When John Lovell was born, he cut his own umbilical cord, backflipped off the operating table, and stuck the landing perfectly.
That was the first thing he said when I asked him about his backstory. He didn’t miss a beat.
John Lovell is a genuinely funny guy. I met him at a men’s think-tank that we were both invited to in Cancun this past December, and he had the entire roomful of men laughing heartily more than a few times.
We conducted this interview on the beach, where I found John surrounded by his boys — who were hard at work crafting spherical projectiles out of sand. Mr. Lovell was working his way through some historical fiction set during the War of the Roses. After we shot the photos for this interview, he offered me a cigar.
John is a war veteran and a former member of Special Operations, having served in the 2nd Ranger Battalion with numerous combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. He also spent time in Central America as a Christian missionary.
With his business partner Evan Temple, Lovell founded the phenomenally successful Warrior Poet Society, “a values-based community dedicated to physical protection, the pursuit of truth, and living for a higher purpose.” Lovell and his collaborators offer tactical and self-defense training courses through the Warrior Poet Society brand. They also produce a range of high-quality instructional, philosophical, and entertainment content that can be found both on the Warrior Poet Society’s YouTube channel (which boasts over 1.2 million subscribers) and the WPS subscription network that Lovell has been building to combat big-tech censorship. Lovell’s Warrior Poet Supply Company also offers a wide range of branded merchandise, including innovative, patented products like his Raven Steel Target Stand — which I’ve thought about buying myself. Anyone who’s had to stop by Home Depot to pick up 1×2’s on the way out to go shooting can recognize the handy utility of having some self-supporting steel that’s always ready to go.
An unfortunate and persistent bug in American culture tends to render the warrior and man of action as a dumb jock thug. John Lovell is pushing back against that with the name of his company itself and demonstrates through both word and deed that strong and courageous men can be and should be — and are — so much more.
Lovell said, “I strive to be broad, but also to have depth.” He wants to be well-rounded as a man but also wants to go deep on the things that are most important to him.
He pointed to his sons playing nearby and expressed how “critically important” it was to him to be a good father.
“I want to make [my sons] strong because the world is dangerous. I want to make them bold because lies are all around us. I want them to be lovers because that’s where a lot of your meaning and substance comes from. I want them to be men of faith and recognize that they belong to something — or, rather, someone — greater than themselves.”
Like many men, John sees himself as a “sacred protector.”
He says that he carries concealed everywhere he goes, not because he thinks he’ll be a likely target, but because if something went down “on his watch” and he wasn’t ready to put someone down who was hurting others, he doesn’t believe he could ever recover from that. So it is important to him that he keeps developing and practicing his skills in that area and passes on what he can to other men.
In this way — in his own search for a balance between breadth and depth, between private and public, between emotion and reason, between being a man of the heart and a man of action — John believes that he has been on the journey of the “warrior poet” himself for a long time. And he wants to help other men along on that same journey.
Lovell told me that he started creating and publishing content for YouTube and Instagram because he wanted to “grow with others.” He wanted to build a community of like-minded people around him and invite them to come along with him while not making things so narrow as to make their journey all about his journey. His entry points for building community with men include an agreement that “we live for a higher purpose” and that “we are willing to sacrifice in defense of others.”
He believes that these simple principles have resonated with so many men because men who hold these ideals no longer feel represented in Hollywood or the media.
ON FIGHTING CENSORSHIP
This brought us to the topic of censorship, which John has been very outspoken about recently. Like many of us, he believes that we are engaged in an ideological war, and last year he just “got sick of being bullied.”
He said he no longer feels free to have his own values and ideals and be left alone.
“The ideological opposition, the canceling, the bullying, the defaming — it’s come to my doorstep.”
To others who are facing the same sorts of censorship, Lovell says:
“We are not in times where we can be quiet and apathetic. We actually have to go on the offense in the war of ideas if we hope to maintain a world in which our values can actually live and in which we can have free expression.”
AESTHETICS AND ENTERTAINMENT ARE IMPORTANT – BUT KEEP “REALITY” REAL
A considerable part of that offensive action includes creating content and culture. And being successful at culture-creation requires us to become — however counter-intuitive it may seem to some — entertaining.
I’ve been trying to explain to various purists and men of ideas for years that we are all competing with Hollywood, whether we want to or not.
John understands this well, and one of the first things I noticed about his content is that the production value is extremely high. Anyone with an eye for it can look at what Warrior Poet Society is putting out and see that someone with professional-level skill and attention to detail has thought about composition and lighting design and so many of the visual elements that we are all used to seeing and which we take for granted in the other content we consume or have consumed in the past. Quality and artistry are noticed by more people when they are absent than when they are present, but when quality and artistry are present, they confer a certain baseline of credibility.
Lovell recognizes that, due to social media and Twitter and the persistent deluge of modern distractions, almost everyone’s attention span is “frightfully short.”
“If you want to teach anyone anything, or you want to mobilize anyone in any direction, you have to be able to somehow capture their attention. If you’re a communicator of truth or a philosopher […] you’ve got to frame that in a way that is entertaining enough that people can process it very quickly and get on board. If you’re in education, but you’re not also doing a little bit in the entertainment vein, you’re just not going to have an audience that will listen to you – much less learn and transform from you.”
John acknowledges that he’s not always the guy with the best eye for aesthetics or design, but he recognizes the importance of presentation, so he’s surrounded himself with a team of men who can help him in that area. As we were talking about it, he stopped and laughed and said:
“Here is a reality: Never judge a book by its cover. Here’s the second reality: Never think people aren’t judging the book by its cover.”
Lovell is passionate about connecting with people in a genuine way, and he believes that they are hungry for it.
“Social media and YouTube works because it is REAL. People are socially cut off and desperate for connection. As we’ve retreated into our phones and streaming services, we’ve lost our ability to connect with individuals in the real world. I think part of the reason folks jumped onto reality TV was that they were thirsty for those connections they weren’t getting in the real world. And then reality TV started failing years ago because it started becoming a performance, and people could feel that the “reality” wasn’t “real” anymore. So they turned to social media and YouTube, where it is still real.”
ON “NICE GUYS” VS. GOOD GUYS AND THE LOSS OF COURAGE
I turned the discussion to men and asked Lovell for thoughts on some of the challenges men face today.
“The loss of courage is the greatest tragedy we see in men today, and masculinity cannot survive it.”
“Dudes today are too focused on being “nice guys,” and I think the “nice guy” may flatter — and flattery may just be outright lying. Something might be a nice thing to say to someone, but if it is a lie, then you are exalting the idea of “niceness” over integrity. And that is a cowardly thing to do — though society really wouldn’t blame you for it.”
“If you were smashed drunk and wanted to drive home, a nice guy would let you — but I certainly won’t. You may give me a bloody nose in the process, and that’s fine.”
“I’m not interested in being a nice guy. I’m interested in being a good one. In the age of tolerance, there’s no room for that superior virtue. Only with courage can we find our way out of that hole.”
Photo credit: Jack Donovan