Interview with Jeremy C. Park (@jeremycpark)

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Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? 

My life and career have always been focused on helping others and a mission to power the GOOD. Growing up in a small town outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas, my parents had and continue to have an open-door policy where, at any hour of the day and night, individuals and families would come over to our house if they were dealing with a difficult situation, like the loss of a job, a divorce, or depression. My younger brother and I got to see, at a young age, the power of being there for others and how those moments of caring led to long-lasting relationships that opened doors for new opportunities and adventures that were a direct result of those moments built by people helping people. 

I wrote about it in my second book, Giving for Growth, but I realized three truths at an early age: 1) People physically solve problems; 2) People provide opportunities for people; and 3) Giving leads to growth. I realized that while money is an important resource, a dollar bill does not physically solve a single problem….people do. If we want to see the change, we have to be willing to be the change and physically be there for others, like my parents. Then, people are the catalysts who will provide opportunities in life and career. No matter what company you work for or even as an entrepreneur, somebody will give you a chance, invest in you, or help you get where you want to go. So, the more we help others and serve, the more our attitude is positive, the more people we’ll meet and the more opportunities will come our way, which is the intersection of the first two truths and leads you to the third, which is that giving leads to growth…personally, professionally, and spiritually. So, I’ve built my career on these fundamental truths that I learned at a young age.

 Over the last twelve years, I’ve taken my experiences in media, marketing, communications, philanthropy, and events to combine them into a powerful opportunity to make a difference. I’m the CEO and architect behind cityCURRENT, which is a privately-funded catalyst working in the Mid-South (Memphis area) and Middle Tennessee (Nashville area). cityCURRENT is a partnership of more than 100 companies, including some of the world’s largest employers, like FedEx, AutoZone, Kroger, and Verizon, along with mid-size and smaller companies that have joined forces and funds to host free community events (187 in Memphis in 2019 and 186 in Nashville in 2019), produce and share positive media, and give back to support nonprofits financially and through volunteerism. So, my world is media, corporate social responsibility, events, marketing, and philanthropy all designed to lift the community. 

On the media side alone, I host and produce two TV shows, host another TV show, host and produce two different radio shows, write a weekly newspaper column, host and produce a podcast, have written two books, speak regularly, and contribute to Forbes. Everything I do now and all of these opportunities has been the result of relationships that I built on the three fundamentals and truths that I learned from my parents and growing up with an open door policy. 

My first book, Giving Back with Purpose, was released in 2013 by Main Street Books; and my second, Giving for Growth, was first released in 2015 with an updated edition released in 2017. Both books focus on achieving success in career and life while helping others and benefiting the community in the process. Proceeds from both books benefit youth literacy programs. 

Since 2010, I’ve authored a weekly “Giving Back” column, which is published each Sunday in the Memphis newspaper, The Commercial Appeal. I produce and host a weekly radio show that airs on all four Cumulus Media Memphis stations and a show that airs on all five Cumulus Media Nashville stations; the ChangeMakers podcast; a monthly television show on PBS’s WKNO, called The SPARK; and annual televised awards show, called The SPARK Awards. I also host the television show “A Conversation With,” which airs across the PBS network in Tennessee and profiles figures like NASA astronauts and Shark Tank investors.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started doing this? 

There have been so many amazing moments in my career that it’s hard to narrow down to one, especially when you consider I’ve had an opportunity to work with entertainment icons like Merv Griffin, running his celebrity tennis tournaments when I was the Head Tennis Professional at Beverly Hills Country Club, and then have someone like Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes, write an endorsement for my second book. It’s been an honor becoming friends with people like a movie producer and philanthropist Tom Shadyac, Moira Forbes from Forbes, Leland Melvin the NASA Astronaut, Kevin Harrington from Shark Tank, Ben Nemtin from MTV’s Buried Life, Dr. Jen Welter, who was the first woman to become an NFL coach and so many other changemakers.

