How I Overcame Homelessness Twice to Become a Billionaire
Even when the outlook looks bleak, the entrepreneur says, remember to give back.
John Paul DeJoria is the co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems, today the largest privately held salon hair care line, and Patron Spirits Company, along with a number of other business ventures. He is a first- generation American turned entrepreneur, philanthropist, and pillar of the business community. Once homeless, he has struggled against the odds to achieve success, launching multiple global enterprises, while always supporting his motto, “Success Unshared is Failure.”
In 2011, he signed Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s “The Giving Pledge” as a formal promise to continue giving back. He dedicates a significant portion of his wealth to a variety of environmentalist and humanitarian causes.
John Paul has been profiled for his corporate and philanthropic initiatives across a multitude of media outlets including 20/20, CNN, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., and Fox, Fox Business News, Bloomberg, CNBC and NBC, and recently appeared as a mentor for budding entrepreneurs via a guest shark appearance on Shark Tank.
John Paul Dejoria: A lot of people ask how I got into donating to various causes, and how I got involved in even homelessness along the way, and popped out of it—well it's a very interesting story. My mom has a lot to do with it.
At six years old we didn't have any money; there was my mother, my brother and I. We had a deadbeat dad; left us before we were two, but she took us at Christmas-time to downtown Los Angeles. We had little cars going around in circles, it was pretty cool, and decorations in the window.
She gave my brother and I a dime and told us, "Boys whole half of it each, give it to the man ringing the bell in the bucket." We put it in this bucket, we said, "Mom, why did we give that man a dime? That's like two soda pops." This is 1951, two soda pops, three candy bars.
And mom said, "Boys, that's the Salvation Army. They take care of people that have no place to live and no food. And we don't have a lot of money, but we can afford a dime this year. Boys, always remember in life: give a little something to those in need, they'll always be somebody that's not as well-off as you are. No matter where you are or how far down you are, try and help someone along the way." It stuck with me.
The first time I was homeless I was 22-and-a-half years older and I had a two-and-a-half year old son. I was working as the Master of Ceremonies at the Second Annual Sports Vacation Recreational Vehicle Show and I had a check coming in at the end of the week.
Well, I came home and I drove our one car up to where we lived and as I was getting out of the car and going up towards our apartment door my wife—we were very young, we got married at 20 and 19 years old—my wife was coming down the stairs and she said, "I'm going to storage," and she took the keys. By the time I got through the door I saw my little boy, two and a half years old, kind of just sitting there on top of a pile of clothes with a note that basically said, “I can't handle being a mom anymore. He'll be much better off with you. Good luck.”
Now, what I didn't know also was that she had planned this for a few months. She had not paid the rent for a few months and kept the money and I didn't know that. She wiped out what little we had in the savings account in the bank and took the only car we had. So unbeknownst to me, two days later I was evicted—completely evicted, power shut off, the landlord—she just really timed this one. And I had this little kid with me, two-and-a-half years old, and now I had to be mom and dad and that was really a bummer, I had no car! So I ended up borrowing a 1951 Cadillac with a broken water pump from someone that was very, very dear, had to put water in it every four hours, and that's kind of how we got going.
Second time I was homeless is when I started John Paul Mitchell Systems. I knew I needed $500,000 to start John Paul Mitchell Systems, had to have that. So we had the backer lined up, I had a good job at the time, lived in a nice house, and I left everything I had because $500,000 was coming down the street, I was going to start a company. So I left it all behind. I left what money I had with my wife—we weren't getting along well at all—and the best car. And I took the older car—it was a good one but an older car, it ran good—down the hill to get my money.
I would check into an efficiency hotel because I would be traveling a lot and eventually get an apartment. When I went down the hill the backer pulled out. No money.
Well, it was later that afternoon that a friend of mind found me and said, "John Paul, please call Dick Holthouse direct collect in England. He doesn't have the best news for you." So I got a hold of him, for him it was the wee hours of the morning, and he said, "J.P., the backer pulled out."
The reason he pulled out was, inflation in the United States was 12 and a half percent, unemployment ten percent, actually over ten percent, interest rates if you could get a loan prime rate was 17 percent interest and we still had hostages in Iran and we waited in line for gasoline. That was the environment in 1980 and 1981.
Well there I was, a few hundred dollars in my pocket, too proud to ask my mother if I could have my old room back in the home and she could feed me for a couple of months until I got back on my feet, and I just left my living situation. I was too proud. Stupid, but very, very proud. So I went by and saw my mom and I borrowed a couple hundred dollars from her. I said, "Mom, I'll give it back to you." She said, "Son, you're doing really well in life. Why do you need a few hundred dollars?"
