Have you ever wondered about whether you’re living or dying? Managing partner and COO of ABZD Capital, Anna Vanessa Haotanto, and former CEO of Emergenetics APAC, Terence Quek, have been haunted by this question for years, but it only came to the surface at the height of the pandemic in 2020.
“On the surface, everything seemed fine to me. The business was doing fine, and I had friends and family around, but I didn’t feel great,” Haotanto recalls. She wasn’t alone.
The phenomenon was so common that it was given a name: languishing. It feels as if you’re muddled through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield, as Adam Grant wrote in a New York Times article.
Haotanto did something about it, and found a kindred spirit in Quek, who had been thinking hard about how to maximise the life he’d been blessed with. Together, they discovered the concept of healthspan, which isn’t just about how long you live, but how well you do it.
“The primary question is: how should you live your life?” Quek says. The former Navy officer was all about making a positive impact in other people’s lives through volunteerism, education, and economic empowerment activities.
This year, he once ran 225km in 20 days, bought a bicycle, and even built a hydroponics farm at home.
For Haotanto and Quek, healthspan goes beyond mental and physical wellness. There is emotional, spiritual, social, financial, environmental, intellectual and occupational wellness, too.
“The barometers of success used to be just about what you owned or how much money you have. That’s changed with Covid-19,” muses Haotanto. “Many people are now looking internally and asking if that’s what they really want from life.”
She recently bought a memento mori (Latin for “remember your death”) calendar that visualises the number of weeks you have left in your life. The average person only lives for 4,160 weeks.
As Quek says: “Most of us don’t even think about how we are living today. We don’t think about whether we are living or dying. Do you feel you have a sense of purpose? Do you feel like your life has a bigger meaning?” Haotanto and Quek are building something to explore this idea and to help others live the best life possible.
While they are still in the planning stages and haven’t selected the format yet (“it could be a workshop or even an app”), they have already decided that it should be user-friendly, scalable and provide tangible results.
“Covid-19 was a huge disruption to our daily routine. But it gave me an opportunity to decide what parts of my life I wanted to focus on, and how I could be a better person,” says Quek. “In my youth, I wrote on a piece of paper that I wanted to make a positive impact. That statement simplified my decision-making process. As an example, if someone approaches me with a million-dollar business idea, but I can’t see how it would make a positive impact, I will say no.”
Haotanto expresses a similar view. “Everything in life is very simple. It’s just two questions. Does it excite you? Does it make you a better person? Apply these two questions to everything in your life and let them guide your decisions.”