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Inspiration Conversation: Jason Zook

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A while back, I decided to have 100 conversations with 100 people that inspire me. To learn more about what inspiration really is about. To find out who inspires them. Then to be able to share that with my Tribe. The truth was that I didn’t exactly know why. My inner Quiet Voice casually suggested it one day and I’ve learned enough to know not to question my QV. So I started having conversations about inspiration. And I’d like to share them with you.

One of the first people I reached out to was Jason Zook. Jason’s super inspiring to me because he comes up with ideas that are both brilliant and brave.

Examples: He made $1 million by wearing t-shirts through his site iwearyourshirt.com. He sold his last name (twice) , which made him over $100k. He was the first person to write a book that was fully-sponsored. His latest project lets people buy his future. Because that's what you do when you're Jason.

There’s no question that he's super inventive and a savvy businessman. What I love is that he’s also an incredible human who really cares about serving others. He lives his values. He speaks his truth.

I asked him to tell me about three people — in his life, who he knows personally — who inspire him.

Caroline Weingart // Jason’s partner in life

Caroline teaches fun + affordable classes on art, authentic business and personal growth for soulful creatives at madevibrant.com

Jason talking about Caroline: “It’s been so amazing to watch her grow and create. A couple years ago she literally didn’t think she was an artist. She did no art at all in her life. And now she makes a very comfortable living doing art full-time.

And that’s amazing! There’s no training. There’s no nothing! There’s just her believing in herself and then putting in the work and messing up and being OK with it and growing every single day.”

Qs for you, dear Reader: What do you want to create so badly that it’d be worth putting in the work? What would you be willing to be terrible at? What’s worth doing or creating, no matter what it takes, or how long it takes?

Inspire yourself or someone else: Whatever that is for you, that idea you have, the business you want to build, the art you want to create, the book you have in you — whatever it is — start today. Take 5 minutes. Instead of talking yourself out of it, instead of getting sucked into the scroll of your fav social feed, instead of watching hours of TV — take 5 minutes to start before you’re ready. Do whatever you can. Brainstorm. Sketch. Write down ideas. Research if you must. Just begin. Today.

Paul Jarvis // Jason’s “Internet Boyfriend”

Paul is a designer & writer who spends his time at the intersection of creativity & commerce. Get to know his work at pjrvs.com.

Jason talking about Paul: “We joke that he’s my Internet boyfriend. Paul is a no-bullshit guy. He’s 100% himself. He is exactly who he is. And I think for me, Paul Jarvis gave me the permission [to be myself as well].

Especially when I had the iwearyourshirt business, I had to put on a show every day. And while I was myself, I couldn’t necessarily just be 100% me. I just saw from him, in everything he did, he was 100% him. I would watch him put out his newsletter and he would write stuff and I would think, “You can just write that type of thing and send it to tens of thousands of people? And that’s OK?” [Seeing him do that] was really empowering.”

Qs for you, lovely Reader: What percentage of your true self do you reveal to the world? How often? In what situations? And where do you hold back?

Inspire yourself or someone else: Practice showing more of who you really are as you go about your day. When someone — who you love and trust — asks you, “How are you?” or “How was your day?” try answering more honestly than replying with a more superficial answer like, “Good!” Say more. You don’t have to unleash the floodgates, just share what’s true for you. What’s really going on. Start there, with something you can do today.

Jeff Sheldon // Jason’s entre-peer-neur*

Jeff is a designer who creates high-quality, well-designed goods that he would want to buy himself. He founded ugmonk.com to share his work.

Jason talking about Jeff: “I strongly believe in 20 years, everyone will know the Ugmonk brand, if he stays with it. Because it is the most beautiful, hand-crafted, high-quality, and full experience of buying things that I think I’ve ever had.

When he designs, let’s say a wallet, he’s thinking about how your hand puts a credit card in a wallet. Does it rub against the leather? Is your nail going to get some leather or dye on it if it does that over time?

And I’m like, “Are you kidding? Do you think any other wallet maker has ever thought that ever?” I think there are few people that can actually have [those thoughts] and not let it derail their progress completely.”

*Jason and Jeff are both peers and entreprenuers = entre-peer-neurs. While they don’t work together directly, they’ve come up together around the same time as they’ve built their own businesses.

Qs for you, brave Reader: What’s the highest-quality thing you can create? Where you can really nerd out on the details and perfect your craft — without letting that stop you from sharing it with someone else?

Inspire yourself or someone else: Practice creating something with great love instead of fear. In other words, ask yourself, “How could I make this [whatever you want to do] something I’m proud to have done?” It could be making a meal. Even setting the table. Writing a poem. Playing a piece of music. Cleaning the bathroom. Anything that you can do in your life right now. Delight in the crafting. When you’ve given it your best, share it with others and point out all your attention to detail. Tell them about the process you took and all the care that went into it.

What else did Jason teach me about inspiration?

On how he knows when he’s been inspired: “If something just nags at me, constantly. And I can’t stop thinking about it. That’s when I’ll put the work into making that thing a real thing. There’s so many steps that happen in between that. When the inspiration bug kind of bites you, you have to do something about it.”

On finding inspiration: “I believe that some of my best ideas have come from looking outside, and also being outside, getting away from technology.”

On reading books about people with totally different life experiences: “I just read a guy by the name of Jensen Karp who was a rapper and grew up in the 80s — he had this amazing story about almost becoming the next big Eminem or whatever, but got squashed. And I was super inspired.

Why would I read that book? Is it going to help my business? [Because] it’s inspiring. I think it fills up the inspiration battery in all of our brains and our hearts. It adds one little bar to it. And then you get another bar and another bar. You get to a point where that [inspiration] things’s full. And that’s when you can apply that to the world and what you’re doing and what you’re putting out there.”

I’ll close with this

I don’t believe inspiration is something that just happens to us. It’s not something that’s either “there or not there.” It’s something we can intentionally grow in our own life. On-purpose.

We grow our own capacity for inspiration — both seeing it and being it — by practicing. By noticing what inspires us and then finding ways to apply it into our lives as they are right now.

There are not “inspiring people” and then “you.” You get to choose to be an inspiring person and do inspiring shit. I hope you will. We need ya.

Does Jason inspire you too?

I’m assuming that’s a hell yes. Highly recommend you sign up for his weekly Action Army email. Learn all things at jasondoesstuff.com.

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