A Coincidental Conversation™ about the "Love on Every Billboard" Movement with Founder John Pogachar

A Coincidental Conversation™ about the "Love on Every Billboard" Movement with Founder John Pogachar

I thought about John Pogachar recently on a cross-country trip my wife and I took from Chicago to Orlando. As I drove, I realized that the story of this country is told through billboards.

Every topic is covered. Restaurants. Religion. Gas Stations. Lawyers. Doctors. Hospitals. Hotels. Adult Entertainment (sadly, quite a few of those). Local Festivals and Tourist Stops. And more.

In Georgia, for example, multiple billboards let us know that, if we just stopped at the upcoming Shell station, we could take a picture with Bigfoot. Yes, that Bigfoot! (Of course, we soon learned that, though looking quite Bigfoot-like, this eighth wonder of the world was plastic and holding cartons of Budweiser to promote that week’s sale).

During the trip, though, there was one billboard I didn’t see, but most wanted to. One I first learned about after watching a video with John Pogachar and Kyle Cease, a New York Times-best-selling author, coach and former award-winning Comedy Central comedian.

John, supported by Kyle and others, started a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization called “Love on Every Billboard,” whose goal is to, well, put love on every billboard, in as many places as possible. And, to date, the movement it inspired, (summarized in this short video) has put up 147 billboards in many locations, including 14 states across the U.S., and in five other countries (Austria, Canada, New Zealand, the Ukraine and Russia). This number also includes one that went up in the Chicago area in January 2020.

Why did I so badly want to see “Love” on a billboard? Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not quite sure. But I do know that when I see one of the movement’s billboards, I feel good, like someone cares and that I’m not alone. All things needed in this world, especially now.

So, how best to share that feeling with you? Well, I started by going to the source. Talking to John. And during the conversation, not only did I find that he’s planning a feature documentary to celebrate the 3-year milestone of the “Love on Every Billboard” movement, but that John himself is a walking, talking billboard. With one word emblazoned on him. Yep, you know what it is….

So, with that, below are takeaway quotes from our conversation (slightly edited for length and flow). And I’m guessing that, after you read them, you’ll want to watch our full conversation.

Takeaway Quote #1: On how his movement to put the word “Love” on every billboard started: “The first billboard went up in November 2018, but it actually started in September 2015. I was sitting in my kitchen, looking at Facebook, seeing how the nation was so divided, and I just yelled out, ‘Where’s all the love in the world?!’ But it’s funny because I found out later that the love really had to start with me.

Coincidentally, Kyle Cease showed up on my Facebook feed talking about love and transformation. Because his messages resonated with me, I went to one of his events. (Kyle later generously became an early supporter.)

Then, later, while meditating at Kings Canyon National Park, a thought came to me: “How about putting love on a billboard?” And, with that idea immediately came this fear about putting my idea out there. My inner voice was saying, “Who are you to do something like that?”

So, I sat with the idea for a long time. Then, I went to a retreat and got great feedback about it. And, finally, on a wharf in Canada, I found a rock with the word ‘love’ written on it. That was the last “kick in the butt” I needed, so I looked up in the sky and said, ‘Ok, I’ll do it.’”

Takeaway Quote #2: In this world of rampant self-promotion, the “Love” billboards stand out because, besides that word, there is nothing promotional about it. No branding. No advertisements. No website. No name. Etc. On why John did it that way: “I knew that, without a URL, or anything on it, that would make it even more likely that people would pay attention to it, write stories about it, and so on, which would share it more broadly. And I also thought, “Why put anything else on it?’ After all, that is the story. Love. And, if they really wanted to find out where it came from, they could find the website.

Of course, even with that, I still wanted to know if it worked, if the money I spent was worth it. But, knowing that was my ego talking, I instead told myself, ‘Ok, John, take a deep breath and know that you may never know how or if this is affecting people.

Later, though, I did hear an overwhelming response about it. And what was interesting is that the people we ended up hearing from most were men – like mechanics and others. Big, burly guys, saying things like, ‘Oh my God, I so needed to hear and see this today.’ It’s like we were just being a safe place for them to talk in.”

Takeaway Quote #3: On how learning to love ourselves, as Whitney Houston sang, really is the greatest love of all.  “For a long time, I was looking for love like a lot of people do – outside. We look for that in a mate. Or maybe, if I bought a new car or house, or got a new job, then I would feel like I’d arrived. You know, I was seeing myself doing these things. But I would still go, ‘Well, what else is there?’ I was happy for a bit, then empty. It’s like finding that real love within yourself that’s always there for you.”

