I am spending the weekend in Austin, Texas, my childhood home. Saturday I attended Eeyore’s Birthday Party, an eccentric gathering of Austin’s weird at Pease Park. I used to attend these events when I lived here as a teenager in the 70s.  It’s a celebration: alternative lifestyle partying. If anyone has kept the 60s alive and updated them for 2016, it’s the keepers of the flame who run Eeyore’s Birthday Party.

EeyoreKeep Austin Weird. That’s a mantra down here. And these people are weird. but in a very healthy way.

Austin has a reputation for creativity. It’s an innovation center cited consistently in the media. SXSW is here along with a good number of technology startups. It is home to the University of Texas’s Cockrell School of Engineering, and IBM’s Austin research lab. Patents just stream out of this city.

The weirdness and creativity are connected. Austin goes beyond tolerating aberrant behavior; they celebrate it.

As I was walking through Eeyore’s bash, I felt like I was seeing society unfiltered. People were free to be themselves. About half of the people looked like normal people you would see in a university town: young, jeans, t-shirts. Another 40% or so were dressing up or down – there were many scantily clad people and a few out-and-out naked folks strolling around.

And then there were those who really let their freak flags fly. There was a giant dragon man, wearing an elaborate dragon head. And a couple dressed with beautifully crafted bird heads. I saw a Roman god or two, as well as some hybrid creatures that looked like they walked right out of Second Life.

I could imagine that most of these people kept this bottled up during their day jobs, but down underneath they were ready to blossom forth when given the opportunity. And they are given the opportunity. Austin takes its weirdness seriously. They allow it out into the open as a matter of course.

When we celebrate our uniqueness, we are able to be more of who we really are – including our genius. What unique aspect of yourself deserves to be let out of the bottle? Unscrew that lid and let it go, baby!

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

– Scott Adams