AJ Leon Joins Us On The Steve Jobs Inspired Join Up Dots Podcast
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Introducing AJ Leon
AJ Leon is todays guest, joining us on the Steve Jobs inspired Join Up Dots business coaching podcast interview.
AJ Leon is a travelling entrepreneur who is making his own life everyday.
And what really makes me love hosting a show like Join Up Dots, as in his own way he is part of my story….my dots.
When I started getting the research together and reading about him, I thought “Wow, I know this man already.
I have been telling his story to friends and colleagues for the last few years….he was one of my inspirations”
AJ Leon is a man who went against all the rules, when he found himself at a crossroads in life.
He had followed the path most expected, getting a good job, earning great money, and living a life that spelt Success with a capital S.
But just when things couldn’t get any better, and a big promotion was on the cards he turned full circle and went in a direction that is 100% him.
When The Dots Joined Up For AJ
He took the first steps to finding his unique self.
And the rest as they say is history.
As he travels around the world with his wife, he applies his great philosophy to life, which also forms the name of his website “the Pursuit of Everything.”
He tries to live his life with intention, do work that truly matters, devote time working on projects that benefit those less fortunate than himself, and to give more than he gets.
Even appearing as AJ Leon minimalist on the intriguing Minimalist documentary on Netflix created by public speakers Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.
Well let’s bring onto the show to start joining up dots, as we discuss the words of Steve Jobs in todays Free podcast, with the one and only AJ Leon.
During the episode we discussed such weighty topics with AJ Leon such as:
How in life you have to keep on swinging before you ever hope to hit a home run, and its the misses that fine tune for when you hit big!
How his wife to be wasn’t upset that he had quit his job three days before getting married, but instead was simply pleased to have him back. She had missed the man that she had fallen in love with.
How he wrote down a two year plan of how he wanted his life to be, and used it as the bible to how he would operate from that point onwards.
How he believes that many people could travel with freedom, but you have to decide on how much adventure you are able to deal with…he has a very high adventure level.
How his career advisor told him that he shouldn’t think of going into business, as he should think about being a mechanic instead…nothing wrong with mechanics but shame on you Miss Mitchell!!!
Books By AJ Leon
How To Connect With AJ Leon
Or of course you can check out thousands of podcast interviews in our archives here
Audio Transcription Of AJ Leon Interview
When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. Join Up Dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK, David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:28]
Yes, hello, everybody, and welcome to Episode 207. of Join Up Dots. This one for me guys is a special one. When I started getting the show going all men many, many months ago, there was a guy that number the very first guest, Tom Walker said to me, you’ve got to have on, he said, it’s going to be difficult to get hold of, but you’ve got to get him on because he is quiet storey to be told, and believe me, we’ve tried and we’ve come close many many times bizarrely, even though now he travels across the world. He’s not that far away from me. I could get in the car and drive down because he’s actually in England as we speak. He is a guest that really makes me love hosting a show like Join Up Dots as in his own way. He is part of my storey actually my dots. When I started getting the research together and reading about him, I thought, wow, I noticed man already I’ve been telling the storey to friends and colleagues for the last few years. He’s one of my inspirations. He’s a man who went against all the rules. When he found himself at a crossroads in life he had followed the path most expected getting a good job earning great money, and living a life that spells success with a capital S. But just when things couldn’t get any better and a big promotion was on the cards. He turned full circle and went in a direction that is 100% him. He took the first steps to finding his unique self and the rest as they say is history. As he travels around the world with his wife, he applies his great philosophy to life which also forms the name of his website, the pursuit of everything. He tries to live his life live with intention to work that truly matters devote time working on projects that benefit those less fortunate than himself. And to give more Ben he gets well if anyone was born to appear on a show like Join Up Dots Benny’s this man. So let’s start joining the dots with the one and only AJ Leon. How are you, AJ Leon?
AJ Leon [2:18]
I’m doing great, David. I gotta say I love the intro. And I love that intro that is spectacular, man. I never felt better about myself than right now. So
David Ralph [2:30]
yeah, I’ve never felt better either. Because you’re finally here. Tom. Tom was right, you are a difficult man to get hold of.
AJ Leon [2:37]
And I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. It’s just the Gypsy lifestyle. You know, as a gypsy, you’re just kind of always vagabonding around. It’s difficult to have a secure Wi Fi. But I’m glad to be with you. Now.
David Ralph [2:49]
Now. It’s great to have you here because I’m I’m going to start with talking about myself as an introduction, I said that you are part of my my kind of connexion really to joining up with my daughter. And you were because we’re I was starting to get the urge to have a leap of faith and actually leave my corporate gig. One of the things I did a lot of was looking around the internet and sort of seeing what other people did. And that’s how I kind of connected with Tom Marquez. I like the vibe of the work he was doing. But that sort of the major vibe was your storey. And you don’t want you to tell the storey of it because it is fascinating. But I started quoting this storey to people and I was saying, Look, I’ve got to lead this, I gotta leave this job. I feel like this guy who did this thing, and I was telling your storey all the time. You’re kidding me know? Absolutely. And people saying that’s a brave decision that this guy made. And you know, maybe it’s not going to pan out I said it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether it pans out or not. The fact is that he did it and he didn’t go the safe route. And I can’t go to safe route anymore. So although we’re going to come to your storey, I’d like to thank you so much for being the inspiration to get my ass off the table really and do something more inspiring and more, more myself finding myself.
AJ Leon [4:06]
David, thank you so much, man. That means that when you when you were saying that in the beginning of the programme, I thought you met generally like there’s a storey of a guy like me, I didn’t know that you actually met my specific storey. Wow, that’s fantastic.
David Ralph [4:19]
No, it was you and you tell the listeners if you could, I don’t think it’s such a great storey. And it’s such a powerful storey of somebody taking a path that’s expected, but then realising when success is almost there, but it’s the wrong success is not what you want.
