Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 66 - John Beede - THE SUMMIT IS THE BEGINNING

A hundred percent. There’s that kind of polarizing aspect of likability that the more likable you are and the more drawn you are as a leader, the more you will also create opposition. And I’m 100% with you when it comes to doing the opposite of others.

“A hundred percent. There’s that kind of polarizing aspect of likability that the more likable you are and the more drawn you are as a leader, the more you will also create opposition. And I’m 100% with you when it comes to doing the opposite of others. When it came to learning, climbing, I grew up in Las Vegas, big city. And nobody around me was in to climbing and that made me want to do even more.

And I just thought I was like this cool rebel out like at Red Rock Canyon where back in the day when I learned rock climbing, nobody was out there. Now, it’s like this massive popular place. And I’m like, I don’t want to go there anymore. Everybody goes there. I want to go find my other new place.”

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JESSE: Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today would describe yourself both as a climber and mountaineer. But notably, he’s summited the tallest peak on all seven continents; that includes Everest. I’m sure we’re gonna get into that. He’s a keynote speaker and a motivational speaker for a wide variety of groups.

I don’t think it’s easy to just peg him into one particular niche here. He’s an author of several books, including the upcoming Warrior Challenge: 8 Quests for Boys to Grow Up with Kindness, Courage, and Grit. Welcome to the show, John Beede.

JOHN: Jesse, thank you so much for having me. Pleasure to be here having a good chat with a good person.

JESSE: John, before we got going, I had to ask you, so if you’re only on iTunes, Spotify, any of the audio-only platforms you’re missing out on John’s background right now. Nowadays we have these nice screen screens we can do on zoom and stuff. But John’s bringing the real deal. Where are you hanging out? Why is it so beautiful behind you?

JOHN: I am in the Columbia River Gorge right now. And I believe that as an athlete, you have to live your life on a day to day basis. So, when you reached out to me saying, “Hey, can you do a podcast?” I was like, I’m gonna be in the Columbia River Gorge. I plan to have a kite surfing and rock climbing day today. And I was like, sure I can do it. But if we’re gonna do it, it’s gonna have to be here. And I was like, it’s actually way better than some Zoom background. So, this is like real life in the athlete moment right now happening.

JESSE: Right. Well, that’s the thing, right? Especially for somebody like you it’s like, you’re probably all over the place. You could just say all only do my meetings in boardrooms or inside or whatever. It’s like, well, no you want to go out and be active and do the things you’re going to do, but also still continue to do your life and do a promotion. In this case, you’re helping me out by being my guest.

So, thank you for that. But yes, sometimes I feel like we put limitations on our minds and where most people would be like, well, I have to have a meeting so I need to be in this quiet room and I need to have all my setup. Like you’re just like, well, no, why can’t we do it just where I’m doing my stuff today?

JOHN: Yeah, and I mean, I have a, like a sound booth at my house. But that’s right now 1,200 miles away. And I’m thinking, okay, if like, we want to do this thing, I had this anxiety about it. And I think everybody has this like, we create these excuses for ourselves about why we shouldn’t have a conversation or make a phone call. And usually it’s like silly reasons.

My phone works. My laptop works. I have a cell phone, I have an air pod and like, everybody can still understand the words. And so there’s no reason to let little tiny tech excuses like that get in the way. Like if somebody out there wants to create a podcast or wants to be on a podcast; they shouldn’t let those little technical limitations get in the way.

JESSE: Yeah. And it goes with everything right? And none of us are immune. Like you just said you have like that little nervousness or anxiety about it, but it’s like, in the grand scheme, what does it matter? Like say, hopefully not, but say this interview goes horribly. Oh, well, then you go on with the rest of your day and you have a good time.

JOHN: Yeah, exactly. So, I hope that like this as a Zoom background versus just a green screen that I put something up like a beach or something similar, like really in the end, what’s the difference? And I hope that that sort of like levity results in someone out there listening saying, “Oh, yeah, like maybe I shouldn’t take myself so seriously and just live the life that I want to live. And that’s how I become an attractive human.”

Not like an attractive like physically sexually attractive, but just like a person who’s who engages others and is charismatic and drawn. Here in your best state, others will be drawn to that. Even more so because you’ve made the decision to put yourself in a place that you know you’re the happiest.

