Mark Maggiori

Mark Maggiori has taken the western art scene by storm with his dramatically realistic paintings of cowboys, horses, landscapes, and scenes from the American West. But painting is only a small part of Mark’s journey as a professional artist—he is also an accomplished director, filmmaker, drawer, photographer, and musician, working for companies like Disney as an illustrator and fronting a major-record-label rock band. To make his story even more interesting, Mark was born and raised in France, and is a relative newcomer to the western United States.

When he was 15, Mark took a road trip across America with his adventurous uncle, igniting his passion for Western landscapes and planting the seed of his western art career that would flourish two decades later. Between then and now, he has demonstrated an uncanny ability to dive headfirst into a wide array of artistic endeavors with single-minded focus and work ethic, enjoying success at every level.  At little over three years ago, at age 36, all of Mark’s talents and experiences melded together when he decided to try and paint his first cowboy. In what he describes as an epiphany, Mark immediately knew he had found his true identity as an artist.

Mark and I had a fun conversation. We talk about all the stages of his prolific career as an artist, and how he has approached each one with a laser-like focus and uncompromising work ethic. Mark explains how he discovered his talent for drawing—a talent that he had no idea he possessed until after he had enrolled in art school. We also chat about how being new to America has afforded him a fresh perspective on the people and landscapes of the American West, a perspective that shines through in his paintings. He gives details on his workman-like approach to painting and ensuring the historical accuracy of his work, and how exercise helps to fuel his creativity and work ethic.  As usual, we cover favorite books, documentaries, and the craziest thing that’s ever happened to him in the outdoors, which is a ridiculous and pretty damn scary story!

Be sure to check out the webpage for links to all of Mark’s work, his upcoming solo show, and everything we discuss in this episode. Hope you enjoy!

All images courtesy of Mark Maggiori


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

3:00 – How Mark describes his work
5:11 – Growing up in France
6:30 – Road trip across America
11:20 – Mark’s interests as a teenager
12:40 – The attraction to art school
15:40 – Discovering his talent for art
18:45 – Learning work ethic
20:30 – Working for Disney
22:45 – Working in music videos
23:45 – Performing music and creating art
24:30 – Mark’s time with Pleymo
27:25 – Leaving music
32:00 – Coming to America to make a film
35:40 – Demolition derbies and rodeos
36:50 – Starting to paint cowboys
41:00 – Building his following through Instagram and networking
44:00 – Expanding to new galleries
45:00 – Secret of painting clouds
47:55 – Keeping his work accurate
50:00 – Starting to paint Native Americans
54:30 – Mark’s daily routine
58:45 – Favorite books
1:01:00 – Favorite documentaries
1:02:30 – Favorite place in the West
1:03:50 – Most powerful experience in the outdoors
1:05:30 – Getting chased by crazy people in Louisiana
1:10:15 – Mark’s request of the listeners
1:12:50 – Connect with Mark online and learn about his upcoming art show
Information Referenced

Tyler Sharp, Part II – Modern Huntsman

Tyler Sharp, Part II – Modern Huntsman


Tyler Sharp

If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, then surely you’ll remember Tyler Sharp. He’s the creative director, photographer, and writer who has explored everywhere from east Africa to Montana’s Paradise Valley and has the stories and images to prove it. He currently works with some of the biggest brands in the outdoor industry, such as Filson and Yeti, helping them to tell authentic and engaging stories. Tyler’s first podcast episode has been one of my most popular—we went deep, covering everything from big-game hunting to kung fu to conservation—so I wanted to have him back to continue the conversation and discuss his latest project, Modern Huntsman.

Modern Huntsman is a biannual publication and online forum for conservationists, creatives, and outdoor enthusiasts. If you enjoy this podcast and my guests’ depth of thinking on topics related to the natural world, then you’re going to love Modern Huntsman. Through thoughtful writing, captivating photography, and elegant design, Tyler and his all-star team intend to improve the perception of hunting in our society by highlighting its thoughtful and conservation-focused aspects, which are often ignored by established media.

