UMass Lowell business student hopes to help others with new book
Jack Travis isn’t afraid to talk about his struggles with mental illness. He doesn’t mind sharing what it was like to be in and out of psychiatric hospitals, to be an alcoholic or to feel hopeless.
In fact, the business administration major from Reading has shared his story with the world in a self-published book, “Starting Point: Your Journey to a Better Life Starts Here.”
“I’m pretty cool with talking about my life because a lot of people can relate to it,” Travis says during a midday break between classes outside the Manning School of Business, where his book was being promoted on the video message board in the Pulichino Tong Business Center lobby. “They’ll say, ‘Wow, I’m really not alone,’ and that’s what I want.”
Travis, who describes himself as a “mental health advocate, modern-day philosopher and millennial entrepreneur,” aspires to become a motivational speaker and author. He’s launched his own website featuring a blog and inspirational videos, and he shares his insights with close to 8,000 followers on Twitter.
He hopes his message can help others overcome the personal struggles he’s already faced in his young life.
“I spent years living in a dark place with a negative outlook on life in general,” Travis says. “I hated myself, and I didn’t feel like I mattered to anyone because of how I was treated by people.
“Going through the process of healing and recovery taught me a lot, and now my goal is to help others with what I’ve learned.”
After earning an associate’s degree in graphic design from Middlesex Community College in 2015, Travis transferred into the Manning School, with concentrations in management and marketing. Meanwhile, he explored his love of music. As a rapper/singer, Travis says he began touring with a group around the Northeast.
“But once I got a taste of that lifestyle, I decided it wasn’t for me. I fell into a deep depression after that,” says Travis, who sought professional help. Once he had a stable support network in place, he was able to quit drinking – while staying on track in school.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of motivation, but I had no choice than to stay in school,” he says. “If I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t be going anywhere in life.”
As the calendar turned to 2017, Travis made a decision: He was going to write a book about all that he had gone through. He started jotting ideas down into journals and by July he had a typed manuscript. He attended a seminar on self-publishing and started his own publishing company. He worked with a freelance editor and put his graphic design skills to work on the book’s cover. He spent nights driving for Uber and Lyft, putting almost every penny he earned into the project.
And on Oct. 1, he had the printed paperbacks in his hands.
“It feels great to have the book out. I’m really happy with it,” says Travis, whose father, Patrick, bought up the first 120 copies to give to friends.
“He’s pretty proud,” says Travis, who is now working on marketing the book. One strategy he has in mind is to speak at mental health facilities, which can in turn buy copies of the book to give to patients. He hopes to create an accompanying workbook and one day develop a course or seminar.
Travis is quick to point out that his book is meant to complement professional treatment, not replace it. For instance, he offers advice on what to expect when going to group therapy for the first time.
“A lot of people are nervous or scared to talk about their problems,” says Travis, who believes the mental health stigma is fading in society. “I feel like people are a lot more open about it now, posting about it on social media and coming together. It’s a good thing.”
Travis, who expects to complete his degree in the fall of 2018, says participating in the university’s DifferenceMaker program not only stoked his passion for entrepreneurship, but also allowed him to be surrounded by positivity.
“I made good friends with a lot of success-driven people like me, and that’s what it’s all about,” says Travis, who used his graphic design skills to work on a T-shirt project in the Creative Venture Competition.
Travis now looks forward to seeing where his motivational career takes him.
“It’s an exciting time,” he says before heading to his next class.