Guest

37

“The strength, resourcefulness, creativity, and grit that I have every day as a leader in the business is thanks to what I've experienced in the natural world on adventures”.

In this episode

In episode 37, Jonathan Ronzio explains why outdoor adventures and entrepreneurship are not so different after all. 

Jonathan Ronzio is the Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Trainual, a platform that helps businesses get systematized through digital playbooks.

Jonathan is an award-winning storyteller and documentary filmmaker and has spoken on stages around the world about adventure, creativity, and the importance of getting comfortable with uncertainty.

In today’s episode, we talk to Jonathan about how his outdoor adventures have influenced his leadership style – as well as the decisions he makes when it comes to storytelling and marketing. 

We touch on topics like trust, communication, and determination – and why these things don’t just help you to survive outdoor adventures, but leadership and entrepreneurship too!


Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


06:24

Leadership between the peaks

09:25

Expectation fails without communication

12:28

Try not to over plan

13:13

Climbing Mt. Leadership

15:32

Grit and strength on the mountain and in business

17:21

How ants can inspire us

18:32

Fear is a healthy thing

19:00

Learning to embrace discomfort

33:37

Authenticity is vulnerability

35:25

Documentation enables leadership


Resources


Transcript

Aydin Mirzaee 2:35

Jonathan, welcome to the show. 

Jonathan Ronzio  2:36  

Aydin, What’s up? I’m happy to be here. 

Aydin Mirzaee 2:37  

Yeah, this is gonna be fun. You just mentioned to me that you’re in Boston today, right? 

Jonathan Ronzio  2:43  

Yes, I am based here in Boston, a little bit self in the city. I’m in the Blue Hills area.

Aydin Mirzaee 2:47  

 Well, Jonathan, you have quite the background. You’re your self-proclaimed adventure athlete, public speaker, coach or mentor, activist, and business leader. So there’s a lot of things that I think we can talk about and ask you about. But I just wanted to start off by rewinding a little bit and going back in time to ask you, who has been your favorite and most memorable boss? 

Jonathan Ronzio  3:12  

Oh, my favorite boss, um, I would have to say he’s now a friend and mentor, Brent Turner, he’s the VP of strategy and solutions currently at Opus Agency, and experiential marketing company that does, you know, massive fortune 500 events and activations and all that kind of stuff, we work together at a brand experience agency in Boston, called Kramer. And I gotta say, like, he just was the kind of boss that could see honest potential in somebody and knew how to give them the lanes, they needed to unlock their passion and kind of, like, run with it, right. So that’s, I’ve never been somebody who liked to follow the rules, and also was somebody who, like, you know, I jumped through swim lanes and just kind of do whatever I felt called to do, or would make an impact and, and just, you know, lean into creativity and make things happen. And in my, my short stint at this agency with brands, he was the kind of manager that more than empowered that and in working together, we were able to really, really put this agency on the map as like a lead voice in the brand experience space. And I headed up like building the whole marketing, you know, brand journalism effort inside of that wonderful experience. awesome guy, we still catch up every quarter. 

Aydin Mirzaee  4:25  

That’s awesome. So I have to ask you, how did he go about doing that? Basically, you know, figuring out that you like to not follow the rules move around a lot. So how did he harness that specifically?

Jonathan Ronzio  4:38  

Um, so he started there a month after me. And it was like, at a time when I had, you know, I was like, they didn’t have a role that they hired me in for I just got back from like a five-month expedition in South and Central America and was like, in the back end of post-production on a film that like nobody was paying for. So I needed to get a job to pay the bills while working on this film. And so I happened to know somebody who was working as a creative director at this agency, he got me in the door to talk to the right people, they were like, yeah, we like you. But we don’t really know what you’re going to do. So I initially jumped into the team on the sales side that doing like sales enablement, kind of like building pitch decks and all that. And, and then when Brent started, it happened to be like, they, they saw that I had a background in film production. And when they’d like, need somebody that they could pull into being a producer on a project, or whatever, there was like a behind the scenes video that they needed to do up in Cambridge for TEDx, and had nobody available. And I was just like, I’ll do it. I’ll go, that sounds cool. So So when Brent came on, it was like, he was jumping into the edit suite watching me directing this like TEDx video and just saw, he kind of saw that I just wanted to do different things than like, the particular lane that I was in. And also we like, I don’t know, ended up getting coffee or something and talking about how this marketing agency had no internal marketing and, and I, you know, wanted to really spin that up. And so he kind of just, I don’t know, he gave me the freedom and the lanes that I needed to just, like, lean into my own creativity and see what I could do. It was a lot of just like, giving trust, not making you earn trust, but allowing me to kind of prove myself in a way and then being like a strategic guide. 

