Own Your Weird

An Oddly Effective Way for Finding Happiness in Work, Life, and Love


By Jason Zook

Read by Jason Zook

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Tired of all the “shoulds” that guide your life? Want to create a life full of meaning? Work on your own terms? See the world a little differently? Then it’s time to Own Your Weird.

Creative entrepreneur Jason Zook certainly walks the walk of “owning his weird.” He’s had some crazy yet successful schemes — he’s made over a million dollars by having more than 1,600 companies pay him to wear their t-shirt (a project called I WearYour Shirt). Later he auctioned off his last name twice, for $50K each time. He then self-published his first book Creativity for Sale by nabbing sponsors and generating $75K in revenue. Now Own Your Weird is targeted to other potential “out of the box” thinkers who dream not only of doing work on their own terms, but also creating a meaningful life.

Consider Jason your spirit guide, offering strategies for honing in on what makes you weird, recognizing when feedback is just another form of procrastination, and how to stop with social media already. There’s a specific set of strategies and exercises that can help you prioritize your life over your business, by identifying your MMM (Minimum Monthly Magic) number. He also offers examples from his own life (how he got out of $124K worth of debt, escaped the pressure to have a big wedding, and has thrived on social media by primarily ignoring it).

Own Your Weird is the permission slip you need to take that big risk. To finally chase down that big idea. And to let go of “supposed to” thoughts. See how life opens up when you break out of the blueprint.


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The way things have always been done is NOT the way things have to be done. It’s time to own your weird.

As I sat in the courtroom, looking around at people who were also sitting with their lawyers, waiting to get some sort of approval from that day’s appointed judge, it slapped me in the face just how much I own my weird.

Was I sitting in the courtroom because I’d committed a nefarious crime? Was I uncomfortably squirming in the wooden pew next to my lawyer because of some crazy offshore banking embezzlement scheme gone wrong? Was I there like most other folks who were going through a divorce or child custody battle? No friend, alas, I was there for a much more unique reason: I had sold my last name (via an online auction) and was trying to legally change my name from Jason Sadler to Jason Headsetsdotcom. Yep.

After what seemed like hours of waiting, my case number was finally called. I “approached the bench” (my Judge Judy moment!) and the judge reviewed my case file. I remember him looking at my file very differently than he had the twenty or so cases before me. As he read the official paperwork his head cocked slightly like a dog when you make a high-pitched whistling sound. He then proceeded to ask a bunch of questions like, “Have you been convicted of any felonies recently?” and “Are you trying to avoid creditors by changing your last name?” and the final one, “What exactly does the name ‘Headsetsdotcom’ mean?” It was clearly a resounding “NO” to the first two questions, but for some reason I was nervous and barely squeaked out my reply. Luckily my lawyer handled the explanation of the new last name because he could tell I was in full flop-sweat and could barely form sentences.

Then, and I kid you not, with a swing of his actual wooden gavel, he stated, “I’ve never had a name change request like this, here we go” and my legal last name was changed. It had to be the weirdest case he made a decision on that day/week/month.

To get you caught up on how this story started, a few months prior I’d found out my parents were getting a divorce and the name I’d used for most of my life (Sadler) was now completely meaningless to me. To make things more interesting, it was my third last name by age thirty and I was now left with an odd predicament. What do you do when you have a last name you no longer want? No stranger to putting myself out there and doing unconventional things, as we’ll get to later in the book, I decided instead of leafing through the White Pages to attempt to discover a last name I liked, I’d create an online auction to the legal rights of my last name for a year. Think of it like an eBay auction, but instead of bidding on some electronic gadget, you’d be bidding for the ability to change my last name to your company’s name.

Within twenty-four hours of launching the aptly named website BuyMyLastName.com in 2012, the auction to own the rights to my last name went from $0 and skyrocketed to $33,333. That is not a typo, that was an actual thing that happened! The bidding didn’t stop there and after thirty days my last name was purchased by the headsets company Headsets.com for $45,500. My full name would be Jason Headsetsdotcom and with the visit to the courthouse and subsequent visit to the DMV, my driver’s license told the entire (weird) story.

You may have picked up this book because you’re the type of person who knows you’re a little weird (or wants to stop fitting in and start owning your weird) but is nervous about the unknowns that come along with that. Will embracing your weird still allow you to have a job that provides the money you and your family need? If you commit to being truly your weird self, will you feel fulfilled in how you spend your time on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis? I’m (weird) living proof there’s another option to what the majority of society tells you is the “right” way to live and work. I didn’t know that I’d be able to carve out my own path when I was young, but I remember a constant nagging thought that there had to be another way to live, work, and succeed as an adult. A way that felt more akin to me and who I was as a person. A way where I could own my weird.

