“Are you willing to risk it all?”

Dr. Niranjan Seshadri
4 min readMar 17, 2024
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

After a chance meeting with a wandering Himalayan monk on LinkedIn, I asked him questions, hoping to squeeze wisdom from his words. “Are you willing to risk it all?” The bearded Himalayan monk said in reply to my question about what it took to live a life like his — no permanent abode, walking every day through the Himalayan ranges with no fixed destination, only with two pieces of cloth, a stick, and a vessel for carrying water. The Himalayan monk’s question lingered in my mind like a sponge holding onto water. What did the monk mean when he asked me if I was willing to risk it all?

Taking a risk means different things to different people. For some, it is giving up material comforts to pursue elusive transcendental truths. For others, it is staking the “farm” for a chance to multiply their earthly riches. The human mind is the “marketplace” where we balance risk and reward in our daily transactions. The general trend is minimizing risk and maximizing rewards. Those willing to take a significant risk do so with the expectation of a commensurate reward.

A wealthy individual trading his woolen Gucci suit for the inexpensive cotton robes of a monk may be taking a significant risk in the eyes of some. By that same logic, someone just scraping by deciding to become a monk would not be considered to be taking on a substantial risk. The assumption in both these situations is that staking monetary wealth is the measure of risk. However, there is another, more universal measure of risk: our time. We risk our time pursuing our goals, whether small and inconsequential or a lifetime one. Whether we dress in a Gucci suit or a monk’s robes, how we leverage our time is crucial to a successful life.

The greater our focus, passion, and zeal, the better we leverage our most important asset, time. Focus, passion, and zeal are present commodities. We can only use them now, not in the future. Whatever the task, however mundane or inconsequential, we can harness and employ these three powerful forces. But we tend to be miserly with using the power of focus, the fire or passion, and the torrent of zeal in our tasks. There is no need to save these for activities we consider essential. Focus, passion, and zeal are inexhaustible resources. The more we use them, the more accessible they become.

A monk lives his life from one breath to another, focusing on each moment with passion and zeal, trying to build awareness of everything happening inside and out. An inventor lives his life from one failed prototype to the next, using each failure not as a dead end but as an inspiration for creating something better. Sir James Dyson, the inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, went deep into debt, mortgaged his house, and put all his time and effort into perfecting his invention. Along the way, he made 5,127 prototypes with no certainty of success until he perfected his invention.

Although we risk our most important asset — time — we don’t live every moment in line with that risk. It may be because an average person’s life has many moving parts, with professional and personal obligations pulling us in different directions. It is challenging to put aside everything else and work with a singular focus on one thing, like the Himalayan monk or Sir James Dyson. However, we can use the variety of tasks in our daily lives to our advantage as we build our power of focus. The mind loves variety. A monk’s task, meditation and contemplation, and an inventor’s goal, perfecting an invention, are not highly entertaining endeavors that are attractive to the mind. There aren’t many individuals who are willing to endure considerable pain and misery without any sight of a reward in pursuit of a singular goal. We can pick any task that appeals to us, preferably one that we can relate to, maintain interest in, and is beneficial in some way. That task can be the training aid for developing a greater power of focus.

Triggering focus is like winding a mechanical watch. Once fully wound, delicate springs in the watch’s mechanism keep the seconds hand ticking while the minute and hour hands mark the passage of time. Making a conscious effort to focus the mind on a task is like winding the watch. The mind will linger on the task depending on our passion and zeal, both of which influence the depth and intensity of our focus. Some mechanical watches need to be wound daily; others can go several days before the springs inside run out of reserve tension. Similarly, improving focus requires daily effort and practice. Initially, we may only be able to maintain focus momentarily before the mind springs back to its usual distracted state. We may need to refocus the mind several hundred times every day, but with each effort, the mind becomes more resilient in warding off distractions and compliant in obeying our commands to focus.

One of the foundations for building our power of focus is remembering that we are risking our most valuable asset in every moment. The greater we value our time, the more careful we become with its use. Intellectually, we can agree that time is money or money cannot buy time. But it is more important to realize that, existentially, time is life. We are risking it all, and we may as well leverage that risk to our full advantage.

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Dr. Niranjan Seshadri

Physician I Author I Transformational Philosophy - Awareness and its power to transform. www.intoawareness.org. Learn more- amazon.com/author/seshadri