Daydreamer Series: On Failure and Fitting In

Imperfect's founder Mike Lynch opens up about how the things he's afraid of provide the fuel for his entrepreneurial fire.
Daydreamer Series: On Failure and Fitting In

Mike Lynch pulls up his shirt to show the tattoo scrawled across his rib. In handwritten script is the word “Imperfects.” It’s a design from his best friend, and it would eventually become the name and logo for Mike’s line of surfboards, skateboards and apparel. It’s also a philosophy, and the way Mike approaches everything in life as a father, entrepreneur, artist, surfer, skater and shaper.

As told to SeaVees. Photos by Titus Haug.

"The way you’re raised is who you are in the world. My mother was very hands on and very savvy with everything in our lives. She’d make almond milk instead of buying it. She could reupholster anything in our home — she’s probably refinishing a dresser now on her day off. My life was really colorful because of her. I remember her sewing dresses for my sisters and making me new jackets and shorts. She gave me this understanding that we have a level of responsibility in our lives to know how to fix things. My dad, too — I remember he got really into a certain type of beer and learned how to brew it and suddenly everyone in the neighborhood wanted one of those beers.

I believe you should know how to change the oil in your car if you can, change your own trucks and wheels on your skateboard, build your own surfboard fins. I can go through anything in my house and figure out how to put it together. If you can learn how something’s made or works you just have a different level of appreciation for it. 

In high school I got really into woodworking. I was looking at my life and thinking wow, I use wood to skate on, there are wooden stringers in my surfboards, I eat at a wooden dinner table every night. Most skaters only look at the art on a board, not at what it’s made of, but I started looking at material as this mechanism for communicating with so many different types of people. Everyone has a different dinner table right? I applied that idea to making skateboards and surfboards and my mind exploded. The mom buying a board for her son, the little ripper coming in, the pro guys, the crusty old dudes — it’s amazing the personalities you meet.

“The way you’re raised is who you are in the world.” 

I live my life based on faith and trust in humans. I have “Imperfects” tattooed on my ribs. There’s a famous story of the rib and this perfect person being made from the rib, but the minute the apple got introduced we took that opportunity to be imperfect. The name of the brand is just a reminder to be yourself. You’re going to mess up, struggle with things mentally and emotionally. Like let’s just start with failure and see where it goes.

I wouldn’t have that perspective if I didn’t have some turmoil in my life as a kid. I’ve always been a floater. I didn’t fit in with any one culture. I never really had many close friends growing up, I had like two best friends — we were the outcasts at school and we were homies because of it. I’ve never said this to someone before, but with the one guy, I kind of went the way of the light at the end of the tunnel and he went the other way. He almost missed my wedding because he was in and out of rehab. You can make being an outlier your place of strength or let it consume you.

I still don’t feel like I fit in any one place — with my brand, I’m half in global fashion and half in outdoor retailers. I work with the gnarliest surfboard shapers and then turn around and work with people at Conde Nast. I’m always the guy checking “Other” — there’s a form for everything in life, you know, and they want you to choose your boxes. You have to really love who you are or you’re going to get confused about who you’re becoming.

When I was in college, I got made fun of for wearing Vans and Chucks. People were like, ‘Dude, are you some kind of punk rocker?’ I spent a lifetime confused about who I was. I got judged at every angle. So I’ve always loved the power footwear and clothing has to kind of signify who you are to the world. Style is important because no one gets to decide that for you but you.

“You can make being an outlier your place of strength or let it consume you.”

Creating a collaborative shoe with SeaVees is the first time in my career I’m getting political in the sense of ‘I’m ready for your attention because I have something to tell you about unity.’ We’re never going to get anywhere if we ostracize each other — it’s gnarly on both sides right now, and what I really want is to bear hug the shit out of everyone. During the biggest problems in my life, when I got a hug from someone who cared, it changed things for the better. I wanted this shoe and the poem inside it to be a reminder to be open to shooting the shit with someone who might not have the same opinions as you. My wife always says, ‘strong opinions, loosely held.’

I get scared by three things: big surf, my kids getting older, and that Imperfects is always changing, for better or for worse. It’s really hard being an entrepreneur. It’s nearly impossible to be someone making money off your art. It’s impossible-squared trying to make your art your business and still make it truthful. I wear my emotions on my sleeve — I can’t tell you how many girls dumped me because of that. That was a gnarly thing for me, a pretty negative thing in my life until Imperfects.

"Style is important because no one gets to decide that for you but you."

The medals, the best surf sessions, having two babies, all of this crazy shit I’ve dreamed up and accomplished, the red thread between them is fear. It’s “‘I know I have to do this, but I’m so scared I won’t win.’ All you can do is prepare yourself the best you know how. That’s how you pass through to a more optimistic human experience.”

Check out the SeaVees x Imperfects Legend.

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