 Someone who has become a big part of my life and a dear friend as a result of our efforts is Manny Ohonme, founder and CEO of Samaritan’s Feet. We invited Manny to speak at our cityCURRENT Signature Breakfast back in 2010 and we were so inspired by his mission and efforts that we committed to teaming with him and his organization to host shoe distributions in our community. Samaritan’s Feet (samaritansfeet.org) is a nonprofit that works in over 75 countries to provide new shoes to the 1.5 billion people worldwide who currently face foot-born infection and diseases. To date, the organization has distributed more than 7.5 million shoes; but the most heart-warming part is that volunteers wash the feet of the recipients and share love and prayers for a bright future. 

We’ve now hosted Samaritan’s Feet Shoe Distributions in Memphis since 2010 and started hosting them in Nashville in 2019, as well. Over the years, we’ve served thousands of youth, and it’s truly a blessing. As a team, we work to underwrite the costs and organize the events, then invite the community to participate for free. We’ll have hundreds of adult volunteers and countless corporate partners participate; and it’s a tremendously moving experience when both the kids and adult volunteers walk out saying it was the best day of their lives.

A while back, we hosted a shoe distribution with Las Americas in Memphis and were able to provide new socks and shoes to about 600 kids. One of the kids was a young girl, and it happened to be her birthday. She had never received a gift for her birthday, and our shoes became that gift, along with our singing “Happy Birthday.” Moments like that are what truly warm my heart and make everything I do worthwhile.

 My wife and I have personally served with Samaritan’s Feet and participated in shoe distributions from coast to coast, from California to Florida. Adopting Samaritan’s Feet gives us and our company a higher purpose and a calling card that engages our community. The events have become both a fun, recognizable part of our philanthropic efforts, as well as one of the “must attend” volunteer events of the year. 

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? 

The older I get the more I’ve learned to protect my energy and time. In order to be the most productive and effective and to make the largest impact possible, your battery must remain charged. You need positive energy to remain focused, confident, and inspired, and you need positive energy to draw people in and fuel others, so they can be drawn to your efforts and energized to do even more. Energy is contagious and when you are fueled by purpose, powerful things can happen.

You cannot give what you do not have, though, so you must make it a priority to recharge. Block out time on your calendar to do things that relax and inspire you, allow you to clear your mind, or energize you. For me, those things include spending time with my family and friends, swimming, playing tennis and guitar, traveling, volunteering, and reading. I also pay close attention to what I eat and put into my body because that has a large impact, as well. The key is knowing what recharges you and being intentional to create the routines and daily habits that allow you to refill your cup, so you can then fill the cup of others.

 Energy is also rooted in purpose. I recommend people write down their purpose. Write it down as an individual, and then have that conversation with your family and go through the process together to define your purpose. Ask your friends and co-workers what they stand for and it will open up amazing opportunities to learn from each other. Having a written statement of purpose offers clarity and focus for your efforts. It gives you what you stand for and the legacy you seek to create with every move you make. It will also help you select nonprofits where you can serve and make a difference. I recommend serving with at least two nonprofits, one larger and one smaller. You’ll learn a lot working with the larger nonprofits, and you’ll meet a lot of amazing people who can open doors of opportunity for you. You’ll build your reputation helping the smaller nonprofit because you can make a more magnified difference with your volunteerism and efforts. The more you serve, the more you’ll learn about yourself and also be recharged and energized. So, service is a powerful way to recharge your battery.

Then, on a similar note, you have to protect your time and push away the negative energy. Learning to say no is hard, but taking fewer meetings and even saying no to good ideas, allows you to focus on the great idea that will take you and your team to the next level. The more you can protect your energy and time, the less you will burn out, and the more you will thrive personally and professionally.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story? 

I’ve been blessed with some amazing mentors and individuals who have poured into me, lifted me, and helped me in countless ways throughout my career. From world-class coaches in tennis to icons in the entertainment industry, each has helped shape and mold me and raised my expectations for what is possible. Someone who I owe a huge debt of gratitude to and who has both helped me get where I am today and also remains a close friend, mentor, and partner in our efforts is Johnny Pitts, Co-CEO of Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance. Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance is the largest independent insurance agency in the Mid-South and one of the largest in the nation.

