w: ajleon

Buttering to the Edges

A few months ago, Melissa and I decided to plant ourselves in the very misfit town of Asheville in North Carolina.

As we nomad around the world in 1,880 days, the sceneries and seasons and cultures and people change, but one constant that we always maintain is our standing morning coffee date at the best café we can find in town (wherever that may be).

The decision on which café to endow as our pop-up Misfit HQ is something we take very seriously. Research always commences prior to arriving in a town, and sometimes deliberations go on for ages while there.

In Asheville, the first café we walked into was called High Five, a delightful and spacious café with lovely outside seating. But to coffee geeks like us, of course, the critical issue is the actual coffee.

I usually order an espresso, but on this fine sunny day I decided to sample their cold brew.

I walked up to the counter, the barista took my money, and handed me a plastic cup brimming with caffeinated nectar. A good cold brew is not simply hot coffee that has been tossed in a refrigerator. It is an artisan’s enterprise, which involves steeping coffee grounds in room temperature for hours.

And this one was good. Real good.

A couple hours later, I decided to order another one as it looked like we might be there for a while.

I walk up to the counter, and order another cold brew from a new barista.

But this time.

This new barista tells me, with a big grin on her face, that she’ll bring it out to me. We were in no rush so that was absolutely fine. But I remember thinking. It’s cold brew. It’s already prepared. You just grab one of those plastic cups, pour it in and hand it to me like the last dude did. 

I walk back to my seat, and get back to my sketching.

A few minutes later, this new cheery barista walks over my cold brew in a beer mug. A frosted beer mug.

Same exact coffee. But laced in an experience that was insatiably memorable.

It was what my friend Srini would call, unmistakable.

__

When my dear friend David Baeza took the stage at Misfit Con last year, he told the story about how much he loves breakfast, but f*cking hates toast. He has vivid memories of going to local diners as a kid and receiving a delicious piece of toasted bread only to find that the hasty line cook had plopped a heap of butter in the middle so that by the time he got to the edges, the delectable mushy buttery goodness was gone.

David went on to say,

The only reason people order buttered toast is because of that [bleep] center! So why not butter it to the edges! It makes no sense. If you’re going to take the time to make someone something, why not take the time to make it with love. At least then they’ll remember it. 

__

It’s hard to define what making something with love means, but we all recognize it immediately when we are the recipient of it.

It’s the unexpected footer art, the handwritten card, the completely ridiculous product packaging, the unexpected birthday surprise for a conference attendee, the latte art, the cold brew in the frosty mug.

It’s the thing that doesn’t make you a solitary extra dollar for doing it.

It’s the thing that transmogrifies a relationship from the mere transactional to the emotional.

In a world that worships at the altar of infinite scalability, it doesn’t take that much effort to surprise people. You and I can be different if we want to be. We can inculcate beauty and love and delight into our work even if it doesn’t make us a dollar extra. Even if every six sigma debutante tells us that it’s a waste of our time or energy or resources.

__

Someone asked me the other day why I thought people around the world had such a strong reaction to our work at Misfit.

I pondered over that for a while. Then replied.

Since day one of Misfit (when it was just Melissa and I trading web sites for bagels), I decided that I would rather our work be cherished by few than simply consumed by many.

That precept guides everything we do.

And anyone that attends a Misfit conference, or reads a Misfit publication, or receives a Misfit product – feels the full weight of that early decision to build a business that butters all the way to the edges.

Your work may never be universal, but it can certainly be treasured.

That choice, my friend, is entirely up to you.

From Stratford-on-Avon

Your Fellow Misfit,

AJ

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Misfit News: 

Melissa, myself and our friends Dr. Paul Prescott and Rev. Dr. Paul Edmondson were recently attending the Shakespeare Theatre Association Conference in Stratford, Ontario to announce the launch of Shakespeare on the Road, a new partner project between Misfit, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the University of Warwick. The project will take us across the whole of America this summer capturing stories of Shakespeare’s significance across the States, and uncovering the reasons why people sacrifice so dearly to produce art in the face of insurmountable odds. 

On Wednesday at 19:00, Lou Shackleton and the You Can Hub will be producing the second monthly Misfit:Local meet up in Cambridge (the original one). Jessie was at the first event, and tells me it was amazing. If you are a misfit in or around Cambridge and are looking to connect with freaks like us, then I strongly suggest you make it out to Hot Numbers Café this Wednesday at 19:00. Get your free ticket here. Oh, and in case you are wondering, Misfit:Local is a beta monthly meet up program that we are pioneering with Lou and a handful of other misfits spread throughout the globe. If you are interested in producing a Misfit:Local chapter, you can apply here

Did you know? Misfit is a social enterprise. Although we are technically a for-profit creative agency and media company, we have launched dozens of social and humanitarian projects and have helped raise over 5 million dollars for villages and schools in South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines. 

If you are interested in learning more about Misfit, you can follow our work over on the twitters -> @misfit_inc

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Tweeting since 1789 -> @ajleon

1084 words

2.17.14

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