Revolution and Evolution, Part 1

I want to get a tattoo.

The thing is, if I do this (it’s not a sure thing, but feels pretty likely), it would be a virginal moment. I have no other tattoos. This would be my first (and second, technically; what I have in mind would appear on both arms), and it wouldn’t be something small that people might miss. I’d go from being “a guy with no tattoos” to “a guy who’s definitely sporting some ink.” That’s a fundamental change in the minds of a lot of people — like the folks who grew up with me, and who I’ll see at my next high school reunion.

If I do it, I have no doubt it’s going to make people look at me a bit differently. And I guess that’s kind of the point, because I’m definitely a different person now.

This is not a tattoo post. This is a change post.

It seems to me that in life, we’re given certain trials, certain tests. If there’s a lesson we’re supposed to learn, we’ll be given as many chances as it takes to pass that test. If we pass, we grow and become more. And if we resist, we stay where we are and repeat that lesson again and again.

Me, I’ve never liked change. I’d find a moment in time that felt good and I’d hang on to it. When something fundamental in my life threatened to become something else, I’d fight against it. I’d end up panicky, nervous, or miserable. This was true regardless of the nature of the change. Even “good change” was scary.

But the world seems to have willfully beaten the acceptance of change into me lately.

The past two or three years have been filled with upheaval. We had a second kid; the economy took a nose dive; I lost all of my clients; my family situation changed in a few other fundamental ways; I regained new clients and a totally new business; I took on investments and lost them; I made a lot of money and went through over a year of a past-redline, we’ve-borrowed-all-we-can-including-from-both-of-our-parents existence; I made more money; I starved in a dearth of work; I fought for new work; I became downright overwhelmed with an excess of work.

I got mad as hell. I lost faith. I found faith. I finally accepted that there is no spoon.

And when it dawned on me that what held me back was fear of doing something arbitrarily “wrong” in the eyes of the world, I learned to break the rules.

You go through that much change and you become immune to it. You go through that many downs with your ups, and you start to get an attitude. You start to feel like you’ve gotten your stripes, like you’ve paid your dues. You get to the point where you’re like, “Fuck you if you have a problem with what I’m doing. I earned this.”

You start to consider advice, but ignore mandates and requirements.

And if people start to question your questioning of the rules, their opinion completely stops mattering.

You start to entertain a new world of possibilities. To grow.

You realize that you’ve changed so fundamentally that you’re no longer the same person in many ways. Maybe it’s true that you weren’t the kind of person who would ever do A, B, or C. But if you’ve changed, maybe you are that kind of person now. The only pigeonhole that can hold you is one you make for yourself, and that you continue to believe truly exists.

You leave the illusion of a “safe” existence. You take your bumps and bruises, and you get stronger because of it.

Maybe you start to realize that you don’t want to die without any scars.

I have a scar on my left forearm. It’s from the time I missed an Olympic clean and broke my arm. That scar will always be there, and I’m glad. Every time I look at it, I remember how I never quit. I remember how I went to the gym after surgery, in a brace, and used the other arm, or did heavy squats, or ran. I remember how my doctor told me to take it easy, and how I did not. I remember how I was given adversity and rose above it.

I want a tattoo because I’ve encountered some adversity over the past few years and have fought successfully through it. That adversity left scars — very cool, very large scars with a story behind them. Only, they’re scars you can’t see. I kind of want the tattoos because I want people to be able to see those scars — and to be able to see them myself, so I’ll always remember what I’ve learned.

Always believe. Question the judgments of others. Fight like hell.

Those lessons can’t be learned intellectually. They can’t be learned other than through experience, through trauma. Without the kind of psychic injury that leaves a scar.

So I can say the following without hesitation:

If you’re in the middle of some shit, don’t let it get you. If there’s one thing I’ve learned above all else, it’s that the best things in my life have grown out of the most terrible and traumatic experiences of my life. It’s hard to keep your chin up while life is crapping on you, but that’s what you have to try to do. You have to trust that there’s a personally evolutionary outcome in the works, and keep telling yourself that if you don’t give up, it’ll work out. It might not work out in the way you expect or even want… but it will work out.

