Things are now more badass at The Badass Project


Let me tell you a story.

The story begins with the small spark of an idea: to profile amazing disabled people who refused to settle for what life and society wanted to give them. We wanted to spotlight people who were awesome, and who lived their lives without excuses. By doing so, we hoped to get others (disabled or not) off of their own lazy asses. We wanted to get them to stop making lame excuses and to take command of their own lives.

But something happened. You can’t always control how people will interpret your message, and we found that our visitors were getting us wrong in two big ways:

1. People thought we were a charity


2. People who visited this site (that would be people like yourself) watched the interviews and thought, “Wow, these people are cool!” but then went right back to what they were doing without getting the message: that the story they’d seen wasn’t just a feel-good spark to interrupt the tedium of their day. They didn’t realize that it was, in fact, their own story.

This project set out to inspire action, but all we were inspiring was video-watching.

See, this isn’t a charity site. It’s not a disability site, either. This is a “living without excuses” site. The disabilities here aren’t the primary things. The primary things are the big old excuses that aren’t being used.

Consider the artist who paints despite having no use of his arms and legs. Consider the legendary guitarist who didn’t let a little thing like Lou Gehrig’s Disease stop him from creating music and from (let’s face it) still totally being a rock star.

You watch these, and what you see is a refusal to settle. A refusal to believe, “This thing in my life means that I can’t do X.” A refusal to accept what is given, and a refusal to refrain from taking what is refused.

You might be a painter. You might want to write music. And you might be saying, “If only I had the time” or “If only I could afford the equipment.” But see, those are just excuses, and they’re really shitty ones. Jared Dunten could say, “If only I could use my hands like other painters.” Jason Becker could say, “If only I could operate my equipment and use my voice.” But they don’t. And that’s the lesson.

If you’re able-bodied and aren’t creating what you were put here to create, the difference between you and guys like Jared and Jason isn’t their disability. It’s the fact that all three of you have excuses… but that you are using yours.

What’s changing around here

Most of the changes are in the “attitude” of the site, to reflect what I’ve just explained.

You’ll notice that we now offer a free e-course (in the blue box at the top of the homepage) on “how to stop getting in your own damn way and live the life you deserve.” Nothing about disability in there, meaning that it’s applicable for everyone.

You’ll also notice a change in focus on the About page. (Mainly that first, new section.) We also updated the description of “Badass” at the top, keenly noting that everyone can be a badass by that description… if you have the guts.

Yes, we’re still going to profile amazing people who have disabilities, but not because they have disabilities. We’re profiling them because they’re amazing and because they let nothing stop them.

We’re profiling them because they have some of the potentially best, most obvious, most everyone would-understand-if-you-gave-up-on-that-dream excuses in the world… but don’t use them.

We’re also moving to a more bite-sized 10-minute interview format in just a few weeks. We found that people often wouldn’t watch our 30-minute videos, because they were busy and because the modern attention span just isn’t that long.

There are two more changes, and they’re significant:

  1. We’ve been telling you about an upcoming Badass Project conference. It was going to be conducted virtually (online) and we were planning to sell tickets to raise money for our “Badass of the Year” award, which we’d give to the one of our interviewees who won a popular vote. The tickets for that conference probably would have been between $100 and 200. But now, that conference, which will be held in early 2012, is going to be free. We’re lining up some exciting speakers for it, too. They’re going to talk about creating your unique art without self-imposed obstacles, about business, about personal development, and about becoming amazing. It is for everyone, and we want as many “everyones” to be able to hear this message as possible. (To be sure you don’t miss the conference (it’s free, remember), sign up for posts-by-email at the top of the right-hand sidebar on this page.)
  2. Because the tickets were going to raise the money for the Badass of the Year award, we’re doing away with the “Badass of the Year” award. One is a necessary consequence of the other.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. We’ve been raising money for that award, right? Specifically, before I removed the little tote board in the upper right corner of this site (the one that made us look like a charity), it showed us as having raised $5460. So what happens to that money?

First of all, $5000 of that was the value of this website. It was donated in full by Men With Pens, and would have been a $5000 job if they’d charged us. So we’ve actually only gotten $460 in cash through the website.

In addition, Badass team member Adrian helped us raise $840 through a benefit tournament with the VERY awesome Brewskee-Ball league at his bar, Five Star Tavern. (Side note: Brewskee-Ball is crazy amounts of awesome.)

We’re going to contact the people who donated that money, point them to this post, and ask them if they’d like their money back. I doubt they will, because we still need funds to do this work — to operate, to use the conference webinar software, to pay our lawyer, etc. — but they’ll be given the option.

And there’s probably one other question that’s nagging at you: Won’t our interviewees be upset that we’re doing away with the Badass of the Year award?

