Zac Hill, Chief Innovation Officer of The Future Project shares his life’s journey of following his passions from being a nine-year-old Beanie Baby mogul to head designer at Magic The Gathering. A hysterical conversation ensues.
Zac Hill is the Chief Innovation Officer of The Future Project and Executive Director of The Future Lab. Previously he was a lead game designer of the card game Magic: The Gathering and the Xbox Live Arcade game Duels of the Planeswalkers, which was named one of PCGamer’s “100 Best Games of All Time”. Other random things Zac has done include having lead the team that passed Malaysia’s first-ever Freedom of Information Law; written a book of fictitious celebrity interviews; fronted a nineties cover band; launched a nationwide Beanie Baby empire; extra’d in the film Walk the Line; served as a policy advisor for Memphis Mayor AC Wharton; and conducted color commentary for a number of professional gaming circuits. For those who care about these kinds of things, his work has appeared in The Believer, The Huffington Post, the Memphis Flyer, and Seattle Magazine—as well as a number of tiny literary magazines that no one reads—and he’s been featured on NPR’s Planet Money podcast. He lives in Greenwich Village.
Today, you’ll hear my interview with Zac Hill, Chief Innovation Officer at the Future Project. When asked what he “does for a living” Zac notes that he helps people “find their forte” through his work at The Future Project, a non-profit organization that connects youth (and others) with their passion and purpose.
Zac first found his own entrepreneurial spirit when he built a “Beanie Baby Empire” during his childhood. He “flipped” his first Beanie Baby when he was quite young. He purchased it for $5 and sold it for $10. He kept buying and selling and eventually made $22,000 on this first endeavor! (Listen to hear more about Zac’s Beanie Baby adventure.)
Zac also tried starting a bio-diesel fuel company but his real claim to fame came as a competitive player for the card game. “Magic: The Gathering”. (Listen to learn about why Zac got involved in competitive play.) Zac credits “Magic” with allowing him to see the world and is grateful for the experiences he gained in that realm, which he entered at age 15. He also wrote many articles for “Magic” lifestyle magazines. In addition, his notoriety in the world of “Magic” led to an offer to be a designer for the game. (Listen for details on how Zac got the job!)
When questioned about his motivation to go and seek out experiences on his own at such a young age, Zac notes that he was always afraid of dying. His family didn’t live in a safe neighborhood and he had been robbed at gunpoint twice. So he always asked himself, “What can I do to earn the right to live this life?” The reality of that responsibility, he notes, is determining what you can do to make the most of the opportunities you have. Zac adds that he always wanted to make sure to contribute value to whatever he was passionate about.
After college, Zac won the Henry Luce Fellowship and spent a year in Malaysia working on drafting and passing a Freedom of Information act, the first for that country. (Listen to hear more about Zac’s Malaysian experience.) When questioned about his overwhelming success, Zac points out that we often self-handicap and don’t reach for our goals. Instead, he went for it, he explains.In regards to the popular theory known as the “zero sum game” – a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) ofthe utility of the other participant(s) – Zac believes It boils down to a kind of insecurity. “If you feel threatened by someone else’s success, you need to discover why you feel threatened,” he points out.
“When you become successful, you want to see others succeed! People don’t achieve great things by making sure that other people DON’T achieve great things.” (Listen to hear Zac chat about the death threats he received during his “Magic” career!) “You will never be free of people who dislike you severely,” Zac continues. “You can’t always get people
to like you. There’s no magical formula to please everyone but don’t take it to the opposite extreme and hate everyone. Just lean into the people that want to support you.”
About The Future Project –The Future Project is an organization designed to support and encourage people to live with passion and purpose. The organization teaches “I want, I can, I will” and urges youth (and others) to take action to achieve their passion and purpose. Participants in the project are encouraged to think about what actually drives them. “When are you most content? When do you feel the least self-doubt? When do I feel most like me?” are good questions to ask to discover this drive. (Listen to the podcast to hear about how The Future Project’s “Dream Directors” guide high school students all around the country.)
To find out more about The Future Project go to: www.thefutureproject.org, or find them on Instagram and Twitter @dreamdirectors
Zac also encourages listeners to watch “Most Likely to Succeed”, a film that will help understand the goals of the organization. To view the trailer, go to www.mltsfilm.org
To connect with Zac, look for him on the internet or on Twitter and Instagram @zdch