In 2009 I was invited by the U.S. military to perform my mind reading show at 12 bases in South Korea.
I jumped at the opportunity.
It was a fantastic experience, and I even made a travel vlog DVD (back when those were still a thing).
During my tour I had two quick interactions that have quietly been working their way into the core of my personal mission in the years after.
After wrapping up one of my shows, the commander of the base came up to me and shook my hand while telling me how much he enjoyed the show.
He had something in his palm that he was giving to me while shaking my hand.
I accepted whatever it was while showing no outward signs of acknowledgement (play it cool, man!), and slipped my hand into my pocket to ditch it where I could look at it later.
A couple hours go by as I’m talking with soldiers, their families, signing autographs, taking photos, and doing all the things I normally do after shows.
And I can’t stop thinking about the weight in my pocket.
What a delightful & tantalizing secret.
At the end of the night I get to my hotel room where I can finally see what I’ve been carrying with me.
It’s a medallion. About two inches in diameter. Painted in several colors with shiny enamel.
It’s a challenge coin.
What Are They?
They’re given to members of a unit who display extraordinary achievement or demonstration of purpose.
It’s an authentication token that verifies the identity or membership status of the holder.
If someone claimed to be a member of a certain group, like the NAVY Seals, a real member knows what the NAVY Seal coin looks like so he could challenge that person’s claim by demanding to see their coin. No coin? That’s a no-go.
The Fire Is Lit
By the end of the tour I had another.
The second time I knew what was happening and still played it cool.
These coins are two of my most prized possessions.
Over the years I got to thinking: what would it look like if I had my own challenge coin for people who saw me at shows, bought my books, attended my lectures, and wanted to be part of the movement?
Even though the memory of the tour slowly faded to background noise, the thought has quietly been simmering in the back of my mind. Mostly quiet. But it’s there.
Since we live in the future and we have something called the internet, I think it’s possible to have completely new ways of finding your tribe.
I’d love to empower my community members to access hidden posts, articles, videos, and training courses that I’ve spread across the many websites that I’ve built without having to set up the same profile on 10+ different sites.
I’d also like members to always have VIP access to any/all public shows that I do across the country. I’m performing in your area? Your name is always on the list! Come early, hang out in the green room. Stay late and we’ll get dinner at that dive bar since it’s the only place that’s still open at this time of night.
I’d also like them to have a place where we can all hang out, chat, make big plans, and encourage each other.
Goldilocks Begins: Too Cold
I’ve been building an email list for quite some time now. That works well in order to stay in touch with people, and to share updates of what’s going on, but it’s not suited for showcasing membership. Hard to show off “Hey, look! I have an email from Jonathan!”
Neat. Cool. So what?
Back in 2018/2019 I heard about NFTs and they sounded like the perfect 21st century solution for me. Digital playing cards? Digital membership badges? Awesome! Sign me up!
The first project that caught my attention was RavenCoin. Without getting too technical about it, the RavenCoin project makes it easy for someone like me to create a unique “coin,” connect a picture (maybe something like a biker gang patch), and set the limit on how many there can be. 10? 100? 1,000,000?
Cool, we can make limited membership. Very exclusive.
I made several versions of ZAVANT squad NFTs, paintings, and other experiments. Some I made a few (paintings). Some I made a lot (THEZAVANT). Some I only made one (MENTALIST).
I also saw that messaging was on the roadmap.
That means that anyone holding one of the coins that I made can receive messages from me. Cool! It’s like a secret radio that receives messages from me.
The dreams of global domination were closer than ever.
But there were several drawbacks:
- Not a single person I know uses RavenCoin.
- Communication wasn’t live; only a roadmap item.
- Couldn’t do much with them when you owned them.
After my exploration with RavenCoin, I found Urbit.
This is its own rabbit hole, and I have written about it at length already and I even wrote the script to a well-received project that you can watch here:
It will be the best solution.
In the future.
It is the best project that checks all the right boxes (privacy, data ownership, peer to peer networking, etc) & it will eventually eat the world.
There are lots of positives, and I’m currently building a community on Urbit. If you’re on the network you can come join the party here:
But it has some drawbacks:
- Not an easy thing for people to start using. There’s a lot of “technical debt” as they say.
- Membership tokens are possible, but aren’t all that functional. Much like the RavenCoin situation.
- I’d have to be starting from scratch.
It’s January 2023 as I write this, and I’ve found a fantastic solution that fits my current setup & situation.
As of right now I have set up a couple flavors of NFTs that I can send someone. The challenge of getting someone used to using a crypto wallet like MetaMask is still there, but the hurdle is smaller because they will only be receiving the asset (which doesn’t use gas) and signing transactions (which also does not use gas).
Since it’s a relatively passive requirement (that doesn’t need them to go through the process of getting a particular flavor of crypto), I feel better about getting my Mom to use a wallet to receive an asset.
(“Can my Mom do this?” is a common metric I use to evaluate whether or not I can get buy-in on a technologically challenging project.)
Once they have the “ZAVANT Squad” asset in their wallet, they can then see secret posts on this site, watch exclusive courses on ZAVANT University, get access to a secret Discord server that only allows holders of “ZAVANT Squad” to join, and they can even hear extra “behind the scenes” podcast episodes on a completely different website.
All because they own one asset.
But Wait, There’s More
It’s great to hand out lifetime memberships for people who are diehard supporters.
But what about all those people who might not be all in?
That’s cool. I can even make temporary memberships that expire in 5 minutes, 5 days, or 5 years.
What about if I were in this for the money?
Yeah, we can do that, too.
Since I have a Stripe account for my businesses, I can sell these membership NFTs with credit cards and send them to their wallet without having to touch anything after it’s all set up.
This means I can sell books, e-books, show tickets, videos, courses, and more all through NFT-gated information on websites that I already own.
This solution has unlocked a ton of functionality around a wealth of information that I’ve already built on websites (sunk cost fallacy, anyone?).
The hub of all the activity will be located at ZAVANT.xyz and Portal Key holders will always have the highest level access to any/all projects.
As of now, the best way to let me know you’d like to be a part of this wild ride is to send me a DM on Twitter. Get me an ETH (polygon specifically) asset-aware address, and I’ll get you something cool.