Aydin Mirzaee  6:17  

Yeah, no, that’s awesome. And so when did you start to lead a team yourself? Like, when was the first time that that happened? 

Jonathan Ronzio  6:24  

My first like, team leadership experience that I can recall was, was really in the adventure space. And that was so in 2011, I started building this project called Between The Peaks, and it was kind of my, my what’s next to like graduating college and trying to figure out what am I going to do and I had this background in building a video company with my brother and tons of experience in production and I had studied marketing and I was passionate about adventure travel in between the peaks was this way for me to like to mash it all together. I had also in 2010 done this adventure internship with Old Spice where they sent me to Switzerland to launch their Matterhorn deodorant product and, and that was like, right, when companies were starting to play with social media marketing, and so I was doing blogs and tweets and all that. And that was the genesis of the spark of like, Hey, I can actually I can put the video and the content and the adventure altogether in a cool way to tell a brand story. And so between the peaks wasn’t my brand story that I wanted to tell. And I got two buddies to join in. And we spent a year basically building you know, the whole plan for the project to climb to the Seven Summits and travel from South America to North America, like volunteering and every country of the Pan American and this being like my passion project and my baby, I had to learn to, you know, be the leader at that time to put this thing together and to like manage all the relationships with press and with sponsors and the volunteer networks and then along the way to actually like get on the mountain with like, very limited experience but get on a mountain 23,000 feet in Argentina and lead a team and like no guides, no borders, no nothing. And it was just kind of a probably I was way overconfident and way over my head. But that whole trip from the business side to the marketing side of the production side to the adventure side was my first real step into, leading, you know, people and at the time, they were my friends. And so that was like, they’re still my friends and my best friends. But that was like an interesting dynamic that you like because I am such an empathetic kind of friendly person that it’s hard to sometimes disconnect to like the manager side from the like, want to just like collaborate and be like a, you know, a friend side and that was a valuable experience for me to figure out like know, the, like, hold people to the needs of the project, and separates separately the friend side from the worksite and you know, just need to get things done. I think that there were failures along the way for sure. And a lot of it came down to expectation versus communication. And that’s when I really started to learn that people like what I would expect somebody to do based on like how I would do it, they’re not going to unless I like actually laid it out and like like expressed that and communicated that and through all those adventures like it’s more important than anything in the mountains right when you’re on a rope team with somebody like crossing a glacier or scaling a wall like communication is life or death and that was the extreme of it. But like in just planning for the documentary and planning for you know, a lot of the different projects since whether business or creative or whatever, that’s really the biggest takeaway for me and my like learning to be a leader is over-communicate, don’t expect, expectation fails without communication. 

Aydin Mirzaee 9:28  

Yeah, expectation fails without communication. That’s awesome. I think so many lessons there, obviously, you know, working with friends who, you know, are still friends, which is good and understanding that you just have to put the needs of the project first, but I love this concept of you have to set those expectations because I think so often we think that, you know, people don’t do things in the ways that we think that they should do them or how we would have done them but a lot of times we’re not actually telling them how we would expect something to progress. So I think yeah, that that’s an awesome lesson there. So let’s talk about this. I mean, you’re kind of hinting at it but sounds like a big part of your life is an adventure. So I wanted to ask you what is an adventure athlete? What isn’t an adventure athlete? 

