Leading Change
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Your Free Time is More Valuable Than Ever

“The developed world has over a trillion hours of free time a year.”–Clay Shirky

This short video from Clay Shirky is well worth the four minutes, but I have pulled out my favorite quotes from it for an even shorter version.

“We can now use this free time in aggregate as we can collaborate with one another on large scale projects.”

Shirky addresses generosity and abundant free time in the video. Although this kind of global generosity often comes in a fragmented and asynchronous manner, over time it yields exponential results.

“An explosion of collaborative projects that aren’t driven by managers or the market, but are nevertheless changing society.”

“We’ve always had an enormous amount of time to do as we like, it’s just the principle use of that time …was watching television.”

“It isn’t just about creating self-amusement or distraction, but real civic value.” 

We have an unprecedented opportunity to change the world. I hope you start collaborating globally by sharing generously and asking boldly!


  1. Great post. I’ve been working through Shirky’s Congitive Surplus book. I think there are tons of applications to my life.

    Something I’ve been asking myself as I think about redeeming cognitive surplus is, “what will I need to stop in order to engage in higher order things.”

    I need to stop aimless wondering on social media and the blogosphere, so I can contribute more cognitive surplus in meaningful ways.

    • that book is a gold mine–i need to re-read as well.

      I only use lists when on twitter to keep my focus and have a list of 10 people that i want to connect with online every day that i keep in my todo list to align any “free” time that i have online with purpose. small steps but they have made a big difference.

  2. I’ll have to read that book Russ. I really like the ideas I’ve read that have come from that book.

    This is definitely my dream for Cru – that we’d have more working groups working on large scale projects (on a volunteer basis).

    How do we move this ball forward?

    • from what I learned hosting the blogference is that it has to be short, high impact projects first to generate momentum and make connections, and then it can expand to longer ones.

      i think resources are a HUGE opporuntunity-but there has to be a way to rank, sort, and share them in a way that easy.

    • @Tim – I think identifying 3-5 high impact ideas is the first step. My problem is that most of the ideas I can think of require too much input and aren’t well suited to little, tiny, amounts of surplus.

  3. Friends, I cannot urge you enough to read “Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonigal. She is essentially hitting on the same concept of cognitive surplus but through the lens of games. People have used games to collaborate with cognitive surplus since ancient times. I’ve come to believe that God has wired us to games. I think games could be the vehicle for moving staff and students into leveraged cognitive surplus. I think you will find the book incredibly stimulating. Here is Jane at TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.html

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