JESSE: It’s kind of like almost paradoxical feeling where if I think back to, I guess I’m a little different. I’ve always been like, if everybody’s going this way, I’m going that way. But in general, I think if we’re going to generalize it, if we think about somebody who’s growing up, especially, it’s like, the tendency is let’s just do what everybody else is doing.

So, then people will like me. But it’s like, really, if you just embrace whatever makes you weird, yeah, some people are not going to like you, maybe for no reason at all. But there are other people that are going to like you even more because you’re being authentic.

JOHN: A hundred percent. There’s that kind of polarizing aspect of likability that the more likable you are and the more drawn you are as a leader, the more you will also create opposition. And I’m 100% with you when it comes to doing the opposite of others. When it came to learning, climbing, I grew up in Las Vegas, big city.

And nobody around me was in to climbing and that made me want to do even more. And I just thought I was like this cool rebel out like at Red Rock Canyon where back in the day when I learned rock climbing, nobody was out there. Now, it’s like this massive popular place. And I’m like, I don’t want to go there anymore. Everybody goes there. I want to go find my other new place.

And when it comes to like, like mountaineering, even in the nitty-gritty of the sport, I’m on Everest. Everybody says they wanted to go on Thursday, for example, they want to try for the summit. I’m like, well, I’m gonna go on Saturday because I want that huge crowd to get out of the way. I don’t want that big group of people around.

So, there’s certainly something to be said about being contrarian in a way that’s healthy, and contrarian in a way that doesn’t insult or aggravate others. You don’t want to be contrarian just to rile people up, but be contrarian in a way that it supports you and what you’re going after. And if people get upset by that, well, then it’s on them.

JESSE: Right. Yeah, I think part of it’s intentions. I certainly know to disagree with lots of people all the time. Being middle of the road, I’m like, I see value in both sides. So, let’s argue about this just because we can. I’m just like nobody’s being reasonable. No. But thinking about being contrarian, I wanted to give you a hard time because there’s this idea that well, like everybody does Everest now. But you still did it.

So, I wanted to give you a hard time and say, well, why are you out there? Everybody does Everest. Obviously, it’s not that easy to do, but it is obviously more popular nowadays. So, what drew you to that challenge?

JOHN: I mean, that’s certainly fair that more people have done it this year than did it last year. Every season has about 500 new summits added to the record. And I think it’s around 6000, maybe 7000 people, I haven’t followed this season closely because of Corona. But I think it’s around 7,000 people total that have climbed Everest. So, there’s certainly more people. Now, like in the grand scheme of humanity, what are we up to, 7 billion people on the planet? That’s [??? 09:30].

So, even though it’s more publicized than usual, and there has been a lot of negative attention to it. I still think that there’s real beauty in the dream of climbing Earth’s tallest mountain. However, to your question, and it was reading Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air in 1996 when it was released that made me think, man, that’s a harrowing dangerous journey.

But there’s something to it that’s calling me. This is back when I was like scouting around Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas. It’s like, I think that I might have it in me to do that. Fast forward beyond climbing Aconcagua, three times, the tallest mountain in South America, Mont Blanc in Europe, Mount Elbrus in Europe, Mount Kilimanjaro, Denali in Alaska, and several other mountains and I’m thinking to myself, I always had that dream. I still think I have what it takes.

Even if it’s popular, there’s the quest of finding out who I am and proving to myself whether or not I actually claim that thing that made it worth it, despite having gained popularity.

JESSE: It’s interesting that you kept with it. I wonder if you have an idea or an opinion– This is a considerable amount of time when we think about lifespan. You said 1996 [??? 11:04] when you’re reading Into Thin Air, and so a considerable amount of time passes.

Why does something stick with you that much? And on top of that, I mean, you’re staying consistent with hey, we’re gonna go do this one, and we’re gonna go do that one. Do you have an idea or an opinion on why mountains stuck with you and why you see people that it seems like nothing sticks with them?

JOHN: When you say why mountain stick with me like where the like long term passion comes from?

JESSE: Right.

JOHN: Sure. So, the first part to that, why it was with me, or why mountain stuck for me is I found my own definition of God in the mountains. I’ve studied all sorts of major World Religions, I went to a very popular Bible school learning Greek in Hebrew. And I– None of that stuck. Going into the mountains, I was forced to dig deep within to see what I’m made of, to see if I can not only survive, but if I can get myself to these summits.