Jonathan Ronzio  10:12  

So I guess that’s my term for not being able to pick a sport more or less I got you know, for 10 years I’ve been a high altitude mountaineer for I’ve climbed and led teams on some of the biggest mountains in the world. I have done tons of Spartan Race like I was on Season One of NBC a Spartan Race so I was like big in 2016 big into the like OCR circuit as like an elite racer there, you know, do a whole bunch of rock and ice climbing and snowboard, mountaineering and whatever sport falls into adventure outdoors extreme like that’s, that’s kind of in my world adventure athlete is like, I can’t just say I’m a climber or a trail runner. So is there a particular an adventure that you’ve been on that you would label? The craziest that between the peaks one was pretty crazy. I mean, we left in 2009 to 2013 on a one-way ticket to Chile. And, and we landed just with a semi of a plan, and had to figure out like, we actually bought a truck in Santiago. And then we drove over to Argentina, we spent three weeks on Aconcagua and back to Chile and up the Pan American and we got stuck at the border of Chile and Peru and had to live out of our tent on the beach trying to sell the truck because we didn’t have the right paperwork to cross the country. And that that was a wild experience. Those months on the road for that. But there have been a ton I mean, since then, I think one of the scariest was when my friend grant bought like a 18-foot little schooner down in Mississippi, and neither of us had sailed before but like, I just thought it’d be fun to go down and like jump on the boat for his inaugural voyage. And we took the sailboat out into the Gulf going out to the barrier islands without like, knowing what we were doing and ended up in like a tornado watch. And with like lightning and waves rocking the boat, and I let a group of people up in Iceland on it like they I have them apply for a kind of unplanned adventure. It was like they knew we’d go to Iceland, there was no itinerary though. And I’ve never been there. I had never like I didn’t have anything planned. And we landed and it was like the middle of the worst snowstorm the country had seen in like two decades. And, and we just kind of went as far as we could and ended up like camping under the Northern Lights and like dealing with sideswiped ice. And I don’t know, I guess like the commonality between some of these adventures is that they weren’t really planned. And I think for me, that’s, that’s the beauty of adventure is like landing somewhere without the plan and having to figure it out and having to find the way and like trusting your own instincts and grit and resourcefulness and like talk to people and like that, to me is an adventure, not having like a 10-day itinerary for like the things you’re going to do every single day, even if it is an adventure travel trip, or a tour or whatever, those are fun too. But when I think about the wildest experiences, and also what I try and bring to like how I think about the business, is I try not to over plan, right? 

Aydin Mirzaee 13:01  

Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. So it seems that you are obviously also a public speaker, you talk a lot about leadership. How does adventure relate to leadership? Why are these two things so tightly coupled?

Jonathan Ronzio  13:13  

 I mean, why is there a mountain on every sales PowerPoint you’ve ever seen, right? Like, there’s just something so related about like looking at a peak or a wall or something that you have to scale and like from a distance the mountain looks impossible. But as you get up to it, you see that like there’s rock holds to grab, there are steps to get up, you can scramble here, walk over there, there’s a shoulder here, you can climb, like, it’s just the perfect metaphor for building anything in your life. And pursuing any project is that like, from a distance, your dream, your business, your project, whatever it is, is going to seem insanely difficult, if not impossible. But as you start to break down the steps along the way, like in a mountaineering standpoint, a 20,000-foot mountain, you’re not going to climb in a day, but you break it down into the camps that you have to get to and so like how far you have to go in a day and how much food you need to bring there before you can like dig a cache and leave that there to get back to the other camp and sleep load climatized and, and it’s just the way that you move up a mountain is so wildly connected to how you can successfully scale a business. And so that’s I mean, from a standpoint of like just drawing a bridge between the worlds it’s very easy there. But from a leadership standpoint, I think a leader has to have a little bit of craziness inside of them to like, you know, be able to manage all the different ups and downs that come with them and the people dynamics and the challenges of the business. And, you know, there are so many different variables, just like the rapidly changing environments in the adventure space that you have to constantly deal with and be able to pivot and be able to like read the terrain and know how to get over that obstacle. And leaders need to have maybe a couple of screws loose to feel comfortable walking over a field of open crevasses and navigating the way. And you also have to know how to have the right people on your rope team, the right people on your team in your business that can help read the weather that can help chart the terrain that can help. You know, if you fall through that snow bridge, you can trust that somebody else knows how to set up a z pulley a crevasse rescue system and get you out and you build that Lifeline with the people you create with every day. So I could go on and on. There are so many similarities, but I feel like the strength and resourcefulness and creativity, and grit that I have every day as a leader in the business is thanks to what I’ve experienced in the natural world on adventures. 