If you’re breaking out and doing something crazy and new, it can’t be done safely. Great things cannot be idiot-proofed.

And if you’re not breaking out, maybe the world is forcing you to do just that. Maybe you’re being kicked in the ass for your own good. If that’s true, you have two choices: you can go under, or you can rise to the challenge.

Keep fighting. Always keep fighting.

All you’re doing right now is earning your scars.

This is the first part of a long-ass post that I guess I’ll have to split off and continue next time. I rambled for so long about tattoos and scars and badassery that I didn’t even get to my main point. But hey, two posts for the price of one? Not bad.

Now that you've read this post, go here:


  1. I want to get a tattoo that covers my entire body that looks exactly like me, only three inches taller.

    George Carlin said of tattoos: “One reason not to get a tattoo is that a tattoo is positive identification. No one should ever do anything to help the police, especially when you may be the object of their interest.”

  2. Dk says:

    That was really motivational. I also truly belive in “Always keep fighting.”

    Whenever I am down and I see problems around me, I keep telling myself that no matter what I must keep fighting this hell. And finally I pass through it and emerge as a winner…

  3. I was too scared to get inked till I was 50, despite wanting it since I was 3! Being an older woman was no excuse, I would have lived a more fulfilling and better life if I hadn’t been so worried about change and other people’s opinions. I got my first tatt for my 50th birthday, and I and my life have got steadily better ever since, because I’ve made that positive statement to myself, about myself.

    I’ve found getting inked (by my ex-son-in-law!) an excellent way of embracing change and reminding myself of my own identity whenever the fear creeps back.

    Good luck, don’t forget to show us your art work when it’s done!

  4. Tom says:

    I have a highly visible scar on my right knee. I fell while chasing a chicken. True story. The cut needed 7 stitches. I’ve since stopped chasing chickens. Maybe I should give it a go again…

  5. Luca Hastar says:

    Very cool post. I am exactly in the spot where things are piling up on top of me, and I have a big desire to just quit/give up/wallow in self pity. It’s always nice to read posts that give you encouragement.

    “What I am saying is that if you fail and try again, and fail and try again, and fail and try again, and still refuse to believe that you should stop, or that you personally are a failure, that you will do very well in life.” The difficult part for me is figuring out wether to “try again” the same thing or try something else. Kind of short term tactic versus long term goal.

    and I’m NOT getting a tattoo ;-) f*%! that

  6. Thank you for GETTING TO IT. You are so good.

  7. Jess says:

    Faith is worthless unless you put some action behind it. More, it’s like a magnifying glass… If your faith tells you things are going to suck, you can pretty well guess what kind of life you’re going to build.

    This post finally helped me pinpoint what exactly it is about you that keeps bringing me back… it’s your unending hope. Your optimism. Your ability to push past fear, tell it to fuck off and to let your ambition drive you to greener pastures. Your unwillingness to believe you were meant to live a life of banality…

    Good stuff. Thank you.

    So, do we get to find out what your potential tattoo will say in Part Two?

  8. Hannah says:

    ‘The only pigeonhole that can hold you is one you make for yourself, and that you continue to believe truly exists.’ – Amen to that. Life has a way of throwing some unexpected shit at you sometimes but every choice is a lesson. Thanks for a great post!

  9. trish says:

    I agree with you, j – we’re living that kind of life, where we pretty much ignore what we “should” be doing. And I got my first tat two tears ago, after years of wanting one.

  10. andi says:

    I think a lot about getting a tattoo for the very same reasons. I’ve gone so far as designing them, but at the end of the day, my battles are still mine, my scars are still there, and I don’t have the ink to tie to me to the past.

    Your battles define you in a moment. Your scars are certainly badges detailing of wounds worth remembering. This is completely my personal view, I’m absolutely not trying to convince you not to get a tat (personally, I really like them), I’d just rather be defined by the battles I have yet to stand up and face than those I’ve conquered and left behind.

