Ali Jafarian

Pursuing a Deeper Connection to Nature with Ryan Jordan

Episode Number 015
Duration 47 min

I’m pumped to share a new episode with Ryan Jordan, founder of backpackinglight.com!  Ryan is a father, husband, entrepreneur, and major advocate for helping humans experience a deeper connection to the natural world.

We focus this discussion on Ryan’s connection with nature from early childhood, through college, and into modern day as he leads one of the most established online communities in the backpacking world.  We also cover some interesting ground on national parks, introverts, authentic journalism, and the importance of building trust on the internet.

This episode aligns with a lot of my core values.  I’m a huge advocate for nature, like Ryan, and have been investing a lot more time being outdoors. I’ve experienced massive transformation in my life as a result and I hope this episode inspires you to find your own connection with nature 🙂

Guest details
Ryan Jordan - Father, Husband and Entrepreneur
Ryan Jordan

https://backpackinglight.com

Links
Transcript

[00:00:00] Ali: Welcome back folks. Ali here with another episode. Today I have Mr. Ryan Jordan, a good friend, a client of mine, somebody that I've met and worked pretty closely with the last couple years. And, I don't say this lightly, but Ryan is one of my quote unquote favorite clients, particularly because of the way that he kind of shows up and also what he does. He has a very interesting business around backpacking and growing a community in that world. And he also has an interesting story on how he got there. So I am very honored and pleased to have you here, Ryan, how would you like to introduce yourself?

[00:00:43] Ryan: Thanks for having me on the podcast, Ali. I'm really glad we're talking today, because I know you are pursuing a deeper connection to the natural world. And that is my theme. My passion in my life is pursuing and helping others pursue a connection to nature generally and wilderness specifically. So that's who I am and what I do.

[00:01:11] Ali: Beautiful. Is that who you've always been?

[00:01:15] Ryan: For the last 40 years, it's been the dominant theme.

[00:01:19] Ali: Wow. Did you grow up that way?

[00:01:23] Ryan: I grew up outdoors, fishing and hiking. I was in the Boy Scouts. But I didn't understand the depth of connection with nature and its benefits on the human psyche until I got more immersed in it as a college student.

[00:01:44] Ali: So college is about when it kind of hits you in a more meaningful way?

[00:01:49] Ryan: More profound way because I guess when I went out on my own and started having to take care of myself and then being bombarded with all of the stimuli that comes with going to college and studying and tests and homework and all this kind of stuff, and then worrying about what the next phase of your life is going to be and what that's going to bring.

I found a lot of solace in nature, especially by myself. It was a therapeutic way for me to keep that stimulus in check and keep me focused on mental health, physical health, and just staying level, emotionally level.

[00:02:32] Ali: Emotionally level. I love that. I think that it's very apropos to today with all the flaring emotions that have happened with pandemic and other stresses, recent times. But I also think that it's unique you were thinking about that, or at least it hit you in a profound way during your college years, because that's not what I was thinking about in college.

[00:03:02] Ryan: I won't pretend that I was more mature than I was.

[00:03:08] Ali: Yeah. I mean, it's real. I was just discussing with my wife last night that even today, people in their late teens and early twenties, are arguably in a whole different world than someone like me, who's approaching 40. Sure. And even like family dynamics, business dynamics aside there is just something different about that phase of your life.

Right? Yeah. So tell me a little bit more about that. Because you didn't start backpacking like right out of the gate, correct?

[00:03:35] Ryan: No, not at all. I went to college and got an engineering degree. Then I went and got another engineering degree and then I went and got another engineering degree. So I spent 10 years between undergraduate and graduate school with the idea that I was going to be a university researcher or professor. And I went down that path and during college I always maintained a tie to the outdoors. I got married while I was a master's student. So I've enjoyed most of my graduate school as a married person.

And we still maintain a connection to the outdoors, even though we were trying to figure out marriage and we were trying to figure out how to live an adult life, you know, cause it's a little bit different once you hit graduate school. When you're an undergraduate you're still kind of loosely tied to your parents.