Aydin Mirzaee 15:45  

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. You know, I think, and particularly in a startup where I feel like some of the things that you said that were commonalities for adventure in the sense of like not having a plan, or like really not knowing the details, you know, being thrown into it and figuring things out. I feel like a lot of that obviously, relates to a startup and obviously your CMO at Trainual, what is an experience that you think that you think about often or tell tell your team often to kind of get them through unknown territory? Like is there a favorite story that you’d say, well, we didn’t know how to do this, when we were in this particular situation, and we were able to overcome it. 

Jonathan Ronzio  16:29  

That’s interesting, I don’t know that I have shared too many of these stories, like in a motivational way to my team, I try not to show up into a meeting as a motivational speaker, you know, I think when COVID hit and the whole like the world went into quarantine at the end of March, obviously, we had to pivot so much. And I think that like companies or leaders that may have planned too far in advance and had a very rigid, you know, marketing plan or a rigid like annual plan for their strategic objectives may have been rocked to a different degree than like, you know, smaller startups or those that it’s in their DNA to be agile and to not over plan and to have like, you know, your your, you know, the mountain you want to climb, but there’s a lot of different routes to get there. And in that mentality of being able to, to kind of just like, turn away, I don’t know, I often think this isn’t necessarily like an adventure story. But I think about like when you see a line of ants walking on the sidewalk, if you like take a pen or a pencil and you just put it down in front of those ants, they don’t stop and turn around or, or, or get confused, they will literally like without hesitation, they just start going a different direction and they find their way around that pen. Right? I think that that’s wildly inspiring. I love the concept of thinking about like, hey, boom, a wall was just put in front of you like, without hesitation, you just turn the other direction and go find a different way around that wall. I think that that’s what I try to preach to the team is not seeing obstacles, but seeing new solutions. 

Aydin Mirzaee 18:04  

Yeah, I love that. That’s an excellent story. And it makes me want to go find some ants to try this. So I have to ask you, so obviously, you know you’re doing all this adventure stuff. I’m sure there are some like near death moments and all sorts of crazy things that happen. Do you get better at controlling your emotions? Do you think as a result of having gone through a lot of that or like in business circumstances, you still you know, deal with fear and things like that. 

Jonathan Ronzio  18:32  

Fear is healthy. I think that like you will always deal with fear. I think that you know, like, when you see a rock climber, I don’t know if you’ve ever gone Have you ever gone to like a rock gym? 

Aydin Mirzaee 18:43  

Yeah, and indoor gym, but you know, being attached and not really worrying about if I fell through.

Jonathan Ronzio  18:51  

But like, I’m sure you’ve seen the people that are lead climbing, right? That they’re like going up, they’re not top roping, they’re going up with that rope attached to their, their harness, and then getting to a clip and clipping it in along the way, right? No matter how comfortable you are lead climbing and how many times you’ve done it. As soon as you get above that last clip. And you have that like period where you’re climbing to the next clip where if you fall, you’re gonna fall the distance that you’ve climbed above it double because you’ll swing down. It’s never comfortable. It is always scary as hell, no matter how many times you’ve done it, and I think that that’s the same you know, when I get into a podcast interview, or when I get on a stage or to me It goes back to the things that I love the most are the things that give me the most fear, right, like walking out onto a stage to give a keynote I’m terrified before we get out there. Or I also prior to all the adventure stuff and all of the business like music was my first love and I was you know a singer-songwriter and musician in a band and before getting on stage to play or doing like an open mic thing like terrified when snowboarding and I’m standing at the top of a twenty-foot cliff about to, like, drop in and launch off of it. Like, I’m horrified. But it’s that moment of like, I don’t know. So not suppressing, but accepting the fear and then going that I, I feel addicted to in a way. And I think that those are the most, amazing experiences of my life and the most successful experiences of my life have been when I’ve been able to kind of not let that fear turn me back. And that’s I think a crucial element to all of this is is like, yes, learning to learn to love the fear learning to embrace what’s uncomfortable. So I would say I draw that from a lot of different places adventure being one of them, of course, because that’s there’s a lot of fear there. And you’re right, there have been a lot of near-misses, I would say. It’s not that it makes it easier to deal with the next near miss. But it certainly helps me not freak out in a, I don’t know when things go awry. I definitely feel like I can stay calm and figure it out and move forward. 

