Have you scrolled through your Facebook feed lately? It can be so … negative. Mommy wars. Political acrimony. Bullying. In a world that can be so negative and discouraging, Ohioan Jason Tharp is pure positivity. Tharp is the very definition of a self-made man, rewriting his own story into something truly outstanding. From a childhood fraught with bullying to an adulthood filled with self-doubt, Tharp has taken all the negative and spun it into something positive. And with The Wonder Plan, he’s challenging everyone to do the same.
Cincinnati Parent spoke to Tharp about what drove him to start The Wonder Plan, how he overcame adversity and why kindness matters.
You’re an illustrator, public speaker and author of several kids’ books. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a storyteller. Of course, knowing at age 6 exactly what I wanted to be made me different from my peers. And I was already an easy target, being overweight, with big glasses and hand-me-down clothes.
How did you overcome bullying?
It took years of eating my feelings — and believing that I was worthless — to get to the bottom where I had my moment of clarity. One day, after my wife had dried my jeans and I couldn’t get them on, I asked myself, “What if all the stories I’ve been telling myself aren’t true?” That moment of wonder is what eventually led me to lose weight and chase my dreams.
I talk a lot to kids about the power of words, of just being kind. You will be connected, feel needed and feel happy in helping or being helped by another.
How did The Wonder Plan begin?
After leaving the corporate world, there were three business ventures that ultimately failed, leaving me with a ton of debt, ruined relationships and almost broke in 2017. I always knew I wanted to move to speaking, and knew what I had to do to make my dreams a reality. I made amends with my former business partners and flew to New York with $20 in my pocket, my back against the wall and the mentality that I couldn’t take no for an answer. I ended up signing a book deal and launching The Wonder Plan from there. [Last fall] I spoke to more than 15,000 kids in schools all across the greater Columbus region.
How can people rewrite their stories? Why is this an important part of The Wonder Plan’s mission?
Everyone – even adults – can rewrite their stories. Adults can get stuck in a rut, and forget the aspirations and passions they had as a kid. Reconnecting with that, and doing something to channel those things, is key. Did you want to be a dancer as a kid? It’s not about quitting your job and doing something radical. Just taking a dance class to reconnect with that can make such a difference.
For kids, it’s important for them to know they can be whatever they want to be, even if it’s not a doctor, a lawyer, a sports star. Do you want to be a carpenter? Cool! Be the best carpenter you can be. It’s so empowering for kids to realize they can be whatever they want — and whatever they want to be is so cool!
How can people support The Wonder Plan?
We recently launched Dreams Live Here, a webstore which sells shirts and mugs I’ve designed, all with messages that are empowering. A portion of each sale goes toward Dreamcatcher, our campaign that helps others chase their dreams. Starting this September, we’ll be asking for dream submissions, and the funds from the Dreamcatcher will be used to help others chase their dreams.
Jason Tharp is proof positive that one person can affect positive change. (And if one person can do that, imagine what we could all do together!) Interested in bringing Jason’s message to your school? Email [email protected]. And be sure to follow The Wonder Plan (@thewonderplan) on Facebook for a daily dose of positivity … and never stop wondering!