So after graduate school, I got my dream university job. And realized that very quickly, that this was an exhausting endeavor to try to seek out the golden calf of academia, which is a tenure track position. And so I lost my connection to the outdoors somewhat during that time, because it was so difficult to balance. I had a son and a family, and now this job that turned into a grant writing machine and a research machine rather than something that fueled my passion. And I felt my soul slipping away a little bit.

[00:05:23] Ali: That's big because it seems to me that not only is it easy to lose our connection to nature to the outdoors, to let's say the real world is what I like to call it.

Not, not in the device world. Right. And you've made some great points that that time in your grad school life, just got married, thinking about family, you were in arguably one of the phases of life where there's so many pressures. There's just so many responsibilities, regardless of how good you are at balancing that.

Right. It's just a time when there's a lot, a time when there's more. And I feel like most of us have lost that connection almost completely. Like what percentage of the world? Well, you know, you're, you're a bit skewed. I was going to say, what percentage of the world do you know that hikes? Well, you probably know a good amount of people that hike, but in reality, it's not that many.

It's definitely not the majority. I wrote down and highlighted lost connection to nature, because I think a lot of people have lost connection to nature. Is that what started? Well, before I ask that, what happened? How did you turn it around? How did you reignite the connection?

[00:06:47] Ryan: I started Backpacking Light in 2000 and ran it off my own private server. And at the time the web was still pretty much in its infancy. There was used net groups and things like that that were pretty active and, and, uh, yeah, the good old days. Right. And I invested a fair bit of time into it. It came out of the engineer's mindset that there are companies out there that are interested mainly in growth via consumer discretionary spending. And that concerned me in the outdoor industry because even in 2000, we're thinking about planetary impacts and climate impacts and the growth of consumer debt and all these things that are starting to unravel.

And of course it culminated the consumer debt issue culminated in the late two thousands with the global financial crisis. But even back then, we started seeing that the marketing messaging that brands were communicating to the public, the outdoor industry public, was you need this piece of gear in order to enjoy nature. That was the thematic driver of outdoor industry growth in the two thousands and before that.

And so I wanted to push back against that idea and say, is the gear you are pushing, is it really performing to the extent that you say it's performing? Or are you, are you creating a marketing message just to sell the product? And that was our whole theme and it has remained the theme through our company, the entire lifespan of the company, as you know, that's our core message.

And so it turns out that when we started not being a marketing partner for brands and we started writing independent journalism targeted to the consumer, well, people liked that, people appreciate that they start to trust you. And then all of a sudden, there's this flywheel of ideas that come out of that to be consumer advocates. And there's a tremendous reward in being an advocate for a consumer rather than a marketing megaphone for a brand.

[00:09:17] Ali: Totally. Man, I love that because it, obviously it applies to your niche, your world, but it applies to everything, man. That's why you see these big brands, like the big ones, which I don't really have a dog in the fight to criticize them, but even if they're selling soap or pizzas, they're trying to humanize things and get to this. They're attempting to get where you are, which is we're actually writing the truth. That's what independent journalism is instead of the cheesy more sleazy, traditional marketing.

[00:09:49] Ryan: That's right, Ali. I want to circle back and comment on your question about how many people actually hike. I live in a national park town. 7 million people come through here every year. And of the people that go into a national park, less than 1% venture farther than a half a mile from a trail mark. That is mind blowing to me. And so I started thinking about what is the experience of a national park visitor look like? And it's distinctly not a wilderness experience.

It is an experience to see views, which I understand and I appreciate, but it, it is also a very consumer centric experience. So we have an incredible economic engine up here because of national park tourism. And part of that is necessity of visiting a national park. So you need lodging, you need to eat, you need to buy groceries. But some of it is the Tiki shops and the t-shirts and the souvenirs and that, that drives quite a bit of it.

And then there's activities here in town that national park visitors love. There's a mountain coaster, there's mini golf, there's a tram, you know, all these kinds of things that have nothing to do with the wilderness side of the national parks. And that saddens me a little bit, but it also encourages me to stay motivated, reaching people with a message of their need to connect with nature because it's desperately needed and underappreciated.

[00:11:37] Ali: Totally. It's a great point. There's the consumer side. Which in some way does support the growth of the parks, but to your point, it's not the focus. We get lost in the t-shirts, the propaganda where it's like, the real human experience, the connection is going into the park and actually experiencing the park, walking it, hiking it, staying overnight in it.

