Rebecca Rusch - Endurance Sports Legend on Blood Road, Transformation & Vulnerability
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The 7x World Champion, 5x Dirty Kanza Winner, Entrepreneur, Author & Queen of Pain on Loss, Family, What Really Matters in Life & Learning to Feel

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Known as the Queen of Pain, Rebecca Rusch is a 7x World Champion in sports ranging from adventure racing to whitewater rafting to 24-hour solo mountain biking. She has won the biggest monuments in off-road bike racing including four Leadville 100 mountain bike titles and five total wins at the Dirty Kanza in the 100-mile, 200-mile and 350-mile XL races. She holds the fastest known time for mountain biking the Kokopelli trail from Moab to Fruita, was on the first team to summit and descend Mt. Kilimanjaro on mountain bikes and she was a member of the Raid Gauloises Adventure Racing World Champion Team. She’s also an entrepreneur, author and has her own world-class gravel race, Rebecca’s Private Idaho.

In 2016 she was the first person to ride the entire length of the Ho Chi Minh trail. That trip was captured in the feature-length documentary Blood Road. It tells the story of Rebecca’s journey to try to reach the crash site and final resting place of her father, a U.S. Air Force pilot shot down over Laos during the Vietnam war, 40 years later on the anniversary of his death. 

I’ve written about Rebecca before as a journalist and have had the chance to hang out with her a few times at gravel events and at SXSW where we both spoke a few years back. She’s not just one of the most accomplished endurance athletes in all of sport--she’s an incredibly humble and thoughtful person. My dad also served in Vietnam. He came back alive. Watching Blood Road truly moved me on many levels, and after I saw it, I knew I wanted to explore the film and the impact that the process had on Rebecca. In this interview, we talk about the many ways that experience has transformed her as an athlete and human. 

You can  learn more about the film at www.bloodroadfilm.com. Catch Rebecca on Insta @rebeccarusch and at www.rebeccarusch.com.

If you enjoy this episode, please share it with a buddy and take a second to rate the show on iTunes or wherever you listen. Thanks to everyone out there who has dropped me a line--you can get in touch with me @hardwaypod on insta and twitter or via email at choosethehardway@gmail.com

Be the first to hear about new episodes and things worth knowing when you sign up for The Hard Way newsletter here.

Andrew VontzEpisode 25
Dan Doty - Evryman Co-Founder

What happens when guys get more connected to their feelings and start sharing them? And why did Dan Doty leave behind a successful career as a producer and director to sacrifice everything and start a men’s movement?

Listen on: iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher

Dan Doty is co-founder of Evryman, a company that brings men together to exercise their emotions so they can lead more successful, fulfilling lives. Early in Dan’s career, he spent over 600 days in the backcountry working as a wilderness therapy guide for disadvantaged and at risk young men and taught public high school in the Bronx. Later he worked as a producer and director on outdoor-based films and TV shows including the Meat Eater series (hosted by Steve Rinella).

You might have caught Dan on the Joe Rogan podcast or the Today Show or read about Evryman in Men’s Health. It’s a movement that’s growing fast. You can connect with Dan @danieldoty on Twitter, find him at dan-doty.com, catch his TEDx talk, “What the World Needs from Men,” here and go to Evryman to learn more about their retreats, leadership training, men’s groups and wilderness adventures. Dan also hosts the Evryman podcast, well worth checking out here.

Evryman’s trajectory has been up and to the right, but it has taken Dan a lifetime of learning for Dan to get to this point, and it’s not smooth sailing just yet. He shares the wild story about the path that brought him to this point and the unseen, but acutely felt, sacrifices he has had to make to live his dream.

If you dig this episode, please tell a friend about it and take a second to rate the show on iTunes or wherever you listen. Shoutout to everyone out there who has dropped me a line, you can be in touch with me @hardwaypod on insta and twitter or via email at choosethehardway@gmail.com

Be the first to hear about new episodes and things worth knowing when you sign up for The Hard Way newsletter here


Andrew VontzEpisode 24
Jeff Provenzano - Red Bull Air Force Member, 20k Skydives, Human Flight Innovator
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The path from art school, skateboarding, golf caddying & living in a tent with nothing to his name to becoming a renowned human flyer and performing stunts in movies like Godzilla & Ironman 3.

Instead of waiting for the genie to pop out and turn your lazy ass into a successful whatever it is you dream of becoming, try clearly defining your goals, create a realistic plan on how to get there and start grinding, today. There is no other way. Life is what you make of it. It’s not an Uber. There are no shortcuts. Determination will get you there.
— @jeffperovenzano

Jeff Provenzano, aka Jeffro, makes his living skydiving, BASE jumping and wingsuit flying as a member of the Red Bull Air Force. Jeff is a stuntman who has appeared in films including Ironman 3 and Godzilla and he is a champion competitor with over 20,000 jumps under his belt. He has trained elite military units in canopy flying and has been part of multiple world record-setting group jumps. He has insane energy and if you follow him on Instagram @jeffprovenzano, you’ll see that he trains as hard as any pro athlete in the NFL, NBA or other pro sport. In this interview, we talk about how he forged his own path from art school and skateboarding to becoming one of the foremost human flyers on the planet and what he had to give up to make it happen. I originally connected with Jeff because of something he posted on Instagram that is the embodiment of what it means to choose the hard way (you can see the original post on Instagram here):

