Monday, December 01, 2014
Conversations 22: Looking Back to Look Forward
The year isn't over yet, so I can't say I have survived it. But that was the theme of this year for me - survival! The optimism that I had this time last year - plotting different things to get the business off the ground - was lost somewhat halfway through 2014, primarily because I was having to do myriad things simply to keep my bills paid. But I look back to the time not with regret, but with some kind of affectionate pride. When I started the business, my business partner did ask me how I plan to survive with the limited savings I had. My reply essentially was that having survived my months as a penniless, jobless immigrant, I have started believing I could survive anything, resetting my life altogether if necessary. I almost had to, in 2014, and the fact that I may have survived yet again gives me a sense of achievement.
But then, I don't really want to just 'survive'! That's not why I set out on an unusual career course choosing to set up businesses as an immigrant. Survival is something I had to do when things did not work out as planned. The persistent theme of all my activities in the past - they may look disjointed but looking back, the dots join - has been a search to live a creative life. Survival, for all the adrenalin it provides, is at the same time, a departure from that search, necessary but temporary at the very point of conception, to be discarded as a mode of living the moment conditions allow.
The other thing about the survival mode is that I started doing too many things, almost anything that could help me move forward a bit. While this provides wonderful serendipity - it did - this is an enemy of a creative life in a way. Right now, as legacies from those earlier commitments persist, I get pulled to different directions, mostly through unhappy and unproductive associations carried forward from my immediate past.
So, as I look forward to the next year, which I pledge to make different from the one that just went, my focus is on minimising my exposure and doing less, not more. I am usually an ideas man, and this is part of the reason why I get involved in so many things: But as I learned through the past year in particular, doing more things don't give me any pleasure. My focus right now is winding down the legacies, and I am hoping to come clear in the next 45 days or so, completing all my engagements at hand pertaining to my temping days.
I am also keen to move from process-based to creative work in my own life. I am ill at ease in process-based work, which was a permanent feature all my career: While I have been usually advised by people who knew nothing other than process-based work that I must become better at it, and I kept trying too, my realisation lately is that I should start playing to my strengths. If creative and imaginative work floats my boat - no one really has to tell me to write this blog, for example - I am better off channelling my energies to such enterprises and not waste my time on trying to fill spreadsheets better. It is not that I believe one type of work is better than other, and in fact I spent most of my life thinking that being disciplined at process-based work is the key to success, but I have just come to realise that I torture myself unusually to fit into roles and do things which I am not good at, whereas, with a little more purpose and commitment, I can fashion a creative life. This is my goal in 2015.
I shall allow a certain amount of time for this transition. I don't have a magic wand to create a creative life, and all my work currently is process-based and transactional. My sense of responsibility would prevent me from walking away from what I started already, though that possibly is a hallmark of a creative life. However, I would love to approach this with a sense of purpose with an eventual goal of getting into a more creative life, and allow myself a reasonable amount of time to do so.
In summary, then, I want to change the way I live now, and I want to be able to write a similar post twelve months hence, completing this transformation. The details still need to be filled out, but I needed to make the commitment. I am not one to set objectives, I believe in serendipity and chance connections: This is about reflecting back on what's gone wrong to have a sense of what I need to set right. And, as I look back to the year I just lived, I know I have to focus my life on creative pursuits. That, in short, will be the story of 2015 for me.
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How To Live
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T S Eliot
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