w: ajleon

There Is No King Maker

Want to be a writer? All you have to do is write.

Want to be an artist? All you have to do is make things.

Want to be a travel photographer? All you have to do is buy a ticket, bring your camera and go.


Of course, it’s not that easy, right? I mean a publisher makes you a writer, and a gallery makes you an artist and a magazine makes you a travel photographer. Or does it? If you simply accept that you are something and fully embody it and tell the world that you are indeed that something, then aren’t you in fact that something? (Of course, that’s assuming you aren’t running around telling people you are an astrophysicist and never took an astronomy class).

Interestingly, the element that makes things more tangible in the post industrial revolution is the serendipity that occurs in publicly demonstrating your act of Genius. I personally know many writers with novels tucked safely away in desk drawers. I know an artist in California who has created nine magnificent pieces that only those who walk into his apartment have ever seen. I know people who have traveled the wide world and relegated the vision of the planet they have captured to the quiet graveyard of Facebook Albums.


About 2 years ago, I was sitting at my usual place on the bar in my favorite cafe in the East Village. My dear friend Josh had just purchased the iPhone 4 and spent the summer taking photos all around the neighborhood. Day after day, he would walk in and show me these amazing photos captured in the handful of city blocks we both adore and call home. Then one day, I suggested to him that the world might deserve to see this art, that maybe he should start a simple tumblr blog and publicly share his work. He did. And for months, he thought no one cared and very few people were noticing, but he continued photographing, editing and posting. Today, Josh has over 20,000 followers on Tumblr, has sold several individual pieces of his iphonography for over $1,500 and has been invited to exhibit at galleries in both London and New York.

Seth calls this act doing your art.

Paulo calls it living out your personal legend.

I call it excavating the recesses of your own soul … and publicly displaying your act of Genius.

….. and I believe it is this act and this act alone that will set you on that epic journey to discover your Life’s Work.


Right now I find myself in Southern California, having traveled 4,325 miles and reached Day 20 on a quest to travel the entire world in 1,880 days. I’m going through the process of attempting to sift through the creeps on Craigslist to buy and fix an RV that will take me around North, Central and South America. I’m a New Yorker. I have never purchased a car in my life. And to my knowledge, no one has given me the permission to do this. Yet, here I am, publicly living out the adventure of a lifetime and carefully trying to choose the chariot that will make the first quarter of it possible. And here you are, following my journey because 20 days ago I mustered the courage to hit publish and share myself and my expedition with the you.

But here’s the petrifying truth.

The more you share of yourself and of your work with the world or your colleagues or your fellow classmates – the greater degree of possible humiliation that you could endure.

Let’s face it, no one ever makes fun of the guy who never lost all his money on a risky venture, or the girl who never provides her ideas at the marketing meeting, or the artist that never launches a simple tumblr for the world to see his homegrown photos or the writer who waits patiently for a literary agent to tell her she’s marketable or the New Yorker that never leaves on an adventure around the world, wrought with the possibility of cataclysmic failure.



There is no King Maker. There is the life you live right now at this moment … and the life that you were destined to lead … and the great chasm in the middle … and the very personal and very public decision to leap from one to another.

But as Ovid so eloquently reminds us, “the gods favor the bold”.

So here we go.

Your Fellow Misfit,


Written from: my favorite pasta shop in the world in Duarte, California on Day 20.

757 words



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