life (or at least your life for the rest of this year anyway). On that basis, take it. Rearrange your dates. If you’re canny can’t you give the talk AND do most of your trip?

    Life’s too short to miss out on experiences when they come your way, but life’s also too short to turn down a fat fee when it’s offered on a plate.

  4. pete casey Posted

    I think if it was a substantial sum of money i too would think twice….but i agree with Graham, any expedition will enrich your life and give you more experinces to draw from when they ask you for a talk next time!…i am sure they will!

    Pete .C.

  5. Chase dreams not dollars.

  6. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong. Only a compromise. Dreams need dollars to make them happen; there’s no getting away from that. You’ve worked hard to get to the point that you can do something you enjoy in order to pay the bills and have the adventures – lucky you, my current day-job’s mind-numbing!

    But sometimes you have to spit in the face of a big wad of cash just to remind yourself where the real priorities lie – maybe this was one of those times?

  7. I know you’re probably after something a little more insightful than this but… you are a legend. Keep it up.

  8. You’ve already made your decision, so stick by it and believe it’s the right one. You can never regret anything in your life – that just leads to discontent.

  9. “But sometimes you have to spit in the face of a big wad of cash just to remind yourself where the real priorities lie…”
    Nailed it.

  10. You wouldn’t have given up a Summer expedition for the cash. You would have given up a block of time, or part of it, that has a possible expedition pencilled in.
    If you are going to be a full time adventurer you are going to have to earn your living from it. When you turn down a speaking engagement you are not only losing the money offered for that but the book sales at the event, the future book sales from people at the event, but also the free publicity that the people who enjoy your talk would give you. then there is the lost opportunity to appear in front of people who can afford to help with the financing of future expeditions.
    You must make decisions about your diaried activities each time this sort of situation arises. Perhaps you are right this time but romantic lines from poets may not be the best basis on which to make financial decisions, I’d have thought.

  11. Lee Ledbetter Posted

    You can always make more money but you won’t always get these adventure opportunities. Good choice!

  12. Gary Gibbons Posted

    Hi Alastair, I know this post was a while ago, however I’ve just come across it. Your decision not to do the talk was exactly what I would have expected. I am a frequent reader of your blog and admire your passion to stick to the most important thing, actually engaging in the adventure. Sure you need money to do this however its refreshing that as your status grows and I would imagine your opportunities to do more of these higher paid speaking gigs that this one thing remains true. As such you will become more in demand for future speaking.

    I especially enjoyed your blog on the questions you ask yourself before engaging on an adventure in particular whether you would do it if no one else would ever know. This really struck a cord and made me think about doing things for the pure enjoyment of doing them. Keep doing what you’re doing although (ironically), please continue to share your experiences as its continuously gives me new ideas for my own adventures and when others say I’m mad I can direct them to your website and say ‘not as mad as him’.



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