One of my favorite movie lines ever was in the 1987 movie Roxanne when Steve Martin’s character was trying to give his friend advice and asked him, “Do you know what the phrase Carpe Diem means?” His friend reply, “I don’t know…some kind of fish? Fish bait??”
Even though this makes me laugh every time I watch it, Martin’s advice always registers as powerful guidance that so many of us forget to live our lives by. Of course, “carpe diem” is the great Latin phrase meaning “seize the day”.
Despite what some people might think, this saying isn’t asking the question, “What would you do today if you were going to die tomorrow?” In other words, it’s not encouraging you to throw all caution to the wind, tell your boss “I’m outta here, sucka!!” and start checking off everything on your bucket list ASAP.
Instead, to “seize the day” means taking control of your own life and your own destiny. It means not delaying until the “perfect” moment arrives to take action on your dreams. It means not waiting for other people to give you permission to pursue your passions. It means actively seeking out opportunity instead of hoping opportunity will find you while you’re mindlessly going through the motions. It means not being satisfied with mediocrity and realizing your full potential to create the magnificent life that you really want.
Taking a Carpe Diem approach to life is essential for any successful entrepreneur. When you live your life with a Carpe Diem attitude, you are living life to the fullest extent in the present moment. This attitude helps you focus on what you want today and continue moving towards your long-term goals instead of getting trapped in your worries/fears/doubts for the future, which causes you to delay, procrastinate and remain stuck.
Last week, I was in downtown Nashville, TN at sunrise photographing a British country music artist. As we began talking, I noticed that this girl’s “seize the day” attitude was something that we could all learn from…myself included!
She told me that she was visiting from England for 90 days while recording an EP and she was hoping to be able to move here one day. Being that I’m a native Nashvillian, she asked me if I’d seen the TV show Nashville, but I told her I hadn’t. She said that a few weeks ago, she was sitting in her apartment and saw a Twitter message that they were filming part of the Nashville TV show outside the downtown arena. Because she didn’t have a car, she hopped on the bus and headed downtown (which is easier said than done in Nashville). When she arrived, there was a big crowd of extras standing around watching the “fake” mayor of Nashville (actor Eric Close) give a speech and she slipped into the pack of people behind the barricade who were all watching and taking photos of the whole event.
She told me that when the actors got done with the scene, they walked right by her and she waved at them, so they stopped to have a quick conversation. When they said it was time to get back inside, she said, “I wish I could come with you”, to which they replied, “Why don’t you?” Long story short, she got on the set and ended up singing background vocals on the show and created a memory she will never forget.
At first, it might seem like she just got lucky in this instance, but in fact, that is not the case. Getting lucky would be if she had stayed in England, constantly complained to her friends that “no one likes country music here!” and then the show Nashville randomly called her up and said, “Hey! We’d love to have you on the show! We’re going to fly you over here. ” That would be luck.
The reality is, she didn’t sit around for “luck” to find her. She took action—every step of the way—from following her dream to be a country music artist to saving up enough money to come to Nashville to recording an album to taking advantage of every opportunity presented to her.
Now, you might be thinking, “That’s a nice story, but ’seizing the day’ is not my top priority—I have bills to pay, responsibilities and a lot on my plate right now…”. And I would agree with you. Seizing the day is not for the person who is satisfied with the status quo. If you want to spend your life clinging onto the little bit of happiness that you have and staying content where you are, well, then, you probably don’t need to read this article.
But if you want to create an amazing, successful, exciting life for yourself and become a successful entrepreneur, it’s time to seize the day. And you don’t have to fly across the Atlantic Ocean to get started. Here are 3 ways that you can get better at finding the Carpe Diem moments in your life….
#1: “Look Up” From Your Daily Routine
If you’re walking on a trail in the woods and you’re only watching the path to make sure you don’t stumble on a rock or a root, chances are you are going to completely miss anything that occurs two feet above the ground. You’re so concerned that you want to stay safe and on course, that you’re not paying attention to anything else. You might be passing incredible mountain views, waterfalls, sparkling lakes or beautiful scenery, but you only see the rocky path.
In order to “seize the day” you have “look up” from the trail of your life. There is plenty of opportunity right there waiting for you two feet above the ground. You don’t have to take a different path or blaze a new trail to start to see life from a different vantage point.
So many of us miss the amazing opportunities standing right in front of us because we have our heads down as we go through the same repetitive tasks each day. Don’t let this be you. Trust that your feet will find their way and carry you the distance as you start looking up and looking forward.
Practice “looking up” by pretending like everything around you is new—the coffee pot, your car, the commute to work, etc—like you’ve never experienced these things before. Once you being to really pay attention to your immediate surroundings, then you’ll start to notice of the bigger picture of life where new opportunities lie.
#2: Be a Traveler, Not a Tourist
You can always spot a tourist in any city. They are on a schedule—rushing from one guidebook page to another, taking photos to document the scene and quickly moving on. They are experiencing the city on a surface level. They are excited to check out new things—the museums, monuments, restaurants, etc—but they never quite go deeper than this.
Travelers, on the other hand, can be in the same exact city as the tourist, but they are having a completely different experience. They are exploring, learning and immersing themselves in the culture. They are taking their time. They are on a journey. They look beyond just the museums and monuments and engage themselves in the true nature of the city.
To “seize the day”, you need to be a traveler in your own life, not a tourist. To do this, you need to look beyond your daily routines—work, bills, responsibilities, schedules—and absorb more of what life had to offer so you can experience your day-to-day on a deeper level. This means being present and being aware. It means breathing new life into routine activities.
Practice being a traveler by saying “yes” to new things that intrigue and excite you. Enroll in that class that you’ve wanted to take. Meet up with new friends. Take that overdue vacation. Saying “yes” will allow you to seize the opportunities right in front of you and stop putting your life on hold.
#3: Look at Opportunity Through the Lens of Your Ultimate Goal
Of course, if you’re not ready to throw all caution to the wind, you’re going to have to pick and choose which opportunities you want to pursue and which you need to bypass. If you’re going to effectively “seize the day”, you can’t be running after every “good idea” that presents itself.
I notice that there are typically two ends of the spectrum—people who get stuck and don’t take action on any opportunity and people who have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and try to seize every opportunity that comes their way.
You need to find the middle ground to be successful at cultivating a Carpe Diem attitude. The best way to do this is to look at each opportunity presented to you through the lens of your ultimate goal.
For example, if your long-term goal is to run a successful small business, then you want to seize the opportunities that will help you achieve this goal. For you, that might not mean hopping on a bus to downtown Nashville to be a backup singer on the TV show. Instead, as a business owner, you would want to explore other opportunities so you’re not just chasing the shiniest object presented to you.
As you start to become aware of all the opportunities around you, ask yourself, “Will this help me reach my ultimate goal or is it just a distraction or detour?”
In the end, “seizing the day” means waking up to all the amazing opportunities that are already surrounding you and taking action on those that will help progress your towards the life you want and bring your dreams into fulfillment.