I like to hunt, although I’m not obsessed with it like I am with endurance sports. But my work in conservation and deep reading of natural history have given me a firsthand appreciation for the importance of hunting, and the vital role it plays in conserving landscapes and species around the world. Without the efforts of visionary hunters like Theodore Roosevelt, the healthy wildlife populations we enjoy here in the American West would be a mere fraction of what they are today, if they existed at all. Thanks to their deep respect for wildlife born from their love of the sport of hunting, TR and his contemporaries set in motion a conservation ethic that continues to grow and evolve. Now, over 100 years later, Modern Huntsman will carry that ethic forward.

Once again, Tyler and I had a wonderful conversation, and I was incredibly impressed with his ability to discuss complex, sometimes emotionally charged issues in a respectful, intelligent, and non-arrogant tone. Of course we discussed the details of Modern Huntsman, its origins, and why there is a need for such a publication. We chatted about Modern Huntsman’s current Kickstarter campaign, which I highly recommend you support—links are in the notes. We also talked in depth about some of the misconceptions around hunting and specifics about why hunting is so important for conservation throughout the world. And just like last time, Tyler had some excellent book recommendations.

This was a fun and enlightening conversation, so I hope you enjoy. Check out the episode notes for links to everything, and be sure the check out the Modern Huntsman Kickstarter page, watch the film, and support the project.

All images courtesy of Tyler Sharp & Modern Huntsman


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

3:30 – How Tyler describes his work
6:10 – Modern Huntsman overview
8:40 – Improving hunting’s image
10:00 – Modern Huntsman as “new media”
12:00 – Tyler’s relationship with Simon Roosevelt
14:30 – Modern Huntsman’s target audience
16:30 – Misunderstandings surrounding hunting
20:30 – Modern Huntsman’s strategy for telling the correct story
22:00 – Importance of having a woman’s perspective
23:20 – Engaging with non-hunters
26:15 – Esthetics of the magazine
31:00 – List of the editors and contributors
34:50 – History of hunting and conservation
39:00 – Tools for connecting conservation and hunting
43:00 – How safari companies contribute to conservation in Africa
47:50 – The Kickstarter film
50:15 – Tyler’s favorite hunting books
58:10 – Best advice Tyler’s ever received
59:30 – Connect with Modern Huntsman online

Information Referenced

 

Scott Slusher – The Cowboys’ Cowboy Photographer

Scott Slusher – The Cowboys’ Cowboy Photographer


Scott Slusher

Scott Slusher is an Oklahoma native and Texas-based photographer who is best known for his stunning images of cowboys and life on working ranches. After seeing Scott’s work, it is crystal clear that he has a deep understanding of the ranching lifestyle and has invested more than his share of time out in the heat and dust, on horseback or in the branding pen. Given his immersion in the tough, hard-nosed world of ranching, you may be surprised to learn that Scott was trained as a fashion photographer and still works with a variety of big-name companies on their fashion and clothing line spreads.

So what allows Scott to have success in two worlds as diametrically opposed as ranching and fashion? Well, as you’ll hear in this interview, Scott has a habit of pursuing his interests with a single-minded intensity and curiosity, unafraid of getting in over his head, venturing outside his comfort zone, or working harder than expected. Combine those traits with endless energy and a knack for making friends with everyone he meets, and you’ll understand how Scott has managed to work his way onto iconic ranches, riding alongside and photographing some of the best ranch hands in the business.

Scott’s enthusiasm and love of people really come through in our conversation, so I know you’ll enjoy it. We talk about his childhood in Oklahoma and how his father’s work as a veterinarian and horse breeder shaped his outlook. We chat about his time as a photography intern and how he chose to dive head first into no-fun chores (like mopping the floor), and how that optimistic, high-energy approach has paid off time and again throughout his career. We also discuss how he broke into photographing cowboys, and how his respectful approach has allowed him to be accepted by ranch hands throughout the West. We cover a ton, so check out the episode notes for a full list of topics and links.