I think back to my childhood often, remembering the burning desire to accept who I was as a weird person and to not accept life as it was force-fed to me. With this came the constant thought: Why do I need to do X like other people? Why can’t I do things my own unique way?

These days I don’t even think about owning my weird anymore—it’s completely automatic. I’ve come to understand that I’m wired differently. This instinctive impulse I have to question convention, embrace what sets me apart, and avoid following in someone else’s footsteps has ultimately translated into a business and life that I absolutely love.

Avoiding the well-traveled paths that others have laid out (what I like to call “The Sea of Sameness”) in order to forge my own has not only allowed me to stand out as an entrepreneur (leading to profitable businesses and an engaged audience), but it has also led me to design a life that’s built around who I am as a person, with my unique values and what makes me happy.

It turns out the recipe for success and happiness is in the realization that there is no recipe—you have to own your weird and carve out your own path toward happiness, success, and fulfillment.

The good news is that you don’t actually need special DNA to own your weird, you already have it! You simply need to develop a mindset that challenges societal norms and embraces your own uniqueness. But how do you do that? Well, that’s what I want to share with you in this book.


In 2005, a young guy from England by the name of Alex Tew had an idea to help him pay for university that he simply named The Million Dollar Homepage. On this homepage that he created, there were a million pixels available for purchase. Each pixel was $1, and anyone could purchase these pixels to advertise whatever they wanted. Pretty freakin’ weird idea, huh?

The moment I came across Alex’s inspiring and creative project, it actually blew my mind. This was partially due to the fact that, at that moment, I was living the opposite of an inspiring and creative life. I was living a completely beige existence at a 9-to-5 job as a graphic designer. Everything was literally (and metaphorically) beige, from the chair I sat in, to the desk I worked at, to the walls I stared at, down to the squeaky drawers that held my files. Even the monitor that I pushed (non-million-dollar) pixels around on was beige. So when The Million Dollar Homepage landed in my inbox from a co-worker, it truly was like an explosion of color and creativity slapping me in the face.

I thought to myself: You can DO something like this?

The stark contrast between the bland job I was seeing in front of me and that stubborn kid that wanted to do everything his own way was suddenly so obvious. Somehow I’d slowly drifted away from that essential part of me that was always asking Why does it have to be this way? and I’d just accepted what I thought I was supposed to want (a good job, owning a house, a fancy car, etc.). The Million Dollar Homepage was the jolt of inspiration I needed to start seeing my beige world for exactly what it was: a boring, cookie-cutter path. The opposite of what I really wanted.

This realization planted a seed that would later turn into several of my own “you can do something like this?” ideas, but it all began because I finally started waking up to the fact that the path I was on wasn’t what I wanted for my life. I realized that owning my weird ideas and unique personality traits would actually help me stand out and get noticed.

Maybe you, too, have your own version of that beige existence right now—something that feels like it doesn’t quite fit. An element of your life that you’ve chosen because you think you should, not because it’s what you really want (or a reflection of who you truly are at your core). Acknowledging the beigeness is the first step toward a whole new way of seeing the world, which is exactly what I’m hoping to show you in the pages of this book.


When I finished writing my first book, Creativity for Sale, it was 2013 and I was in the middle of a huge transition. I had just learned a ton (especially during the writing of the book) about how some aspects of being an entrepreneur had caused me to focus my attention on the wrong things in my life. I was starting to learn that subscribing to the “hustle” mentality—always chasing down external validation (more work, more press, more customers, more money, more social media followers)—wasn’t what would ultimately lead me to happiness.

I can honestly say the experience of writing Creativity for Sale was pivotal to understanding myself better, and that deeper understanding became a catalyst for some big changes in my thinking and my lifestyle over the years that followed.

I decided to dust off the old typewriter (okay fine, MacBook Pro, but what if I did write this whole thing on a dusty typewriter?) and write this book as a “second installment” of sorts because I want to share those shifts in perspective with you. The five years between writing Creativity for Sale and the book you hold in your hands taught me some big lessons—lessons that will hopefully provide you with an alternative to some of the more traditional ways of living and running a business.

