Justin Harvey

The Used Car Salesman of Yesterday


This is an excerpt from an untitled memoir I’m currently writing.

Have you ever just wanted to test drive a car, but had no interest in buying it? I was seventeen years old the first time I had this urge, and I just happened to be near a used car dealership when it struck. So, naturally, I fed that impulsive nature with a quick right turn into their parking lot. I was barely out of my car when I was greeted by Shane. I could tell he was young, perhaps only five years older than me. But he had the demeanor of an experienced salesman and he launched his pitch immediately, yet not awkwardly. Oh yes, he had done this before. I hit him with the bad news from the start. “I’m not looking to buy a car today, I just want to see if there’s anything I like.” Shane may have just been hospitable because it was a slow sales day, or maybe he believed he could talk me into making a purchase, either way he agreed to show me around the lot. We browsed, looking at a variety of “gently used” vehicles. He was surprised that I preferred manual transmissions and lots of cargo space. “Most people don’t know how to drive a stick these days,” he remarked, “I have just the ride for you.” Shane lead me to the other side of the lot. I can’t recall the make and model of the car we went to, only that it didn’t strike me as a car I’d be particularly interested in. Nevertheless, when he asked if I wanted to test drive it I said yes. That was why I was there after all. 

Shane darted off with my drivers license and returned moments later with my ID and a temporary license plate in hand. We loaded into the whatever-it-was and I drove off the lot. We were perhaps 100ft into our drive when he asked, “So what do you do? Are you in school, do you work?” I assumed this was part of the salesman routine – that getting to know and relating to the customer part – finding the best angle to hook the sale. “Actually, I recently dropped out of high school to serve poor and homeless populations. I work for God right now.” His eyes doubled in size. “Wait, what? How does that work?” So Shane and I took a drive to the city line and back. During the trip I told him about how I became a follower of Yeshua and how serving God means serving others in need. I told him about how my own financial needs were constantly being met and even exceeded, allowing me to give away much of what I had to those less fortunate. He had a lot of questions and I was happy to answer them. Eventually we pulled back into dealership lot. “Well, that was an interesting ride,” he said. “I already know this isn’t the car for you, but when you’re ready to buy something, come back and see me.” I thanked him for his time and we went our separate ways.

About a year later I stopped at a gas station in that town. After filling the tank I went inside to grab a drink and the moment I walked in the clerk shouted, “It’s you!” I turned to see a face I did not recognize, “Last I checked,” I acknowledged with a smile. “You don’t recognize me, do you?” “Sorry,” I responded, trying to place his face. He came around the corner and reached out to shake my hand. “My name is Shane. Last year I was working at a sleazy car dealership, having to lie to people every day and hating my job. You came in for a test drive and changed my life. I was miserable in my work, my marriage was falling apart, and I was the furthest I had ever been from God. You and I drove a lemon around town together and you told me about how you became a follower of Christ and some of the incredible things that had happened since then. I was so glad you didn’t buy that car, it was garbage. That night I went home and told my wife about our encounter. We stayed up the whole night talking about our lives, our marriage, and our faith. The next day we decided things were going to change. I quit my job the next day and we started seeing a marriage counselor that week. I got this job, working at a gas station and just enrolled back in college. I’ve lost nearly 40lbs too. Our lives have changed so much for the better.” 

I was dumbfounded. Such a simple interaction had been a catalyst for such a grand transformation in someone’s life. “Man, that’s incredible. I’m genuinely humbled by this. Thank you for remembering me and sharing your story.” Another customer had come in and was waiting to pay. Shane headed back to the counter but turned to say, “I’m glad to know you’re real. I honestly thought you might have been an angel. Keep being you, man!” I left the store with an overwhelming sense of awe and refreshment… yet still parched without the drink I had intended to buy.

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What’s in a name?


Since 2004 I’ve run a small branding & digital marketing agency called Abrasive Ink (we started in 2001 as Selah Studios). Unfortunately the name and even the whole notion of owning/running the company began souring on me in 2010. I grew to dislike it so badly that I finally closed it down in 2011 (except for a few clients who we maintained on the side). I spent a few years as a creative director/manager for a Fortune 500 media company just to do something different. But in 2014 I relaunched Abrasive Ink so I could regain flexible hours (to help run a non-profit org), but I never really found my footing in that relaunch. It just didn’t feel right when I would network or pitch to new clients.

