Nick Onken is a fashion and lifestyle photographer for today’s top brands, performers, and game changers. On ONKEN radio (Formerly NION radio) Nick explores the body, mind and soul of the creative entrepreneur, bringing you inspiring and influential guests to help take your creativity, business, and life to the next level.
215: The Statistical Importance of Building Your Personal Brand with AJ Vaden
“People are following people more than companies more than ever before.”
- AJ Vaden
Hey guys, welcome back to ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio), the podcast where we explore the body, mind, and soul of the creative entrepreneur. It’s my goal to help you take your creativity, business, and life to the next level. I’m so glad you’re joining me on this journey!
Today, I’ve got an extra special guest for you to discuss critical elements that help us build our identity alchemy by focusing on building a solid personal brand. To do that these days, it’s essential to establish trust with your audience.
I met both AJ Vaden and her husband Rory through our mutual friend, Lewis Howes, who many of you might know from this podcast. Here’s a taste of some of her wisdom:
“60% of Americans said the number one most important thing that dictates who I purchase from is testimonials. What do other people have to say [about] working with you? That is the cheapest, fastest thing you could do to grow your business. Testimonials are by far the most important thing.”
- AJ Vaden
I wanted to have AJ on the show to speak more about the strategies for building a personal brand. If you are interested in doing a personal brand photoshoot with me as I did with Rory and AJ, you can visit here to get more information and submit a form to see if we're a good fit.
But right now, let’s jump straight in!
Who Is AJ Vaden?
AJ Vaden started a company called a Brand Builders Group with her husband, Rory Vaden, and is an international speaker, million-dollar producer, and co-host of The Influential Personal Brand podcast. As a personal brand strategist, she challenges and inspires people to reinvent themselves as part of building and monetizing their personal brand. AJ has personally worked with thousands of individuals to help them focus their expertise, expand their reach, build their reputation, and brand the one thing no one else has — their name.
Over the last ten years, she has been a part of the founding, launching, and building of a very successful 8-figure coaching business, a multi-million-dollar consulting business, and a 7-figure speaking business. Along with her company, Brand Builders Group, AJ was featured in a 3-page spread in Success Magazine on the impacts of personal branding and recently being named one of the Top 5 Personal Branding Speakers of 2019.
Her client roster includes working with top-level executives from organizations such as Bridgestone, Verizon Cellular Sales, Home Franchise Concepts, and DirecTV as well as working with well-known speakers, best-selling authors, entrepreneurs, and online influencers such as mega podcast host Lewis Howes and original “shark,” creator of the infomercial and serial entrepreneur, Kevin Harrington.
AJ has taken 25 years of setbacks, successes, and tragedies and distilled them into simple yet powerful lessons that will help anyone become better than ever.
What People Care About
Brand Builders Group recently conducted a study in the United States using a third party, The Center for Generational Kinetics, which is free to download here. From their six months of gathering research, AJ shares the number one thing people highlighted as important when evaluating a personal image and brand.
“The number one thing is: It's all about the authenticity of the human connection. One of the biggest things that we've learned and what we buy into is that people don't care much about what you sell and what you do — they care more about who you are. We've been doing these own studies with our own set of audiences, and we will post something about our study, a podcast, or some piece of original content, and it gets a third of the engagement of posting a video playing tee-ball with my two boys.”
- AJ Vaden
I wasn’t expecting to hear that.
214: Brian Muraresku – Drugs, Women, and the Conspiracy of the Church
“Are psychedelics the Google Maps to the kingdom of heaven?”
- Brian Muraresku
Hello and welcome to another episode of ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio), the podcast where we explore the body, mind, and soul of the creative entrepreneur. I’m so glad you’re joining me on this journey because it’s my goal to help you take your creativity, business, and life to the next level.
Today, my special guest is a good friend of mine, Brian Muraresku. He is the author of the book The Immortality Key. — This is a topic that I've been quite fascinated with recently because I grew up in a very conservative Christian home, but over the last few years, I've been diving down the rabbit hole of plant medicines, and this book unveils a phenomenal storyline. Brian went to the Vatican and spent some time there with the elders in the library, and he shared in this book his discoveries about how ancient people were tapping into the divine and discovering transcendent portals into the universe.
In this episode, Brian and I discuss what was in ancient wine, what they drank at the last supper, and when Christianity became mainstream. He also shares some of the research he came across while writing his book that points to early psychedelic use within the communities that gave rise to Christianity. While looking into the historical records of mysticism and the birth of religion as we know it, Brian found examples of people seeking out the meaning of life by bringing about experiences of “mini deaths” and coming out on the other side understanding their true identities.
