A Lesson in Gratitude from a Root Canal

Personal posts don’t come often, but this is one I want to remember. What a funny start to the year.

Since I was young, my dentists have told me, “You have such strong teeth!”

Maybe not anymore.

Some 6 months ago, I got a cavity filled, the first in my life. It was always a little sensitive, and I went back to check, but I was assured that was par the course.

Maybe the filling got damaged. Maybe I should have persisted.

Somewhere along the line, that tooth got infected and slight tenderness turned into agonizing, nausea-inducing, vision-blurring pain. I was told I needed a root canal.

It’s like someone took a hammer to my face and was grinding it into my jaw, except that the adrenaline wasn’t kicking in. Every pang was just as intense – if not moreso – than the last, and soon, the pangs didn’t stop; they contorted and merged into a constant hell.

I tried everything – combining Advil and Tylenol, analgesic gels, natural remedies, everything – but the only thing that eased the pain was iced water. Seemingly, an easy fix, but incredibly difficult in practice.

The pain kicked in hard at 6PM. All of the endodontists were closed for the day and I had to wait for opening hours at 9AM. I either sipped water or went back to the agony. Either way, I knew I wasn’t going to get to sleep. I chose water.

With daylight far away, and with relief only lasting 10 seconds at a time (the length of time the water stayed cool), I drowned myself and the pain. I drank water well beyond the point of cold and nausea. For fifteen hours, it was a loop of:

  1. Sit up growling, “Agh, (expletive of choice)!”
  2. Sip iced water
  3. Feel stomach and bladder distend a little further, head spin a little more
  4. Drop head and nod off for a few seconds
  5. Wake up to a rush of pain and/or choke on water that I forgot to swallow
  6. Repeat.

Time passed so slowly. I would close my eyes, choke, and the numbers wouldn’t move. Really demoralizing stuff. I pleaded that come morning, someone would take me in.

Eventually, 9AM came, and I ran, stumbling over my water-drunken self, to find anyone who would help me. I can’t tell you how grateful I was to find a same-day appointment. The earliest slot was at 2PM, but at least it wasn’t another night. Just five more hours. I jumped at the chance.

I went in. People say root canals are brutal, right? Either my endodontist had magic hands, or by comparison, it was cake. I still felt the pain of the drill, but it was negligible to what came before. I fell asleep several times during the procedure. I felt free.

Financially, it’s not a good start to the year, my stomach is angry, and I’m a little scared of drinking water – but I can move! I am well. Maybe even better than before. The experience gave me a chance to reflect. I think about how lucky I am to have access to this medicine and the resources to pay for it. I think about how lucky I am that it was only one night. What about those people who suffer from crippling, chronic diseases who do this every day? Heaven forbid.

I rolled out of bed this morning without being tethered to a water bottle and that made me very happy. I feel a bit sheepish as my ordeal was short-lived, but I walk away with immense gratitude for being able to live without pain. It’s not quite a feeling of invincibility, but one of excitement about possibilities.

This night reminds me of how much I’ve been given, and I’ve been given so much. Time to put those gifts to good use. Let’s go hard!

Espresso Shots 0007: Mathew Collings and John Hilhorst from Community Tree Music


My love for soundtracks is no secret. Have you ever watched a movie on mute? The high-speed chases, the tender embraces, and all the moments in between – they lose their gravity without audio. Sound and music are integral parts of the visual media experience, and it’s a great pleasure to feature two gentlemen who feel the exact same way.  Mathew Collings and John Hilhorst  join me today to talk about and their new venture, Community Tree Music.

Mathew Collings and John Hilhorst from Community Tree Music

Mathew, John, thank you so much for joining me! Loving the marlin, by the way. So, before we dive into your latest venture, who are you guys? What do you do?

