Jonathan E. Johnson, President, Medici Ventures & Board of Directors, Overstock.com
He goes to work in a “Peace Coliseum” and begins each day reading a poem to get his “creative juices” going. Loves cheeseburgers with tomatoes, mustard, and lettuce – but no pickles because he’s not really a sour guy. Jonathan E. Johnson, former chairman of the board of Overstock.com and now President of Medici Ventures a blockchain arm of Overstock.com, is someone who after you spend an hour, you will come away feeling as if you’ve had shared the meaning of life; yet it’s for you to remember what it was he said in the sharing.
At least that’s how Candidates.vote’s Clark H. Caras felt after a recent Q & A with “JJ”, as he is known to friends and tens of thousands of Utahns who met and voted for him in a 2016 Republican gubernatorial campaign. Maybe it’s his peaceful and yet powerfully unique voice, or it could be the déjà vu that you’ve met “JJ” somewhere before, you take away with you. Whatever it is, you know as you leave Overstock.com’s Peace Coliseum and look back at the glass and metal encircling this almost Romanesque tribute to the e-commerce taking place inside its walls, you know you have met someone you were supposed to in life.
Candidates.vote –You work in a glass house. One where you see the outside and turn and can see the inside core of the building as well. What’s it like working and living in a glass house, both for you and your family?
Jonathan Johnson –It’s been 20 years I think I’ve spent in the glass house of the public eye. It’s no different than in a walled house because, and it sounds a bit like Popeye, “I am, who I am.” My wife, Courtney, and I have five sons and the glass house has been a bit of a fight for them, I know that; but we’ll keep being who we are whether people are watching or not.
Candidates.vote –It’s hard not to ask about a glass house as we sit here in the Overstock.com Peace Coliseum in the middle of the Salt Lake Valley.
Jonathan Johnson –Peace Coliseum. Well, it’s a circle because Overstock is all about the “O”. From the outside you look and it’s almost fortress-like, until you see the openness of the windows facing outward, in a way saying we do the best we can for all to see.
On the inside it’s open and the hallways to the center nucleus building are in the shape of a Peace Sign if you look from above. We want our people at Overstock to know once you are part of the Overstock family we’re all here to create harmony. You work inside the Peace Coliseum and you look outward and see completion, but while inside there is collaboration.
Candidates.vote –We can read your bio and see you graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Japanese and went on to get a law degree at BYU. How did you end up here, at Overstock.com and Peace Coliseum?
Jonathan Johnson –I was working with a software company, TenFold, and having lunch with the COO of Overstock. The next thing I knew, I was the legal department of Overstock.com – just me. There were 50 other people at Overstock then … and now there are nearly 2,500 people.
I was so impressed with the innovation of e-commerce when I started and I remain impressed with the new blockchain technology we’re developing. It’s been 17-years and there are such stories to tell!
Candidates.vote –You’re the oldest of eight boys and now the father of five sons. Courtney and your mother must have felt a bit outnumbered?
Jonathan Johnson –My parents, Jonathan E. Johnson II and Clare, were good hard-working people. My father was a calm and fair man. He was a problem solver. My mother had an ability to make everyone feel comfortable and special around her.
Courtney’s father, when the family was gathered, always taught us something. All three have passed away, but each remains a big part of me. I believe what we have learned from others is important because if I have learned something from someone I have met, they become a part of me. It’s how I remember them.
Candidates.vote –What’s a typical morning like for Jonathan Johnson?
Jonathan Johnson –Starts with two fried eggs over hard and a piece of dry toast. And yes, I do like poetry. I’ve come to believe it makes us better in life. I have a poem emailed to me every morning. When I read it – often out loud – it gets my creative juices going and it’s just a great way to start the day.
Candidates.vote –JJ and books. Are they e-books? And right now what are you reading?
Jonathan Johnson –Paper. All of my books are on shelves. I can’t e-read. And right now it’s Arthur Brooks, “Love Your Enemies”. I’m reading Kevin Hasson’s, “The Right to Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America”. And then of course, “Bitcoin Billionaires”. I like redemptive stories.
I’ve started a tradition with my boys. When each of my sons have come home after serving a mission (two years for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), I give a copy of Clayton Christensen’s, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” And I have a tradition of giving them each a book for the summer to read. One of the summers they are in high school it is, “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy”, by Thomas Stanley. It teaches stories of being prudent and not ostentatious. It teaches to give back.
Candidates.vote –What have any of the missteps of failures maybe taught you in life?
Jonathan Johnson –There is no such thing as failure. There are learning experiences.
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