The Founder's Series, Part 4: Michael Jones, Founder, The Cool Humans Club


The Intro

Michael Jones is a New York City-based instructor, editor and recovering perfectionist. He’s also the founder of The Cool Humans Club, a members-only online education resource for modern professionals. Michael was formerly digital style editor and “Ask Michael” columnist at Condé Nast’s now-defunct Lucky magazine.

The Highlights

  • On the flawed logic of passion- and purpose-driven living: “So many of us have been taught to search for our “purpose” or “follow our passion” to find the work we should be creating. Objectively speaking though, the market doesn’t reward passion or purpose.”

  • On why The Club is free to join: “I think everyone’s cool and shouldn’t have to pay to be recognized as such. So it was important to me to make sure that members got value from the experience whether they were paid subscribers or not.”

  • On how business models work: “I tell people all the time that if you want to know who has the power, just follow the money.”

  • On the most exciting part of building The Club: As someone who is really curious and loves to learn, this project has been a dream because I learn something new or meet someone new every day.”

  • On what he’d tell people who are just getting started: “Love the people you’re creating for.”

The Conversation

Michael Jones interviewed by Christine Cauthen on December 17, 2018. This conversation is the third installment of The Founder’s Series, a four-part deep-dive into the life and work of the founder of [The Cool Humans Club]. This interview has been edited and condensed.

At what point did you realize The Cool Humans Club would be your next project?

In 2016 when I left media to start my own business, I was curious for the answer to a single question: How does a new generation of professionals — one that grew up with the Internet, with social media, one that’s more educated than any previous generation in the history of country — claim ownership of our work and life.

And what was so fascinating when I began to research this question was how twenty- and thirtysomethings have redesigned the notion of “luxury.” Luxury used to mean splurging on expensive stuff — fashion, cars, electronics — and, of course, those products still denote status and access. But for the most part, what we really want is to be able to call our own shots. That’s a luxury most people don’t enjoy.

Because healthcare, housing and education are more than five times more expensive than they were for our parents. Steady, stable jobs are an endangered species. Wages have been flat for nearly four decades. And since millennials of color make up 45 percent of the millennial population, wealth inequality stands to get worse before it gets better: White millennials are five times more likely to receive an inheritance than non-white millennials.

So it was this insight on the realities of our new economy that led me to discover a few opportunities that what eventually became The Cool Humans Club could seize.

What are some of those gaps?

Let me go back to that idea of claiming ownership over the work you produce and the life you live. Like I said, that’s the new luxury. And in order to obtain something luxurious, something special, something rich, you have to offer something that highly coveted.

And in the context of our new economy, that highly coveted something is a marketable skill that can produce extraordinary work with quality and speed.

But what was so fascinating during my research was how so many of us have been taught to search for our “purpose” or “follow our passion” to find the work we should be creating. Objectively speaking though, the market doesn’t reward passion or purpose. The market rewards well-executed ideas.

And when you master a skill that enables you to execute at a high level, you actually become more passionate about that work and more connected to your purpose behind creating it.

So I wanted to make sure The Cool Humans Club prioritized mastery and execution over pursuing passion projects or purpose journeys. Because that’s what will ultimately help you to win.

I love that mindset shift.

Another insight I learned from talking to people is that almost everyone I interviewed already had an idea. They were clear on what how they could deliver value in a unique way to their communities.

Where things would break down is when they tried to make those ideas happen. There’s so much that goes into getting people to pay attention to and pay for a product, service or experience. That’s why all the learning content that I’m designing and developing for The Club is really intuitive and organized so members feel less overwhelmed and frustrated with producing their creativity.


OK, let’s get to the main event: What exactly is The Cool Humans Club?

So The Cool Humans Club is a members-only online education resource for modern professionals who want to get noticed and get paid for the brilliance they bring to the world.

The Club is answering the call from a new generation of entrepreneurs, creators and thinkers for ongoing and on-demand access to premium training, tools and support that help them start, level-up and sustain their online business, personal brand or side hustle — without losing their mind or integrity in the process.

The Club’s hero product is the Cool Kit. Each Kit features a 10-minute video lesson on how to produce, promote or profit from your creativity and a guide called a “Power Move” to help you effectively execute what you just learned.

There’s also a text file, audio file and slides included in each Kit to fit the learning preferences of all members. Subscribers get a new Cool Kit each week as part of a seamless membership experience, in addition to some other incredible monthly benefits.

I’m so excited to share it with the world.

Sounds so cool — pun intended. How does membership work?

