Born in Sacramento, California, Jay Jasper has always strived to be an active member of his local community. Jay studied Child Development and Business Administration while attending Saint Mary’s College of California. After receiving his Certification in Conflict Resolution, he pursued a professional opportunity at Turning Point Community Programs (TPCP), a mental health center focused on supporting youth and their families. For the next twenty years, Jay dedicated himself to working with and inspiring the young people he served.
While at Turning Point, he earned his Master of Science degree in Career and School Counseling and received several awards for his work with transition-aged youth. From 2005 onwards, he worked as a High School Counselor in Fairfield, Elk Grove and Auburn. He helped pilot a new program in Placer County called Big Picture Learning. The initiative helped students utilize their strengths to help them determine their future in education.
Today, Jay Jasper serves the public support sector as a Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. He helps members of his community thrive by connecting them with the resources they need to be successful. He supports his clients with disabilities become contributing members of society. Helping people achieve independence is a celebration Jay savors at every opportunity. When he is not supporting members of his community, he is spending time with friends and family.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
My younger sister has some significant disabilities. She is ninety-percent hearing impaired and is legally blind in one eye. She has never received a dime in public assistance. Despite her barriers, she has excelled as a photographer and maintains a really positive attitude. I endeavor to translate her courage and independence into other peoples’ lives and consider their unique set of circumstances so they can achieve success.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Besides working out of my office in Fair Oaks, California, I also go into schools, most of which are serving a unique population. These are kids that are not safe to have in regular public schools due to their emotional disturbance. I also have a good amount of justice involved persons on my caseload. Most live in halfway houses and transitional living while they’re on parole. We talk about strategies to get them employed while learning about the environment that brought them to such a place. My day is about meeting people where they are, both literally and in their lives.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It’s important to connect with people I respect and that I know are experts in their field. I’m fortunate to have a certain amount of freedom to implement different strategies. After getting feedback from colleagues on an idea, I put together steps to form a cohesive strategy for the people that I’m working with. So, in the end, it’s all a team effort in order to make good ideas better.
What’s one trend that excites you?
In California, having a disability, even a mental health disability, is far less stigmatized than it has previously been. Most people have someone in their family that struggles with mental health issues. As a result, this population is being embraced instead of feared. There is a lot more awareness and compassion for people that are not neurotypical. For example, in Elk Grove, there’s a youth baseball league with a Champions division, completely composed of kids with disabilities, mental or physical.
On opening day in the “Champions” Division, I noticed a tatted-up, muscle-bound guy pushing his son in a wheelchair, in a baseball uniform, to play ball just like everyone else. It made me happy to see the son having a good time. I sometimes bring my own sons out as well to prepare the fields for this division to play on. It’s all a part of making our society more inclusive.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Coffee. I am probably the champion of the Keurig coffee machine in my office, just so you know. It does help me be more productive. It keeps me energized. I always try to eat and live a healthy lifestyle. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m always improving on it and when I do, I can feel the difference.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would advise my younger self to not be anxious and have faith that life will unfold as it’s supposed to in its own time. Just let it happen. One of the things I learned in my master’s degree program and career counseling was this concept of Planned Happenstance. It’s where you put yourself out there in various situations and you just happen to meet people, or someone tells you about an opportunity and what you do with those choices. If you talk to a lot of people that look back on their career, they often point to affirm that theory and how it happened to them.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’ve had people tell me as of late that Wordle is an amazing game that I should check out because I’m good with words and grammar. However, it’s not a game that I enjoy. I did get into Words With Friends for about five years, but I don’t think I’ll be spending that much time on Wordle.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I listen to a lot of podcasts and I try to pick people that are very knowledgeable about their subject matter. I typically listen two hours a day. A couple of my favorites are Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History and Jordan B. Peterson, who is a brilliant lecturer and professor. I also enjoy listening to a retired pastor from New York named Tim Keller. I learn so much from them and am amazed on how well they articulate their points of view. It provides a lot of input I otherwise would not have gotten. It’s a continued learning experience for me and I recommend everyone give it a try, since we should never stop learning from experts.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I think a lot of it comes down to positive self-talk. Saying ‘Wow, I’m competent at these things that I do!’. I recommend that others affirm themselves, but it must be true. Beware of the nay-sayers. Positive self-talk helps you affirm your own value. It’s also important to accept feedback from people that you respect. Always stay humble; only a fool thinks there’s nothing more for him to learn.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I feel like it would be allowing myself to go into jobs that I knew were not a good fit for me. That would often translate to not excelling in those positions. It felt like fine tuning one of those old transistor radios where you have to adjust the needle until you find the station you’re looking for and it comes in loud and clear. I feel that’s what finding the right job is like and you have to trust in that process. More importantly, you need to trust your intuition when you’re in a position that’s not good for you. It can make a huge difference.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There are many opportunities to contract with the State for many services and they can be a helpful resource if you do a good job as an authorized contractor. For example, in my field, you can help people with disabilities find jobs and it can pay pretty well. And it’s not just job development, there are 20 different services that people can provide that are funded by the Department of Rehabilitation.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a couple boxes of paintballs for paintballing with my brother-in-law, kids, and my sons. It was a beautiful day of battles. The kids will probably never forget it.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
AWARE, or Accessible Web-based Activity Reporting Environment, software provides a way to keep track of what all my clients are doing and what stage of their vocational rehab process they are in. I am required to follow certain guidelines according to codes and regulations, meaning I have to follow deadlines. I need to have someone’s plan completed within 90 days of their application. It’s just really helpful to help me keep track of everything that I need to.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
There’s a book called 12 Rules for Life: Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Petersen. That book just completely changed my life. I got it on the recommendation of a colleague and from the testimonials of others who’ve experienced similar changes they were looking for. He goes into detail behind the decisions we make that can give meaning to a person’s life, in spite of the suffering that we all endure. Meaning makes the suffering bearable. It says to stand up straight, don’t let your children do things to make you dislike them, stop comparing yourself to others, tell the truth, and to pet a cat on the street when you encounter one. My life has gotten a lot better because I started following these rules.
What is your favorite quote?
Socrates once said that the secret to change is not on fighting the old, but building the new.
- Show your compassion in your actions.
- Listen to your instincts.
- Meet people where they are.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, you might be surprised by what you learn from them.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.