Who Is Brian Muraresku?
Brian Muraresku is a lawyer who has been practicing globally for more than fifteen years. He graduated from Brown University with a degree in Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit. He is also a member of the New York Bar and an alumnus of Georgetown Law. In 2016, Brian Muraresku became the founding executive director of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, and their works were featured on ESPN and CNN as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle and The Washington Post.
Brian has appeared on several media platforms including CNN, Goop Podcast, The Jenny McCarthy Show, Vice Magazine, the Tom Hartman Show, Reddit Ask Me Anything, and more.
His debut book is The Immortality Key, which aims to uncover the ancient wine, what they drank during the last supper and the connection of wine to the birth of Christianity.
The Ancient Wine and the Role of Women
It's no secret that wine is a big part of many cultures around the world. In fact, wine has been around for centuries and played a major role in ancient civilizations. Wine continues to be an important part of contemporary culture, and it's fascinating to explore its history, how it has evolved over time, and the role of women in the preparation of wine for religious rituals.
“There were many women mentioned in Paul's letters … consecrating wine. So whether that was a proper Eucharist or a hybrid of something pagan, Christian women were typically in charge of mixing these potions, both in early Christianity and all those ancient Greek cults that I was mentioning and probably deep into prehistory. Now, women are gathering the herbs. Women are mixing these potions, and these are the same women like Circe in Homer's literature who become our witches much later on. It's always women who possess this really deep, drug expertise.”
- Brian Muraresku
Ancient wine is believed to be significantly far off from the wine we know today. Tracing back to the time of Homer and the Roman Empire, wine was considered like a psychedelic spiked with toxins, herbs, plants, and potentially lethal substances that produce hallucinogenic and intoxicating effects. Also, ancient wine has been at the core of many rituals, including Christianity.
Wine and the Beginning of Christianity
213: 11 Things I Learned This Past Year
“Create your moments.”
- Nick Onken
Hello, my fellow alchemists! Nick Onken here for our last solo episode of 2021 on ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio), the podcast where we explore the soul, mind, and body of the creative entrepreneur. Today, I'm going to recap 11 things that I learned this year. 2021 has been another crazy year, but life is always a learning process. It’s important to keep on learning new things as we face the new year, and I think having that attitude of either winning or learning is essential.
Every year, we go through different pieces of our life’s journey, and this past year was quite a journey — it's been a different space of life, a different space of creation for me. I’ve been diving into new modalities and new mediums, especially the medium of music, learning how to DJ, and now I'm learning music production. Just following where my joys and passions are and the things that I'm interested in is a huge piece of growth. That’s why I am sharing with you my stories and the lessons I’ve learned this year.
Eleven Things I Learned From the Past Year
Every day, we are exposed to new information, perspectives, and opportunities that can help us become a better version of ourselves. Sometimes these lessons come from our own experiences. Other times they come from the people and things around us. For 2021, these experiences served as lessons we can learn from, and I’m sharing with you the eleven things I’ve learned from this past year.
1. Health Optimization Is Important
There is no question that optimal health is important. After all, if we're not healthy, we can't enjoy life to the fullest extent possible. Fortunately, there are things we can do to keep ourselves in our best shape, from eating a healthy diet to getting enough exercise. Being able to dive into health and wellness has been something that's become an actually bigger passion of mine over the last couple of years. I’ve learned that by taking steps to improve our health, we can boost our energy levels and feel better overall. So don't wait — start optimizing your health, and you'll be glad you did.
2. Identity Alchemy Is Never Ending and Is a Personal Growth Process
We all have moments in life where we feel like we need to change but just don't know how. We want to become something new but struggle with figuring out who that is and where to start. This is natural! It's a sign that you're growing, evolving, and becoming more yourself. Transformation is never easy, but it's always worth it.
The journey of self-discovery is an endless one, and there's no wrong way to do it. So let go of your doubts and fears, and just dive in! Identity alchemy is a process that I've been developing over the last couple of years, primarily oriented toward creating a personal brand that aligns with who you are from the inside out. But the identity alchemy process deconstructs and curates, and it is becoming something that I continue to go through over and over in my life. As we grow, we let go of old identities and create new ones.
3. Uncomfortable Conversations Are Growth
Life is all about growth. If you're not growing, you're dying. It's as simple as that. One of the best ways to grow is by having uncomfortable conversations. Yes, those conversations make your stomach churn and your heart race. However, if you want to grow, you have to face them head-on. So get out there and have those uncomfortable conversations!
4. The Universe Has Bigger Plans
It's easy to get bogged down by the small stuff. The day-to-day grind of work, bills, and household chores can be overwhelming at times. However, it's important to remember that we're all a part of something much bigger. The universe has big plans for us.