And I also saw the greatest beauty and what remains and will forever be the greatest beauty that I’ve ever experienced on our planet. So, for me, it was a meditative and spiritual experience to be in those mountains. That’s what draws me to it; that continual pushing myself the continual humbling of myself, the continual being in a state of awe.

When it comes to the second part of your question, others, perhaps they haven’t found something as compelling or as spiritually connected as the mountains are for me. And it’s different for every person. Some people go and climb a mountain and kick the rock that’s closest to them and say this is a bunch of BS and I never want to set foot on a mountain again, and I hate it. Like more people, in fact, probably hate mountaineering.

We call it sufferfest, right. It’s like, we say it’s type two fun. Like type one fun is when everything’s fun in the moment. Type two fun is when you tell a story about it, and then it becomes fun when you’re telling the story. So, that’s what mountaineering is for most people.

JESSE: Yeah. Yeah. The way you talk about it reminds me of– I mean, my own experiences with running and when I talk to ultra runners, especially the ones that are in kind of a similar, not always the same, but to do like Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. And so similar kind of I’ll say atmospheres as you and they have similar experiences that just, I think that the setting, the duration, the effort, all those things puts us into a place to be, I’ll say more open to have that kind of experience.

Not that it’s going to happen every time but it does seem like that’s a fairly common thread, not a 100%, but a fairly common thread among people who, especially endurance athletes, go just forever and stay so continuous with it throughout their lives.

JOHN: That analogy or comparison to endurance athletes and 100 miles or 200 miles is spot on. In my conversations with endurance athletes, there’s this common understanding of peeling back the body and peeling back your ego, and breaking it down really and finding something underneath that is calmer but stronger than that perception of what was strong ever could have or would have been.

Like once you get rid of your ego’s perception of what strength is, you’re left with is underlying, humble yet furious strength that doesn’t need to prove itself. It just knows…. It just is. It is a mountain. And the only way that I’ve found that I can get to that or find that is by mountaineering.

JESSE: So, I kind of want your opinion on… You talked about in one of your promo videos not everybody needs to love mountaineering. And I say something similar about running. Like people say to me because I’ve been running since 12, that’s what I like to do the like, oh, I wish I like to run or I wish I could run as much as you. It’s like you don’t have to run, you can do– Find whatever you like to do and do that thing. But you mentioned similarly, you say find your own Everest. So, how do people go about finding their own Everest?

JOHN: I think that it comes down to a three-part formula. The first part of the formula is to list out everything that you are passionate about. Just like go off, find a piece of paper, pull out a pen, and list it all right there. The second part of the formula is to write down everything that you are educated in or willing to become educated in. You’re essentially creating a Venn diagram, right. So, you’ve got your passion, your education, and then the last one is your talents.

So, those don’t always overlap, they’re not always the same thing. You can be really, really good at something, but hate doing it, it’s not your passion. Or you could be really good at something and love doing it but you refuse to, for whatever reason, develop a greater level of understanding or education for it. Where all three of those things meet in the middle, your education, your passion, and your skillset; that’s what I call your own life’s Everest. So, that’s how you can find it for yourself.

JESSE: I want to know if you’ve seen this. I feel like I wish I could– I’m like starting to try to Google for it. I think it’s a Japanese concept. It’s basically what you’re describing, the intersection of all these things. And there’s a particular name for it. Have you seen it? Do you know what I’m talking about?

JOHN: I don’t know. No.

JESSE: I’ll have to see after we get done, I’ll have to see if I can find it.

JOHN: I would love to know because I’m always like learning and growing. That sounds really cool.

JESSE: Yeah, I know. As you’re describing it, I’m like there is something and there’s a particular word that they have for the intersection of all of those things when they come together.

JOHN: The closest I’ve heard is Kaizen, which is constant, never-ending self-improvement. But I don’t know. That doesn’t sound like the same thing.

JESSE: No. And I know what you’re talking about, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the term that they used. It’s gonna take some Google through on my part. So, I will try to do it while we’re talking I guess.

