Thinesh Kurunathan: Dealing with Failure

Prologue: Just as how the typical tamil movie will only talk about the love story and end with a high and never reveal the story after, my time with The Guru Project has seen  many interviews and featuring the stories of many entrepreneurs. Most of whom were honest in sharing about their journeys. I did however notice a trend in that majority would rather not go into details about the struggles and failures. They would be open about it but they just would not go into details. I never understood why, until i faced it myself. The truth is that failure is painful and people don't want to talk about it because they just do not want re-live it. The purpose of sharing my experience is to allow young aspiring entrepreneurs to understand the reality of an entrepreneur's journey. Don't give up and always believe that You'll Never Walk Alone and The Best is Yet To be.

The Day it Happened
2 months ago, my team of friends and volunteers staged probably one of the most exciting live music events in Singapore. We organised what was possibly Singapore's first Indian Rock Festival. It was a standing concert which went on for 6 hours and it was held outdoors. I can say with absolute confidence that the event was well received by almost everyone who was there. People were proud of what we managed to stage. It felt like it was the best day of  my life. I still remember a special moment where I had 2 of my most favourite people in my direct line of sight, the superman in my life, my father, and the woman who stole my heart, while listening to one of the best pieces of music composition ever. That was truly a majestic (Raja) moment.

In a matter of hours, from the bevy of hugs and praises, my life started falling apart and collapsed. At about 4 am, after clearing the venue and making sure everyone of the team had left Sentosa in one piece, I sat down near the Beach Station Car Park wondering what was ahead. I was close to 100k in debt. With a dead phone and no public transport in sight, I fell asleep at the carpark. By the time Monday hit, the very people who hugged me and celebrated success on Saturday became my worst nightmare. I had outstanding payments to be made on claims to my crew and friends and team  to salaries for interns, to balance payments to suppliers and vendors  to loans to friends and to other creditors. 

Personally, I had no strength or will to carry on. I was just physically and mentally tired. This concert had really tested me. From the start till the very end, we were riddled with obstacles and hurdles, right till the last minute.

Giving up really seemed like the easiest option. Taking the next flight out of Singapore to seek solace in the comforts of a Sharugasan ( a friend living overseas) was just so tempting and still is. 

It was the demons in me that I had to fight. I had to constantly remind myself that I have staged 3 immensely successful concerts, where people enjoyed it. It was not perfect but we earned the respect and created memorable moments in peoples' lives.

Left Brain vs Right Brain 
Another fact that I had to remind myself constantly is that it is the company is 100k in the red and not me. To be honest, I had and still have a tough time coping with the word "debt". It was not the fact we had outstanding payments that bothered me. Even when one of the creditors threatened to go to social media to shame me, I was not disturbed. I have always been an open book and was never shameful of reality. It was more of the fact that I had let people down. These were the same people who had contributed to the success of the event. I was taking these debts personally. While the left brain will remind me that every one of the outstanding payment was some sort of a business transaction where the other party does profit or benefit from it one way or another, the right brain will just go into a panic mode the moment one creditor messages saying how he is being hampered  and affected by my outstanding payments.

The Daily Battle
Where the entrepreneurial journey is concerned, things will not get better or change over night. This is no Tamil movie and I am no Annamalai to get it right in one song. Every time, the phone rings, my heart beats a little faster. You must always remember not to let your emotions get in the way of  any decision, including prioritising the repayment plan.
A decision I make everyday

Failure is a necessary step and you must take it in your stride
It has been 2.5 years when I seriously took the plunge and left my full-time job. But, the learning curve has been steep in this past few months. There is nothing wrong in failing. Every other entrepreneurship meme that we have seen on the net is about a rag to riches story. Life is actually very simple. Just as how one will sustain a few knocks when learning how to ride a bicycle, it is the same with every pursuit. I know that it sounds crazy, but i have learnt to embrace it and move ahead. Every entrepreneur will need to cross this point. It is important that you never skirt around it. This is where you learn.

Remember never to take failure personally
You must constantly remind yourself that it is the business and not you, that has failed. You cannot let it engulf you. Your life has to go on. For a while, I was afraid to even step out of my house. When my friends wanted to meet or go out, I was actually scared to be seen partying or enjoying. A week after my concert, I was supposed to watch ColdPlay. A part of me was even afraid of running into one of my creditors. Even now, I have to remind myself that Thinesh Kurunathan is also a person and he needs to have a life as well. Your are your greatest strength and weakness. Never compromise on yourself. If you are damaged, you need to heal and strengthen yourself.

Never let your close ones suffer because of your pursuits
Most of us will remember  Will Smith from the movie, Pursuit of Happyness. Almost everyone I know loved the movie and loved the character for not giving up and pressing on. I, for one, hated his character for sacrificing his son and wife in his pursuit. The life of an entrepreneur is never easy. But we should always remind ourselves not to be selfish and let our journey inflict pain and stress on others. One on hand, I do have it easy. I am single. On the other hand, I also have parents who are growing old and are still silently hoping that their son makes good. They are patiently waiting for the day I can tell them, " its time to retire" or for me to buy a proper home for us or for me to even bring them on a holiday. Every time, I see my superman fall sick, the temptation to drop it all and seek regular employment is real. I hope I have time on my side. 

Don't let your anyone derail you from your path
My entrepreneurial journey started when I read Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I realised that an entrepreneur is not about wanting freedom or money or being your own boss. It’s really a mindset shift. To some, that mindset may be natural. To others like me, the mindset is a constant reaffirmation of my decision to pursue that path. It will be annoying that your close ones may not understand your mindset at all. Recently, a close friend of mine , who knew about the losses asked me if I had started looking for a job to settle them. For a moment, it really touched a raw nerve. I wanted to yell that " I HAVE BEEN WORKING ". I held myself because I knew that we just had different mindsets.

So, am I done with concerts and the Arts?
Well, the million dollar question that everyone seems to ask me.  I love music and the arts. I love to  show case(showcase) quality performance arts and we love to help our emerging artistes to give them a platform to unleash their talents. We bring in independent artistes in an attempt to allow the mainstream Indian to appreciate music beyond cinema. 

Time will tell. 

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