We are long time friends, born and raised from the Comox Valley, a small Canadian town smack down in the centre of Vancouver Island. Our friendship began by organizing street hockey games, pretty much every day, you can’t get more Canadian then that. We then started making films together for fun which quickly turned into a full blown passion and before we knew it we found ourselves running a production company in Vancouver. It’s been a wild and exciting ride and we have loved every second of it! We love telling stories that are honest, real, and matter. It’s what pushes us every day to be better filmmakers! Music has always been a huge part of our lives and hugely important part of all our films. It’s this passion that inspired us to find more amazing music, and what inspired our newest venture, “Community Tree Music”.

What’s that?

Community Tree Music is a resource for filmmakers to find great soundtracks for their films. The artists are all Canadian and we are so proud to be able to share their amazing talent with the filmmaking public.

Sounds like my kind of jam!  How did it all begin?

As filmmakers ourselves we can totally relate to how hard it can be to find the perfect song, not only that but we can also relate to how frustrating it can be to license a song for a film. We wanted to create something that made it easier for people like us, filmmakers, to find great music and license it easily for their films. We realized this was something we needed to create when we had a meeting with a commercial client who specifically requested Canadian music in their commercial spot. When we started looking into licensing quality Canadian music we realized that there were not a lot of places were you could find quality Canadian music to license. When we looked a bit deeper we started finding all sorts of incredibly talented Canadian artists, so we created something that would help give them exposure while at the same time provide a solid resource for filmmakers that need great music.

That was one of the big draws for me as well, that you guys are running a purely Canadian resource.

Canadians have great stories to tell, it’s reflected in so much of what we do as a culture. There are so many fantastic Canadian musicians out there, and so many songs that we felt would fit perfectly in films. The opportunity for Canadian musicians to collaborate with Canadian filmmakers is really exciting. Adding to this, a filmmaker buys a license from one of our artists, the artist makes money and when you are trying to survive as an indie Canadian musician every loony or townie counts! Hopefully this will help them financially and allow them to focus more on making great music.

So Community Tree Music focuses on independent music?  Would you say indie music better than mainstream material?

We get asked this a lot. It’s not that it is better, it’s just that independent music is more honest and personal and we feel tells a better story. When you hear a top 40 song on the radio a thousand times a day it starts to lose its personality. If you use that song in your film it can take away from the honesty of the story. We are starting to see independent music becoming more of a popular choice in web videos, films, commercials and television and often we ask ourselves “what is that song?” Which not only makes us remember that particular piece of work but also makes us discover new music!

I get that. For me, oftentimes, the songs I find in films and games have more meaning; I think it’s because I saw them in context of something bigger.  When I hear them, they’re grounded in that experience.  On the visual end, who’s the perfect user for you?  What can filmmakers expect to take away from the site?

What we want is filmmakers to come to Community Tree Music and not only find music to enjoy listening to but start to build connections with artists. From our experience, finding artists that you can connect with as a filmmaker is so important and often music can inspire so much in filmmaking. If you come to Community Tree Music and listen to some of your favorite artists it can really help the creative process plus those filmmakers will keep listening to the same artists, license from them again and again and spread the word about how great that particular band from Canada is!

And on the musician side?

We are looking for passionate story tellers, artists that write from the heart. Artist’s that create music as a way to express who they are. We are always looking for story in music. Is this a song that takes us on a journey? Does it make us think, dance, feel? They say sound is fifty percent of the movie going experience so music really is am important element of film.

I totally agree!  In closing, any big news or projects coming up?

Yes! We are currently getting ready to send out some really cool Community Tree playlist discs which we will be mailing out to our subscribers and production companies. We want people to be able to enjoy the music and make a real connection with these awesome artists. With these discs we will be including a promotional discount off all licensing options. Other than that, we are always adding new artists, having contests and putting together some genre specific playlists to make finding the perfect soundtrack that much easier.

I’d love to get my hands on one! Gents, thanks so much again for joining me!

Thanks for having us!

Filmmakers and musicians – if you’re looking for your next soundtrack or if your music would be perfect for visuals, hop on over to Community Tree Music and give Mathew and John a shout!

Going West Coast Road Tripping with TripleSpot – and I Need Your Advice!