JOHN: Hey, Jesse, I noticed that the wind kicked up, which is great news for me for kitesurfing, but I’m wondering if you’re getting into that feedback, or if I should move to a protected area. I think I’m still hearing you about the same so…

JESSE: Okay, perfect. Yeah, I’ll wave at you or I’ll let you know if the wind like starts knocking in your microphone too hard.

JOHN: Sure. Yeah. I’m like oh, my gosh, here we go. It’s time I’m going [??? 19:02]

JESSE: It’s almost time to go.

JOHN: Yeah. So, if you see me getting brighter and brighter and brighter, that’s why.

JESSE: Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s why you’re out doing it. Right?

JOHN: Exactly.

JESSE: So, thinking along the lines of, I listened to or watched your story, watched you tell your story about being on Everest and I think it was your guy, Nuru. Is that right?

JOHN: That’s right, Nuru.

JESSE: Yeah. So, neuro assist is you with the oxygen. You can tell that story here in a second, if you’d like. But I want to know your opinion on basically hand-up, like giving a hand-up versus handouts, where’s the line in assistance versus– the extreme version is, we can’t do it because of the physics. But say you could fly a helicopter to the top of Everest and drop people off, well, they can say I’ve been to the top of the mountain.

Now, we know we can’t get a helicopter up to there, but assuming you could, but then that’s obviously, they didn’t climb the mountain, they just showed up, and they were given it versus earning it. But we also all need assistance, whether we’re individuals climbing that mountain on our own or running an ultra or whatever it is; there’s still a team around us. So, I’m just– I want to know your thoughts on hand-up versus handouts.

JOHN: That’s a great, great question. And Nuru and this team [??? 20:37] we’re on Everest with us. The rest of us would not have been able to climb without them as a part of the team. And I say that with intentionality, a part of the team, because they’re– I mean, I still talk to [??? 20:54] like, in a big way, like a close friend or family to me, we spent two months together every step of the way.

And this is something that I’ve received some vocal criticism for, of what I think is people misunderstanding or jumping to conclusions about what happens on Everest. So, when it comes to hand-up or handouts, I think that it’s impossible to be alive or to accomplish anything without having had help or assistance in some way.

As a result, I think that everyone needs to get good at asking for help. And being accepting of it and humble of it and not feeling like I gotta do everything myself. Like I gotta make every step of the way my own, and I won’t accept help at all. There were some climbers on the mountain, and they were very heavily publicized. Got in a fight that season that I was there. And these are guys who did not– they wanted to climb Everest on their own, not have any assistance.

So, to contrast, like most of us who are there humbly asking for help receiving it, and giving help back in many cases to the [??? 22:18] who were on the mountain versus others who like said, screw you, I’ll fight off anybody who tells me how I can climb or not fun.

That is evidence in itself of my approach to hand-ups versus handouts. I think it’s great to accept the hand-ups. That’s the nature of humanity, like the city that you live in, is a hand-up to you. All of technology that exists, has built upon thousands of years of human understanding.

Like we all accept hand-ups and so do I have any qualms about [??? 22:56] guy who was more scalp than me, knew more about the mountain, had climbed it five times prior to going with me? No. But did I also take every step of my own? Did he carry anything of mine? Also, no. Like I took every step up the mountain and so each person needs to make that choice for themselves.

JESSE: That’s the thing that I like to talk to people about because I think we often forget, especially because I often talk to individual athletes or in individual sports, where the focus is me or my journey, but it’s like we do live in this interconnected web. As you mentioned, like in the city I didn’t build my own house, I didn’t [??? 23:43] my own driveway, I didn’t lay the streets or plant the trees that have been here for nearly 100 years now. We accept this environment that was basically given to us by other people to– [crosstalk]

JOHN: [??? 23:58] did you package up that glue gel that you’re drinking right now or did you mix the ingredients for the Clif Bar? Like everyone’s getting help somewhere, and each person just needs to decide what the level of appropriate amount is for them.

JESSE: That’s fair. That’s fair. So, I want to talk about your motivational speaking. It seems like– I mean, you’ve spoken to probably every demographic just about. But it seems like at least on your website, you mentioned kind of specializing a little bit in like teens or young adults, is that correct?

JOHN: Right. Yeah, I started speaking when I was 20 years old, and so I didn’t think that I had credibility to speak to any other audience. That’s why it started with teenagers. I was just like, well, I think the teenagers are probably my best bet right now. And as I climbed taller mountains and gained more skill and read other books and grew as an individual, I started getting more value and giving more value to adult audiences. And so now I’d say it’s about 50/50 for corporate and professional audiences and adults. Excuse me, [??? 25:10].

