“… Déjà vu, nearly twenty years later as I have returned as a student at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School.
And, coincidentally it is also linked to UCLA Anderson School’s MBA program — so it’s time (again) to learn and re-learn in two familiar settings and institutions.
I didn’t think I’d have to hit the restart button at the age of 40 — but life is full of irony and wonder, surprises at every turn of fate and circular path… MDN”
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23 June 2013, Los Angeles, California
A year ago, I celebrated my 40th birthday on a glorious Saturday evening while enjoying performances by many artists my label has showcased since 2009, surrounded by family and friends from my creative and diplomatic worlds. Though, the celebration was tinged by uncertainty after a challenging and ultimately, impoverished three years as an passionate entrepreneur. My former business partner and I were about to close the offices of Planet LA Records on June 30, 2012. Nevertheless, the foundation of what we had built among our artists and brand partners would continue and strengthen (and later manifest into wonderful collaborations this year during Grammy week and the annual SXSW festival).
My birthday wish a year ago was for a fresh start, a re-start — as I knew the course I was following at the time was unsustainable, and heading in the wrong direction. Too much risk was taken while navigating unchartered waters of the music industry’s rocky business models. Like a ship that had veered off course, I had to re-gain control of the wayward enterprise and my own destiny. At that pivotal juncture, I decided it was time to re-invent and re-invest in my skills through new academic and professional pursuits.
For the rest of the year, I re-connected with my professional network about career options while considering leading M.B.A. programs. I interviewed for positions that would have taken me to Africa or Asia, and also applied to graduate programs back East, in Madrid and Singapore. There was a diminishing possibility that I would stay in L.A. beyond last year. In any event, I was confident I would still be able to turn the ship around and away from the undertow…
“Peach blossoms during Lunar New Year… the orchid from last year has re-bloomed with eight yellow stems,” my mother pointed out while I helped her in the garden this Spring.
“These are auspicious signs!” she insisted.
For the past three years, I kept saying I would help her re-plant and fertilize the flowers, trees and succulents — however, I was entirely driven on launching my start-up business, and didn’t stop to do so, or re-gain my footing… until this season.
By April, after sowing many seeds last year — some fantastic options appeared. Last month, I accepted an offer to work with MNET/CJ E&M, an Asian entertainment conglomerate to support their brand partnerships. Weeks later, I embarked on a flight to Singapore to begin my Executive M.B.A. with the UCLA Anderson School of Management and its partner program, the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School. Coincidentally enough, I attended both academic institutions in the mid-1990s — and two decades later, have hit the re-start button. This time around, the settings may be familiar, but the situations are decidedly better.
There is a Buddhist expression in Sanskrit known as “Saṃsāra” or the “cycle of existence” and how one may be caught in a vicious pattern due to ignorance, anxiety and dissatisfaction.
Buddhist philosophies encourage individuals to recognize and attempt to break free from Saṃsāra and suffering in order to reach enlightenment. This is not necessarily religious dogma, but does provide useful guidance in life — whether to learn from past mistakes, achieve a heightened awareness of the present, or gain greater focus for the future.
I tend to get a bit self-reflective on days like this — and grateful that I can look back upon the year with much satisfaction, more knowledge and higher hopes that I am on a better path.
Nevertheless, there is still much distance left at sea on this exciting journey… and before I will reach the stability of land and more promising territory.
Today, it has been a happier birthday!
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