Let’s peel back a couple layers. I’m all about embracing my indifference these days. I no longer care about sharing the perfect article or the meticulously edited photo. Life isn’t perfect and neither am I.
So let’s do it. Let’s give you a better understanding of who I (Jason Zook) am as a person.
22. I was building websites and doing freelance graphic design projects when I was 15 years old.
My mom got one of the first Gateway Desktop computers for her work and I’ll never forget the giant cow-patterned box it came in. I spent countless—and I mean countless—hours tinkering with the early 1990s Internet and AOL. If you were on a computer during that time period, then you remember logging into AOL and waiting for your 56k dial up modem to connect. It wasn’t long before I was teaching myself HTML and “designing” my first websites on GeoCities or Tripod.
21. My first job was selling pagers at a Verizon store.
Yes, you read that correctly: pagers (or beepers). This was pre-cell phones! Holy crap. It’s hard to believe that I lived without an iPhone, let alone a cell phone of any kind.
But yeah, I got my first foray into sales by working at a Verizon store and explaining to people how to use their house phone or a pay phone to send pages like “143” and “911” to their friends and family.
20. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a zoologist when I grew up.
My dream job growing up was to work at a zoo and take care of animals. I wanted to work with the big cats like tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, ocelots, caracals, lynx, and bobcats. When I was old enough to understand that I’d have to go to some sort of medical school, and how much effort that would entail, I decided being a zoologist wasn’t for me.
19. I used to be obsessed with going to zoos up until a few years ago.
Growing up, the zoo was one of my favorite places to visit. How much did I love zoos? I had a Henry Doorly Zoo pennant on my wall (next to a Bobby’s World poster, obviously). But in recent years I’ve come to understand that most zoos are simply prisons for animals that shouldn’t be in captivity. I realize this could open up a huge can of worms for people. I also know that some zoos do a lot of work with animal rehabilitation and breeding of endangered species. But the majority of zoos don’t have adequate space for their animals or don’t build the correct enclosures for them. I know this fact is a bit of a bummer, but hey, I’m extremely passionate about animals.
*It should be noted the same goes for aquariums and theme parks with animals. I implore you to watch Blackfish on Netflix and tell me I’m wrong about this stuff.
18. I. Love. Skittles.
Let’s shift gears a bit to something happier (hey, I said I’m not perfect). I don’t know what it is about Skittles, but every other type of candy is just ho-hum for me. A bag of Skittles, though? I’m like a cat with catnip!
My mom and grandmother used to send me care packages in college (aww, sweet, I know) and they’d both typically throw in the 1-pound or 3-pound bags of Skittles. How my teeth aren’t completely rotten, I have no clue. I’ve eaten my weight in Skittles over the years.
17. I have asthma.
I bet you didn’t know that, did you? When I was little I had incredibly aggressive asthma. It was so bad, in fact, my mom had to rush me to the hospital on many occasions. Interestingly enough, we moved out of Arizona when I was eight years old and my asthma got better. Every once in awhile, though, if I visit a very dry place (Arizona, Vegas, etc.) I’ll need to use an inhaler.
16. Most medicine does not affect me, especially painkillers or things that cause drowsiness.
During my asthmatic ER trips as a kid, my mom made a discovery about her little boy. Sometimes they’d need to give me a shot of adrenaline at the hospital and they would warn my mom that I’d be bouncing off the walls in a few hours. But alas, the time would pass and I was as calm as could be. Most people can pop a Benadryl or a swig of Nyquil and fall into a semi-coma 30 minutes later. Not me. Doesn’t even phase me.
This may seem like a cool hidden superpower, but it really sucks at the dentist’s office. I need three or four shots of novocaine to feel numb and my body quickly rejects it. Where some people are numb for hours after a visit to the devil, err dentist, I’ll feel completely normal within the first hour.
15. I’m really good at Scrabble.
Now, I’m not trying to brag and say I could win at the World Scrabble Championships (although Word Wars is a fun documentary about it). Growing up I played a ton of Scrabble with Mom*. I know a lot of words that are really only valuable on the Scrabble board. Words like: Qat, Qaid, Suq, Qi, Aa, Ae, Ar, Ag, Aal, Aar, Oe, Eau, Cmw (yep!), Jorum, Jo, Xu, Xi, Ka, and Ki. Those just came rapid-fire out of my brain, and yes, I know their definitions as well. I also used to play random Scrabble games with people online during my 9–5 job. I could usually play 15–20 games per workday, on a good day.