If you don’t already, be sure to follow Scott on Instagram at @slusherphoto—if you love the West and the ranching lifestyle, I can guarantee you’ll love his work. Hope you enjoy this episode.

All images courtesy of Scott Slusher


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:
2:45 – How Scott describes his work
4:50 – Where Scott grew up
8:30 – Time working at a vet clinic
12:00 – Applying to art school in Dallas
14:00 – Finding focus in art school
18:00 – Work ethic during his first internship
22:30 – First time taking photos of cowboys
26:00 – Making folks feel comfortable during photo shoots
27:20 – How he broke into the cowboy culture
33:00 – Working at the Four 6s Ranch
36:15 – Importance of networking
40:00 – Close calls during ranch photography
44:45 – Close call during a rodeo
49:30 – Importance of social media in Scott’s career
1:04:00 – Important books
1:09:00 – Favorite films
1:14:00 – Words of advice to the listeners
1:15:00 – Connect with Scott online

Information Referenced

Duke Beardsley – Art in the Big, Bold American West

Duke Beardsley – Art in the Big, Bold American West


Duke Beardsley

Duke Beardsley was well on his way to a career in medicine, when, just before med school, he took a hard turn onto a new path when he decided to pursue art as a full-time vocation. Since then, he has become one of the West’s most revered artists, producing paintings of cowboys, anglers, and the Western way of life in a style that is uniquely his own. His work is big, bold, and completely original, and it continues to grow and evolve in ways that surprise even Duke himself.

Thanks to a childhood spent between Denver and his family’s eastern Colorado ranch, Duke has been immersed in cowboy culture for as long as he can remember. He has been drawing non-stop since he could hold a crayon, and as a child (sometimes to the dismay of his parents) he demonstrated a proclivity for sketching western scenes on the walls of his family’s home. Duke is also a committed conservationist with a deep devotion to preserving the West’s landscapes and heritage. This eclectic mix of experiences and interests, combined with a formal art education, allows Duke to produce works that are ambitious, inspiring, and engaging.

I stopped by Duke’s Denver studio earlier this week, where we had a fun and wide-ranging conversation. We chat about his decision to change his career goal from medicine to art, and the value he gleaned from a formal art education.  He explains that life-long obsession with drawing on walls, and he tells some stories about how, as an adult, drawing on walls has led to surprising professional opportunities. We talk about his artistic process, his meditation practice, and how he managed his extroverted personality in the solitary world of creating art. He also discusses why land conservation is an issue that is so near and dear to his heart, and offers up some excellent book recommendations.

This was a lot of fun and I really appreciate Duke inviting me into his studio. Be sure to check the episode notes for links to everything we discuss, and check out Duke on Instagram, Facebook, and his website.

All images courtesy of Duke Beardsley


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

2:40 – How Duke describes his work
3:30 – Growing up between Denver and eastern Colorado
5:15 – Artistic energy in Duke’s family
6:30 – Duke’s early path toward medicine
8:30 – Transition to art school
9:40 – Biggest lesson learned from art school
12:20 – Focusing his art on horses and the West
14:20 – Life post-art school
15:30 – How Duke’s art is different now from 20 years ago
18:30 – Drawing on the wall
20:20 – Why Duke paints big pieces
21:31 – Story behind Duke’s line ups
24:45 – Getting in “the zone” while painting line ups
26:40 – Working on multiple pieces at once
27:50 – Working with galleries
29:00 – Process for commissioned paintings
31:45 – Extrovert or Introvert?
34:30 – Duke’s artistic process
38:00 – Duke’s meditation practice
41:00 – Drawing on the wall at Las Pampas Lodge
44:00 – Working with Fishpond
45:50 – Passion for land conservation
49:30 – Favorite books
52:34 – Favorite films
54:00 – Surprising activities
54:45 – Most powerful outdoor experience
57:00 – Favorite place in the West
58:40 – Best peice of advice ever recieved
59:45 – Duke’s request of the listeners
1:00:30 – Connect with Duke online

Information Referenced

Innovators of the American West Book List

Innovators of the American West Book List


Over the past year and a half, I’ve interviewed dozens of innovators who are shaping the future of the American West—writers and ranchers, athletes and artists, conservationists and entrepreneurs, to name a few. While their vocations and backgrounds vary widely, they’re all connected by a shared love of books. All of my guests read widely and deeply, and they credit books with shaping their outlooks, work, and lives.

