Say the words “Renaissance man,” and most of us
immediately think of Leonardo da Vinci, an extraordinarily accomplished
man—painter, sculptor, engineer, astronomer, anatomist, biologist,
geologist, physicist, architect, philosopher and humanist. Oh, and
he was also said to be quite tall and handsome. In fact, in some
ways, Leonardo da Vinci’s extreme giftedness stands out as
an anomaly rather than as an example, and in the end does little
to further the Renaissance Ideal.
During the European Renaissance period, the true gentleman was not
celebrated for mastery or accomplishment in one area alone. He ideally
spoke multiple languages, played a musical instrument, wrote poetry,
was a skilled athlete, and pursued his fullest capacities both mentally
and physically, in a well-rounded manner.
Leonardo da Vinci represents a rather intimidating persona—the
epitome of the ideal man—and measuring our current role models
against him, well, it wouldn’t even be a contest. We’ve
become satisfied with celebrating the singular pursuit, or perhaps
we’ve just become lazy. Our current cultural obsession with
money—that includes money earned, won or inherited—supersedes
respect for nearly any and all talents. Today, one can rocket to
stardom just for being in close association with wealth.
So, how is it that 488 years after the death of Leonardo da Vinci,
with all of our technological advancements, we seem to have grown
less capable as human beings?
Thankfully, there are signs of hope. Bill Gates, the richest man
in the world (in fact, so rich that he reportedly paid $30 million
for one of the original da Vinci codices), has announced that he
will leave Microsoft to focus on his philanthropic work and the
charity he created with his wife. That philanthropic statement was
matched by Warren Buffet’s astonishing charitable act that
is believed to be the largest ever in United States history. Buffet
has revealed that he will donate $37 billion to the Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation. And recently, Richard Branson released the details
of a $25 million prize he is offering to the scientist who comes
up with a way to extract greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
These new directions must be leaving some people confused. I mean,
weren’t we being led to believe that the accumulation of wealth
and power (by any means necessary) was the ultimate goal and answer
to the pursuit of happiness? Obviously, these gentlemen who have
had the opportunity to experience this level of affluence are focusing
on new priorities.
And, there are some younger people who seem to have already figured
this out, and who have abandoned our somewhat mercenary modern ideals.
Without specific representations in the present, they have chosen
to go backward in time to resurrect the pursuit of the Renaissance
Ideals of the past. Enter the new Renaissance man revival.
One example of this new Renaissance class of young men and women—who
set their own standards despite the direction popular culture role
models seem to be taking—is a gentleman named Jason Olive.
Olive embarked on his life journey with a conscious intent to pursue
this model. Knowing it would require that he constantly challenge
his comfort zone, Olive made the commitment to develop his potential
to the fullest by pursuing a broad path covering both the arts and
“I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy,” Olive
says. “Growth is pain; pain is growth. They are really synonymous,
given the appropriate perspective.”
As a gifted athlete at the University of Hawaii, Olive was awarded
First Team All-American honors in volleyball after leading the team
to its first-ever Final Four appearance. While on campus, he founded
the university’s first Black Student Union, and graduated
with the university’s top honor, the Jack Bonham Award for
Academics, Athletic Leadership and Community Service; and the state
of Hawaii’s top academic award, the Governor’s Award
for Academic Excellence.
Then, Olive turned what had started out as a whim—modeling
in college—into a very successful career as a top male model,
with campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, Versace, Armani
and Ralph Lauren. Next, it was time to apply his bachelor’s
degree in English literature and theater with a go at acting. This
endeavor landed him some commercials, several series-regular roles,
a supporting role in Garry Marshall’s film “Raising
Helen,” opposite Kate Hudson, and then a spot on the critically
acclaimed HBO comedy series “The Comeback,” starring
“Leaving sports for the arts was a terrifying thing for me,
but that is why I knew I had to do it,” Olive says. “I
also feel that the arts are something that stay with you. There
are few experiences that allow you to have continued growth over
At this point, one could assume that we would find Olive resting
on his laurels, but he has always been focused on giving back to
his community. When taking part in others’ philanthropic organizations
and events wasn’t enough, Olive decided to form a charity
to improve the lives of children through the sport of volleyball.
His Jayo Foundation hosts an annual event, the Jayo Invitational,
which has become the largest and most prestigious volleyball charity
event in the country.
“When people think of ‘changing the world,’ rarely
do they imagine the immense power they already possess to do so,”
Olive says. “Often times, people believe that they must
first reach a position of power to become powerful. The irony is
that no one will ever be what they are not now already.”
Olive was left to conquer his next pursuit in business, and answer
his own question, “How do you find ways to generate income
that have a net-positive effect on the world?” The answer
came while helping a friend, celebrity bodyguard Cameron Shayne,
change career paths. Shayne was looking for a way to segue out of
the entertainment industry, in which he had been working for 12
years protecting actors like Sean Penn and Charlie Sheen, and choreographing
stunts for Chris Tucker. Olive helped to expedite a new direction
by partnering with Shayne to create Budokon, the hottest new exercise
and philosophy trend, based on Shayne’s years of experience
and discipline in martial arts and yoga.
“For me, getting Budokon out there became really important,
and I believe that Cameron is one of the great teachers of our generation;
probably the greatest teacher since Bruce Lee—of the theory
and the movement,” Olive says.
“Really what we are doing is enabling people to experience
the power of the ancient traditions of mind, body and spiritual
practice that have been taken advantage of for thousands of years
in numerous cultures,” he continues. “Combine these practices
with the industry of American people, and you have this wonderful
phenomenon called Budokon, or ‘way of the warrior spirit.’”
The two best friends and Budokon founders live by Shayne’s
Budokon philosophy: “The way you move reflects the way you
think, which reflects the decisions you make that creates the world
Olive will make one of his next appearances as a celebrity host
and producer of the sustainable fashion show at the Rock Your Planet!
Earth Day Event April 21 at the Santa Monica Pier.
Tiffany Downey has been working in the entertainment industry
for nearly 20 years. She is an entertainment business executive,
independent film producer and writer who enjoys physics and philosophy.
Downey is passionate about sustainability as an environmental, social
and business concept. Contact her at email@example.com.