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Hello, my name is Magnus Walker and I was born in 1967, in Sheffield, England.
I left school at 15 and I came to America at the age of 19.
Well, eight weeks ago I didn’t know what a TED talk was,
and to be honest, I don’t know why I’m here today.
But I do appreciate the opportunity to be with you guys
and share my story, my journey, my hopes and my dreams.
And I, having left school at 15, you know, for me I didn’t really have any future.
Well, I came to America 28 years ago
and that represented the land for opportunity for me.
And in those past 28 years I’ve been able to build 3 things,
a successful clothing company,
a film location business,
and also a restored raced driven and collected quite a lot of classic Porches.
A Porsche is a passion for me
and I’ll talk about that in detail in a little bit.
But all 3 of those things share one common bond,
I had no education in them and I didn’t really think I would end up in that particular field.
I didn’t really know where I was going.
But all three of those things have a common thread, a common bond.
And that common bond for me really is freedom.
Freedom to do whatever I wanted to do
and dream sort of to be able to,
I suppose, uh, live my life to the fullest and do whatever I wanted to do.
So, coming out to America really was a journey, and I’ll start my journey in 1977.
1977 in England was sort of a special year.
We had this, uh, punk rock thing going on
and we also had this Royal Jubilee thing going on.
But for me, it was the start of a very memorable moment.
My father took me to the London Earls Court Motor Show in 1977.
And back then I fell in love with this car, it was a white Martini Porsche.
Now, any kid growing up anywhere in the world in the late 70s early 80s,
chances are you probably had a choice of 3 cars on your wall:
Porsche Turbo, Ferrari Boxer, or Lamborghini Countach.
For some reason I chose Porsche,
I even wrote a letter to Porsche when I was 10 years old.
And essentially said to them, hey, I want to design for Porsche,
And they wrote back to me and said, well call us when you’re a little bit older,
which I thought was pretty funny and they sent me a sales brochure
and 35 years later they’d end up writing me a letter back,
but I’ll get to that story a little later on.
So I’m this young kid growing up in Sheffield.
Sheffield was a grim northern steel town as shown by this picture right here.
You know, there wasn’t necessarily many Porsches on the road,
So I filed that dream away, I had the poster on the wall,
and I was watching Motorsports as a kid also in 1977.
England had the James Hunt, he was a Formula 1 world champion.
And we also had Barry Sheene, he was a two wheel motor GP champion back then.
So even though I didn’t grow up with any sort of fancy cars,
my father was a salesman, I grew up in a working class background.
I did have this dream early on, and somehow this dream involved Porsche.
I also, back then, was a pretty competitive middle distance cross-country runner,
sort of a solo sport guy, and I used to love getting out there and running.
I became quite competitive. I joined this club called the Ellen Show Harriers.
They had this guy called Sebastian Coe set quite a few world records,
and ran at the ’80 and ’84 world Olympic games
and he was sort of inspirational to me.
Around that same time, I also fell in love with something called heavy metal music.
Now growing up in Sheffield there are a lot of rock bands you know, may it being a sort of slightly depressed grim, northern city,
but there was a lot of music and a lot of fun.
So, fell in love with Porsche, doing some middle distance cross country running,
fell in love with heavy metal music,
and I decided at the end of the 5th year I would leave school.
I left school in 1982, basically with 2 O-Levels and no real future.
By that time I’d also figured out I could go drink in a pub.
So for some reason that was great for going to clubs and having fun,
but wasn’t so good for a middle-distance cross-country runner athlete.
So that sort of faded away,
but there was the little thing that stuck with me was the passion and sort of the drive
and I think till this day, those memorable moments from earlier on are still with me.
I’m still running around, I’m still chasing around, I’m still running after my goal.
So, I bummed around on the dole for a little bit,
doing our jobs and stuff like that.
And, uh, I started to hear this comment quite a lot – cut your hair and get a real job.
Well I was on the dole working construction, living at home, no car, taking the bus places.
And for a year or two, that was okay.
By the time I turned 17 I decided okay,
I’m not gonna cut my hair, but maybe I should think about getting a job.
So I actually took a year longer in leisure and recreation study course sports management at a college.
And I heard about this thing called “Camp America”. Well what was Camp America? I didn’t know,
But apparently Camp America sent kids to work at a summer camp in the United States of America.
Growing up as a kid, of course, I watched a lot of American TV.