“I want to share something with all of you. In case you were wondering, or maybe this just gives you insight on how my world works on a professional level. I receive many messages from you, my followers, showing positive support and encouragement and I appreciate that and love you. On the flip side I also receive messages like, “must be nice to get everything for free” or “how do I become a Red Bull athlete and just travel around like you?” Some people have never made a single Skydive and they want to do what I do. Seriously. I get messages like this all the time and I am blown away (also somewhat entertained) by how blind and lazy people are. It’s good to be a dreamer and I am one too, but if you want to know how I got to where I am today it is simple. The answer is so simple, but no one wants to hear it. First of all, if anyone knows anything about sponsorships and working relationships with companies you will know that nothing is free. It’s a real job. Second, if you are looking for the magic wand, well, there is no such thing as magic. The simple answer is you gotta do the work. You have to be the hardest worker. You have to want to work and be driven to work. By no means am I sitting around playing video games waiting for the phone to ring because I am a world class champion skydiver and I think I deserve this or that. No one wants to work with that person. Instead put the controller down and start doing something that will get you one step closer to your dreams (unless you want to be a pro gamer then that’s cool) So instead of waiting for the genie to pop out and turn your lazy ass into a successful whatever it is you dream of becoming, try clearly defining your goals, create a realistic plan on how to get there and start grinding, today. There is no other way. Be relentless and work your ass off to get there. Life is what you make of it. So dream big, make a plan and work on that plan every damn day! If that seems overwhelming, take it one step at a time like a marathon runner. Start with a clear understanding of what needs to happen to cross that finish line. It’s not an uber. There are no short cuts. Determination will get you there.” -Jeff Provenzano 

Thanks so much to all of you who have given me a shout to let me know you’re digging the show. Very much appreciated ! If you enjoy this episode, please get a friend to listen to it, too, and take a second to rate the show and leave a review. You can find more about the show at www.choosethehardway.com and you can get in touch with feedback, questions or what have you on Twitter or Insta @hardwaypod, or send an email to choosethehardway@gmail.com

Andrew VontzEpisode 23
Phil Gaimon - the 2020 Olympics, a Big Wreck, Broken Bones & Raising $100,000 for No Kids Hungry
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Get the episode now wherever you listen—please subscribe and rate the show if you dig it: iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play.

How does a YouTube star and world-class cyclist in pursuit of an Olympic team slot deal with a dream-crushing wreck that left him with a collapsed lung + a broken collarbone, scapula and ribs?

Phil Gaimon is an ex-pro cyclist and the creator of the wildly popular YouTube cycling series, The Worst Retirement Ever. He previously joined me for episode 5 where he talked about his transformation from an overweight kid into one of the best pro cyclists in America and his evolution as a creator and entrepreneur.

Phil is the author of two memoirs, a creative force and had planned to spend this summer on a cross-country tour to use his YouTube series to raise money for the No Kid Hungry charity. Then he had the opportunity to qualify for the 2020 USA Cycling Olympic track team and decided to pursue that goal, too.

A month into his van tour, a track race at the velodrome in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania went sideways and Phil had a horrible wreck that put him in the hospital for a week with broken bones and a collapsed lung. Only a month out from the wreck, Phil joined me for this conversation to discuss what happened, how he is physically and emotionally processing the injury and how he used it as a chance to amplify his efforts to help No Kids Hungry. 

You can donate to his No Kids Hungry drive here. Check out the new business Phil launched during his recovery at www.icelegs.com. You can find him on Twitter & Insta @philgaimon, at www.philthethrill.net, and on Strava.com/athletes/philgaimon.

During this episode, we talk about several bicycle track racing events. You can see a video of a points race here and a team pursuit race here. And check out Phil’s video about his attempt to qualify for the Olympic team here

If you enjoy this episode, please get a friend to listen to it, too, and take a second to rate the show and leave a review. You can find more about the show at www.choosethehardway.com and you can get in touch with feedback, questions or what have you on Twitter or Insta @hardwaypod, or send an email to choosethehardway@gmail.com

Andrew VontzEpisode 22
Kyle Wong - Pixlee CEO & Co-founder, Forbes 30 Under 30 Marketing Expert
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Get this episode now wherever you listen:
iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play

Kyle Wong is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of Pixlee, a visual marketing platform that helps brands market and sell with customer photos and videos. He launched Pixlee out of his Stanford dorm room and got his start as an entrepreneur in high school at Brooklyn Tech. He has been on a roll ever since. 

Kyle has been featured in Forbes' 30 Under 30 List and is a regular speaker and domain expert on influencer marketing and driving consumer engagement through social media. He is also an active contributor for Forbes and Fortune Magazine where he writes on digital marketing, entrepreneurship, and various leadership and career topics.

I met Kyle a few years back when we were both doing keynotes at a tech conference at Colorado. He’s an extremely humble guy who is always moving up and to the right, but he’s not afraid to share about the tough spots along the way--or to provide a sharp point of view on what’s actually tough in life to put some perspective on Peak Tech problems. You can follow him on Twitter @kwong47 and learn more about Pixlee @pixlee

If you enjoy this episode, tell a friend about it and please take a moment to rate it in the Itunes store or wherever you listen. It makes a huge difference and I truly appreciate it. If you’d like to be a guest or want to be in touch, you can find me on social @hardwaypod or drop a line to choosethehardway@gmail.com. Thanks for listening.

