All entrepreneurs are punk rock

Back in 1995, I bleached my hair so blonde that it became translucent, because I thought that’s what you did when you were into punk rock music.

When you use off-the-shelf products to do this, you can’t get like Clairol Light and Easy or whatever; you need the two-stage salon hardcore stuff. And if you don’t like the effects the first time (like in the above photo), you maybe do it twice the second time, ill-advisedly and counter to directions, until your hair shimmers like a Twilight vampire and your mother good-naturedly looks at you in that way that suggests that she doesn’t have any idea what the fuck you’re doing and has stopped trying to figure it out.

So I was blonde. And I sprayed my hair so that it stuck straight up, and wore badass sunglasses. And sometimes, I’d go to four punk shows in a week. In cities as far as three hours away. Yes. I was that awesome.

Around this time, mainstream internet was starting to gain momentum (people talked about “maybe getting some of that email thing or whatever”) and I was in college, which meant that I spent a lot of time on alt-dot newsgroups looking up low-bandwidth porn and other low-bandwidth low-browery, like the stuff my roommate enjoyed from alt.tasteless. And of course, I spent a fair amount of time reading the righteous discussion on alt.punk.

Surprisingly, the folks on alt.punk were somewhat rigid about the rules that defined punk rock. If you worked in the mainstream, you weren’t punk rock. If you were over 30, it seemed unlikely that you could be very punk. If you watched The Price is Right, you were not punk. If you clubbed seals at the Republican National Convention while smoking cigars lit with hundred-dollar bills while schmoozing senators who had plans to take over the world, somehow that made you less than punk.

One poster on alt.punk said that he used to skate every day and go to see the Descendents, but now he was a 32-year-old dentist who skated on the weekends and listened to the Descendents on his office CD player. He said it was possible to be punk as a dentist. When nobody agreed with him, I figured it was time to stop reading alt.punk.

It suddenly seemed to me that one of the least punk rock things in the world was to establish rules for who was punk and who was not.

And while bleaching my hair was fun, it suddenly felt like the least punk rock thing I could be doing, if my reason for it was “because it felt like the punk thing to do.”

And I realized that it’s not what you do that makes you punk rock. It’s your reasons for doing what you do. If your friends like Rush and you like Samiam and you listen to Samiam, you’re punk. If your friends like Samiam and you like Rush and you listen to Rush, you’re punk. If, on the other hand, you listen to Samiam because it seems like the punk thing to do, you’re just an asshole poseur.

Punk rock isn’t about breaking rules. It’s about questioning rules. You keep the rules that feel like they serve and fit you. You break the ones that don’t work.

Punk rock isn’t about being a rebel. It’s about being conscious enough to look at everything in your life and ask if it makes sense, or if there’s a better way to do it, regardless of how popular that better alternative may be.

Punk rock, when you get right down to it, is about being making choices consciously. It’s about not living by default.

You — yes, YOU — are punk as hell

I have a course called, appropriately enough, Question the Rules. But that’s not the fun part. The fun part is the tagline, which is “The nonconformist’s, punk rock, DIY, nuts-and-bolts guide to creating the business and life you really want, starting with what you already have.”


Punk Rock.


You get where this is headed?

See, one of the things you have to understand when you’re building or running your own business is that you’re a screaming hardcore punk bastard whether you know it or not.

You’re the punkest motherfucker I ever did see; hell, you’re even more punk than me.

(A virtual high-five to anyone who gets the reference I just made. In reality, you’re probably not more punk than me. I had translucent hair, remember?)

I’m going to take a wild guess that some of you don’t currently self-identify as being punk, so let me explain why I think you are, you rebel:

• Despite what “most people” do in getting a job, you have either started your own thing or are trying to do so, which is totally giving the finger to the normal way of doing things.

• You have an idea that is kind of nutty (sell hot dogs across the Net; consult virtually on dog training) and are determined to do it no matter how wacky it may seem to others.

• People in your life have probably told you that your idea is stupid, or risky, or ridiculous, or else they’ve accepted it with an indulgent, patronizing nod, “knowing” you’ll fail but not wanting to break it to you. But — and here’s the thing — you’re doing it anyway.

• In line with the true punk rock DIY ethic, you’re forging out on your own and are “doing it yourself,” running mainly on instinct and guts.

• Punk rock was the genre that realized, “Hey, we can form a band first and learn to play later.” In the same way, I’ll bet there are things about your business that you still don’t know how to do, but you started anyway and figured you’d learn as you went along.

• Your independence may have cost you some old friends from the old world, but you had to go with your gut even if that meant leaving them behind to make new friends in your new world.

• Each and every day, you’re making and playing by your own rules, even when the lack of a clear path scares you.

Dude, you’re punk rock.

