Life needs to be lived on the brink, taken to its very edge. That way, you’ll develop a sense of urgency.
When I first set out in business, Asia was reeling in the wake of the 1997 financial crisis. The situation was bleak – hundreds of thousands lost their jobs and dozens of companies folded overnight. The region eventually recovered and prospered, but Asia today faces a different crisis.
Whether it is the nuclear brinksmanship in North Korea or the ongoing tensions over the South China Sea, it looks clearer than ever that life is fragile: that the comforts we enjoy could be snatched away at any moment.
The same is true in business. I know many talented entrepreneurs who, having built their businesses from the ground up with nothing but their own hard work, have the courage to risk everything to chase their dreams. These men and women embody the spirit of fearlessness that is necessary to succeed in a fragile, uncertain environment. In this new world, it is imperative that we live and work with a sense of urgency.
Before I found success in business however, I was a young man just as directionless as any other. I did not what I wanted to do with my life, nor any idea of how to get there. Resting on my laurels, I failed to see my life was stagnating. A chance encounter high in the mountains changed this perspective forever.
Whilst trekking in the Himalayas, I came across a monk meditating alone on the edge of a steep precipice. Beneath the sliver of rock on which he sat, the mountain valley stretched out below.
I watched transfixed for several minutes, amazed by how calmly he rose from his position, stretched, and began making his way back up the mountain trail. Wanting to understand the secret of his tranquillity in the face of danger, I rushed after him.
“How can you do that?” I asked, “Isn’t it dangerous to meditate on the edge of such an abyss?”
His reply was as profound as it was simple: “Are we all not just two minutes from the abyss anyway?” In these uncertain times, these simple words are more relevant than ever.
My work in building the QI Group is the perfect example of the urgency that has driven me since that day in the Himalayas. From my beginnings in Malaysia with no contacts in business, I was able to build a global conglomerate within a decade. Today, the QI Group has interests in industries as diverse as retail, education and real estate.
Every time we expanded to a new market, or made an investment, or launched a new product, we were taking a risk, and my advisors made sure I knew it. But our urgency and sense of adventure paid off – we were founded in 1998 from nothing and by 2003, we had expanded to over 30 countries! Without this chance encounter long ago high in the mountains, QI would look very different.
Today, the organisation has grown into a multi-million-dollar company, and we have empowered more than one million entrepreneurs around the world to take control of their lives and follow their dreams. Of the entrepreneurs who have worked with us, the common theme for those that succeeded was approaching life and work with a sense of vitality and urgency.
With my latest book 2 Minutes from the Abyss, I do not offer a blueprint for success. Too many successful entrepreneurs mislead people into believing that the only way to succeed is by following their instructions. Instead, the book is a thinking tool, a way to help each individual analyse their own unique circumstances, and develop a sense of urgency to achieve their goals.
The reality is that there is no one path to success. Each individual must be able to assess their strengths and develop their own unique path to achieving their goals. 2 Minutes from the Abyss is my attempt to help people to seize control of their lives and instil a sense of urgency that drives them to greater heights.
Vijay Eswaran is a Malaysian entrepreneur, philanthropist and author. He is the founder and Executive Chairman of the QI Group of Companies, a multinational conglomerate with diverse interests including direct selling, real estate, education, retail and hospitality in more than 30 countries.