Micah August 30th

A Left Turn at Albuquerque

Last year some time, perhaps around SXSW, I was introduced to a woman I had started to hear a lot about.

She was described as someone who had started a documentary, sort of on a whim, and had collected a number of really interesting interviews. Most of the equipment she had was donated, and much of the work she had done was amateur. But, the subject matter, “How technology has changed how we live our lives” was riveting and the perspective interesting.

As I got to know Melissa Pierce, I found out that we had many intersections of people, thoughts and ideas, and over the past year, we have become friends.

A couple of days ago, I saw the rough cut of her file, Life in Perpetual Beta, and while it leaned on the side of rough, its compelling, and will be worth the time (and hopefully money) to sit and watch and think.

Today, I was pointed to this video:

Which she talks about why she started the film. Watch it. Its pretty interesting (of course, my favorite part is about 5:30 in, when the camera almost gets dropped). Its pretty interesting in that there was a moment when Melissa realized that doing this film was important to her, and that regardless of the path, she was ready to start down it. A moment.

At Gnomedex this year, I had the immense pleasure to meet Jay Grandin and Leah Nelson of Giant Ant Media. When their presentation began, they talked about how they put together a video, which went viral on YouTube.

They began to explain how this video got them a gig with MySpace, and I quickly shoved my face back into my laptop. “Yay!” I thought to myself, “another viral video. Perhaps I will do a video about testicles (By the way – I didnt start that twitter account. Or this one. Or this one. Or this one. Thank God, they are all dead). Bet I could get 9 million views.”

But as their presentation progressed, they talked about how entering the social media realm. Strike that. This wasnt really social media, even though it was attached to MySpace, it was really the “social connection” realm, because Jay and Leah, then started a project where they went to Europe and asked their MySpace friends if they could crash on their couches. Which they did. And they filmed it.

Now before you jump into the standard American “WTF!?!? Strangers? IN EUROPE?!” Jay and Leah are Canadians living in Vancouver. So, the potential of them getting bitten and turning into werewolves, ala An American Werewolf in London, were pretty slim. (It wasnt called A Canadian Werewolf in London for a reason. They are just too nice to be werewolves.)

But, somewhere on their journey from standard menial jobs to viral videos to MySpace to roaming around Europe they, like Melissa, made a left at Albuquerque.

(Ok, time for a quick aside. My reference of a “left at Albuquerque” is a reference to a famous line uttered by Bugs Bunny whenever he travelled in a cartoon. For some reason, he continually got lost, and would pop out of the burrow he was making and exclaim, “I shoulda made a left at Alburquerque!”)

Jay and Leah began to get involved with a project that was inspired by another member of their team, Danya Fast, had just returned from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and spoke about some kids who lived on the street hustling and performing. They decided to get involved:

Over the course of six weeks in Dar, we facilitated a youth-led project to record a 6-track Bongo-Flava hip hop album. We compensated a group of 20 youth with a cash salary on work days, by setting up housing for one year, and with lots and lots of cigarettes.

At the conclusion of that year, they had the album (buy it here), a charity (check it here), and an amazing film (learn more here):

Amazing stuff, huh?

I often talk about how there are two types of entrepreneurs in the world, those that pack and plan their parachutes before jumping or those that jump trusting that they will figure it out on the way down.

Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, says it a bit better than me (found on Fred Wilson’s tumblr):

“The whole entrepreneurial thing is that you kind of jump off a cliff and assemble your airplane on the way down. And financing, by the way, is a thermal draft, right? You’re a little further away, but the ground’s still coming at you if you can’t establish an airplane.”

– Reid Hoffman, as quoted by Jeff Bussgang in his new book, The VC Playbook

(While I would love to say that great minds think alike, Reid did found LinkedIn. C’mon, Reid, LinkedIn?!?! Sheeesh, I have work to do…)

Melissa, Jay and Leah all took the leap. They are trusting that they will figure it out on the way down. And, given what I know of them, they will. (Now, both are looking for help funding their projects. If they move you, give. If they dont move you, find someone it does move, and get them to give. Seriously.)

But, what of this concept of a “Left Turn at Albuquerque”? What compels people to make a major shift in their lives and careers to follow passion projects? My career and life have been pretty linear, with each “next” building off the “previous.” I am not surprised I am where I am today (maybe a bit disappointed in certain things, but certainly not surprised) because of the linear nature of my life and choices.

And, left turns dont have to be into non-profit or “world saving” activities. It just has to be drastic and a major life shift. Remember starting a company is difficult and hard, it could have large monetary awards, but its not a fundamental life shift.

Starting a company is not impressive. Changing your life’s path is awe inspiring.

If given the opportunity to take a Left Turn, dont let it pass you by. Jump. The parachute will figure itself out.