I also chose to write this book because I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I know how important owning my weird is to my personal sense of fulfillment. It feels completely tied to who I am on a cellular level. Every idea, project, or business has to be weird or unique in some way. If I had to boil my personality down to one single thing, it would be my inability to accept the established or predictable route in anything. Like a person who has to straighten every pen on their desk to sit at a perfect 45-degree angle (no, I don’t actually do that!), I get physically uncomfortable when I do things the same way other people do them. This personal discovery feels like the one thing I’m actually qualified to write a book on (not that being qualified has ever stopped me from doing anything in the past!) and the one message I feel most excited to share with the world at this stage of my life.


In this book, you’re going to read a lot of stories about how the idea of owning your weird shows up in my life and my business. But you don’t have to be like me (or like Mike) in order to find value in straying from the herd. The stories may be about me, but this book isn’t really about me; it’s about you.

Why is the idea of owning your weird valuable to YOU?

Well, if one of your reasons for picking up this book was to have a more profitable business, owning your weird (a.k.a. standing out from the crowd) is pretty much Marketing 101. Yet so many entrepreneurs and creative business owners I know keep trying to follow the road map laid out by that blog post or podcast episode or that thing a “thought leader” said at a conference they went to.

This book is about you realizing that the blueprint does not exist—not if you want to actually stand out in your field. You are going to have to ignore the norm, take a risk, and go all in on what makes you different from everyone else. All of my biggest business successes have come from doubling down on my difference. From being willing to let my “freak flag fly.” From listening to the nagging voice in my head that says “myyyy preciouuusssss…” Oh wait, that’s not me… From listening to the voice in my head that constantly pushes me to think way outside the box and own my weird. If you, too, have that nagging voice, I want this book to remind you to give owning your weird a chance. And if you don’t, I want this book to teach you how to get it to speak up.

Believe me when I say that owning your weird will not only help you get the attention you’re seeking (the first step to getting more customers is awareness), but it will also help you run a business that feels authentic to who you actually are.

That brings me to the more important reason learning to own your weird is valuable: your life is bigger than your business. It matters what you spend your time and energy on. It matters whether you’re making decisions based on what other people want for you and what society expects of you or if you’re choosing what you want deep down.

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this book it’s that you can rewrite the rules to whatever part of your life you want. The way things have always been done is NOT the way things have to be done. But, it starts with you. You have to decide that you won’t accept things as they’ve been presented to you—that there’s more than just beige out there, and you’re willing to take the risk to go find it for yourself.


I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you, though: Owning your weird is hard. Going against the grain pretty much guarantees that you’ll encounter rejection and ridicule and uncertainty and failure (and yes, I get into all of that in this book, too. I’m not about to skate over the hard stuff). It’s challenging to step outside that damn proverbial box everyone talks about. But what I’ve found, and what I want to share with you throughout this book, is that even though owning your weird can be challenging, it’s also the most rewarding feeling to embrace who you are and what makes you unique.

I’ve experienced success (as most people would define it) in two different ways: (1) following the paths laid out by other people, and (2) carving out my own, slightly more curved, rocky, and where-the-heck-do-I-take-my-next-step path. While growing a business based on the proven tactics and strategies of other people is by no means a bad idea (there’s plenty we can learn from people who are already winning), I’ve found that achieving success using someone else’s recipe and ignoring your weird often leaves you feeling empty. Why? Because how you feel when you get to that next level depends, in part, on how you feel about how you got there.

When you reach some level of success and achieve something you set out to do, there are two types of mental rewards that happen. The first is based on the outcome of your efforts—the feeling of accomplishment that comes with completing a goal (selling your art, landing more clients, having a big product launch, etc). When you get what you had your eye on, it feels great! That’s the first mental reward.

The second comes from how you achieved that outcome. When you’ve hacked down your own weird path, it means you’ve navigated the inevitable challenges and roadblocks and managed to come through it victorious (with the scars to prove it). There’s an extra sense of satisfaction deep down in your gut knowing you did the work necessary and you pioneered new territory for yourself. That second mental reward gives you all the right feels, and it makes the first reward that much sweeter. Going your own weird way may be harder, but success that feels authentically earned is far more fulfilling.


I decided to organize this book into three main sections: (1) the core tenets of adopting an Own Your Weird mindset; (2) how I’ve applied those tenets in various parts of my life and business over the past five years; and (3) practical advice for how you can take these ideas forward and create your own custom blueprint for success, in your own way.


As I mentioned, I want this book to be about you more than it is about me. That’s why the first section is full of six important lessons I’ve uncovered the past few years—lessons that can be applied to your life and business immediately. Together they make up what I refer to as the “Own Your Weird mindset,” which can serve as a powerful tool for navigating the world on your own terms.