Your website needs a hero!Last week (after months of planning) I finally retired that old name with the launch of Hero Agency​. My entire outlook has changed too. I feel a connection to this brand identity. I feel proud to talk about it and am eager to share it… I even went door to door in my neighborhood, introducing myself and the company to local businesses. The services are exactly the same. The internal process haven’t changed. By all accounts it’s the same business… but the name change has made a huge difference to me personally… AND apparently to potential clients as I’ve added 4 since launch.

I see a lesson in here somewhere. Sometimes our past holds us back. Sometimes the names we’ve put on ourselves (or others have put on us) are like chains that anchor us to an identity that’s no longer ours. Like the stories of iconic religious figures or comicbook superheroes, sometimes we simply have to embrace our now-identity to begin our future journey.

From there it’s up, up and away…

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Bullies V.S. Ninjas


When I was in 5th grade, I was bullied. It got pretty bad. Sometimes I would get off my school bus early and walk through backyards and woods to get home because my bullies were waiting for me at my normal stop. Rather than be a victim, I decided to take charge.

I enrolled at a local martial arts school.

Thankfully, I had a great sensei who taught me not only how to defend myself, but how to never need to. Yes, I learned how to fight… but more importantly I learned how not to fight – how to outsmart aggression and how to turn my enemies into allies.

When I was in 8th grade my school had a talent show. At this point only my close friends knew I was a martial artist, and I persuaded some of them to do a choreographed fight scene with me in the show. We trained for weeks and when the day came, we performed a ridiculously cool battle between me and 5 ninja assassins. At the end, standing over the defeated ninjas, with the entire audience erupting in cheers, I did something I hadn’t planned to do. I took the microphone from the MC and addressed the student audience. I challenged them to look beyond fighting as option for settling issues, to reach out to people they didn’t know or understand, to become the generation that ends wars and manufactures peace.

Was it naively grand? Sure. Did it make a difference? Absolutely.

For starters, I was never bullied again. Ever. I also became someone other students would talk to if they were having problems and need help or encouragement. I learned a lot about my peers and the struggles they faced… some far bigger than mine ever were.

I grew up, perused acting, started a business, traveled the world, started a family, became a volunteer, taught classes – I’ve done a lot since those days of dogging bullies. Through all of it I’ve maintained a simple ideal that has made it all worthwhile; we’re in this together.


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A New Adventure


From the archive…
Friday, Dec 14, 2012 – I had just read the reports of a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. 26 dead, killed by a 20 year old – barely an adult himself. I walked the halls of my office while the news sank in, my heart hurting for those involved. That’s when I came across a company poster on the wall that read:
We are here:

  • To enlighten, inform and educate.
  • To lift people up and celebrate the best of who we are.
  • To hold ourselves and other people accountable.
  • To mobilize support for worthy endeavors.
  • To investigate, celebrate and never relegate our responsibility to make life better in every community we serve.
  • To deliver correct and compelling information, and careful and somtimes passionate advice in order to improve the well-being and vitality of the communities we are honored to be a part of.

I read it several times before moving on. When I got back to my desk I wrote a letter of intent. I was going to develop a program that travels to schools – shows students the value of their lives, empowers them to make choices that reflect that, and encourages them to foster that value in others… and, of course, it would be artistically epic.

Friday, Jan 31, 2014 – It’s been a little over a year since the events above. Today I’m doing what I said I would. I’m leaving my management position at G/O Digital (Gannett) and to develop abrasiveMedia’s Project Awake.

This is a huge step for me (probably a risky one too), but I know this is something I need to do. This is something that matters, something that WILL actually save lives, something that’s bigger than me. I’ve planned as far as I can – now it’s time for action. For all the risks involved and the uncertainty ahead, I feel an unshakable confidence that this is absolutely right.

So here goes. Closing one chapter of life to open another. My heart is full.


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