On each episode’s webpage, the exhaustive “episode notes” link to all books, authors, and other pertinent information discussed in the interview. So in an effort to consolidate all of this valuable information in one easy-to-access location, I compiled every book mentioned by each of my guests into this single comprehensive super-mega-list—the Innovators of the American West Book List. I’ve tried my best to organize them into logical categories, taking into account that many of the books span several genres.

As you’ll see, the books are as diverse as the guests, with topics ranging from the obvious western history and biographies, to more esoteric subjects such as military history, religion, and philosophy. Each book has played an important role in at least one of my guests’ fascinating lives, so it’s safe to say these books have been vetted and come highly recommended. For curious readers who love the American West, this list is a treasure trove.

I will continue to update this list after each new episode (last update: 10-16-17), adding newly mentioned books or authors to their respective categories. I hope this list directs you to some books that you would not have otherwise discovered and that you will continue to check back as the list grows. Enjoy!


Western History

Biographies & Memoirs

Western Issues

Adventure

Native American History

Land Management & Agriculture

General History & Natural History

Athletics

Personal Development

Fiction

Philosophy & Essays

Specifically Mentioned Authors

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Dan Flores

Dan Flores is a writer, historian, and former professor whose work explores the connections between people and the natural world in the American West. His most recent books—Coyote America and American Serengeti—are two of the most enlightening and informative books on the West’s natural history that I have ever read. The former is a biography of the coyote, a surprisingly fascinating animal with a rich and severely misunderstood history. The latter explores the last big mammals of the great plains—pronghorn, coyotes, horses, grizzlies, bison, and wolves—and also gives a great overview of North American big history.

It’s clear that Dan was a wonderful professor, because as you’ll hear in this episode, he has a real knack for explaining complicated subjects in a way that’s understandable, engaging, and exciting. This conversation gave me a glimpse into what it must have been like to be a student in Dan’s class at the University of Montana—I walked away from it full of new knowledge, and it whet my appetite to dig deeper into the many subjects we covered.

I could’ve asked Dan questions for hours and hours, but in our relatively short time together we managed to cover a lot. We start by discussing the coyote—how and why the animal has been so misunderstood, its similarities to humans, how it has managed to thrive despite efforts to totally eradicate the species, and the varying pronunciations of the word coyote. Then we discuss horses—the misconception that they are a non-native species in North America, their evolutionary history around the world, and some modern-day challenges facing the West’s few remaining wild horses. We also talk about Dan’s childhood in Louisiana, his current home in New Mexico, his favorite books on the American West, and much, much more.

This is an excellent episode and I’m excited for you to listen. If you haven’t already, buy Coyote America and American Serengeti—I can promise you’ll love them both.


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

3:00 – How Dan describes his work
4:10 – History of the pronunciation of “coyote”
7:30 – Coyote’s historical reputation
11:00 – Coyote’s status in Native American lore
12:30 – Mark Twain’s influence on the coyotes’ image
14:05 – Coyotes as humans’ avatars
16:15 – Fission and fusion in coyotes
18:00 – Coyotes’ ability to control their reproduction
22:20 – Dan’s thoughts on the current attempted Federal Land grab
28:45 – Misconception that horses are non-native
34:30 – Current issues with horses in the United States
37:55 – Dan’s thoughts on the BLM Wild Mustang Program
40:15 – Dan’s early years in Louisiana
43:00 – First trip to Carlsbad Caverns
45:20 – Dan’s passionate love of desert
48:55 – Living in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley
51:00 – Changes in Montana during Dan’s time there
55:00 – “In Defense of the Ranchette” article
1:01:45 – Favorite books about the American West
1:08:00 – Most powerful experience outdoors
1:09:20 – Favorite place in the West
1:11:30 – Dan’s request of the listeners
1:15:45 – Connect with Dan