Andrew VontzEpisode 21
CNN Investigative Reporter Ashley Fantz
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Why did police destroy over 400 rape kits in cases where the statute of limitations hadn’t expired or when there was no time limit to prosecute? That’s the question that drove CNN reporter Ashley Fantz and her colleagues Sergio Hernandez and Sonam Vashi to spend more than a year to create Destroyed, a multi-media investigative report that has already led to changes to how police handle rape kits, calls for legislation and more changes on the way.  

On this episode, Ashley shares the challenges she had to overcome to report this story and takes you inside the mind of a journalist who has tackled some of the toughest problems in society and the world. She gives an inside look at how editorial teams tackle highly-complex, data-driven reporting, her process and how she navigates the emotional geography that comes with writing investigative reports about hard hitting topics including child abuse, the high suicide rate among military family members, the war in Syria and the deadliest tornado in U.S. history in Joplin, Missouri.

I’ve known Ashley for more than two decades since we met as students at the University of Missouri-Columbia. I deeply admire the direct impact she has made in the world with her tenacious reporting and I’m thankful for what she shared on this episode. Follow her on Twitter @afantz. You are what you overcome. #choosethehardway.
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If you have questions, comments or want to suggest a guest please reach out to @hardwaypod on social or email me at choosethehardway@gmail.com. I’ve had times in my life when I’ve been in hot pursuit of my dreams and gave up when I hit obstacles I didn’t think I could overcome. After more than two decades working with the world’s top performers, I’ve learned that to be the best in the world, or just find your personal best, you have to choose the hard way. There aren’t shortcuts or hacks that will get you there. And you’re going to fail over and over along the way. By sharing these stories, I hope to empower more people to reach beyond who they think they are and just keep going, no matter what they encounter in life.

You can help me make it happen when you take a moment to subscribe to Choose the Hard Way, leave a review and rate the show on iTunes or wherever you listen. It only takes 30 seconds, I truly appreciate it, and so will the people who you help find the show. You can also sign up for the Choose the Hard Way newsletter to get more information about episodes, guests and awesome things when you go to www.choosethehardway.com/newsletter.

Andrew Vontz
Losing the Dirty Kanza Half Pint
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Please subscribe, review & rate this episode wherever you listen. I very much appreciate it:
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In the first 18 episodes of Choose the Hard Way, I’ve had the chance to share interviews with some of the world’s top performers. Ep. 19 is different. Recently, I met an astronaut who challenged me to share more about my own failures through this podcast. No problem. I have lived through an abundance of painful experiences in business, relationships and life when I have doubted myself, fallen short, given up too soon or done everything I could and still failed. I’ve been racing bicycles off and on for 30 years, almost always losing. On this episode, I discuss the years of training that went into trying to win the Dirty Kanza Half Pint, a 105-mile bike race held on gravel roads in the Flint Hills near Emporia, Kansas.

The Dirty Kanza 200 gravel race has become one of the most iconic bike races in the world. The Dirty Kanza Half Pint is the shorter version of that race. The 2019 edition of the race will happen on June 1st. The 2,500 entry slots to the races sell out in less than a minute when they become available half a year in advance and people travel from all over America and the world to compete in these races.  I’ve completed the race three times, finishing near DFL in 2013 and taking second place--but not winning--in 2014 and 2015.

Joining me is Blake Kasemeier, a.k.a. @blakeoftoday, co-founder of the content marketing agency Slide 32 and host of the Good Grief podcast. We raced as teammates on the #RAWSTEELTHUGS team at the Half Pint in 2014 and 2015 and tied for second in 2015.

In this episode we discuss the 2013 and 2014 races. We go deep on what it’s like to take a trip through the ass kicking machine, going back for more and what you learn on that journey. And laugh at ourselves quite a bit. We’ll tackle the 2015 race in a future episode. Because it was such a truly horrific experience that it merits at least another 90 minutes of analysis.

Want more? Read the stories I published about my races in 2013 and 2014 here.

Connect with Blake @blakeoftoday on insta and twitter. Connect with Slide 32 at www.slide32.com and @slide_32 on insta and twitter and catch the Good Grief podcast at https://anchor.fm/good-grief.  

Thanks for listening. If you have questions, comments or want to suggest a guest please reach out to @hardwaypod on social or email me at choosethehardway@gmail.com. I’ve had times in my life when I’ve been in hot pursuit of my dreams and gave up when I hit obstacles I didn’t think I could overcome. After more than two decades working with the world’s top performers, I’ve learned that to be the best in the world, or just find your personal best, you have to choose the hard way. There aren’t shortcuts or hacks that will get you there. And you’re going to fail over and over along the way. By sharing these stories, I hope to empower more people to reach beyond who they think they are and just keep going, no matter what they encounter in life.

You can help me make it happen when you take a moment to subscribe to Choose the Hard Way, leave a review and rate the show on iTunes or wherever you listen. It only takes 30 seconds, I truly appreciate it, and so will the people who you help find the show. You can also sign up for the Choose the Hard Way newsletter to get more information about episodes, guests and awesome things when you go to www.choosethehardway.com/newsletter.