And if this is just dawning on you, I have more news: The rules you used to live by no longer apply in quite the same way. The judgements of the same old people no longer matter as much as they used to. You’re operating by a different set of standards, among a different set of peers. And I’m betting you’ve never even thought about it.

I’ll bet you figured, “I’m that same ‘normal’ person, but now I run my own business.”

Um, no.

Now, you’re in a new world. You’re with the rest of us punks. Welcome aboard.

You don’t need business help. You need a whole new paradigm.

One of the reasons that I decided to create Question the Rules is because so many entrepreneurs are “accidental punks.” They grew up in the normal world, played by normal rules, and associated with fellow Normals. Then they created a business, and kept thinking of themselves in the context of the normal world, playing by normal rules, and relying on the guidance of those same old “other Normals.”

So many accidental punk rock entrepreneurs thought they just needed business tips, when in fact they needed perspective on a whole new way of being.

What Lee, my partner in Question the Rules, and I wanted to do was to take that new punk rocker, and introduce her to herself.

We wanted to give her new guidelines, and teach her how to find her own new rules by exploring her probably-as-yet-unappreciated rebellious spirit.

We wanted to show her that her goals are probably closer than she thinks, once she loses the veneer of outdated “normal” thinking.

We wanted to show her how to break the rules she’s been living by that no longer matter and are holding her back, while showing her which rules make sense to keep abiding by.

We wanted to arm her with a new set tools that will allow her to start from where she is today, with the resources she currently has — and move stepwise toward exactly where she wants to be in life.

We wanted to show this newly realized punk rock entrepreneur how the people she respects got where they are today by knowing who to talk to, how to talk to them, how to make deals that win for everyone, which rules to break, and when and how to break them.

When this project started, we began with Stephen King’s metaphor that says that stories are objects that already exist, but that are buried. It’s the author’s job not to create those stories, but to excavate them. Projects are like that, too. What we unearthed with Question the Rules isn’t what we expected. It’s way cooler. We thought we were unearthing a buried Cadillac, but it turned out to be an alien spacecraft with two-foot tailfins and a really badass sound system, and a disco ball hanging from the roof. And there was a cooler in the back that was full of bottles of Yoo-Hoo.

You absolutely have to check it out, you punk bastard.

Just go here:

QUESTION THE RULES: The nonconformist’s, punk rock, DIY, nuts-and-bolts guide to creating the business and life you really want, starting with what you already have.

NOTE: Because I am changing my business’s focus, Question the Rules will be taken off the market forever on Thursday, April 11, 2013. It is on a “last chance” sale until then, for the ridiculously low price of $49.

And rock the fuck on.


  1. And here is me thinking punk died with the new romantics (I jest!)

    Awesome stuff, and the web needs more ill advised hair do stories 🙂

  2. MikeTek says:

    Dude, I had the same translucent hair in 1995. And I was in a punk band.

    AND that reference is from NOFX – “Punk Guy” from Punk in Drublic, one of the best punk albums of that decade IMO. I just saw them live like six months ago. It was great – Fat Mike was wasted.

    That reference alone is good enough for me – I’m on board. Sign me up.

    Seriously though I’m looking forward to this one.

    But now that I think back, I’m not so sure I wasn’t just an asshole poseur…

  3. Mike CJ says:

    1995? Blonde? Hairspray? Pah! That was a little retro movement.

    Real punk was 1978 when I had green hair, which stuck up because of all the gob in it from Pistols, Clash and Jam gigs. (Yep Weller used to be punk before he went soft).

    And yes I’m still a punk at heart, underneath this veneer of successful entrepreneur!

    • Linda Caroll says:

      Spot on! I was reading the article thinking 1995? …95? That was flashback. I was rocking the look in 1978. Then you posted what I was thinking. So funny. They didn’t use names like punk or goth in the middle of nowhere on the prairies in ’78. I was just called eccentric. Still don’t think of myself as punk. Just eccentric. (And I’ve worked online full time for 17 years now) Ok – going to check out your blog, cause now i’m curious.:)

  4. Srinivas Rao says:

    Always love the stuff you write. It blows my mind how original of a voice you have when it comes to analogies. I guess I’m more punk than I ever realized. I always thoughts I was just a hippie (having gone to Berkeley and all). But I feel ya on the entreprenurial path. In the past, I was labeled a trouble maker, unmotivated, etc. Now I’m a fu@#@in visionary :).

  5. Charon says:

    While I had many, many friends active in the punk scene, I was busy fronting a thrash band in the DC Metro Area. My claim to fame is being in the first band that played on the brand new stage at Asylum (back in the day … REALLY back in the day).

    Oh, and being one of two women actively performing in the local death metal/thrash scene at the time.

