You can’t really have a better job than being a DJ in college. We made great money and we’d preside over giant parties and events, indoor and outdoor, and run the dance floor at local clubs.
Larry and I built the company largely out of a blended passion for music, equipment (we had massive stacks of floor to ceiling speakers, amps and turntables), the desire to create immersive experiences and a Jones for entrepreneurship.
Back then, and maybe still now, DJs were gods.
They wielded immense power to maneuver the pulse, the sweat, the gyrations, the conversations, the mental and physical states and even, at least in the short term, the social experiences of hundreds or thousands of people in a discrete place and a moment in time.
And, because of that, there can be this odd transference thing that goes one. People become drawn to you because of what you created in that moment and the perception of of who they believe you are.
Which is exactly what happened to me.
I was DJing a large annual outdoor fraternity event. We were on the back deck of the house and probably close to a thousand people were gyrating, drinking and partying up a storm. We were about an hour in when a beautiful young woman from what was known as the “coolest” sorority on campus came over and started to talk to me.
Even though I was the DJ, stuff like that didn’t usually happen to me.
Because in real life, when I wasn’t behind the tables, I was a very different person.
I was much more of a fringe player…a likable freak.
I had a lot of passions, but never belonged to or associated with any one group. I was half DJ, half entrepreneur, half road cyclist, half artist, half geek, half athlete, half drug-free burn-out, half slacker, half rock-climbing adrenaline-junkie, half mama’s boy, half rebel and occasional student (oh, and I was never good at percentages).
I looked at life differently than most people. I lived life differently, from a very young age.
And, never quite fit in anywhere.
So, when my sorority friend took an interest, I didn’t really know how to handle it. We talked on an off all day and into the night, which evolved over the next few weeks into a bit of casual dating.
Until one night, when we started talking about life…
I remember sitting on the couch with her and saying something like, “I see the world differently than most people.”
Her reaction stunned me.
She was taken aback. Offended by my arrogance.
“What do you mean you see the world differently? You’re just like everyone else.” She recoiled at the thought of her being in a budding relationship with someone who wasn’t just like everyone else. Normalcy, assimilation, gowing with the flow, in her world, was a touchstone of life. A requirement for success, both socially and beyond.
As the conversation progressed, it began to dawn on both of us that the DJ she’d been drawn to was not the mainstream bastion of social lubrication she’d envisioned. To her, fitting in was too important. And, I was too weird. To her…
Looking at the world differently, being compelled by different things and pursuits was a liability.
I remember the conversation so clearly because it was one of the first times I became truly aware of both how differently I look at and explore the world, and how threatening that can be to so many others who live and die by the behavioral box drawn around them by the groups within which they strive to gain acceptance.
Back then, I had trouble reconciling all of this. Truth is, I still do. I’d love to fit in wherever I go.
But that’s just not me.
Over the years, my different take on life has led me to share experiences and relationships, and create companies, solutions, experiences, books, music and art that have enriched my life to no end.
It’s allowed me to write a story I’d much rather read than “the dude saw the world as everyone else and lived as all others did.” I’m not saying my life should be yours. I can’t speak for you or what’s right or wrong in the context of your life.
What I am saying is that YOUR life should be yours.
No matter who you are or how you see the world.
Because somewhere, buried deep down…we’re all freaks.
There is not only value in your embrace of your inner-freak, but brilliance.
I’ve made peace with the fact that I see the world differently and live in it differently.
In fact, I’ve not only made peace with it, I’ve come to understand it as a tremendous asset. Because when you see the world differently, that often translates to seeing what others don’t. To getting how two things come together to create a third thing that’s bigger than the parts in a way nobody else got. To noticing gaps, emotions, moments and opportunities others miss. Then to creating solutions, experiences and art that illuminate those moments in a way nobody else could.
I’ve come to realize that the band of friends I’ve known who have taken similar approaches have, on the whole, lived remarkable lives. Tech-freaks who have built digital empires, art-freaks who have left people breathless and straight-up dorks of all ilk who have found love, friendship and great success on their own terms.
Not by finding a mold to fit into, but by rejecting the very existence of molds, then building upon their unique windows into the world.
So, what about you?
Are you ready to let your freak flow?
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