As an occupational therapist for nearly 10 years, Jae has worked in skilled nursing and mental health facilities and currently provides home care to Veterans who have served as far back as WW II. One year ago, Jae self-funded and launched PATYL (Pay Attention To Your Life) with two simple goals in mind: 1. To share positive messages and impact lives 2. To create a platform to make a difference. She is selflessly doing just that.
What led you to this path? Do you believe you were born to help others?
Yes, I believe that I was born to help others. I’ve always had a strong belief in altruism. As far as my career is concerned, it’s never really made sense to me to spend my time doing anything other than something that will improve the life of someone else, and I’ve truly enjoyed the work I’ve been fortunate enough to do for the past decade.
I came to OT after I was given a unique opportunity to teach special education for severe and profoundly disabled high school students in a small border town in Arizona. I worked with students and their families to help students improve their basic daily living and communication skills and loved the work. But as a teacher, I was not able to spend as much one-on-one time with students as I would have liked and started considering an alternate career that would keep me on a similar path. That’s when I started investigating OT, went to graduate school, and the rest is history.
In graduate school, I became keenly interested in the mental health aspect of the profession and completed two internships at the Arizona State Psychiatric Hospital. In addition to developing a passion about mental health and well-being, I also developed an interest in public service and wanted to continue my work as a therapist in this way. Working as an OT with the Department of Veterans Affairs allows me to give back to those who served, and I am honored to do this work every single day.
One year ago you launched PATYL (Pay Attention To Your Life), a "platform for making a difference." How did you come up with the name PAYTL, and do you remember your Aha moment when your idea formed?
I was driving home from my job at a state psychiatric facility with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and listening to the “You Are A Badass” audiobook by Jen Sincero during my commute. At one point in the book, the author asks the reader/listener what their personal motto would be, and in an instant, “Pay Attention to Your Life (PATYL)” came to me. These five words really represented what I was hoping to instill in the patients I was working with at the time. I hoped (and still do hope) for people to learn how to appreciate the awesomeness of what it means to be alive and to start to pay attention to how they live.
It was then that I knew I wanted to take this motto and share it in a way that would make an impact in other people’s live. I came up with the idea of putting other people’s personal mottos on shirts as a way to both give back to that person and as a way to put inspiration out in the world, so that when you see someone wearing a PATYL tee, you too become inspired to pay attention to your own life.
You select a different VIP (Very Impactful Person) to share their inspiring story and to represent PATYL T-Shirt Collections. Can you share with us how this works and a favorite VIP collection and story you featured?
The three main criteria for being a VIP are that you take care of yourself, you face challenges in a positive way, and that you give back to others. I’ve connected with people from all over the world and have asked them to share their stories with me. When I find one that resonates with me and that I think will resonate with others, I invite them to be featured as a VIP. It’s been an honor, and I am truly humbled that in the year since we’ve launched that over a dozen strangers (now friends) have said yes to being a part of this journey with me.
Our VIP collections rotate seasonally which means that every VIP collection is only available for a limited time.
Every PATYL VIP tee is a direct representation of that VIP. I collaborate with the VIP on their motto and their design. VIPs always have a say in the final design. 50% of the proceeds from the sale of every single VIP shirt go directly to that VIP to help them continue doing good things. PATYL does not in any way dictate what VIPs do with their half of the proceeds. Since PATYL VIP collections are so collaborative, I can’t imagine sharing the proceeds any other way. There are a lot of social impact companies out there who donate profits for great causes, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many that give away half! Plus, the majority of VIPs being the awesome people they are, have chosen to donate their proceeds to the do-good-change-the-world causes that matter most to them.
I’ve loved all of the VIP stories that PATYL has featured, but the first will always be the most meaningful to me. When PATYL launched in March of 2017, we did so with a young man named Kevin Martin whose message was “You Are Loved.” I mean, what an incredible message to start with!
Kevin’s story of his own personal struggle with anxiety, depression, and self-hatred (due to being a gay man in a very conservative community) is powerful. He tried committing suicide in his early 20s and shortly thereafter was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. But he came out on the other side of all of this having learned to embrace positivity, kindness, and community. By day, Kevin is a social worker committed to improving the lives of at-risk youth. In his “spare time,” Kevin runs a non-profit organization called To Love and Inspire. TLAI partners with a variety of causes seeking to resolve social issues and inequalities through empowerment and collaboration. They are committed to helping people. A mental health professional is available via chat on their website 24 hours a day for anyone that needs someone to talk to. They hit the streets and share tangible messages of love, inspiration, and kindness with others. PATYL has an ongoing relationship with Kevin and TLAI for which I am incredibly grateful, and we continue to feature his “You Are Loved” shirts to benefit TLAI.