Aydin Mirzaee  21:04  

Wow, that’s, that’s very powerful. And, you know, it actually relates to this quote that I actually have from you. And, you know, you often talk about, you know, people as leaders, everyone really should get comfortable being uncomfortable. And you’ve said, if it isn’t hard if you don’t question your sanity a little bit along the way, it’s not worth your time. We’d love for you to elaborate on that. And how often do you feel uncomfortable in a given week? 

Jonathan Ronzio  21:33  

I don’t know if I can quantify it, but a lot for sure. A lot. I think I think a lot of people, whether it’s you know, a physical manifestation or mental manifestation of that, you know, a lot of people deal with imposter syndrome and, and feel like they’re, they’re not supposed to be there or like, should they speak up? Or are they credible, right? And I think that those, that kind of things can surface in a lot of different ways. But there’s a concept in the adventure world called type two fun. And type one fun is just like, it’s just fun, right? It’s what we all like want to pursue, it’s like going to a basketball game or, you know, playing in the pool or something. And type two fun is the kind of thing that you’re really not enjoying it along the way. And it might be a really hard track, you know, you’re running a 50 K, and it’s like miserable at mile 15 or something, or, literally, every single time I go out, like splitboarding are climbing and I’m a big mountain on a big expedition. I’ve got 70 pounds on my back or whatever the whole time. I’m like, why do I like this? Like, why? Why do I like to keep coming to do this, and dedicating my time to come out here and just like my back is killing me and it’s cold, and I’m getting rained on and there’s ice on my face? And like Why? But then fast forward a couple of days after getting off the mountain and after like, you know, maybe snowboarding down this amazing backcountry line. And then looking back at those pictures in that experience, you can’t help but be overjoyed at what you accomplished and what you went through and how you pushed yourself and you start thinking about the fun along the way at the time. It wasn’t in your mind. classified is fun. Yeah, I think the whole thing about like, if it’s not if you don’t question your sanity a little bit along the way, it’s not worth it. Like I 100% agree with that. I think if you are too comfortable, you’re not pushing hard enough. And that’s true in anything in your life. If you’re too comfortable. If you’re too complacent. You’re not pushing hard enough to prove to yourself not even prove to others prove to yourself what you’re capable of. I think that that’s the greatest thing we can do as humans in our lifetime is to make the most of our time by proving to ourselves, how far we can go, how big we can go how much we can take.

Aydin Mirzaee 23:38  

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I love this concept of type two fun, I suspect that type two fun probably lasts longer too right, and more memorable. 

Jonathan Ronzio  24:47  

Yeah, totally. I mean, you asked about the like most adventure, adventure experiences right early on and the things that I recalled immediately. where like, you know the Iceland trip. Looking back, amazing exploration, but in the moment, so much went wrong. And it was really hard and really difficult to figure out how to deal with some of the obstacles along the way. And like driving off the road in the middle of the Icelandic tundra. And like being in an ice storm for two hours trying to dig out the car plans just totally going out the window. The thing in like the Gulf of Mexico, right, like, I thought we were gonna die. That was terrifying. I had learned a new respect for the ocean on that trip. But yeah, those are the ones that I call out as, like those biggest learning experiences, or the wildest trips is because they were the scariest the most outside of my comfort zone. But through that, you learn the most 

Aydin Mirzaee  25:41  

Yeah, no, I love this concept of if you feel too comfortable, you’re obviously not pushing yourself and not being fair to, you know, what you can actually accomplish or who you can actually be, you know, one of the things that I think about with all this adventure, and you know, all these very intense situations that you really have to be on top of everything, like be really focused paying attention, you know, some days, you know, you might feel very mellow. But, you know, you kind of have this mountain to climb or something really important, and you need to be focused. And I’ve heard you talk about this concept of positive energy, and it’s something that you’re very passionate about. I’m curious on, I mean, you just have days where you’re not feeling on top of it all. And so how do you conjure that positive energy to make sure that it’s, it’s there for you to be able to perform at your best? 

