Forrest Landry: Magic Flight
We guarantee you’ve never met another person like him. Just in taking a single glance at his line of vaporizer kits and accessories will leave you in a state of daze and upmost amazement. Differentiation isn’t even a matter of concern for Forrest Landry, founder and CEO of Magic Flight. He speaks of combining the organic with the inorganic, spanning attraction across multiple generations, designing products with a lifespan that allows his products to be passed down, topics that will literally leave your head spinning. Today, we seek to expose Landry’s captivating philosophy and open your eyes to what business can be.
What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry?
I would definitely say it was the people. When I was working in a previous industry, I was working with a lot of engineers and I yearned for more engagement. I essentially started looking for a community that was down-to-earth, very sensible, and very much into the idea of community growth and were enthusiastic about something. That was essentially the attraction I sought. I looked for a community where people got excited and got involved in something they really thought was worth doing.
I had a number of hobbies at the time and so I guess you could say I did a little experiment. I brought out a hobby one by one and I’d see which one caught more people’s eyes. And surprisingly to me, it ended up being a little vaporizer project I’d been working on for a number of years in the background. It was by far the most exciting project to most of my friends at the time and so that made it very attractive to me to think more seriously about getting involved.
What skills from your previous experiences helped you in what you are doing now?
Oh wow! All of them! I’ll elaborate on that list a little bit, but as a CEO, I’ve found that everything that I’ve learned in life has become enormously important and relevant. The main things that come to mind is that, first of all, I come from the software engineering business world and so, I became very familiar with how start-up’s worked, how business in a software company worked, how to negotiate a contract, how to think about cultural dynamics, how to think about the vision and the mission statement of the business, and how all those played out in terms of execution. In effect, being a software engineer and a systems architect and being involved in many different start-up businesses at the time, I have come to find how valuable my experiences have been in creating what is now Magic Flight. I learned a lot of lessons without knowing that I had done so and when I was in the position of starting my company, I had all these previous experiences to make better informed decisions.
Another area of vast draw as far as experience is concerned is that I’m a third generation master woodworker. My father is still a practicing master craftsman and my grandfather before him had also been a master tradesman. So, naturally, I grew up with woodworking being a part of my household. My father’s shop was attached to our residence, so I got to see how he interacted with clients and learned his craft of fine woodworking and materials management. I got a very hands-on experience from that because my father, as sole proprietor, had to manage and administer all the customer relationships. I could definitely say that those two areas lent a lot to my overall experience.
The third area of experience which would not necessarily be as common for other entrepreneurs is that in my 20’s and 30’s I spent an enormous amount of time doing research into an academic area of philosophy. Philosophy is usually the study of knowledge of how to conduct oneself in life, but I focused more into metaphysics which is the study of what is, what is the nature of being, what is the nature of knowing, and why are we all here. On a personal level, I was deeply interested in those kinds questions and spent quite a bit of time on what has subsequently been identified as original work in that area. So, when we’re looking at business, there’s a lot of different ingredients that are involved as far as community development, execution, etc., but there is also this sense of ‘Why are we here?’ ‘What does it all mean?’ ‘What is it for?’ ‘What is the driving impetus that’s driving the fusion of vision and community?’ In a large way, I’ve found that all the philosophical work that I have done, despite popular opinion about it only being relevant in certain areas of life, has become very much the core practice that has made Magic Flight successful. In a lot of ways, I believe that in order to have a very strong philosophy and a clear sense of what ethics, aesthetics, meaning, and consciousness are really all about, you have to have that background. The channels of my research have informed my engagements in this industry.
So, in a large way, I’ve found that all the philosophical work that I have done, despite popular opinion about it only being relevant in certain areas of life, has become very much the core practice that has made Magic Flight successful!
Right now, where are you guiding your passion and energy towards?