The Club is free forever to join and comes with a couple of learning products like Scavenger Hunt, a downloadable activity that enables members to discover the best books, articles and guidance on how to master a specific business skill. Free members are also welcome to join The Club’s monthly live pop-up workshop, where I deliver a 60- to 90-minute master class with a goal of simplifying a business or marketing concept. I think everyone’s cool and shouldn’t have to pay to be recognized as such. So it was important to me to make sure that members got value from the experience whether they were paid subscribers or not.

For members who want a more immersive experience, The Cool Humans Club offers three paid membership levels: Super Cool, Beyond Cool and Ultra Cool.

Super Cool includes a new Cool Kit each week plus on-demand access to all live workshops and training. The level is perfect if you want to work at your own pace but want to avoid wasting time Google-searching and Youtube-watching and social-media-stalking your way to the strategies, processes and systems you need to get noticed and get paid.

Beyond Cool is for members who are looking for real-time, hands-on support. In addition to a weekly Cool Kit and 24/7 access to live trainings, members get access to my private calendar to book private appointments during my office hours, an exclusive invitation to a monthly group coaching call where they can request and receive instant feedback from yours truly, and VIP email support where I’ll respond to member questions within a business day. And all Beyond Cool members can earn 30 percent in affiliate income from every member they refer to The Club.

Ultra Cool includes a year-long membership to The Club plus a ticket to one of three in-person weekend intensives I’m hosting in New York City and two other cities in 2019 for a one-time payment.

Another cool perk: All paid members will have their name and a link to their preferred digital platform listed in the TCHC Directory to promote their offerings and be discovered by other professionals and organizations.

Members can upgrade, downgrade or cancel at anytime.


How did you decide on the subscription model?

Most people prefer to subscribe to the outcomes they want when they want them rather than without the hassle of maintenance and ownership. So a subscription model just made sense: I get to bundle an insane amount of value for more professionals in my community at literally 85 to 90 percent of what it would cost if these products were sold a la carte. It allows me to make my offerings really accessible without diluting the quality.

Plus, I tell people all the time that if you want to know who has the power, just follow the money. There’s a reason why your favorite social media platforms are free: Because advertisers are paying for access to your time, attention and dollars so they can optimize their ads to your behavior and personal data.

I would rather you invest your time, attention and money into mastering a skill, creating meaningful work that people will pay attention to and pay top dollar for and promoting it on your own channels — instead of posting and consuming content on platforms you can’t control.

Because paid subscriptions will sustain The Club, I get to vigorously serve and adapt to the wants and needs of its members — not the varied interests of a handful of advertisers and sponsors.

What’s your biggest challenge as founder of The Club and editor of this site?

Early on, I had to overcome intense Imposter Syndrome. I came up with so many reasons why I was out of my mind to create and launch such an ambitious project. But The Cool Humans Club is a culmination of all the experiences I’ve had in my career as a learning designer and lifestyle editor. I’ve done the work to be able to deliver on what I’m promising, so every day I place a bet on myself and give the people the best of what I’ve got.

Another challenge isn’t really unique to me but any time you’re introducing something new to the market, a lot of time has to be given to educating people on the point of view and ethos of the brand. So I invested a lot of late nights and early mornings making sure the the voice, messaging, and copy strategy was consistent across the business.

Then there’s the fact that the online education space is really crowded. Lots of people are out here selling lousy experiences that don’t deliver on the promises they’ve made. As a result, consumers are hella cynical when it comes to a charismatic entrepreneur showing up in their inbox asking them to pay for something that was created to help them work and live on their own terms. I get it though: Cynicism was one of the motivators for me creating The Club.


What’s your current focus as the founder?

I care deeply about creating as many successful members as possible. And that journey starts the moment someone lands on or hears about The Club from a member and extends to the training, the tools, the support, the live experiences — everything that’s available for members to engage with in pursuit of their goals.

If members aren’t successful — if they’re not confidently and strategically using their superskill to get noticed and get paid for their brilliance, then I don’t deserve their money. And I damn sure don’t deserve the luxury of owning my work and life. So every day my focus is on earning the trust of The Club’s members, helping them step into their cool and equipping them to be more successful than they thought they could be.

What’s the difference between The Cool Humans Club and Cool Convos?

Internally, I think of The Cool Humans Club as a lifestyle company that stands for the belief that you already have everything you need to claim ownership over your work and life in a way that feels true to you. That’s what “stepping into your cool” is all about.

And The Club — the actual membership product — is a resource dedicated to enabling you to confidently and strategically express that cool so people pay attention to and pay for it. Cool Convos has an editorial flavor to it and is all about the stories and experiences of people who are being the examples of cool that guests and members can connect with.