Information Referenced

Noel Durant

Noel Durant is the new Executive Director of the Crested Butte Land Trust, a conservation organization that protects and stewards the ranches, trails, open space, and wildlife habit of Colorado’s Gunnison Valley. Noel took the helm of the land trust in early 2017, and he brings a wide variety of conservation experience with him into this new role. He’s worked as a member of the Interagency Hotshot Crew, fighting fires across the American West. He has also worked for regional and national conservation organizations, doing everything from managing large swaths of rural land to developing urban trail systems.

Noel’s resume speaks for itself, but what is even more impressive is his intense curiosity and deep knowledge around all things conservation. Whether discussing the history of the Gunnison Valley or the ideas of Wendell Berry, it’s clear that Noel has a true passion for his work and a vision for the future of conservation in Colorado and beyond. His practical experience combined with abundant enthusiasm is what will allow him to continue and expand the work of Crested Butte Land Trust into the future.

As listeners of the podcast know, Crested Butte in one of my favorite places in the American West. Its ranching heritage, world-class recreation, and genuine community make it a unique and rare place in today’s American West. In our conversation, Noel explains what makes Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley so special, and how the Land Trust must balance the goals of such a wide range of various stakeholders. He talks about the history of conservation in the Valley and where he sees conservation going in the future. We also discuss his time fighting fires throughout the West, how his early life and parents shaped his love of the outdoors, and lessons learned from his various roles in conservation.

This is an excellent episode with lots of interesting information, so be sure the check the episode notes for links to everything we discuss. I’m sure you’ll agree that Crested Butte Land Trust is in great hands under the leadership of Noel. Enjoy!


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:35 – How Noel describes his work
2:55 – Crested Butte and the Crested Butte Land Trust
5:00 – Crested Butte compared to other mountain towns
7:00 – History of conservation in Crested Butte
11:00 – Variety of stakeholders and methods of conservation
16:30 – Overlap between ranchers and recreational users
19:00 – The community of the Gunnison Valley
20:15 – Early years in Tennessee
22:00 – Semester in western NC
23:50 – College at Clemson
27:00 – Time with the Interagency Hotshot Crew
29:00 – Details of a hotshot crew
33:00 – Community and purpose of the fighting fires
35:00 – Tragedies and challenges from the fire fighting world
39:45 – Moving on from fires to land conservation
43:00 – Time at Trust for Public Land
45:20 – Importance of open space in urban area
47:00 – Lessons learned from jobs in conservation
51:45 – Future of land conservation locally and nationally
56:45 – Favorite books
58:50 – Favorite documentaries
59:20 – Favorite location in the West
1:01:34 – Favorite hike in Crested Butte
1:03:00 – Best piece of advice he’s ever received
1:04:45 – Request of the listeners
1:05:45 – Connect with Noel and Crested Butte Land Trust

Information Referenced

Teal Blake – At work, outside the studio

If you love art and the American West, chances are you’re already a fan of Teal Blake. His paintings of bucking horses, working cowboys, and the Western ranching lifestyle are some of the most authentic and creative around. Teal’s art is authentically Western because he’s so authentically Western—he has worked on ranches for all of his life, has ridden rodeo on the professional level, and has been making art since before he can remember. These unique life experiences, combined with a deep-seated drive to create original and striking art, meld together to make him one of the most genuine and fresh faces in Western art today.

Teal grew up in Augusta, Montana, the son of two creative parents who allowed him to roam free—fishing, hunting, and exploring the wilderness out his backdoor. During high school, he discovered his talent for bull riding and rodeo, and he pursued that passion for years, eventually competing on the professional circuit. Throughout all of his various adventures and life stages, Teal was continuously sketching and painting, and after several impressive showings at western art shows, he decided to make a go of it as a professional artist. Since then he hasn’t looked back, and his stature in the Western art world continues to grow.