Most of the shows I loved centred around action and cars – Starsky and Hutch, Dukes of Hazzard, CHiPs.
So I had this American dream and it involved Evel Knievel .
And long story short I took a leap of faith and I applied to Camp America.
It was a little bit of a strange feeling, and I had these strange feelings in the past,
and somehow when my gut tells me to do something it generally is a good thing.
Go on your gut feeling.
So by pure luck I suppose I was accepted into Camp America, got on a,
a flight to New York, took a Trailways bus from New York,
that’s the bus I took, to Detroit. Now Detroit was great, it was somewhat similar to Sheffield,
former industrial city, also happened to the sort of, automotive hub of the United States.
But I wasn’t in Detroit, I was
30 minutes north on a summer camp working with, in a city,
underprivileged kids, that happened to be from Detroit.
Now that was a big culture shock for me.
Cuz you know, I’m this heavy metal guy from Sheffield, north of England,
I’m sort of in the middle of nowhere,
I had to adapt pretty quickly.
So I adapted pretty quickly on this summer camp
and when that camp was over, I got back onto that Trailsway Bus,
and took that bus out west.
I landed in Los Angeles, 1986, Union Station, 4am in the Morning.
You know, I’d watch all those TV shows but I found myself being awakened on a park bench at 6am in the morning
by a LAPD guy who told me you can’t sleep here.
And I was sort of a little bit disappointed, I’ve seen all these shows in and around LA but where are all the beautiful people?
Where are all the rock stars and movie stars?
That wasn’t happening in downtown LA.
But quickly I found my way to Hollywood and uh, over the next couple of years,
you know, I sort of did a few odd jobs,
but there was one pivotal moment that happened within 3 days of being in Los Angeles.
Found myself at this YMCA hotel right off Hollywood Boulevard.
I went shopping on Hollywood Boulevard and I saw these great PVC Alligator Print pants are on sale for $9.99.
So I bought myself a pair but didn’t really fit good.
So went back to the youth hostel, bought a sewing kit and sewed them inside out,
and decide I’m going to go to the street that everyone was talking about called Melrose.
So I ended up going down there to Melrose and walked into this shop that was called Retail Slut.
It was a punk rock shop and there was a guy working there that was in a band called Faster Pussycat.
His name was Taimie.
Pivotal part to a story here.
Taimie says to me,
he realized I was from England, struck up a conversation,
and said “where did you get those pants from?”
I said, “Hey,you know, I got them from England.”
I had to think quick on my feet.
I said, “Why? Do you want to buy them,” just sort of jokingly
and he said, “Sure. Yeah, how much are they?”
So this point I hadn’t thought about selling these pants but I said first number that came to mind, 25 bucks.
He said, “Okay. I’ll take eight piece.”
So I ran right up to Hollywood Boulevard, bought eight pairs of pants,
went back down and sold them to him $15 profit per pant.
I realized in that one hour transaction, I’d made more straight away, literally within being in LA for three days,
than I made in a whole week working construction in England.
So I thought, oh, maybe LA is a place for me, seems pretty easy.
They speak English, a lot of rock and roll.
It was Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue.
It was a great time over the next few years.
Fast-forward to 1989.
I’m selling second-hand clothing on the Boardwalk in Venice,
going to Yard sales, buying old Levi’s, cowboy boots, Western shirts.
I am in the clothing industry now.
Venice Beach back then was a major tourist attraction, lot of European people coming through.
And little by little this grew into a business, which became known as Serious Clothing
and we ended up outfitting everyone from Alice Cooper to Madonna and everyone in between.
We started wholesaling a small chain called Hot Topic.
Back then Hot Topic had five stores and would grow to over 500 stores.
So we sort of went from making a little amount of clothing to making thousands of pieces of clothing.
Well, in 1994, we realized being in Venice wasn’t so easy for a clothing company.
We moved downtown and rented a loft in a warehouse for the next six years.
Serious Clothing then started doing a lot of music videos
and also a lot of outfits for magazines and stylists who call in all the time.
Serious Clothing had its own unique style.
We took fabrics that were not necessarily garment fabrics for use in car seat fabrics and made them into jackets and things like that.
Non-conventional materials thinking outside the box and basically doing what we like to wear.
Well, by 2000, we realized we paid two people’s mortgages and we needed, hey, let’s buy our own building.