You are what you overcome. Choose the hard way.

https://www.instagram.com/blakeoftoday/

https://www.instagram.com/slide_32/

https://twitter.com/slide_32

https://www.slide32.com

anchor.fm/good-grief


Robert Hatta - Partner @ Drive Capital
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Is the future of venture capital in Ohio? And what does being a wrestler have to do with building a high-performance career in tech? The answer to those questions and more on this episode. Today my guest is Robert Hatta, the Talent Partner at Drive Capital, where he helps portfolio companies build amazing teams.

Drive Capital is a venture firm based in Columbus, Ohio that's focused on helping entrepreneurs who want to build world class technology companies. Drive was started in 2013 by two former Sequoia Partners who believed the next billion dollar companies would be created outside of Silicon Valley.

Prior to joining Drive, Robert was the VP of Talent for JumpStart Ventures, helping to place hundreds of hires into early-stage startups at all levels. He also held senior leadership roles within technology companies at all stages of growth, including Apple, Netflix, Virgin Mobile and Tackk.

But this interview is as much about wrestling as it is about tech. Robert comes from a long line of world-class wrestlers. His father and uncle both won NCCA championships at Oklahoma State and his father coached numerous Olympic teams. Robert’s experiences on the mat as a child and later at Stanford helped forge his work ethic and created the foundation for his career. You can follow him on twitter @robert_hatta and you can find Drive at www.drivecapital.com.

Thanks for all of the support, emails, and shoutouts @hardwaypod on social. Much appreciated! If you dig what you hear, please tag a friend in the comments and pass it on. A huge thank you to everyone who has taken a moment to hop over to iTunes and rate the show. Don't know how to rate a show? No prob--just watch this video or read this blog post to find out how, fast. Non-Apple people, I love you, too, and would appreciate it if you rate the show on Spotify, Stitcher, or Google Play.

If you dig this episode, please do me a huge favor and rate the show + subscribe. If you’re already onboard, please share this episode with a few friends. I really appreciate the support.

I’ll be back with another great guest soon. Want to be in touch? Reach out on Insta @hardwaypod or Twitter, also @hardwaypod or just drop an email to choosethehardway@gmail.com.

You are what you overcome. #choosethehardway


Miles Daisher - Red Bull Air Force Human Flyer, Wingsuit + BASE Jumping Revolutionary
Photo by Wayne Reiche / Red Bull Content Pool

Photo by Wayne Reiche / Red Bull Content Pool

Get this episode now everywhere you listen:
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Miles Daisher is a legendary canopy pilot and wingsuit flyer with more than 7,200 skydives and 4,500 BASE jumps. That’s more known BASE jumps than anyone on the planet. He may also well embody more stoke than any human on earth. He’s a member of the Red Bull Air Force, a specialized human flight team of expert pilots and has worked as a stuntman flying in films including Ironman 3.

In 2005, Miles set a BASE jumping record by launching 57-times in a single day, climbing a total of nearly 29,000 vertical feet and performed a record setting 737 BASE jumps in one year.  In June 2017 he reclaimed this record by completing 63 BASE jumps in 24 hours. He lives in Twin Falls Idaho which conveniently has a bridge where he can BASE jump whenever he wants and the conditions permit. Miles is also a dad, husband and motivational speaker.

In this conversation we discuss filling sandbags, how Miles came up in the sport with his close friend Shane McConkey, when you should be your own biggest critic and why he likes to take walks. Catch Miles on Instagram @miles_daisher and at www.milesdaisher.com.

If you dig this episode, please do me a huge favor and rate the show + subscribe on iTunes or go to www.choosethehardway.com to get it on all platforms. If you’re already onboard, please share this episode with a few friends or on Insta @hardwaypod or Twitter, also @hardwaypod.

I find the stories of my guests to be moving and transformative and I want to share them with as many people as possible. Thanks for helping me make it happen!

I’ll be back with another great guest soon. Want to be in touch? Hit me up on social or just drop an email to choosethehardway@gmail.com.

You are what you overcome. Choose the hard way.


Andrew VontzEpisode 17
Doug Kiesewetter - Green Beret, SOFLETE head of content
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Before he became a Special Forces Engineer and Weapons Sergeant and served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa, Doug Kiesewetter was a college dropout whose primary motivation was drinking as much beer as possible and working on his Jeep. A tour of duty as a roughneck in the oil fields of Texas pointed him in a new direction.

Still a Green Beret today, Doug is also the content director of SOFLETE, one of the most innovative and reality-based companies in the tactical fitness and human performance space with some of the most interesting content.
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Get this episode now on iTunes        Spotify      Stitcher      Google Play

If you dig it, please take a moment to rate it, leave a review, hit subscribe and share with a friend.
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I enjoy getting to talk to Doug, because he has lived a colorful life, to put it mildly, and knows how to tell a story.

In this episode we talk about failure, both self-induced and otherwise, perseverance and pro tips for how to order food when your boss offers to buy you breakfast. You’re not going to want to miss that last anecdote.