Jonathan Ronzio  26:32  

Yeah, I definitely have days that I’m not at my best. I think what’s helped me I forget where I even heard this like term or concept, but what’s helped me is putting a face to the negativity or a character in a sense to the negativity I operate, as you can probably tell in stories. And so like, you can tell yourself stories to, you know, create positivity or negativity, like it goes either way. And like, what stories are you telling yourself can feed into how you feel about certain situations. So for me, I guess the negativity it’s a term, or an association is like, I call it negotiating with the mental terrorists. And it’s like, that happens when your five thirty or six o’clock alarm goes off, and you feel like all you want to do is like, lay in bed for another hour hit snooze, and, and that, at that moment, you are negotiating with that mental terrorist who is like trying to keep you back, right. And, and so it’s very easy to just one small example. But it’s very easy to give in, it’s very hard to learn, like to have the discipline to shut that person up, and to get out of bed and to do what you need to do to like, set yourself up for the day too so that you, you know, hit your meetings on fire so that you get on the podcast on fire. Right. I think that that’s one of the little hacks that I think about is when I feel that kind of negativity creeping in. It’s just I have to step back and tell myself like, what’s, what’s the story here? And why, and what’s an alternative way to look at that? And a different, you know, how am I getting around the wall, right? If we bring it back to the ants, like, let’s not let this stop me? What is the way forward? And how do I think differently about this situation? And stay true to myself and what people expect to see from me, right? Like, I think that that’s an important part of it, too, is we all have a certain persona that people can expect from us. And it’s okay to not have an on day, but I try to bring as much energy and positivity and light and smiles and optimism to any conversation I ever have. And I feel like I’m not true to myself if I don’t. And so I have to stop that. That thing at the door. Before I like, show face to anybody else, I guess. I don’t know. That’s how I think about it. 

Aydin Mirzaee 28:44  

Yeah, I love that. And I’m curious, do you also have different labels for different types of emotions? Or are they all bucketed? Under the terrorists label? 

Jonathan Ronzio  28:55  

No, I’m sure there’s, there’s ranges, right? There are moments of anxiety, of fear of sadness. I think a lot of people in the last few months have felt a lot of all of that myself included. And I think it’s just a matter of understanding how to cope with your own stress levels and what are the stressors and like you know, taking a step back to break it down like okay things there are things that are factoring into feeling sad or anxious or fearful or desperate or whatever that may be on that negativity aside. So like let me take out a pen and paper and kind of think through like what are the stressors right now? And let me list them all out. And what do I what I love doing what do I not love doing? What do I you know, need to stop doing? What what’s monopolizing my time in the wrong ways? What do I wish that I had more time to do and just making that kind of a spreadsheet every once in a while helps you look at those things and look at how you’re spending your time and understand like alright, X, Y, and Z. I really can’t do anything about it. So it’s not worth stressing about, but a, b, and c I can stop doing this, or I can delegate this, or I can, you know, schedule this time block in my day to actually get out for a run or like, it allows you to kind of strategically approach just like the mountain like with the steps, right allows you to strategically approach each step you can take to solve for the mindset. And the mindset is something you have to solve for before you solve any other business challenge. 

Aydin Mirzaee  30:21  

Yeah, you know, hearing you describe that and in you know, writing it out in a spreadsheet and breaking it down. And when I first started the conversation, I said to myself, well, Jonathan’s just a positive person. I mean, that’s just how he is. But I started to get the sense that you actually work hard at this. It may come to you naturally, a little bit, but you also don’t take it for granted. 