What I’m currently looking at are the meta structures behind community development. Having been successful with Magic Flight, I’m now trying to look at the bigger picture and the broader patterns behind the ways in which communities of people interact with ecological processes – energy usage, housing, water, etc. California is in a drought right now, so some issues are coming up in that regard, but more broadly than that, what we’re looking for are the kinds of cultural patterns and methodologies that tend to lead to sustainable societies, that tend to lead to conscious stable evolution, which are the keystones behind Magic Flight. So, as we’re looking to diversify some of the engagements that the Magic Flight is engaged in, we start to look at how we can address culture in the appropriate way. There is a generation-X and a generation-Y and that’s very challenging to grasp. We have to find common ground and put into systems and structures into effect that naturally allow these people to get along. If we solve those problems, we have something valuable! I don’t only want to solve problems that I think are hard, I want to solve problems that everyone thinks are hard. Like I said, I get excited about stuff that other people get excited about, too. It ensures that the talents that I’m bringing forward are appropriately applied.
Describe your work ethic to me in one word.
What do you consider your weakness as an entrepreneur? Your strength?
My weakness at this point is that I don’t really have that many connections. I moved from the East Coast to the West Coast, so I feel myself to be relatively new to the community and lacking in relationships here. Most of the people in this industry have been in the community and have been establishing relationships here for a very long time. I meet up with people in the Bay Area and San Diego and a lot of them have known each other for 30+ years, so a lot of the time I feel like I’m playing catch-up. In the business world, it really is about who you know and I feel like that is my weakness.
In terms of strengths, I really do have a vast field of varied disciplines of study that I’ve been engaged in over the term of my life so far. In addition to that, it’s been really wonderful to do business here in California because it’s very vibrant. There’s a very strong Burning Man community that is very artistic, ecological, and really have that can-do attitude. There’s a lot of ways that mentality really does help, especially in the early stages of a start-up. Being artists, a lot of them don’t want to stick around after it becoming an establishment, but as far as getting something started, you won’t find a greater community. It’s the people who have come into my life since moving to California who are my strength.
How are you differentiating yourself from the competition?
Well, that’s an easy one! Our specialty is the balance between the organic and the inorganic. We really make a point in showing the artisanal craft of what we do and how we balance that with the technological aspect of our products. So, rather than building another computer with a microchip, which has a shelf-life of one or two years, we’re building a device where the physics themselves ensure that it has a lifetime of 100 years or more. If you use our vaporizer with care, it will endure for centuries. And so, in a sense, we are really distinguishing ourselves by the hand-craftsmanship, the artistry, the sophistication of the design, the way in which we communicate with our customers, and how we’ve put together a product that can confidently offer with a lifetime warranty. If you give it to your grandson and he breaks it from his own fault, we send you a new one! We’re that confident that this is going to endure!
Internally, we are showing that it is possible, realistic, and sensible on a business level to actually make something that is both ecologically sound for the user and community and is able to support and establish relationships. We really pride ourselves on our discipline in our interrelatedness between our business and our customer. We’re a small business and we basically have the interest and desire to give attention to how the business model works and how it caters to the people that we serve. There are a lot of things that distinguish Magic Flight and we hope other businesses will follow our lead in that respect.
Internally, we are showing that it is possible, realistic, and sensible on a business level to actually make something that is both ecologically sound for the user and community and is able to support and establish relationships.
How do you find inspiration in this industry? What have you found that has inspired you?
