My good friend Russ recently invited me to be a guest on an episode of The Russ Perry Show.
Our 30-minute conversation was centered around discussing some of the most transformational moments of my life, basically exploring what decisions sent me down the path I’ve pursued. As Russ calls them, book the ticket moments.
And in my story, there is one literal time that stands out above the rest where I actually did, “book the ticket.”
Watch the interview, or read the full transcript below!
You and I are good friends. You and I were introduced through another friend, aka your brother, and we've formed a good relationship. I think it really was solidified with our trip to Mount Shasta that we took. - As adventurers do, right. You have that kind of experience, and it bonds. - I have always been a secret admirer of you, and now it's not so much of a secret, because you have lived this crazy life focused on really pushing the boundaries of your physicality, your mental boundaries, and then you're creative as well, which I really connect with. How did you go from the path of, what I imagined a lot of people still view? You go to school, you go to high school. Okay, time to go to college, time to do this stuff. It seems like you took a hard left somewhere and decided to not do any of that. Get a little bit up to speed before we jump into the rest of the episode today. - Sure, so my brother, who you brought up, let's take this back to, he was 14 and started a video production company. He took a camera out from the cable access studio, and went to his high school, and was like, "Hey, can I film this cheerleading event?" Smart move. I was 11 at the time, and as he's starting this business I'm intrigued and wanting to work with him. He'd bring the footage back from these events that they do, like cheer, and dance and whatever. I would just be the kid in the basement helping him duplicate stacks and stacks of VHS tapes to send out to the parents or competitors that bought this. That evolved into me working more on the production side of the business and being at the sales table, and going through all aspect of the company as it grew, and that was through middle school, through high school, through college. A decade of working with him, growing a video production company, traveling around the country, I had this deep love for travel and I was growing all this experience in the production side of my life. Then I went to college for marketing. When I was getting towards the end of college, this was around the time that iPhones were becoming really popular, and both my brother and I saw the parents in the stands are no longer buying DVDs or digital downloads at that time. They're just filming from the stand. - They all had their phones up. - They had their phone, right. We both saw the writing on the wall, and wanted to do something different. It was shortly after he moved out to Arizona and was consulting, and I was about to graduate college and thinking, what is next? - You did graduate from college. - I did, yeah. I finished it out. - I wasn't sure. I actually didn't know, and I wasn't sure if this was gonna be a screw college. I dropped out and I went down my own path. What was your degree, marketing. - Marketing. My major was marketing, minor was environmental science, because I always had that passion of just business and the environment, or the planet, or travel, or whatever that manifested itself as. As I'm getting close to the end of my friends are getting jobs as facility manager, or whatever, or financial brokers, and that wasn't my path. - Financial planners, and they're 23. You're like, "How are you a financial planner?" - Exactly. I knew that, that path wasn't for me, and so at the time a friend had told me about a movie called 180 Degrees South, and gave me a book, Beyond the Horizon, by Colin Angus. I read the book. I watched this movie, and those were right at the right moment. Actually do you remember the M TV show, The Buried Life. - I don't, sorry. - Well so it was four guys that-- - I had really erratic cable growing up, so I vividly remember having cable, and it would be like the power was on in our house. I could watch any channel. For months, my mom would be like, "Ah, no cable." It was always erratic of the shows. I do remember The First Real World. That was like really-- - [Jonathan] A little bit after that. - Yeah - The buried life was four guys that they had this big bucket list they put together, and they decided for every item, they bought a big bus, and they went and started this big road trip. For every item they crossed off on theirs, they would help somebody cross off an item of their bucket list. It was a cool show. These guys came and spoke at my college, Bryant, in Rhode Island. This was all happening at the same time, and it just was inspiring me to think, what makes any of these guys, the people in the film, or the guys that are speaking here, or the book that I just read, what makes any of them different than me? The only thing was they had this dream that they acted on. They