We spend a lot of time trying plan out the next thirty years of our lives. Most of the self- help books that fly off the shelves provide guidance on small five year plans. Or even how to invest for your retirement days. What seems to elude us is how temporary this life is. What’s the importance of spending every waking moment of your youth planning for your retirement when you might die at 40? What’s the point of lying around regretting past mistakes when you can fix them now? This minute could be your last on earth. Why waste it waiting for a better time to live?
In his book Two Minutes From The Abyss, Vijay Eswaran uses stories, his personal experiences and insights to explain why we should live in the moment. His aim was to encourage his readers to live every moment as though it were their last. If there is anything that needs to be done, do it now to the best of your ability. You are always two minutes from the abyss.
Here are some of the insights he gives on living in the moment:
Acknowledge the fact that life is impermanent
Living in the moment does not mean living without a plan. Plans are a necessity. They act as road maps to where we are going. However, they should not be a reason to hold back doing better in the future. Vijay Eswaran compares the philosophy of living in the moment to the one all soldierslive by: ‘it is a good day to die today’. Every time they go to battle, they know full well that there is a plan to fight again tomorrow. But today, they fight like their lives depend on every move because it does.
In recognizing that every moment on this earth could be our last, we are inspired to give each moment our best. It could be the last.
Wake up each morning with an urgency to live
Every morning in the jungle prey animals wake up knowing they have to out run the fastest predators or they will die. The predator wakes up knowing it has to out run the slowest prey or else it will starve to death. Knowing this creates an urgency to do their best when it’s time to run. Their very survival depends on this.
Waking up each morning knowing that this minute could be your last creates an urgency to live life to the fullest. It gives each action and emotion a sense of purpose. This is the inner drive that motivates you to do what you are doing, how you are doing it. That urgency makes it easy to sacrifice for the sake of your goal. When you are working, knowing that the next minute could be your last motivates you to give up other desires so you can finish the work you started. This gives you the focus you need to succeed at work.
Having a sense of urgency is a necessity. It is a feeling that has to be nurtured and renewed each day. Since it is what fuels purpose, it makes it easy for one to sacrifice freely and willingly for the sake of set goals. When nurtured, success comes easily.
Have a purpose so you can change
Change is inevitable. Life is full of changes and decisions. Each waking moment requires you to change somehow. If you choose not to change, you become irrelevant. Until you change, all you can do is spectate. If you choose to change, you have to decide how you change. Vijay Eswaran gives an example of a child prodigy who grows to become a famous pianist. This child falls in love with music at an early change. His love for music leads him to learn how to play the piano. Over the years his knowledge in music increases and the world of music evolves. The decisions he makes lead in his skill growing and his career as a pianist taking off. However, one thing that does not change is his love for music. This is his purpose for changing for the better.
Knowing your purpose for life will keep you from making decisions that will result in regression. Change should be growth at all times. The moment you lose your sense for purpose, all your decisions become meaningless. Because then you cannot determine whether you are moving forward or backwards. Without purpose, there is no urgency to live in the moment. This often results in mediocrity,
To live at all, know the difference between knowledge and wisdom
Looking at a professor who teaches on entrepreneurship and a successful entrepreneur, there is a big difference. The professor has little success in entrepreneurship compared to the successful entrepreneur. The difference between these two is that one sought knowledge while the other sought wisdom.
Wisdom is applied knowledge. Unfortunately, most of us stop at acquiring knowledge. But knowledge was meant to be used. The professor can teach the entrepreneur. But the entrepreneur more fully enjoys the benefit of the professor’s knowledge because he puts it to practice. Choosing what to do with acquired knowledge will be determined by ones purpose of living. Purpose will serve as motivation to stay focused and to sacrifice for the sake of the goal.
Knowing the place of wisdom in making the right decisions and changes, it’s important to prioritize the acquisition of knowledge. Only then will we have something to exercise. Consider a lake. It has an endless supply of water. However, if you go to the lake with a teaspoon to fetch water, you will end up with only a little. However, if someone else went with a barrel, they will draw much more compared to you. Therefore, to become wiser, you must be willing to increase your container each time you are at the lake. It’s imperative that you have an insatiable desire for knowledge and an urgency to apply it right now. This could be your last minute.
— Vijay Eswaran (@VjayEswaran) May 28, 2018
Vijay Eswaran says differentiate your identity from your ego
Your identity is defined by the constant in your life. The thing that motivates you and gives you purpose. Your ego, on the other hand, is the assumption that you know it all. It is what resists change and bars you from acquiring more knowledge.
If you go to the lake to draw water with a full pail, you will not have room for fresh water. You have to empty the pail first before you can get fresh water. The same principal applies to acquiring knowledge. To acquire knowledge you must empty yourself of the assumption that you know it all. To empty your pail in this context means rejecting the idea that you know it all and accepting that there is always something to be learnt.
In some people, the ego can easily be identified because it manifests in aggression. This makes it easy for them to identify their weakness and empty their pail. In others, the ego manifests in a more passive aggressive way. This makes it difficult to identify the problem and deal with it. Regardless of how the ego manifests, it is something everyone has to keep in check. It is important that you keep emptying your pail so that you keep learning.
