Jason Parachnowitsch habitually carries with him a miniature brown leather suitcase. If he’s rummaging inside it, it’s usually for some gum, or a Menthos but there’s all sorts of stuff in there:
His Appointment book, pens, some rattling pills (“for the immune system”), A University of Hawaii Baseball cap, a business card size schedule of the current Red Sox season (“I like to get to at least 10-12 games a year”), his Passport (“you never know when you might find a last minute deal to Rome”) And also – this is what he’s been rummaging around for – a ratty, well read, and marked copy of “the greatest salesman”.
Parachnowitsch holds in his hands the book and more importantly the teachings he says set his life on a new trajectory and examines it thoughtfully.
“Its funny” he says “I think about it often … I was headed down a path most people do. Content with mediocrity. Running the rat race. Living a life of quite desperation …sort of painting by numbers. Having some success. But ….”
But what? I ask him.
“ … There was something missing. I knew deep in my heart, in my gut. I was meant for something more. I was capable of real greatness. And more important I was capable of helping other people make great changes in their lives”
It’s this greatness he speaks of that has brought me out here to the small island of Kauai. This is the site of a annual event that has changed 1000‘s of lives all over the world. I’m here as a participant as well as to give what I hope will be a glimpse into the world of a small group who are trying to change the world.
When I arrive for our interview his wife Sabrina, who is busy making some local organic chicken for dinner, tells me to head out to the “Lanai”, a covered porch of sorts. Its pleasantly warm with a slight breeze cooling us off, and overlooking the vast pacific ocean. Its mid afternoon and Parachnowitsch’s feet are resting on his Long White Cedar surf board, still covered in sand from his morning surf session, and his laptop on his knees. He’s wearing long surf shorts and a baggy flower patterned Hawaiian shirt. Behind us are the incredible cliffs of the Haena state Park. To say this is a beautiful setting is an understatement.
“Aloha!” He says with a grimiss on his face. “Man … no matter how long we’ve lived here I still sound like a tourist when I try and speak Hawaiian”
Aloha … I say back.
“Lets get rolling , I’d like to get a ride in at sunset if I can”
Well, where should we start? I ask
Let’s back up 5 years. It’s 2013. Parachnowitsch is a moderately successful salesperson raising a family in Vancouver Canada. He is a big supporter of High School football. He has coached for almost 17 years, after his playing days are completed. He escaped factory life in the Detroit area and got to Vancouver through a football scholarship at a local university. (“I was a pretty good player, but not fast enough to play pro”) He comes from a immigrant family from Eastern Europe. His dad was a factory worker for General Motors, just outside of Detroit, making transmissions. He instilled in Jason a strong work ethic.
“Work hard, keep your head down, and be thankful you don’t have to line up for bread everyday … or something like that” he laughs. “… he had to walk to school … in the snow … uphill both ways!”
He stops laughing for second. And has a serious look
“I’ll tell you one thing, it helped us appreciate what we had … he always helped us understand the old ways, and the history …. But … it always felt like we shouldn’t WANT more. Like wanting more was selfish.”
he pauses for effect …
“It was a fear of having an abundance … that generation, and by extension me to some point, we limited ourselves by not allowing ourselves the desire to reach for greatness.”
Then in early 2013 a pretty dramatic event happened that changed everything.
A house fire on a sunny Saturday afternoon … “nearly burnt the whole house down” he says. “I was in the room when it started” … The Gas fumes were ignited by the hot-water tank pilot light. “was wicked scary, a big explosion, I caught on fire … the rest, as they say, is history”.
He pauses to look out over the ocean, he points out a breaching humpback.
“Look Whales … its Mating season I think”.
The change in subject distracts him for a moment. I think its to hide the emotion that is welling up in him recalling the fire that changed everything. The part he doesn’t talk about is the month he spent in the burn unit. Not being able to walk, and being bed ridden.
“It really could have been so much worse.” he continues “I could have been killed, My wife and kids made it out of the house safely, and my injuries were mostly on my lower body” I’m grateful everyday that it wasn’t worse.”
He rubs the scars on his calves as if the memory of the event brings on a phantom itch.
“It was so painful Dude … I thought I was a big tough guy … but the surgery and the skin grafts … Forgetaboutit … I cried like a school girl”
He shakes off the misty eyes, as if its a weakness he doesn’t like to show. But that’s one of the things that makes him so enduring, that he is willing to show that kind of venerability to a stranger.
“Then against the advice of my doctor, a few weeks after getting out of the hospital, I came here to Kauai … I met Mark J. and Davene. They were doing the first live event. And Mark really inspired me … When you meet him tomorrow you’ll see what I mean, but we are so similar. Even though he’s 20 years older than me, its like we are brothers separated at birth. We had a very similar life path. And when he spoke to me, it really resonated. He has a way of cutting through all the Bullshit … excuse my French”
I notice he’s getting misty again. Clearly Mark and Davene mean a lot to him.
