The first thing you need to know about Jason Hall is that he is a realistic optimist. He knows there is negativity in the world – he just chooses to grab it, flip it upside down and turn it into something he can use to improve himself, improve his work and, ultimately, improve the city that he loves.
Hall is a pizza lover, a Detroiter, a bike rider and the creator of Slow Roll, which he describes as “a unique nonprofit that brings together thousands of people from all over the region during 25 weekly bike rides a year.” During those rides, Hall says, people learn more about Detroit and each other.
“When it comes to things that I stand behind, that was what pushed this, was my passion to see how far we could take it. To say, ‘It’s not just a bike ride, but how can we affect Detroit? How can we make change? How can we bring people together?’ Once I attached to that, that was it,” Hall says.
In 2016, Slow Roll grew to more than 12,000 registered riders and that number continues to increase. In 2017, Slow Roll is focusing on continuing to educate people about Detroit, engage riders with local businesses and charities, and create the cohesive and peaceful community everyone wants.
As Hall puts it, “We believe that Slow Roll is transforming Detroit through exercise, education, experiences and community.”
Here are the top five life lessons Hall shared during his stay on Mackinac Island as part of the Mackinac Policy Conference, where he took a group of cyclists on a ride around this iconic rock.
1. Learn As You Do It
“I think if there’s anything that you want to do, I’m a big fan of doing it and learning as you do it. Me personally, if I’d have stopped and thought, “Okay, let me learn how to get a permit for Slow Roll, and let me learn how to get insurance. And let me learn how to …” That would have put me five years behind the eight ball. For us, it was, “Let’s just do it and then figure out how to do it.” And that’s what I tell people. Learn on the job. I tell you, 100% of what I am now is from my evolution of this ride. I didn’t go to school for business or anything.”
2. Learn From It
“When I’m in the city county building filling out permits all day, I cherish that time because I’m learning. I’m in this place that I’ve never been before. I would just say anything that you want to do, do it.”
3. Don’t Ask Permission
“If you know the history of Slow Roll, I’m a big fan of, ‘It’s better to apologize than ask for permission.’ … Never ask anybody who’s supposedly already done it. I speak at schools all the time and I tell kids, ‘Just do it, man. If you want to start a bike program, write your friends. Get your friends together and then talk to your parents about it. Bring them the plan cooked.’ That’s what I always say. Don’t bring me the ingredients, cook it and bring it up. And that’s what I do.”
4. Don’t Trust Authority
“A couple of mistakes I made at the beginning is I said, “Well, I don’t know how to run a bike ride. Let me ask somebody who ran bike rides.” But if they ran bike rides and they don’t run bike rides anymore, why would I get advice from them? Like I said, I just sort of do it. I don’t like to ask people, and they’re tainted. A lot of times if you ask somebody, you say, “Hey, what’s it like to run a bike ride?” They’re not gonna tell you their positive experiences until they tell you their negatives first. And they’re gonna turn you off.”
5. Focus On Your Goal
“I’m from Detroit, man. I come from a family of union workers and we’ve always dealt with adversity and things of that nature. That’s nothing new to me. I’ve always told myself, ‘You cannot let yourself live in that space of negativity.’ I don’t even go there.
When people come at me with negativity, I immediately kill them with kindness, because I won’t let you take me out of my space of, ‘I’m alive. The sun is out. I run a bike ride for a living.’ As down as I could get, that’s all I have to do is think about that. I go, ‘Tomorrow, I get to ride my bike with 5,000 people and even if I don’t ride with those 5,000, I’m gonna walk out a my door and see 100 people that ride Slow Roll.’ … And then, where Detroit is at right now, man, how can you not be? I say that to people all the time, ‘If you walk out the door and you don’t look around at the Red Wing Stadium and think about all the concerts that are coming and the potential for money that you could make and your friends, that’s crazy. You’re a robot if you can’t be happy on a daily basis in the city.’”