Jonathan Ronzio  30:43  

Yeah, I mean, I, I do think I have some sort of natural positivity or energy that has been gifted to me, or I learned, you know, through my parents, or whatever, I was very fortunate with my upbringing and my family, and like, just being surrounded by love and opportunity. And that’s manifested in a way that likes you know, my wife jokes and calls me momentum man, because she feels like I can, like, I just go and go and go, except when I get a cold, and then I like I die. Like, like, like any, any guy. I have two speeds. And it’s really, it’s a million miles an hour, or I’m down on the couch for two days. And then I’m back and like tackling a million things at once. And that’s that. So I think I do have some unquantifiable, innate, like a fortunate gift to have some sort of like energy like that. But I also do work really hard at it and do structure out, you know, my, every 90 days, in a sense, is kind of how I break it down to make sure that I’m feeling what I need to in, in hitting, you know, business challenges and goals as well as creative pursuits. You know, as I mentioned, I did music in the past and COVID, because that stopped basically eight-plus years of nonstop travel and needing to kind of pivot from what I was doing, and like the adventure filmmaking and content, space to really like, lean into the opportunity with the train to grow this, like life is a series of sacrifices, and you want to make sure that like what you’re sacrificing, are you comfortable with it being totally lost? Or how do you restructure this? And so for me, I’ve had to restructure, like finding adventure in different ways every 90 days, because I’m not out, at least at the moment on these like massive adventure expeditions and making films like I was a couple of years ago. But this is like, this is what I’m choosing to focus on at the moment. yet. When all of the travel stopped, it gave me time to think back to like, well, how am I expressing my own creativity in a different way, if not making adventure films, I’m going to write and record music again, I haven’t done that in so many years. And so now I’ve been recording songs. And probably by the end of the year, I’ll put out like an EP or something. So I’m very conscious about like, making sure that I’m not I guess, investing my whole self into any one thing and giving myself the freedom I need to find happiness in different avenues. 

Aydin Mirzaee  32:57  

 Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. You know, it sounds like you just mentioned it as well, which is you have this, this definition, or this understanding of your authentic self. And, and you know, you may have off days, but you understand where that center is, and you try to drive towards that center. Another term I’ve heard you use, obviously, in a similar context is just authentic relationships. So obviously, that starts with understanding your authentic self, but we’d love for you to define what you mean by authentic relationship. And you know, how you try to get more of that in your teams and in your company? 

Jonathan Ronzio  33:37  

Yeah, I think authenticity is vulnerability. And it’s, it’s the ability to live without inhibitions, right, and just to like, be, Be true to yourself and give space to other people to be true to their selves, right. And for one of the things that I do at the train, you’ll obviously like training will is an app for building your training manual, your Ops, manual, your playbook, whatever, I made my CMO, operating manual. So everybody that joins my team goes through the training tool for me. And it’s been outlined of like, here’s who I am, here’s my communication style. Here are my 16 personality results. Here’s what that means about me as a manager. Here’s a note from my wife about what it’s like to communicate with me, here’s a note from my best friend about what it’s like to work with me. And like very candidly, unedited, give them that and that sets up the, you know, breaks all boundaries, right from the start. They know who I am. And that creates space for them to freely talk to me about who they are, what do they care about. I don’t care if you don’t want to be here in five years. I care about how you’re contributing right now. And where do you want to actually be in five years? Let me help you get there. And I think the space for those honest open communication channels is what creates authentic relationships, giving without expectation and being true is authenticity.

Aydin Mirzaee 34:48  

I love that. And so, you know, just digging on that a bit further. It sounds like you use Trainual for a lot of different things. But you know, since a lot of us are now basically in the remote work world and, you know, working out of our offices documenting a lot of these things, the processes, and it’s something that you actually call a business playbook starts to become really important. I’d love for you to talk about just, you know, what leaders can do to, you know, help their teams scale in that way, and how documenting a lot of that stuff can actually help.

