About the Badass Project

Here’s a handy guide to what’s in this section:


If you consider yourself “able-bodied,” read this

Think you found a pretty cool disability website? Some inspiring stories that will brighten your day and make you feel good about what you have?

No. Wrong. This is not a disability website. Don’t look through this site as if it’s about people who are different from you, who had it bad (unlike you) and who make you feel good by comparison. Don’t tell the people we’ve interviewed that you’re sorry for what they’ve gone through. They don’t want your pity. They’re living amazing lives, and living them on their own terms.

Don’t feel sorry for the people here. If you live your life the way most people do, they probably feel sorry for you.

This is a site about living without excuses. And that means that this site is about you. Yes, you.

It’s true that the people we interview have disabilities, but there’s one very specific reason for that: They have the best “excuses” in the world for not being extraordinary, but don’t use them. Compare that to yourself. Do you ever make excuses? And if you do, are they as good as Luca Patuelli’s potential excuse for not becoming a great breakdancer — i.e., that he can barely walk? Or what about the excuse Jared Dunten could use for not painting? It’s not much… just the fact that he can’t move his arms or legs.

So let me ask you: What’s your excuse?

Is it that you’re too old? That you’re the wrong race? That you don’t have enough time? That you’re too tall, too short, too fat, don’t know how, or are afraid?

Tell it to Luca and Jared.

The Badass Project story

I remember when Def Leppard ruled the world.

I (Johnny… read about me below) grew up in the 1980s. At the time, everyone was listening to the big metal bands, and the king of the big-time arena bands was Def Leppard.

It took me a while to realize that the band was English. I remember that surprising me, because they didn’t sing with an accent.

And so it was really strange that even after figuring out that the Union Jacks prominent in all of Def Leppard videos weren’t just coincidental, it took me another year or so to realize that the band’s drummer only had one arm.

That was amazing to me. I remember being totally astonished. Dumbfounded. How could a 1-armed guy play drums in a famous, big-time rock band?

And I thought, “Rick Allen is SERIOUSLY BAD ASS.”

The idea of the “audacious badass” began to work on me. My brain got activated, and so I started noticing people like Rick — people who were doing things that they shouldn’t be able to do, or acting as if there was nothing wrong with them despite having taken what I at the time thought was a serious kick in the groin from Mother Nature, or from fate. Didn’t these people know they weren’t able to do things? Didn’t they know to step aside and be content working in a factory, stuffing soft toys into boxes or something? I mean, hell… Didn’t they know they were DISABLED, or INVALIDS? Had nobody told them?

As I got older, I ran across more amazing people and began mentally filing them away for… for something. And from time to time, I’d pull them out just to tell people about this breakdancer who couldn’t use his legs, or this guy with no limbs who competed in extreme sports competitions, or this blind kid who had learned to echolocate like a bat and could “see” his world as well as most sighted people.

I met Jon Morrow, a strong presence in business and blogging. I saw what Jon had done despite having spinal muscular atrophy — despite being given a death sentence from birth, despite having been unable to move from the neck down for his entire life. And I thought, “Jon is SERIOUSLY BAD ASS.” Then I met Warren Macdonald, a climber of frozen waterfalls and big, tall mountains. Warren told me, “I’ve come so far since [the accident that cost me my legs] that I don’t think I could go back.” And I thought “Warren is SERIOUSLY BAD ASS.”

Most people say they “can’t” climb a mountain because they’re too old or too tired or too out of shape.

Tell it to Warren.

Raising the bar

Roger Bannister ran the first recorded four-minute mile — something that people for centuries had tried and failed at, tried and failed and eventually decided wasn’t possible. And after Bannister ran his sub-4-minute mile, everyone started managing to do it. After centuries of trying and failing, all sorts of people were finding ways to run that fast.

How? Because Roger Bannister had showed them that it was possible.

This site is dedicated to people who, simply by living their lives, show us what is truly possible. Sometimes it’s what’s possible physically, as in Warren’s case. Usually it’s what’s possible in attitude, as in Jon’s case.

And sometimes it’s what’s possible mentally. Consider Jason Becker, a rock guitarist who developed ALS, also known as Lou Gherig’s Disease. Jason went from belting out metal guitar licks on big stages to, today, being only able to move his eyes and some of his facial muscles. He’s unable to talk. How many people would give up? How many people would feel as if they were trapped in their own mind?