Unknown Speaker [4:37]
Sure. Yeah. I mean, you know, my storey, you know, like, like all of us, right? It goes back to the time when you’re a kid. And when I was when I was a kid, I could put a nine inch ball into an 18 inch tube that was a basketball player, and I’ll stay basketball player and that’s pretty much all I could do. And in high school towards the end, I decided, you know, I was going to go to university and and I was sitting with my high school guidance counsellor, which we have in the United States and and asking her Hey, you know, what type of what, you know, thinking about this university, that university and she kind of stopped me dead in my tracks looked at me my eyes and said, you know, AJ Leon, guy like you? I don’t think you should be thinking about University. You’re not University material guy like you You should probably go to become a mechanic. Now nothing against mechanics. I have many friends who are mechanics but that’s certainly not what you want to hear. When you’re 17 years old, trying to map out your future. And and you know, in that moment, it was I remember you know that that visceral reaction in myself just hearing somebody say that about me and I was like, You know what, Miss Michel, fuck you and, and Fuck everyone who had ever said anything like that she became the personification of many people in my life that told me that I was going to amount to nothing. So from that moment, I decided I did get into university city, I was going to I was going to when I was with a capital W, I was going to be successful. And I ended up getting into university I ended up sitting down at a Barnes and Nobles when those things still existed and deciding which major which degree I would get based on earning potential over time. So all I was looking at his graphs up into the right when I was looking at degrees, I settled in on accounting and finance, I got to university, I worked my ass off at the end of every semester, I sent a 4.0 grade report to this guidance counsellor until the end of university with this vitriolic this chip on my shoulder to show her and everyone else I was going to win. I ended up graduating top of my class, taking a job at the biggest firm offering the largest signing bonus, I didn’t give a fuck where I’d be working, what exactly I’d be doing, all I cared about was how many zeros was at the end of my my salary. That led me to a place where I recognise it from finance was really where you can make some money. So I did with what are called vertical leaps in my world and kind of the finance world. And I would every, every chance I had an opportunity, I would leverage one position at one firm in order to in order to hop to a position at another firm, which led me to a place where I was in my mid 20s. In Manhattan, I had a corner office, all glass overlooking the Manhattan skyline, I was making a healthy six figure salary and a bigger bonus. And I had basically done everything that I should have done. And I was very, very good at my job I didn’t you know, many people think all you must know working many I wasn’t I didn’t actually work many hours at a staff who did most of the work for me. And on December 31 2007, it was four days before I was going to get married. My boss calls me into his office, I walk into his office. And he he looks me in my eyes, and he tells me Hey, man, you know, you’re getting a promotion. And basically, this promotion would have landed me as a junior partner in this firm, which means that, you know, for all it in my world, I meant it, you know, I’m good. All I do at that point, you just keep your head down and year, you know, let ride the wave, I would have been the youngest to be in that position in that firm, certainly one of the youngest side ever heard of, I kind of soak this in, because this moment was an ascent of that moment of the first precipitating moment back with with Miss Mitchell when I was a 17 year old kid. And I took that walked out of his office, I walked back into my own I shut the door behind me at I David I just started to to weep. I just started crying,
David Ralph [8:47]
did it surprise you when you started? Oh, well, you feeling a bit unstable, leading up to that.
Unknown Speaker [8:52]
I always you always know when you’re living somebody else’s life. You know, I knew full well that every single day of my life, I was putting on a costume. I was I was playing out somebody else’s life. And I knew that. And I felt that in congruence. And I think we all do, there are moments in time when you you suppress that, or you ns decides that because you you know, you get another little promotion, you could have a little bit more disposable income to buy that other, you know, x that you’ve been wanting, or whatever it might be. But in that office on that day, for me, that was a moment of no return. You know, that was a crossroads that I knew that I had always had these dream much like you sitting at your desk, I used to sit at my desk as a successful banker in New York City, sit at my desk and troll the internet trying to look for people who had escaped. And, and and, and, and I remember and I’d always had these dreams, these little dreams in this little notebook of living a life of adventure at a purpose and a meaning and doing something that actually mattered. On that day, I realised that all those dreams were over because because of one reason one reason alone, I would never be able to walk away from that type of money again, I would never be able to do it. The amount that was being put in that’s that’s the relationship we have with money. You know, even though we created it, it owns us and the more we make, the harder it is to walk away from. And, and knowing that that was the most depressing moment of my life, I actually had a vision of myself as a 65 year old man looking back at me then mourning the glory of this life that could have been. And after, it was probably about 15 or 20 minutes of just really, I mean, just weeping and like almost, you know, panic attacks. And you know, just feeling like this is I’m done. I realised You know, it just hit me. You always have a choice. You always have a choice to walk away right now I got mean, I could walk out you can’t not take a promotion, and stay in your firm in the world I live in. Right, you can’t do that. I can’t I can’t take this promotion. Because if I do that I’m done. I’m finished and my life is scripted. And I’m not ever going to be able to rewrite it. But I could leave, I could leave everything I’ve ever known. And everything I’ve ever studied in every moment that led me up to that place from the time when I was a 17 year old boy trying to prove everyone wrong about the fact that I wasn’t going to be a fuck up, I could leave that all aside, and I could walk out right then and there and start my life’s are from from scratch. And recognising that that was my only option. You know, I mean, at that point, the fear of, of living some other dudes life for the rest of mine, you know, was outweighed the fear of how I was going to pay the rent the following month,
David Ralph [11:48]
because because it resonated with me with your storey. And I know it’s such a tiny little simple thing. When I read it, I was at my desk. And I think I was feeling a bit unstable myself, because I just felt there was more to life than what I was doing was just going through the motions, I should be doing something bigger than myself. And the thing that I’m I read and I read that storey and I had the image in my head of you standing there. But the more powerful image that I fought and the the braver decision, in my view, was the fact that you were about to get married, and you were making this decision. And then I was thinking how the hell does he go to his wife to be and go, actually, everything that you thought that we were going to have is gone out the window. That that was the bravest decision out of everything isn’t a key, you can make a decision for yourself. But when somebody else has got their own sort of plans in their mind, I would struggle to do that. How did you walk up to her and say, yeah, guess what was gonna happen is not now.
Unknown Speaker [12:51]
I mean, yeah, it was an interesting thing. I obviously was completely unplanned.