didn't just talk about something, they had some big idea, and they took the steps to make it happen. I was looking at my background of experience, and passion, and knowledge. I was thinking, all right I've studied marketing. At that point I had already done some work in the adventure influence, or media space, like working with Old Spice to launch a line of deodorant from snowboarding in Zermatt, Switzerland. - Dude, nothing says adventure like deodorant. - Yeah, right. I'd already started to go down that path, and also when I was a junior I studied abroad in New Zealand. That's where I really learned my addiction to adventure travel, and tried all these adrenalin pumping activities. I came back from New Zealand knowing my life trajectory was different. Then I that internship with Old Spice, and was like, "Hmm, maybe I can combine "my experience with marketing "and with adventure to create a career here. Then this inspiration, and everything was catalyzing at that moment. I had this idea for some grand adventure where I would go down to climb the tallest mountain in South America, and then travel north up the Pan American, and make it to the tallest mountain in North America. It was Aconcagua to Denali, and along that way, spend a week volunteering in every country that I passed through. I knew this was like this giant dream, this goal, this seemingly impossible thing. At the time, I had never climbed anything. I was just getting into hiking, and I'd never climbed anything bigger that maybe Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, which is 6,000 feet. - [Russ Perry] You needed a Clif Bar. - Yeah. - [Russ Perry] Even if that. This was a dream that I couldn't just go and do the next day. I knew that there was some hard work to make this happen. My what's next step was, well I called up a good friend of mine. You know, to be leader, you need that first follower. There's a Ted Talk about that. Ethan was always that for me. I called him up. He was working at a car wash. I was like, "Dude, so here's the idea." - Wait, how old were you at this time? - 22. - 22, okay. I was having my first daughter when I was 22, so we're very-- - Very different. - Very different lives and responsibility. - I was like, "All right, here's the idea." As soon as I said it, before I even got into what's the next step to make it happen? He was just like, "I'm in, cool." We went out to L.A. for the summer, and then drove to Aspen, Colorado. We lived in Aspen for a year. The purpose of that was not just to be a ski bum for a year, which I was a snow board instructor and a bartender, and that was great. In the background we were building this adventure dream which I called Between the Peaks. We got another buddy, Ryan, to move out from New York, and the three of us just went hard in all of our off hours at building this concept and figuring out, what are the steps that we need to take to train, to climb these caliber of mountains, and the systems we need to learn. Aspen was the perfect training ground for that, for meeting people that were doing these kinds of expeditions. - Fast forward, so this is, this eight years ago, about. - [Jonathan] Yeah. - 'Cause you're turning 30 soon, correct? - [Jonathan] Yeah. - Happy early birthday. - Thank you. - Eight years ago, I mean that's like 80 years in tech and internet, and knowledge, and all of that. When you were searching for, you had this vision, you had this idea of something you wanted to accomplish, especially outdoors. I know when I go to the public library, if I wanna look for a book on hiking, it's written in 1974. It's like an old man's guide to hiking trails of Arizona. What did you find when you were trying to find, like I'm hiking 6,000 feet little trails. I want to go to the two largest peaks, and this crazy road trip, what was your strategy to put together the knowledge to figure all of that out? Were there just great YouTube videos you could just watch? - No, no, no, not at all. There was not a lot of info. I mean we basically just kind of, we had to break up the project into pieces. We starting thinking, all right you take these countries, I'll take these countries, and let's divide. I'm gonna start searching for grass roots volunteer projects in Chile, in Peru, and figure out, what are the organizations that we want to align with? Once we started doing some outreach, and were reading old travel forums, and trying to finding what experiences-- - Bulletin boards. - Other people had, yeah. I'm reaching out to random emails that we're seeing in a bulletin board of, yeah, I had a great experience with Maria, or whatever. We built those relationships and narrowed down after some time and effort, we narrowed down where we were gonna be volunteering in each country, and that give us a general timeline. From that timeline, alongside that, we're connecting with people in Aspen that are serious mountaineers, some of the world's best mountaineers. - [Russ Perry] Getting the hard skills. - Live in there. We're training, learning rope systems, and crevasse rescue