98: Defying the Odds: Jason Wang's Pivot from Prison to Helping Others Transform Their Hustle

Jason Wang knows a thing or two about being an underdog. Growing up as an only child of two immigrant parents living through poverty and abuse, he knows all too well the challenges of overcoming obstacles to transform generational legacies of poverty, crime, and violence.

I had the great pleasure of meeting him earlier this year at a mentoring night for Defy Ventures, an organization that teaches entrepreneurship to men and women with criminal histories to help "transform their hustle." (Find a volunteer opportunity near you here!) Jason's radiance, joy and contagious positive energy blew me away. And then I heard his powerful comeback story and knew I had to share it with all of you. But first, a little context about what brought me to that mentoring night . . . 

In the years since Pivot launched, I have developed a strong desire to work with those who aren’t fortunate enough to pivot by choice, or who are perhaps embarking upon one of the greatest pivot opportunities of their lives: rebuilding after poverty, homelessness, and prison.

Earlier this year, I blazed through Defy founder Catherine Hoke’s book, A Second Chance, with an urgency that I couldn’t explain. Simultaneously, I read books on addiction, ADD, and the mind-body stress-disease connection by Dr. Gabor Mate. Next I sought out further reading on our incredibly broken criminal justice system, and read dozens of stories of people who had been wronged or disadvantaged because of their race and economic circumstances in runaway bestsellers like Just Mercy, The Other Wes Moore, The New Jim Crow, and Hillbilly Elegy. I read about Father Gregory Boyle’s inspiring work to employ and empower former gang members in downtown Los Angeles in Tattoos on the Heart and Barking to the Choir.

Many, if not all, of the people described within the pages experienced unthinkable trauma as children. Drugs and criminal activity were not the problem, they were their attempted solution to the pain of disconnection. Their stories made me cry, and cracked my heart open in a thousand new places. Stories of intense physical, mental, and emotional abuse. One parent’s form of childcare for her son? Putting him in the dryer until she was ready to let him out again. Another’s involved asking her six-year-old to “just kill [himself] already,” for being such a burden, before dropping him off at an orphanage saying she had no clue whose child this was. Or like Jason whose father tried to kill him three times before he was ten years old. 

As the authors above illuminate, many of these people never had a true first chance at life, let alone a second. Father Boyle describes as “a compassion that stands in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than in judgment at how they carry it.” It is with this reverence for the resilience of these incredible souls that I bring you Jason's story, and hopefully many more like it moving forward.  

Check out full show notes from this episode with links to resources mentioned at PivotMethod.com/podcast/defy-jason-wang. Enjoying the show? Make my week by donating just $1 and episode at Patreon.com/pivot.

More About Jason Wang

jason wang.jpg

Having received a second chance of his own, Jason is passionate about creating second chances for others through his work with Defy Ventures.  

Defy Ventures provides entrepreneurship, employment, and character development training for people with criminal histories and builds a life-giving, authentic community between Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs) and executive volunteers as they bond in their humanity. During speaking engagements, Jason addresses his failures and how he bounced back to inspire and challenge others toward action. 

Jason is a former management consultant, entrepreneur, and public speaker. He earned an MBA in finance/accounting and a Master of Science degree in International Business from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Topics We Cover

  • Jason’s upbringing growing up in poverty, childhood abuse

  • Finding "Prison God” before his sentence, then rejecting religion before returning to it with a deeper faith later in his time behind bars

  • What created the awakening of transformation for him while incarcerated

  • The one thing that gave him hope and carried him through, at one of the most corrupt juvenile prisons in the country (before it was later shut down for severe misconduct)

  • How Jason got involved with Catherine Hoke’s programs to teach inmates how to
    "transform their hustle"

  • His later pivot to working full-time with Defy Ventures

  • How Defy coaches Entrepreneurs in Training (EITs) to share their story

  • The “Step to the Line” exercise, and the importance of shared empathy and creating a more even playing field for EITs and volunteers

  • How you can get involved with mentoring nights and prison visits!

Defying The Odds: Jason Wang's Pivot From Prison To Helping Others Transform Their Hustle

Listen below or on iTunesSoundCloud, YouTubeOvercastStitcher, or Google Play Music:

Resources Mentioned

Books Mentioned

Check out other episodes of the Pivot Podcast here. Be sure to subscribe via iTunesGoogle Play or SoundCloud, and if you enjoy the show I would be very grateful for a rating and/or review! Sign-up for my weekly(ish) #PivotList newsletter to receive curated round-ups of what I'm reading, watching, listening to, and new tools I'm geeking out on.

Want to support the show and become a founding member of the Pivot Podcast community? Join us on Patreon here.