The Badass Project Reloaded

They say that when you’re trying to do something new, you’re usually on the right track if it starts to scare and overwhelm you a bit. If that’s true, those of us working on The Badass Project are totally moving in the right direction.

Even if you’ve read my initial Badass Project post already, head on over there and at least take a quick look at it again now. In particular, pay attention to the very hesitant, very preliminary tone of that post. This is something I’d like to eventually do some day, I was saying. I hadn’t really planned to even say that much, but I was stuck for a post idea and was feeling marginally inspired about the idea after reading Chris Guillebeau’s book. So I just wrote the post, as preliminary and tentative as it was, to sort of get the idea out there into the world.

And what happened? Everything happened.

The idea really struck a chord. Dozens of people offered their help and support in the comments, and a ton more contacted me privately. Right-Hand Gal Amy and I did what we could to start keeping tabs on these people, but I had no idea where to start. The idea was too big, and I also had no idea what the idea actually was. I had no clue how to bring my big-picture idea (“profile extraordinary people and somehow reward them for being amazing while also not pandering or insulting them, and also, inspire other people”) into a practical plan that would actually work, and work well.

That’s when Jess stepped in. She really took charge and helped form the plan by pulling ideas out of my head and getting me to commit to some stuff that freaked me out a tad. Like creating a live event. Like rallying sponsors, and doing PR, and maybe trying to publish a book, and a ton more loose ends. I don’t do well with loose ends. I do well with big ideas.

Because I’d fuck it up if I went it alone, we decided on a team of five to steer the thing. Erica and Rebecca joined the other three of us, forming a bona-fide committee. We’re even all grown-up and professional, doing stuff like conducting conference calls which contained only a few fart jokes. They’ve done some negotiation. We’ve all recruited more volunteers. We’ve hiked up our proverbial pants and asked if we could have some stuff for free, for a worthy cause. And we’ve gotten it. (Case in point: a donated Men With Pens website design, now in production. The FIRST donated site design from MwP ever, in fact.)

Dudes, I will publicly state for all to see that this has gotten way bigger, way faster than I could have ever imagined… and I’m saying that even though nothing is even publicly visible yet other than this placeholder page with an email signup (which, by the way, you really should sign up for).

When you do big, important, exciting things, there’s a time when they start to take on a life of their own. That’s what things do when they’re big, important, and exciting enough. I’m not going to pretend that I’m not totally intimidated by the amount of pieces this thing has, or what it has the potential to be. But I will say that I’m rolling with the punches, trusting that the fact that it’s taking on a life of its own is a sure sign that it is coming alive.

The project in a nutshell

Here’s the basics of what the Badass Project will look like:

• Each week, we’re going to profile one Badass on the site through an interview and a brief write-up. If you’re in Question the Rules and have heard my interview with Jon Morrow and/or Warren MacDonald, that’s the type of thing I’m talking about.

So what’s a Badass, you ask? Great question. Here’s our working definition:

A “Badass” is someone who, despite being dealt a significant physical disadvantage, lives an extraordinary and inspiring life. Badasses do not simply “cope with the situation they are in”; they rise above their perceived obstacles and make them irrelevant. Badasses define themselves by their accomplishments, not their limitations. No matter how much people might say he or she doesn’t have, a Badass considers only what he or she does have. Badasses don’t think of themselves as “a person with X physical condition.” They consider themselves to be themselves, period. What most people would think of as their defining characteristic (their “handicap” in the eyes of the world) just happens to be one physical detail about them, like how other people have brown hair or green eyes.

Badasses are bold. They are confident. They don’t like being told what they can and cannot do. And, by simply living their lives despite what would appear to be significant disadvantages, they are inspiring. Badasses make audacious choices and do audacious things that many people would consider ridiculous or even impossible. And in doing so, they raise the bar for everyone, and take away the excuses that so-called “able-bodied” people use to explain why they can’t accomplish their own goals.

• Sometime during the summer, we’ll hold a 3-day live event in Raleigh, N.C. that will feature many speakers, of which I will be one (and, I believe, the M.C.). This event will be about Badassery, not disability… meaning that if you’re “an average person in business who wants to be better,” it’s for you.

• At that live event, we’ll announce the “Badass of the Year,” who will have been selected from the Badasses of the Week and voted for by readers. (Kind of like American Idol, but without me desiring to shove a sharpened screwdriver into my ear.) This person will receive a cash prize of a yet-undetermined amount. And, because Badasses are team and community players who want to help others as much as themselves, a charity of their choice will receive a cash donation of the same amount.

