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.
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.
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.