JESSE: That’s another thing I wanted to give you a hard time about is, I didn’t know if you had just given up on adults like we can’t motivate them anymore. Forget about them. We’ll just focus on the young kids. There’s hope for them. You laughed.

JOHN: I laughed because there’s some truth to it. Kids are much more open. And they, like the overall arc of impact is much greater in speaking to teenagers than it is with adults. Somewhere along the course of our lives, we kind of said what, I’ve got it figured out. I don’t need to listen to what anybody else has to say I got my thing sorted. And that’s kind of the general attitude when I speak at many corporate events and I still enjoy it. But when I speak at like a leadership event for youth, they’re so excited and every word is like life-changing.

And I get like two days ago, I got a message of a student who heard me speak five years ago, went and climb Kilimanjaro with his dad, and he credits that plus the university that he got into as a result of a speech that I gave. That’s like humbling and amazing and beautiful. I started tearing up when I saw this email. He sent a picture of him and his dad on top of Mount Kilimanjaro. I’ve never had that from a corporate speech [??? 26:37] say hey, thanks. I really enjoyed it. Appreciate you. You know what I mean?

JESSE: Yeah. There’s something about that age. As you said, it seems like adults more are set into the way of like, either being obtuse in the sense of, I can’t do that. And it’s just like we talked about in the very beginning. Why can’t we do that, like I have this conversation. But also, I find and I try to maintain this, I get myself into trouble sometimes because of it.

But I think it affects me more positively this naive optimism almost that I’ll say kids but young adults are more apt to have because they don’t necessarily know that they can’t do it yet. And we don’t know whether they could do it either. But it’s that idea of why can’t I do it, might as well try…seems to– [crosstalk]

JOHN: I love that [??? 27:34]. I really love that angle. I didn’t put it together like that, but I think that’s a perfect way of putting it. Well said.

JESSE: Yeah. I guess I get myself into trouble with that sometimes just because I often leap before I look and then I’m like, “Oh, I got a lot more to figure out to get my way out of here.” But…

JOHN: Yeah, yeah.

JESSE: But at the same time… [crosstalk] Yes. I mean, you end up doing more, right, instead of just being like, well, I can’t so I’ll just, stay put.

JOHN: Yeah, adults have a thing in their mind with like, I’ve seen too many people fail or I’ve failed so many times and I know the sting of that defeat, so I’m not even gonna try. And a kid kind of somewhat naively says, “Sure. I’ll try that. I’ve never been hurt before so I’ll go for it.” And then often they will and they do. It’s beautiful.

JESSE: Yeah. You talking about that reminds me of I’d watched a– I was at a draft legal triathlon, do you know what I mean when I say draft legal? So, like, you can group up in the bike section. And there’s a youth version. It’s called F1. It’s a shorter race. But these kids are taking these tight corners, just bombing these corners. Taking them hard, like way harder than me and my buddy, Kevin would take them and we’re much stronger cyclists in terms of overall power, but we both crashed before.

And I just remember having this conversation with him and looking at them being in agreement and saying they can take those corners that hard down aggressively pitching their bike at that angle because they haven’t hit the payment yet. They don’t know how much it hurts to hit the pavement.

JOHN: Yes, 100%.

JESSE: So, I sometimes struggle with that, because it’s like, you almost want to try to figure out how to maintain that. Even if you have hit the pavement, you want to try to figure out well, how do I keep that aggressiveness because that’s partly what makes it fun. But partly– [crosstalk]

JOHN: What did you conclude on because that’s such a great question and point? I even noticed myself not going after things as– the word I want to use is naively. But this whole concept like I noticed that I tell myself no more as I get older because I’ve seen that myself hit that proverbial pavement. But what did you determine like, how do you up your game? Because you’re right like we have more strength, often, but we don’t step it up because we’ve hit the deck. So, what did you realize?

JESSE: I don’t know that I’ve come to a perfect solution. But I think it comes back to a basic idea that I’ve used over the years, I think has aided me in becoming a very good distance runner, and that’s the ability to forget. It’s like this combination of being able to wake up, and this is more in the case of thinking about I did a hard workout yesterday and it hurt really bad.

