June 24, 2018
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28 things I’ve never told you: Stripping back the facade, so I can stop hiding in public — and because rough edges are sexy

Contributed photo | BDN
Contributed photo | BDN
Before and after photos of Rosie.
By Jason Connell, Special to the BDN

Before we get started: Hat tip to Corbett Barr’s excellent post, “33 Things I Never Told You.” I’m totally stealing his idea here. If you’re interested in building killer content, Corbett is the guy to read. Ok, let’s get started.

For about a month, I was dating an insanely charismatic woman. One day while I was going for a walk to clear my head, I realized that I wasn’t actually attracted to her; I was attracted to the spell she cast.

She was pretty and younger and very charming. All of that worked together to draw me in while preventing me from seeing who she truly was. And if I had to guess, I would guess she was more attracted to the idea of me, than anything else.

I was relying on charisma and the 1 percent of my life that’s actually interesting to draw her in, instead of showing her who I truly am. In reality, we were a bad match for one another from the get go, but it was hard for us to see that because neither one of us was really revealing who we are.

Like most people, I spend a lot of time hiding in public. We wear masks, adopt personas, and try to influence people’s perceptions of us.

In real life, I’m not nearly as smart or polished as I am on stage or on my blog. Don’t get me wrong, everything I write or say is true and sincere, it’s just not … I don’t know how to say it … my work does a good job of hiding my rough edges because I put so much time into reviewing the seminars and articles before releasing them. And that’s kind of screwed up because rough edges are one of the things that are essentially human.

It’s the rough edges that are beautiful and attractive and sexy because they reveal the raw human who lives beneath them who isn’t protected by facades and carefully curated social media.

And these days, we all crave a raw human.

But beyond that, it’s exhausting to hide your rough edges. When you fail to show people who you truly are, they end up loving you or hating you for fake reasons. It’s far better to be loved or hated for real reasons, but you can only get real reactions from people when you find the courage to interact with the world in a way that’s genuine to you.

So my challenge to you is this: Start showing your rough edges. Show people who you really are. You’ll be surprised to find that when you make yourself vulnerable you naturally draw amazing people into your orbit because the right people will see parts of themselves reflected in you, and you’ll form a genuine connection.

This doesn’t mean sharing everything. That’s kind of exhausting for everyone involved. Instead just stop trying to manipulate people’s perception of you. Show up authentically. Give people the real, relevant and unadulterated information about your past, present and future, so they can see who you truly are.

Over the coming months, I’m going to be doing a lot more writing and a bit less speaking (the constant touring burned me out), so please, allow me to re-introduce myself, this time, rough edges and all.

My name is Jason Connell. I’m 28 years old. Here are 28 things you don’t know about me:

1. From 6-18 I was a professional magician. For real. My client list included Fortune 500′s and professional sports teams. It was crazy. I quit when I graduated from high school because I wanted to be a normal college student. I still perform from time to time. Proof.

2. I’m a vegetarian. I wish I could be a vegan, but I don’t want to put in that much effort (read: give up pizza and Greek yogurt). And yes, it’s cool with me if you eat meat. Virtually everyone I hang out with does.

3. I am insanely introverted. People never believe me when I say that, but it’s true, and I think it’s a huge advantage in business, leadership and life. Note: If you’re introverted too, I highly recommend “Quiet” by Susan Cain.

4. My sense of humor is on par with that of a 12-year-old boy’s. Seriously. I just bought a remote controlled whoopee cushion and plan to hide it under a friend’s desk at the coworking space I work from. Recently, when people ask, “Hey do you know where so and so is?” I’ve been responding, “I think they’re taking a deuce” and cracking up. To my pleasant surprise, a lot of people have laughed, too.

5. Charisma does not come naturally to me. This is a problem because speakers need to be charismatic to succeed. Fortunately, charisma can be learned.

6. More to the point: I am not a naturally confident guy. Have I learned to face my fears? Yes, most of them, at least. And I write about it a lot. But confidence is not an innate quality for me. Asking a girl out, sales meetings, and parties where I don’t know many people all cause me way more anxiety than they should.

7. I spend as much time browsing bookstores and Amazon looking for great books, as I actually do reading great books.

8. Taking improv comedy classes has been one of the most fun — and at times, transformative — things I’ve done in recent history. My classmates are the funniest, most attractive people around.

9. I meditate every day. When I started meditating it felt like I had been forgetting to drink water for the first 25 years of my life. In three years I’ve only missed two days. I’ve also done several one-day silent retreats and want to do a 10-day silent retreat, but that kind of terrifies me.

10. I’m allergic to dogs and cats and horses. I wish I weren’t. They all seem awesome, but I can’t kick it with them.

11. Birds are my favorite animal. Especially my parent’s cockatiel, Rosie. I feel insanely connected to that little bird. (See 15.5 for photos)

12. About once a year I get really drunk at Red Derby, a local bar here in D.C., with a few college friends and call U.S. Airways trying to book a flight to Vegas for later that night. So far we’ve never succeeded. Once it was because I couldn’t navigate the phone menu thing. The other times it was because the flights were too expensive. This is probably a good thing.