Takeaway Quote #4: On the role Kyle Cease and others played in making John’s dream a reality. “So many people stand out. Kyle was instrumental in starting it. He encouraged me, bought space on three billboards, and has continued to support the movement. Kyle’s assistant at the time, Emilia Ann, created a beautiful website for me and came up with the loveoneverybillboard.com URL. Then I worked with Nick Lewis, a friend and co-owner of Kingsley & Scout men’s clothing boutique in Spokane, Washington, who designed the “Love” image with me. Then, in December 2018, Laurel Nakai, wrote and recorded a song about the movement after we connected. It was so beautiful. I literally cried for a half hour after hearing it. Along the way, I had to also learn how to receive in a big way.

And, you know, I cried because here are people taking my idea and adding to it. It was like you paint something and then somebody comes by and adds this beautiful tree or a mountain in the background, and then somebody else comes by and adds something else. And that’s so much what this project has done. I mean, I put up one billboard. Somebody else added three more and then somebody else added so much more. It is like this beautiful painting, and now it’s wrapped around the whole world.”

Takeaway Quote #5: What the world needs now is love. And it’s spreading. “There are so many examples of it spreading. We received support and three billboards in L.A. for six months from Out Front Media. A young lady put up a billboard in Detroit. After my sister passed away, my brother-in-law put one up in Montana, knowing she’d love the idea. We put up a billboard in Pittsburgh, where a couple of years ago there was a synagogue shooting. A lady in St. Louis put up eight billboards, and the news contacted her like they have with so many other people. Then there were two individuals in New Zealand, where they had this devastating synagogue shooting, who put up 22 billboards in Christchurch, New Zealand, and they did a beautiful video of the effort. Another example is when a young lady from Russia called and said she wanted to put one up there.”

Takeaway Quote #6: On why he initially hesitated in putting his idea into action. “I believe we carry beliefs that we were passed down from when we were kids. So, maybe when we were five, we came up with this idea, but it got shut down. Somebody says that’s a dumb idea, or one of your parents, the people that you respect, who feed and clothe you, and everything else, they say, ‘I don’t think that’s going to work,’ and it really deflates you. It makes you think, ‘OK, well, I have no good ideas. Nobody likes what I do. Maybe I’ll just go hang out in my room.’ And, unless you have somebody that says, ‘You know what, that is a great idea. I want to see more of what you’re doing,” and if every time you put yourself out there, you get pushed back, you get to a point where you stop trying. But, later, when you start putting out your ideas and if you have had that encouragement, it’s like, ‘OK, I’m going to go put my idea out there, and if I fail, I fail.’ And that’s all part of the learning process.”

Takeaway Quote #7: On how the billboards also draw attention from celebrities and the news. “When we put love on a billboard in Los Angeles, the Today Show heard about it from one of their affiliates down there around Valentine’s Day and they did a story on it. And then, for his song, “Love is still the answer,” Jason Mraz asked everyone to point their cameras to what they saw as love, and then suddenly you get like two minutes and 30 seconds into this video and you see a picture of one of the billboards in St. Louis go by.

Takeaway Quote #8: On John’s new upcoming book, “written” by babies. “My new book is titled 10 Things I Want my Mom and Dad to Know Before I’m Five Days old. It’s about what a baby, who just came down from God, the Source, etc., would most want to tell their parents. Like, ‘All I want is to be loved. And ‘What if we meditated – like I just did for nine months?’ And ‘Mom and Dad, I love what you do. I mean, I see your hobbies and stuff like that and what you do for work. It’s like, great, but let me do what I want to do and encourage me for doing it. I also did the illustrations, too, again because of the encouragement of friends and my finally being willing to do my own thing – and draw my own way.”

Takeaway Quote #9: On coaching. “I’m doing life coaching, working with people, getting them to learn to express more of themselves. Letting them know that their ideas are worthy. Hopefully helping them to learn to love themselves more ultimately.”

Takeaway Quote #10: On the upcoming documentary celebrating the 3-year-anniversary of “Love on Every Billboard.” “In April, I was doing an interview and was asked what the next thing would be for the movement. I answered that I thought there’s a film in here somewhere, but I didn’t know what that would be like. So, then in August, Dave Krygier, owner of DMK Productions, shows up and says, ‘Hey, I think there’s a documentary film in this, and would you like to do that’? So, we discussed the budget and we’re now raising the money and then will enter it in several film festivals. People can donate at loveoneverybillboard.com if they’re interested. Again, like with Kyle coming into my life, I put it out to the Universe and the Universe answered.”

Takeaway Quote #11: On where else the billboards could go – to infinity and beyond. “It would be really, really cool to put the billboards in Walt Disney World and Disneyland. I also sent Elon Musk a letter proposing he help put a love billboard on the moon through his SpaceX company – it could go right next to the American flag! Maybe, we could even get one in the Smithsonian Institution.

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And wait, there’s more…

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Contact me at james@jameswarda.com and learn more at jameswarda.com.

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