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Blog // Thoughts
June 11, 2013

The Flame

In the past few weeks I’ve been fighting an emotion we seldom talk openly about these days, perhaps because it is so unfashionable and misunderstood in our current cultural moment. It really hit me after coming home from my last visit to Japan and announcing my upcoming move to Tokyo. I should have been feeling […]

In the past few weeks I’ve been fighting an emotion we seldom talk openly about these days, perhaps because it is so unfashionable and misunderstood in our current cultural moment.

It really hit me after coming home from my last visit to Japan and announcing my upcoming move to Tokyo. I should have been feeling joy and excitement at the prospect of a fresh adventure, a chance to live in a truly great city. Certainly the comments from friends and acquaintances were all positive. But, still, there it was.

I felt angry.

My ability to laugh off the small absurdities and annoyances of day to day life evaporated over night. I could sense in myself a deep moodiness. I was suddenly not fun to be around. Alarmingly, I was less motivated to exercise, struggling to sleep well and managing my time really poorly.

Where did this anger come from?

How Did I Get Here?

Moving to Singapore was, for me, all about making music. I felt Singapore had an emerging music scene with lots of musicians, bands and songwriters. In fact, I still believe in the potential here and I’m constantly amazed by the steady stream of musical talent this place produces.

But, setting up a studio business here and finding collaborators proved a lot harder than I expected. In the end I managed to create a great space, with a fine little project studio at the heart of it. And, I believed that in time, I’d put the difficulties behind me and start creating lots of great work with the artists here.

But, when we finally set a date on moving to Tokyo, it was like a steel door slammed shut on that optimism. This is it. There’s no more time to redeem the move, to turn it around, to find a happy ending.

The worst kinds of feelings, of failure, of missed opportunity, even of regret, seems to rain uncontrollably down on me. Pretty soon the sense of disappointment morphed into feelings of anger.

The Power Of Fire

“Our inward power, when it obeys nature, reacts to events by accommodating itself to what it faces – to what is possible. It needs no specific material. It pursues its own aims as circumstances allow; it turns obstacles into fuel. As a fire overwhelms what would have quenched a lamp. What’s thrown on top of the conflagration is absorbed, consumed by it – and makes it burn still higher.”
Marcus Aurelius

All too often we underestimate the creative power of anger. Perhaps we too easily assume that all rage is blind rage. But, anger can, if we take the time to reflect upon it, have tremendous clarifying power.

When I look back at the most life changing periods in my life, the times when I do the kind of work that defines me, that helps me express my true voice, there is always a period just before the creative season that was marked by disappointment, frustration and anger.

This anger I now felt helped me clarify what really mattered between now and when I board my flight out of Singapore. Packing up a home and moving to a different country can feel very complicated. But, when I sat down, with a good glass of wine, to write down what really mattered to me in this current moment, the list was surprisingly short.

I believe Marcus Aurelius was right; our creative urges can turn obstacles into fuel. I was angry because it suddenly felt like I had run out of time to burn down the obstacles I was facing here.

But, of course, when I look at what my circumstances do allow, there are some important things I can finish in the weeks that remain. And thus, slowly, the fire is coming under control.

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Responses
Jarome: Pro Soul 9 years ago

I can relate to this during our move to China. Moving to a strange culture to set up business is a daunting task. At least you’re moving to a developed country with a great music scene, but when everything is working against you to make any progress, it really hurts your confidence and enthusiasm, so we’re struggling here with those issues. But one thing is for sure, the great accomplishments and opportunities are only possible when you take these kinds of risks.

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