We had the good fortune of connecting with Zan Truluck and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zan, how do you think about risk?
I learned about risk early. I’m from an urban East Coast environment and you’re hardwired early on to scan your environment for risks/threats and learn how to mitigate them. You might be 8 years old on the subway alone and need to figure out how to get home and avoid any interactions that might not allow you to make it there in one piece. So I guess I’ve always thought of risk in the context of avoiding any potential harm and when that harm is unavoidable, lessening the blow. That’s where calculated risk comes in. I’m ultra-logical. Often times to a fault. But it serves me well in business because I won’t assume any risk without forecasting potential countermeasures. We can’t plan for everything, but I know there are a couple life maxims that have helped me navigate risk and seek opportunity. I work for a top aerospace company as my day job. I have an economics undergraduate degree from Morehouse College and I started in Finance in the aerospace industry right after graduating. That role taught me to forecast events monthly, yearly and at a five year intervals as well. Along those lines, I learned to do risk and opportunity management. If I was going to bring a risk to my forecast, I needed to also search for opportunities to lessen that risk. If I could be trusted at 21 to do that for a $200M portfolio, why couldn’t I do that for my own much smaller personal finances? It’s a framework I apply in my personal business. For example: If I order a certain quantity of an item from my supplier, what’s the risk level there? I have to evaluate when the item will get to me by the time I want to release. The potential for the supplier to mess up and order and need to do rework. I’m thinking about not only IF I will make back the cash I put out but when those cash receipts will flow to stay cash positive and not touch “the bank”. It’s all calculated risk. If I’m venturing into uncharted territory, I look for opportunities to maximize the thing I already do well to cover any potential missteps with the new thing. If you go to my website, truluckcharms.com, you’ll see a couple of principles on the landing page. One of those principles is “Know if the juice is worth the squeeze.” That principle is all about taking measured risk. My mom grew up in 70s and 80s NY. That comes with this intense hustler mindset. She raised me with some of those same ideals. I heard from a young age, “Scared money don’t make no money!” So it’s all about putting fear to the side and understanding you need to take risks to grow. I guess in short, risk is ever-present and I learned to manage it early. Accepting the risk of owning a business and quickly dealing with how you’ll handle potential impacts have been essential to me not giving up when I’ve encountered setbacks. I’ve always come to terms with potential downside before I make any move.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
There are millions of people who can draw/paint something and make it look hyper-realistic and exactly like what it is. I value those people a lot. I’d like to think I’m pretty solid at painting realistically as well. There’s an enormous amount of detail in my work. What differentiates my art is the level of thought I put into every single thing I create. I take my time with it. I go out in the world and experience lessons. I draw inspiration while communing with nature. Then I funnel everything back into my artwork. I believe in continuous improvement. Once I’ve mastered something in one piece, I find a wave to weave it into every piece after that and build upon it. You can never understand one of my paintings just after one look. My artwork is intentional. Even my illustrations, which on the surface may seem like simple cartoons, contain deeper meanings hidden in fun ways. You become a part of a community when you’re a fan of my art and from there it’s like a treasure hunt to find the things I hid in my work. At the core of every work is the beauty and the struggle of this Black existence in America. I have a piece I’ll share with you, “Be Mindful”, and often that’s the one that really tells people “Ok. I need to pay closer attention to this guy.” If you look closely at the brain, I camouflaged the death scenes of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Eric Garner on the brain. All of the work is technically proficient but beyond that it’s socially conscious and it’s meant to evoke feeling and provoke thought. I went to art school for middle school and high school but I gave up artwork for the entire four years I was in undergrad. It wasn’t until I began working in corporate finance that I realized I needed to return to art. My first piece was about how I needed to modify myself in order to fit into the corporate mold. It took me entering a space where I didn’t feel I fit, to find my true passion. Ever since then, I’ve dove deeper into my passion and used my art as a way to invite those in and out of the corporate space to conversation about the issues we face as Black people today. It wasn’t always easy. It doesn’t come easy to me still. I was blessed to know my talent at a young age but I have battled confidence issues my entire artistic life. I never feel like I’m good enough. The minute I finish something I think is fantastic, I immediately think “there’s no way I can do it again.” I’m driven by the pursuit of at least trying to do it again. Not for me, I’m collective and communal. I’m doing this artwork for we. When it comes to my brand, my brand is me giving you messages in as many ways as possible. I’m trying to build community and share ideas through art. I’m trying to offer collective healing through art. The same way you can hand someone a James Baldwin book and explain the Black experience to them, I want you to show someone my art and help them to see. My TruLUCK Charms brand has a key ideal, “Worth over Wealth”. At one time Black people were considered 3/5 of a human being. I try and create things that guide people toward appreciating their inherent value. If you let your worth be your north star, the wealth will be there. I have six TruLUCK Family Jewels which exist as the core principles of my brand: 1) Worth over Wealth. 2) Believe in the “Art of the Possible” 3) Lift as you climb. 4) Continuous Improvement 5) Never make long term decisions based on short term feelings. 6) Appreciate the difference between paying dues and someone taking advantage of you. Follow me on Instagram @truluck.charms and check out my website truluckcharms.com and you’ll get to know those principles, my artwork, my brand and me as a man very well.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
So I’m newer to the area. I’ve only been here about two years and in the first year I traveled all the time. Then enter COVID in year two and I was forced to be stationary and find new things to do at home. So I guess I’d start with just opening my home to my best friend. We have a really cool backyard set up and the hospitality at House Truluck is phenomenal. There’s also a sacred space I think is pretty cool if I allow you to enter. Of course that’s my studio. It’s a walk through my mind. Shameless plug – I release videos on my Instagram every Saturday from my studio to walk people through my thought process and give them an in depth look at my work. Other than the home tour? I’d say you have to get some BBQ. I’m not a Texan and I know it’s hotly debated, but I think Hard Eight is some of the best BBQ I’ve had here. I guess I should also add that I don’t eat red meat or pork so I’ve only had the turkey. There’s this octopus taco at Revolver Taco in Deep Ellum that is absolutely the best taco in the city in my opinion. And definitely make your way out to Pangea and support what that Black man Chef Kev is doing. I’d definitely swing my friend past the Farmer’s Market and Legacy Hall. You can never go wrong with tons of food options. The Farmer’s Market has a better “vibe” if that makes sense. There’s also a lot more to see. But people tend to shy away from the north and Legacy West has a lot going on. They’re missing out! Also I’d take my friend out to see some nature. I hit trails all the time. LLELA has this trail along the Trinity River which I love. There’s also a secret spot out by Lake Lavon which is truly a gem. It’s inspiration. I won’t give any more details, you’ll have to figure that out just like you decipher the ideas in my art. I just gave you a roadmap if you pay attention.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I measure success by whether or not my village (family, friends, mentors etc.) is proud of me. The things which make them proud might differ from my own, but if I’m making them smile and upholding our collective values I’m doing the right thing. So this shoutout goes to my village! I thank you all regularly and you know who you are. I’m the product of a single parent home. One parent has been in prison for 30 years. There were times in my life when I was sleeping in the car and washing up in laundromats. I couldn’t be where I am today without an entire village of people intentionally loving on me and willing me to better days based on their capacity to love and their belief in the potential I had.