You can find Doug on Instagram @dougtheelephantslayer and follow Soflete @sofletehq and https://soflete.com.

Andrew VontzEpisode 16
Eric Matthies - Award-Winning Documentary Filmmaker, Director, Producer, Photographer
Photo (c) Ian Seabrook @dorsalfinprod

Photo (c) Ian Seabrook @dorsalfinprod

Get this episode now:

iTunes Spotify Stitcher Google Play
The Beastie Boys, Spike Jonze, Doug Aitken, Public Enemy, Soundgarden, a Tribe Called Quest, the Matrix, Man of Steel, 300, Nike & Converse are but a few of the artists, films & companies who have leveraged the creative talents of Eric Matthies. In this conversation, we discuss his path from a Chicago skate punk with a camera who shot videos for bands like Nine Inch Nails to the exceptional documentary film work he has created with his wife and collaborator, Tricia Todd, including The End of Truth, a doc about ISIS kidnappings in Syria and Killing the Messenger, a film about the global epidemic of journalist murders. Eric is a polymath with formidable talent as a director, producer, writer, poet and photographer.

In addition to film, Eric has worked as a director and producer across a number of genres including site-based VR, world-building R&D and live events. You can learn more about Eric on his website, www.ericmatthies.me and on his Tumblr and connect with him (maybe) on Vero. Check out his doc work with Tricia Todd including End of Truth, Killing The Messenger:The Deadly Cost of News, and Agile Mobile Hostile: A Year With Andre Williams.

Eric and I first met through our passion for cycling and journalism that saw us mashed up in the birth of urban cycling culture in Los Angeles long before MASH was a brand or Red Hook was a crit. We were out rolling with Midnight Ridazz from the first few rides and saw it grow from a dozen people to thousands hitting the streets of LA on a Friday night. Simultaneously, I was involved in the cutthroat world of Cat. 4 crit racing in LA rolling on a stacked VeloWorx squad stacked with talent like Mark-Paul Gosselaar of Saved by the Bell and later NYPD Blue fame--one of the fiercest and most focused competitors I’ve ever ridden with--and a heavy-hitting entertainment attorney who would go onto rep both George Hincapie and Michael Jackson’s estate.

These were wild times and the world didn’t know it, but a bike revolution was kicking off on the streets and office parks of LA. That led us to create a TV pilot about cycling culture in Los Angeles in the early 2000’s that encompassed everything from fixed gear culture to criterium racing and bike activism. We were onto something big, but about a decade too soon. The show didn’t get picked up, but a friendship and creative partnership was born that keeps on trucking. I have deep respect for Eric and what he and his partner, Tricia Todd, have done as artists and people. I am honored to be able to count him among my closest friends and most trusted advisors and I’m excited to share this interview with you.
The Beastie Boys, Spike Jonze, Doug Aitken, Public Enemy, Soundgarden, a Tribe Called Quest, the Matrix, Man of Steel, 300, Nike & Converse are but a few of the artists, films & companies who have leveraged the creative talents of Eric Matthies. In this conversation, we discuss his path from a Chicago skate punk with a camera who shot videos for bands like Nine Inch Nails to the exceptional documentary film work he has created with his wife and collaborator, Tricia Todd, including The End of Truth, a doc about ISIS kidnappings in Syria and Killing the Messenger, a film about the global epidemic of journalist murders. Eric is a polymath with formidable talent as a director, producer, writer, poet and photographer.

In addition to film, Eric has worked as a director and producer across a number of genres including site-based VR, world-building R&D and live events. You can learn more about Eric on his website, www.ericmatthies.me and on his Tumblr and connect with him (maybe) on Vero. Check out his doc work with Tricia Todd including End of Truth, Killing The Messenger:The Deadly Cost of News, and Agile Mobile Hostile: A Year With Andre Williams.

Eric and I first met through our passion for cycling and journalism that saw us mashed up in the birth of urban cycling culture in Los Angeles long before MASH was a brand or Red Hook was a crit. We were out rolling with Midnight Ridazz from the first few rides and saw it grow from a dozen people to thousands hitting the streets of LA on a Friday night. Simultaneously, I was involved in the cutthroat world of Cat. 4 crit racing in LA rolling on a stacked VeloWorx squad stacked with talent like Mark-Paul Gosselaar of Saved by the Bell and later NYPD Blue fame--one of the fiercest and most focused competitors I’ve ever ridden with--and a heavy-hitting entertainment attorney who would go onto rep both George Hincapie and Michael Jackson’s estate.

These were wild times and the world didn’t know it, but a bike revolution was kicking off on the streets and office parks of LA. That led us to create a TV pilot about cycling culture in Los Angeles in the early 2000’s that encompassed everything from fixed gear culture to criterium racing and bike activism. We were onto something big, but about a decade too soon. The show didn’t get picked up, but a friendship and creative partnership was born that keeps on trucking. I have deep respect for Eric and what he and his partner, Tricia Todd, have done as artists and people. I am honored to be able to count him among my closest friends and most trusted advisors and I’m excited to share this interview with you.

Thanks so much for taking time to listen to Choose the Hard Way. If you enjoy the show, PLEASE hit the subscribe button and rate the show. Then share this episode with a friend who you think might dig it. It makes a huge difference, it only takes 30 seconds, and it really means a lot to me.

