Once a skater, always a skater. It’s a mentality just as much as it is the actual act of skateboarding. I’ve been skating since I was about 12 years old…on and off as I got older [and more prone to injuries]. Skateboarders, though perceived as counterculture social outcasts, see the world through a different lens- where one person may see 6 stairs leading up to a library or school, a skateboarder immediately wonders if they can kick flip that stair set or if there’s enough clearance to boardslide that ledge to the left. The whole world becomes a secret playground accessible only to those who know where to look and what to look for. Growing up, I absolutely idolized Rodney Mullen. I wanted to be this dude so bad, but his skating was on another level, a place reserved for gods.
I would highly recommend watching this interview with Rodney Mullen. He is much older now than he was in the above clip, but listening to him speak is just as interesting as watching him skate.
I always had respect for Rodney because he could some of the most incredible things with a piece of wood on wheels. Things that I would never be able to do even with all the practice time in the world. It’s easy to write it off by saying “he’s a gifted skateboarder” or “he’s professional and that’s all he does”. Both are true statements, but there is something else and it’s even more simple of an explanation: he gets up after he falls. Again and again and again. It’s something more than persistence that gets him back on that skateboard - watch the clip of him skating again or even the TED clip [below] and listen to him even speak about skateboarding and tell me that there is anything less than sheer joy on his face. He skates to live, and he expresses himself through the innovation and invention of tricks. If you watch the interview piece above, you’ll see an emotion that can’t be faked when he talks about skateboarding and what it means to him. It’s almost as if he needs it to live…skate or die - that was what really struck me most.
What would it look like, and more importantly feel like, if we as creators had this connection to our creations? Not just the successful projects, but the myriad failures that lead up to that one success? If we looked at each failure as an opportunity to get up, adjust, and try it again. When innovation or creation is our life then we better feel and speak the way about these lives the way that Rodney Mullen speaks about skateboarding. One of my favorite parts of this interview was the anecdote about the professors after TED talk. These were MIT faculty coming up to Rodney and expressing their inability to teach this exact intangible to their students. These decorated, highly educated professors can understand and teach some of the most complex subjects on the planet, but they cannot teach their students drive. This drive comes from within and you either have it or you don’t. The question is, do you have what it takes inside to overcome what happens on the outside?
The creative industry is gnarly, no doubt. We’re not Blunt sliding 30-stair railings or boosting 30’ out of a vert ramp, but we’re putting everything we have on the line every day - our names, our reputations, our ideas - things that could just as easily be kept safe and sound inside our minds. So why subject ourselves to the torture of critiques and potential rejection? Because we BELIEVE in our idea, design, application, screenplay, etc. We believe in our idea so much that putting it out there is the only option. We want to innovate, and in a way, give back not just to the creative community, but also improve lives outside of our immediate community. Nobody gets innovation right on the first try just as a skate rarely stomps a trick the first time they try it. Here’s the best part - even if a skater stomps the trick on their first try, what do they do next? You guessed it, they try and use that trick in combination with another. This drive is internal and they do it [innovate] not because they like the sound of the word ‘innovator’ [or entrepreneur], but because they simply wonder if it can be done. Obsidian wants to encourage everyone to push themselves creatively, professionally, and personally. Just make sure that you remember why you are pushing yourself in the first place. That is all.
Additional TED Talks w/ Rodney Mullen
"On Getting Up Again"
"Pop an Ollie and Innovate"