I think this is a great opportunity for you to share a memorable experience you had and be as brief or detailed as you want, where it was a raw connection with nature. Does something come to mind?

[00:12:18] Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. My son and I, when he was about 10 I believe, he and I went on a backpacking trip in the Montana Beartooth Ranch, Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness, and we got rained out. So, it turned into a fairly miserable trip, characterized by thunderstorms and rain turning into snow. And so we baled a day early and we had the option to either go home or do something else. And even though the weather was terrible his idea that was that I want to go home and take a bath and get warm and, you know, whatnot.

So we drove back home. I lived in Bozeman, Montana at the time, and we happened to be in Cooke city. So we drove back home through Yellowstone National Park. And passed a Geyser and then passed a herd of bison and then passed some elk and he's looking out the window and saying, I don't think I want to go home.

And I said, okay, what do you want to do? And he said, I think I want to explore Yellowstone a bit. And so by now it's, it's coming down hard. It's snowing. It's 29 degrees. And it's way more miserable than it was the day before when we were hiking and he's connecting to the natural world and says I want more.

And so to me, that's a bit of an eye-opening dad moment, but it's also some insight into human psychology, that the more time you do spend in nature, the easier it is to trigger these visceral responses that make you want to spend more time in nature.

[00:14:03] Ali: Totally! Wow, that's amazing! It just instantly reminds me of the last two times I've spent a decent amount of time in nature and definitely unplugged a bit from normal life, it's been really hard to get back in. And in a way, like I say, a good way of getting back into normal life, where to your point, I'm like, ah, I want to go back and do that a bit more. I want to spend more time there, in the mountain.

And there's also something really cool about that story, Ryan, as it relates to children that they grow up admiring nature, it's their playground, right? Whether it's the animals or the trees, I imagine you spent time in trees as a kid. Is that true? Same here. My mom had to yell to get us to come down and eat dinner. So far up there. Parents scared of us falling. And those thoughts didn't cross our mind because we're like, this is our playground. We were designed for this, right.

[00:15:11] Ryan: I had no idea why my mom freaked out when I got five feet off the ground, let alone 40 feet up in a tree, which I had no issue with at all. Now I see people doing that and I'm like, you need to get down. I understand that now.

[00:15:28] Ali: Yeah, you're right. There's definitely a different reaction as a parent. But it goes back to the point with your son that like in a way he saw friends out there that he wanted to explore and he was like, oh yeah, I don't really care if it's raining or snowing. I want to learn more about them or I want to go do that trail again because the natural inspiration triggered.

Whereas as we grow, back to your original point, and as we start to lose touch because of all of life's other competing priorities and the distractions, we forget that. We simply forget that like this is how we were designed to exist.

[00:16:05] Ryan: Yeah, for sure. I do think we forget it. And we do go through periods where we become detached from nature, but cementing these experience and to the psyche of a young person means that these experiences are always going to be there to tap into. And hopefully they are a lifeline that brings them back to nature after they wander a bit.

It certainly has happened to me several times through the years, mainly because some of my most profound memories as a child were fishing with my dad or hiking in a wilderness environment. And I never forgot those. And I still, to this day, they are, they are memories that are as clear to me as any other experience I've had in my life. And I, I cannot for the life of me drum up memories of my childhood vacation to Disneyland. But I can tell you almost to the hour, what the itineraries of my childhood trips in the natural world were.

[00:17:12] Ali: For sure. That's beautiful. Yea man, I can relate. Let's transition back to Backpacking Light.

So, to give the audience some context, you started this in 2000, which is amazing. I didn't know that. So technically your site is over 20 years old in a very mature way. You have thousands of active users and you're not only educating, you're curating discussion between other advocates, people who are passionate about this. And you're fighting the good fight. Like you said. You're standing up, you're promoting products you believe in, you're writing authentic articles. We've jumped around. I've given you like strategic advice, I'm like, dude, your free articles are way too long. And that just goes to show your character that you and your team truly care. You are putting out authentic content that creates actual value. And you're not really asking that much in terms of financial commitment.