I’ll be back with another great guest soon. In the meantime, you can reach out @hardwaypod on Twitter or Instagram or just drop an email to choosethehardway@gmail.com.

Andrew VontzEpisode 15
Get Lit-Words Ignite Founder Diane Luby Lane - Visionary Poet, Writer, Educator, Actress
Diane Lane @ Get Lit-Words Ignite Classic Slam

Diane Lane @ Get Lit-Words Ignite Classic Slam

The award-winning literary activist, educator, actress, poet, author and the founder and executive director of Get Lit-Words Ignite on how she brought classic poetry to the street and street poetry to the classroom to start a literary revolution for teens that’s changing lives and reaching hundreds of millions on YouTube.

Get the episode now—please rate, subscribe & review wherever you listen:
iTunes - Spotify - Google Play - Stitcher



Diane Luby Lane is an award-winning literary activist, educator, actress, poet, author and the founder and executive director of Get Lit–Words Ignite, an LA-based arts education nonprofit that brings classic poetry to the street and street poetry into the classrooms to empower new generations in literature, self-expression and performing arts. By engaging teens in great works of literature, in-school and beyond, teens engage in their own futures and unearth their potential. In 2012 Lane created the now annual Classic Slam, the largest youth classic poetry festival in the nation. Lane’s Lit Kit, a standards based, in-school curriculum, has been adopted by schools throughout the U.S. and internationally.

But that’s just part of her story. She is an actress with numerous commercial, TV and film credits and the author of the award-winning Get Lit Rising, published by Simon & Schuster and Words of Women, published by Samuel French. She is also the co-writer and co-producer of DANTE, an original adaptation of Dante’s Inferno, which stars Get Lit Poets. She was the playwright and star of the one-woman show Deep Sea Diving which she toured with Chicano poet and author Jimmy Santiago Baca. Diane is a TedX speaker, a graduate of the Annenberg Foundation’s Alchemy + Leadership Program, a Southern California Leadership Network Fellow and served on L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Poet Laureate Committee and she is a recipient of the Presidential Lifetime Volunteer Service Award.

Diane has changed the lives of hundreds of thousand of kids and reached hundreds of millions more through the power of poetry and storytelling. The biggest things that jumped out to me in our conversation were Diane’s total lack of fear of failure, her refusal to be complacent when things have been going well in her life and her willingness to follow her gut and keep trying things that seemed impossible. Progress is not a linear path and success is rarely what it seems. As you’ll hear, sometimes it even involves being a modeling talent scout in a Florida shopping mall.

What Diane has done with Get Lit is hugely impressive. But as I learned from her, its success was anything but a foregone conclusion and it has its origins in thousands of hours of hard work and knocking on doors until she overcame the skepticism she encountered and someone gave her a chance to get the program started.

Learn more about Diane at www.dianelubylane.com and find her on Instagram and Twitter @dianelubylane. For more info on Get Lit, visit www.getlit.org and follow them on Instagram and Twitter @getlitpoet.



Andrew VontzEpisode 14
Pete Holman - Author, Inventor, Entrepreneur, TaeKwon-Do National Champion
The eye of the tiger.

The eye of the tiger.

Pete Holman is a physical therapist, strength & conditioning expert, entrepreneur, inventor, author, and renaissance man based in Aspen, Colorado. Pete is a former TaeKwon-Do US national team captain and TaeKwon-Do National Champion. As a physical therapist, educator and strength & conditioning expert, Pete has worked with tens of thousands of coaches, trainers and athletes around the world ranging from everyday people to professional athletes and special operators.

Pete is the inventor of two widely used pieces of fitness equipment, the TRX Rip Trainer and Nautilus Glute Drive. Pete and I have known each other for a decade and first met at the fitness company TRX where I was the head of content and Pete was often in front of the camera or leading training seminars around the world.

Writing is hard. Writing a novel is really hard. Without any previous writing experience, Pete started writing fiction for fun a few years ago while bored on a long haul flight. In a discipline most people never start and many stop, Pete just kept going and he recently completed his first novel, Cruz, about an illegal immigrant working as a professional cyclist.

In this interview, we talk about how Pete went from a lost metalhead hanging out with the wrong crowd in high school to a world-class martial artist, his propensity to continually take risks, focus, preparation for high level competition, motivation, mindset, parenting, loss, the entrepreneurial mindset and overcoming inertia to take big risks and keep going. Follow him @peteholman1 on Twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for listening and I’ll be back with another great guest soon. If you have a question, comment or are interested in having me come speak to your business or organization, please reach out @hardwaypod on Twitter or Instagram or just drop an email to choosethehardway@gmail.com.

Andrew VontzEpisode 13
Big Herc - Fresh Out: Life After the Penitentiary

Bank Robber, YouTube Star, Entrepreneur, Author, Motivational Speaker, former Adult Film Star.
Get this episode now on: iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify.
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A rare moment of rest for the YouTube sensation, Big Herc.

A rare moment of rest for the YouTube sensation, Big Herc.

Growing up in Sacramento, CA, Marcus ‘Big Herc’ Timmons was a straight-A student and talented athlete before he took a wrong turn into gang life, drug dealing and violence. He spent most of his teens incarcerated the California Youth Authority juvenile detention system and before he went to prison for bank robbery, he worked as a performer in the adult industry.

