180: Jason Harris – The Soulful Art of Persuasion


“Whenever I hear a no, I think it’s a no for now.”
Jason Harris

Hey, guys, welcome back to ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio), the podcast where we explore the body, mind, and soul of the creative entrepreneur. It’s my goal to help you take your creativity, business, and life to the next level. I’m so glad you’re joining me on this journey!

Let’s face it, whether it be our boss, our spouse or friend, or that cute hottie at the bar, we’ve all had to persuade someone of something at some point in our lives. However, did you know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to convince others? 

This is what we’re discussing today as I sit down with Jason Harris, the founder of Mekanism, one of New York’s top advertising agencies. As entrepreneurs, some of us might be natural persuaders. We find it easy to use our energy, knowledge, and personality to influence others and get people on board with our ideas. Yet, some might not be lucky enough to know the right way and a wrong way to persuade others. Despite these differences, Jason believes that anyone can improve how they connect with others and even master the art of persuasion. 

Are you ready to know how Jason started on his own journey and how to be more persuasive? If you are, then let’s dive in!

Who Is Jason Harris?

Jason Harris is the co-founder & CEO of award-winning creative advertising agency Mekanism and co-founder of the Creative Alliance. He works closely with brands through a blend of creativity and performance. We call this approach Soul + Science. Iconic brands include Peloton, Ben & Jerry’s, Jose Cuervo, Charles Schwab, and OkCupid, among others.

Under his leadership, Mekanism was most recently named Independent Agency of the Year by The Drum and ranked by the Effie Index as a top 10 Most Effective Independent Agency in the United States. Mekanism has also been named to Ad Age’s Agency A-list and twice to their Best Places to Work. 

Harris was also named 2021 CEO of the Year by The Drum. He’s been a recipient of the 4A’s 100 People Who Make Advertising Great and a 2020 Campaign US 40 Over 40 honoree for his noteworthy contributions to the advertising & marketing industry. His methods are studied in cases at Harvard Business School.

He is also the author of the national bestseller, The Soulful Art of Persuasion, a book about building soulful relationships that turn into creative and business collaborations. This has been an impactful book for my own career, business, and life, and I’m sure it can impact yours, too. 

How the Story Began

From extensive campaigns to viral videos, there’s always someone who acts as a driving force behind some of today’s most engaging and compelling ads. This person needs to possess a creative mind that few can match — and he leverages it daily to make brands happy and consumers think alike. This Mad Men-like characteristic is what Jason has always dreamt of having, even as a kid.

“I was 12 years old when I knew I wanted to go into advertising. I thought it was a good combination of business, like moving goods and services and promoting them.”
Jason Harris

Aside from that, he also grew up finding a passion for other things.

“I grew up as a creative. I was a comic book nerd and loved drawing all the superheroes and writing graphic novels. … Then I discovered the power of music, which opened up my mind in terms of creativity.”
Jason Harris

Jason played the bass for years. He had fun with it but realized it was not something natural to him. 

“I enjoyed it, but I realized that I don’t want to go on tours. It’s not like I want to be the next rock star.”
Jason Harris

Although Jason did not become a rockstar for music, he became the rock star of the ad world. But getting this new title came with many challenges — including convincing others to get on board with what he wanted them to believe.

Creative Spaces and Relationships

The truth is the world of advertising isn’t easy. It’s a highly high-pressure world where people sell services to and persuade clients so they can sell their goods and services to their client’s audience. It’s a world where everyone is consistently fighting for a more significant share of the pie. He even pointed out how even people who don’t belong to the industry have to deal with it daily. 

“We’re all selling something. For you, it’s trying to sell your photography services and get people to listen to your podcast, but it can also be selling yourself so you can persuade someone to go spend a day or night with you. It can also be when you’re convincing your family to allow you not to go home at Christmas. These are just some of these micro incidences all day of persuasion.”
Jason Harris

The group that faces this challenge of persuading clients most is the creative freelancers like us. We don’t want to seem too desperate, but we also don’t want to not ask. Check out Jason’s expertise, in which he shares the most important thing he learned.

“Persuasion in the creative space is like a fine dance. … It’s all about playing the long game and building relationships, so it doesn’t feel like you’re persuading or advertising to them at all.”
Jason Harris

Jason believes that you can be a better persuader when talking to your audience without thinking of bagging the gig as the ultimate goal. We may pitch to five different clients in real life and still not get them persuaded. From here, our conventional wisdom is to get pissed off and just focus on the next pitch. For Jason, this shouldn’t be the case.