Last September, I was invited to the launch of TripleSpot, a mobile app that’s all about finding and sharing the greatest experiences in your own backyard and abroad. Rather than centre around reviews, TripleSpot is all about activities. The entire experience is broken down into twelve categories, including “Do Good”, “Make Something”, “Get Some Culture”, “Go Out Tonight”, and of course, “Eat & Drink”.

Jumping ahead to November, TripleSpot ran a contest to crowdsource the best weekend adventures from around the world. At the end, five winners took home $2,000 to go travel and TripleSpot their experiences – including yours truly!

Deciding where to go was hard. For a long while, I hovered between Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Iceland, but each location came with its own concerns, largely around resources and planning. My visit to Singapore and Japan last year was WONDERFUL, but very intense. For this trip, I want to unwind (and not worry about language barriers), so I’m going to explore my own backyard; down the US west coast I go!

This is where I need your help. At this time, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco are the major stopping points, but I know very little about what’s around them and between them. If you have any favourite experiences along the US west coast that might fit into “Get Some Culture”, “See the Sights”, “Get Outside”, “Learn Something”, “Get Sporty”, “Hear Music”, and “Eat & Drink”, I’d love to hear about them and their stories! The less common the better, though if you know a unique twist to a common experience, that’s awesome too.

Thanks, guys! I really appreciate the help!

Disclaimer: To be totally clear, by accepting the contest disbursement, I’m obligated to post a specific amount of content to their network. For full details, see TripleSpot’s Weekend Adventure contest terms and conditions.

Espresso Shots 0006: Steven Ngo, Executive Director of HUM

Steven Ngo, Founder of HUM

After a three-year hiatus, the Espresso Shots project is back!

Espresso Shots is an interview series covering inspiring people I meet.  Each interview includes coffee, a conversation, and a photograph.

Helping me relaunch the series is someone I’ve admired for a long time, Steven Ngo. A lawyer, musician, social butterfly, and philanthropist, Steven is always making great things happen, and I’m proud to have him here to talk about his non-profit, Healing Using Music (HUM).

Steven, I know you’re always on the go, so thanks for taking the time to join us!  You seem to do everything.

Thanks for the introduction Jeremy!  I’m just as impressed by your accomplishments and feel honoured to be part of your Espresso Shots series.

Thanks!  So, tell us about HUM.  What is it and what do you do?

HUM is a non-profit organization dedicated to using music as a way to bring happiness to the world. We provide free live music performances to schools and care facilities as a way to share our passion for music and to bring happiness into people’s lives. At HUM, we believe that music makes life better and providing live music is our way of improving the lives of people in our community.

You know, that was one of the biggest draws for me – how giving you are.  I think the same goes for your team at HUM as well.  How did it all begin?

Thanks Jeremy!  The idea for HUM started about two years ago.

During the holidays, I noticed that there were a lot of caroling events taking place in the community. Whether it be in schools, care facilities or even at the mall, the carolling music from these events help create such a festive atmosphere and brings people together from all walks of life.

However, once the holidays are over, the number of performances in schools, hospitals and care facilities die down as well. This is unfortunate. There is no reason why live music should only take place during the holiday; it should happen all year long, especially in places where music isn’t nearly as accessible.

I wanted to create an organization that would provide music performances to schools, hospitals and care facilities throughout the year, and hence, the idea for HUM began.  

And for you, where did your mission to help others come from?

I have always been involved with music and charity from a young age. When I realized that I could give back to the community through music, everything just clicked.

To me, there is more to music than simply mastering scales on the piano or learning new guitar rifts. Rather, I want to use music as a way to effect change in our world, and HUM is a perfect avenue for me to fulfill this purpose.

I admire that.  For someone who wants to check HUM out, what can they expect?  What makes a HUM event great?

The main difference between a HUM event and any other event is the amount of effort that we put into engaging the audience and creating a friendly and open atmosphere. Music is meant to be enjoyed by all without prejudice and without barriers. The musicians who volunteer their time with HUM are typically those who want to use their talents for a greater purpose and want to give back to the community.