We had an in-depth conversation in which we discussed Teal’s upbringing in Montana and Idaho, and how his artistic parents influenced his life and work. We chatted about his experience at art school, which ended with him flunking out, yet being the only one from his class to actually make it as a professional artist. We discuss his background in ranching and rodeo, and his process of transitioning into life as a professional artist. We also talk about the important role that external validation can play in a solitary creative endeavor such as painting. As usual, we discuss favorite books, favorite films, and his favorite place in the American West. We cover a lot in this episode, so be sure to check out the episode notes for all the topics and links to everything we discuss.

Images courtesy of Teal Blake


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:45 – How Teal describes his work
3:33 – Process of becoming a professional artist
5:00 – Teal’s childhood in Montana
7:55 – Teal’s parents and their influence on him
9:35 – Early artistic influences
11:20 – Early artistic endeavors
12:00 – Move to Idaho and rodeo beginnings
14:55 – Decision to stop riding bulls
17:40 – Teal’s experience at college art school
21:30 – Transition from rodeo to full-time artist
24:00 – Teal’s first art show
28:00 – Teal’s daily routine and artistic phases
31:05 – Ranch work and its influence on Teal’s work
35:25 – Teal’s attraction to bucking animals — painting and riding them
38:20 – Biggest changes in Teal’s art over the past 10 years
40:33 – Challenge of creating new and original work
43:00 – Thoughts on the business of professional art
48:20 – Favorite books
52:10 – Importance of being humbled
53:10 – Raising kids in the internet age
56:50 – Favorite films
58:40 – Surprising hobbies
1:01:00 – Great advice Teal has received
1:02:15 – Favorite place in the West
1:05:50 – Teal’s advice to the listeners
1:07:45 – Connect with Teal online
1:08:10 – Chappin’!!

Information Referenced

Justin Simoni (photo credit: Justin Simoni)

Justin Simoni is an ultra-endurance adventurer who is most well known for his self-powered, long-distance tours that combine cycling, mountain running, and climbing. He is currently preparing for the “Highest Hundred” in which he’ll climb Colorado’s 100 highest peaks, accessing them all by bike, in 60 days or less. If he pulls it off (and I’m betting that he will), it will be the first time anyone has linked all of these peaks by bike in a completely self-supported style.

Most people would assume that Justin has been a hardcore cyclist for his entire life, but he actually started riding relatively late. He studied painting in college and worked full time as a professional artist for years, living in an art gallery in downtown Denver. Frustrated with his car that kept breaking down, Justin purchased a bike and began to ride it as his primary mode of transportation. As his rides became longer and longer, he enjoyed it more and more, and pretty soon he was completely committed to long-distance cycling. What followed was a barrage of impressive solo ultra-distance adventures: cycling the Pacific Coast, racing the Tour Divide mountain bike race twice, and completing the Tour 14er, which involved cycling to all 58 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains and climbing them… in just 34 days.

Thanks to his athletic accomplishments, artistic perspective, hilarious sense of humor, and infectious enthusiasm, Justin is truly one of a kind. We had a fun and funny conversation that covered a wide range of topics from his adventures to his time as an artist. We chatted about some of the techniques that he uses to stay upbeat during periods of extreme fatigue or fear, and we discussed how he balances his free-wheeling artist’s mentality with the monk-like discipline required to pull off such serious adventures. As usual, we discuss favorite books, films, and Justin shares the best piece of advice he’s ever received.

I appreciate Justin taking the time to chat during such a hectic period of planning and training. Also, thanks to the sponsors who are helping to make the Highest Hundred possible: Ultimate DirectionSurly BikesColorado Mountain ClubORSierra Designs, and La Sportiva.

This was a really fun conversation, so I hope you enjoy!