    I’m quite impressed with what you’ve been through and the positivity and realistic optimism in this post is really just what I needed to read this morning, thanks for that.

  11. Amanda says:

    Absolutely amazing post – can’t wait to read the rest.

  12. Speaking from the point of view of a highly-tatooed person, I think/know that you decide whether you want to live out the stereotypes or not. It’s the same thing as being a minority. If you choose to be a total a-hole, people will just add it to the pile of their close-minded thinking. If you choose to be amazing, they just say “hey, there goes that amazing guy with the tattoos.”

    Really motivating post. It has been a tough past year for all of us and I am sure that the next year will really bring about some change.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Milionaire

  13. Mars Dorian says:

    Hey Johnny,

    deep stuff – so freaking personal ,) I luv your writing style.

    It really is hard to keep fighting if the world seems crushing down around you, but you acknowledge the fact that you can’t fit in anymore – it’s your only chance.

    And now, I’m living the life I want to live, sharpening my inner edges and making life EPIC again. It’s tough and fun at the same time, but it’s my destiny – it’s the way it’s supposed to be.

  14. Carl says:

    Hey Johnny,

    I hear you. Having gone through some of the shakiest years of in the past three years (getting kicked out of a country where I had made a life, descended down a deep dark hole, lost a beautiful woman, got a job, felt worthy, lost said job in economy crash, traveled for a year hand-to-mouth, and so on) having a physical reminder of our tribulations or to mark our time is a considerable step.

    I have one tattoo and it is a reminder of a time, place and person in my life that I lost (deeply my fault) and a reminder of how I should live my life. It’s a permanent scar that will be with me till i die. It’s epic, worthy and entirely personal. I had wanted a tattoo for a while but only when my life fell apart and a reason crystalized in my mind did I get one.

    Get them if they truly call to you.

  15. Melissa says:

    I cannot express to you how much I needed to hear your words today. I don’ t know you, I haven’t read anything of yours in the past. I happened upon a link to you on twitter by someone I just started following today… small gifts. I’m at a crossroads right now. Left my job, have a husband and a 2 yr old, just scraping by and questioning my choice. Wondering where to go from here. You’ve made me realize that I still have some fight in me yet… I just have to dust it off and plug it back in. Thanks. (you have a new fan)

  16. thor says:

    I still think a wee “thor” character is way to go big man! :-)
    Seriously cool post this one.

    Do I sense a reluctance to step over the edge with this one? Why haven’t you just done it I wonder?


    Ps – Melissa – good luck – your comment really touched me girl. I hope you are OK.

  17. Kyeli says:

    I get you.

    Every one of my tattoos is a scar. Literally. They jam a dozen needles into your skin a billion times per second – that’s gonna leave a mark. (;

    But seriously, every one of my tattoos tells a story, represents some part of my life that hit me hard or commemorates something beautiful, permanent anchors of memories that shaped me into who I am.

    And yeah, one of my first tattoos? A butterfly – the symbol of change, of emerging victorious from tragedy.

    Looking forward to part 2! (:

  18. Johnny, this is pretty much the reason I want to get a tattoo. As the Quakers would say, Friend speaks my mind.

    I’ve been debating whether I should get it to inspire the change I want to see in myself, or to wait and have it reflect the change I will have made. But honestly, if I wait for the change of getting a tattoo, I’ll probably wait to make the other changes too. So inspiration it is. Thank you for helping me make the decision. ;)

  19. misty says:

    i’ve been on the fence about getting a tattoo for years. first because i wanted to be sure of what i wanted before i got one. then i went through a hellish couple of years, and it came to me. i still haven’t gotten it, but i think maybe i will now.

    can’t wait to see part 2.

  20. My tattoos (especially the big-ass one I got on my 30th) are one of the most important investments I’ve ever made. They’re about all the things you’re talking about and more.
    - Knowing that pain isn’t a big deal when it’s worth it
    - Telling a story about who I am and how I see the world
    - Demanding that life should be big and colourful.

    Great post, Johnny. Look forward to part 2.

