The Thinker: How I Stopped Time Traveling

I was trapped in the past and the future, so I needed to learn how to live in the present

The problem was that I was time traveling, living in the past and future, but avoiding the present at all cost. I was regretful of the past, and fearful of the future. Others would tell me, “stop thinking so much.” “You are always overthinking everything,” they said. I was in my own prison, creating my own kind of reality.

I needed to learn how to live in the present. I learned what calm and great people had in common and they were all living in the present. Buddhists and philosophers were also emphasizing the present moment. The more I thought about the past and future, the more I realized that there is only a continuous flow of the present.

Presence is one of over 100 elements in my practical playbook The Thinker that aims to make you a better thinker. The book uncovers the elements of change and liberates your thinking.

“You must dispense with these two things: fear of the future, and the recollection of ancient ills. The latter no longer concerns me, the former has yet to concern me.” — Seneca, Roman Stoic philosopher and statesman

A t a dinner party some time in the 18th century, French philosopher Denis Diderot lost his train of thought. While engaged in a debate, he didn’t know how to respond to the topic at hand. Wrapped up in his thinking, he didn’t know what to say. Disappointed and defeated, he left the party. While walking downstairs, the retort suddenly came to him, but it was too late. Reflecting on his experience later, Diderot wrote, “A sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument leveled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he gets to] the bottom of the stairs.” This is also known as l’esprit d’escalier, or the retort that arrives too late when you lose the present moment.

I used to worry about the past and the future all the time. It felt like carrying physical luggage that would impair my thinking. I would regret what I failed to do in the past and worry that it was now too late to do what I wanted to do. Living either in the past or future, the present seemed an elusive state of being. I would think all the time about everything, for good or bad. Whenever I was wrapped up in my thinking, I would disconnect with reality. After a lot of thinking and pain, I learned that I needed to come to terms with my past and re-imagine a new future.

Presence: A Short Film Series

Presence is an original short film series that celebrates the importance of presence, or how to live in the present moment.

I started stitching together old footage from Hong Kong, New York and Cambridge to create three short films to remind myself to stay in the present. Optimized for the internet’s short attention span, each video is only 90 seconds long.

The Hong Kong edition was edited by RYOT, while I edited the other two. The score in all editions was composed by David Grinbaum. All the footage was shot on an iPhone 5.

Hong Kong Edition

New York Edition

Cambridge Edition

Extended Edition

You need to stay present. If you are constantly thinking about the past and the future you lose out on the present moment where all the opportunities lie. The trick is to live as if you would live forever and live as if you would die tomorrow. If you are constantly living in the past or the future, worried by what has happened or afraid by what has yet to come, your thinking will be impaired. Live with immediacy and now.

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