Once you know the core parts of the Own Your Weird mindset, I want to share with you several ways in which I’ve applied this mindset to various aspects of my own life the past few years. My hope is that by seeing how I have forged my own path in everything from health to marriage to business, you might be able to see how these principles can apply uniquely to various aspects of your own life.


In this final section, we’ll talk about ways that you can put these principles and my examples together to write your own blueprint. As you already know, one of the core themes of this book is about letting go of the idea that there is any single path or blueprint you can follow out there and learning to just carve out your own as you go. In this section, I share with you some final thoughts about how to do just that.


You might be thinking to yourself, wait a second, Jason, isn’t this supposed to be a business book? Isn’t business what you normally write about? So far it sounds like a book about life. Or, dare I say it, a… personal development book (*shudder*).

Business book, life book, memoir, self-help book… Hell if I know. If it’s hard to tell at times where this book fits in, it’s because life and business go hand-in-hand for me. They’re virtually one and the same. We’ll dig into this work/life blend later in the book, but for now just prepare yourself for a wide range of topics throughout these pages, covering everything from Facebook ads for business to eating a vegan diet. I may jump around a lot, but every topic, every tangent, every word is in service of the idea that owning your weird is your key to getting what you want out of your one, precious life.

You might also notice I haven’t loaded up this book with tons of carefully researched examples of other people and businesses owning their weird. I know that tends to be the formula for these kind of “prove your thesis” books, but honestly I don’t love those kinds of books. (Plus, as you can tell already, if there’s a “formula” for something, I don’t want any part of it.) What you’re about to read is almost entirely my experiences, my opinions, and my perspective. I hope you’re cool with that.


All right, now that we’re on the same page with the why and the how and the what and all that jazz, the next order of business is to catch you up on a few topics that you’ll hear me reference throughout this book. I went into much more detail about most of these things in my first self-published book Creativity for Sale, but I realize you may not have read it. If you did, thank you, but it was probably light-years ago. If you didn’t, don’t worry, this is one of those stand-alone sequels that doesn’t require you to know all the backstory. As far as book sequels go, it’s like the Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift of follow-up books (without the bad writing or Lil Bow Wow’s atrocious green car).

If you are the type that likes to know ALL the things and get up to speed (like my wife, Caroline, who reads the IMDB synopsis before going into a movie), I’ve included a little “Jason Zook Recap” of sorts that will catch you up on the major milestones and primary characters from Creativity for Sale (and beyond) that I’ll be referencing in this book.


Remember when I told you about The Million Dollar Homepage and I said I came up with a few of my own “You can do that?” ideas… well, the first of those ideas was a business I started called IWearYourShirt. Almost every lesson I’ve learned in business has come from the five years I got paid to wear sponsored T-shirts for a living. And yes, that’s exactly what IWearYourShirt was: a social media marketing company (before anyone knew what social media really was or how to use it) where businesses hired me to wear their logos on my T-shirt each day and create branded content for them on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. On a “normal” day I planned to take a photo in the shirt, which got posted to all my social network profiles. Then I’d film, edit, and upload a YouTube video where I tried to do something fun or entertaining in the shirt. Last but not least I also hosted a one-hour live video show where I interacted with complete strangers from around the world who, for some reason that still eludes me to this day, wanted to watch a random dude wear a shirt and sit on a couch.

IWearYourShirt launched in October 2008, and I wore my first sponsored T-shirt on January 1, 2009 for a paltry $1. That’s not a typo (my copyeditor asked multiple times, too). The pricing structure for IWearYourShirt was to sell daily sponsorships at face value according to the day of the year. Being that January 1 is the first day of the year, that day cost $1. Then the price increased by $1 per day, so January 2 was $2, January 3 was $3, and so on, all the way until December 31, which sold for $365. This pricing would become known as “bumpsale” pricing (and I even created a simple software product with my good friend Conrad many years later so other people could do “bumpsales” of their own.)

In 2009, it was just me wearing daily sponsored T-shirts and promoting the company of the day through social media updates on Facebook and Twitter; one daily, hour-long live video show on Ustream; as well as an edited YouTube video focused on the daily sponsor. I created this mix of daily content for each of the 365 days in 2009, including every weekend and major holiday. (Crazy, huh?)

In 2010, I grew the business to two T-shirt wearers—myself and a guy named Evan White in California—and doubled the price ($2 per day increasing). Then, in 2011, I grew it to five shirt wearers with the same sponsor, and in 2012, five shirt wearers all with different individual sponsors. By that time, the business had started to fail. There are too many reasons for that to share here—and you can read about all of them in my first book, Creativity for Sale (sales pitch, heyo!)—but the point is that IWearYourShirt finally closed its doors on May 6, 2013 when I officially announced my retirement from professional T-shirt wearing. I believe the Pope himself cried when he heard the news of my retirement. Or I completely made that up in my mind? Probably the latter.