  21. Ross Hudgens says:

    My thought here is “don’t change for the sake of change”. I like the rest of the post but the first 10% I thought “you’re getting a tattoo because your life is changing?” There’s different ways to approach change, and changing is scary, but on a whole I think the personal development world sees change as a positive thing.

    It’s not always – don’t change just to change – change because there’s a positive, actionable reason or positive outcome to come from it.

    Don’t get a tattoo, please. Invest that cash to prevent less financial strife, later.

  22. Erica says:

    Dammit Johnny, you had me with your Fight Club post. This is just ridiculous.

    Me thinks we could compare a few fight scars.

    The end.

  23. Hey Johnny,
    I’m glad you kept battling through, I was one of your new found clients and you helped me build an AWESOME website
    Through that I am now going boldly where I’ve never been before. Ah…I can’t take credit for that line, but I appreciate the reminder that the knocks, bumps and downright bashes in my life are what are getting me where I wanna go, even before I knew I wanted to get there. I live in the Caribbean and I’ve got my own talk radio show that people can listen to taped copies of at (thanks to YOU setting it up.)

    DJ Genevieve

    PS I’m looking to get a big ass tattoo also. Mine is going on top of some scars from a big ass car crash. I agree, as is, they are a great reminder of how I shouldn’t take anything for granted….but a couple of hibiscus flowers and a hummingbird or two will be nicer looking reminders.

  24. Annie Stith (@Gr8fulAnnie) says:

    Hey, Johnny!

    Great post, dude! Can’t wait to read Part Deux. As for the tat, just don’t get a name (unless it’s one of your kids’ names). Otherwise, go for the 0art!


  25. Stacey says:

    I just left a rather lengthy comment over at John T. Unger’s blog, but then it disappeared when I pressed post. Maybe it went to comment moderation?

    I wanted to let him know that I very much appreciated his QTR interview with you. The bulk of my comment was about another issue, but your blog post today reminded me of another wonderful point he made.

    He said he had never been to art school but he invested a tremendous amount of time and money into becoming an artist – not unlike what people pay for an education in medicine or law.

    Doctors and lawyers hang up their diplomas and immediately establish their credibility. For artists and entrepreneurs it’s usually not that simple and the lack of bona fides can create a lot of stress along the lines of “Am I good enough?” and “Will I make it?”

    Your QTR program really has gone a long way to quelling that “entrepreneurial” anxiety for me. Thanks so much!

  26. Erica says:

    I have been good about always believing, but I’ve been slowly losing the will to fight like hell. Thanks for the reminder, and the kick in the pants.

    Seems like the best part about defying other people’s opinions of you is not that it changes you in their eyes so much as it is the way it changes the way you see /yourself/ through their eyes. You get your tattoo (or whatever), suddenly you know that they see you differently, and it changes the way you see yourself.

  27. MikeTek says:

    Here’s something perfect for the wall next to your desk:

    You know, in addition to the tattoo.

  28. Pace Smith says:

    It’s like a sword. The only way to make a really kick-ass sword is to heat it up and bang on it repeatedly with very heavy things.

  29. Srinivas Rao says:

    “If there’s one thing I’ve learned above all else, it’s that the best things in my life have grown out of the most terrible and traumatic experiences of my life” This has to be my favorite sentence in this entire post. I couldn’t agree more. 8 months of unemployment lead me to where I”m at today which is doing something I love, working a schedule that most people dream about, and finding revenue opportunities that have nothing to do with working for somebody else. If we could all remember this quote anytime we find ourselves in life’s greatest challenges, imagine the things that would come from that. Thanks for that quote, inspired a blog post :) .

  30. Doug says:

    Dude, I know you are putting it all out there (and it’s good to know your human), but am I the only one who thinks this post and comments are quite a bit more “yacht rock” than “punk rock”. You better get a tattoo of Sid Vicious fucking the queen or something to make up for this one.

