Carpe Diem: Riding The Wave To Success

November 4, 2009

In 23 BC, Horace first introduced to us the idea of Carpe Diem. Carpe Diem, or “seize the day,” has since become a way of life for some, and for others, a constant reminder of the importance of ‘living’ each day. In the business world, carpe diem can be seen all around us. For entrepreneurs, carpe diem not only serves a motto, but also a beacon for new opportunities.

Seize The Day

When Horace first mentioned carpe diem, it was part of a longer message from Odes Book I.

In full, Horace writes: carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.

In translation this means: Seize the day and place no trust in tomorrow.

While I am no philosopher, it is easy to see the message that Horace attempts to convey to his audience. Think little about tomorrow, think only about today. Whether you are the executive in a Fortune 500 company or the CEO of a startup company, carpe diem pushes one to not worry about what may happen, but rather what will happen right now. If you are constantly looking forward to tomorrow, you may miss the opportunities that are in front of you today.

Never A Smooth Ride

In the business world, the path to success is one that is guaranteed to have bumps along the way. For some, these bumps will be minor ‘distractions,’ but for others they will be ‘game-changers.’ These ‘game-changers’ are the ones that the business world fears most. One day it could be law suit that threatens the stability of the company and the next it could be a partner pulling out. In 1988, Bob Marley inspired his own form of carpe diem, when he wrote “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Although Bob and Horace we’re hundreds of years apart, both deliver similar messages: Bumps are bound to happen. No matter what we do, they will happen. Live in the present, don’t worry about tomorrow.

For the entrepreneur specifically, being able to focus on the present is crucial. While it would be ignorant to ignore the consequences of the choices we make today, that doesn’t mean we need to live life on a leash.

The Conflict With Carpe Diem

Based on the full context of carpe diem, we arrive at a conflict. While ‘seize the day’ is a message that hundreds have heard and quoted, why do so few truly ‘seize the day.’ Is it because they don’t believe it? Or is it perhaps that it just isn’t realistic. That may be true to some extent, but the fact still remains that carpe diem, whether spoken in Latin or English, still resonates among individuals.

Take for example Kobe Bryant. If you had visited his website earlier this year, one of the most noticeable bits of information on his site was a line of text clearly displayed across the landing page:

Scito hoc super omnia….Tempus neminem non manet….Carpe diem.

Translated it means:

Know this above all else….Fully use every point, moment, and hour that you have. Time waits for no man….Seize the day.

People can debate about his talent level and where he falls among the greatest, but few can doubt his work ethic and determination. He takes every day as a new opportunity to further his skills and work toward his goals.

When you look at why we admire those that work tirelessly, it is in part because we are admiring someones dedication to taking each day and living it to the fullest. We all wish we could ‘live life to the fullest’ and be able to ‘seize the day,’ but life likes making things complicated. With bills to pay, kids to drop off at soccer practice, and meetings to attend, few have the chance to fully embrace carpe diem.

Even before the decision is made on how you will seize the day, perhaps the question should be when.

The “Perfect” Wave

If you have ever been to the ocean and watched surfers, one thing you will notice is the patience that they have. Sitting on their boards, they will wait for hours for that perfect wave to come along. If surfing were a business, you can call the perfect wave, the “Facebook” of all waves. No matter how many ‘bad’ waves they have to ride out, they will continue to wait. Even if the perfect wave lasts only for a few minutes, the day is not wasted, but rather well spent.

Although surfing has little in common with the business world and entrepreneurs, surfing can be used as a metaphor for the road to success. For the surfer that sits their everyday riding out the bad waves waiting for that perfect one to come along, the feeling of satisfaction is special and fulfilling. In the same sense, for the entrepreneur or business that endures the hardships of starting up, success is bittersweet and fulfilling as well.

Like the changing waves, each day bring new opportunities.

Carpe Diem. Seize the day

Photo by Mr Din

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  • Reply Brenton Gieser November 7, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Amazing post Joseph! Being present in the moment is one of the most powerful yet challenging things one can do. Even more so as a modern entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are innovators, opportunists so naturally your mind is going to pull you in different directions all the time. Therefore if you can work you mind instead of having it work you and be as present as possible…you can really seize the day!

  • Reply JR Moreau November 8, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Awesome post my man. I think that seizing the day can be done to some extent every day. Every day that you’re moving forward towards something you value, that’s what I’d consider a seized opportunity. I think a challenge lies in not getting down on yourself when you don’t do so well and then let more days slip by that you should. Sometimes I choose not to seize the day… I let it pass me by and I enjoy watching it pass and reflecting on that. But if it’s done out of sloth due to too much drinking, women, etc… that’s when life passes you by completely.

    Really thought provoking post man. I’m gonna have to revisit this!

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