Unknown Speaker [12:57]
And when I ended up just I walked out of my office that in there and had never returned. When I took the elevator down, I hit the street, I immediately threw my hands up in the air first because I recognised for the first time in my adult life, I was free. And then my second reaction was I had to call bless and tell her what had just happened. And when I did you know, when I guessed in order to answer your question, you know, her reaction is probably the best answer to your question, which was, as soon as I told her she. Yeah, I’ll never forget what she said to me. She just she said, I’d rather live with the real you under the Brooklyn Bridge than an impersonation of you anywhere else. I’m just glad to have you back. And Melissa and I have been together for a long time. So she had known me since I was a 15 year old kid. That’s how long we’ve been together. So she had seen she knew who I was the real name, the wild eyed dreamer. The adventurous spirit, the guy that people know me as the the day she knew that AJ Leon, and then she saw me take this path and to this other mess. So for her it wasn’t it wasn’t something it wasn’t a departure. In other words, it was actually a return.
David Ralph [14:12]
That’s powerful, isn’t it?
Unknown Speaker [14:14]
Yeah, yeah, it is. It is makes our storey you know, collectively, it’s very, I think, palpable in some way. And I get that it’s cinematic, you know, but it but it’s, it’s our life, you know, and and, and it’s Yeah, I think it is, I think it is powerful. So do you think that if
David Ralph [14:34]
it wasn’t for all those people saying, You can’t do this, because you seem to me to be very bloody minded. You know, if somebody tells you, you can’t do something, hang on, I’m going to prove that I’m going to do. And so if people were saying, Oh, yes, AJ Leon, you’re going to be you know, the next Michael Jordan, you’re going to be this, you’re going to be fat, you’re powerful, have gone very differently. But because they was saying to you, and I can’t understand why, but I wasn’t there at the time. But you seem to be somebody who can pretty much achieve what you put your mind to it. So I’m not sure what they were saying that I’m not. Did you think that it would have been a totally different path, but you are a reaction against other people’s opinions?
Unknown Speaker [15:15]
Yeah, in a way, you know, I think it my life at least has transpired that way. You know, I’ve had, you know, I’ve lived a life where I’ve always particularly Back then, I mean, I felt like a misfit. You know, I felt like, like, I just didn’t fit in those constructs. Because I always had my own idea of, of how I think things should be, at least for me. And yeah, I think I think that friction has has certainly been a spark in my life. You know, I mean, I don’t I don’t decry Miss Mitchell, you know, anymore. Because without that moment, you know, that’s a very poignant part of my soul. But I think I think that those are the elements in people’s lives. You know, when you start to view your life as a novel, and you start to view yourself as a protagonist and a granted venture, you recognise that, you know, the storeys that we like best they, they have those moments of friction. They are the things that contextualise narrative and make us interested in it. If everything worked out great. Or if we always thought that, you know, Luke was going to blow up the fucking Death Star, we probably wouldn’t fall a storey to begin with. And when you apply that to your own life as narrative, then all the sudden you recognise that that those moments are actually you know, they’re absolutely necessary. They’re endemic to living a storey that that one would want to read.
David Ralph [16:38]
So So I wish somebody was bear to take that photo with your arms up in the air, because that that would be an iconic image, wouldn’t it? Just the look in your face? Because I know that as well. You know, you’re you’re doing unbelievable stuff. And I feel such a strong connexion. Because there’s so much about you, I think, yeah, I know exactly what these guys going. Yeah. Because when I redundant up in the City of London, and be decision got taken away from me, I had to leave the company. But when I walked out, I just felt like I was almost flying. And it was like, I can do anything. And I became a student for six months. And I studied sort of it and different things like that. And so I went back in time to sort of do something crazy and do something that well for myself. So I understand that feeling of total liberation, euphoric. Its total euphoric, but I can also imagine that once that euphoria, dips, you kind of must go, Well, actually, I’ve got no idea what I’m supposed to be doing. Now. What do I do, I’ve got to earn money I’ve got to do this is easy enough for us to say, you found your unique self, but the hard thing is finding your unique self, but being able to make money out of it to survive. So how did you sort of cover that? How did you cross that bridge?
Unknown Speaker [17:56]
Sure. I mean, it’s a you know, it’s a long arc, and you just hit it off me, like, do you tell me what you want? But basically, and I’ll just be honest, you know, I didn’t unlike many of my friends who left a, you know, stability or or stable gig to start something I did not I did not have an idea of Misfit in my mind, I was evacuating a life plan got going horribly, horribly wrong. So I had no plan. And that was, that was the most terrifying part about it. Once you know, I coming to that realisation but but recognising that the other side of it as much more terrifying, which is relinquishing my one and only life to to a director that that I that isn’t me. So what I ended up doing it first was I thought, like many entrepreneurs think, well, I just want to escape the prison sentence of an office. That is why I feel this way. So if I just became an entrepreneur of any stripe of any type, then I would be I could, I would be happy. You know, if I just tell you, it was on my terms. So I started doing consulting management consulting, and, and doing basically a version of what I was already doing in my in, in my previous gig, due diligence work and financial analysis, stuff like that. And I was actually able to rack up clients pretty quickly in New York City. And there was this one moment, where about two or three months, and after I returned from my honeymoon, and I was like, you know, I got clients, I was like, wow, this is working. I was sitting there with the client, you know, persons talking about the risk exposure and their tax liability and all this stuff. And I just started zoning out. And then I caught myself. And I thought to myself, wait, why don’t I want to be here, right now? Like, why don’t I want, I should be thrilled to be here. I mean, I escaped the capital, I got the girl I slayed the dragon. Here I am on the other side, only a few months out, doing fantastically, I should be absolutely. And it’s when I recognise that I just I fucking hated that guy. I hated that client. And I hated what I was doing for him. And I hated the work. And that’s when I recognise that I hated everything that I had ever done. The impetus was polluted. Because the impetus of everything that I had ever even ascended to, as a as a business person, or in a career that impetus was polluted in a decision that was based around, it was based around finances, there was a fiduciary decision, right? When I was sitting back as a kid, how am I going to win? And how am I going to study something where I can generate a lot of revenue. And once you realise that the actual seed that’s been planted is corrupted, then you got to scrap you got to go to a new piece of land and actually reinvent from nothing. So at that point, I got rid of all my clients, except the one that I could palette, the sound of his voice, in order just literally just to put to pay rent to give me you know, a couple months to start reinventing my life and that’s when I started doing a lot of writing and and Melissa and I sat down and one of the one of the things that we did and this is an exercise that I want to do is sit there with a blank sheet