Morgan Carlson has a job that many would dream of: The 37-year-old Swede is, as he describes it, the “First Mate” at XDubai. Officially speaking, he’s the Athlete Marketing and Partnership Manager, and says he has a “Swedish passport but [is] flying under [a] pirate flag.”
If you haven’t yet heard of XDubai, aside from the fact that you may have been living under a rock in recent years, it’s a company that, as their website says, aims to “encourage talented professionals to reach the top and help aspiring athletes achieve their best… XDubai is here to encourage everyone to experience action sports – at our sponsored events and in our forthcoming sports hubs.” They’ve worked with everyone from professional snowboarders to cliff jumpers, and run one of Dubai’s best skate parks. Like the city that it was founded in, it’s a brand that celebrates big dreams and visions, record-breaking challenges, and the chance to defy limits – both those set before us in the world, and our own.
Of course, anyone who would be trusted with leading the charge for such a company would need to have the X-factor, and Morgan most certainly does. After growing up in a small town in Sweden, he left at the age of 19, when he moved to Spain for 8 years, before moving on to Macau and Montreal. Dubai, Morgan says, wasn’t originally on the cards for him: “It was a Plan E honestly; I wasn’t a big fan of Dubai from earlier trips, but I was in a situation where I needed a new job really fast, and I joined Red Bull UAE. That was 5 years, 8 months, and 3 days ago.” He’s still not entirely sure if the city is where he’s destined to be, but he does like his own personal rhythm of life here. “In the beginning I got caught up in way too much work for nothing, hung with people that I probably wouldn’t do normally, and it bored me to death. Once I created my own little bubble of things I enjoy doing, it was awesome,” he explains. His work still keeps him busy, but his dedication helps to keep things run as a well-oiled machine: “We are a fairly small team at XDubai so it’s always an extremely diverse role. Some days you’re writing up business plans and P&L’s, other days you’re standing on a mountain in Norway filming snowboard. I’ve always had a few projects up and running at the same time, but once I joined XDubai the focus had to be on [that] otherwise we would fail,” Morgan says.
One of the keys to Morgan’s success undoubtedly has to be the personal passion that he has for the core values XDubai holds dear, since they’re similar to his own – and his own lifestyle and background as an athlete in adrenaline-fuelled sports allows him a unique understanding for what his athletes need, not to mention how to speak to them in their language, since it’s also his own: “I have an extremely diverse background. I started racing Motocross when I was 12 years old, so whatever free time [I had] outside of school was spent on that. My friends were spread out from all over Sweden and Scandinavia rather than from my hometown. From racing motocross I switched over to Freestyle Motocross, which came to be my profession for almost 10 years – 10 years of travelling around the world doing some amazing stuff. I always made sure to build up a good relationship in every country I went to, because I knew that without any decent education, it’s all about your network. One promise I made to myself was to make sure to have a normal job at age 30, because being 30 and saying that you still ride dirtbikes for a living wasn’t my thing. With just a few months left to my 30th birthday, I was in the right place at the right time – in Belgium with Franco Dragone, who was searching for a coach for a new theater in Macau. I jumped right onboard and the role as coach quickly developed to more of a conceptualizer for one of the most successful theaters on the planet, named House of Dancing Water. Once the show was up and running, my work was done, and I wanted to remain in the show business. I did whatever I could to join Cirque du Soleil in Montreal as that would look really sexy on my CV. Three months later, I was hired as an Acrobatic Designer – my dream job, and such a cool city to roam around! So close to NYC and such cool vibes! Fast forward to Christmas Eve 2011 and myself, along with hundreds of people receiving a termination letter from Cirque [meant that] on to Dubai it was!”
He’s already had a pretty epic life, that’s for sure, but if there’s one thing even more certain, it’s that Morgan’s journey in incredible experiences definitely won’t end here – not with his work ethic, open-minded attitude, natural curiosity, and lack of fear when it comes to setting limits to your dreams, not to mention committing yourself to the hard work required to accomplish them. “I think hard work inspires me more than anything. I want to make sure [that I] make the most out of being fairly young, and get shit done. I want to make sure to be in a place over the next 10 years where I have the freedom of taking on different kinds of projects to have the diversity, and keep the hunger up,” he says. And we have no doubt that he will. Read on for his answers to our questions in the hot seat…
What are your favorite hobbies when you’re not working?
I’ve been really into hiking and adventures lately. I really love going out in the desert or climbing mountains. [Whether I’m] alone or with a good group of people doesn’t matter, it’s just so important to get out and do something to break the daily pattern, you know.
How do you like to keep fit, and what is your philosophy when it comes to nutrition?
I do enjoy CrossFit a lot lately; I just like to go there and turn off the phone for an hour or two and work my ass off. I’m not in the cult, I’m not seeing it as the most important thing in life, but it does help me wake up in the morning without aching too much from my days on two wheels. I’ve been a strict vegetarian for 25 years now; it works for me.
Who inspires you?
