The fourth type of courage is creative courage. It means leading with new ideas and creating things that are unknown to the rest of us.
This type of courage means overcoming the voice that asks us, ‘who do you think you are?’ when we try to create something new. Despite all the self-doubt, creative courage means creating something meaningful, beautiful and unique in spite of the risk of failure and rejection being high.
Creatively courageous people look at life like a canvas and paint it with their choices and legacy.
Ritviz is a twenty-four-year-old artist from Pune, India. With four million monthly listeners, Ritviz is one of the most iconic musicians in India. He is one of the most-streamed indie artists on Spotify, with over 200 million streams. His songs Udd gaye, Pranand Jeet, amongst many others, are a fusion of traditional Hindustani and Western pop music.
During the two-hour call I had with him, Ritviz made it clear that he was obsessed with music. While creating music, Ritviz feels that he is his true self. He often gets into a special ‘zone’ where he feels like an instrument of the universe.
His parents are musicians—his mother is a classical singer, and his father is a tabla player.
As a child, Ritviz would wake up hearing his mother practising her singing. He started learning gayiki, Indian classical vocal music, when he was six years old. By the time he was eleven or twelve, he was practising for five to six hours every day.
He grew up in a healthy environment at home. Music was neither forced on him nor was he was expected to make music.
He was learning Dhrupad, a style of Hindustani classical music, by following the guru-shishya parampara—the teacher-disciple tradition that we have in India. In those early years of learning, he was constantly surrounded by musicians.
Around this time, he was also watching VH1 Top 40 and Western music videos on television. He was influenced by the freedom of pop culture. It had no conventions or rules to follow.
Ritviz recalls, ‘I was attracted to the West purely because of the freedom that I saw that I didn’t see in Indian classical music.’
Traditionally in India, we respect, follow and polish our roots. In Hindustani music, one stays within the traditional confines of classical music. But Ritviz had a strong desire to express his own voice.
He says, ‘I didn’t want to sing and confine myself to only the given notes. I felt a strong need to express myself. I wanted to do something else. So, I started composing music in the fifth or sixth standard.’
At the age of twelve, Ritviz had started producing original music. He dreamt of becoming famous by the time he was in the ninth standard. So, he worked nearly sixteen hours a day from an early age to realize his dream.
In the ninth standard, unlike his friends who were worried about things such as friends, tests and games, Ritviz was dreaming about ‘breaking into the scene’.
When he was fourteen years old, he participated in a competition, the winner of which would be signed with a record label. He was devasted to finish third. And that made him re-evaluate his music and work even harder to bring out new songs. At the peak of his creative self thereafter, he would create seventy songs in a week.
He was a good student at school and scored 86 per cent in the tenth standard. He then opted for the commerce stream, but after a month, he moved to humanities. Still, the system of mugging everything, even for practical exams, was suffocating for him.
So, he decided to take science in IB with the aim of becoming a sound engineer. However, he didn’t enjoy that either as he was frustrated by the teaching style. He felt school was like a prison, and he was unable to unleash his creativity.
Finally, he decided that school truly wasn’t for him, so he dropped out when he was still in the eleventh standard and focused on creating his own music.
His parents were supportive. His mother created a shield around him and told him, ‘You only focus on creating your music,’ despite the disapproval of his extended family and friends. He put his head down and continued honing his creativity.
‘Every time I am singing, writing or composing, I feel closer to myself. So, it became like an addiction at a very young age.’
With each song he created he got into his true element, his zone. Philosophically, each song brought him closer to his true self.
If you listen closely to his music, you will notice that the content is Indian, but the format is Western. In making all his songs, his early childhood impressions of listening to his mother, to the many singers around him at home and to the VH1 Top 40 songs stuck in his memory. All the listening that happened in his childhood has morphed into the music that he makes today.
It took courage for him to not only drop out of school to pursue his creative calling, but to also break away from the confines of classical Hindustani music and create his own original pieces.
He says for creative people to be successful, they should learn about themselves first and not worry too much about the rules. If they reflect and discover their story and calling, and if they have a burning desire to share it with the world, they will figure out a way to do it. They don’t need to stick with the conventional norms of society.
Ritviz says, ‘We are not slaves to grammar. We should be slaves to literature. People forget that knowledge is only a tool. The true power comes in what you have to say.’
He candidly shares that one of the trade-offs of this creative courage is the loneliness one can feel. When he is in the zone while creating music, he feels euphoric. However, there is a negative side. ‘Every time I get a creative block, I hate my life. I see the negative comments, I tell myself that, oh, I don’t know what my next two years are going to be like. I start worrying, I get anxious.’
In his journey of creative expression, Ritviz made a symphony from all his life experiences that tens of millions of people enjoy today.
There is a lot to unpack from the stories of Malala, Vedangi, Dutee, and Ritviz. They moved past barriers and made landmark achievements at a very young age through courage.
But even in our day-to-day lives, we all need the courage to make our lives more rewarding and fulfilling.
This excerpt from ‘Unstoppable: How Youth Icons Achieve Extraordinary Things’ by Manthan Shah has been published with permission from Penguin Random House.