Today, Big Herc, is one of the fastest rising stars on YouTube. He spent nine years in the federal penitentiary for bank robbery, underwent a deep transformation during his time inside and came out the other side to thrive and empower others to choose a different path. He’s best known as the co-creator and host of the wildly popular YouTube series Fresh Out: Life After the Penitentiary and a number of spinoff shows including Prison Talk.

He’s also a motivational speaker, author, executive coach and an entrepreneur who has started multiple businesses. If you haven’t checked out Fresh Out or Prison Talk, let me just tell you that it’s some of the rawest, deepest and most compelling content you’re ever going to watch with insights into human nature and life lessons that people from all walks of life can learn from.

Big Herc’s mission is to help educate the world about the horrors of prison life and educate those headed inside so they can survive and get out alive. But most importantly, he wants to strip away the glamor associated with the criminal life on the street to help people on that path stop before they end up making the mistakes that he did. His content is amazing, his persona is magnetic and with his partners he’s expanding his empire into multiple YouTube series, the supplement business, coaching and much more.

Catch Big Herc at www.freshoutseries.com, follow him on social @bigherc916 and @freshoutseries. And don’t miss the Fresh Out content that is soaring to the top on YouTube.

Thanks so much for taking time to listen to Choose the Hard Way. If you enjoy the show, PLEASE hit the subscribe button and rate the show. Then share this episode with a friend who you think might dig it. It makes a huge difference, it only takes 30 seconds, and it really means a lot to me.

Thanks for listening and I’ll be back with another great guest soon. In the meantime, you can reach out @hardwaypod on Twitter or Instagram or just drop an email to choosethehardway@gmail.com.

You are what you overcome. Choose the Hard Way.


Andrew VontzEpisode 12
Andy Stumpf - Cleared Hot

Retired Team Six Navy SEAL, BASE jumper, wingsuit world record holder, entrepreneur and podcast host on mindset, mindfulness, McNuggets and more.

Listen now on
iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify & Google Play.
Please subscribe and rate the show—it makes a huge difference.

Creator/host of the Cleared Hot podcast Andy Stumpf discusses mindset, mindfulness, violence, patience and more. Andy spent 17 years as a Navy SEAL before being medically retired. He is a recipient of the Purple Heart and five Bronze Stars. During his time in the SEAL Teams, he screened for and joined SEAL Team Six, the most elite counterterrorism unit in the military and served as an instructor at BUD/S. Andy is a former CrossFit box owner, B.A.S.E. jumper, archer, entrepreneur, philanthropist, father, husband and in 2015 set the world record for the farthest wingsuit flight with an 18+ mile flight.

I discovered Andy via Cleared Hot, which quickly became and remains one of my favorite podcasts. If you don’t already, I highly recommend subscribing. I’m grateful I had the chance to connect with Andy to talk about mindset, mindfulness, violence, dad life, McNuggets and much more.

You can follow Andy on Instagram @andystumpf212, on Twitter @andystumpf77, at andystumpf.com and on his podcast website, clearedhotpodcast.com. Get his show on iTunes here and on YouTube here.

Andrew VontzEpisode 11
5x Across America on a Skateboard

with Legend Jack Smith

Skating across America, one push at a time.

Skating across America, one push at a time.

Jack and two buddies skateboarded across America in 1976 using a ‘69 Firebird with a .22 rifle in the trunk as their sag vehicle and luxurious camper. It was a time before Instagram models roamed the earth and invented the sacrament of Van Life. Jack and his pals saw America in a way few characters besides those in fiction ever experienced it. Jack went on to complete four more trans-continental skates, including one on an Inboard electric skateboard in 2018 at the age of 61. Jack is a legend. And this is his story.

He has lived a life rich in experiences and adventure, and has suffered great losses too. His first son died of complications from Lowe Syndrome in 2003 and he lost his father to Alzheimer’s disease. He dedicated three of his cross-country skates to raising funds and awareness for these and other causes.

Jack spent his career as a professional skater at the dawn of the sport and then made his living on the business side of the skateboard industry. Today he also runs the Morro Bay Skate museum. You can follow Jack on Instagram @jack_smith_morro_bay and check out the museum at www.mbskate.com.



Andrew VontzEpisode 10
4x National Champion Cyclist, Media Mogul & Entrepreneur Jeremy Powers
Photo by @katiebusickphotography

Photo by @katiebusickphotography

Get this episode now on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play.

From ice cream truck driver to pro athlete, entrepreneur and creator.

The greatest American cyclocross racer of his generation shares insights about: being a pioneer, drawing your own map, failing and getting up over and over again to forge a career, start a media company, chase a dream and inspire + enable others to do the same, at scale.

Jeremy Powers is an American professional cyclist who has won over 90 UCI races, four U.S. National Championships and the 2015 Pan American Championship. He has also been a relentless champion of the discipline of cyclocross and has put huge chunks of his time and money into building the sport in the United States where it is rising in popularity, but still underground for the most part.

In this episode, Jeremy takes us inside the mentality it takes to win, to face failure and to get up over and over again in the face of daunting financial, professional, interpersonal and health challenges. We touch on what he did to create a career path where there wasn’t one, become a champion and start-up a media company.