of paper and so okay, you know, if there was no pretext and no context or history, no, I can do this. This is what my you know, education background career. All this says I could do what would I do as of right now if I started from absolute nothing. And from that list, as opposed to saying, Hey, what do I want my life to look like? 10 years from now, which just seems indefinable, or six months from now, which is just far too terrifying. I decided on a two year mark, because that’s realistic, you know, two years from now what would I like my life to look like? And I wrote down certain things like I wanted to travel 50% of the year, I had always wanted to be an adventure, a nomad, but I never never placed the solitary steps in that direction. We wanted to work together, Melissa and I she was a teacher in Spanish Harlem, I was a finance guy. There was literally no possible career convergence there. But, but that was something we want to do. So we wrote it down. I knew that I wanted to build stuff on the web. I’m not student of history. So looking at the industrialist than the early 20th century, 20th century, late 19th century, you see, you see the people that had power, the Rockefellers of the world, it was because they were able to construct and to build things, and I recognise, you know, back in 2008, that if I could, if I could figure out some way to build on the web, that any type of idea that I have, would not be limited, right? If I could build applications, if I could build websites, because that was that’s the real Breitling part. So I was like, Okay, I want I know, I want to gain that skill. I had no I had no knowledge or background and 90s
David Ralph [22:50]
transportable, which is keeping the travel isn’t it
Unknown Speaker [22:53]
absolutely keeps you completely and utterly independent of geography. And, and I knew that I wanted to dedicate at least 20 to 25% of my time to social cultural and he meant Attarian work to change in the world. So I you know, is that and a few other things, we just drew up this list and then we kind of made a promise to ourselves that we would use that list as a filter. And that no matter how excruciating every every decision would be filtered through that list that was that was from now on our Bible, for lack of a better term. And, and that’s it and we started going from there. So you know, one of the first things we did is we got rid of pretty much everything we own we only kept that we could keep in our backpacker bags kept our apartment on Airbnb and God and and then we just took to the road and started trading web design for you know, at that time really shitty web design for bagels and coffee and places to stay and bought one way ticket to Europe. And and and that was it that that was the honestly the beginning of what misfit and Korea bright as becoming today, which is much different than that
David Ralph [24:04]
knows. But I think that is brilliant, because you initially fell into the trap that everyone does, where you don’t like a situation you don’t like a job. So you leave that and the first thing everyone seems to do is basically replicate what they they left, because it’s the thing that they know about is is to comfort. And I see that time and time again. But you gave your dream structure. And that was what that piece of paper that was the Bible wasn’t it, because I’ve got a friend, and she loves to travel and she has 13 holidays a year. And she’s always whizzing off to places. And she said to me the other day, she said, I listened to your shows all the time, David and I used to work with her. And Charlotte, this is about you again. And she goes, I just know that I want to travel. And if I can combine my love of chocolate and travel, been at the amazing, but I don’t know how I can earn an income on it. And what you’re saying is really, if you get a structure on the dream, you can work out the kind of practicalities as you go. But you need to hold firm to what you actually want in life. The end goal is where people screw up because they don’t define it enough.
Unknown Speaker [25:16]
Yeah, and I think I mean, because the metrics are easy, right? I mean, and that’s that’s the problem we we accept, even though we escape, what we would say a system and a framework, we actually go into entrepreneurship and and and then assume a new framework and structure. It feels more liberating, but it’s actually not because it’s based on the same metrics, right? How much money can I make? How much can I? How much profit can I possibly squeeze out of a day turns? And it turns to an exchange of hours for hours for dollars? Many times and and when those I mean, I’ve met so many unhappy entrepreneurs, so many entrepreneurs that feel like, you know, they’re they’re in the same old jail cell, except this time it’s locked from the inside and they’re holding the key. It’s because there’s the starting place is is not what life Do I want to lead and then building a business around that the starting place is how can I build a successful business and what is a good and marketable but business for me to start? And I think that’s that’s impractical, you know, particularly if what your desire is, is to live a life of meaning and purpose, intention, and one on your own terms.
David Ralph [26:27]
Well, one of the things that you said on your website, which is it’s simple to type it screams at you, when you look at it, there is no scarcity of ideas, only scarcity of ideas being taken seriously.
Unknown Speaker [26:39]
David Ralph [26:41]
within ourselves when we have an idea, and we kind of think oh, no, that’s never going to work, always that from outside influences.
Unknown Speaker [26:49]
That’s from me when I wrote it, I meant from within ourselves. I think the greatest detractors that we have in the world are the demons in our own mind, no matter how much Miss Mitchell told me what effect I was going to be there, that was nothing compared to how much I was telling me, I want to fuck up I was going to be,
David Ralph [27:06]
but that’s amazing, isn’t it? Because you are, you are somebody I came come back to it. But you just seem to want to rally against other people. But you weren’t accepting of what you say to yourself?
Unknown Speaker [27:19]
Yeah, I mean, I I’m, I rally against myself to, you know, I recognise, recognise that the demons are both internal and external. And you can’t ever let your guard down. And your posture and life will change. I mean, you know, sometimes your posture will be forward leaning, where you’re going into the fray and pushing up against it. But many times your your posture may be just leaning back. But the key is to dig in. The key is not always necessarily sprinting, it’s defiance, you know, it’s not attack, it’s defend, it’s just don’t, and that was my moment, my last moment there. In in the corporate world, everybody thinks that that’s a posture of bravery, and moving forward actually wasn’t it was a posture of that was the last inch that I was not going to relinquish? You know, I just wasn’t gonna, not that one, I wasn’t going to let that go. And that was my last inch. And, and, and I think that that, you know, that’s something that we fight both internal and external in terms of taking ideas seriously, when you know, how many, you know, if you really think about it, you know, it’s almost excruciating. I mean, think about how many, how many dishes The world has never tasted how many films we’ve never seen how many songs we’ve never heard, or books we’ve never read, because because somebody somewhere is waiting, you know, and they wrote it down in their mole skin somewhere. And they just and that was it. And they left it at that, or they came back to it a couple times. But they didn’t want to try because either the fear of failure, or the fear of ridicule was was something that that kept them from doing so. So yeah,
David Ralph [28:58]
let’s play some words. But how you bet perfectly. And this is Jim Carrey,
Jim Carrey [29:02]
my father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him. And so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. And when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.