This is an interesting one because my mom passed away this year from cancer. She's been battling it for a couple of years,
212: Death & Transition of Momma Bear’s Passing
“It’s an in-your-face moment.”
- Nick Onken
Hello, my friends! Welcome to another episode of the OnkenRadio podcast (previously NION Radio), where we explore the body, mind, and soul of the creative entrepreneur. It’s my goal to help you take your creativity, business, and life to the next level. I’m so glad you’re joining me on this journey!
I appreciate you being here, and today is going to be slightly different as I share my recent experience and the lessons I’ve learned from my mother passing away a couple of weeks ago. I’m still navigating how I feel, but it’s fresh, and talking through all of it helps me process my emotions and get things out instead of all bottled inside. Who knows — maybe I’ll discover something new with you.
Have you lost a parent? Maybe a dear friend? A partner? With all the craziness from COVID, perhaps you understand exactly what I’m going through. Losing a parent is a new experience for me, and I will do my best to walk you through everything, so let’s jump right in.
My Momma’s Journey With Cancer
My momma was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019, and that news was shocking. The idea that my momma, one of the sweetest people on the planet, could get cancer tore my world apart.
The doctors caught cancer in stage one, and she immediately had surgery to remove the tumor from the pancreas six months after detection. I live in New York City, but I flew out to Seattle for the surgery. Being there for her during that time of need taught me a valuable lesson about making an effort to fly out more. Supporting a loved one through cancer had never entered my mind, but that’s how quickly things can change.
My focus became supporting my momma and my dad and spending as much time with family as possible. Jumping across the country frequently isn’t easy, but it became vital to me.
I’m one of the lucky ones who had both an amazing set of parents and a great upbringing filled with encouragement and love, and I was able to return what they’d given me.
Our worldviews might not be identical as my parents are conservative Christians, and that upbringing didn’t resonate with me — no matter how hard I tried to believe it. I simply see our differences as how we operate and move through the world — it’s only a different perspective. Whatever works for them works for them, and the same goes for you — whatever works for you, works for you!
I’ve been on a journey to expand my consciousness, tap into other worlds, and learn to bridge the gap between this world, the matrix, and other worlds. I’ve come to realize the movie The Matrix feels more like a documentary now than a movie! I saw a clip of Bruce Lipton, a doctor dedicated to bridging science and spirit, talking about our world as a hologram — and we are consciousness receptors in human form.
Developing that perspective has shifted how I see and interact with the world, which created a different journey with my momma’s health. Early in 2020, we received the awful news: Her cancer spread to her liver and stomach. The doctors decided to take her off chemotherapy because it was doing her body more damage than good — they gave momma three to six months to live.
Unfortunately, she ended up having even less than that.
Differing Views on Cancer Treatment
Our differing world views came to a head as we discussed how to deal with cancer. Hearing their point of view was a battle for me. I believe in alternatives that work in conjunction with Western medicine, and throughout my life, I’ve discovered many different healing modalities that aren’t tested or seen in the light of day because, in my opinion, they don’t support the profit incentive that currently exists.
I witnessed first-hand the world of Western medicine and big pharma’s focus on profit and keeping people depend...
211: Grace Harry – Creating Your Arsenal of Joy Snacks
“All of these things around joy and pleasure are so penalized and stymied in this country for the business of capitalism.”
- Grace Harry
Welcome back to ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio), the podcast where we explore the body, mind, and soul of the creative entrepreneur. It's my goal to help you take your creativity, business, and life to the next level. I'm so glad you're joining me on this journey.
In today's episode, we will talk about how you can cultivate joy in your life. I think that many people start this creative business journey with the best intentions of creating a joyful or fulfilling work environment for themselves. Yet the reality is that a lot of times, we beat ourselves up. We feel like we're working really hard and not getting any results. Then we start to think, "Oh well, maybe I just don't have enough energy to do this full time, or maybe I don't have all the skills that I need. Maybe I just don't have what it takes, and there's no way I could get to this next level."
But what we really need to do is get ourselves some joy snacks! Joy snacks are the little things that give us a quick boost of energy to focus on feeling good and being inspired for a little bit longer.
Our guest for today is my dear friend, Grace Harry. Grace is a boss and a keeper of wisdom. Most importantly, she is a joy strategist. So, what does that even mean? It means she teaches people how to take control of their own joy in life. It's been a pleasure to witness her go through her own deep work over the last couple of years!
Read through as Grace and I discuss the many times we shift identities throughout our lives, how to cultivate our own "joy snacks," and what we lose when we don't protect our joy.
