Alone on the Wall

It’s ok to be scared. Especially when you’re venturing into the unknown and trying to do something amazing and new. But whenever you’re there, alone on your own wall, take a moment to breathe, realize how lucky you are to be there, and continue your journey.

Note: The awesome part happens after 3:00, but watch the whole thing.

High-Fiving Your Brand

The most popular story for how the modern “high five” originated is from the late 70’s when Dodgers player Glenn Burke raised his hand in celebration to greet Dodgers left-fielder Dusty Baker, and Baker not knowing what to do, slapped it. It may be strange to think about, but there has to be an origin for everything. Great marketing attempts to do the same thing to products as what Glenn Burke and Dusty Baker did to the high five.

Branding

The high five was never “invented” but merely discovered. While products do come and go, they are never successful unless they are able to be found. The same can be said for brands as well. Brands are built upon their ability to quickly get found by the masses. There is a rule to a brand’s success: great success comes with influencing great amounts of people. If you can’t get found, success cannot follow.

Branding is the science behind getting found by markets and it is necessary for any success anyone hopes to make in business. It is relevant to anyone with an idea and a dream, from individuals to corporations and anything in between.

Opportunities

The high five would have taken off eventually. In fact, there are several stories that claim a different origin for the high five. A market won’t disappear unsatisfied, but will only diminish once it’s need has been met. Someone must meet this need, is it you? Either you or your competition can capitalize on the opportunities that are present.

Apollo 8

On December 24th, 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission, humans saw the Earth rise above the horizon of the moon for the very first time in person. The three astronauts of Apollo 8,  Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders became the first humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit, see the far side of the moon, and were the first people to ever view the earth as a whole planet.

After 55 hours and 40 minutes into their flight to the moon, the crew of Apollo 8 entered the gravitational sphere of influence of another celestial body, becoming the first humans to do so. Sixty-four hours into the flight, the crew began to prepare for Lunar Orbit Insert-1, or LOI-1. Due to the orbital mechanics that had to be performed on the dark side of the moon, this maneuver had to be performed perfectly to avoid any error in trajectory, which could have seen Apollo 8 being flung into space. Just before the 69th hour of their journey, the Apollo 8 crew entered into the dark zone behind the moon, going out of radio contact with earth. They were now more than 238,000 miles away from their home and completely cut off from earth.

Earthrise

During the first three orbits of the moon, the crew described the terrain they were passing over and completed critical tasks, such as reconnaissance of future landing sites on the moon. As Apollo 8 came out from the dark side of the moon for its fourth (of 10) pass across the front, the crew witnessed Earthrise for the first time in human history. The image below, dubbed Earthrise by NASA, is the famous picture they took.

Earthrise

The famous Earthrise photo taken by William Anders on December 24, 1968.

Genesis

On the 9th orbit across the moon the crew began their second television transmission. Each crew member gave their impression of the lunar surface, then talked about what it was like to orbit the moon. The crew then each read a section of the Biblical creation story from the Book of Genesis, very fitting for their broadcast to the world as the first humans to ever leave Earth’s orbit. That reading can be played below.

Boreman ended the transmission with, “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God Bless all of you – all of you on the good earth.”

Your Earthrise

We are all explorers, each of us having the ability to forge our own paths into the unknown.  It’s up to you to decide what you create, whether you leave the orbit filled by so many, or venture off on your own into the darkness, creating something new and sharing it with the world.

You can let your Earthrise be something different, unique, and remarkable. Or you can be boring and never leave the orbit and the path that everyone else is on. Your choice.

The Admiral

On the last day of the 1993-1994 NBA Season, two future Hall of Famers were locked in an epic scoring battle, each vying to capture the coveted NBA scoring title for that season. David Robinson, nicknamed The Admiral, of the San Antonio Spurs trailed Shaquille O’ Neal, then with the Orlando Magic, by 33 points going into the final day of the season on April 24, 1994.

As if out of a novel, both Robinson and Shaq had games that day, and with Robinson already trailing 33 points behind Shaq, Robinson not only had to overcome that deficit, but also had to outscore whatever points Shaq racked up on his last game as well. The goal of being scoring leader seemed to be sailing away from The Admiral.

The 71

Shaq scored 32 points that night, increasing the number of points Robinson had to beat to 65 in order to win the NBA scoring title for the ’93 – ’94 season. At the time, only 5 players had scored 66 points or more in an NBA basketball game: Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, David Thompson, Pete Maravich, and Michael Jordan. Besides Michael Jordan’s 64 point performance during the ’93 – ’94 season, no one had attained 60 points or more since Pistol Pete Maravich in 1977.