    Johnny, thank you for reminding me that it’s okay NOT to know precisely what I’m doing at this stage in the game. Thank you for reminding me that taking the risks to get where I am right now has been a kick-ass and satisfactory journey in itself.

    Can’t wait to see what you put together in the way of coursework. I need the help putting the rest of these crazy schemes of mine to work in practical reality.

  6. Woo! Okay, so in 1995-6 I was just discovering the internet and learning how to make my own web sites… and I thought the movie “Hackers” was oh so cool. Still, I get the punk thing. In fact, I love the punk analogy. No more veneer, just straight up defiance of what is considered normal or “should do” these days.

    Looking forward to your new thing with Lee!

  7. Johnny says:

    See? I knew this site was read by a bunch of punk rockers.

    @Charon – I know I’ve been to an Asylum club around here too, in Ohio. Forget where. I guess rock is insane, and apparently sometimes unoriginal.

  8. Tim Brownson says:

    @ Mike you’re the voice of sanity.

    I can remember going to see The Buzzcocks and The Clash in about 1978. Unfortunately I had to leave before The Clash came on because I had to catch the last bus home!

    So I was uber-punk one minute and then little school kid the next.

    Now I hang around in Ambercrombie and Fitch making all the surfer dudes realize how uncool they really are because middle aged guys buy the same stuff.

  9. Mike CJ says:

    @Tim – I knew we were soul mates! The punk thing kind of all went wrong when I became a new romantic and started using mascara, but that’s a whole other story.

  10. Johnny says:

    I quite literally laughed out loud at the last line in Tim’s comment. WAY TO RUIN THE DREAM.

  11. Tim Brownson says:

    @ Mike again – I saw the Jam 5 or 6 times staring with the ‘This is The Modern World Tour” in 78 (I think) I even still have a badge that says; ‘Jam ’em in 79″

    If I wear that, will I be cool again?

    The Jam were always my favorite but the best live band I ever saw were The Buzzcocks. Shelley had some much stage presence.

  12. @Mike, it’s not mascara it’s “manscara” or “guyliner” 😉

    Punk is as punk does – you were probably still punk even if you danced to adam and the ants 😉

  13. Johnny says:

    I don’t know if it was in a take that we eventually didn’t use or not, but when recording the main “punk rock” module for our course, I offered some lengthy definition of what it was to be punk, and then there was this pause and Lee said, “I don’t think you could have possibly said anything less punk rock than that.”

  14. Mike CJ says:

    @ Tim – we’re taking over Johnny’s thread here, but ahh The Jam – happy, happy days.

    That particular dream died for me the day I saw Bruce Foxton in a Bournemouth nightclub some years after the band broke up…….he was wearing a tweed jacket!

    Maybe you and I need to buy Johnny’s product, persuade him to lay on a forum in there and teach these dudes how real punks do business. Are you in?

  15. Mike CJ says:

    @ Chris I love Manscara! Adam and the Ants no – I WAS Simon Le Bon 🙂

  16. David S. says:

    Reading this post made me think of another DIY person that is forging ahead in her own direction.

    Heidi Minx of Built on Respect –

    I thought this was a great example of what being punk rock was all about.

    Heres a part from the about page on the website.

    “Built on respect is the mantra Franky & Minx and Punk Rock Domestics founder, heidiminx, used to build her company – which she continues to use every day. It stems equally from the streets and Dharma.

    Be responsible in your decisions. Be responsible for your decisions. Be responsible in your actions, hold only yourself accountable for your actions. Look out for others more than yourself. Never think what something or someone can do for you, but what you can do for them.

    Conviction, compassion and patience can propel you forward slowly; anger can destroy everything quickly.

    Question everything to see if it is just.

    In short, learn the rules, learn how to break them, inspire others to follow.”

    So Johnny is not totally out of his mind thinking about things in this way. It can be done.

    Keep it real and rock on.

  17. Dave Doolin says:


    Gimme the Allman Brothers, hot pants and tube tops any day. Life complete.

    @Tim Brownson – real surfers dudes wouldn’t be caught dead in A&F. Just sayin’.

  18. Michelle says:

    I see your translucent hair and raise you having a purple and green mohawk (as a girl) in the Bible Belt. 😉

    I second that you should check out Heidi Minx! She’s also SUPER nice, as a matter of fact. Runs a forum I frequent.

  19. Heather says:

    So the guys who said you can’t be a dentist and punk rock must have turned a blind eye to the career in research biochemistry that Milo Aukerman went on.

    I’ve never found brilliance in playing by the rules.

    Nice post. Punk rock. \m/

  20. Johnny says:

    Or Greg Graffin’s penchant for biological lyrics, for that matter. Just found him on Twitter, incidentally: @DoctorGraffin

  21. Heather says:

    Or my husband. Not on Twitter or Wikipedia but an entrepreneur here in Seattle and totally punk rock.

