Jared Smith is a student at Central Washington University and when he is not in class he is traveling around to speak on the importance of love. He also runs a company called Project Love People that is on a mission to remind the others that in the stress and hatred of the world what really matters is to GROW MINDS. HAVE FUN. and LOVE PEOPLE.
We talk with Jared about what it means to Grow Minds, Have Fun, and Love People, how love is an intentional choice, and the importance of being intentional when it comes to relationships.
“I think that idea of love is really that intentional choice of putting someone above yourself... that word agape, a Greek word, from that root, which is really that unconditional, putting someone above yourself.”
— Jared Smith
- John: Welcome to the CharacterStrong Podcast where we have conversations on school, culture, and leadership. Today we're talking with Jared Smith. Jared is a member of the CharacterStrong Speaker Squad and is a student at Central Washington University. When he's not in class, he is traveling around to speak on the importance of love. He also runs a company called Project Love People that is on a mission to remind others that in the stress and hatred of the world what really matters is to grow minds, have fun, and love people. Let's get CharacterStrong with Jared Smith.
- John: All right. It is so awesome to have Jared Smith on the CharacterStrong Podcast. Welcome.
- Jared: Good morning. Thank you so much. Happy to be here.
- John: Jared, you're on the show because you're doing amazing work in multiple areas. One, you've got Project Love People. You could talk about that a little bit, as well as you are speaking. You're speaking in schools, and you are also a part of our CharacterStrong Speaker Squad where you are in line with the message of CharacterStrong and going out to help provide that for schools as another touch point, a way that we can continue this message because we know we need to be reminded more than we need to be taught. So tell me a little bit first, when you go into a school, what are you talking about? What's your message?
- Jared: Absolutely. So my capital T truth, if you will, which by that I mean that main focus, that why, that purpose behind everything I'm doing is to grow minds, have fun, and love people. Each of those is in different segments. Grow minds, meaning to expand the way I think, also expanding the way other people think. The root of that is to never go in to change somebody's mind. I think as soon as you enter any kind of conversation or relationship where you're trying to change somebody's mind, you might as well just not open your mouth. The second part of that is to have fun. I think within this work sometimes it can get stressful and it can get hard to work on developing our leadership, developing influence, and most of all developing character. But that constant reminder, that intentional reminder to slow down, relax a little bit, and enjoy the moment that we're in.
- Jared: The third part of that is as simple as it gets, to love people. I think we look at the climate of the world that's going on right now. I mean, you pull out your phone, you scroll through social media, you see it. So that reminder to focus on love above anything is really the main message above all of that.
- John: Love it. With each one of those, and I think about you were going through those and at the end it's like, man, when you think about today's current state and how important it is that we understand how to love people, it's not just like, "Oh, love." Well, what does that actually mean? How do you go a little bit deeper with that concept that can seem so big? They give us one word, for example, in the English language. So I could say I love coffee and in the same day say I love my wife, not always the same thing. How do you introduce that to students, this big concept about going a little bit deeper with love?
- Jared: Absolutely. I love that you pointed out the idea of a big concept. I think that's part of the beauty and that's part of the focus of my message is to keep it broad and wide because I think it makes it very accessible to any audience, to any person. But to go a little deeper with that, like you said, I think that idea of love is really that intentional choice of putting someone above yourself and obviously heard it over and over, at least in schools and the leadership community that I've been in is that word agape, a Greek word, from that root, which is really that unconditional, putting someone above yourself. I think by having that frame personally where it's broad, it's wide, I think it's a great point because it allows anybody to tap into that.
- Jared: Because sometimes when we go too quick and we jump into these big leadership concepts or these big words of influence and all these different character traits, it can push off some certain kids. They don't want to dive into that kind of knowledge, that kind of research. But by opening it up wide, you can pull in everybody and then start to dig a little bit deeper.
- John: Love it. When I think about even then that messaging, and I love how if you're going to go into schools, having those three key pieces that you keep coming back to. We talk about how relevant right now in today's current climate loving people is, but also the other ones. I mean, all three are incredibly relevant, the idea of how do we even go to have civil discourse or I'm going to try to change your mind. Well, how often does that work versus growing minds? I love that. How needed. As well as in a world that is so sometimes serious right now, as well as so go, go, go, how important is that message of having fun, being present in the moment, those pieces?
- John: So I guess one of the things I'd love in these shorter podcasts maybe to go is what's the best part of going into speaking? Because I know one of the main reasons besides how skilled you are, is how passionate you are. That goes hand in hand. You got to have both. You can be passionate and not be a very good speaker. And yet, recently something happened that doesn't happen very often, and that is an unsolicited response I got. You were in a school. Principal, on their own, reached out to me just to talk about how you had his middle school, all seven-plus hundred of them in the palm of your hand. That's got to feel pretty good, delivering that. Talk to me just about what's the best part of going into schools delivering that message in front of a student body?
