Life After High School: Interview with Jason Mann

Today’s interview with Jason Mann is part of my ongoing blog-to-book project: Life After High School: Secrets To A Successful Life By Those Who Have Had Twenty Years To Think About It (or) What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. If you missed the last post, click here, otherwise, you can start at the beginning here.

Jason Mann

Anacortes, WA

My Life In High School

Jason Mann AHS 1996

Who were you in High School and how did you feel about it?

I was me. I don’t think I was ever trying to be someone else. I seemed to pretty much fit in with everyone in the school. I was never much of a partier, never sought out being a popular kid or needed to stand out. I was always keen to just do work behind the scenes and work within a group to get the work done.

What did you think your life would become when you graduated?

I guess I never really thought too much about my life other than what NOT to do. Don’t get married young, don’t have kids early. I figured that life would go pretty smoothly if I just didn’t make those choices. Just get a good job and go with the flow. Establish myself, and be independent. Then worry about relationships and family after that’s done.

I did figure I’d be pretty well established around 30, get married, and then have kids. No wife or kids yet, but I did have many more adventures abroad than I ever dreamed of.

My Life After High School

Jason Mann

What happened in your life to you, for you, and by you in the last twenty years (how have you used your time and who have you become)?

I guess it’s pretty weird that I never really had big aspirations in life. Of course, there’s always things that would be nice to see or experience, but nothing that was a big compelling desire. No “I must scale Everest” desires.

After High School, I went to Skagit for a couple years in a very half-assed fashion. Stopped fooling myself and wasting my time there when I got the job at the factory. After about a couple years, I got the urge to go back to school and thought I’d try the Art Institute of Seattle. After finding out what that place was all about, it pretty much dissuaded me from any more schooling. I went back to factory and got my old gig back.

Worked in production for a good few years, just being the smartest and hardest worker I could. Slowly worked my way through different positions in the factory and learning all the jobs available. Once I was finally able to break out of production and do fabrication, it didn’t take long before I had an opportunity at doing quality inspection/testing. This is the gig that pretty much opened up my world.

While I was just working hard, in my personal life, I had friends come and go. They’d get married, have kids, some got divorced. All the time, I was pretty steady with staying single and having no kids.

This lack of attachments around the home allowed me to be available at a moment’s notice to take off for my company and do some traveling as my job was starting to require. I used to have to go to Huntington Beach a few times a year to break some large ropes. I’d do customer training for splicing of our lines. I’d fly off to do on-site inspections of customer’s ropes in service and even re-splice lines for customer jobs. My first international trip was to Alesund, Norway. Once I discovered that I could very easily get around in a foreign country that the language is so alien, I never really had any concerns about international travel ever again.

Around 2009, I finally went back to Skagit to finish up something that had been bugging me. Even though I’d graduated HS, I never did take the full requirements for foreign language. So I took a year’s worth of classes and finally learned French. This actually came in handy as I was flown to Aberdeen, Scotland for a day’s worth of work. I figured while I was there, I’d take some personal time and go check out London and Paris.

Work has sent me to Scotland, Norway, Germany, The Netherlands, Mexico, Quebec, and less exotic places such as Wyoming, Alabama, New Mexico, California, and Texas. My personal travels have taken me all the way to Massachusetts on a Greyhound, England, France, Switzerland, Belgium. I’ve visited Harvard, seen the Amish eat at Burger King, had a beer at the Giger Bar in Switzerland (and seen the museum), gotten a haircut from a Scotsman on a ship in drydock in Mobile, out-drank Germans, and driven 200 kph on an unrestricted section of Autobahn in the equivalent of a Jetta diesel wagon. One year, I made 6 trips across the Atlantic.

Around 5 years ago, I figured I should probably start slowing down and look into growing up. I took a desk job as management and bought a house. Ever since then, things have been pretty steady. I’m much more of a homebody. I like quiet evenings at home and having people over for game day. I’ll host movie nights and am right back to that quiet life I always expected.

And, as a goof, I became an ordained minister online.

My Life Lessons

What were the major life lessons and wisdom that you gained during your journey over the last 20 years?

Happiness is eating a donut, satisfaction is looking in the mirror and admiring the way you look/feel because you didn’t eat the donut. I’d rather pursue satisfaction than happiness.

When people give you advice or judge you, it is them seeing your life through the lens of theirs. Always take that with a grain of salt as you’re the only one that knows what make sense to you.

Do no harm. Then do whatever you enjoy most as often as you can.

I once misread an airline ticket I had when I needed to fly from Bremen, Germany to Alesund, Norway and that flight is only once a day. I was able to get there 2 hours later. Sure, it cost me 1300 euros, but there’s ALWAYS another flight. Don’t stress too much.

The key to preventing jet lag: Drink until you’re tired, sleep until you’re thirsty.

If someone asks if you’re a god, say “yes”.

It’s okay to be the smartest person in the room. It’s not okay to tell everyone.

Letter To My High School Self

If you could write your 18-year-old self (or however old you were when you graduated) a letter, and send it back in time, what would you say? What lessons, wisdom, encouragement, or warnings would you give yourself?

Money doesn’t bring happiness—options do. Do whatever you can to give yourself the most options in life possible. Then, you can always change your life’s direction anytime you aren’t satisfied.


At The Upfront Theater with friends


In the next post, I will continue with more great interviews, like this one with Jon Lemberg.

Are you from Generation X? I want to hear what you think! Please comment below and participate in the conversation about What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. What do you wish someone told you when you were eighteen?

About the author

Featured in CNN Money Edition, Jesse Stoddard’s primary aim is to make his mark in the world by exploring new ideas, enhancing collaboration and cooperation with teams, and working in his unique ability, which is transferring infectious enthusiasm, taking action, and loving people in order to gather and connect with others to pursue a bigger, brighter future.

Jesse’s mission is to make good bolder with his writing and art, to serve God, and in such a way that he illuminates truth, shines a humorous light on our human imperfections, and reminds us all to be humble while pointing us to what’s right.