13. And I spend every January completely sober.

14. My mother is an author and professor. My father is an entrepreneur and the proverbial self-made man. Without their guidance and connections, there is no way Ignited Leadership would have succeeded. Same goes for my mentor Jean-Pierre Lauzier, who twice stopped me from closing Ignited Leadership and continues guide my personal and professional decisions. Thanks, guys.

15. Pranks are one of my true passions. In high school I snuck out of the school building, broke into my friend’s house, stole his mattress, smuggled it back into school and left it outside his locker with a note saying, “Hi, I’m Conor’s mattress!” More recently a close friend and I added fake items to the Red Derby’s menu and tried to order them. You can read about it here.

15.5. One of the hardest things for me to admit is that my younger brother, Rob, is substantially better at pranks than I am. On the long list of brilliant pranks he’s done, my favorite was dying Rosie, my parent’s white pet bird, blue. (See the before and after photos.)

16. A real part of my heart will always live at Camp Nashoba North in Raymond, Maine. I was a camper there for six years and a staff member for four. I taught sailing and tennis. I still spend a few days there each summer training the staff. After my parents and mentors, Nashoba made me the guy I am today. (Pete, Mike – wanna foight?!?!?).

17. Privately, I think I could be just as happy — possibly happier — living a quiet life on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica selling fruit or something like that.

18. Religiously, I’m agnostic. Politically I’m very liberal. Philosophically I’m interested in Buddhism, Existentialism, and Stoicism. I can’t imagine any of these things surprise people.

19. Ignited Leadership is not the only business I own. I am also a partner in an underground consultancy for influencers who want to become thought leaders.

20. One of the greatest disappointments in my life is that I don’t live anywhere near the majority of the people I love. My parents live in Massachusetts, my brother in Texas. My close friends are scattered around the country and the world. Though I have virtually no control over this, it’s very upsetting to me, and it periodically makes me question whether or not I’m living correctly.

21. Despite having a good life with amazing people, sensations of loneliness and isolation, fears of imminent failure and bouts of wishing I didn’t have to deal with 60 more years of being a human periodically creep in.

21.5. Part of this is probably because three of my friends died in their twenties. One drowned while we were on a camping trip. Another took his own life. A third’s heart just stopped. Also my first mentor died prematurely from lung cancer. I don’t know how to make sense of all this. On my better days I use it to inspire me to live well.

22. Honestly, I almost never get nervous before delivering a speech, even if the audience has thousands of people in it. This is a side effect of testing and rehearsing the material a lot before I go on and doing 300+ magic shows as a kid.

23. I’m terrible at dressing appropriately for the weather and knowing when to bring an umbrella with me. In theory, this problem has a really easy solution, yet for some reason it never occurs to me to check the weather before getting dressed and leaving the house.

24. I’m shocked and appalled that humanity lives with so much unnecessary suffering. I spend a lot of time thinking about how average people can improve our communities. As my thinking evolves, I realize more and more that the best way to build a better world is to begin by building better leaders, hence my work with Ignited Leadership.

25. When I was 11 years old, I wanted to impress a few of my friends. So what I did was I wrapped my hand around a thorny vine, and squeezed. No blood came out, and I didn’t even hurt myself that much, it was just a stupid kid thing. Normally I would have forgotten all about this incident, but I still hang out with one of the guys who was there and he tells pretty much all of our mutual friends. And yes, I’m embarrassed.

26. The following books, songs and movies have changed my life: “The Drifters” by James A Michener; “The Inner Game of Tennis” by Timothy Galloway; SLC Punk”; and “It’s All Right, Ma (I’m only Bleeding)” by Bob Dylan.

27. As far as I’m concerned, the following are obvious truths: Halloween is the best holiday, fall is the best season, and haunted houses are the best form of experiential entertainment.

28. I am extremely sensitive to caffeine. Even one cup of coffee will make me so crazy that close friends and family members will periodically “cut me off” before I take the first sip, lest they have to deal with a manic Jason for the next few hours.

If you have the audacity, I encourage you to start showing your rough edges, too. Write a similar post for your blog, Facebook or OK Cupid Profile. Or leave a comment here sharing some of your rough edges.

Start living as authentically as you can. It’s liberating.

Oh, and if you actually do post something like this on your OK Cupid profile, please please please let me know how it goes. I have this strange theory that it would actually work really well…

Jason Connell is a speaker who lives in Washington D.C. He founded Ignited Leadership, which is dedicated to empowering young adults and providing them with insights and strategies on civic engagement. To sign up for his newsletter, please visit: ignitedleadership.com/newsletter.


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