And then I have to go and do another one tomorrow and forgetting how much it hurt. It’s that same like micro idea on a more macro scale. After you’ve been hurt on a larger scale and thinking, okay. Early on I spoke to a pro triathlete, she also raced Pro Cycling; Cecilia Davis Hayes back in Episode Five I think, so quite a while ago. She mentioned a time she was in a crash, just her and another girl, two people, and she broke her pelvis.

JOHN: Oh, wow.

JESSE: So, we talked about crashes because I crashed and broke my collarbone. And there is something visceral about getting back in that situation after you’ve been through that trauma that you have to work through. And a little bit of it is baby steps, you know, let’s not bomb the corners right off the bat. Let’s just get on the bike and go for a ride. Or in your case, hey let’s go walk up the hill. And then let’s make it a little bit bigger, let’s make it a little bit bigger.

And then that repetition, at least to me, seems to drive down that anxiety and that fear and allow that, again, for a lack of better term, naive optimism to spring back forward. I also think there’s something we can’t escape in terms of how our biology affects our minds as we get older. I think there’s just something that changes, not just experience but the fragility of our bodies and some recognition of that.

JOHN: Yeah, yeah. That’s a good point. That’s an important one to tack on. It’s the same with climbing. The thing you don’t want to do while climbing is deck, fall, and hit the ground or rocks if the rope catches you and overcoming that fear for climbers after they’ve fallen and hit something or taken. in a bad, whatever we call them is a serious struggle that sometimes can never be over-promised.

Some climbers don’t figure out how and that same formula you laid out is what I’ve heard to be the most successful. Like, just start slow, learn to trust that gear bit by bit. Add a little bit more height, learn to trust that you can hang on at that height, slowly increase and as you do so, you’ll eventually forget.

JESSE: Yeah, if you do it enough times, at least I find myself being almost two minds. And I can’t remember who I was speaking about this with, Christina Burch. She’s a pro cyclist and I was talking about I was having trouble going downhill on my bike, just feeling real anxious. It turned out something was loose on my bike. So, it wasn’t unfounded that I was anxious going down in high speeds.

Once I had that like a haul over, like I took it into the shop, had it torn apart, [??? 34:03] put back together. And then I was like going 10 miles an hour down the hills. I was like, oh, so something actually was wrong with the bike.

But mentally, even from that, there’s just like a shadow creeping in my mind. And I become of two minds where it’s like, I know, all I have to do is let’s sit up in the normal, like more comfortable bike position and take this hill. And then as we do more of them, then we’ll get down in the aero position, which is more touchy. And practice doing that.

And so, there’s the mind that tells me okay, this is all I need to do. And there’s the other mind that’s like nervous or anxious about it. And you kind of have to be that second mind to overcome that anxiety.

JOHN: Great insight. I love it.

JESSE: Yeah. Enough about me though. I want to talk about the warrior challenge upcoming book. I thought it was out but apparently it’s coming out soon. So, it’ll be– when this episode comes out, it’ll be coming out three, four days after. So, why write [??? 35:17]

JOHN: It’s available for pre-order now. And it’s called The Warrior Challenge: 8 Quests for Boys to Grow Up with Kindness, Courage, and Grit. And it comes out September 1, 2020. So, depending on when you’re listening to this is when you’ll actually get it shipped.

JESSE: Yeah. So, I mean, of all the things you could write about, why write a manual for young boys?

JOHN: I saw so much energy in the mountaineering and climbing and kite surfing worlds that I thought was pushing against inner pain. Myself included, I’m a part of that group. And I firmly believe it does not need to be that way. But to teach that to teenage and teen boys, it would have to be crazy entertainment.

And so it’s not actually just a manual. I found the eight most badass guys I could find, who had to exercise some value in order to achieve what they were aiming to achieve. So, like in the first quest, it teaches intentionality And I have a Maasai warrior challenge you as the reader to hunt the lion and that teaches decisiveness and how to step up as a better man. And it goes on like this throughout all of eight challenges.

Now, a question I also get is like why just guys? And it’s true that values like self-awareness and integrity and setting healthy boundaries are not just for guys, it’s 100% true. But I approached it with that angle for two reasons. One is because that’s my own experience. And two, because guys receive a different set of messages about what it is to be masculine and therefore need a different set of answers. And much of what I see, especially teenage boys now being taught is toxic.