  31. Jessica says:

    Johnny – Thank you so much for this post. You’ve articulated something that I’ve had a hard time pinning down and that is why I really want to get a tattoo. Like all of us, I have my scars. The last few years have been brutal. But I turned a corner recently in my life and although things are still tough (especially financially), I am truly happier than I’ve ever been. I want a tattoo not so much to be a physical representation of my internal scars but a representation that in spite of all the pain I’ve been through, despite the scars, I’m a better person. I believe in love and projecting good energy out into the world. A tattoo would also serve to show that I am a very different person now than I was before. (I also admit that part of the reason I want to get one is because my kids are horrified at the idea but that seems kind of immature so I don’t talk about it a lot).

  32. Johnny says:

    Thanks for all of the comments, everyone. I had planned to respond to a bunch individually, but then there were suddenly 32 of them and I had a guest post to write and my cat threw up on the carpet and eeeewwwww cat puke.

    So let’s just say that there are a lot more freaky tattooed people out there than I figured, and I need to decide how ballsy I feel, and also that what I have in mind is NOT Sid Vicious fucking the Queen, but now that it’s been mentioned, I’m going to have to seriously consider that one.

  33. Carlos Velez says:

    I think if I ever get a tattoo, I’ll end up with sleeves. I hear it’s addictive. Maybe you should get a green apple, because JohnnyBTruant and green apples are inextricably linked.

  34. Witto says:

    Affiliate marketing has finally gone completely and utterly mental, as evidenced by your new tattoos showcased on Copyblogger.

    I think you should have gone with Doug’s suggestion…. Sid and the Queen. Then again, maybe not. It might be in bad taste… necrophilia and all that. Sid’s been dead quite a while.

  35. Sonia Simone says:

    I jumped off a cliff once, then got a tattoo to remind myself what that was like. No, not when I started the business. That was super easy in comparison.

    I’m all for it. A life without scars is a tragic life.

  36. Adam says:

    Tattoos, the psychology behind them and the inherent link they often have to a persons life, is a really awesomely interesting topic… here’s my personal journey, I hope you don’t mind me sharing

    I went from having zero tattoos to getting 2/3s of my back inked in less than a month, and it had a very interesting affect on both me and the people in my life at the time.
    Many people simply asked “WHY?!” but at the time I couldn’t put it into words and give people a good answer, however over time the answer has solidified.

    While many people thought I got my tattoo to look cool or tough, the truth really came down to me making a statement to myself (not everyone else(my tattoo is easily covered and people rarely see it)) That statement is, that no matter what happens in my life no mater how it changes or how I grow and change, one thing will always remain the same “I will always be me”

    So in many ways my tattoos were a personal right of passage for me to show myself that I could do anything and that even though I was different on the inside (and now largely on the outside;) I would always be me and everyone else would just have to accept me for who I am or fuck off.

    All that said and now that some years have passed, I have changed as a person and the meanings of my tattoos have grown and changed with me.
    Now they carry the reminders of a time gone by, some good, some bad, and remind me that no mater what is going on good, bad, painful or otherwise “this too will pass” but I will remain and so will the art on my skin…

    Now although this story seems to relate directly to my ink it really is about a fundamental shift in my thinking and the recognition that while good and bad things pass us by, good and bad things follow in there wake and the only constant sure things in life are change and you being who you are… oh and maybe death and taxes

    Thanks for letting me share…hmm I think I’m off to share this on my blog…hehehe

    Great post Jonny!!!

  37. Witto says:

    Had a thought about those new tattoos of yours. I signed up for the Scribe affiliate program during the week. Problem is I’m trying to work out which linky thingy icon to use on my site, so I haven’t stuck it up yet.

    Just wondering if there’s any chance that your mate Brian would provide an affiliate linky thing icon consisting of a close-up shot of the tattoo on your right arm. Now that would be pretty cool. Not sure what the rates are for arm models these days, but am pretty sure you could cut yourself a good deal.

    I can see it now: Johnny B Truant, Internet Entrepreneur and Arm Model Extraordinaire.

  38. Johnny says:

    Adam… amazing story! I won’t do anything that dramatic, but where you’re coming from is similar to where I’m coming from.