Who Is Grace Harry?
Today's guest, Grace Harry, is a Joy Strategist, among many other things. After dropping out of high school in tenth grade and working for The Cosby Show, Grace ended up working in the record industry for 27 years. When she decided to move on from the industry, she was the Executive Vice President of Marketing and Creative Services at Def Jam Records. She has also worked for MCA Records, Jive Records, and Geffen Records.
We had met through our friends, Scooter Braun and Usher. We all ended up on a bit of vacation together a few years back, and I really loved getting to know Grace and all that she represents. She shares her fear that people are forgetting how to be themselves and explains that, now, her thing is people who create art to connect with others. She and I talk about how to get back to how we feel and the process of shedding the things that don't grow us.
She has done a tremendous job of moving herself to find her own joy and help share that with others. So with that, I bring you, Grace Harry!
Shifting Identities Throughout Our Lives
I believe that our identities change over time because of the different experiences that we have. In the process of changing, we all shed and let go of our previous identities so we can step into new and brighter ones.
I asked Grace to share about how her identities have changed over time, and she shared,
"Growing up, my mother and I moved to different places every year. I went to six elementary schools, one middle school, and four high schools and still didn't finish after 10th grade."
- Grace Harry
This experience allowed her to meet new people. Yet for every encounter made, all she craved for was to be wanted. So she had to create for herself these new identities to keep up with these personalities she met along the way.
Over the years, Grace would find herself being a chef at The Cosby Show. Then she would work in the record industry for 27 years, running creative and marketing and digital at times and working with artists in so many exciting ways.
210: East Forest – Music, Psychedelics, and Creative Flow
“You have to allow the messiness and the struggle.”
- East Forest
What’s up, my fellow earthlings? Welcome back to ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio), a space where we explore the worlds of creativity, consciousness, and everything else in between. My goal is to help you optimize your life and to unleash your full potential, and I am so grateful to have you all on this journey with me.
I can’t wait to introduce today’s guest on my podcast — East Forest. East is one of my favorite musicians and a kindred creator. He has created music that has been monumental in my own personal journey through psychedelics and mushrooms. Experiencing my magic mushroom journeys through East’s music has truly been transformative and life-changing.
“There is a glue that unifies everything I do. My podcast, talks, retreats, writings, events, and the music I make are all about inviting introspection. It’s a form of trusting an individual’s inherent wisdom as they dive into their inner world and learn to make their own decisions. I want to share the experiences, tools, and sounds that I have learned for other people to get closer to their own essence.”
- East Forest
Through his music, East aspires to bridge the tools of our past with our rapidly advancing future by forging a modern pathway that can act as an antidote to our way of life in this fast-paced world. He has toured extensively around North America and through parts of Europe, bringing his message to thousands.
East is an incredible artist, and his soulful music is loved by many across the world. I can’t wait for you guys to feel inspired by this man’s life and journey. Let’s get to know him a little more —
Who Is East Forest?
East Forest is an American musician who plays blissful and immersive electro-acoustic music. East’s natural talent for creating soundscapes helps him speak directly to one’s heart and can unlock profound spiritual experiences.
After experiencing depression early on in his childhood, East started using psychedelics and creating music for others on their own psychedelic journeys. What began as an experiment with music turned into a pathway for spiritual growth for many because of the compatibility of East’s music with meditation, technology, and psychotropic substances.
Due to his music’s nature and popularity, East has collaborated with multiple personalities like the late psychologist and spiritual leader Ram Dass and artists including John Hopkins, Nick Mulvey, Dead Prez, and Peter Broderick, among others. He has also partnered with Google, Johns Hopkins University, Yale Psychedelic Science Group, and he has even been a TED speaker.
East is a creative soul brother, and I’m excited to share with you this episode where we talk about creativity, healing, mindset, psychedelics, and how music lies at the core of it all.
Using The Power of Music to Heal
After a brief stint as a photographer, East started making music while under the influence of magic mushrooms. This unlocked a new dimension for himself that allowed him to use his music to help people heal, and over the years, he created a musical language that formed the backbone for all his work. It’s incredible how East channels his music into a tool for healing.
“I don’t know how it works, but it’s a lot about humbling myself and trying to clear my way to open myself to those energies. … I also do a lot of rehearsal, which is a matter of getting fluent with the same gear — … it’s sort of doing any sort of exercise to get your muscles in shape — … and one of the biggest things I am rehearsing is improvisation. … I realized that I couldn’t plan it, and started discovering what worked and what didn’t [while I performed]. … And when I reach a point where I feel that it sucks to keep going … or when things are not working,