I said, "Mom, I'll give it back to you. I'm starting something new." And that's when I decided I'm going to make it on my own; I'm not going to tell her; lived in my car; showered down at Griffith Park because they had a sports center with showers in it, and learned how to live off very little and go ahead and sell products door to door.
When I was homeless, on my mind was not “Oh my god how did I get here? Who's to blame on this?”
What was in my mind was “Okay,” after I cried a little with a two and a half year old son not knowing what to do, no money no nothing, my first thought was, “Okay, I need to get some money, I don't want to go to my mom's house and tell her how bad things are, I need to get money to eat. And—what sources of money? We don't have any money. So I went around collecting soda pop bottles from empty lots. And at that time a grocery store or any liquor store would give you two cents for a little one and five cents for a big one. I went around and collected a lot of them, cash them in and that's how we got the money. And so we were able to eat.
Now, when I got evicted out of the house three days later, this was when I was 22 and a half years old when I was completely evicted, now we have that car I had borrowed to live in and we went more towards fast foods that were halfway prepared for you, those were the early days of fast food, just to eat. A few days later a friend of mine found me because he knew I was hanging out, talked to some friends of mine named Lee Myer. And Lee said, "Johnny, I've got a house with an extra room." He was a biker, a real heavy duty biker, and he says, "You and your son can live here until you get on your feet. No problem. We could have some of the biker mamas take care of your son while you're working. Let's move on. We're buddies." And that was a big helping hand.
I think whether you have money or don't have money it's very important to give back. Because it's we the people, the individuals that make the planet better, so that this doesn't happen again and makes it better for other people. It's we the people.
If we don't help others out and people start going down, then what do we expect as future customers or future people to help us out if we were in trouble?
So I feel that every human being has the obligation: pay a little bit of rent for being on this planet, to do something good for their city or their state or their country or even the world to make it a better place to live.
Now, if you don't have any money, it's okay: you can volunteer like I do when I didn't have any money at Thanksgiving, Christmas up at Griffith Park in California, helping feed the homeless or do something to help somebody else out to make the world a better place to live.
Now, who benefits by this? Whenever you do something for somebody else and ask absolutely nothing in return you get the greatest high you could ever have in your life, and it makes you more connected with the whole planet.
Now, does this work in business? It sure does. When people in a business work in creative activities together to give back they feel one of a bigger picture opposed to just somebody that's doing a little something.
A lot of people think they have to give huge amounts of money to make the impact. Well, I would disagree with them. Because I remember back with my mom, we had almost nothing, knew the importance of giving two little boys a dime to put in the bucket because she knows dimes became many dimes, many dollars and many $10 bills, but every little bit gives back, every little bit. So no matter how little you give or how little of your time you donate, you've done a little something. That little something makes a difference.
John Paul Dejoria has had a rough ride to the top. Yet being homeless twice and being abandoned by his wife early on didn't shake his drive to make it in this word, and he's managed to turn an admittedly difficult hand into a royal flush. These days he's a billionaire several times over with a successful Paul Mitchell haircare line and even a founding stake in Patron tequila brand. So how did he maintain motivation? He remembered giving a dime to the Salvation Army as a boy, and how his mother told him that those dimes add up and can really help people. This lesson directly helped him overcome a period early in his career where he was collecting bottle caps to get money to eat.GOOD FORTUNE, a documentary based on John Paul's life, is available on all digital platforms on August 1st.
Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
The rites we give to the dead help us understand what it takes to go on living.
As the coronavirus pandemic hit New York in March, the death toll quickly went up with few chances for families and communities to perform traditional rites for their loved ones.
Shannon Lee shares lessons from her father in her new book, "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
- Bruce Lee would have turned 80 years old on November 27, 2020. The legendary actor and martial artist's daughter, Shannon Lee, shares some of his wisdom and his philosophy on self help in a new book titled "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
- In this video, Shannon shares a story of the fight that led to her father beginning a deeper philosophical journey, and how that informed his unique expression of martial arts called Jeet Kune Do.
- One lesson passed down from Bruce Lee was his use and placement of physical symbols as a way to help "cement for yourself this new way of being, or this new lesson you've learned." By working on ourselves (with the right tools), we can develop the skills necessary to rise and conquer new challenges.
Philosopher Nick Bostrom's "singleton hypothesis" predicts the future of human societies.
- Nick Bostrom's "singleton hypothesis" says that intelligent life on Earth will eventually form a "singleton".
- The "singleton" could be a single government or an artificial intelligence that runs everything.
- Whether the singleton will be positive or negative depends on numerous factors and is not certain.
Want to Retain American Jobs? Stop Blaming Globalization<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="oxK8j1xN" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="2cf425d7b91ed2a6fc4fe19d065f3408"> <div id="botr_oxK8j1xN_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/oxK8j1xN-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/oxK8j1xN-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/oxK8j1xN-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
How to deal with "epistemic exhaustion."