So tell us a little bit about this. And you can take it anywhere you want, but I think if I were to poke at this, I'd say, well, what's it been like now growing a community, especially as the pandemic has been unfolding?

Has there been some healthy shifts in more people hitting the site and wanting access to this information in a way? Or as has it just steadily grown and is it evolving in an organic way?

[00:18:47] Ryan: It's dominantly an organic evolution. We started it in 2000 and we became a membership community, a paid membership community in 2003.

So this model has been in place for us for a long time. Now, in addition to memberships, we've dabbled in other revenue streams, network advertising and affiliate marketing, and we have a guided tracking program up in Montana and we've done a print magazine and have conducted film festival. We've done all kinds of stuff.

Memberships has been our north star through the whole thing. And part of that is people have a natural desire to engage with other people. We're social creatures. The internet is a terrible place. And membership communities in general, I hope, and Backpacking Light specifically thrive when they're curated and bring people together who care passionately about something. And the nice thing about a membership community is there's a sense of safety and privacy inside that allows people to just be people and be human and have a healthy respect for each other and empathy and humility.

That's just not there on Twitter and Facebook and open communities. Right. So to me that's the steady part of it. And the organic part of it is when someone finds a good safe space like this they'll invite others. And that has been our dominant community growth mechanism through the years.

Now we've done other things. We do SEO. So we try to attract people from search engines. We do paid ads. We do a variety of different marketing things to build awareness of the brand. But ultimately our business model is really built on developing a sense of trust with those people who do not know us yet. And they can take as long as they'd like to develop that trusting relationship.

And this, this speaks back to, you know, you're giving too much away, but I don't see this, you know, not everybody who comes to Backpacking Light is going to become a member, but at the same time, we are out there to serve a purpose, which is to help people thrive outdoors. So do they have to be a member in order for us to serve that purpose to the broader world? No, not at all. And if we only focus on paid membership and helping those people, then I think we're missing an opportunity to have a greater impact across the world.

[00:21:34] Ali: A hundred percent, man. I honor the way that you stand behind those values because not a lot of people do. I've personally worked with tons of membership site operators over the years and very few have that sort of core value and integrity in place to say we are going to give as much as humanly possible, which is beautiful. Something else I want to note is that while you just gave a nice overview of the digital side, tell us a little bit about how you also balance and offer in-person events. Because that part, I actually don't know a whole lot about. And I am a future customer. If I didn't tell you 10 times already.

[00:22:17] Ryan: Yeah, you bet. I mean, we've done a variety of in-person events through the years. One being a film festival, which allows us to connect to local communities and give something to local communities. We've done instructional clinics and we've done guided tracks. All that kind of got shut down in the pandemic. So we're in the process of resetting our business vision for those programs.

I'm in a different city today than I was before the pandemic. And there's a whole bunch of different opportunity now here for in-person events that gives us a whole new idea of what revenue could look like with in-person events. In addition, the people that are traveling through my town are a lot of hikers, a lot of backpackers. The number one membership region for us is the front range of Colorado. And those people come up to Estes Park and go hiking and backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park. And so we're really looking forward to connecting with them on a more meaningful level.

[00:23:25] Ali: So you've done the guided treks. Obviously the demand will increase now that you've relocated to Estes Park. And what are those like? These are like three day full experience overnight, right?

[00:23:38] Ryan: Yeah. I don't think, at least not today, it's not in my plans, to guide out of Colorado. My outfitting and guiding communities up in Montana, I plan to keep it up there. Got it. The region we guide in is raw wilderness and we spend a lot of time off trail. We spend a lot of time surrounded by really big mountains. And the weather's a little iffy while you're up there. So it's kind of a more advanced offering, but at the same time we do offer different levels of instruction. So our basic course is a four day guided trip, predetermined camp sites, mostly on trail.

Now some of those climbs on that are hard and they go over big mountain passes and, and you see some very dramatic scenery. But for the most part, our goal is to help people see wilderness who normally wouldn't or couldn't do it on their own. And then we have higher-level treks that are various levels of challenge that the participants actually plan themselves and have to do the route finding. And there's lots of off trail travel. And some of it is very difficult. And that's the raw, more advanced wilderness experience.