David Ralph [29:29]
The only thing that’s not right about it as at the end, he doesn’t say your name, because that’s pretty much about you, isn’t it?
Unknown Speaker [29:36]
That Yeah, I’ve never heard that quote, actually. It’s interesting. That is the that’s Jim Carrey, but yes, you’re right. That’s, you know, that’s absolutely right. And I think, you know, to a nice men, you know, a famous Cuban French essayist, you know, says it best that our life, life expands and contracts in direct proportion to one’s own courage. And, and that’s what it is, you know, that’s, that’s what it is. And when when when you look at a decision between safety, security, and compliance, versus one of freedom, but certainly possible, possible failure and ridicule, and certainly fear.
David Ralph [30:23]
The desert, there’s a line on a song, and I quote this quite a lot, because I think it’s fantastic. And every time I hear this song, I actually wait for this line to appear. But it’s by Janis Joplin, and it’s called me and Bobby McGee, and there’s a line in it. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. And it’s just a line in a song. But when you think about it, and you think that is the problem that keeps people rooted in that position that they are, but you don’t want to lose what they’ve got. I always used to think that was people were sort of comfortable, and I didn’t want to upset the status quo. But I think most people do. They David got a dream life in their head, but they would like to get, but they are frightened of loosening their grip on what they’ve achieved already. Even. It’s just the wrong thing. You take that away, and you lose everything like you did. You walked out the office with your arm. And then the only things you’ve got is opportunities, isn’t it? You’ve got opportunities, choices and decisions to make you’ve taken control. And you can go anywhere.
Unknown Speaker [31:24]
Absolutely, yeah, absolutely. And and you know, that’s the opportunity cost of not taking your own idea seriously. It’s that openness, you know, and you never know, I think a lot of times, David people they fear failure, I think a lot of people see entrepreneurship, as you know, to take a baseball term in American baseball term, like just stepping up to the plate and having a hit home runs. But the reality is that that most people that are entrepreneurs or artists fail many times, you know, the first idea may not work, for instance, Charlotte, you know, she might create some video blog, trying chocolate all over the world. And maybe that doesn’t work, but maybe a book version of her doing that in Paris and her doing, you know, chocolate in Paris and a chocolate day and Brussels on a chocolate, you know, that might and it might be one, one idea might lead to the next and I think the fallacy of of having to succeed on that first crack at the bat is is also what keeps people because once you’re liberated, you recognise Okay, well, actually, it’s all about iterating. You know, when when once you get downstream, you, you realise you don’t have to get it right. You just have to you just have to be willing to keep on moving forward, and then quit at the right times, so that you don’t invest too much on something that is most certainly not no longer going to work. You know,
David Ralph [32:44]
yeah, I couldn’t hit a ball to love no money. When I started this show, talk about home runs, I was just swinging and it was air all the time. And then every now and again, I got a fluky hit, and I think I kind of rent the first base or whatever they call it in, right Facebook. And then I kind of realised Oh, I’d gone all the way around and I’d scored and then I couldn’t hit again. But then suddenly you hit one, don’t you and it flies. And then you kind of think Hang on, hang on. I can see why I wasn’t doing it right. But you don’t get to that point. Until you swing you swing, swing, swing swing. And that’s that’s the problem. So many people are trapped in the kind of the American Idol syndrome. And we talked about this a lot where you sing one song Simon cow says you’re a star and suddenly you’re playing Madison Square Garden. And they don’t see the effort and the pursuit and the perseverance that actually builds the foundations. But that’s because what that’s what you’ve done you you’ve said about building foundations, and you’re rising to the top on your own terms because you’ve done the spadework.
Unknown Speaker [33:46]
Sure. Yeah. And that’s, and that’s, you know, but that’s how we are as humans, it’s, you know, it’s interesting, I’m sure you see this all the time, but, you know, you live, we live in 140 character world now. So, it’s, it’s, you know, now the elevator pitches, even shorter, right, people just want the quick. So in that storey, and I know, I’ve talked to people, and they’re like, wow, you know, you really, I can’t believe everything you’ve been able to do in the last year and a half. And like, you know, it’s it’s what a turnaround or what, and I, you know, I’ve been at this a long time, and I’ve been, you know, since 2006. I’ve been, I’ve been, you know, just saying around but also putting up work. I mean, my group we put we put up more projects than anybody I know. And we’ve learned along the way and fucked up and and those are the things that people don’t see. Because that’s, you know, and even more that that was always the case, I think it’s even more so the case, in a 21st century world and a 2014 world where, you know, scratching underneath that surface is Oh, but once you understand that context, that I could sit down with somebody and tell, look, here are my string of failures, you know, here are all the ideas I tried, that didn’t work out. And then all the sudden, it’s very liberating, because you realise that it’s probably a 10 to one ratio from things that just you know, things that worked out on the first time to the things that didn’t. And that’s true of most people, most creatives.
David Ralph [35:12]
So so for somebody like Charlotte, because I’m interested in making this the Charlotte show, because I know that she would love to be doing what you you do, he went backpacking for sort of a year and a half or whatever. And I don’t think she ever lost the thrill of it. And now sitting in office day after day after day, is just pressing her in her spirit, if she sort of sat down there and planned out how her life could be. And she went out and started moving around the world. I’m not saying travelling, is it something that you can literally go into a town and you can earn some sort of shackles and support yourself? Or do you need to have a plan before you go into that town?
