Cities are the baggage of the industrial era.
George Gilder (famously prophesying the death of cities)
In the late 19th century, Alfred Marshall, one of the fathers of modern economics, hypothesized that the reason Victorian furniture makers always set up shop near one another is because, as he put it, Proximity creates ‘something in the air’.
if one man starts a new idea, it will be taken up by others and combined with suggestions of their own; and thus it becomes the source of further new ideas.
By simply being in geographical proximity to one another, completely independent businesses (who in all likelihood may be in direct competition) can inadvertently propel an entire industry further by facilitating knowledge spillover, the exchange of ideas that foment improvements in a neighbor’s work through the progress in one’s own.
The most poignant (and possibly least interesting) example of this in our lifetime is probably Silicon Valley, where the headquarters of every major (and most minor) tech firms are within just a few miles of each other.
But as I nomad around the planet, I have witnessed dozens of examples of Marshallian “Proximity” at work.
Some of the more intriguing are areas like Dumbo, where my dear friend Emily helps foster “spillover” amongst a burgeoning class of entrepreneurs who proudly proclaim that creativity doesn’t cease at the outer fringe of the FDR.
Of course, this style of creative assimilation doesn’t refrain with commerce alone.
While I was in Miami recently, I spent most of my time at the Wynwood Arts District, an area spanning a hearty 10 blocks that has evolved into an oasis of inventive expression for a group of absurdly creative artists.
And then there is my favorite example of the little town of Fargo, who has become home to artists and makers and creatives of all denominations. Whenever I’m there, I can see these individuals nourishing one another (certainly without even intending to), corporately developing what I am sure in 10 years time will be a beacon of imagination and inventiveness in the Midwest.
One can even witness this phenomenon of human dynamic at work at a micro level in modern day conferences and events.
Sure, most events are still just industry bullsh*t, but there are plenty that have grown out of the sheer desire of individuals in a community to feel connected to a greater whole, thereby enhancing the possibility of spillover.
But what does this have to do with us?
As this new year winds up, I would encourage you to actively seek out opportunities to be amongst those who are in a plight to change the world just like you are.
It may be hard, and there will surely be some investment of time or resources involved.
But there is simply no exchange, no equivalent for the creative refinement that occurs when you dwell amongst your people.
Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself. –Edmund Lee
Your Fellow Misfit,
On December 12, in collaboration with Danger Lou, we piloted the first ever Misfit Local group. It was in Cambridge and it was amazing. We are quietly planning on launching more groups around the world this year. If you’d be interested in hosting a monthly Misfit Local group in your area, let me know here.
Misfit recently partnered with @gregfromfargo to create a fun and simple way for sojourners to Fargo to meet the creatives who inhabit it. Melissa and I will be joining one of these dinners next month.
After having sent Cheese to the Midwest to oversee the final print run, my first book The Life & Times of a Remarkable Misfit is almost out into the world. For updates on the progress, head over here.
Misfit has been helping develop the User Experience of an iPad application called Talkboard. If you’re looking for the easiest way to collaborate on visual projects, I believe this is it.
Follow my adventures and gluttonies on Instagram.
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