It’s like what I was talking about before, how do we span the generation gap? The thing I find most exciting is when people get excited about something. So, when I used to go to trade shows and would see people’s eyes light up, I understood what we could do for them. They really appreciate the wood craft and the safety that it created in their lives because of the discretional design. I really get excited and inspired by people who are inspired or who are inspiring. Anytime that I can create a personal relationship or an ‘Aha!’ moment where they say that they can now do X, Y, and Z… that’s eye-opening to me! I wasn’t even thinking about that being possible! That’s the kind of stuff that really brings inspiration to me!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
In the early 90’s, I was in a philosophical debate with another engineer and at one point he said, “Sometimes it’s better to focus what’s right than what’s wrong.” It was up until that moment that I had been criticizing, finding faults, and being nit picky. In a philosophical argument, that’s what you do, but when he stopped me, he said “There’s an element of truth in everything. There’s an element of truth in everything that someone says. They might not be completely correct, but there’s always a kernel of truth in there somewhere and you’re going to go farther if you look for that kernel of truth.” And you know what? That brought me to a complete stop. I shut up in that conversation right then and there, and said, “You’re right.” It changed my ways. After that moment, I realized that we can only create solutions when we are looking for solutions. We can only find truth when we are looking for truth. I can honestly say that is the single most valuable piece of advice I’ve ever been given.
Where do your great ideas come from?
Well, I mentioned discipline previously, but that’s only part of the equation. The other part of it is unconsciousness. Now, let me put that into perspective. I have a design that I’m struggling with because I’m trying to solve a technical issue I’m having with it. The discipline part is to really learn about everything that is associated with that issue and to actually build something, test it out, and really engage with that problem. What that does is it teaches you the language of the problem domain. It’s not necessarily going to help you find a solution, but you learn the language of it. What you do is you let go, you sleep on it, you take a walk, you go hang out with your friends, and it might be a day, a week, or a month, but you simply need to sit on it. Once you’ve done all you can do and have come up against a wall, then you have to let go.
Miracles happen when you do that. I’ll wake up one morning and then BAM! I have a solution. I wake up and I go directly to my computer, sit down and just take notes, and capture as much of the insight of my subconscious that I can. The idea comes from three ingredients: You need exposure to the problem and clear intention; You have to be able to let it go and allow it to emerge; And finally, once you have that moment of inspiration, you have to be able to execute on it as quickly as you possibly can. Those are the ingredients for my creative process. You have to fully participate in all three of those or else it just doesn’t happen.
What is important to you – mission, vision, or core values? Why?
I would actually say that in a lot of respects, that’s the hardest question to answer because I treat all of those as strict isomorphs of one another. Functionally, there’s no differentiation between the three. Semantically, there’s a difference, but functionally they come up with having the same role. As far as values are concerned, I personally believe it’s possible to hold all values simultaneously. I value intelligence, consciousness, communication, integration, and health. The value in all of that is focusing a clear vision and strategy and being clear in your practice and culture.
Our mission statement is simple: That other people breathe easier in their lives because of what we do in ours. We believe in people having free choice and allowing people to make beautiful, ethical choices. We think that the aesthetic and the functional go good together, like peanut butter and chocolate. If you look at the back of the box that the Magic Flight is delivered in, you’ll see, ‘Love is that which enables choice.’ There’s so much I could say about those principles and how we apply that to what we do. I could go on about it forever.
Our mission statement is simple: That other people breathe easier in their lives because of what we do in ours. We believe in people having free choice and allowing people to make beautiful, ethical choices. We think that the aesthetic and the functional go good together, like peanut butter and chocolate.
What will we be seeing from you and Magic Flight in the coming future?
Well, I don’t want to necessarily make promises as to what we’re going to do, but I can say that there are certainly new products coming. We definitely have some products in the vaporization space that are set to deploy and we have a lot more that we want to offer in that respect. The area of our work that is going to become more apparent is going to be our combination of the organic and the inorganic. We have developed a lot of specialized technology in that specific space, so we may be also offering consulting services in the B2B sector as well as what we’re doing currently. We are going to be doing much more in the space of developing lifestyle products and we also want to address issues in energy management, water conservation, housing, etc. and add onto our initiatives in that respect. And that’s our pie in the sky at the moment. There’s quite a few things that will come from Magic Flight, but I’d say that our real keystone is our idea of the organic and the inorganic appropriately combined and the notion of how that facilitates lifestyle choices.