Unknown Speaker [35:53]
I mean, it really depends. You know, David, depends people’s palette for adventure. You know, I have a very, very hi palette for adventure. So, you know, back in the day, you know, by that, I mean, six years ago, and me and Melissa started, I mean, we would the amount of times that we slept in cars or train stations, and you know, is innumerable, but we didn’t do that. unhappily. Right. We’re nomads and adventurers to the core. So we’re very, you know, we’re just like, wow, this is we’re on a grand adventure. So that it really depends on your on your palate, for your risk aversion and all that. But, you know, I think that, I mean, we, for instance, you know, what we were able to do, and it missed it, what I wanted to do is, as I mentioned, was to develop some type of core competency that for me was building something real, right. So actually the construction, web design, UI and UX work, how to build things on the web. So whatever. I mean, that’s something that’s tangible and real. And I could trade that even if I couldn’t, even in the early days, we weren’t good enough to, to sell that to get people to pay us to do that. Right. I could, I can barter, and I’m very big on the barter economy for a particular for people who are starting out, because, you know, really, it’s something it’s it’s non traditional economics, but it is, you obviate the variable that no one wants to deal with, which is money. But if you have something that I need, and I have something you want, and we can make a trade, all the sudden, okay, well, if I can take care of my housing, or I can take care of my food, which is what I you know, I did, I mean, a lot of the early things that we did were, you know, when we were travelling around, I would go to a b&b, I’d say, Okay, well redesign your web, you know, obviously, it’s arbitrage most pmds of shitty websites, right? I go and say, I can, you know, will redesign it, this is what it looked like, blah, blah, you just let us stay here and make him cut a deal. You know, okay, cool. You know, let us stay here during your, your slow months for the winter. So that’s, you know, two months I have and then and then every year, I can come back for three weeks at a time, and I’ll host your site, right? No money exchanges hands, I’m using his empty inventory, basically, then he gets a website that’s going to crush his competitors, which is not that hard for me to create, because his competitors are stuck in 1999. So that that to me at just as a de like so. So very, very pragmatic example. That’s actual, I’m not making that actually happened. And that actually happened several times. So for Charlotte, again, depending on what precisely she wanted to do. And and and what precisely she she could kind of build core competency around. That’s something that starting out, right, and then you build a portfolio of work doing that. So, you know, we slowly has missed at the core of Misfit is we’re creative agency today. And today, we work with some of the largest companies and organisations in the world at the time. You know, it was, it was it was websites at the corner coffee shop for free coffee and bagels for the summer. But, you know, you take those and then you start to build a portfolio and then that leads to paid work, because now you can show you’ve actually done work and nobody knows that as long as you really work hard on whatever you do. No one’s going to know the difference between the promo and you know, the paid barter work versus I mean, the barter workers of the paper, and then you leverage that into, you know, now paid gigs do a few kind of medium side, and then you just keep on leveraging kind of one project to the next. And, you know, and today, I mean, for misfit, for example. I mean, one one of the clients that we’ve worked with for many, many years, you know, for a couple years now is Citrix technologies, which is one of the largest companies in the world. You know, we just, I mean, we just did for, you know, P of their product, go to training, you know, good meeting, so we did a big redesign of the their UI and UX there. So they’re re launch of that UI UX is actually misfit design
David Ralph [39:49]
do you put on when when you go to their meetings, or do you just turn up?
Unknown Speaker [39:53]
I mean, see, it’s different with me, I often get this bizarre kind of heckle, from people in our world. And you know, I mean, me and you our world. I always dress it up like that, but that’s always been me. I’m a designer. So like, I always have a tie on best on. My wife calls me the best dressed Gypsy in the world. But that’s just the way I like, you know, I like to dress because I’m a designer, so I always, you know, I will walk in with my rucksack over my, you know, my tie my best I’ll have my rucksack on on into a board meeting, you know, and I’ll throw it on the ground. Yeah, I mean, one thing that I would never from the beginning of Misfit today, misfit you know, I employed 20 people around the world, and we have always when it was just me, and then it was me and Melissa, and you know, me and Melissa early team, and now Now we are 100% flamboyantly us. So I don’t even try to pretend everything. I project exactly who I am out there in the world. And as and if a client, somebody doesn’t like that doesn’t like the fact that there were working with the Gypsy who will end up taking a trip to sub Saharan Africa to work on humanitarian project. Yeah, that’s some Walden they’re not, you know, they’re not going to work with the Misfits. But that’s
David Ralph [41:10]
the power that once again, is the power of success. When you become totally yourself, you do lose all the people that don’t like you, because they just don’t like the way that you operate. But you do naturally pull the people that do respond to you. And things become easier you it’s almost like you’re finding your own personal flow, and struggles that you had when you were wearing a suit. And you would go into Wall Street and pretending you’re somebody else just seems you know, years away. I spent years and years and years pretending I was somebody else. And I look at it now. And I think, why the hell did I do that? Why didn’t I just be me, because being me is quite easy. I’m pretty good at it. I’ve been up since I was a baby AJ Leon have been me. So if anyone’s going to be me, it’s going to be me. good at it. But I didn’t know I just kept on playing but I wore a suit and pretended I was serious and all that kind of stuff. And you throw bombs shackles away. And things just start flowing, don’t they?
Unknown Speaker [42:11]
Yeah, they they absolutely do. And I think that is the difficulty. And that’s what I meant. You know, that’s another thing when when people become entrepreneurs, that they try to be creative on their own what they try and emulate success that they see other people but what they don’t recognise is that what typically makes a successful person successful, or the thing that we respect about them is that they are one of a kind, right? You cannot if somebody tried to recreate misfit, all they would end up being is, you know, the bullshit generic knockoff of Cheerios, which Yeah, I mean, it’s cheaper, but it tastes like cardboard, nope, pour it on it, you know, it’s not, it’s not the actual thing. And that’s the same thing that we see, even in our world. And this and particularly the solo partnership world where people, you know, you see you believe in, then you see a lot of competitive emulation happening. But that’s not you know, that doesn’t actually get to the core of what you talked about, which is finding your unique self, right? I mean, finding, once once you I mean, forget the idea and what you’re going to do and how you’re going to make money once you figure out who you are, and you recognise that never, in the course of all of human history, has there ever been another person with your exact exact genetic makeup, your social construct your contextual and parental upbringing, your friendship grew, everything that makes you you that has made you you over the years that you’ve been on this earth will never be replicated again, and has never been replicated before you are your own unique selling proposition. Once you get to the fact of who you are as a human and and, and be an undeniably flamboyant, 100%, unfiltered, cold pressed version of yourself, and you bring that to your work to then exactly what you suggest will happen. I mean, you’re going to end up attracting the people who dig that and align with it and are congruent, and you’re going to repel the people who aren’t, which makes business and an actual paid work right a lot easier. Because you’re just sifting. Now, it’s not grinding, I’m not trying to convince you of anything, you’re attracted to me. Because of the of the magnetic pool that that I created, which is just just me being me. You know, as opposed to me, looking around what everybody’s doing, and then trying to end up emulating some version of other people.