Robinson ended the night with 71 points, edging out Shaq by a mere 6 points for the scoring title and securing his place as an NBA great. Robinson’s 71 still remains as one of the highest point totals ever scored by a single player in an NBA game, behind only David Thompson, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kobe Bryant.

Adversity

Robinson’s idea and dream of being the scoring leader had few boundaries, save for the end of his career or a career-ending injury. But the inspiration and drive to achieve the scoring title in the last game of the season had a small, perishable window. Inspiration doesn’t wait for anyone or anything, and luckily Robinson was ready. Will you be?

Facing adversity, being different, facing difficulties, and wanting to accomplish something great does not build your character, it simply reveals it. How you react to the obstacles you face is entirely up to you. But your results will continue to be average at best unless you work to build your character and better yourself, so when the day comes when you have to score 71, you can do it.

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The Self-Powered Life

The Ancient Polynesians navigated the Pacific using the sun and the stars as their compass. Their journeys took them to places across thousands of miles, from Hawaii to New Zealand and New Zealand to Easter Island, within an area encompassing 10 million square miles, now known as the Polynesian Triangle.

These ancient navigators, exploring and settling the Polynesian Triangle between 3000BC and 1000BC, set their eyes forward and upward, using the stars as their guide and the horizon as their goal. Entire villages traveled great distances in Polynesian double-hulled canoes, setting out to find new islands and lands.

No ship guides itself. There must always be a captain to decide where it goes. But each ship, regardless of the number of people who man it, are reliant on the winds, engines, and masts that power it.

Life is challenging. But life is only captained by its owner. Each life must steer itself.  The road less traveled is worth the risk, though, and the misfits who are brave enough to journey there have great stories to tell. Stories of adventure and fortune, of risk and failure – and of life.

The Art of Being Remarkable

Nobody plans on having a boring life, but once you realize you’ve gone down that path, you can feel overwhelmed by the dull and mundane events of your life that make you feel like you’re barely able to keep your head above water. It becomes easier and easier to close the door to whatever exploration is calling you, to whatever your dreams are, and continue on the uninspiring path that truly offers nothing remarkable.

Being remarkable is about the journey. It’s what you see along the way and the people you meet. The journey makes the destination worth it. It’s true that people make the world spin around, but the dreamers are what make the world worth exploring. Realize that you can be one; find them and join them.

‘A Handcrafted Event for Artists, Troublemakers, and General Riffraff ‘

On the last weekend of May in 2014 I found myself among a fantastic number of dreamers in sunny Fargo, North Dakota for a conference that can only be described as A Handcrafted Event for Artists, Troublemakers, and General Riffraff. It was a weekend dedicated to those who seek creativity out as if it were a money tree. That weekend, I was one of several hundred people from all walks of life that are doing amazing things across the globe, and I felt at home.

This year’s Misfit conference was the second one in as many years put on by Misfit Inc., a company headed by my good friends AJ and Melissa Leon, along with many other cool people. A fair number of attendees had gone to the previous year’s Misfit Con, and each one of them spoke of the magic that occurred there. I was pumped to say the least.

AJ and Melissa

My bizarre journey to Fargo, of all places, began a year before the plane even left the tarmac. I was first introduced to AJ Leon in 2013 through his Kickstarter campaign that aimed to fund his book, The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit. My dad is the one who sent me the link and asked me to check out the Kickstarter video – it looked interesting and I did.

AJ’s Kickstarter video caught me completely off guard. Here was a guy who had “made it” and had everything but an actual contract to a very rich and wealthy future. AJ had left a comfy six-figure job in Manhattan for an unknown and uncertain life. He had decided that he wanted to change the world, explore, and do something remarkable and different with his life. Fourteen months later he had started his own successful business with his wife (Misfit Inc.), was exploring the world, and was doing life fulfilling things. This was right up my alley.

His journey has taken him from Manhattan to places all around the world. With his wife and team of Misfits, AJ has built a windmill in Africa, promoted the value of Shakespeare around the world, inspired millions, and created a place for misfits around the world to come together and be wonderfully eccentric.

As a gift to me, my dad purchased one of the options on the Kickstarter campaign that would have AJ hand delivering his new book to me in person once it was completed. I immediately began devouring his blog, (aj-leon.com/pursuitofeverything/), and ate up everything he had to say about life, the world, and everything in between. His outlook was an injection of inspiration that gave my dream of writing and working for myself wings.