So we ended up finding this building.
Oh, that was me back then, forgot that little picture.
So that was me pre-beard, that’s sort of circa 1994.
Serious was one of the top 10 clothing companies to watch.
So anyway, 2000, my wife Karen found this building in the Arts District.
People said, “You’re crazy. No one wants to be there former desolate industrial area.”
Well, long story short.
We took another leap of faith. It felt good in our gut feeling.
Why we’re paying two people’s mortgages when we could own our own building?
So we bought that building.
About a year later, right after 9/11 in 2001,
there was an article in the LA Times about lofter interpretation.
We got a phone call, would we be interested in renting the building for a music video.
Bang! Before you know it, we’re in the film location business.
Well, hey, we’ve been filming since 2001, over 100 days a year
doing things from low budget still shoots to big budget movies
and over a dozen reality shows like America’s Next Top Model.
So we met a lot of interesting people but we didn’t plan to build a film location.
We were building our dream, live, work house,
where we lived upstairs and operated our clothing company out of downstairs.
So we’d accidentally fallen into another somewhat lucrative business.
This is LA. It’s movie town.
We’ve met quite a lot of interesting people.
They always say, “How did you get here?”
Well, we tell them, “We followed our gut feeling.”
So remember that little story, I was a ten-year-old when I fell in love with Porsche.
So fell in love with Porsche as a ten-year-old,
I didn’t buy my first Porsche till 1992.
Serious Clothing had become quite successful from ‘92 to 2000.
I was racing around and getting quite a lot of speeding tickets.
2001, I took my aggressive street driving to the track and joined the Porsche Owners Club.
I went through their program, learned how to do club racing, instructing
and for the next five years, was doing 50 track days a year.
Turn around to probably 2008, 2009, I spent a lot of money raising an decided, okay, my next passion:
I love these cars.
Why don’t I try to restore a few of them?
Well, I didn’t’ have no mechanical background but I had passion.
I often talk about passion goes a long, long way.
You know, if you’ve got the will and the desire and put the motivation and a focus, things tend to happen.
Also a little bit of luck and a leap of faith really help out as well.
But I asked a lot of questions and I started restoring a couple of cars.
So I got a little bit of interest in European car magazines and I started this blog online.
Well, there is a thread on the Porsche forum called Pelican parts.
And I called my blog Porsche Collection Out Of Control Hobby.
And I was sort of like a catch-all of what I was doing.
And so this was sort of going to become a pivotal point where it was like something I really really enjoyed to do.
And I’d start restoring these cars.
Well, about two years ago, a pivotal moment in our life happened again.
We’ve seen sort of about these every 10 years,
these pivotal moments that seem to happen by accident, or they’re just naturally evolving.
We never had this five, ten year planned business model.
Always go back to: follow your gut; do want you love to do.
So I haven’t been in the film industry.
We’ve got quite a lot of people interested in making little TV shows and stuff like that
but we weren’t quite ready for the exposure or the compatibility wasn’t’ quite right or it just didn’t click.
So I got a call from this Canadian called Tamir Moscovici.
Well, he’d seen a couple of articles and he was a film director, also a Porsche guy.
And he was looking for something edgy for his reel.
He was sort of sick of doing Bud Light commercials and figured,
hey, maybe there’s more of the Magnus’ story that meets the eye.
So we had a couple of conversations and Tamir ended up flying down to LA,
little over two years ago on his frequent flyer miles, a complete leap of faith.
His original idea was to make a short YouTube documentary.
Well, our goal was what’s the worst it could happen here,
we’re going to drive around, race around to my favorite Porsches for four days,
maybe get some good footage out of it.
Well, what turned out to be a 32-minute documentary was shot over four days.
So we shot I think in February of 2012 and we released a trailer in June of 2012.
That first day, we didn’t know what would happen with the trailer but somehow it got picked up by Top Gear within the first day.
It got over 50,000 views and all of a sudden, I’d just found this thing called Facebook.
I figured maybe I should get on that.
I didn’t really know much about it.
So anyway, I got on Facebook and this time I don’t even have an iPhone,
so I’m not really internet savvy but all of a sudden,
I keep getting all these friend requests from all these other places,
you know Spain and Indonesia, and I’m thinking what’s going on.
Well, this trailer for the three minute film Urban Outlaw that Top Gear picked up, it got blogged and rebloggeed and reblogged.