• We’ll fund the whole thing through donations and sponsorships. Which, I guess, means I need to get my ass over to my attorney’s office soon to set up a nonprofit entity.

There’s more, but that’s the outline. And let me explicitly state that this is NOT a profitable venture for me or anyone else involved. I’m doing this because it’s a labor of love, and everyone who’s volunteered so far is doing the same. I frankly can’t believe the generosity and enthusiasm of everyone involved, and they all keep telling me the same thing: I’m doing this because I believe in it.

So very, very cool.

Volunteers and skills needed

If you’ve already offered your help, we’ve got you marked down in some sort of a system that’s way more organized than I could have conceived on my own. So, thank you, and we will be in touch. But as we’ve roughed out the project, we’ve realized we have some specific needs for the vision that we haven’t yet filled.

If you can volunteer your help with any of the following, please send an email to Amy.

1. We need a video person. This talented individual will help us with any featured videos we may create and with promo content we will include at the live event. Most importantly, we need a “Main Badass Project video” – a several-minute production that shows people what we’re all about. We’re thinking video professionals, please… we appreciate the efforts of amateur video auteurs, but this will be used in part to wow potential sponsors and needs to be slick.

2. We need someone who is really good at media outreach. We’re working on radio publicity already, but we’re going to need someone who can help us navigate print media. Anyone good at getting stories into magazines and newspapers? (Or CNN. Does any of Larry King’s family read this? Kidding. Not really kidding.)

3. We need foot soldiers to help us enlist sponsors. This is the work of contacting companies and trying to get them to give us money in exchange for us giving them positive publicity.

So that’s it. That’s the Badass call to arms. We’re really doing this thing, and it’s amazing. I hope you’ll join us. (And a good way to start, if you don’t fit any of the three “people we need” above, is to sign up for the mailing list so you can keep apprised of what we’re doing.)


  1. Erica says:

    This, I believe, is what they mean by riding the wave. You just get up there and see where it takes you. It’s going to be quite the ride! A thousand thanks for letting me be in on the action.

  2. Shane Arthur says:

    Excellent concept. When It’s up and running, I’ll point my community right to it!

    Badassery! I’m stealin’ that word.

  3. Jess C. says:

    I couldn’t have said that better myself. Thanks, Johnny.

    This project will change lives, y’all. I can hardly wait…

  4. Jade Craven says:

    I know I’m about to turn into the lame person but people with mental illnesses are badasses too 😛 I mean I totally pushed through jetlag induced anxiety, chucked outside a party and still showed my face at blogworld.

    In all seriousness, let me know how i can help. This is the type of mindset I want to encourage.

  5. Have you signed me up yet as a footsoldier yo? I’m serious.

  6. @Jade – Johnny has said somewhere that this would start with folks with “physical handicaps” because the criteria for mental badasses is going to be a little harder to qualify.

    Am I right in this Johnny, or did I make that memory up? (I do that sometimes…)

    And yeah, here’s my comment. I’m an Aussie Footsoldier, reporting for duty. I don’t know exactly what I can do, but we’ll figure that out as time goes by. (Also, all things being equal, I’ll be out of my corporate gig soon and will have a bit of daytime freedom to get more involved.)

  7. Jade Craven says:


    Sweet. It’s embarassing when the ‘watcher/connector’ gets trumped but hey, sleep is awesome. Apparantly.

    Sweet. That’s cool. I hear a lot of stories because I’m so open and I dunno, part of me wants them to get more recognition. But that’s only because this issue is so close to my heart.

  8. @Jade – Hey, this mini-watcher is here to help 😉

    You-and-me both love, re: close to our heart.

  9. Johnny says:

    I love the support this whole thing is getting! We’re going to really roll out some great stuff in the next few weeks; just you watch.

  10. Johnny – I was just made aware of Mandy Sellars – does she fit the bill for your criteria?

  11. James M says:

    This is an awesome concept for a project, and I wish more people out there would get people geared up for something similar. There are a lot of inspiring stories out there that need to be shared with as many people as possible.

    I can’t wait to read more about this in the coming weeks.

  12. Johnny says:

    I know dude, it’s getting totally out of control in a good way. Stay tuned and you’ll hear much more!

  13. Iain Gray says:

    I’ve just seen an documentary on Jason Becker. That dude was an ace rock guitarist, then he got ALS and has spent the last 15 years totally paralyzed (like Stephen Hawking).

    That hasn’t stopped him designing guitars, composing music and responding to people on his website though.

  14. Johnny says:

    That’s awesome. I think it’d be insanely hard to stay positive in that situation, so I hope I get a chance to talk to him and see how he does it. Thanks for the lead!