The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident”. I have found this to be spot on.
During the process of building TITAN, I was told, upon arriving, “People are going to try to tear you down. They will try to destroy—not just you, but your organization”. I thought such grave warnings stemmed from individuals’ bad personal experiences and perceptions and were pretty extreme. Crazy thing is…they were right.
In 2004, my wife and I moved to Oslo, Norway, where we took over a 50 year old ballet school and at which time, I founded my conservatory The International Theatre Academy Norway. I had a highly ambitious agenda: Teach these artists how to independent, to stand on their own feet both creatively and professionally and to teach them how to overcome any obstacle (or move around it), to be open to the inevitable process of change and to have knowledge of how to adapt and utilize change to their advantage.I have found that the adventure that one receives, is in equal proportion to that individual’s ambitions. If one has huge ambitions and acts accordingly, the world is going to push back in equal measure. Everything has an equal and opposite reaction, Physics tells us.
Over the course of some years, I was attacked by the head of the actors union in Norway, bent on preserving monopolistic state interests, no doubt (these exploits can be read in the archives of the Norwegian paper Dagbladet) and was even followed across several countries and harassed by organized crime.
In my first year of TITAN, I wanted my students to develop a global perspective on what theatre is. To help accommodate this, we traveled. I took those students to Denmark and Turkey (all in the first year of business operation).
Never, in my wildest imagination, would I ever imagine that I would be followed to Turkey by a figure in organized crime. Without saying too much, this individual, who had certain interests in one of my students, essentially followed us (on a separate flight) from Norway to Turkey, to thumb his nose at me and communicate that he is a bigger dog than I am.
Imagine this circumstance for a moment. I was playing late night volleyball with my students and some Turkish artists. I get this dark energy from my right and I look over and who is there? This guy. “What the…?”, I thought. This is not good. I have to solve this problem in the instant, without allowing further chaos to emerge or to, in any way, allow any threat to my students.
For those of you who have spent any significant time abroad, one learns very quickly how vulnerable one is. The laws you have always known to be so, do not exist in the same way in foreign countries. One must tread lightly, so as to not find oneself in a situation that is frightening.
This guy and I sat together in a cabana on a beach in a torrential downpour of rain. Lightning flashing all around us. Heaviest rain I have ever known. It definitely had a mythical feel. This guy proceeded to tell me that others were determined to break me down and that he could either help them or help me. Can you imagine? How crazy is that? That is movie worthy.
With my heart racing, I knew that there was no other way to handle this situation, other than to do so peacefully, but assertively. I knew that no good would come from refusing this moment, from retreating. More, no good would come from escalated conflict. I had to deal with with this conflict, headlong and with my wits about me.
We sat and tensely spoke in that cabana for about an hour and our dialog was, essentially, like two alpha dogs, each sniffing each other, each seeing which would back down first. We found ourselves at an impasse. Finally, after half an hour or so of establishing that I will not let him run over me, we compromised.
We both won in this scenario. I was OK with a compromise, as this solution made the problem go away and minimized risk and potential collateral damage.
I would be willing to bet that people with similar scope of ambition have had similarly dramatic exploits in their respective adventures.
Inevitably, when you enter the market, if you have any presence, whatsoever, you will turn heads. Your very existence will be threatening for some. The more innovative your product, the larger the threat you will be to the status quo. We are like animals in the jungle, all competing for the limited food in the area. There is only so much food out there and nobody wants additional competition—especially if the competition appears strong and ready for growth. Such competition draws a lot of focus. Be prepared for ridiculous scenarios to emerge.
When one dives head long into a jungle, they must expect to encounter wild beasts, now and then.
Committing to Adventure is a way of committing to a fuller, more stimulating, more life-affirming life. As you engage adventure, expect push-back and try, as best you can, to work with it and not flee from it. Worst case scenario, just walk through it.
Have you heard a call, a call to adventure? Say, “Yes” and then buckle up.
Jim Hart is the founder of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, The International Theatre Academy Norway and The Hart Technique.