Looking ahead, what’s next for you and your team?

Next, HUM is expanding globally to Asia, which is exciting and has kept us quite busy in terms of figuring out the logistics of our global expansion. I am fortunate to have such a strong and talented team working with me. They continue to inspire me every day, and without their support, I know that we wouldn’t have achieved such success at HUM.

And locally, is there anything we can do to help HUM grow?  How do folks get involved?

To get involved, check out our website, sign up for our newsletter and find us on Facebook as well.

We have events every month, and we’re always looking for people to get involved. If you play music and want to give back to the community, come chat with us. You can reach out to us via email or on any of our social media channels.

If you’re involved in the community or know of organizations who may be interested in having us perform, let’s get in touch, and we would be happy to chat further.

Awesome!  In closing, a personal question?  I’m always amazed at how much you get done.  Do you have any advice on how folks can up their game?  What drives you?

A lot of coffee … just kidding.

I love reading and listening to audiobooks. In particular, I remember learning about this one idea in a book called The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, and it has changed my life ever since.

“Things that are easy to do are also easy not to do … it is the simple positive choices added up over time that will lead to life-changing results.”

For me, this rule applies to everything from taking a few seconds to reply to an email to pumping out an extra rep at the gym. It is the small, daily choices that matter the most and when compounded over time, lead to great success and productivity.

In terms of what drives me, I am continually inspired by friends like you who have achieved so much in life. However, if I were to name just one source, it would be my family. My parents immigrated to Canada with almost nothing to their name, started at the bottom and worked their way up the ladder. They worked day and night to make sure that we would have a better life in Canada, and I’d like to think that they did a pretty good job so far!

They definitely did!  I need that quote on my wall.   Steven, thanks so much again for your time!

Thank you!

For anyone wanting to see HUM in action, they have a fundraiser on February 6th, 2014 at Performance Works here in Vancouver to raise funds for The Lipstick Project.  Performers include Gio Levy, Anna Toth, Dan Heffner, Angelica Poversky, Fat Julia, Nogo, and opening and closing DJ sets from yours truly.

What is fiftytwocreatives?

With 2014 just around the corner, I’m reviving the fiftytwocreatives project, and this year, I’d love to have you guys join me!

fiftytwocreatives is a framework to help you become a better, more prolific creative.

For a full year, participants start and finish a new creative project every week. No matter your discipline, all are welcome! By no means are you limited to your craft, either. Push your boundaries. Invent a dance! Cook a meal! Learn a song! If you’ve ever wanted to try something, now is the time.

At year’s end, participants have 52 (or more) completed works to use as they see fit. If you’ve been wanting to start a creative career, this is an amazing way to build a portfolio, develop your skills, and practice delivering on demand.

Sound good? Join in! Here are a few additional points to get you started, though you’re free to modify them as needed:

  1. Creative works must be started and completed on the same week. You’re cheating yourself if you’re not pumping out new ideas.
  2. Projects must be published or shared with an accountability partner before 06:00:00 AM (your local time) every Monday, with week one ending on January 6th, 2014.
  3. Want to diversify? Switch genres any time you see fit! Try as many disciplines as you’d like.
  4. Sadly, plagiarism is a thing, so posting excerpts is okay – provided the actual work is complete. Stay the course!
  5. Submitting parts of a larger project (e.g. writing the first draft of a chapter, designing sounds for a song, sketching a painting, etc.) is totally acceptable. This is not an opportunity for laziness, but a chance to tackle larger or more involved works.
  6. Not sure where to post your work?
  7. Documentation, either publicly or privately, is highly recommended. Keeping notes will help you track your progress, but can also help you review and improve your creative process.
  8. Once you get going, let us know! Tag your social posts with #fiftytwocreatives, join us in the fiftytwocreatives Facebook group, and comment on this post to tell us about your fiftytwocreatives and where we can find it.