And if we’re ever going to stop the problems that led to the need for the Me Too Movement, and largely the Black Lives Matter movement is caused by dudes can’t see equality as being something that we all need. If we’re ever going to combat these problems, we have to, like we were talking about earlier, this is why I talk to you.

This is why I give speeches to you. Because if we can just start with people not having these preconceived horrible ideas and these toxic thoughts, then it’ll eliminate these things from being a problem in the future. So, that’s why the book exists.

JESSE: It’s a little bit of a rhetorical question on my part because I think there’s a lot of value in trying to model a, I’ll say a more healthy model of masculinity for young boys. Because it seems like and again, this isn’t to detract from or take away from the instruction that young women should or do receive. But it does seem like there’s a gap where we kind of just stick with, culturally, stick with the boys will be boys mentality and just go eh, like just shrug. And that’s just how it is.

When it’s like it’s not necessarily how it is and it’s not necessarily the truth either. I think the interesting thing about at least your title, since I haven’t got my hands on a book is that you include kindness as a part of the title, that’s so important. Because that is not– I don’t think that’s often depicted as what is a masculine trait, right? This [??? 39:19] kindness, because it’s associated with being soft or being weak, right?

It’s like no, it’s just tough. It’s just grit. It’s just determination. Where it’s like, those things are clearly important. But if, at least in my opinion, obviously, I haven’t read the book and I can’t speak your mind. But if you don’t have the strength enough to be kind, then you haven’t yet actualized, you haven’t yet become the best self that you can be.

JOHN: It sounds like you have read the book because that’s exactly what I get at and that’s exactly what everything in these eight quests leads to, is having the level of self-awareness and others awareness and wisdom and strength that allows you– of both physical strength and of character strength, that allows you to choose to be kind. It’s not niceness.

Notice I’m not saying just like falling over and being nice and going on the whim of everyone and people-pleasing. That’s not the definition of kindness. That’s the definition of niceness and that’s rooted in anxiety. What I’m trying to teach to young men and in a language that speaks to them is it is a massive strength to combine your emotions, your intellect, and your physical strength that they’re gaining as teenagers, and make a choice to act in a way that is life-affirming and supportive of everyone you interact with.

JESSE: I think when I picture– When I think about what is a strong, like a truly strong man look like versus a weak man and we want to think about contradictory situations, you can think about a weak man is reactive. They react to things, they get angry easily, they’re perturbed by everything. And that somehow, if they’re strong enough, physically seems to translate into this is what a real man is.

But to me, when I think about a strong man, it’s somebody who isn’t– doesn’t just react to everything reacts appropriately. If there’s a small irritation, it’s like, okay does it really bother me? Not really. There’s no need to be angry. You just– you deal with it and you move on. Like there’s no need in a big outburst or display. Because–

JOHN: How long did it take you to learn that? Can you remember a point in your life where you made that transition or you started acting in that way that you’re describing?

JESSE: I had to have been a teenager or early before then. I’ll say I had an interesting role model. I grew up in karate. I started karate in first grade. And my instructor who I had through the decade long duration I was in martial arts, through becoming an instructor myself, earning my black belt was an actual Russian bodybuilder. So, he used to compete in bodybuilding from Russia.

When he began teaching us, he had very little English. The other structure we had at the time spoke English and like, helped figure it out. But he demanded a lot of me and I don’t know that it was like lectures or anything. I think a little bit of it is, I’m generally pretty soft personality-wise. As an instance, we have a mouse in the house right now, and I’m not eager to kill it, what I’m trying to do is capture it and take it somewhere. Like, I capture bugs and take them outside. I don’t smash them.

JOHN: The fact that you learn that at such a young age, I think is a rarity. I was in my late 20s when I started saying like, oh, I don’t have to react and I can just observe something that happened, and then make a choice about how I’m going to appropriately respond. And I think if every kid in the world had a guide like you had, that Russian bodybuilder [??? 44:05] karate master. I mean, you had a warrior guide.

JESSE: Oh, yeah.

