“Don’t ever stay inside when the stars are kind enough to dance for you.” ~@AJLeon

I just read AJ Leon’s manifesto: The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit. An extremely powerful piece of writing. Touching on many things that we hear people say often, but in his case,  through AJ’s passion and conviction you will know it to be true.

I met AJ and Melissa Leon, the brilliance behind Misfit Inc. on the sidewalk just outside the 92nd Street Y after #140conf12 ( The 140 Conference) in New York a few months ago. We spoke only long enough for an introduction, they were passing by quickly, and I was on my way back to Montreal. I regretted not being able to have the time to speak longer, yet, I was incredibly grateful to meet them in person – even if just for a moment. Now, a couple of months later, I had the pleasure of touching upon their incredible work, by way of this manifesto. I originally thought it might cover their work and travel, which are remarkable, but was even more pleased when I realized this was truly AJ’s personal account on how it is possible to change the world. Complete with some clever lists of do’s and don’ts.

What is the secret behind “being the change”?

I write often on how I believe that social media has provided us with a great opportunity for empowerment, more so than ever before in our history, to reach out, learn, connect and be that change. With the #140MTL (The 140 Conference Montreal) I looked to bring the magic of social media home, hoping to inspire local people to learn how they can effect change by using the new tools at our disposition, in particular I wanted to empower non-profits to learn how to reach and engage with communities. Connecting with people, being inspired, driving change, sharing messages…
Here are a few words I said following an extremely powerful and deeply personal presentation by Doina Oncel, founder of Doina’s Infintie Solutions. Please take a moment to watch her talk here, she truly is an example of someone changing the world every day.

(If you would like to see more videos about empowerment, overcoming challenges, and living your dreams, including Doina’s you can check out my Pinterest #140MTL inspire videos here)
Human connection, support, and vision allow us to accomplish so much more. We have to take every chance to seize the day, and make that difference.

What Are You Waiting For?

Often the critics of those living their dreams will fear taking chances and risks – they become the nay-sayers or those who will fill your mind with cautionary tales. AJ talks about this in his manifesto, addressing the idea that those who are able – who will succeed – know so within. The nay-sayers can only keep them down for so long. He talks about unhappiness, and exhaustion, and the feeling he once felt, vs. how he chooses to live now.

A Personal Interlude

I once took a leap and moved to Hawaii. The move appeared insane to everyone around me. I left my position, my home, and everything behind. I just took a chance because I realized, if not then, then when. Regret was not something I ever wanted to live with.
I remember a very distinct feeling when I arrived there, in speaking with my partner at the time, I tried to express what the feeling was. The best I came up with was that it was as though I had taken a leap to a new dimension,  I had single handily altered the course of all existence and was now living in another parallel world – somehow I had jumped out of my old life, and into this new and different place and life, it was fascinating. A feeling I will never forget.
Did I lose material things along the way to get there? Yes.
Did I lose “security”? Yes.
However, I gained what I can only express as identity, empowerment and freedom. That was the start of a journey and many wonderful things came from there.
There were challenges too, many – but really, I can not say I regret any of it along the way.
When I read AJ’s story, it reminded me of this. Essentially I feel that what he has written about is the empowerment of a soul. It is brilliant. Few people are able to portray what he discusses in such a clear way.
If I can use my own words: We all have a parallel world we could be living in, the world where you take on your dreams and push them forward. The world where you never give up and keep moving, and by taking the leap to this world- only then do you see what you left behind and the true possibility ahead. We all have choices in this life. There are no rules or bounds, unless we make them.
The most resonating thoughts AJ shares in his work break down to this: Most in your current world will not understand (how you may pursue your dreams) and will call it insanity – but when you follow your heart, when you trust yourself, when you put your plans forward and refuse the mediocrity –  You will live your dreams and the world will be a better place because of it.
The photo above is a very simple example of this very thing. It is just a photo, however, had I listened to the rules of the world, had I heeded caution, had I been with someone who did not push me to grab my vision – despite the warnings, the “common sense”, I would never have that photo – and to this day, it is one of my most cherished “personal” photos.
We had been driving on the Volcano at Volcano National Park, to the side of the road I saw a double rainbow. We pulled over to take a picture, and as I looked at it, I thought it would be the perfect spot for a yoga picture. I told my partner, and he said, “So do it”. As I walked over, we saw a sign that very clearly stated a strong warning – something to the effect of : dangerous gaseous fumes – do not proceed – or do so at your own risk. I stopped, disappointed. He said, go anyway. I looked around, I started to proceed slowly, I felt like it was “ok” and then I ran. I ran out to the point of the photo, far beyond the warning and jumped into a quick yoga pose.
The picture was taken, I wasn’t consumed by fumes, the volcano did not erupt, the walls around me did not fall – in fact, I was surrounded by beauty and peace, and I got my picture. It’s a simple example, and please understand I am not telling you to ignore all signs and jump into volcanoes – but what I can tell you is when your instinct tells you you’ll be okay to move forward, and the people around you try and stop you – you may want to rethink it and follow your heart and your vision.
The second thing I am saying here, and this is perhaps the most important, surrounding yourself with people who believe in you will make all the difference. To succeed, to do well, to live your dreams, you must share vision, and have support. This applies in business, and to your life.

Isn’t that where you need to be?

When your innermost being strives for exceptional, living an ordinary life with bounds and restrictions and guidelines of “how it should be” is what makes you unhappy. Just as I was when I thought the sign had stopped me. I had to realize, it didn’t have to.
If you are not happy with what you have attained – this has nothing to do with money or title-  then maybe you should look at the truth within: are you leading an ordinary life when what you can do is meant to be extraordinary?
Are you guiding yourself by warning signs that were never meant for you?


Are you limiting your capabilities?

Read AJ’s manifesto – if the dream is there, perhaps this will awaken it. Perhaps it will let you see how you need to make your way to that parallel place and be what you are really supposed to be. It can change the world, it can drive good, it can be magnificent for everyone around you.
AJ says many times in his work, “If you read this far, then you’re probably meant to read this now (the Manifesto)”. Read it and drive change in this world. At least see if it’s maybe the push you needed. No one can, or should define what that is but you. You will know it when you’re on the right path. So go, download it for free, and read. Open your mind and be happy. You will face adversity, but as AJ suggests, that just may be the right sign, that you’re on the right path. The best path you could ever imagine.
Unlock the door to your parallel world – maybe that’s where you really belong, finding the people to help you along the way. A big thank you to AJ and Melissa Leon for being the change, and not just stopping there, but pushing forward to inspire others in all they do. Follow them on Twitter,…


I started this post with a quote, from AJ’s work, and I’ll end with the same:

“Don’t ever stay inside when the stars are kind enough to dance for you.” ~@AJLeon

Go outside, the world is waiting. Haven’t you missed enough already?



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