Living Life in Day Tight Compartments

Day Tight Compartment by William Osler

“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” ~Thomas Carlyle

The Concept of Living in Day Tight Compartment is an extract from William Oslers‘ Speech at Yale University Where he urged the students to do the day’s work, to live in the day, and he tells how when a very young man he read Carlyle’s Dictum : “Our Main business is not to see what lies dimly at distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” and how these 21 words changed his life.   He stumbled upon the dictum by Carlyle while worrying about his final exams and what to do afterwards.

Now the way of life that I preach is a habit to be acquired gradually by long a steady repetition.It is the practice of living for the day only, and for the day’s work, Life in day-tight compartments.~William Osler.


In his speech at Yale University, william Osler spoke of the  “Theory of Living Life in Day Tight Compartments, he adviced that we should shut out all thought of yesterday because they could not change anything that happened in history. Also that we should shut out all thoughts of tomorrow because that is the future which nobody can foretell. This left the focus entirely upon TODAY from within the day tight compartment meaning that all our energies are tightly focused upon the job at hand.

A few months before he spoke at Yale, Sir William Osler had crossed the Atlantic on a great ocean liner where the captain, standing on the bridge, could press a button and–there was a clanging of machinery, and various parts of the ship were immediately shut off from one another – shut off into watertight compartments. “Now, each one of you,” Dr. Osler said to those Yale students,

  • “is a much more marvelous organization than the great liner and bound on a longer voyage.
  • What I urge is that you so learn to control the machinery as to live with ‘day tight compartments’ as the most certain way to ensure safety on the voyage.
  • Get on the bridge, and see that at least the great bulkheads are in working order.
  • Touch a button and hear, at every level of your life, the iron doors shutting out the Past–the dead yesterdays.
  •  Touch another and shut off, with a metal curtain, the Future–the unborn tomorrows. Then you are safe–safe for today!.
  • Shut off the past! Let the dead past bury its dead..shut out the yesterdays which have lighted fools away to dusty death..The load of tomorrow, added to that of yesterday, carried today, makes the strongest falter.
  • Shut off the future as tightly as the past….The Future is TODAY….There is no tomorrow. The day of man’s salvation is now.
  • Waste of energy, mental distress, nervous worries dog the steps of a man who is anxious about the future….Shut close, then, the great fore and aft bulkheads, and prepare to cultivate the habit of a life of ‘day-tight compartments.'”
  • “Let the dead past bury its dead.” So easy to say, so hard to realize! The truth is the past haunts us like a shadow. To disregard it is not easy. Those blue eyes of our grandmother, that weak chin of our grandfather, have mental and moral counterparts in our make-up.
  • Many a man is handicapped in his course by a cursed combination of retro- and intro-spection, the mistakes of yesterday paralysing the efforts of to-day, the worries of the past hugged to his destruction, the worm regret allowed to canker the very hear of his life. To die daily, after the manner of St. Paul, who makes each day the epitome of life.

You can download free the Full Essay of William Osler Titled the Way of Life or You buy the Book by following this link to Amazon.

I hope the wisdom shared by William Osler will help us understand and appreciate the Power of Now. Remember:”Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a Mystery and Today is a Gift that is why it is called a present”. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion. Live Now. It is now or Never. All the Best.


“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” ~Thomas Carlyle