We wondered that too, so we sent all of them an email. We asked them to tell us what they thought. Here is what they had to say. The verdict was unanimous: the mission of the Project is more important than a cash award to one person. This isn’t all for one. It’s one for all.

Our mission

So if the mission is more important than a Badass of the Year award, what is our newly clarified mission?

I actually see five missions. Here they are:

  1. To empower people with the knowledge that almost without exception, they are living the life they choose to live. The question is, how good are those choices?
  2. To keep self-imposed inability from becoming an epidemic-level disability.
  3. To highlight amazing people for doing amazing things, thus dispelling a cultural bias that labels them “unable.”
  4. To heal the mental gulf that most able-bodied people have about disability — a separation that establishes those with disabilities as “them,” while those like “us” remain safely on the other side. If non-disabled visitors to this site continue to see disabled people as fundamentally different from themselves, we’ve failed.
  5. To eliminate as much whining, blame, and bitching and moaning from the world as possible.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to address mission #4 above. It’s important, and it matters to you no matter who you are. Hang in there with me for a sec, will you?

We don’t relate to tigers

I’m talking now to those of you who our society calls “able bodied.”

I know this is going to sound incredibly PC, but I promise I mean it. As PBS-After-School-Special as this will appear, it’s a profound thing if you’ll let it sink in. Here we go:

A person in a wheelchair — or someone with cerebral palsy, or blind or deaf, or any other physical ailment — is not different from you.

Okay, now go ahead and read that again. I’ll wait.

Got it?

They’re not different.

Most people pay lip service to the idea that a person with a disability is the same as them, but few able-bodied people truly feel that way. Instead, they look at people with disabilities the way they’d look at a tiger in the zoo.

And so when we profile someone like Geoff Holt, who was the first disabled person (he’s quadriplegic) to sail single-handedly around Great Britain, it doesn’t feel amazing in the usual sense. To most people, it’s a foreign kind of amazing. And so, when they look at Geoff, they say, “Wow, look at what that guy can do!” in the same way they’d go to the zoo and say, “Wow, a tiger!”

It’s not disrespectful, and it’s not condescending… but it’s also not the same kind of amazement you feel when your neighbor runs a marathon. When the neighbor runs a marathon, you’re amazed, but you can also relate.

“He runs a marathon” and “I run a marathon” are on par, in other words.

But if one of our Badasses runs a marathon? It’s not the same. It’s closer to, “Dude, did you hear a tiger ran a marathon the other day?” And that’s crazy amazing. Tigers. Doing amazing shit. That’s cool to watch. Let’s watch THEM do some amazing shit from where WE are sitting.

Get it?

If you’re seeing these people as that “foreign kind of amazing” — and are content to be “inspired” by them from your safe vantage point on the couch of life — then you’re missing the point.

We are, in the most important ways, all the same. And so if you think what these people are doing is amazing, then you can be (and should be) be out there being amazing, too.

The bottom line

Here’s what this all means: The Badass Project is becoming the movement it set out to become.

I have met some amazing new friends, and they do happen to have disabilities. But what stands out about them is not that they have disabilities, but that they’re amazing.

I want more people to have that revelation.

Amazing people are amazing, regardless of what details (tall, short, old, young, paralyzed, blind) are added to the story. And so you, from where you are today, can be amazing. All that’s required is that you stop telling yourself why you can’t do something. All that’s required is that you realize that nothing is stopping you but you.

Go ahead and sign up for our new e-course about escaping your own self-limiting bullshit. (It’s in the blue box at the top of the homepage.)

Go ahead and sign up to get new posts by email, too. (That’s at the top of the right-hand sidebar on every page of the site.) A lot of our posts will still be video interviews with badasses (10-minute interviews starting in a few weeks), but we’re going to start adding other posts, too. Posts about how to start living your own badass life, free of excuses and limitations.

And if you want — if you’re inspired, and if you can make a promise to stop whining and start taking control of your life — go ahead and pick up one of our new T-shirts. For you, or for the other badasses in your life. All funds from T-shirt sales go toward running this project.

So: Are you a badass?

Only you can decide.


  1. Tozier says:

    Just today I was watching a documentary about an Everest summit climb. One of the bidders was a 63-year-old French man who’d had a cancerous kidney removed in recent history.

    The guy made his doctors remove the kidney through his gut instead of his back–so he’d be able to carry a pack into conditions that have killed young, healthy men.

    Stone cold badass.

    Looks like an amazing project you’ve got happening here. My name’s Tozier–glad I found you.

  2. Thanks for this! I sat on my butt letting myself feel intimidated for a good 10 years since my last big dream venture, and I’m not going wait any longer! I’m already working on several art and fiction publishing ventures with an eye toward working for myself for the rest of my life and loving the hell out of it. You’ve been a big help, Johnny! I love most of what you have to say, and even when I don’t like it, it makes me think. Good job!

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