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Daily Inspiration: Meet Jonathan Blank

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jonathan Blank.

Hi Jonathan, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
When I was a kid, my dad gave me his old film camera which I used to shoot little movies, and that got me interested in visual storytelling. I decided to make documentaries because someone told me it was the best way to get rich. I’ve come to realize that this is not so. But documentaries are a great way to show people different viewpoints and alternative realities, and I love doing it.

My work in documentary filmmaking led me to see how important it is that people have access to information and the ability to analyze its validity and relevance. While I was researching a project on education, I learned that 2 out of 3 kids in the US fail to achieve proficiency in reading (according to the Department of Education – and yes, that is not a typo, it’s 2 out of 3!). This led me to create the Reading Kingdom online reading program. It uses a unique approach to address the shortcomings of traditional literacy methods — while Phonics teaches kids how to say words, Reading Kingdom teaches kids what words say. It’s a crucial difference.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It’s been as smooth as silk … if you consider that 20,000 silkworms are boiled alive to make a yard of the stuff. I’ve chosen to work on projects outside of the mainstream systems that are in place and that’s always challenging. But it’s also really rewarding because I get to work on exactly what I want, live my life the way I want, and wake up every morning whenever my cats decide it’s time for me to wake up, and you can’t buy that kind of freedom.

If I had to narrow down what the main challenges have been, I’d say it’s probably been everything. When you’re independent you raise the money, create the projects and then figure out how best to distribute them to the world. But these challenges have also been opportunities for me to think more creatively, learn new skills and develop and grow as a person.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I think what really sets me apart from others are my multi-colored shoes – and other people will confirm this. Additionally, as one film critic said, my work tends to “challenge people to examine their freedoms and limitations” and to expand their consciousnesses and the way they perceive the world. We’re at a critical juncture in human history. Anthropogenic climate change and ignorance threaten the viability of life on earth, and it’s not clear how things are going to go. On the one hand, humanity has a tremendous amount of knowledge, creativity and resources available that could move us into a new age of enlightenment. But on the other hand, people put pineapple on pizza. It’s terrifying.

What would you say have been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
Turn off the TV.

Read more.
Focus on the things that bring you joy.
And never pay retail.
(I know that’s more than one, but I hope you let it slide.)

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