David Ralph [44:33]
Well, was there a moment when you realised that when you realised who you was totally? Um,
Unknown Speaker [44:41]
yeah, I mean, probably, for me, a lot of it came through writing, probably not one particular moment, you know. But it was the writing. And I don’t mean writing publicly. I mean, I started before I ever published anything publicly, I wrote for me. So when when I would write my mole skin, I would actually sit there and pen letters to the younger version of myself. I mean, that that was the first essay I ever wrote was, you know, called the paralysis of waiting. And that essay before it saw the light of day before I ever even knew what the fuck a blog, well, you know, that I was going to publish a blog or anything like that, or store it. Now it’s in my book. I wrote that to me. And and the entire premise of it was, you know, what, what do you what are you waiting for? And so yeah, yeah, I mean, I think, you know, the process of writing is very cathartic. I always, I always suggest people write and not necessarily publicly if that’s not your thing, but at least write for you. Because it’ll help you get your your thoughts out. And once you see the things that you believe, written out, when it’s not just a transition, kind of vapid, thought pops in your mind, and that is gone when it’s something that’s there that you can page back to look at and say, Wow, this is what I actually, you know, in a moment of clarity, this is who I am, this is what I believe. And now that changes everything.
David Ralph [46:13]
I found that on episode 37, I’ll always remember it, it was it was a free of us. It was normally I do sort of one on one interviews, but this was two other guys. And I suddenly realised that I wasn’t interviewing, I was having a conversation. And it was better because of it. And as I was kind of doing the show, it was like it was like a sort of out of body experience. Part of me started analysing Why did this show feel so much better. And I realised it was because I was just being totally natural. And it took me a while to get to that point. Now, I’m pretty damn natural. There’s no difference between me off the mic on the mic. But at the beginning, you don’t really know what you want to do. And you you know, I remember the Tom Episode Episode One, he was the very first guest that I interviewed. And I listened back to it now. And I sound too respectful. I sounded too grateful that he was giving up his time. And although Yes, you are, you’re hugely grateful. It kind of lacks a spark because I wasn’t being my total self, which allow him to be his total self. So you do once you find that moment, and I say that all the time on the shows, it just becomes easy. But people don’t grasp that delay. They don’t grasp, but actually, life should be easy. In many ways. Yes, you can have struggles, yes, you can have failures, yes, you can swing numerous times and not hit a ball. But ultimately, ultimately comes down to it shouldn’t be the struggle which most of us have in our lives.
Unknown Speaker [47:42]
Yeah, yeah. And I think the struggle that you wrote that you referenced its friction, and the friction is the life I lead. And now versus the life I was destined to lead. And that and those two thing, you know, because we have this idea of what we we really, really are and what we want to be, and then we have this idea of who we think we should be, or who we’ve told we should be. And when those two rub up against each other. That’s that’s the, you know, that’s the friction that you feel, you know, which is why it’s so important when people ask me about, you know, making money or entrepreneurship and all that I you know, I just, it’s, it’s hard for me to answer the question, because it’s, it always comes back to well, who are you? You know, what, what do you want? If I live three lives, and we had three live, we could have lots of discussions about what’s the most pragmatic choice, I’ll give you tips about this about whatever. But the reality is, we only have this one. So in this one and only light this one thing that we get that we’re blessed to have right now, why are you? And what do you want this to represent? And once we deduce that down, and actually take that seriously, once, that’s no longer esoteric bullshit, or some hippie poetry wants the pragmatism of the fact that we’re going to die. This is our one and only life, what do we want it to be? Then Then I think we actually start to make really visceral and dis different decisions with our own life, which then permeates obviously and naturally. So to our work, and the things that we do professionally.
David Ralph [49:18]
Does it terrify you dying?
Unknown Speaker [49:22]
No. Well, I mean, yeah, I mean, you know, God, I think everybody’s scared of dying, you know, we’re scared of the the, the the country from which no traveller returns, you know,
David Ralph [49:34]
because I don’t know how much and if dying anymore. I’m scared of over living, you know, when you like this old people, and you just sit there in a chair, looking at the window, that that terrifies me. But before, if you do ask me that question six, I’ve asked a question myself, you haven’t asked it at all. But um, if you had done six months ago, I would have said, Yes, I was terrified that I was going to be, I was going to leave without leaving my mark on the planet somehow. But now I’m doing this. I don’t have those beers at all. I think to myself, this is going to be my mark. And so my interest with that question with you? Do you think that when you lay on your deathbed, you’re sort of go Yeah, yeah, did it? That was pretty good.
Unknown Speaker [50:16]
Yeah, I think so. I hope so. I think I think that I’m going to live in that way. You know, I think that I, you know, every moment to me is precious, you know, when I talk about living deliberately or intentionally. What I mean by that is every moment, every second is precious. And I treat it as such. And, and I think, you know, yeah, when it comes when it comes to die, you know, to look back and say, yeah, it’s not that I was successful business, or I did this or that, but I lived, I lived a life with intent. You know, and when I loved I loved big, and when I Swan, Swan, big, you know, and? And, yeah, so I hope so. Yeah,
David Ralph [51:03]
I think he will, I’m going to play the words of the theme of the show, the show is called Join Up Dots. And it’s loosely based on these words by Steve Jobs, I’m going to play them. And then as I normally do, I will ask whether they had resonance to yourself.
Steve Jobs [51:15]
Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards. 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leaves you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [51:50]
You’ve obviously gone off the path and you’re in parts that no one’s ever been on before. Did those words resonate with you?