*If you’re seeing a pattern here, it’s because until I was eight years old, it was just me and my mom.
14. I do NOT like white condiments. Nay, I HATE white condiments.
Yuck. Mayonnaise, ranch dressing, sour cream, etc. They’re pretty much all disgusting. To be honest, I don’t think any condiment is acceptable besides ketchup. Just typing the names of those things grossed me out.
13. I tore both of the ACLs in my knees (one in 2007 and one in 2008) playing basketball.
You know, there was a time when I thought I might have had a chance to play basketball professionally overseas. With a lot of hard work, I truly believe I could have made that happen. However, in April of 2007, while playing in a league basketball game at a local YMCA, I landed awkwardly after being bumped in the air and felt a pop and crunch in my left knee. I had surgery and did a ton of rehab for a year. But nearly a year to the day in April 2008, in another league basketball game, I landed wrong on my right leg and tore my other ACL. It was at this point I knew my imaginary career playing basketball was pretty much done for. Queue the sad documentary music!
12. I’ve owned 10 cars and used to be obsessed working on my car (and spending too much money on it).
My first car was a 1998 Nissan Maxima. Something happened to me in the mid-90s because I became obsessed with cars and wanted to “pimp my ride.” Let it be known I never called it that, that’s just a way to explain it that everyone will probably understand (thanks MTV and Xzibit).
I spent over $50,000 on extra parts for my Nissan Maxima. Crazy right? I know. My college roommate, Ryan, used to call my car an amusement park ride. It had air suspension, a highly modified motor, completely redone interior, chrome everything, and even a wheel that spun on an actuated motor in the trunk next to some huge subwoofers.
Since the Maxima I’ve owned a Honda Accord, Infiniti G35, BMW X5, Jeep SRT8, Porsche Cayenne TT, BMW M3, BMW M5, VW Tiguan, and most recently a 1948 Chevy 3100 (named Clifford).
11. The next car I will own is a Tesla P85D. Also, I’m obsessed with Elon Musk.
This note is a twofer. In 2013 during a cross-country road trip with my girlfriend, Caroline, we got sucked down a rabbit hole of Elon Musk videos and electric car documentaries. This isn’t the time or place to get on a soapbox about this, but you should absolutely watch the documentary Death of the Electric Car on Netflix. It’s insane how much auto manufactures are avoiding embracing electric cars so they can make money from big oil companies. Ugh, it got all political on this one.
Anyway, the Tesla P85D is the next car I’ll buy because I love beautiful cars and I’d really like to own something that doesn’t kill the environment. Also, it’s a dead sexy car!
And maybe “obsessed” isn’t the right word when it comes to Elon Musk. But I believe we haven’t seen anyone like him in a long time. Yes, Steve Jobs did amazing things, but the grandeur and multitude of projects Musk is working on is astounding.
UPDATE: As of May 2018 we are officially Tesla owners! HURRRRAY! 🎉 After careful consideration we actually decided to purchase a Model 3 instead of the P85D. You can watch a comparison video my friend Caleb Wojcik and I did comparing the Tesla Model S vs Tesla Model 3.
10. I have a tattoo on my back that I absolutely regret.
When I was 17 years old, I went through my rebellious phase. My friends and I decided we’d all get tattoos and boy-oh-boy was that stupid. For 14 years I’ve had a tattoo in the middle of my upper back that I regret.
What’s the tattoo of, you ask? Oh it’s just my old initials I don’t have anymore (ugh) in Korean, drawn in the style of an Ecko logo (yes, the clothing brand and yes, what a freakin’ obscure tattoo). But I really tell people it’s “Pacman Level 3” because that’s exactly what it looks like.
Eventually I’ll get it removed. Funny enough, I’ll forget I have it until summer time when someone mentions it at the beach: “You have a tattoo?” To which I’ll say, “No…” and then realize, yep, I do still have a tattoo.
9. I really want sleeve tattoos, but I really don’t want to regret them.
Man. I give people a ton of credit who have sleeve tattoos. Not only is it kind of expensive to do, but it’s a commitment for life! All I can picture is 80-year-old me playing with my grandchildren and having some soaring dragon that’s all wrinkled and sad looking on my forearm. Maybe I’ll get sleeve tattoos one day, maybe I won’t. Probably won’t.
