Matt Johnson – Living Well… One Project at a Time

It began after I traveled abroad with some friends. We were kind of on this journey, looking for something bigger in our lives. We crossed paths with some remarkable people who were making their mark on the world, and it hit close to home. We realized that everybody has a dream to leave their mark on the world. And we had to do something about getting behind this lifestyle.So we set out with a vision to create a lifestyle brand that did just that, and we gave it the code name, “Project: Living Well“. Not long afterwards, the vision began expanding beyond our own circles, and gained the attention of the press. Next thing we knew, we had a rapidly growing fan base and our code name was no longer a secret. So it stuck.
What interests you most about what you’re doing now?

I’m fascinated by the power of storytelling. Right now we’re working with a leading Chicago creative studio to produce a short video as a part of our official summer launch. And I’m learning that some of the best storytellers don’t just tell a story, but invite others to join in and make it a part of their own.

What’s been your biggest accomplishment? Biggest challenge?
A big accomplishment was launching a successful crowdfunding campaign over on We partnered with Startup America Partnership and raised a good amount of seed money to bring a lifestyle inspired product to market called the “Calabash“. It’s one of the most remarkable water containers you’ll find on the market, that has an incredible story, and the way it’s going to be available for purchase is unlike anything being done right now.

A big challenge we’ve faced has been narrowing down a big, world changing vision, into a much more concise area of focus. For us, that meant cutting the fat on anything that didn’t allow us to be 100% lifestyle-centric; which is particularly difficult when the “excess” is filled with good intentions. For example, we started out with dual messaging, trying to be a lifestyle brand AND a supporter of a number of causes. Ultimately it was confusing to our customers (“Are you a cause or a company?”), confusing to us (“Are we a cause or a company?”), and ultimately hurt us more than it helped. But when we stepped out of the “cause” consumerism arena (an area we weren’t proficient in) to focus upon the lifestyle (an area we are ridiculously good at), it not only clarified our messaging to customers, but it just felt right.

Who or what inspires you?
Two people come to mind, Travis and Henry. Travis serves on our advisory board and leads an organization called Advance Humanity out in Mongolia. He’s an author, a former Peace Corps volunteer, and was responsible for bringing TEDx to Mongolia (!). I have no idea how he does it, but it’s incredible to see the impact one person living out their passion can make. And Henry is another. He was one of the first people we crossed paths with early on, and was an inspiration for the vision of the Project. At the age of 19, he gave up a scholarship to a University in Guatemala to move and mentor little kids living in the Guatemala City Dump. You’ll hear more of his story shortly, but both of these guys inspire me (and everyone else they come in contact with).

Why is peace sexy to you?  What does”Peace is Sexy” evoke for you?
I think peace can be sexy, because it’s attractive and edgy. When someone is living out their passion to make a difference in the world, you can’t help but be drawn to them. And it’s edgy because it’s more than the “stay-at-home mom, puppies and rainbows” stereotypes that are living it out. It’s real people with  authentic and genuine fears, passions and abilities who are leaving their mark on the world.

One example of this is a colleague of mine named Victor. He leads a movement called The Leapyear Project, where he is inviting people to take a leap for the 2012 Leap Year to better themselves, their community, or the world. And it’s remarkable to see the number of people joining him, because he’s living it out.

What is a simple thing you do to create peace? What is something you do everyday?
I like to write, text or email friends out of the blue to tell them how much they matter. Sometimes I may not have talked to them for months, but then I’ll randomly think of them and say to myself, “I wonder the last time someone told them they mattered? I’m gonna change that right now.”

How would you like Peace is Sexy to make a difference in what you are up to?
We’re all about outfitting, encouraging and inspiring people in really raw, authentic and organic ways. I don’t know if “sexy” is one of the ways we’ve branded ourselves… so maybe you guys can help “sexify” the Project: Living Well brand!?

Where would you like to see your passion go in the next 10 years? 20 years? 100 years?
My vision is to see the Project go beyond a trendy movement and become a globally recognized brand known for empowering the lifestyle of everyday people seeking to make a mark on the world. So that in 20, 30 or 50 years from now, those who have encountered our brand can one day wake up and say to themselves, “It may not have been easy, but I wouldn’t change a thing about the way I have lived my life.”

Is there anything else you want to tell us?
To those reading this…  I just want to let you know that you matter. I may not have your phone number or email to personally let you know that. Don’t lose the passion you have to leave a mark in the world. You may or may not know where to start, but you’re also not alone. May what began as a code name between a few friends on their own journey, encourage and inspire you on yours.

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