Carpe Omnia: The Mindset to Seize Opportunities and Succeed

By David Ly Khim

Most of us have heard of carpe diem–seize the day. You can take it a step further. You can carpe omnia–seize it all.

Looking past the slightly dramatic and eerie undertone, carpe omnia is undeniably a more aggressive phrase and, in my opinion, a more sensical approach to life if you want to become remarkable. Why seize just the day when there is much more than that?

What does it mean to seize it all?
Seizing it all means to make the most of each situation and each opportunity that arises. It is a means of self-development. In order to continue developing as an individual, your perspective and knowledge must continue to expand. To do so, you must take chances, take risks, do things that scare you, and face the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable.

If you’re in college, then you’re in a sea of opportunity. Pick one thing or another and try it out. Try a variety of new activities. Find a hobby, something you can do with your time. Find something that will drive you to become a better person. You may find that one of these hobbies can develop into a passion and may even lead to a career.

If you’re out of school and/or in the job market working the 9-to-5, it may be a little more difficult to incorporate new activities into your life, but it’s worth the effort. The key is setting aside time and having an open mind to try new things. You’re going to miss out on potential opportunities if you let yourself get too comfortable with routine. Try out the rock climbing gym you heard about, check out the new museum exhibit, go to a film festival, try your hand at a new craft, something to keep your mind from getting used to the day-to-day.

Living out Carpe Omnia
I attended the University of California, Irvine, and I loved it. However, I initially despised the idea of attending the only school I got accepted into and I didn’t look forward to attending UCI. I changed that, though. I didn’t wait for opportunities to arise or for my circumstances to change. Instead of thinking “I’m not looking forward to this” I decided to tell myself “I’m going to make the most of this situation.” I decided to seize opportunities and make sense of the phrase “college is what you make it.”

I joined B-Boys Anonymous, a freestyle dance organization, where I met and performed with amazing people, served as Commissioner of Public Relations and Vice President. I took modern and jazz dance classes taught by world-class dancers and was 1 of 5 guys–that was really uncomfortable–and I loved it. I tried out for a dance team when I hardly knew anyone. I was on a dance team at one point (little known fact). I tried out clubbing a few times (fun, but turns out it isn’t really my thing). I wanted a research position so I sent out cover letters, met with a professor, and ended up conducting undergraduate research for a year, putting in up to 40 hours a week (turns out that isn’t my passion, either).

The main take back? I challenged myself to act on impulse. You probably know what impulse I’m referring to: the impulse you have to talk to someone, or try a new hobby, or go to an unfamiliar place–the impulse that you usually decide to silence instead of act on.

Seizing Everything is Not Greed
Seizing everything can sound selfish, but don’t think of it as taking someone else’s opportunity. You won’t. Opportunity is subjective–it’s based on perspective. What you see as an opportunity is not necessarily an opportunity for someone else.

Opportunity comes in many shapes and sizes. They may be hiding in the nooks and crannies of everyday life, but if you pay attention, you’ll see them. It really comes down to who is going to embrace the opportunities that are right in front of us.

Be present.
Carpe omnia does not necessarily mean you have to do something exhilarating every day, but you should be present in everything you do. If you’re with a friend, don’t be on your phone. If you’re working, focus on your work, not Facebook or your phone. If you’re at a social event, go socialize. These are all situations where you have an opportunity to do something and make the most of it by being present.

There is a fear that is currently widespread: the fear of missing documentation (FOMD). Too often, people experience life through the lens of their camera phone or DSLR instead of through the lens of their own eyes, eager to share their lives through photos and videos.

Rather than focus on documenting your life, focus on living it out.

Pictures can only say so much if you can’t tell the story of the experience yourself. Take a picture, put away your camera, and live.

Why should I carpe omnia?
As mentioned in our post about the Ten Thousand Hour Rule, hard work is necessary but not sufficient for success. Opportunities must be taken advantage of in order to apply that hard work to have a chance at becoming successful. One risk you take may be the spearhead you need to achieve your goals. If you have the slightest feeling that you have a chance at moving toward your goals, take that opportunity.

Those On The Rise
As demonstrated in our “On The Rise” interview series, others have also been living out carpe omnia.

Despite his fears and doubts, Kendrick seized every opportunity he had to work with amazing professors and learn their teaching techniques. Despite his fears, he seized the opportunity to teach in Japan because he knew it would help him develop as a teacher.

Jesse found opportunity in simply meeting new people who challenged his perspectives and, in turn, had the chance to work on inspirational projects with those people. Now he’s taking the opportunity to start his own non-profit to help support those in need.

Emi saw and took the opportunity to help refugees and founded the Fresh START program in collaboration with the TIYYA foundation, to aid and mentor displaced American families and refugees.

Omeid seized the opportunity to study abroad in Chile and fell in love with the country. He not only wanted to become a nurse, but he saw an opportunity to help children in Santa Ana by educating them about unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. He recently got accepted into nursing school.

Ciena didn’t like the idea of participating in an Ironman, but she took the leap of faith, fell in love with it, and has competed in numerous triathlons.

The Overwhelm
A lifestyle of carpe omnia can become very overwhelming, tiring, and stressful. It’s a struggle that requires quite a bit of adapting. If you attempt to seize every opportunity to go out with friends, work on new projects, cover a shift at work, take new classes, or drive across the country, you will get worn out.

Keep in mind that you should also take time for reflection and recuperation. When you realize that you’re getting tired and worn out and even stressed about taking opportunity, take a moment (or a day) to yourself to recuperate. It is important to truly be resting. Don’t worry about work the next day or the next adventure. Focus on resting. Eat well, drink water, sleep, reflect on past activities and experiences. There’s a balance to be had and any imbalance will result in an unhealthy overdose of the carpe omnia lifestyle or an unfulfilled life.

Do Not Fear Regret
If you decide not to take up an opportunity, you may later regret not taking that chance.

As Sydney Harris, an American journalist, once stated:

“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”

In other words, it’s not the things you do that you will regret, it’s what you don’t do.

Which is to say, don’t fear regret. Do not let potential regret prevent you from taking a chance. Yes, you may end up regretting some decisions. You may seize an opportunity and find that it wasn’t truly what you wanted, but regret can be cured with time.

On the other hand, the regret of not seizing an opportunity is inconsolable. You will be stuck with the idea that you could have, should have, and would have taken the opportunity, but you didn’t.

Rather than thinking about your potential regret, consider your potential success.

Don’t just seize the day—seize every hour and every minute and every second. Seize every moment you have to meet new people, travel, learn new things, try new food, and have new experiences. Make the most of each experience so that, at the end of the day, you’re content with the fact that, although you may have been scared, you took a leap of faith and challenged yourself.



Photo source: Arman-h

6 thoughts on “Carpe Omnia: The Mindset to Seize Opportunities and Succeed

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