8. If you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of movies. I also really love kung fu movies.
I use movies as an escape from life. There’s nothing quite like having a stressful day and then going to a movie theater. The experience is so immersive, it’s almost impossible for your brain to focus on whatever you’re stressed about (especially if it’s a Michael Bay flick with 360 pans and explosions galore). My girlfriend and I probably see one movie a week in the theaters and another three or four movies a week at home.
I took Taekwondo when I was a teenager and I think that sparked my love of the martial arts. I’ve watched hundreds of kung fu movies. Most recently I’ve enjoyed the Ip Man series (Donnie Yen is awesome), Kundo, Falcon Rising, Ninja 2, and The Protector. Yeah, told you I really liked kung fu movies.
7. I’ve always felt different. I’ve always felt destined for more in life.
I know I’m bouncing all over the place, just embrace it. For as long as I can remember, I didn’t fit in. I tried to fit in. I tried really hard to fit in (article coming soon on this subject). But even as a kid I just felt that something inside me was different from the other kids. This feeling has stuck with me into adulthood and I still feel this way. Something tells me if you’ve read this far, you probably have a similar feeling. Don’t repress it anymore. Unleash it.
Embrace your difference and don’t try to be just another cog in the wheel of life.
6. I have a horrible attention span for paperwork, accounting, and financial planning.
I don’t know what it is about those things, but I hate them almost as much as I hate mayonnaise (yuck!). Fortunately for me, I have a loving mom who handles that stuff for me and gets paid in love! Right, Mom?? Hah.
If you asked me to fill out a 20-page tax form or said I could give blood, go to the dentist, and get punched in the stomach by Mike Tyson. I’d probably choose the latter. (I get punched by current Mike Tyson, not Iron Mike Tyson, right?)
5. I don’t like to dance in public.
As someone who has filmed hundreds of videos in public places, acting like a complete goofball, you’d think I’d have no problem cutting a rug at a wedding. But alas, I hate it. Maybe there’s some deep dark memory buried in my childhood, but I plain and simple do not enjoy dancing in public.
Now around the house? Oh, I’ll dance like a freakin’ idiot. But I get sweaty and uncomfortable if I have to dance in public.
4. I’ve probably tried 20 diets in my life and now eat a 100% plant-based diet (aka vegan).
I’m a serial experimenter when it comes to diets. I get intrigued by each one’s claims and want to try it for myself. At some point in my lifetime I hope I can submit a blood panel and a doctor/nutritionist/person can tell me: “Jason, your body wants to eat XYZ every day and in doing so, you’ll be in the best shape of your life and be the healthiest version of you that you can be.” Why doesn’t that exist yet??
My favorite foods used to be grilled ribeye steaks, white rice with butter, my mom’s pesto pasta, any type of macaroni and cheese, kale chips (weird, I know), and the previously mentioned Skittles?
But… as I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve come to understand the moral and ethical issues with eating meat. The book Eating Animals completely rocked my world. My wife and I have been 100% vegan at home since December 2017. We stray into vegetarian territory when we eat out or travel (to places like Italy where cheese is in everrrrything).
3. I second guess everything I share on the Internet. Tweets*, Facebook posts, blog posts, emails to the Action Army (and other lists)—everything.
I think we all deal with this feeling on some level. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t question myself before hitting the publish, submit, or share button. But I do believe it can impact at least one person positively, and that’s my driving force.
*And no, I don’t believe my snarky tweets make an impact on people. Those are just emotional outbursts I can’t hold back.
2. I fear that one day I won’t come up with another good idea and I’ll have to take some bullshit 9–5 job that I hate.
Besides ladders and heights, this is my one fear. I wouldn’t say this fear is so strong that it keeps me up at night, but it’s definitely a thought that enters my mind on a daily basis. Call this the imposter syndrome or whatever you like, but I have it. I think this is why I’ve adopted James Altucher’s “write 10 ideas per day” exercise. It constantly keeps me pushing myself to think and to come up with ideas. There might be a time when I can’t think of any new ideas, but at least I’ll have hundreds (or maybe thousands) that I can go back through and hopefully find inspiration in.
1. While writing this post I had many thoughts that it was a complete waste of time. That it would alienate some of my existing audience. And that people may not ever read it at all.
But you know what… the thoughts of wanting to share this stuff—wanting to be a bit more vulnerable—wanting to express who I really am… those thoughts outweighed the doubt.
Oh, and 22 is my new lucky number. Actually, that’s not true. 222 is my number. There was just no way in hell I was going to write 222 things about myself.