A Message From Kevin
Tell us about bootstrapping a startup. What has been one challenge and lesson you've learned?
I work full-time as an OT for the VA and then pick up extra shifts at another local hospital on the weekends to fund PATYL. People talk about the grind as it relates to being an entrepreneur, and they aren’t exaggerating. It’s time consuming, and it really can be draining. The biggest challenge for me has been to maintain my level of attentiveness to my own life while not letting my commitment to PATYL fall too far to the wayside. When it comes to PATYL, it’s really important to me to practice what I preach. I rely heavily on my mindfulness practices to keep me grounded and to help me achieve perspective. I have to make an effort to balance my time and my attentiveness to all of the things I love about life and doing this with some semblance of grace has been challenging for sure, but it’s a challenge I’ll happily accept.
What is one invaluable resource that has helped in the growth and development of PATYL?
Friends and family. Hands down. When you’re bootstrapping a business with zero funding from banks or investors, and it’s just you and your idea, you have to rely on the people around you. PATYL doesn’t exist without the support of those close to me who keep reminding me that what I’m doing matters and that it’s making an impact on other people’s lives.
There have been a few instances when I’ve thought that this might be more work than it’s worth, but then people will tell me they were wearing a PATYL shirt while out and about and someone told THEM one of our messages like “You Are Loved” or “Keep Your Thoughts Positive” or “Remember Your Brilliance” was exactly what they needed to see in that moment. For me, that’s really what it’s all about. More than selling t-shirts, PATYL is about putting good into the world and making a difference in the way that people approach their lives.
How important is goal setting in your everyday life and work?
I would say that goal setting is very important. In both life and work, I like to see what I’m capable of, and I can’t do that if I don’t keep setting and re-setting goals. Goal setting keeps me focused and keeps me motivated.
November is National Gratitude month, and Mindbosa is partnering with PATYL for a 30 Day Gratitude Challenge. Please enter your email, and you'll be notified of updates as the date approaches.
Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing most?
Sleeping, ha ha ha ha ha! But in my waking hours, I love spending time with my wife and our three rescue pups, Rebel (after the David Bowie song), Bodhi, and Gibson. I absolutely love riding my bicycle. I’d ride it around the world if I could (maybe someday). I also love hiking, traveling, cooking, yoga, learning, and spending time with the people I love.
What is one thing not many people know about you?
This isn’t something I share with very many people because it’s not something people like to talk about, but a big part of my mindfulness practice is a daily contemplation on my own mortality. Reflecting regularly on the impermanence of my own life keeps me grounded and keeps me grateful. It really helps me have perspective on the day-to-day problems that I face, and it allows me to get less worked up about things beyond my control.
What is your proudest personal and professional accomplishment?
Eight years ago I quit smoking cigarettes, and it’s hands down the thing I am most proud of. Beating that addiction was the catalyst for the path I’m on now. It spurred my commitment to my health and my own well-being, and it completely changed the way that I approach my life.
Professionally, I spent five years working in a state psychiatric facility. I was very proud to have developed and implemented yoga and mindfulness-based interventions for the patients at that facility.
Many of the patients in that hospital didn’t have many resources either personally or financially on which to depend, but if they could learn to depend on their breath and their own mind-body connection, they could learn to recover and thrive. I was really proud to be able to share that skill with others.
What message can I repeatedly share with the world on your behalf?
Pay Attention to Your Life.
Pay attention and stop making excuses and start making plans. Let go of doubt and go for it. Start believing in yourself.
Pay Attention and stop attaching to things you can’t control. You can’t control any of it.
Pay attention and stop being so serious. Let yourself have fun and remember to do it often. Laugh and be silly.
Pay attention and stop being stagnant. Make those travel plans. Save up and get on that plane. Go somewhere new. Explore.
Pay attention and stop putting other things first. Take care of yourself. Breathe. Rest. Meditate. Practice gratitude each and every day. Slow down and notice all the good that’s around you.
Pay attention and remember that we are all in this together. Recognize that what we do and how we treat each other matters, and make choices that make others feel appreciated and loved. Know that you are capable of making a difference; do it and be proud.
Pay attention to your life and make an impact.
What is your favorite motivational/inspirational quote?
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ― Jane Goodall
In one word, describe yourself:
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To Connect with Jae Russell (PATYL Founder / Grateful Human)