Today is December 4 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you rebound from indifference?” People who achieve substantial professional success have often had to overcome tremendous personal issues. Canadian writer, poet, and performer Leonard Cohen had to overcome a variety of personal issues in his life.
His father owned a successful clothing store but died when Leonard was 9. Cohen enrolled in McGill University in 1951 where he studied English and published his first book of poetry in 1956. He wrote other books between 1961 and 1966 and in a 1971 interview noted “I found it was very difficult to pay my grocery bill. I’ve got beautiful reviews for all my books, and I’m very well thought of in the tiny circles that know me, but I’m really starving.”
To help pay his bills Cohen started writing and selling songs. He also had to work through his anxiety of singing and performing in public. His second album, Songs From a Room, released in 1969 solidified his growing reputation as a songwriter. During the 1970s-1990s he suffered through bouts of depression and only released 7 albums during the 1970s-19902. He wrote perhaps his most famous popular song Hallelujah in 1984 for an album that his record company rejected as insufficiently commercial. Over time some 200 artists have sung or recorded it.
Between 1994 and 2001 he abandoned his music career and moved to a monastery. In 2005 he sued his former manager according her of defrauding him of millions of dollars. Although a judge awarded Cohen $9.5 million, he was unable to collect any of the money.
In 2008, at 74 years of age, Cohen hit the road for the first time in 15 years. This grueling world tour would last for almost 3 years, where he would perform nearly 250 shows, and was driven in part by financial necessity. “It was a long, ongoing problem of a disastrous and relentless indifference to my financial situation. I didn’t even know where the bank was.”
In his February 24, 2009 New York Times profile of Cohen entitled "On the Road, for Reasons Practical and Spiritual, Larry Rohter wrote “Zen has also helped Mr. Cohen to learn to stop whining and to worry less about the choices he has made. Reflecting upon his decision to go back on tour, Mr. Cohen said ‘All these things have their own destiny; one has one’s own destiny. The older I get, the surer I am that I am not running the show.’”
Cohen recognized his indifference, accepted that he could create his own destiny, yet understood there were so many factors outside of his control. This nuanced approach to life made him one of the influential artists in recent memory.
Have you been indifferent to life? Has your attitude prevented you from moving forward either personally or professionally?