JOHN: I don’t think most kids get that. And that’s why this book exists is because I wanted to give eight different options of warrior guides. Nine, if you want to include myself as an Everest climber of here’s how you can live your life with intentionality, and make that choice in every moment as– I should have added in the Russian bodybuilder, like that same lesson of that higher standard.

You’re a guy, you’ve got this new set of power as you’re hitting puberty, and you’re between the ages of 10 and 18, which is what it’s gauged towards. And what do you do with that?

Without a model and without a path for young men to say, here’s a healthy way to express this new sense of strength that you’ve got, it turns into the boys will be boys mentality and then we turn a blind eye, and then that turns into pathology.

And then you have like you look at sexual assault cases. Instead of like dealing with boys and trying to change guys’ behavior, we say, “Oh, we need to teach women to behave differently.” That’s bullshit. No way. We’ve got to go to the root of the problem and that specific instance, that starts with changing the way that men act and value other human life.

JESSE: So, if we’re thinking large scale beyond the book, which obviously is a great starting point, how do we get enough good role models in front of young men? And not to say my instructor was perfect because he wasn’t and he’s not and I’m not either. But there is a– it’s a little woo-woo I guess. But There’s like, there’s a difference in his aura or how he carries himself or his energy. You know what I mean?

JOHN: Yeah.

JESSE: Like, he was strong enough to be gentle but also firm enough to like I said, he asked a lot of me. He’s always like, focus, focus. Like if I wasn’t focusing, he didn’t say oh, well, you’re just nine, you’re just 10, that’s good enough. No, it’s like, I need you to live to your potential. But having that, like you said, you don’t– it’s not common for many people.

But having that physical presence, it especially weekly for years on end, I’m sure affected me in ways that people that don’t have that presence affected me. So, beyond the book, if you can set up anything like what do we do to make this mentality flourish?

JOHN: I think that you hit the nail on the head when you said, I’m not perfect and my guide wasn’t perfect, because I resonate that as well. I’m not perfect either. When we create this idea that we have to be spot on before we can start helping one another or we have to have everything in life figured out before we can help others, or point the way towards what we think might be the right direction, we’ve lost the way.

I’ve failed in every single one of the values that I espouse in the book. And you asked me to speak beyond the book. So, I think that the way that we can help this concept of a healthier idea of masculinity to flourish is first to have the courage to admit that we’ve been not met the mark.

Every one of us like, none of us are perfect. And just stating that in the first place is the most beautiful first step. Because it says that I’m now open to change, I’m open to growth. It’s the equivalent of if you were to go to a coach and say, I’m ready, but I don’t want to listen to anything you have to say, you’re not gonna get anywhere. It’s right. Same thing with growing as a human being. Unless you’re willing to say, I’m not perfect, and I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m willing to learn; you’ve gotten over– like, that’s the first step.

The second step is self-awareness. And it’s understanding what your emotions are in the moment, being able to stop and observe and take that moment of pause so that when events happen, you have that skill of instead of reacting, like we mentioned a few minutes ago; you have the skill of taking that beat so that you can think and observe and weigh your values. And you’ll get quicker at that about choosing which action you’re going to then take. So, I think those are the first two steps.

JESSE: Sounds good. John, as we’re starting to run out of time, I want to ask you the same question I’m asking everybody this season or this year. It transcends the different niches everybody’s in so I love to hear what people say. I’d like to ask you, what you think the purpose of sport is?

JOHN: I think that the purpose of sport, the first word that came to mind was discovery. And I’ll leave that broad. I think that the purpose of the sport is discovered.

JESSE: Okay. Okay. Probably the most succinct answer I’ve gotten, but that’s okay. It’s still good. So, where can people find you? Where can people get the book, keep up with what you’re doing if they want to have you speak, all that kind of stuff?

JOHN: Absolutely. So, the book is available at, And if your listeners put in their name and email there, then I will give them details on how I’ll send a [??? 50:19], an insert for the book. So, you get kind of the equivalent of a signed copy. And it’s also available for sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. So, it’s going to be in all bookstores. As far as my speaking services, on, J-O-H-N And that’ll give you not only access to my speaking but I’ve also got some mountaineering documentaries and all my other stuff that I’m up to is there.

JESSE: Awesome. John, thanks for taking time out of your day, especially as you’re like, high, adventure day here to talk with me. I really appreciate it.

JOHN: Thrilled to be with you. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

JESSE: Take care.

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