Get out of the comfort zone
No one ever strays into the comfort zone knowingly. For most people it happens without them realizing it. For one to get trapped in the comfort zone, he or she must have stopped changing. Change is inspired by the urgency to be better. This results in acquiring knowledge which informs decisions made and eventually application of the knowledge acquired. When this stops, the purpose loses his or her sense of purpose and falls into the comfort zone.
To get out of the comfort zone, take a risk. There is literally no way out unless you take the risk of taking a step. As the saying goes, no pain no gain. If you find yourself in a situation where you are blaming everyone else for what is happening to you, it’s a sign that you are not risking enough. Dare to do something about your situation. After all, you are only two minutes from the abyss.
Adversity has an end. Don’t give up, don’t give in
One of the worst habits to indulge in is expectation. When you analyze a situation, it is easy to project a mental trajectory of how things will end. This makes life seem like one big transaction. You constantly feel like for one thing to happen you have to do something in exchange. As a result, when you find yourself in an adverse situation you feel like you have only one option. If it fails then you have no way out.
At some point in life you will go through adversity. The good news is, adversity comes with a time limit. It will not last forever. To overcome adversity, you need to outlast it. Going through adversity expecting one act to get you out of it will only result in negative emotions. The key to outlast adversity is to never give up or give in. During these times, one needs to hold on to his or her purpose. This is what will enable them to make decisions that will help them outlast the situation.
There is no wrong moment or person
Everything that needs to happen starts and ends at the right time. Nothing ever happens accidentally or at the wrong time. So don’t waste time trying to figure out the million and one different ways the same situation could have happened. Even if there was a different way for things to happen, you cannot go back in time and change it. You are better off accepting it and finding the best way to handle it there on.
Take advantage of the person in front of you. Whatever you wanted to do or say, that is the right person to engage. The problem of thinking a moment is wrong is that you may never find the right one. This may result in you putting off something for a long time. It keeps you from applying the knowledge you have acquired.
Vijay Eswaran tries to explain this using a popular quote: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” When you know why you were born, regardless of the moment or who is in front of you, your actions will always be purpose driven.
Learn to define success the right way
To explain how differently people think about success, Vijay Eswaran uses the lives to two people as an example; a missionary and a mercenary. A mercenary’s steps to achieving the goal do not matter. As long as he accomplishes the goal, the end justifies the means. A missionary on the other hand, cares very step throughout the journey matters as much as the destination does. In fact to him, the journey is the destination.
Success should be viewed from the perspective of the missionary. If you are waiting to finish the entire journey to look back and say truly that was a success, you might not get to do that. This could be your last minute. To live in the moment, you need to define your success by the journey; every step you take towards your goal should be done to your best. If the step you are taking now is done to the best of your ability then at that moment you have succeeded.
Going through life with the feeling of being successful constantly gives one the motivation to do the next task with excellence.
Be ready to pay the price for success
A mercenary’s decisions to change and choices to cope with adversity are defined by the circumstance. What happens now determines what he does next. This makes his actions destructive. Collateral damage does not matter. Going through life making decisions depending on what happens next leaves a lot to be regretted.
A missionary on the other hand, goes through life deciding and choosing based on his purpose. He does not rely on what people say or circumstance he is facing to know he is succeeding. Knowing his purpose motivates his thoughts and actions. As a result, missionaries are able to stay on course despite the number of they are rejected. This is
why they are able to succeed in the goal they set out to achieve.
Sacrifice is imperative to achieve any kind of success. Choose to sacrifice based on your purpose not your circumstance or criticism from others.
Identifying missionaries around you is easy. Look at the people who are willing to be criticized. These people only come out of criticism stronger. It does not deter them from achieving their objective. Their objective is defined by their purpose. Their desire to keep on moving comes from within. These are the people who you should surround yourself with. If you are heading a team, these people are the perfect candidates for leadership positions.
Learn what it means to influence
When you become successful, many people will begin to emulate you. this might lead to the assumption that if people are emulating you then you are influencing them because you are right. You influence someone when you earn his or her respect. When they respect you, they are accepting your way of doing things or thinking. This is not based on the fact that you are right but on the respect they have for you. Knowing this will help you quell your ego. It will keep you from getting to a point where you know it all.
We are all only two minutes from the abyss. Every chance you get could be your last. Every opportunity could be the only one. There is no timing like now. If you are looking to make an impact in someone’s life, the person right in front of you is the right one. If you are looking to succeed, you will it in anything other than the task you are doing right now.
Vijay Eswaran is the author of four books on life management. He has had the opportunity of speaking on life management to many audiences across the globe. What makes his teaching so impactful is his ability to break down complex concepts. Vijay uses examples from his own experience, anecdotes and sometimes popular fables to explain how these concepts can be put to practice. As a result, he has been able to inspire many to live their best.
Looking at the success he has had as an entrepreneur, living life based on these life management principles truly pay off. Apart from living a satisfactory life, he is a successful entrepreneur. He is the Co-Founder of the QI Group. He has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for Regional Philanthropy, the Pacific Outstanding Entrepreneur Award and the ASEAN Business Council CEO of the Year award. Vijay has also been recognized among the best in Asia Heroes of Philanthropy list by Forbes.