systems. We're climbing some of the 14ers in Colorado, and we did Mt. Rainier. We're putting in the work to train in the mountains. - By the way, for our listeners who have no idea what you just said, 14ers, what does that mean? - That's the crop of 14,000 foot mountains in Colorado. - Which I learned anything above 14,000, that's a line of real mountaineering. If it's above that, it's legit. I mean below, you can still get some cred for 13, but it kind of goes down. - You know, it's interesting actually. In Colorado the 13ers are some of the more technical mountains. Even though you're getting a little more altitude, and it's a little more prestigious and known, some of the 13ers are more technical mountaineering, in a sense. - Got it. - So it's not all about the altitude, but yeah, for sure. I mean once you do some of those, Pyramid was one of the sketchiest. It's near Aspen, it's in the Elk Mountains, and it's one of the hardest 14ers, just because of the access and the terrain. You're basically climbing on fourth degree, sometimes fifth scrambles, where you're not roped up, but serious exposure. These mountains are falling apart. It's like you're walking on dinner plates with a 1,000 foot drop off. It's nuts. All of that is happening. Once we had the timeline though, we were like, all right we know we're going for the mountain on this date. It's gonna take us about this time to climb. Were' gonna have some buffers to get to Chile, to figure out how to buy a truck and Chile, and get that, and then here's this whole trip. We're gonna be working with them here, and them here, and them here. That gave us a timeline, and then with that timeline we could create a pitch kit, almost like a marketing packet. That was like, here's who we are. Here's the plan. This is what we're doing. This is who we're working with. We're making a film, and then Ryan and I went and slept in my car in Boulder and started knocking on doors at the Outdoor Business Park, and sending this packet through email to anybody that we could, and getting any connection we could. We ended up getting some sponsors on board, not from a financial standpoint, 'cause we're three kids that had never done anything with this grand idea. - They're like here's some gum. - Yeah, right, but it helped. They were like, "Here's some gear, "here's some food, here's some snacks," and that helped a lot. - I don't want to ruin it, 'cause you did make a documentary Between the Peaks. It's streaming, right? You can get it? - Yeah, it's on YouTube, it's on Vimeo, it's on Amazon Prime. - I don't want to ruin it for everybody, 'cause I wanna bring it back around to why we're sitting across from each other today. - Totally. - Which is very important. I'll allude one of the things about these interviews, we call the Book the Ticket episodes of Russ Perry Show. We interspersed them with other ones, is these are people that have impacted me, and your story, which for everyone listening, you have dozens of these stories, if not more. You're very explored. I've always been impacted in the sense that, and you were breaking it down. You're like I wanna go do this. I'm gonna figure out the steps. I'm gonna get after it, and I'm just gonna do it. There is not like this, oh my gosh, how do I go from Chile to Alaska, correct? - Yeah. - Chile to Alaska is like, I just need to know how to tie a knot. Let's start there. Let's figure it out. I'm gonna give you a minute to think. We set the question up of you've done all of these things. For everyone listening, you can go to exploreinspire.com, and check out your brand, your blog. You work in a startup, you've done marketing, and you work for agencies. You've even worked for my company Design Pickle back in the early days. You still hold the record of the best blog post ever written, was written by you. - [Jonathan] Time helps us, yeah. - Yeah, exactly. I look, and I have these interviews. I've had 'em with big CEOs, I've had 'em with buddies and friends. I've had 'em with everyone in between, and the question that I'm curious is, what was the Book the Ticket moment for you, that you look back, and it isn't just a risk you took, like wow I did that and it paid off. It really was all your chips on the table. If this doesn't work, I really don't know what I'm gonna do. I don't have a plan. There's no Plan B on this. It could be insignificant at the time, and now you realize, holy shit, that was the big Book the Ticket moment, or it could have really been big at the time. What Jonathan Ronzio, in all of the things you've done. I mean you've been stranded on mountains for days waiting to get out of that snowstorm, what has been your most significant Book the Ticket moment? - I mean it really goes back to the Between the Peak story. That was for me the genesis of it all. It was my Book the Ticket moment was legitimately booking a ticket. - Which ticket? Dial in the specifics, do you remember the computer, like buying it. - I was in Bellingham, Massachusetts, or no, no, Franklin. My mom was living in Franklin at the time, which