“That event opened my eyes. 50 people in the room from all over the world. They left that event, with skills to change their life course and to help them fulfill their passions … there true bliss, and then went home and tried to effect 50 more people. Just think … It would not take long to change a huge percentage of the population if we keep this going”.
I have to be honest at this point I’m a little skeptical. And I think see see’s it on my face.
“I was one of those people, who thought this was all mumbo jumbo – touchy feelie stuff”
“I had to change my blueprint”
Your what? I asked.
He laughs “Ya .. My blueprint … Just think if you were building a home, how careful you would be creating the design, and thinking through the layout, and carefully selecting the materials you would use. And yet how careless we are when building our mental blueprint, what we allow ourselves to dwell on. And the crap we put in our minds … in the simplest terms you are what you think about”
Ok … makes sense, I think to myself.
“It was a real shift for me… after that event I did a Think and Grow Rich class with Mark. Then the Master Keys Master Mind course. Up to that point, everything I had done and accomplished, was a result of brute force effort, and I was succeeding using only 10% of my potential and really despite myself.”
I shift in my seat. His energy and enthusiasm is kind of catchy … I’m starting to look forward to the class tomorrow now. Could this information have the same effect on my life?
“My business exploded … I was effortlessly attracting people to my business, and I was effortlessly helping others to do the same thing.”
“And I was able transform that effort and success into my true passions.”
He’s getting a really worked up now … the enthusiasm in his voice is rising to mild yelling. Enough to bring his wife outside with some water, a snack and some advice … ,“Try to keep it down to a mild scream honey, … you’ll upset the chickens” as she puts down the drinks.
“Sorry … I get a bit worked up about this…”
And why not … clearly its paying off . Behind him is a wall of photos from all over the world. He looks over and points out all the highlights of a dozen trips they have taking in the last few years. Almost every picture has his two kids with giant smiles flanking his own big grin.
“This one was the 2 Months we spent in Chianti. The kids worked everyday at a vineyard in a little town called Greve. Was tough for them … because they were doing school work in the evening and learning Italian.”
He smiles …. “I like creating situations where they have to work really hard … and then get to enjoy the fruits of their labour … makes me feel like my Dad I think”
He points to a picture of a beautiful seaside village …” this was the summer we spent in Portugal. We fished for our dinner almost every day. We learned to sail, and the kids loved the food there.
My eye catches a larger picture off to the side of a diverse group on a construction site.
“Where’s that?” I ask
“Oh ya that was this past winter … in Costa Rica. We spent the winter there volunteering on a construction site. We meet some amazing locals and did a lot of work in our Ministry as well”
And then adds a smirky smile “ … and they have some pretty good surfing there too ”
I offer up an observation “Your kids have had some pretty amazing adventures at a young age”
Just when I thought he couldn’t get any more animated, this is when his eyes really light up.
“Are you kidding me! … they are getting the best education possible. They are learning so much more than they would in a classroom. I am over the moon that they get to see the world and learn about other cultures. They never ask about Video Games and TV because they are interested in so much more now. Its something that is missing from this generation. An appreciation for what our grandparents had to deal with. How hard life was. Everything has come so much easier for them, I’m glad they are growing up differently than their peers. I hope they will be more well rounded people because of it.”
We sit and talk about a few more of the 3 dozen pictures on the wall, and its so obvious this passion is what drives him. But I can’t help think about what’s next for this globe trotting family.
He seems to read my mind and offers his summation without being asked.
“The part that really gets me excited is that I have the opportunity to give back. I absolutely believe that givers gain.
First of all, I think I’m the oldest graduate assistant ever in the history of NCAA football. I’m the Tightends coach and Offensive quality control guy at the University of Hawaii. And I do it for nothing but the shwagg!! The game of Football gave me so much and now I get to give back to the game I love so much.
… Also, being a part of the Masterkeys team gives me a chance to live that mantra all the time. Mark J. is still going strong, and we expect him to for many years to come, but no one could handle all the demand for the Master Keys course alone, so he’s given me the opportunity to help facilitate, and help run this course several times a year instead of every 3 years. Being in business with Mark and Davene has been the highlight of my business life. I feel like Edwin Barnes, who worked tirelessly to be a partner of Thomas Edison, I saw this happening in my mind 10 minutes after I met them, I absolutely willed it happen.”
The wind blows a little stronger than usual and gets Parachnowitsch’s attention. “Oh man I’m going to miss the sunset … I’m going to catch a couples of waves as the sun goes down … its my favourite thing to do here. … It was great talking to you… I hope you get everything your looking for out of the course tomorrow. To be honest … its your own fault if you don’t!! We’ll see you bright and early!”
And with that, he runs like a 20 year old with his circa 1960’s White Cedar Long Board over his head, and makes a mad dash for the beach to catch the last wave of the day.
His quest to instill this love of culture and history in his children and his love for people is so clear. As I watch Jason’s silhouette move toward the ocean, I silently hope that I get the same clarity in my journey through the Master Keys … Surfs up Dude.