Have questions? Please leave them below. Otherwise, onwards! – to a more creative 2014!

Double Standards in Creativity: Don’t Use My Work without a License! (But I’m Going to Use Yours)

I’m so grateful to have toes in multiple disciplines. When something needs to happen, I can usually get it done by myself. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone and there’s this thing that visual artists and musicians do that drives me crazy: the unlicensed use of each other’s material.

Visual artists use music to set the mood for their work. Musicians use images for their promotions. Many times, no one is seeking licenses or even asking for permission.

As photographers, how can we be offended when our images lack credit or proper dues, yet we have so many portfolios and montages with unattributed audio? The same goes for musicians. Where did the images for these YouTube videos come from?

This isn’t a post about exposure, creative commons, or legalities – but an examination of what’s right. I get that sometimes that song or that image is just perfect, but unless it’s been explicitly stated, it’s not yours to take. Writers, visual artists, performing artists, and any one else who creates – you work hard for your craft and you defend the value of your work. How is it different taking someone else’s? Availability – and I’m looking squarely at Google Images – does not equal the right to exploit.

Ask! We’re all in this together. Even if things don’t work out, there’s still an army of creatives out there – millions strong – just as hungry as you are. Sit down with someone else you admire, work with them, and create an experience all your own.

How Visit Seattle Won Me over with a Book

Marketers, take note! – this is how you do customer service and social media well.

Last year, I was invited down for #2DaysInSeattle. As a musician, the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum took top billing.

An illuminating experience about the world of rock and roll, one I wish I had after I started spending more time with my guitar. Still, there was much I could relate to, particularly Jim Marshall’s photo exhibit of the Rolling Stones:

The images were captivating, an intimate look at the lives of some of rock’s greatest legends on tour. Though my time was short, I lingered in that room. I left wishing I had longer.

Some 17 months later, a package arrived holding the book and Christmas card you see above. Here, the contents of the letter, alongside my tweet about the exhibit:

“We’re thinking of you this holiday season. Hope you’re thinking about us too. #2DaysInSeattle”

This is a gift I’d be ecstatic to receive from my kin – and this came from a destination marketing organization? Visit Seattle, you guys are brilliant. Thank you so much! I’m touched I can’t wait to dive in.

This is some high-grade customer care and your marketing manager deserves a raise – or at least a sizable Christmas bonus. I’ll be gushing about this one forever.


I’m back! For the first time since Jeremy Lim Photography took over three years ago, jeremylim.ca is once again a blog. From creativity to productivity, from food and fitness to the far east, there’s much to talk about in the coming months. In the meantime, here’s what’s been happening:

Jeremy Lim Music

If we’ve spoken this year, you know I’ve been pushing Jeremy Lim Music. Music’s been the cornerstone of my life and a career I’ve wanted for over a decade. In childhood, game and film soundtracks are where everything began, and that’s where I want to end up. While there’s an overwhelming amount to learn, everything’s starting to line up. I’ve been blessed with brilliant mentors and the affections of a small – but growing – fan base.

Now, it’s a matter of hustle.

My next steps involve a lot of study and a lot of hand shaking. If you’re a musician of any background or are involved in gaming or film, please give me a shout. I’d love to grab coffee, talk shop, and if we’re a good fit, collaborate.

Jeremy Lim Photography

Jeremy Lim Photography carries on strong at its new website, albeit with a different direction. Since the start of my career, I’ve focused on conference, corporate, and wire work. While it’s been a blast, I’m ready to slow down and tackle more strategic, story-oriented projects – particularly those featuring creative people and organizations. If that’s you, and you have a project in mind, let’s chat!

Aperture Strategy

Bringing up the rear is Aperture Strategy, my marketing consultancy for creatives. Before photography, I worked a number of marketing roles, primarily in social marketing, community management, content marketing, and search optimization. Those skills carry on in Aperture. If you’re a creative looking for online marketing answers, I can help clear things up.

There’s lots to be done, but it’s so good to be back. Time to push!