Justin Owings found me on Twitter due to our shared interest and passion in Vibram Five Finger Shoes and paleo/evolutionary fitness. We ended up chatting more and found more mutual interests — he was involved in the Ron Paul campaign in Georgia and helped design very cool t-shirts to help spread the word and interested in seasteading. He also manages financial media websites that are helping to spread the message on the real reasons for the economic crisis and housing bubble.
Justin is also a very forward-thinking and creative guy and, I think, will be a future player in the movement. Below is my interview with him.
Q: Justin, what causes do you care most deeply about?
Generally, I want people (myself included!) to have fulfilling, healthy, and free lives. That may sound a bit peace-on-earth-y, but it’s hard for me to imagine a better world than one inhabited by happy, fit, and autonomous human beings. What I like about my “cause” is that it is one that is inherently decentralized, has no single solution, and can be furthered over a cup of coffee. At it’s core, the idea is about getting in touch with what it means to be human. But that’s another discussion.
Q: What is your day job when you aren’t volunteering to create cool graphics for nonprofits or for the causes you believe in? Do you consider that your passion/life’s mission?
By day I manage a few financial media websites all involved with the ongoing economic calamity that began in late 2006. These sites are collectively branded with the “Implode-o-meter” logo. I wouldn’t consider dispersing information on the latest imploded banks, hedge funds, home builders, and lenders a life mission, but it’s been the most interesting and fun job I’ve ever had. It’s also enabled me to learn more about both entrepreneurship and the Internet.
Q: What is most rewarding about what you are doing in your life?
As bizarre as it may seem, the most rewarding work in my life right now (completely ignoring the fact that I’m about to be a dad) is spreading the word about the coolest footwear invented since … ever: Vibram fivefingers. I do this via a fan site called birthdayshoes.com. The great part about this pet project (A pro bono labor of love at this point!) is that it, in a roundabout way, gets people in touch with their humanity through their feet. The realization that you can run and play outside barefoot as an adult — it’s a freeing experience. And it opens the door to other revelations about health and movement, which gets back to my original overarching goal of healthier and happier individuals.
Q: As a younger version of yourself (child - teenage years) were you interested in “creating” or “doing”? Anecdotes?
I was always into art as a kid. I think the first t-shirt I designed was in fourth grade, but I was doing various forms of “art” before that. I’ve lost track, but I’ve designed a number of tshirts for organizations ranging from schools to churches to emerging institutes working to create new frontiers (i.e. the Seasteading Institute!). And of course, I’m into creating websites. My first website was on AOL back around 1995. It was not-so-creatively titled “The Owings Brothers Page,” and was adorned with probably ten links and a handful of animated GIFs. Thankfully, that page wasn’t archived publicly. It was atrocious.
Q: What are some of your most influential books or thinkers? And why?
Recently, I’ve been stuck on the ideas put forth by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan (and Fooled by Randomness). I’m fascinated by how humans have a tendency to want to oversimplify, centralize, and control things that are incredibly complex and dynamic. Taleb is the poster child of this idea.
Though I do not consider myself an Objectivist, I confess to being first snapped awake by Ayn Rand’s works (The Fountainhead being the pivotal read for me). Rand was the first author to frame human beings as autonomous individuals.
Q: What advice can you give to artists that are looking for an outlet for their creativity?
Keep trying different things until you find stuff that works. But once you’ve mastered what works, try something else (you don’t want to get into a rut!). Also, if you’re struggling with being creative, I always find it helps to have a few parameters that constrain my creativity. It’s strange, but placing limits on what I can create tends to focus my attention.
Finally, it helps to have a goal or purpose behind your art. Are you trying to push an idea? Present an emotion? Capture a perspective? Or maybe you’re just trying to make people laugh. Art for art’s sake can be interesting and even fun but don’t expect people to care about it.
Note: He and his wife just completed their “Project Aminowings” and just had their first baby — a girl! Justin pictured with li’l Aviana, a future liberty-lover.
And out of curiosity, are there any other movement people out there with Vibram Five Fingers? If so, give a shout-out in the comment section.