Jonathan Ronzio  35:25  

 I come from a background as a documentary filmmaker, right. So I am have always been passionate about just hitting record and capturing everything along the way, it took time for me to get over the hump, but I’m still figuring out the whole, process documentation side of the business, right? Like, my brother, our CEO is more of the systems process organizational guy, and, and the like, systems systemization. And process documentation is not as natural to me as just hitting record documenting what’s going on. But that’s where you know, screen recorder, plugins, and stuff, you can like record a process as you’re doing it to give people the, you know, the information and the example as you’re going. Like, I’m like the many people out there that don’t, don’t want to sit down and document the recipes, and don’t want to like really write out everything that you do. But when you actually take the time to do it, that is the unlock going back to the whole like expectation without communication thing. trainable is effective in that it allows you to communicate how you expect things to be done, how they should be done, how you would do it, what’s the best way to do it. And when you outline that in a super easy step by step way or with a, you know, a screen recording or a video that you can embed, that you can then see your team has gone through it one as a leader that like that liberates you, right, because you don’t actually have to be in the grind doing that thing. You don’t have to explain it over and over and over again, people on your team can actually do things, and they can succeed at doing it the way that you want it done. So there’s that. But then as you know, not even as a leader as like anybody inside of a company that wants any sort of growth trajectory. documentation is your way to, to like get a promotion, right. Because if you’re doing the same thing all the time, and nobody else can do it, you will not move up. But as soon as you take the time to solidify, this is how we do it. This is how I’ve been doing it, then it allows you to at some point when you hire the next person on like the next person on the team can take that off their plate. So it like documentation enables employees to become leaders. 

Aydin Mirzaee  37:31  

Yeah, I love that. You know, I never thought of it that way. But yeah, if you’re the only person who knows how to do something, you might stay in that job for a lot longer than you might work. Yeah. That’s incredible. And again, I love that tie back into setting expectations during the communication. Jonathan, this has been an amazing conversation, so many interesting learnings from adventure, you’ve definitely inspired me to go try some crazy things and get out of my comfort zone. But one thing that we like to ask everybody, just to wrap things up is you know, for all the managers and leaders out there looking to get better at their craft of management and leadership. Are there any tips, words of wisdom advice, books, resources, or anything that you would recommend that they do going forward to continue on their journey?

Jonathan Ronzio  38:17  

I always have a hard time recommending books and podcasts and, you know, and those kinds of like learning resources because I think it can be so individual. And like the things that I’m reading like, right, like, I’m right now I’m reading this like Richard Branson, book and adventure. Yeah, right, and my entrepreneurial idol. But that might not be what you know, will inspire somebody else to unlock their own leadership potential, right? Like everybody has their own things that they want to learn. But what I will say is, like, I think two things will help immensely to become a better leader. And one is public speaking. And we didn’t touch too much unlike that side of things. But that was a natural extension for me in the background of music, and then into adventure and being able to share those adventure stories with the metaphors like how that worked in business. That experience for me was immeasurably impactful for helping me develop more confidence as a leader. And I think that that’s one of the things that cripples a lot of people is like them, you know, people have a fear of speaking up. Oftentimes, I think people that are trying to take that new managers or employees that want to become managers often have difficulty feeling like they have permission to speak up. And I think doing some outside of the business public speaking whether at an improv course, or it’s, I don’t know, coach or I forget those investors or something. Yeah, yeah. So doing things like that will help immensely to give you the confidence in behind your knowledge and what you have to say. So I think that I would recommend that and the other thing I mean, you just touched on that you said you felt inspired to go and do something outside of your comfort zone. Right. I think that if you can strategically plan out your personal life, in a sense of like, what am I doing outside of work that challenges me that makes me uncomfortable, whether on a quarterly or semi-annual or annual basis, like what’s the thing that you’re doing every three months or every year, that like is a new benchmark, a new thing that you have to like, you have to push yourself to develop a new habit to even achieve that, like, you set the thing. And then it’s like, Okay, back from there. What are the things that have to change in my life to make me the person from here to there that can actually accomplish that. And when you start to set those uncomfortable goals, that’s where you’ll start to see the results personally, that trickle into how you develop as a leader, professionally.

Aydin Mirzaee  40:38  

I love it, and a great place to end it. Jonathan, thank you so much for doing this. 

Jonathan Ronzio  40:43  

No problem. This was fun.

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