Moving. A two year old. Co-owning a new business. Selling a house.
Let’s say that things have been busy lately. Blogging has been slow, so as I was cleaning up my desktop tonight I found something I thought I’d share. I submitted the story below to Fray for their “Geek” theme. (It didn’t make it)
Please try not to make too much fun.
In 1977 my Mom gave me a toy that changed my life. I don’t remember it, of course; I was 3 years old at the time. But it charted a course that still impacts my life to this day. The toy was one of the first LEGO sets to be found in the United States after they migrated from Europe.
By the time I was 7 years old or so, no Christmas or birthday celebration was complete unless there was a shiny new LEGO set to unwrap. To this day I still have vivid memories of the Rescue Helicopter, Knight’s Castle, Motorcycle Shop, and the Moon Surface Transport. My dream job as a kid? LEGO Designer.
Well into my teens, I was building here and there. That likely has to do with my younger brother starting to get interested in LEGO about the time that I was at the age where I “should have” lost interest, and didn’t really share with friends that I still partook in this particular activity. How uncool would that have been?
When I went off to college, I was completely broke most of the time. But I always found a way to pick up a small set here and there to keep the obsession fed. I didn’t build much simply because my LEGO brick collection was still at home, turned over to my brother.
One day in 1999, I found myself in Toys R’ Us shopping for a gift for a co-worker’s baby when I stumbled upon the most amazing thing I’d ever seen: LEGO had released a line of Star Wars LEGO sets. Here in my hands I was holding the dream of so many children of the 70s, a vision in grey, something I never thought I’d see. The LEGO X-Wing set.
I snatched it up, as well as several other LEGO Star Wars sets they had in stock. After talking to a stock boy who was as equally enthused about the product line as I was, I discovered that they only had a few sets out of the full line that LEGO had produced. And in true geek style, I spent the rest of the day driving all over the Dallas metroplex trying to complete the line.
Before I knew it, I had reclaimed my 10 gallons of LEGO bricks from my parent’s house, joined the online LEGO fan community, and was buying sets and building creations like my life and career depended on it. Turns out it did.
As a way to learn a new Web programming language, I started building an online store where I could sell individual LEGO elements. I generated a few bucks and built a pretty decent customer base, but also attracted the attention of the LEGO Company itself. I found myself interviewing in New York City for a job with LEGO Direct, the newly formed direct-to-consumer business unit of The LEGO Company. Then I found myself walking in the door for my first day of work.
The 7-year old kid who made his relatives chuckle when he told them what he wanted to do had delivered on a promise to himself to make it happen.
I spent five years traveling the world, working with fan groups, and learning about online and offline community. I wrote a book, designed two different LEGO sets and two minifigs (the little LEGO people). I saw the power of the LEGO brick to excite and delight kids and adults alike. I learned that the brick is a universal language that can help people communicate ideas and emotions even if they can’t speak the same language. I saw 5 year old kids and 55 year old adults meeting each other at eye level to smile and point and admire amazing creations. And I’ve heard countless stories from programmers, engineers, scientists, and professors who confidently point to the LEGO brick as the reason they are in the profession they are.
But I know that my singular geek fixation brought me to the place I’m at now in life. I wish I’d known that as a teenager … I would have been much more proud of my age inappropriate connection to the best toy ever created.