But Jason? His family has worked out a way for him to “talk” through eye movements that they interpret for him. Jason still composes beautiful music. He’s a prolific writer, and his attitude is grateful and joyous. Poke around on his site and do some reading. You’ll be amazed at how “not trapped” Jason truly is.

These people show us what’s possible. They turn most feeble “I can’t do that” excuses into meaningless, worthless examples of deliberate and consciously chosen mediocrity.

The Badass Project is here to show you that whatever is mediocre in your life is there because you chose to let it master you. This project exists to celebrate people who take life by the balls and tell it who’s boss… and to show the world that any one of us can do the same.

What we do here

There is a disease in the world today. You could call it by many names, but I call it “bullshit excusitis.”

Most people have a long list of bullshit excuses why they “can’t” do something, but really they’re just choosing not to do it. That business you can’t start? You’re choosing not to start it. That adventure you can’t go on right now? You’re choosing not to go on it. Your boring and unsatisfying life? What an odd choice for you to have made.

Spend enough time around people like my friends on this site, and you’ll start to realize that you’re deciding to be inferior. You’re excuse-ing yourself into mediocrity. Not someone else. Not your parents. Not the economy or your boss. YOU.

What we do here is to show you how stupid and self-limiting your excuses are for not being all you can be. (If that’s too harsh, then I guess you could say that we show you how to break through your limitations, but I prefer the former way of looking at it. This isn’t “The Feel-Good Project,” after all.)

What we do here is to make sure you understand that all of us are dying, and that playing it safe all the time is a recipe for a sorry life.

As you watch or listen to the interviews on this site, look at your life, your business, your world. Realize that you’ve created that life with your choices. Stop being a victim, and ask yourself, “What’s my excuse?”

Who is Johnny B. Truant?

Johnny is the guy who’s been writing all what’s above and trying (and failing) not to speak too much in the first person.

I’m a blogger, teacher, writer, and a coach, and if I were allowed to give myself the title of “thought leader,” I’d do it. I don’t have as good of an excuse as most of the people on this site, but I try to be badass in my own way. I am a type-1 insulin-dependent diabetic marathoner, triathlete, and recreational powerlifter / Olympic weightlifter, and I’ve successfully trained myself to not say “can’t” unless it’s literal. For instance, I haven’t chosen yet to deadlift 600 pounds, but some day soon I’ll make the choice to focus and make it happen.

My blog and website is JohnnyBTruant.com and I’m on Twitter at @JohnnyBTruant, but fair warning that I swear a lot. But you saw the name of this project, right? So no big shock there.

The Badass Army

I’m hardly the only guy running this thing. I’m simply the most visible. I had the idea and do the interviews and am the voice of the Project, but that’s about it. You know how a Hollywood celebrity will create a charity and talk about it all the time as if it were all him, while secretly, more talented people do all of the work? Yeah, we understand each other.

My chief of operations is the über-talented project manager and cat herder extraordinaire Jessica Commins. Jess is the reason that this is a coordinated and well-formed venture instead of a few notes scribbled on the back of a napkin.

The first three people on what we consider to be an informal board of directors were Erica Gunn, Rebecca Kellogg, and my right-hand gal Natalie Piromsuk. (If you interact with someone at the Project via email, it’ll probably be Natalie. She’s the reason emails get answered and things get scheduled.)

They’re all awesome but when they started to have pow-wows to discuss Steel Magnolias (NOT kidding), we had to add dudes. Adrian Varnam writes all of the posts that go with the videos and handles a lot of our website stuff, and has jokes about being mailed feminine hygiene products. Tommy Walker is the reason the Badass Project’s Facebook page is so interactive and generally kicks so much ass. Tommy and I get along because we both refuse to go by the “adult” versions of our names. How boring would it be to work with John and Thomas? What the hell is that about?

Tommy is also the author of one of the best “no shitty excuses” manifestos ever, 106 Excuses that Prevent You From Ever Being Great, which you need to read ASAP.

And this website? This awesome, fantastic, amazing website we have here? It was created by the amazing people at Men With Pens and donated by head (wo)Man With Pen James Chartrand. James has never donated a site before, but she did it for us because she believes in this project. As we all do.