Here’s a rule of thumb: The Cool Humans Club is the head. Cool Convos is the heart. Read Cool Convos when you want to be inspired. Join The Cool Humans Club when you’re ready to take action.

What’s been the exciting part of building The Club?

Building The Club! I’m sure I sound like a broken record by now, but it really is a luxury to get to do meaningful work that gives people access to what they need to ultimately make the work, life and world they want to see.

I’ve had jobs I’ve hated and bosses who were wack so to be able to find joy in even the mundane parts of my work is something I don’t take for granted. And as someone who is really curious and loves to learn, this project has been a dream because I learn something new or meet someone new every day.

[Pauses] Oh, and it’s also really exciting to hear my teenage nephew tell me how cool he thinks I am and how proud of me he is. [Laughs]


What advice would you have for someone starting their own business or working in learning and development or editorial?

Love the people you’re creating for. And create something they’re willing, able and motivated to buy. [Pauses] One more thing: Create twice as much as you consume.

What do you see for The Cool Humans Club in the future?

I see people really stepping into their cool and creating unique solutions to the problems of our time. I also see The Club being the premier online education destination for modern professionals who want training, tools and support that’s DOPE: Dynamic, Optimistic, Practical and Empowering.

In the next year, I’m also excited to invest a lot of resources into bringing more live experiences to Cool Humans across the country. Right now, I’ve got three two-day intensives planned for 2019, so hopefully there will be a demand for more in the future.

And lastly, where did the name come from?

[Laughs] When I was researching what eventually became The Cool Humans Club, I read a lot of books from and met with a lot of people who had this really incredible approach to work and life.

They concerned themselves with mastery and execution and were vigilant about blocking out any external distractions that disrupted their concentration and focus. They worked and lived from the inside out, recognizing that who they were and what they had to offer would be enough to get noticed and get paid for the brilliance they brought to the world.

Most importantly, these people really embraced the grays of being human. The breakthroughs, the breakdowns, the setbacks, the setups — they’re all apart of the human experience.

I wanted to build something that attracted and developed more of these kind of people. And I knew I needed a name for this community. So I was like if I had to describe these folks in one or two words, what would it be? And I left it alone for a few days. But lo and behold, after a meditation one morning, it hit me and I screamed, “They’re all Cool Humans!”

I hopped online, snatched up the domain name and here we are.

The Recommendations

Michael’s blueprint for getting the most out of your subscription to The Cool Humans Club:

1) Download your weekly Cool Kit: Cool Kits are designed to organize the creative process into bite-sized so you can start and/or sustain your online business, personal brand or side hustle — minus the guesswork, overwhelm and anxiety. A new Kit is added to the members area every Monday and features a video lesson on and a guide to help you strategically and confidently execute what you just learned. Prefer to listen or read the lesson? Audio files and transcripts are included in every Cool Kit.

2) Register for Training Days: Perfect for members who fancy live in-person learning environments, this two-day intensive focuses on accelerating your creative performance and development to produce up to ten times more results for your digital platform. The weekend includes four training blocks on fundamental and advanced creative strategies and interactive creative experiments— plus plenty of time for connecting with other attendees and learning from their experiences. The first Training Days weekend will be in New York City this February.

3) Attend the monthly Pop-Up Workshop: These live 60- to 90-minute learning sessions dive into the business of creativity and reveal the strategies and insights to apply to digital platform to level-up your audience, engagement and profits. (Replays of each workshop are included in the Beyond Cool and Ultra Cool member experiences.)

4) Request (and receive!) on-the-spot feedback: Turn breakdowns into breakthroughs during a monthly group coaching call designed to give you the accountability it takes to consistently produce and deliver value with your superskill.

5) Sign up for personalized coaching: Michael dedicates up to 20 20-minute blocks on his calendar each month for Office Hours. Need more 1-on-1 time? Get access to Michael’s private calendar to book extra in advance or pay for any overages after the appointment at Michael’s discounted members-only rate. Appointments are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

6) Get as-needed priority email support: No time to watch the reply of the pop-up workshop? No time to listen to a recording of the most recent group coaching session? No worries. Send your question straight to my inbox and get an in-depth response (in plain English!) within a business day.

7) Complete your digital Scavenger Hunt: Skills are like muscles: You’ve gotta work ‘em out for them to keep getting stronger. Scavenger Hunt is an guided interactive search across the World Wide Web to discover the best books, articles and training to work and live at peak performance.

8) Refer new members, earn $$$: Simply put: When new members join using your unique sign-up link, you earn 30% of their subscription fee every month for as long as their a member.