is where I grew up. I was at her apartment sitting at the kitchen counter on my laptop. This was October of 2012. That's when I bought for $860 a one way ticket to Santiago, Chile. -One way is literally, I mean you can't get more book the ticket than a one way trip. - One way, one way to Chile. That's when for me, it had been a year and a half of planning this project, and of really throwing myself down this road of planning, and preparation. I knew it was coming, but there was always an out. You could always just take your foot off the gas and go do something else. I could get a job, or whatever. There was always a way until then that I could just not do this, for one excuse or the other. It was buying that one way ticket was just like, holy crap, we're going. It's happening. We're actually going to do this. It might not work out, and a lot of it didn't work out. There was a lot of obstacles along the way. I don't know. That to me was just when everything go really real. I've always had this blindly passionate optimism about things. I don't know where exactly that comes from, but I just never hesitated to take action on something. Am I allowed to swear here? - Yes, I did already. - You call it the Book the Ticket moment, and for me, those moments I've always called it the fuck it moment. The best, most memorable experiences, the most incredible stories, the turning points of my life have always happened when I've been standing there with that hesitation, with everything you're afraid, you're feeling those butterflies, whether it's a product launch, or a new business idea, or whatever, or if it's buying a ticket to Chile, or launching off of a cliff on your snowboard. You're standing at the top, and sometimes you just say fuck it. When I've done that, it's worked out. Maybe it's a pattern that's gonna catch up to me one day. It's gonna bite me in the ass. So far the proof in the pudding is when I take that leap, things go the right way. - I look at your story, and even just hearing it again, there is a period of preparation, and period of understanding the direction you're wanting to go. I think that insulates you from the F it moment, the fuck it moments from being disastrous, from dying, 'cause you're trying your best to navigate the unknowns before you actually go. I think what the difference is when we look at the people that are powerful, and that we admire, and you being one of them in my world, they are willing to get out of the preparation and the knowledge phase, and they actually then do the thing. They book the ticket and they take the action, versus someone who just sits on the forums, and reads about the stuff, and has the magazine, and buys the gear, and talks about it, and wants to do it. I think ultimately, really you think about it, I look back. When I did Mt. Shasta, I didn't research anything, and I had no fear about it. I didn't even know how to use a crampon until the day of. - The morning of. - The morning of. - You walk into the kitchen and you go, this is a volcano? You obviously didn't look it up. - It wasn't a Book the Ticket moment for me, because I was just going with the flow. When we have too much knowledge, fear can start to creep in, and then it's like that Book the Ticket moment really is saying, you know what, I'm setting the fear aside, and I'm now just gonna take action. I'm not gonna be guided or actually held back by this fear, and I'm just gonna go. - Yeah, it's a level of just learning to become comfortable with the uncomfortable, and that only happens through experience. It is challenging to have that first experience, to take that leap, when you've never had the positive reinforcements of learning that when you go into the unknown, it's gonna be okay. That's why everybody's afraid of change. Most people, they're afraid of change because they haven't become comfortable with what happens when things change, because they haven't taken so many leaps to learn. Pavlov's conditioning, right? - Right. - At the other side of this bell I'm gonna have a steak is what the dog is thinking, and now I have grown to think at the other side of this insane thing I'm about to do, whether it works out or not. In the case of Between the Peaks, we didn't make it all the way to Alaska in that first trip. I mean, we ran out of money, and this is all in the film. You can watch it, but a lot went wrong along the way, and that just added to what the adventure really was about, and became a part of for me, and what I learned through it. I mean, you brought up how eight years in tech is like 80 years. Looking back on it, basically it's feature length travel vlog, before vlogs were a thing, and when drones cost $40,000. It's not super amazing production value, but the story is strong, and I'm proud of it. That became the base for, even though it could be shot better now, or even though doing it differently, we might be able to make it to Alaska. You can always look back in hindsight and think, what if, what if, what if I coulda done this or that. I mean I guess the most