  22. Norcross says:

    I have the cover of Suffer tattoo’d on my leg. That counts, right? The more I get to know you, the more I realize we did a lot of the same shit in the same general timeframe. Bleached hair? Yep. Jamming Social D while working a ‘straight’ job? You bet. So fuckyeah I’m on board.

    And it’s totally punk rock to not update your copyright year footer 😀

  23. As I mentioned in a recent post, ( I’m not punk even with a mohawk, a Starfucker shirt and a pair of 8-hole DMs.

    But I am ROCKIN. Which is a different flavour of the same thing. 🙂

  24. Catherine says:

    Great, great post! Can’t say I was ever a punk rocker or even understood punk rock culture, but I loved the music (a sidelines kind of thing). And as an entrepreneur I laughed my patootie off throughout your post. Look forward to hearing more about your project.

  25. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    Hot Damn! Didn’t know I could still be a punker.

  26. mara says:

    original punk here, ca 1977-78. young and bite me then, old and bite me now, don’t really give a shit and know i’m gonna always do it the way i call it. got to set a good example for the grandkid, or what’s it all for? glad to find ya.

  27. Thor says:

    I remember as a 5 year old in 1978 a sharing a 24 foot long boat for a 2 mile sea crossing with a Punk who had the proper haircut and was actually barking like a dog and crawling on all fours… my Mother sagely advised me (In her Posh English Voice) “not to worry daaling, he’s a Punk Rocker” … yes he was very much a punk!

  28. Andrea Cook says:

    I dropped the f-bomb on my post today too. We are both so punk yo.

  29. Brenda says:

    This was the perfect thing for me to read today. People expect me to be normal and predictable and always follow rules because I look like the most un-punk, suburban, middle-aged mom you could ever meet, but actually I would drive that spaceship with the killer fins and the payload of Yoo-hoo. Except I’d be listening to jazz, because I like jazz. Thanks Johnny!

  30. Tom Bentley says:

    Johnny, on my monitor, your hair appears to be glops of fresh pumpkin—very fetching. Fun post: reminds me that I saw the Clash at a Vancouver hockey arena in ’82, and the arena geniuses hadn’t even removed the semi-transparent plastic barriers that prevent flying pucks and homicidal hockey players from entering the stands.

    “Semi-transparent” because the hockey fans had apparently been breathing gear oil on the barriers (or maybe hash oil) for several years, so the view was compromised. But the Clash were plenty loud, so that made up for it.

  31. Olivia says:

    My older brother’s name is Dicky. He’s punk rock. He got it from me.

    BTW…he’s a funeral director.

  32. annie says:

    I love this post! I was too young for the punk 70’s movement but I was there during the 80’s! I had the mohawk for a time, the bleach blond hair (pure peroxide, poured on and allowed to dry as needed until desired whiteness reached), the exotic makeup, the clothes… oh the fun i had back then!

    For a time I tried to grow up and be normal but I was miserable so I tossed it all away and decided to just be me instead. I’m a writer now, living on my book royalties, taking care of my youngest kid and enjoying life as a single-and-loving-it eccentric.

    When I realized that the only reason I was keeping my hair long (and its natural color) was because it seemed like the “normal” thing to do I bleached it back out to my old friend white, went to one of my high school buddies who is now a kick-ass hairdresser and told her to give me something short and fun.

    Life is so much fun when you remember to enjoy it!

    Thanks for the post!

  33. I was pretty punk in ’95… probably slightly more hair metal, but punk.

  34. Of course, I go from reading this to FB and there is one of my friends from high school posting up TubThumping, a little more melodic than some but committed? You betcha.

  35. Zoe says:

    I listen to Samiam because they are mind blowingly awesome…


  1. […] creators document.write(String.fromCharCode(111,102)); Question the Rules: document.write(String.fromCharCode(84,104,101)); nonconformist’s punk rock, DIY, […]

  2. […] the Author: Johnny B. Truant writes at and is one of the creators of Question the Rules: The nonconformist’s punk rock, DIY, nuts-and-bolts guide to creating the business and life […]

  3. […] make sense to all those weird “normal” people out there, but you’re not normal. You’re an entrepreneur. You see waking up every morning to slave away building a business for some one else as weird. You […]

  4. […] “Because one of the things you have to understand when you’re building or running your own business is that you’re a screaming hardcore punk bastard whether you know it or not.” – Johnny B. Truant ( […]

  5. […] “Because one of the things you have to understand when you’re building or running your own business is that you’re a screaming hardcore punk bastard whether you know it or not.” – Johnny B. Truant ( […]

  6. […] Johnny B. Truant, dead on, as usual,”it’s not what you do that makes you punk rock. It’s yourreasons for doing what you do“ […]