I met Johnny more than 13 years ago, when I first moved to Memphis from Los Angeles, and didn’t really know anyone. My wife and I decided to move to the area to be closer to her family. I was working on the radio and, as a volunteer, writing business and marketing plans for nonprofits to help and to meet new people. I was referred to Johnny, who was in the process of buying a business networking organization and needed someone to help craft a new vision and business plan for where it could go. He and I sat down and both agreed that the organization could do something special if it was rooted in a higher purpose of making a difference versus just business networking. Being an Eagle Scout, Johnny knew that community service would lead to transformation, not just for the organization but for all of the individuals involved, as well. So, to make a long story short, I wrote the plan and Johnny then gave me the keys to create what has become cityCURRENT.

He and I have now worked together for more than 12 years and it has been an amazing journey that has to lead to the career I enjoy now and all of the impact our organization and I have been able to create. I give him full credit for believing in me and taking the chance to entrust the future of an organization he had just purchased into the hands of someone who was 30 at the time and had just moved to the city. He has been with me every step of the way, was instrumental in the growth and development of our organization, along with our expansion into Nashville and then he is the person I am turning to for advice with everything going on right now with COVID-19. It has been such an honor working with Johnny and the team that I became a Member of the LLC with the company many years ago.

It’s hard to paint the picture of what Johnny means to me and how much he has played a role in the development of my career. He wrote the opening for both of my books and I use him as a reference for so many things, in terms of how I think he would respond to events and efforts to tweak things and make them more successful. It really is the perfect example of how every opportunity in life comes from someone else believing in you and giving you the chance to succeed. It also shows the power of purpose and of working together to create something galvanized in the mission to power the GOOD.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? 

I feel like I could write a book to answer this question. With a personal and professional mission to power the GOOD, each and every day I am seeking to bring goodness to the world. Personally, all of my media – the TV and radio shows, the podcast, the newspaper columns, and books – are all focused on sharing GOOD news and positive things taking place, lessons learned, and how people can get involved and make a difference. I use my social media to inspire and help people, sharing media clips and lessons learned, so we can all be more intentional with our efforts. I donate, constantly volunteer, raise funds for nonprofits, emcee nonprofit events, and serve on boards, like being the Memphis Board Chair for New Leaders, an organization creating transformational leaders and teachers for our school system, along with serving on boards with Slingshot Memphis, the LEAD program at the University of Memphis, the American Cancer Society, and more. I have mentored and continue to mentor college students, entrepreneurs, and other young professionals to help them move forward and create momentum in their lives and careers.

Then, my personal life and professional life are intertwined as CEO of cityCURRENT. As an organization, my team and I focus daily on philanthropy and making a difference. We financially give to support nonprofits, and we coordinate and host many nonprofit tours and volunteer days to physically serve in our community. We host Samaritan’s Feet Shoe Distributions where we have hundreds of volunteers come out to wash the feet of hundreds of youth, giving them new socks and shoes. We’ve scrubbed graffiti off bridges, planted trees and flowers, raised and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars through events and efforts, helped remove 90,000 pounds of trash from McKellar Lake, helped bring together more than 13,000 volunteers for a Faith In Action cleanup effort, a tutor with after-school programs and mentor, as well. We host GET ON BOARD events to help train individuals to become more successful with their nonprofit board service and tie giving back into just about every event that we host. Literally, everything that we do with and through cityCURRENT is with the intention to bring more Goodness into our world. You can learn more at cityCURRENT.com. 

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life? 

It’s become one of my favorite sayings, “Good attracts good.” The more good you do for others, the better will happen for you. Put another way, “The energy you give will become the opportunities you will receive.” This life lesson has opened countless doors in my life and career and allowed me to meet and build relationships with so many amazing people. It’s helped me remain positive in difficult situations, including the situation at hand with COVID-19, and it has become the mission and purpose behind our organization and my personal life and career, as well, to help create more good in this world. 

It’s not easy to remain positive, but when you understand the importance and the power behind GOOD energy, you take control of your attitude and how you approach each day and others. Your attitude and your effort are two things you can fully control, similar to serve in tennis. If you approach everything and everyone with a positive attitude and put forth a maximum effort, I have seen firsthand how it can transform your relationships with others and transform your life and community, in the process. 

How can our readers follow you on social media? 

Here is my Linktree, which gives you a lot of different links: https://linktr.ee/jeremycpark. My personal website is jeremycpark.com. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter under @jeremycpark. Our cityCURRENT website is cityCURRENT.com and then our social media handle is @cityCURRENT.

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