While the ending of IWearYourShirt was not what I’d ever hoped for, the business did generate more than $1 million in total revenue when it was active, and as I mentioned, it taught me almost everything I know about business, sales, and marketing.

It’s important to note that even though the business generated more than $1 million in its life span, I didn’t walk away with all that money. Quite the opposite, in fact. By the time I shut the business down, I ended up over $100,000 in debt.

But, don’t cry for me, Argentina! I’ve since paid off all that debt and I go into detail about how I did it later on in this very book you’re holding.


In the opening paragraphs of this book you were introduced to this crazy project that popped into my brain. I auctioned off the rights to change my last name to the highest bidder—and I did it twice! This idea came to me after a family divorce left me with a last name I no longer wanted, my third last name in my lifetime. I was already a walking billboard… why not use my last name as buyable ad space, too?

In November 2012, I started an auction at $0 and in the first twenty-four hours, the bidding to own my last name for one year was up to $33,333! Yep, I’m still as shocked as you are. The bidding ended at $45,500 and my legal last name for 2013 was Jason Headsetsdotcom. You may be wondering why the heck a company would buy someone’s last name? Well, I’d built a sizeable audience on social media and knew a crazy idea like this would get attention, which all companies love and need to grow (and it did: my last name sale was featured on the homepage of USA Today and tons of prominent TV news outlets talked about it). Don’t think for a moment I phoned this idea in either, as I mentioned earlier I even went to a courthouse and stood in front of a judge (twice!), asking for permission to legally change my name to such a silly thing. At the end of 2013, I decided to do this last name auction one last time, and the bidding for that one ended at $50,000. The rights to change my last name went to a surfing app (Surfr), and they named me Jason SurfrApp. Just like that, I’d made nearly $100,000 (10 percent of which was donated to charity) and I’d taken a negative family situation and turned into a money-making opportunity.

The name you see on the cover of this book, Jason Zook, is my final and forever name. Zook was my great-grandfather’s last name, and I’m happy to carry his name and lineage forward, as he was also an entrepreneur. (Although, I’m guessing his business ideas weren’t quite as weird as mine.)


You heard me mention my first book, Creativity for Sale. What I didn’t mention was that (of course) I didn’t want my first book to be published in any traditional or nonweird way. Many people told me that first-time authors, especially ones that self-publish, rarely make money on their first book. I wanted to challenge this assumption so I came up with an idea I called SponsorMyBook.

Taking a page from my IWearYourShirt days (get it, it’s a book pun!), I decided to sell sponsorships at the bottom of all two hundred pages of the book. They were simple text-only 140-character messages that anyone could purchase and use to advertise their business or get any message out they wanted to. When it was all said and done, I had sold space on the bottom of every page (including the front and back covers, as well as the inside flaps) for a total revenue of $75,000. I made all of this ad revenue before I ever wrote a single word of the book. Not bad for a first-time author!


The years following SponsorMyBook/Creativity for Sale


  • "A must-read for anyone who wants a business that supports their life, not a life that exists solely to support their business." Paul Jarvis, author of Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business
  • "A unique and candid perspective on channeling our quirks into valuable assets."
    Ryan Nicodemus, co-creator of TheMinimalists.com
  • "Own Your Weird is a refreshing guide to help you embrace the truth about who you really are, and how to use your uniqueness to your advantage to become the best version of who you want to be. Jason has given us a must-read in today's world where most people are consciously (and subconsciously) trying to please others and live a life that really isn't going to make them happy. Read this book, enjoy the authentic and personal stories Jason has to offer, and reflect on how to embrace your weird for the better."—Pat Flynn, Founder of SmartPassiveIncome.com and bestselling author of Will It Fly?

On Sale
Sep 10, 2019
Hachette Audio

Jason Zook

About the Author

Jason Zook is a serial entrepreneur who has made millions through various “weird” methods: wearing t-shirts, auctioning off his last name (twice!), and selling off his future (BuyMyFuture.com). He’s built online courses and software platforms, and has written for major media outlets including Entrepreneur.com, CNBC, Business Insider, and Huffington Post. He lives in San Diego, CA with his wife Caroline and dog Plaxico.

Join him on his weekly podcast “Wandering Aimfully: The Show” or at his virtual home wanderingaimfully.com

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