Attention: Our True Source of Wealth


Time is often cited as one of the most (if not the most) valuable currencies.

In his recent feature on the Tim Ferriss Show, Sam Harris disputes this.

Sam posits that attention, not time, is our most valuable form of wealth.

Time’s shortcoming: distraction.

Consider how much of our attention is spent on:

  • thinking about the daily tasks that need to get done
  • deciding what to eat
  • buying things (or thinking about buying things)
  • our exercise routine
  • our sleep
  • our social interactions
  • our dependents
  • an “important” thing coming up next week/month
  • social media
  • entertainment (i.e. Netflix, podcasts etc.)

From one thing to the next, there is always something competing for our precious attention.

The problem arises, though, when we attempt to juggle multiple tasks that each individually require our full attention.

Ever try having a live, in-person conversation while typing on your phone (or computer) at the same time? Most (if not all) of us have. Besides the rude factor, juggling these two tasks – or really, any two tasks – happens to be impossible.

Studies show that our brains are incapable of multitasking. Anytime that you believe you are successfully multitasking, you are really just switching your attention from one task to another.

Besides being mentally taxing, multitasking incurs a “switch cost” each time we hop from one task to another. Consequently, it almost always takes longer to complete two tasks simultaneously compared to monotasking.

Research indicates that this “switching cost” may cost as much as 40% of our productive time.

Living An Examined Life

Each time we do something – pleasant or not – it’s worth recognizing that while we’re doing it, it may be our last time.

For instance:

  • there will be a last time that your baby wakes up in the middle of the night crying.
  • there will be a last time that your child asks you to read a bedtime story.
  • there will be a last time that you go to the beach.
  • there will be a last time that you get to enjoy dinner, or a phone call, with a certain loved one.

Embracing our finitude – as morbid as it may seem – can add beauty to all areas of life, even the inconveniences.

Additionally, embracing the fleetingness of life can also help us prioritize how to direct our attention.

Prioritizing Your Attention

We largely become the things we pay attention to.

By cultivating mindfulness and finding peace in the present we’re better able to prioritize what we direct our attention towards.

Are our thought patterns so ingrained that we’re stuck on autopilot as forever victims to distraction?

Or, is it possible for us to ignore the things not worthy of our attention and focus solely on the things that make us better versions of ourselves?

Rising above being passive “victims” of life’s distractions begins with prioritizing presence: being here, now.

Final Thoughts

During the podcast, Sam Harris references the “ghost of mediocrity” that can sometimes loom over the present.

If we’re mindful, we can feel it hanging over us when a conversation is not going well, or when a workout is lacking motivation, or when you’re feeling uninspired/unproductive.

With mindful, focused attention, we can:

  • recognize these moments as they happen
  • cast aside the immediate past
  • and make all that’s ahead from the present moment forward better.

Life is comprised of fleeting moments, finite opportunities, and distractions.

Guard your focus and connect more deeply with what matters most.

Lastly, if you haven’t already tried, visit our previous blog about Living Your Eulogy Virtues. This can be another good exercise for living a more intentional, examined life.


  • Dennis McNamara, CFP®, CHFC®, AIF®, CSLP®

    Today, as co-founder of wHealth Advisors, I find immense fulfillment in knowing that we use our platform as a force for good. As a firm, we’re founded on the industry’s highest standards for ethics and transparency while also offering pro-bono services to those in need. Financially, we donate a portion of our gross revenue annually to qualified 501(c)3 organizations (which are nominated + voted on by our clients). Personally, though, I find the greatest satisfaction in helping my clients gain financial peace of mind through prudent money management. Prudent money management is like a positive feedback loop: when we are no longer burdened by finances, other dimensions of our lives also tend to improve. As we continue to grow we realize that as important as money is, those other dimensions of life are equally (if not more!) important. As modern philosopher Naval Ravikant reminds us: “The three big ones in life are wealth, health, and happiness. We pursue them in that order, but their importance is reverse. A calm mind, a fit body, and a house full of love. These things cannot be bought.” My life’s mission has been dedicated to helping others use money to close the gap between who they are today and the best version of themselves that awaits ahead. I am excited to meet you and look forward to the opportunity of working together on your journey to financial independence! Designations: - Certified Financial Planner™ - Chartered Financial Consultant® - Accredited Investment Fiduciary® - Certified Student Loan Professional® Featured in: - Forbes - U.S. News & World Report - Financial Advisor Magazine Outside of wHealth Advisors: - Educating myself more on: Stoicism, permaculture, climate justice, systemic racism, health & longevity science - Happiest when: outdoors with wife, Arabelle, and son, Manny - Stays active with: strength training, functional range conditioning, hiking, cycling, surfing, and yoga - Financially splurges on: Single-origin coffee

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