- Jared: Absolutely. I think the best part of speaking is actually the part where I'm not speaking.
- John: That's awesome.
“...I think social media breeds greed, ego, and hatred. when in reality what really matters is to love people. I think it's so important now because I think a lot of the messages that are pushed, whether intentionally or unintentionally by social media, by social figures, by these so-called social influencers is this idea that it's all about me...I would love to push myself to that climate if that means I can broaden that audience and shift those tides from this, "It's social media, it's all about me," to "let's focus on the people that are just five feet in front of our face."
— Jared Smith
- Jared: I think that's got to be my favorite, especially at some recent schools, being able to get an opportunity to just walk around the campus, walk around that school, and see what's going on in and interact with kids. There's been a couple opportunities now at different events, where just hanging out at lunch and connecting with kids, and especially at that middle school level, can be a lot of fun. But any school I'm in is how intentional can I be to make someone else feel like they matter? I'm learning more and more to recognize that I am on a certain level of platform and I am on a certain level of influence just by being that person that walks into school and gets handed the mic and is now in front of the school and learning how to deal with that and not let it go to my head, not an ego standpoint, but rather this is an opportunity for me to make someone's day even better and even a little more than maybe somebody else in that school can.
- Jared: So that intentional piece of before I'm onstage, before I'm in the gym, afterwards, trying to just meet and reach as many kids as I can. I think along with that, I'm at a blessing because I am so small where I am right now, just a few schools here and just trying to grow a little bit. But that gives me the opportunity to respond to everybody. So every one of those messages I get, every one of those conversations I can have, I can really be intentional about how I'm going about those and continue connecting. Definitely the best part has to be about speaking is the not speaking part.
- John: Yeah, the relational pieces that happen. That principal mentioned that as well, seeing you in the lunch room interacting with the students, then being able to connect with you, and how that was a powerful part of that overall experience with you. I love that you identified that. So thinking about this, maybe two parts at the end, one, why is this message so needed right now? I mean, it wasn't that long ago that you were in high school. You're out now. You're in college. You're also out speaking quite a bit. You're in tune with that need of a teenager, young person today. Why is this message so needed right now?
- Jared: Absolutely. What I always say is I think society, I think social media breeds greed, ego, and hatred. when in reality what really matters is to love people. I think it's so important now because I think a lot of the messages that are pushed, whether intentionally or unintentionally by social media, by social figures, by these so-called social influencers is this idea that it's all about me. I got to look cool. I need the right clothes. I need to go to the right places, the right dates, and all these different things. It confuses so many people, especially at a young age because we're now seeing younger and younger kids are on social media and we're following these YouTube celebrities who are not making the best decisions. And so I think especially being so young and just out of high school, just getting started in college is I can connect very easily.
- Jared: I don't have to push too hard to get that connection, where it's all of a sudden I can now make instead of the social influencer world and these bad decisions cool, but it's now that idea of loving people, that idea of being kind is now the cool thing to do. So I think as much as I focus on myself being more of a positive influence and not a celebrity, in many ways it's like I would love to push myself to that climate if that means I can broaden that audience and shift those tides from this, "It's social media, it's all about me," to let's focus on the people that are just five feet in front of our face.
- John: Absolutely. Well said. Schools can book you. They can book you even from the characterstrong.com website, requesting you. My guess is your calendar is going to be filling up fast this fall. But Jared Smith, maybe real quick to end today, how can people connect with you and in that bring in that Project Love People, which is a way that they can connect with even the message, the vision that you're taking forward?
- Jared: Absolutely. Moving forward you can definitely find me on CharacterStrong as well as my own organization that I'm working on, which is called Project Love People. You can check that out at projectlovepeople.com, as well as social. Instagram is Project Love People, just an easy way there to get connected. Again, that going back to being so small, making those one-on-one connections, would love to get anywhere I can to serve and help and build that calendar as we keep going. But definitely check out Project Love People. There's a couple other factors that play into that as well that I'm working on. So I would love anybody's help, anybody's support. Let's keep building and growing together.
- John: Awesome. I love it. If someone is looking for someone to come in with a passionate, purposeful, meaningful message to your school, your students, Jared is going to be out there. He's doing amazing work. Thank you for being on the show with us today, and thank you for the work you're doing every single day.
- Jared: Thank you so much for having me. Grow minds, have fun, love people, man.
- John: Thank you for listening to the CharacterStrong Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, feel free to share on your social media. Please rate, review, and make sure to subscribe for future episodes on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play. To learn more about Character Strong and how we are supporting schools, visit characterstrong.com. Thanks for listening. Make it a great day.
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The CharacterStrong Team is a partnership of educators, speakers, and students who believe in creating sustainable change in schools and helping young people develop the skills of service, kindness, and empathy.