We’re all looking for something; when our sights are set too low or we’re always viewing the next bar as too high, we very well may never find it. When the search ends, development halts, and our true potential looks down on us and laughs, knowing there’s no danger of us catching it…
I played lacrosse when I was a kid. I liked it, I was pretty good at it, and it made my parents happy. When I was 11 I came across a BMX bike riding magazine at the grocery store, and long story short, everything else took a back seat to the compulsion I had to find out as much as I could about this unique (and at the time, bizarre and unconventional) culture. The imagery was brash and bold, the players in the “game” were wild and looked like people you might be afraid of if you saw them walking in your neighborhood, and I couldn’t get enough. The idea of “convention”, while I probably didn’t define it as such at 11 or 12 years old, changed immediately for me. The stability and simplicity of team sports (and the just-add-water social circle they often create) stepped aside to make way for a path that didn’t make sense to anyone but me…
All of a sudden I wanted to explore, and experiment, and do so on my own. I saved up for a suitable bike, had an older neighborhood kid modify the current bike I had so I could jump it off the ramp we made, and in all its simplicity, I knew then that I had opened an unclosable door. I had found direction and a sense of purpose that was based on personal interest, not paint-by-numbers.
Soon after and through similar channels, I found hardcore music.
The imagery was just as brash, the cast of characters was even MORE menacing and intriguing, I couldn’t have been further out of my element- but that just made me more curious and driven to seek. I went and found it, and it was just as scary and wild and exciting as I had envisioned.
I took buses, walked, rode my bike, snuck, schemed, and struggled to see and hear as much music as I could. The music was great, but the culture, and the way the interactions went between the participants- I was enthralled. There were fights, and riots, and lectures, and literature, and thought… and somehow the entire paradox just worked.
I had now found the two things that would shape my entire outlook, influence my life, and ultimately create my career path… and I was just barely 15.
The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. I rode my bike constantly, I was as involved in the hardcore music scene as I could be while maintaining a normal high school schedule and suitable grades, and I was LEARNING.
I was “learning” at school, but in my other life I was learning how to interact in and adapt to any situation imaginable, use very limited resources to their full potential, never dismiss anything as TOO far, or TOO scary, or too much work… because ultimately, those would prove to be the things that meant the most, stuck with me, and taught me lessons that I never would have learned in any other way than… doing them.
I feel lucky to have been exposed to independent culture and a critical thought process at an early age. Through BMX bike riding and hardcore I have owned and run companies, organized and executed world-class bike contests, booked huge shows with amazing bands, gotten paid to wear shoes, written for magazines, been documented in photo and video, met and worked with many of my childhood idols… and for each of those positive things, there was a struggle, setback, or disappointment to match.
Learning about yourself, challenging convention, and seeing how far you can go instead of being TOLD how far you can go is never a simple path, but simple isn’t really what most of us are searching for. We may have some self deception in place that tells us what we want is a simple, basic life- and while elements of that may be true, ANY critical thinker, progressivist, subversionist, naysayer, questioner, or idealist knows that the simpler the journey, the less fulfilling the destination.
Even the most grounded and self-assured of us has a tendency to continue the search, and that self-awareness should never be ignored. FIND something, LEARN something, TRY something, and be open to the idea that even if you hate it, suck at it, or only try it once, the searching itself teaches the most valuable lesson.
Relying on fate or waiting for direction from the universe is most often a recipe for disappointment and unrealized potential. You will only be given a fraction of what you have the power to take.
Empowerment, development, and realized potential comes from within; when the path to their achievement goes dark, the only way to find it again is to look harder…
“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” James Crook