Find people who challenge you and inspire you. If you have people who can encourage you, but also give constructive feedback on your work that is great.
As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jack Rasmussen.
Jack Rasmussen is a Fulbright Scholar and a distinguished alumnus of the University of Southern California. After teaching English in Taiwan for a year, Rasmussen returned to California before publishing his second nonfiction work after 2022’s Fine Dining. He enjoys capturing the livelihood and intricacies hidden within life’s many daily characteristics.
Jack graduated from the University of Southern California in Spring 2022, majoring in Business Administration, with an emphasis on Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and minoring in Cinematic Arts and Sports Media Industries. He is a co-founder of Good Samaritans of Silicon Valley, the Business Lead for Screen360.tv, and a co-founder for Scholars of Finance. At graduation, he was distinguished as a Warren Bennis Scholar, Renaissance Scholar, Discovery Scholar, and Fulbright Scholar. Some have deemed the accomplishment the EGOT of the college experience…Jack just says he stays curious.
Jack is passionate about mental health advocacy, food waste, and religion within the secular world. In his free time, Jack enjoys biking, traveling, eating out with friends, and fashion. He listens to pop-rap music and drives around in his Mini Cooper that he won on the bonus round of Wheel of Fortune with the Food and Drink phrase: “creamy artichoke dip.” Jack’s happy place — the beach…fish taco and margarita in hand.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in a small town called Los Gatos in Northern California. I loved playing sports and storytelling from a young age. I excelled in school because I worked hard and loved staying busy. As I grew, I realized that I enjoyed reading and writing. When I reached high school, I recognized that my passion for writing could inform my career. I took leadership roles to utilize this skill more and went to college in Los Angeles to pursue a career in media.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?
A book that changed my life was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. That book illustrates the power of creative narration. I remember learning a lot about Germany and the Holocaust because of the third-person omniscient storytelling the book incorporates. The narrator, called “Death,” enables the reader to understand the life of people living in Nazi Germany during World War II. I think that book inspired me to think about point-of-view more in stories and how that may affect the impact of the storytelling.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The publisher of my first book released in 2022 was a small publisher in Washington DC. I was working with creative designers based in Europe. A lot of them did not speak English as a first language. I was moving very fast during my first book: graduated college the same month, dealt with getting ready to move to Taiwan, and tried to understand the publishing market. I did not have time to review everything in a lot of depth, and the very first cover created by my team had a misspelling on it. Luckily, I caught it before the book was officially published in the spring, but the misspelled cover was still posted and remained on their media for the entire year. Not only did it make me look bad, but a lot of people used it as ammunition to discredit my book and paint me as a bad speller. I had no idea that the incorrect cover was even featured in their media until much later, and then I had to let them know to fix it, so it looked like the cover I intended it to be. I learned to triple-check everything, especially when working with an international team, because people spell things differently in different places, and reviewing requires a lot of energy and breaks. Do not always rely on others with your vision. Sometimes, the most time needs to be allocated for review, design, and marketing.
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?
I want to make religion cool. Faith saved my life. I think a lot of people give it a bad rap by describing it as fake. I think spirituality can and should play a major role in people’s lives as a guiding light and as a tool for connection. What is interesting to me is how all the world’s religions intersect. I want people to feel compelled to connect with others through faith and through learning about the history and shared values sprouting from the world religions. When we slow down and become more grateful, we can become happier, more grounded, and more solid individuals.
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
In December 2022, I went to this eccentric bar in an island off the coast of Taiwan called Xiaoliuqiu with some friends. The bar was basically sex-themed and had wild drink names and a bunch of anime on the walls. It was a surreal experience. We sat in this dome on a bunch of beanbags, drinking bright cocktails and sharing stories. It felt like something out of a dream. The Bar was called Oh Ho Bar. I think there was a train next to the dome where people could eat food. It looked straight out of The Polar Express. During that time, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was on and a bunch of flat-screen TVs were playing soccer in the background.
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
I was baptized in the Pacific Ocean in 2021 and faith started to take on a major role in my life during my early 20s. The yin-yang symbol kept showing up in my life during that time as well. When I decided to leave for Asia in 2022, I thought it would be a beautiful opportunity to capture my intrigue in the symbol with a book written in Asia. When I arrived in Taipei, I witnessed a lot of dichotomies and knew I had to embrace this theme throughout my time there.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I think several of my students in Taiwan enjoyed learning about Christianity and English. I remember sharing my story with my co-workers at the school I taught at, and they were greatly impacted and related to the quest for faith and spirituality. Christianity is not the main religion in Taiwan, but while I was there, I met several people that were exploring Christianity. Inspiring people to look at the intersections rather than the differences of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Christianity was unexpected and beautiful.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
I used the yin-yang symbol as a lens to look at diversity, equity, and inclusion and the need for spirituality to uplift and heal. Yin and Yang represent opposing yet complementary forces. Politicians, doctors, artists, and community leaders should identify the yin and yang within their personas and around them to understand and pinpoint where each comes up and is represented. When we start to understand ourselves more, we gain better meta-awareness and can develop better team cohesion in the world. Religion is a great avenue to develop this level of self-awareness and understanding. The yin yang symbol is not just a great emblem for understanding Daoism, but it is a great emblem for understanding ourselves and the whole world.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is impacting and guiding others positively. Leadership can come from anyone and at any time. I think sometimes we can think a certain way and share that opinion and then we can see how that opinion influences what other people are doing. I hear a lot that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. While that may be true, I think imitation is a sign of great leadership qualities as well. A leader does not have to be the loudest person in the room. A leader can just lead by example, showing others what can be done.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?
- Take others’ advice with a grain of salt. Everyone has an opinion and the only opinion that matters at the end of the day is your own.
- Perfectionism is not possible. Writers always think they could have written a line better or included a detail that they left out. Perfect is not the aim.
- Get used to scrutiny. You are not going to please everyone. Get used to it and stop making that your mission.
- Find people who challenge you and inspire you. If you have people who can encourage you, but also give constructive feedback on your work that is great.
- Relax. You cannot do everything all at once. Take a breath. Think about the bigger picture. Be patient.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” -Maya Angelou
I think this quote is great for dealing with relationships in the world. I have dealt with a lot of betrayal, and I think I could have utilized this sentiment more while growing up. Being forgiving is very important, but respecting yourself and knowing your boundaries is equally important.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Stephen King. After two nonfiction books, I want to write more creative novels, including fiction, mystery, and horror. I think his ability to transport his readers through imagery is powerful. I also enjoy all the movies inspired by his work. It would be great to discuss writing, storytelling, characters, movies, and direction with him.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Jack Rasmussen Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.