    Witto… you DO know that those tattoos aren’t real, right? I just photoshopped the words in there. I don’t want anyone thinking I actually got that stuff inked on me.

  39. Witto says:

    Yes Johnny I DO know so you can chillax. Still really really want the forearm tattoo as an affiliate linky thing… it would be infinitely more clickable methinks. (You cracked me up with that tattoo post on Copyblogger by the way… pure genius (or should that be pure Johnny?)).

  40. Johnny says:

    I hear you. However, I defer to you to Photoshop that shit up… just too much going on! :)

  41. Adam says:

    I hear ya Johnny!

    I’ve never been one to do things by halves. A year ago I quit my job and moved to Japan with no plan, no job, no home and no Japanese language skills…once I get an idea in my head I really go at it.
    I have to say Your blog is great, I only discovered it a few weeks ago after buying QTR(also awesome)…You reach out and help people mate, you gotta be proud of that…by reading this stuff I think I might actually be able to make my stubborn headedness work in my favour. Thanks!

  42. Tammy says:

    I love your passion and you’re honesty, but are you being entirely honest with yourself about the reasons you want a tattoo? Personally, and of course this is only my opionion, I think a tattoo has more in comon with a haircut than it does a scar.

    Scars are by-products of risk and adventure and if you’re unlucky enough to get damaged and scarred along the way, yeah, make the most of the situation: learn your lessons and don’t be ashamed of your scars. But to pay someone to make a permanent mark on you, where you tell them to, in the shape you tell them to? It’s like handing a hooker a wad of cash and asking her to break your heart. It’s just not the same thing.

    But if you do get one, I’d love to see it!

  43. Beth says:

    Really appreciated this today. Speaks to me in a very personal way.

  44. Johnny says:
  45. So many similarities. I have had my ass kicked by life. I decidedly want a tattoo– although am having commitment issues with WHAT (after all, it’s *permanent*). I have learned a ba-jillion lessons from my struggles. And I absolutely, positively refuse to curl up into a ball and let life keep me down. I am simply coming out a wiser, stronger person in the process. Thanks for sharing snippets of your story.

  46. Johnny says:

    You know, I guess THIS is the unofficial part 3 of this post.

  47. Fiona says:

    If you want an entertaining pep talk about rethinking life and education, check out the latest TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, Update on his awesome 2006 speech.


  1. [...] months) and I was perusing the blogs I enjoy.  I came across a post from Johnny entitled “Revolution and Evolution (part 1)“.  Seems the good Mr. Johnny has had a rough go of things over the last few years and [...]

  2. [...] this phone call yesterday from Brian, because he’d just read the post on my blog about how I’m thinking of getting a couple of tattoos. Anyway, he insisted that I drive down to Texas immediately so I could use his guy for my new skin [...]

  3. [...] this phone call yesterday from Brian, because he’d just read the post on my blog about how I’m thinking of getting a couple of tattoos. Anyway, he insisted that I drive down to Texas immediately so I could use his guy for my new skin [...]

  4. [...] this phone call yesterday from Brian, because he’d just read the post on my blog about how I’m thinking of getting a couple of tattoos. Anyway, he insisted that I drive down to Texas immediately so I could use his guy for my new skin [...]

  5. [...] is the continuation of my post about wanting to get a tattoo because things were changing in my life, yada yada yada, and it [...]

  6. [...] B. Truant wrote a post about using work as a way to grow. It’s a must read for entrepreneurs. Click here to read [...]

  7. [...] B. Truant wrote a post about using work as a way to grow. It’s a must read for entrepreneurs. Click here to read [...]

  8. [...] this phone call yesterday from Brian, because he’d just read the post on my blog about how I’m thinking of getting a couple of tattoos. Anyway, he insisted that I drive down to Texas immediately so I could use his guy for my new skin [...]

  9. [...] to their moral index. Blog mutineer, Johnny B. Truant sums this up nicely in his two-part series, Revolution and Evolution. In part one he writes, “You start to consider advice, but ignore mandates and requirements.” [...]