Jeremy has mentored and developed some of the best talent competing in the sport through teams and organizations he created including Aspire Racing and the JAM fund. In 2010, Jeremy and Sam Smith created the groundbreaking online video series ‘Behind THE Barriers.’ The series followed Jeremy as he traveled to races across the U.S. and around the world and continues today as Behind the Barriers TV.

This interview took place in 2017 just before Jeremy finished second at the national championships and it’s a deep dive into the toughest moments of his career. On YouTube, you can find him at Behind the Barriers TV and you can follow Jeremy on Insta @jpows, on Twitter @jeremypowers and on his website, www.jpows.com.

If you enjoy this episode, please subscribe now, share with your friends and give us a 5-star review!

Get The Hard Way newsletter and never miss a new episode. Find more at www.choosethehardway.com and reach out @vontz and @hardwaypod on Twitter or send an email to choosethehardway@gmail.com.  

Andrew VontzEpisode 09
Triple-Amputee Royal Marines Commando Mark Ormrod

Get this episode now on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, & Google Play.

Mark Ormrod Headshot Podcast Hard Way.png

On Christmas Eve 2007, Royal Marines Commando Mark Ormrod was on patrol in the Helmand province of Afghanistan when he triggered an IED and lost both legs and one arm. Today, Mark is an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, a peak performance coach, an entrepreneur and the author of the award-winning autobiography, Man Down. He is grit. He is resilience. He is the model of what it means to overcome.

I first met Mark when I wrote a feature about him in 2015. His story is one that has stuck with me and transformed how I think about life.

If you’ve ever come up against an obstacle in your life that felt too big to overcome or felt so low you never thought you’d get up again, Mark’s story might change your mind. His story moved me in a way few things ever have, and I think it will move you, too.

You can follow Mark on Twitter @markormrod, on Instagram @markormrod, on his YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/MarkOrmrodMotivation and through his website, https://www.markormrod.com.

If you enjoy this episode, please subscribe now, share with your friends and give us a 5-star review!

Get The Hard Way newsletter and never miss a new episode. Find more at www.choosethehardway.com and reach out @vontz and @hardwaypod on Twitter or send an email to choosethehardway@gmail.com.  

You are what you overcome. Choose the Hard Way.

Get this episode now on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, & Google Play.

Andrew VontzEpisode 08
Camille Ricketts on Failure, Grit & Resilience in Silicon Valley

Get this episode now on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, & Google Play.

The content & marketing mastermind shares lessons learned from a career that has included working as a journalist at the Wall Street Journal & Venture Beat; in PR at Tesla; and in content + marketing at Kiva and First Round Capital where she created the esteemed First Round Review. Camille is a powerhouse storyteller and authority on actionable insights for technology entrepreneurs. This episode is a deep dive into success, failure and overcoming obstacles to achieve escape velocity in Silicon Valley. And how to handle being asked, “What is your Mt. Everest?” while you’re in the middle of a bouldering problem at Dogpatch Boulders and thinking about where to get a burrito.

This interview took place while Camille was working as the head of content and marketing at First Round Capital, a seed-stage venture firm renowned for its deep & incisive content--thanks in no small part to Camille’s work. She helped launch the First Round Review where she wrote and edited dozens and dozens of articles & long-form interviews with top founders, execs & other hitters in tech about how they build, grow, innovate, lead, learn, fail, transform and more.

Previously, Camille applied her content strategy prowess at microfinance nonprofit Kiva and managed PR at Tesla Motors. Prior to that she was a reporter for VentureBeat & the Wall Street Journal. Camille has spent the last several months traveling and testing the water on new opportunities to tell great stories.

We dig in on the lessons Camille learned from her work interviewing entrepreneurs, founders and execs at length and at scale during her time at First Round. Follow Camille on Twitter @camillericketts.

If you enjoy this episode, please subscribe now, share with your friends and give us a 5-star review!

Get The Hard Way newsletter and never miss a new episode. Find more at www.choosethehardway.com and reach out @vontz and @hardwaypod on Twitter or send an email to choosethehardway@gmail.com.  

You are what you overcome. Choose the Hard Way.


Former Army Ranger & Writer Marty Skovlund, Jr.

Marty Skovlund, Jr. is a veteran Army Ranger who served in the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Currently the executive editor of Black Rifle Coffee Company’s Coffee or Die magazine, he’s an entrepreneur, journalist, photographer, award-winning filmmaker and the author of Ranger Knowledge: The Complete Study Guide. His book Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror, is a gripping, remarkable history of the GWoT told through first person accounts from Marty, other Rangers and their families and spouses. Marty is a guy who has done hard things and keeps pushing himself into new and challenging terrain, whether that’s going back to Afghanistan as a journalist to do in-depth reporting on the state of the ongoing war on terror or producing and directingdocumentaries. He’s currently working on his third book, a memoir. Follow Marty on twitter andInstagram @martyskovlundjr and on his website.


If you enjoy this episode, please subscribe, share with your friends and give us a positive rating. You can find more at www.choosethehardway.com and you can get in touch @hardwaypod on Twitter or send an email to choosethehardway@gmail.com.  

Andrew VontzEPISODE 06