The best investment you can ever make is investing in yourself. That can take the form of starting your own business, growing the one you have or being a lifelong learner by continuing to take classes in subjects that interest you.
(Editor’s Note: The following narrative is in John’s own words.)
Looking back on what I sometimes call my “accidental career,” I’m most fascinated by the following: Being gay has been central to my success in business and in life.
Coming out to friends and family happened right after college. While it was not easy, I found it to be an empowering experience. Professionally, owning one of the first ad agencies that specialized in creating campaigns to reach the LGBT consumer meant embracing my identity further. It provided a singular and unique opportunity to connect, educate and smile over shared life experiences, making it possible for my clients to equate “being gay” with “being normal.” I’m most proud of being part of the team that created Subaru of America’s award-winning, 15-year advertising effort to the LGBT community. An effort that forever changed the way corporate leaders view the LGBT market, and ultimately, LGBT Americans. It was a campaign of many firsts, from memorable print ads to some of the first custom TV spots ever aired. The Subaru work was the subject of a Harvard Business Review, and a truly gratifying moment was when a young executive told me that he had studied the campaign in college and how he really appreciated the positive representation of the community.
For the past 11 years, I have co-produced and co-hosted “The Focus Group” with my good friend Tim Bennett. The show started on SiriusXM Satellite Radio and is now available everywhere as a weekly video broadcast on YouTube and audio podcast on all popular platforms. The show looks at advertising and marketing, personal careers and consumer culture from an LGBT point of view. As with the work I did for Subaru, it’s gratifying to touch lives and make a difference for the LGBT and non-gay audience alike—making “being gay” equal “being normal.”
I recently completed a two-year program in character animation. I’m not sure I’ll ever work for Disney or Pixar, but the course work and learning brought into sharper focus for me the power of story. It’s a thread that has run through my entire career, from the stories I’ve told in print and TV ads to the show I host every week. Stories are powerful and transformative and when we share ours with others, we can influence or change lives. I hope my personal story and the work I have done in the LGBT space has helped or benefited others. My mom recently told me she was very happy and proud that I was gay. You can’t ask for much more than that.