“I think the important thing is you’ve spent energy developing those relationships. But instead of pushing those relationships to happen, why not just play the long game and step back?”
Jason Harris

So what does Jason mean by this? It simply means that as we continue to collect and build relationships that will pay off down the road, we still have to nurture those business relationships we failed to have. We have to take those people out for lunch, breakfast, and coffee, make them some phone calls, and send them articles about their industry — something that keeps us at the top of their minds, all the while never expecting anything in return. By doing so, we do not let the relationship drop to zero. Instead, we’re building up great networks that can come back to us tenfold over time. 

In today’s society where we live, relationships are key. We need to build relationships in our careers to best reach out to others with a common goal. There are no sure bets on who’ll hire you or not, but what better way to sway them than through a personal relationship, right?

The Soulful Art of Persuasion

As I mentioned earlier, reading the book The Soulful Art of Persuasion was an incredibly insightful experience for me. It was the product of Jason’s 20 years in advertising to transform persuasion into a valuable tool for anyone out there. 

Aside from that, I like something else about the book — it’s about having a soul and being a human when dealing with clients. It’s being proactive and talking to them about things outside of business. The good thing is it’s a learnable habit for everyone.

“This habit is really all about being yourself. … We’re all put on the planet to do more than our craft. So, the idea of soul and purpose is taking the skill and things you’re good at and marrying them with something that you can give back to make the world a better place.”
Jason Harris

As an advertiser, Jason was able to do this by creating an advertising community, Creative Alliance, that does pro bono work for nonprofits. Here, they take their advertising skills and do free work for gender equality, immigration, civic engagement, anti-hate, discrimination, and other social issues. 

“I always encourage people to write down three things that they’re really skilled at and then three things that they care about in the world. Then I tell them to look at those two sheets of paper and blend the ideas together to know what they can give back to make the world a better place.”
Jason Harris

This soulful art of persuasion has filled his life and made him a happier person. If everyone can do this, he believes we can get into alignment and perform better with whatever endeavor we’re taking. 

So that’s it. Why don’t you pull out your own sheets of paper, write down your skills and passions, and see if you can find a way to reflect on your work? And while we’re at it, let’s all agree that putting the soul into our work is actually what makes life worth living.

Our Soul and Identity 

Our souls are valuable, and they can be passed on to others through speech or art. We can build connections, and there are no limits to what we can create through such relationships. They’re essential because the lifeblood of every business and human is what they share with another person in a moment, in person, on a stage, or with a blank page. And while letting our souls pass to others through our work, frequencies, and vibrations, we’re also consistently faced with understanding our identities.

Alchemy is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained.

With that being said, I define Identity Alchemy as the process of deconstructing who you don’t want to be in order to realize who you want to become. 

Through it, you’ll be able to identify your shadows or the things you don’t want to be true about you and shed them slowly. I believe that the deconstruction process of life and your inner world is such a huge piece of understanding who you are so that you can curate who you want to become. In general, I noticed for myself that the more inner work that I do — the deeper shadow work that I do to understand myself — the better life becomes towards the path of wholeness.

Jason used his identity as an advertiser to create an authentic purpose more significant than himself. He made a space where he could use his skills and influence to help others carry out their world missions. Ultimately, these soulful relationships successfully led him into many creative and business collaborations.

If you loved this episode, make sure to connect with Jason on social media. He’s on Twitter and Instagram, and you can see more of his incredible and soulful contributions at soufulart.com. And, of course, you can find his book, The Soulful Art of Persuasion, available on Amazon and all your local retailers.

Thank you so much for listening today. It was a pleasure to be with you. Remember to please take a screenshot of your key takeaways and share it on Instagram and tag Jason, @jason_harris, and me, @nickonken. Also, feel free to leave me a review on Apple podcasts if you have time. I love to hear your feedback.

I’ll catch you guys next time!

Nick Onken

You can Subscribe and Listen to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts. And please leave me a Rating and Review!


“When I was 12 years old I knew I wanted to be a madman.”
Jason Harris

Some things we learn in this podcast:

  • How to keep in touch with your professional contacts [12:50]
  • How to balance your human soul with your business [14:35]
  • Types of pro bono work Jason does with advertising [15:30]
  • How to get started giving back [16:10]
  • How to find the balance in charity work [21:00]
  • What the word influencer means to Jason [23:24]
  • What Jason’s routines and rituals are [32:54]
  • How often Nick does do breathwork [40:20]
  • How is ayahuasca like therapy [40:47]

Links Mentioned:

Connect with Jason Harris on Instagram | Twitter | The Soulful Art

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