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Time Flies When You're Having Fun: Calculating the 'Real Feel' Age of Experience

by on October 07, 2014 6:00 AM

Last week my wife reminded me that I have a birthday quickly approaching -- something I had been able to conveniently forget.

OK, not completely, but enough that I was a little surprised that it was already October again.

Now, I don't suffer fits of melancholy (not that there's anything wrong with that) however I do appreciate fun memories – and I certainly have had my share. My birthday gives me an opportunity to reflect on them and think of all the fun people, places and experiences I've been blessed with.

But as I said, I was somewhat surprised that it was October again. That year sure flew by, I thought. Boy, time does go by faster as you get older.

Why, people have been saying that to me for years – time goes faster as you get older. How could that be, though? Which got me to thinking (always a dangerous thing) and I realized it's true.

As humans we've created a measuring system for time: years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds. This measuring system allows the entire human race – or at least those among us who wish to participate in activities with other humans – to coordinate our lives. For example:

I'll meet you at the Corner Room next Monday at 11:45 a.m. for lunch.

Soccer practice is over at 5:30 p.m. today. Can you pick up our son?

The show is 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 20, 2015 in the Playhouse – please put it on your calendar.

It also, conveniently, allows us to measure the passage of time and celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and holidays at predetermined intervals. Which is how I know that I will soon be blankety-blank years old.

But the age-old question – how old would you be if you didn't know how old you were – speaks to the internal clock we each have. A clock that measures time not by predetermined intervals – but by how much life you've cognitively experienced.

This is the clock that goes faster with each passing hour, day, week and year.

Stay with me on this part because it gets a little existential. Not quite as far out there as the "that means that one tiny atom in my fingernail could be one little tiny universe" scene from Animal House, but here goes...

When you turned 10-years-old, each month represented .83% of your entire life experience at that point. This assumes that you cognitively remember every single month of your existence. However, many studies clearly identify "childhood amnesia" – the common occurrence in virtually everyone I know that makes it very difficult if not impossible to recall anything before they were four years old. Most psychologists put the age at which cognitive recollection gets clearer between the ages of 2 and 4.

So for the purposes of this little missive ( is not a peer-reviewed journal) let's just use the age of three as the start of your first memories. Revisiting the percentages using 3-years of age as the date of "birth" of your all-knowing self, we find that when you turn 10-years-old each month represents 1.2 percent of your entire existence, with each day representing .04 percent of your existence.

Once you turn 20 each month represents .5 percent of your existence, and each day represents just .016 percent of your existence.

By the time you turn 30 each month represents simply .3 percent of your existence, and each day represents only .01 percent of your existence.

At the mid-century mark of 50, each month represents .18 percent of your existence, and each day represents .006 percent of your existence.

When you turn 80 (congratulations!) each month represents merely .11 percent of your existence, and each day represents a slim .0036 percent of your existence.

Every moment that you continue to live and breathe is another moment where each hour, day, month and year represents a smaller percentage of your existence. A day when you were 10-years-old is the same "experience" of time as four days when you are 30, a week when you are 50, and a week-and-a-half when you are 80.

In other words, your perception of time is that it is going faster – because it is. The experiences you had in one day at the age of 10 fly by in a week by the time you are 50. Keep that in mind the next time your kids complain about a long car ride – when they spend eight hours in a car it's the experiential equivalent of you spending three days in there!

So when your birthday inevitably rolls around again and you find yourself thinking, "Well, that sure went by fast!" realize that IT DID. More importantly, as the song says – "We only got eighty-six four hundred seconds in a day, to turn it all around or throw it all away" – did you have fun while the time flew by?!


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John Hook is the president of The Hook Group, a local management consulting firm, and active in several nonprofit organizations. Previously John spent 25 years in executive, management and marketing positions with regional and national firms. John lives in Ferguson Township with his wife Jackie and their two children.
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