Life is short, seize the day – one entrepreneur’s story

lou-couttsIt started with an uninvited virus which reluctantly refused to surrender its hold, so that as time went on, the expectation that it would disappear and everything would be as it had been became less promising. This unwelcome stranger became a permanent and invisible guest.

Gradually, the thought of permanent disability began to take hold and threatened the hope that perhaps one day, the joy of living rather than the struggle to manage would reappear.

Then the thought suddenly occurred to me. Why should I hope for the joy of living to return? On the surface, the answer seemed obvious; everyone wants to enjoy life, but in that are the seeds of deception.

My disability has made it difficult to do many of the things I want to do in my life and have made others impossible. I become impatient to return to a state where I can do all the things that I want to do but so far have yet to accomplish.

I realised that that this approach to life is the equivalent of speculating on the stock market or gambling on horses, but is so much more reprehensible because we are speculating on our own future. This is to assume a right to live, which is a right so fickle and unpredictable that it threatens any assumption about the future.

I also realised that I had to be thankful for the past, because the past contains all the opportunities that existed for me to do things, and as those days have gone and I haven’t done as much as I believe I could have, the undone deeds remain the casualty of the irrecoverable past.

Now, I have no right to demand of the future the time to put things right and to do the things I haven’t done because the future owes me nothing and is at the whim of the winds.

The minutes of life are so precious. These moments that present themselves to us from minute to minute are the only ones that we can confidently assume to be at our disposal. In these moments of reflection I began to agonise over the lost opportunities of the past and what I could have done had I spent my time more usefully.

The immortal words of Shakespeare attributed by him to Richard II assumed enormous significance: “I wasted time and now doth time waste me” as he languished in prison.

Carpe Diem” was a term used by Horace in a Latin poem which we translate today as “Seize the day” and popularised in the film Dead Poets’ Society.

In these redeeming words I see the gift of the present and the opportunities for today rather than the hope that by tomorrow, things will be right. Things may never be right tomorrow as life is so fickle and so it is today that is important.

I have the gift of life today for which I am thankful. I am not going to gamble on the future but will spend each precious moment of life with which I am blessed as though there is no tomorrow. What I will not do in the future is unimportant but what I have not done in the past is beyond recovery.

In all of this I am not grieving about the lost opportunities of the past as that would be a waste of the present moments of my life. I have special memories that tend to convince me that I have done something right. But now, it is the next moment of my life that is so important.

Lou Coutts left law and became a successful entrepreneur. He has qualifications in Advanced Management from Stanford; turnarounds and strategic alliances from Colombia; International Marketing from the University of California and Changing Strategic Direction from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management in Chicago.


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