Justin Harvey

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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