impactful things for me taking away from that were the failures, but also learning that failure was okay. Even though the plan changed, it was still a success, and we still won an award with the film. I was still able to parlay that into starting Explore Inspired, and building an audience, and working with brands to tell stories, and everything that I've done since. Speaking, and business, and all of that was because I took that leap. I had that confidence to go into an unknown, uncertain challenge, book the ticket, go to Chile, and the rest of my life has unfolded in a way of just understanding that what happens on the other side of uncertainty, usually pretty freaking awesome things. - Right, right. People can find you at ExploreInspired.com, and let's close this out. I always ask this question to everyone on the Book the Ticket episode. If you could go back to your, let's just say college version of yourself. Or actually, no I take that back. Let's go to the I didn't choose the adventure path route. I became the financial planner at 22, and now I'm 30 and I'm miserable. I don't like what I'm doing, what would you tell that person right now, that you've learned from your Book the Ticket moment? What advice would you give them? - I was never gonna be the financial planner. - I know, just the alternate reality version of yourself. - The alternate of me. Oh man, it's hard to think about. - Let's just make it easy, you have a buddy. - No, I'm trying to put myself in that mindset to be able to speak from what I would do in that instance, and it's just hard to visualize. I would say look at, just like I did in coming up with the Between the Peaks idea where it all started. I would look at what is your experience? What is your passion, and what is your knowledge? For me, that was I had experience in growing a production business and learning all of the parts of video and audio, and I was a musician too, so I knew that side of audio production. My passion was adventure and travel, and hiking, and jumping out of airplanes, and rafting, and anything that heightened my adrenalin, and then threw me into these unknown experiences. Then my knowledge was at the time I was studying marketing. I looked at, all right, marketing, production, adventure. What does that equal, and it became Between the Peaks. I was able to combine those things. Whether you are right now in the financial planner job, or whatever industry you're in, if you're not totally fulfilled and happy with it, just take a step back, and you can keep doing that but on the side you can also work on something that fulfills just look at combining passion, knowledge, and experience. - I love it. I think what you're saying is there's clues. - Yeah. - You gotta look at those clues, passion, knowledge and experience, and then ultimately the Book the Ticket moment for that person, in that altered universe version of you, the financial planner living in Austin. No, no, living in Dallas. Austin's too cool. - If you're a financial planner living in Dallas, it's totally okay. You're doing all right. - But the Book the Ticket moment becomes when you recognize that trifecta, and nexus of items, is what you ultimately push forward towards. - It's a snowball of those three things is what I think. I know you don't know much about snow out here in Arizona. - Hey I'm learning. I learned how to boil snow. - That's right, that's right, to get water. - That's right it was a very complex lesson. - If you're building a snowman, you need the three balls, and that's just what it is. It's like, what in your life have you spent the time. When you roll up those, for anyone who's built a snowman, they know you start with a snowball, and then you keep going through the snow and you keep rolling it up, and it keeps growing. You have to do that three different times. What in your life have you spent the time and effort, and energy balling up together, over time, growing, that you can then stack together to create something great? - To create Frosty. - That's right. - Jonathan, thanks for joining me on this episode of the Russ Perry Show, Book the Ticket edition. Where else can people find you? How can they reach out to you? - Like you said, I mean, you can go to the blog ExploreInspired.com. I also have a podcast called the Stokecast, where my cohost Emily and I chat with adventurers and entrepreneurs about balancing work, life, adventure, having fun, making a difference. It's a good show. Check that out. Also there's johathanronzio.com, and you can follow me anywhere @JonathanRonzio. - Are you on iTunes also. - Yeah, like I said, I was a musician in a previous life. I still play and still write, but I just haven't been in the studio in a while. - But we can find you on iTunes. - Well just Ronzio. If you search Ronzio on iTunes, yeah there's a couple singles. - Love it. All right everyone. Well thanks for tuning in to the Russ Perry Show. You can find all the past episodes including other Book the Ticket conversations at russperry.co. Jonathan, thanks again. - Yeah, thanks a lot.