A friend recently sent me a video of an interview with Tony Hawk. It was from 2009, before the release of what was his latest video game.
This interview was shot ten years after Hawk became the first skateboarder to successfully land a 900, and more than ten years before skateboarding would eventually be included in the Olympics. So it was well after Tony Hawk had become a household name, but before skateboarding was even widely considered a sport.
About halfway through their conversation, Bryan Alexander asks a question submitted by a fan:
“With skateboarding being so counter-culture, what are your thoughts on becoming a pop culture icon because of it?”
Tony laughs and responds with this:
“Let’s just say that every day is an incredible surprise… that I’m here, and that I’m still able to do it and that I’m a recognizable figure for doing it, because when I started, no one cared. The time that I turned professional, you could’ve likened it to being a professional frisbee player, or yo-yo player. It just didn’t matter in the sort of mainstream opinion. And so, to be recognized for that, for something that was totally uncool when I was a kid, is strange. It’s still strange. And I don’t take it for granted at all, you know? It’s amazing, but I never set out to be rich or famous from skating.”
Tony Hawk is the most famous skater in the world, and when he started, no one cared.
And you know what? I kind of think that’s the recipe for success.
Getting started before anyone cares. Identifying things when they’re still niche or peculiar or a little off-beat.
When I first met the Kickstarter co-founders they had been fine-tuning the idea for the crowdfunding platform for years, ever since Perry had the idea to bring a pair of Austrian DJs to New Orleans for Jazz Fest in 2002 but didn’t have the funds to make it happen.
Years later, when FOX canceled Arrested Development, they saw another great use case. The world needed a way for lots of fans to come together, chip in whatever they could spare, and help bring creative projects to life.
At the time, the idea that the public could have a say in greenlighting new seasons of a TV show was kind of wild. It’s just not how things worked.
Today Kickstarter is a place where tens of millions of people have pledged billions of dollars to hundreds of thousands of creative projects. The world caught up to this niche idea!
In business, in investing, in life in general, people often make the mistake of asking themselves, “what’s hot right now?” when, in truth, the time to get into the current hot thing was eight years ago.
My nephew loves music. When he was joining the school band, he wasn’t sure what instrument to pick. He said he liked clarinet, but it wasn’t “cool.”
I told him to play the clarinet, become the best at it, and then when/if the clarinet has its moment, you’ll be the bee’s knees. And even if it never has its day, it will still have been worthwhile because you’re passionate about it.
Don’t be afraid to let the bandwagon pass you by.
Do something weird. The world may catch up.