My dad and grandfather mostly - they are hardcore workers and they helped me understand that the grind is what gets you places. I just took their working ethics and mixed it with my natural lust for adventure, which got me places.
What’s the best lesson your parents ever taught you?
Actually, my grandfather gave me the best lesson which I think of in most major decisions: “It’s always better to tense the bow till it breaks than not tensing it at all”.
If you could give one piece of advice to our readers that will inspire them personally or professionally, what would it be?
I have one personal and one professional:
1. Keep it simple, it’s so much easier. Think laterally about everything, especially in Dubai. Justify your spending with how many days/weeks/month it takes to pay for things. Once you measure your payments directly with days spent working to pay it off, it makes so much more sense. Most people in Dubai come here to get rich or die trying, and still spend Jan 1st – July 1st working their asses off just to pay off their apartment rent - that’s just stupid.
2. Don’t be too serious, failure is so much more educational than success and most of the time it leads to something even better. You might need to live in the car for some time but that’s just a part of the story! When I got fired from Cirque du Soleil I lost 300,000USD in one e-mail. It took me about 15 minutes to have a new plan – I still hate them for what they did, but Khali Whali you know.
What might surprise people about you?
That I’m a really happy person. I always look so serious, but I’m not!
Do you have any hidden talents?
I’m a good juggler - I was injured for a whole summer when I was 18-19 so I spent the whole summer juggling cause that was a cool thing back then. Still got it.
If you could pick any superpower in the world, what would it be and why?
X-Ray vision duh!
What’s your favorite dish to cook if you want to impress someone? And what could someone cook to impress you?
Tacos, cause Tacos.
What’s your favorite city in the world and why?
Mexico City is pretty awesome, you can get hammered drunk at 11am and no one judges you. It has A LOT of adventures. One time I woke up 4 hours car drive from my hotel in the shuttle service guy’s apartment with his mom making me baked beans and orange juice.
What’s your go-to shower or karaoke song?
For the last 10 years I bean whistling on Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart, no idea why.
When was the last time you were scared, and why?
In Kazakhstan a few weeks back trying to sleep at 4000 meters after climbing for 9 hours straight - you are 100% sure that as soon as you fall asleep you will die.
What’s the best gift that anyone has ever bought you?
My dad and grandpa bought me my first dirtbike when I was 3 years old - that kind of shaped my world up till today.
What do you think is your best and worst quality?
I would say being disorganized, but I also really like being disorganized. People around me constantly points out my disorganization about things that I find completely irrelevant. I just don’t feel that I have time to organize stuff that doesn’t need organization.
What’s the best way to make up after a fight?
I hardly ever get in to fights, last time I was angry was in Egypt 2012. I do tell people to fuck off a lot, but that’s not a fight it’s more a suggestion to where they should go next.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Apple crumble pie and ice cream!
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever had?
Good work from the right people.
If you could have dinner with any one person of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would like to have a good hangout with Richard Branson, he knows a thing or two.
What’s your biggest regret?
I have no major regrets in life. Not buying BitCoins maybe.
If you could give one key piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Try to concentrate on 2-3 projects at the same time, not 6-7 of them.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
In five years, to have my own company selling my own product. Most likely a beverage.
What’s one thing you’d never give up for anyone else?
If your life were a movie or reality TV show, what would it be called and why?
Morgan – Not Freeman. Doubt it would be very interesting, but people love to spend hours watching Vlogs about absolutely nothing I’ve hear.
Of all of your life accomplishments so far, what are you most proud of?
Knowing when to take a risk and be able to ride it out. I love jumping out of the window and hoping for the best once in a while.
Three key items on your bucket list?
- I would like to do a 30 days + crossing of a desert or an ice cap. Something really horrible.
- Living simple and easy.
- Make an impact/enhancement worth remembering for at least one person.
What are the first three things you notice in a person?
Insecurity, Intentions, Intelligence.
What are some of your biggest pet peeves?
Grumpiness and mood swings. It’s also when my worse sides comes out cause if someone is grumpy for no reason I need to show them how awesome my day is! That pisses them off even more.
What are three of the most attractive qualities in another person?
I like people that can stand alone - who needs someone that needs someone? Understanding space. Trust.
What’s the secret to finding happiness, in your opinion?
Keep it simple. Do more of what makes you happy, do less of what bothers you. Don’t live above your limit.
What’s one of your best childhood memories?
I used to live next to a ski resort, tiny but still good. Being there every single day till they closed and then finally heading home at night through the snow was awesome!
If you knew you had one year left to live, what would you change about the way you’re living right now and why?
I wouldn’t I think, I would just continue with what I like doing. Probably move back to my house in Spain because I love Spain.
How do you get through life’s challenges when things get tough - any particular mindset or mantras that you rely on as a go-to?
I think it’s just being able to say "Fuck it" and believing in it, no matter the size of your issue or setback. Some people can have their whole day ruined for absolutely nothing, I have zero sympathy or understanding for that.
Find Morgan online at his Instagram page @morgancarlson, where he says he shares mostly cats and camping pictures.