Later that year my dad and I met AJ and his wife Melissa during SXSW. We shared coffee and stories of self-starting adventure. This year we all met again during SXSW 2014, where AJ delivered his completed book to me.

Misfit Con 2014

Misfit Con is described as A Handcrafted Event for Artists, Troublemakers, and General Riffraff. If you haven’t yet met me then you should know that description fits me, not perfectly, but close enough. It’s a great description of an event, certainly, but there’s not much else you can do to prepare for what actually happens. There’s not a real way to describe it beyond those words. It’s magical.

The night before the plane was scheduled to depart I didn’t sleep a wink. The first leg of the journey that took me to O’Hare felt like it went by in a second. The second, and much shorter leg felt twice as long as the previous 3 hour plane ride. Before I landed in Fargo I finished reading Srinivas Rao’s book, The Art of Being Unmistakable, which set the mood for the conference. Little did I know Srinivas would be attending as well as speaking, and I would get a chance to meet him and speak with him.

Landing in Fargo was an experience. Firstly, there was no one else waiting for a shuttle, car, or friend pickup. I was it. The people who exited the plane with me quietly walked to a small parking lot where they left in their own vehicles. After more than 30 minutes my Hilton hotel shuttle arrived and picked me, and only me, up. I made it to the hotel a short time later in time for the informal Misfit meetup that Thursday evening at a local museum.

That evening was special. I met friends there who I still connect with today: friends from Austin, friends from Canada, the US, and all over the world. It was the perfect introduction to what would be an incredible weekend.

I awoke the next day refreshed, eager, and very anxious. If you’ve ever been to Fargo then you’ll know how special it’s small, quaint downtown can be. Though small, it’s a very chill and welcoming atmosphere. Large enough to have the unique things that make a city special, but small enough that walking about it will have you running into friends and meeting new people. Downtown Fargo that Friday morning just before 8am was inhabited by few people. I didn’t recognize anyone from the night before but I suspected we were all Misfits there for the conference. There was an electricity in the air that was begging to be consumed and shared.

I left my hotel early enough to stop and get coffee at the local shop, named Atomic Coffee, next door to where we were instructed to meet. There was a group of people talking animatedly by the door, they seemed too spirited to be simply having coffee before an 8am job, so I knew I had found the Misfits. I grabbed my coffee – something black and strong, from what I can remember – and headed over.

We finished our coffee, and walked next door to begin the weekend. Then everything changed.

Find Your Fargo

This is where I stop telling my Fargo story, it’s a beautiful experience and memory to me, but it wouldn’t make sense to you unless you were there.  There aren’t enough words to describe what happens next in my own, unique Fargo story.

Choosing to be different, to be creative and challenge your status quo is the first step off of the beaten path. But one step doesn’t get you there. Being around many people who are all journeying to and on the road less traveled is the inspiration everyone deserves to have.

The motivation my fellow Misfits and I gained there is invaluable. Each of us began the journey to Fargo seeking to alleviate a pressure to create and perform, looking to find out what makes others tick and why they create such beautiful masterpieces. Each of us left from Fargo with a sense of community and a reason why – a reason why to create, why to love, and why to continue embracing our own uniqueness.

Find your own Fargo, your own tribe of Misfits. Find your group then go create value in your own world. I found mine. I’m a Misfit and it’s awesome. Being a Misfit is hard, and at times it doesn’t make sense. The only solution is to discover what makes you tick and search for the magic that makes things click in your life. Find your own Fargo, and hold onto it as if it were a precious jewel, because I found mine and I guard the memories dearly.

Create your own lightning storm that powers your own life and lets you guide your own ship to wherever you see fit.

Your Self-Powered Life

Our society is obsessed with people who’ve decided to steer the rudder of their own ship – the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates’ of the world, our favorite writers and authors, people like Mark Cuban, bands who don’t have to have a day job, and countless others who inspire our inner creativity.

But it’s not something you have to only look at or dream about. The self-powered life is entirely possible. It’s an adventure that allows your soul to speak to the world in a spectacular way.

Many people lose the reason why they love to create. It’s either ironed out in school, or lost in the mindlessness of the cubicle. This creative drive escapes them slowly as they continue to deny and ignore its existence, slowly pulling them through a bleak and hopeless road atop a cliffside thats just begging to be explored. Being a misfit is not always, if ever, easy, but life favors the bold and only those who challenge the cliffside will ever know it’s there.

