Stick to the whim

In the early 2010s, after watching the film Pariah, fashion designer and lawyer Busayo Olupona felt an inner call to connect with actor Adepero Oduye and introduce her eponymous emerging fashion line, Busayo. Perhaps, Olupona thought, there might be an opportunity to style Oduye for a future work.

The two of them connected on Facebook, and they realized they were both based in Brooklyn. Oduye visited Olupona’s studio and the two of them became friends. 

Oduye would go on to introduce the Busayo brand to many of her actor friends including Lupita Nyong’o (who wore Busayo for a press tour in 2015). This contributed to the momentum of Busayo, which was gaining steam over the course of a decade. 

Eventually, Olupona would be approached by Nieman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue to take Busayo to into their stores.

There’s so much to appreciate about this story, which is one of many that Olupona tells Justin Richmond on his podcast Pushkin. (Another particular detail I appreciated: Olupona hosted seasonal pop-up shops at Avenue C, going directly to the people while also talking to boutique retailers).

The point that stands out is this: in addition to sticking to the plan, stick to your whims. Listen to your instincts a little more. Pay attention to your inner spirit, the childlike voice that makes a suggestion. It reminds me of Virgil Abloh emailing Sarah Andelman a design for her retail shop, Colette, while he was working as an assistant for Kanye West.

There’ll be plenty of indifference and rejections. They grow less painful over time, because the moment from the connections that work out will lift you through.

You can’t build a business on a set of whims, of course; you still need the plan. The whims often augment the plan, informing you of new insights and possibilities that can move your plan forward faster.

These random, spontaneous, connections your brain makes—that often sound like unrealistic ideas—can appear as little gestures, and cause outsized butterfly effects that change the trajectory of your work or even your career. There’s no doubt to me that savvy social media managers scored huge points with their bosses or team’s leaders just by noticing that Threads was debuting a few days earlier than expected and they decided to send an email out to start a project.

You’ll feel it in your stomach, as the whisper of possibility crosses through your ear. Reschedule something else in the day if you must; chase the inspiration, and stick to the whim until you make the connection.

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