• Ilan Cooley

one track pony

Updated: Jun 15

"I don’t think it is wise to be a one-track pony. Eventually there may be a dead end, a fork in the road, or you may need to make a U-turn; or maybe, you will suddenly encounter a full-on road closure. Then what?"



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I don’t subscribe to linear thinking. There is more than one track, and many ways to get where you want to go. Even a train needs two rails to keep moving on down the line. Besides, not everyone wants to ride a train; some people prefer a rollercoaster.

Buying into "right track" mentality could prevent you from finding your true path. It is a social construct, and in my opinion, verges on being an outright lie. How can there be limited ways to attain fulfilment and achieve success? How can only certain things make us happy? The more I expand my worldview and connect with people from different places, with varying perspectives, the more I understand there are so many ways to fulfil our purpose and many definitions of success.

I met a man in the Dominican Republic who beamed with pride as he talked about his community and his family. By some standards, his circumstances might seem unfortunate, but his sense of worth came from within. By that standard, many people I know have unfortunate circumstances he will never experience.

I have built a business over the past 18 years that has become successful by conventional standards. By my standards, it is successful because I love what I do. I work in the live music industry, and there is nothing more rewarding than hearing the roar of a crowd, and feeling a wave of pure joy rippling through an audience. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of my festival projects. I would be lying if I said this does not impact me, but it runs far deeper than just the loss of my income. I feel sadness for my colleagues, my industry, and also the fans. I feel the loss of momentum that results from being a part of a vibrant industry. I feel disappointed that through no fault of my own, what I have worked so hard for is simply closed until further notice.

I feel lost at times with the absence of my primary work. Fortunately, I have been on more than one track for a long time now. It may not have been apparent, nor did it need to be obvious to anyone but me. About 15 years ago I asked myself some important questions. I wanted to be certain I was utilizing my fundamental gifts. I used a simple exercise to prove the authenticity of my direction. I declared “I am” in relation to the things I felt were tied to my purpose. I was able to say without a doubt— I am a writer. It is an inner truth that was confirmed with that one declaration. I was able to separate out the things that I enjoy, or other stuff I am good at, but only the “I am” statements were proof of my truth.

I have always known am a writer. Nobody else needed to validate that fact. I have felt a deep and very pressing obligation to nurture it. I was called to define and refine it on my own terms and in my own way. I did that by writing a lot of stuff nobody will ever read. These were not even terrible first drafts that required polish to become readable. They were actual pieces of crappy writing that needed to be written so better things would come.

I attended school for the better part of 14 years, while still working full time and building my business, to gain more education and structure to practice my craft. It was my goal to make my best writing an artform. Choosing to structure this part of my journey netted two writing degrees and a second diploma in my field of communications. This was not for anyone but myself and I am not nearly done educating, practicing and honing. What the structure did for me was give me a chance to expand my critical thinking. It also put me in classrooms with people I never would have met otherwise—people of varying ages, with different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds. It helped me expand my own thinking, and gave me even more fuel to power me on my own trajectory.

I have dedicated just about as much time and effort to writing as any other thing. It currently does not pay my bills. It does not gain me accolades or attention, but it is who and what I am, and that is all that matters.

So, here I am today tapping away on my keyboard, putting one word in front of the other, at a time when very little makes sense in any other part of my life, and it is guiding me towards something great—I can feel it. The product of all the time and effort that only I understood is literally gushing out of me. It has cohesion and purpose and meaning.

I don’t think it is wise to be a one-track pony. Eventually there may be a dead end, or a fork in the road, or you may need to make a U-turn; or maybe, you will suddenly encounter a full-on road closure. Then what?


Sometimes I think my track is more like the crossroads where the tracks all meet and then diverta complicated interchange, rather than two straight lines that go on forever into the horizon. I don’t think it is important what the track looks like, as long as it makes sense to you.


If you like the road, or roads you are on, that is all that matters. If not, there is no time like the present to go down a new one!

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