Photos courtesy of Justin Simoni


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:40 – How Justin describes his work
4:45 – “Highest Hundred” defined
5:10 – Significance of highest hundred
7:20 – Background of Justin’s self-powered adventures
9:20 – When Justin started seriously riding bikes
10:00 – Growing up in Connecticut
10:45 – His decision to move West
11:50 – Skateboarding and skateboarding advocacy
12:50 – Beginning cycling
14:15 – Pacific Coast bike tour
15:50 – Tour Divide
18:30 – Epic snowfall on the Tour Divide course
20:45 – Justin’s approach to hardcore adventure
21:45 – Positivity versus negativity in ultra-endurance
23:15 – Strategies for overcoming fatigue
24:45 – How he decides when he does need to stop
25:30 – Other techniques for keeping a positive mindset
26:00 – Justin’s ability to invent his own rules and challenges
27:00 – “Everesting” Green Mountain
29:30 – Enjoyment of truly knowing a place
31:30 – Justin’s approach to creating art
32:50 – The hard work involved in athletics and art
35:35 – How much art is a part of Justin’s life currently
36:35 – How adventures changes people
39:00 – Heroes and mentors
42:00 – Overarching goal of sharing these adventures with the public
43:45 – Favorite Books
45:00 – Favorite films
46:50 – Surprising activities
48:40 – Best advice he’s ever received
53:00 – Enlightenment through endurance
56:00 – Most powerful outdoor experience
58:50 – Favorite location in the West
1:01:00 – Justin’s request of the listeners
1:02:00 – Connect with Justin online and follow the adventure!

Bryan Martin

Bryan Martin and Elizabeth Williams work at Big City Mountaineers, a Colorado-based nonprofit that transforms the lives of underserved youth through wilderness mentoring expeditions. Through partnerships with community youth programs around the United States, Big City Mountaineers exposes close to 1,000 youth per year to outdoor adventures in some of our country’s most spectacular public lands. Not only do these young people learn outdoor skills, but more importantly, they learn critical life skills while also improving their self-confidence, communication skills, and leadership abilities.

Elizabeth Williams

Prior to assuming his role as executive director at BCM, Bryan enjoyed great success with a wide variety of conservation and outdoor-related organizations including the Nature Conservancy, Continental Divide Trail Alliance, Colorado Mountain Club, and the Land Trust Alliance. Elizabeth was a teacher in India and Nepal before joining BCM as a marketing intern—10 years and a lot of hard work later, she has risen through the ranks and is now the Director of Programs. Bryan and Elizabeth share a deep enthusiasm for the outdoors and a belief that outdoor experiences can be transformative. Their passion for the work and BCM’s mission is palpable, so I know you’ll enjoy getting to know them.

I met Bryan and Elizabeth at the BCM offices in the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, Colorado, where we discussed BCM’s mission, the details of their wilderness expeditions, and why outdoor adventures can be such life-changing experiences. We chat about Bryan and Elizabeth’s professional backgrounds and learn what drew them to careers centered around the outdoors and service. They also tell a heart-warming success story in which a student overcomes her initial fears to thrive on a weeklong wilderness trip.

Thanks to Bryan and Elizabeth for taking the time to chat. Hope you enjoy!

 


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

3:30 – Details of Elizabeth and Bryan’s roles at BCM
5:00 – Building teamwork through outdoor experiences
7:45 – Details of the wilderness expeditions
9:10 – Areas in which BCM operates
10:00 – Teaching students with no outdoor experience about wilderness travel
14:00 – BCM’s focus on personal development and critical life skills
15:50 – Ensuring the lessons stick when the students return home
17:00 – How BCM measures success
20:00 – Evolution of BCM’s measurements of success
22:45 – How BCM selects its mentors
25:00 – Areas where the expeditions take place
26:45 – Thoughts on public lands
29:00 – Elizabeth and Bryan’s personal backgrounds
34:30 – Bryan’s biggest surprise since becoming BCM’s E.D.
36:30 – Overarching lessons learned from their careers
40:40 – “Summit for Someone” program
44:45 – A recent BCM success story
49:00 – Favorite books
52:50 – Favorite documentaries
53:50 – Craziest/most powerful outdoor experiences
59:10 – Request of the listeners
1:00:40 – Connect with BCM online