As soon as you lose sight of why you create, anything you try and bring into the world will be void of that special magic that only you can add to it. Learn to live, drift, and sail in your own ocean and your sunsets can only grow in beauty.

Yes, being a misfit can be difficult, but it’s worth it. Take your ideas to the edge of the cliff and step off of it and see where life and your parachute can take you.

When Dreams Reach Stars

When you can touch someone, truly reach them and influence their dreams, you’re creating limitless possibilities that foster new experiences and creations. Too often, people get stuck in a cycle that depletes their creative energy, keeping them from inspiring others or themselves.

There is a moment, though, in every creative person’s life where their work touches enough people to the point that it can outlast even its creator. The road here is hard, though, and few choose to traverse it. People judge a creative lifestyle – singing, writing, painting, designing, coding, etc. – through the lens of fame and fortune as though these are the only defining elements that define success. But these same people aren’t visionaries, they themselves pursue these very things, though, with many failing to explore life or the world, instead focusing solely on the acquisition of wealth and the label of success. They aren’t the dreamers or the misfits, and they create no art.

The dreamers and misfits power the world. They are the explorers of old, transversing unknown oceans and worlds to reach fruition of an idea that could kill their career or themselves.

One such misfit, a man called Blind Willie Johnson, broke the bonds of earth and beyond with music that reaches the heart and serves as a testament to what passion can deliver in harsh times and environments.

Born in 1897 near Brenham, Texas, a small town located about halfway between Austin and Houston, not a lot is known about Willie Johnson’s life. The stories and claims of his marriages cannot be completely proven, as no marriage certificates have been found, and until his death certificate was discovered, the place of his birth was thought to be in Temple, Texas.

The story of how he lost his sight is also just another story, beginning with a tale his supposed first wife, Angeline, told to Sam Charters, an American music historian. It takes place when Blind Willie is only 7 and is the result of a jealous rage on that of his stepmothers rage after his father beat her for catching her going out with another man.

Johnson’s adult life flows as randomly as that of his birthplace and childhood trauma. One such tale about an arrest in New Orleans is told in a dramatic fashion according to one tradition but is supposedly discounted by music historian Sam Charters. The story begins with Blind Willie playing a rendition of, ‘If I’d Had My Way I’d Tear This Building Down’, a song about Sampson and Delilah. The robust performance nearly caused a riot outside of a New Orleans courthouse, leading to Johnson’s arrest. The supposed real story as told by Sam Charters, though, is a much simpler, much more boring tale and tells of Johnson being arrested outside of the Customs House for singing for tips by a police offer who mistook the meaning for the song as incitement.

Across five separate sessions at Columbia Records from 1927 to 1930, Blind Willie Johnson recorded 30 commercial studio record sides. Despite these recordings, Blind Willie died poor and all but forgotten, but his dreams of his music impacting the world did not die with him. Though his he’s dead, his voice is now carrying his work to the stars. Johnson’s song, Dark Was The Night, was included on the Voyager Golden Record and mounted on the Voyager 1 spacecraft.

A simple plaque greets the distant void aboard Voyager 1, saying, “This is a present from a small and distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.” -U.S. president Jimmy Carter. Blind Willie Johnson’s work is included in this present, from musical greats across many cultures, such as Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode, to greetings in many different languages, and to images and sounds from life on Earth.

On September 12, 2013, nearly 68 years after his death, Voyager 1, the farthest man-made object from Earth, left the solar system. Blind Willie Johnson’s dream never died with him because his voice still lives beyond the solar system.

Prelude

There are many people waiting for something amazing to happen. Really, waiting for anything different to happen. They’re waiting for something to happen in their life which allows them to finally start on the path that can culminate in reaching their ultimate dream, goal, and desire.

Maybe their dream is becoming wealthy, or maybe it’s going to the airport and buying a one-way ticket to somewhere new. Maybe it’s writing a book or becoming famous, and maybe it’s changing the world. Whatever it is, many people are waiting for a special prelude to happen so they finally have that excuse to start something amazing.

Most people are bad at starting things though, especially when it requires stepping into the unknown. That first step could lead to a cliff edge, a barren wasteland, or a field filled with dreams and opportunities. But none of that will be known until the first step is taken.

Here’s a secret: the prelude has already happened, regardless of the dream, goal, or journey wanting to be reached. The prelude has happened, it’s today and it’s still happening. Each boring day can be a day that’s walked perpendicular to the path that can lead to dreams and goals or is just another day catalogued into the useless category. These days are the prelude to greatness, or to the average life.

Your prelude is already here, it’s happening. Stop waiting.