Well, this was pretty exciting.
So this was a leap of faith project everyone was sort of working on a shoestring budget,
Bro Down buddy favorite type of thing and they were doing this sort of on the side.
So in a little by little I started posting the film was going to come out.
Well, to me being sort of a production type of guy, we shot it around a few film festivals.
Well, somehow it got into this thing called the Raindance Film Festival,
which I described as the rainy version of sundance that’s in England.
So well, I’m from England.
What are the chances that you get to premiere your film in front of an audience similar to this?
So Karen and I flew to London and we premiered the film and Piccadilly Circus on a Saturday night around 10 o’clock and it’s sold out.
There was a buzz about this film.
Well, we decided, okay, we’re going to release it online.
So October 15, the film went online and probably two weeks after it came out, I got a phone call from Jay Leno.
Jay Leno had seen the film and wanted to be on his garage show.
Well, that started the Avalanche of what has happened for the past 18 months.
All of a sudden, this is my life before Urban Outlaw came out, and this is my life after.
Now at this point, we’ve been doing Serious Clothing for 20 years
and we weren’t quite as motivated as we once were.
You know, we always said, we design what we personally like to wear
but over the past few years we’ve sort of been treading water.
So we took this leap of faith and decided success really is the freedom to do whatever you want to do.
So we decided we were going to close Serious down.
This was the baby that had enabled us to get to this point.
Now it wasn’t like we gave up on Serious, we still had all the patens and the samples.
But what it did was once we decided to pull that band aid off, it allowed us some breathing room.
We didn’t know what was coming next but we sort of knew it was going to be something pretty good.
So once we closed that door,
probably in the past 18 months I’ve probably done a hundred magazine video TV show interviews and it really,
I think by closing Serious’ door, it opened up all this freedom to travel.
Well, remember me telling about Porsche and that letter I wrote as a 10-year-old.
Well, about a month after the film came out, I received a letter from Porsche.
Basically they’d seen the film and was sort of impressed with my Porsche passion
and realized it’d written me a letter thirty-five years later.
And ironically in the film, Tamir asked what do you think Porsche would thing about you doing.
I said, “I don’t’ know but I hope they’d be smiling and I hope they’d be happy.”
So Porsche wrote me a second letter.
I wish I still have the first one but I do have the second one.
They invited me to go visit them and stood guiding toward the museum, which I went to do.
Purely by coincidence, I had been there on 9/11 2013.
Well after that I was at the LA Auto Show, and we did a couple of events with Porsche,.
hosted these events that I garaged in downtown LA.
It was a worldwide dealer event, it brought all their dealers over,
and incorporated me into this workshop where Porsche was talking about what Porsche does restoration and Porsche classic.
I think they sensed I have this thing,
Porsche passion is what I said it was and it’s something that you can’t really build
and you can’t market and you can’t sell it.
It’s just sort of there.
So from them Porsche integrated me into this workshop,
invited me out to an event in Essen, Germany and basically starting to invite me out to places
and incorporate me into their commercials coming up.
So the Porsche connection was quite simple but what we hadn’t expected also came from the film.
As we got approached by Nike, we got approached by Oakley
and then we had a visit from Bentley chief of designer
and we also had a visit from BMW and Volvo.
And it’s almost like these people were coming down thinking I was some sort of focus group
and they were asking my opinion on what did I think about certain things.
I’m scratching my head a little bit thinking, well,
I’m just a guy doing my own thing but you know people seem to have responded to it.
Well, I get a lot of emails from people who talk often about the video
and the greatest thing I suppose separate people liking the cars is the fact that people found the film and my story inspirational.
So if there’s one message I can leave you with,
you know, for me what I’ve done over the past 28 years involved a lot of leap of faith,
always going on my gut feeling when things sort of seemed odd,
that was often the case to know, hey we’re on the right track here and just stay motivated, stay dedicated.
We never asked anyone’s opinion.
We just did what we like to do and it sort of seems to have worked out quite nice for us now.
We don’t’ know where we’re going.
I often say I’m on this open road along for the ride.
So we’ll see what comes next but I really appreciate all your time and allow me to share my story.
And cheers, and all the best.
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【TEDx】Go with your gut feeling | Magnus Walker | TEDxUCLA

56609 Folder Collection
Go Tutor published on January 6, 2015
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