I Never Thought I Was Creative | Part I
In 2013, I started my first company. At the time, I had no idea what I was doing and that led me to failures, one after the other.
I come from a middle class, immigrant family that taught me the importance of living a higher calling. We moved all over the world, from America to Taiwan, from India to South Africa, from Botswana to Canada. My parents always felt they had a reason to move to each place, and this taught me so much about purpose and trust. You need to be able to trust that you’ve listened to the right inner voice, and I learnt that as their son. Laura says I don’t talk much about my life story. I’m trying to get better. More on that later..
I am studying (read: this is funny) electrical engineering. It wasn’t that I knew that this is what I was to do with my life, but rather something I chose because it made logical sense. It made sense to me as a 18 year old kid. It no longer makes logical sense.
I was in my second year of university, when I realized that I lacked the drive to be an electrical engineer. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the problems, or that I didn’t understand the material. It was that I didn’t connect with it. That’s when it hit me.
‘I don’t know what I am doing with my life.’
For the first time in my life, I felt all alone. Growing up, I had my friends, my family, my teachers all living a life that included me. I didn’t have to make decisions or set goals. I could be naive and feel like good things would come to me. This time, I felt the need to do something of significance as well as the weight of not knowing what to do, or how.
So I turned to Google, looking at how to start something. Everything pointed to having something to start. Which was ironic given my search query. I did discover that I’d need to have a website (this was around 2012) so I tried to find out what that would entail. (Looking back, at the time I stumbled upon ICANN — which is something I didn’t even need to know). I decided that I was passionate about affecting change in the world. I started putting together a plan for a non-profit idea called ‘The Broken Love Project.’ I didn’t get much beyond that, to be honest. There was very little substance to the idea beyond what I thought was a cool name.
My second year finished, and during the summer I remember taking a Greyhound to Calgary. I was visiting our favourite family friends (sorry, I do have favourites) at the time. My non-biological younger brother David, and I ‘borrowed’ his sister’s new DSLR camera. It was the first time I had ever been able to use a camera with video functionality, and we were so stoked about it. We spent the entire afternoon filming ourselves acting out an idea. The concept was being built as we filmed, which taught us how challenging it is in reality. We were so proud when we finally put it together (read: brute force figured out how to edit in Windows Movie Maker). Showing David’s parents what we had made felt good, and we were so proud.
(I want to interrupt myself to explain something here. I grew up believing that my personality was logical, analytical and that I was going to be a scientist. That creativity and ‘the arts’ was something to laugh at, for people who weren’t smart enough. The engineering world had culture that would snicker at the ‘Arts’ side of campus. The system was set up for entry to an Engineering program being 80% out of the core subjects in High School. The reality was that the average kid getting into Engineering had 86%, and I had 85%. To get into an Arts program at the time, you needed 60%. This added to the stigma that it was ‘easy’ to do the Arts, and ‘challenging’ to do Engineering. Now before you judge me, hear me out. I completely take back everything I ever said or thought back then. I now have the exact opposite view on the matter. The reason the Arts needed only a 60% entry average was simple. It’s for the same reason you wouldn’t base how fast a cheetah runs on how it swims. Standardized ways of treating/seeing people doesn’t work)
Phew. That was a rant. I’ll get back on topic now. Making my first short film with David made me discover something I had never thought before. I was creative. That wasn’t all either. I loved it. Looking back at my childhood days, I used to build all sorts of things. I drew, I painted, I was always crafting things to make something I didn’t have. I taught myself the guitar, and preferred making my own melodies on the piano. I formed tree houses, had a vivid imagination, and loved taking things apart. Not only to see how they worked, but if I could build something new from the pieces. I was creative! I didn’t know it yet. The focus on motors, and technology was where I thought I was to be a scientist, or engineer.
In 2013, fuelled by my new found desire to make short films, I bit the bullet and started a ‘Film Production Company’ called ‘theBrokenCulture Productions’, complete with a Facebook Page and no portfolio. Ok, so not so complete. But I had started, and I talked a big game from day 1. My ‘About’ section described the company as one that makes short films to inspire change in the world. I received an email shortly from my first client, and landed my first project. Looking back, Steve Roadhouse unknowingly set me on an unbelievably humbling path that has become more and more known to me as ‘my life’. With no portfolio, he gave me an opportunity to grow and learn how to make videos. I worked that summer at the kids camp he runs as Executive Director.
Filming every day for 10 weeks straight teaches you a lot.
I returned home at the end of the summer to an email from Graeme Watt, a modern day legend who had founded an organization called Loveworks, which focused on empowering youth to make a difference in the world. Graeme made me feel like I could actually be good with my video work. He was so influential in the early days, and believed in me when no one else knew what I was capable of. (I can’t wait for the day Graeme gets to look down from heaven and see the incredible amount of lives that he singlehandedly affected over the years). I did some video work with Graeme for Loveworks and also on various projects he had along the years.
Since this is already long, I’ll continue the story in the next post..
It only gets better. I’m in a place where I want to give you as much value as I can from what I’ve learned. This is part of how I’m doing it.