AJ Leon [51:59]
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I think those words are, you know, they’re, they’re sort of the st. Crispin’s day speech of, of, of our generation probably, you know, they absolutely they resonate with me, you know, and, and it is, I mean, a part of it. Yeah. I mean, you know, Steve says that it’s belief, but it’s not this binary belief, like, believe in yourself. It’s, it’s the belief that, that the, the adventure that that in the end, this is an adventure, and it’s going to take us in different, you know, the dots will connect as they may, and then it’s not going to be linear, and that’s fine. You know, and being okay with that.
David Ralph [52:42]
What’s your big dot, then AJ Leon, on that, on that timeline? Is there a doctor when you go? Yeah, that that’s when it all started happening for me.
AJ Leon [52:52]
Um, you know, prob, probably the moment that I described earlier in the show, you know, when I, when I left everything that I’ve ever known and started reinventing my life from scratch, you know, and, you know, but there’s also, you know, there’s dots along the way, you know, there’s, there’s, of course, right. I mean, there’s so many moments that you think, Wow, that was, God, that was poignant. You know, the first time that we actually did a paid gig, you know, the first time that I took my last 3000s, you know, work, we worked our asses off over summer, and then realised that there was this, these kids in Tanzania that could use our help and, and then spent all that money on flights out to Russia. Yeah, and, and then, you know, launching a project to help them raise enough money for a tech lab in a cafeteria. And that was a moment, that was a moment when I realised that anybody could change the world, and that I didn’t have to be warm, but I didn’t have to wait till some in indefinite time to change where I could do it right now. And, you know, so you have those really,
Unknown Speaker [53:58]
you know, really poignant.
Unknown Speaker [54:01]
places and life that I think we all look back at, and at it, and in the end, there’s this tapestry being drawn, you know, and woven out, right. And there’s so many different threads. And, you know, and I think that’s one of the reasons I love travelling so much, I don’t travel for holiday, I travel for adventure, you know, I actually don’t really like vacation that much. You know, I like, I like adventuring. I, like, you know, and I try to find ways to meet people work in different places that I go to, and, and create reasons to come back to and and all that just develops this really bizarre tapestry that that is indigenously mine, right? Just like you’re doing the same with your life where it’s like, it’s just, if you keep on with that frame and that context of life, then you’re going to end up you know, weaving together this tapestry that is absolutely undefined and and definable you
David Ralph [54:52]
so just before we send you back in time on the Sermon on the mic, where’s the tapestry going to go? What was what’s your plans for the next few years?
Unknown Speaker [55:02]
Yeah, I mean, that’s interesting right now, I mean, what what started out as me and Melissa and my early business partner Dino trading web design for bagels. has become now misfit you know, we’re are, we are creative agency. But we also have a craft publishing house, we produce a conference every year in North Dakota, with the misfit Foundation, where we do work in northern Kenya, we assist nonprofits doing work in India, and, you know, nine or 10 different countries around the world. And we also have an innovation incubator where we launch our own startups like twit gift, which is a startup out of Misfit. You know, so it’s probably, but all these things that misfit has become, and the company that has become our direct reflections of my personality and the things that I enjoy doing. Right. And that’s kind of the exactly what we’ve talked about, build a business that’s mapped out an alignment with yourself. So, you know, probably getting into even more worlds that that I have always been interested in getting into. So and that, then that’s what I’m actively planning right now, for 2015. You know, I know you’re going to be successful,
David Ralph [56:13]
as I know that the young AJ Leon was always going to be successful. And we’re gonna give him some words of advice now, because I’m going to play the theme tune and send you back in time. And if you could go back in time and have a one on one with your younger self, what age AJ Leon would you choose? And what advice would you give where we’re going to find out? Because you’re up, this is the Sermon on the mic.
Unknown Speaker [56:38]
Here we go. With the best beer on the show.
Unknown Speaker [56:58]
Yeah, so I thought that I would, I would actually read a bit of an essay that I wrote, which is basically a letter that I wrote to a younger version of myself back in 2008. And that would be the version of myself that was before my life that I live. So the essay starts out there are a few things on this earth more dangerous than waiting, waiting for the perfect time to launch waiting to have enough money to start waiting for your friends to think you can waiting for some blogger, regional manager or magazine editor to notice waiting for God to increase the hours of the day, waiting until the kids graduate, waiting until your added dead, waiting for your dad to believe in you waiting for the boss to say it’s fine, waiting for a case study to prove that it’s worth it, waiting for retirement, waiting to be chosen, waiting to be validated, waiting for a sign. The most obvious problem with waiting, it’s paralysis, the nothingness that comes with not trying. But the not so obvious problem with waiting, the more you do it, the better you get at it, you want to know the truth. I’d rather slip backwards than stay put. Because at the very least I’m learning something from my next step up. And that’s something is usually more valuable than what I would have learned by doing nothing at all. This is not a rant. I mean it. It’s overwhelming. Think of all the art that has yet to be created, and all the web applications that have yet to be built, and all the music that has yet to be written and all the dishes that have yet to be tasted and all the storeys that have yet to be told because somebody somewhere is waiting. So what are you waiting for AJ Leon?
David Ralph [58:41]
And what are you waiting for Charlotte? That’s what we’re say. The Charlotte show? How can our audience connect with you, AJ Leon?
Unknown Speaker [58:49]
Yeah, so my blog online is pursuit of everything calm. That’s where I wrote. That’s where I write and publish most of my essays. On Twitter. I’m just at AJ Leon. And on Facebook, you can just follow misfit over there. So it’s just Facebook forward slash misfit Inc.
David Ralph [59:07]
We will have all the links on our show notes. AJ Leon, thank you so much for spending time with us today joining those dots. And thank you personally for allowing me to start creating my own dots by inspiring me to take the leap of faith. Please come back again, when you have more dots to join up as I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures. AJ Leon, thank you so much,
AJ Leon [59:29]
David. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me on man.
David doesn’t want you to become a faded version of the brilliant self you are wants to become. So he’s put together an amazing guide for you called the eight pieces of advice that every successful entrepreneur practices, including the two that changed his life. Head over to Join Up Dots.com to download this amazing guide for free and we’ll see you tomorrow on Join Up Dots.