And yeah, you can do that here in Colorado, but the logistics are a little more challenging and to me, Colorado offers tremendous backpacking and beauty and incredible trails but it's a little bit different than Montana because Montana is just, especially the Absorka-Beartooth Wilderness, it's raw. It's less refined. . It is a different vibe altogether.

[00:25:20] Ali: I see. So one of the key points here is that Colorado's a little bit more developed because of how much tourism and people move through. Is that correct?

[00:25:32] Ryan: Yeah, that's part of it. And part of it is the Rocky mountains of Colorado they are the most beautiful mountains in the United States and there is a reason they are more developed. It's because people want to get into the interior area and there's more trails and, and opportunities to do that that are a little bit easier than up in Montana.

[00:25:52] Ali: Totally. This kind of a random question, but I feel like asking it. Have you ever been inspired to live off grid for long periods of time, like weeks or months?

[00:26:06] Ryan: Yes, is the answer. I always have to question my motivations. Today, my desire to live off grid is mainly to escape from the constant stimuli that's coming in. I think when I was 30, my desire to live off grid was to have the experience of living off grid and just being in nature full time. I think I'd still like to try it, but, as I've gotten older, I've become more social.

And especially when our company transitioned from an in-person company to a remote work company in the early 2010's, my desire for social connection with my employees and other people has definitely gone up as I've gotten older. So I don't know if I'm totally good with like going off into the woods and living like Thoreau, but maybe, I don't know.

[00:26:55] Ali: I feel you. Are you introvert or extrovert?

[00:26:58] Ryan: I'm an introvert, hardcore.

[00:27:00] Ali: I figured that. I have a similar thought to where like, right now I'm very intrigued to live that life. My wife and I are like, as we speak, trying to plan for a home that offers a bit more land. We're in the suburbs right now. And my soul is asking for that. I try not to convince her, but it's what I want. And I'm done hiding that and, and. Cause usually the fear will come in, right? The fear of like, well will the kids have a good upbringing because they don't have tons of neighbors around? Will it feel more isolated? And all these these psychological fears that are natural. But it's interesting with you because you have some freedom now. Your son just went to college, right?

[00:27:46] Ryan: He is 23 and in grad school now.

[00:27:49] Ali: He's in grad school. Okay. So you've had some time with this and to your point, which is a great point, you're realizing the value of social connection, which is actually something I've been waking up to or re-waking up to as well. Is that for us introverts, we certainly can recharge being alone and nature for you and me that's about as great a recharge as possible. Then at some point you're like, oh yeah, I guess I missed some humans in my life.

[00:28:17] Ryan: The thing with being an introvert and desire and social connection is that you desire social connection for people who can give meaning to your life. And so extroverts have an amazing capability to be tolerant of a lot of different personality types. I don't think introverts do. I think introverts are seeking meaningful, deep connections with fewer people. And that's kind of what I'm talking about when I'm looking for social connection.

I am over going to dinner parties and events where everybody asks you, hey what do you do? How many kids do you got? How big is your house? You know, all this kind of stuff. And, and so like this, this is the conversation we're having right now is the type of deep, meaningful connection that I appreciate and I crave. That makes me nervous about going off and living in the woods.

Now to your point about you want some land and some space and deeper connection to nature at home. I totally relate to that. And I would, I would love that. Right now, we live in a condo development, so we're in a multifamily building and there's, there's eight families that live here. We're the only ones who work from home. And so I walk out the door and I was like, where, where are my neighbors? And I was so looking forward to like social connection in the living community. But you know, it'll get better in the summer.

But, I also wish I had a piece of property somewhere so that I could enjoy the contrast between the two, because I think that is really what gives you value is experiencing contrast. That's why I love nature so much right now is because it is so different than my day-to-day life. That that contrast is incredibly therapeutic. So the idea that I could leave my condo and go to the cabin in the mountains on the weekend is really appealing as well, because I don't want to hear traffic and I don't want to hear the rumbling of the garage door, whatever it is. It's a sense of quiet. That's the contrast would be really, really nice to have in my life.

[00:30:32] Ali: I never thought about that way. Thank you for that. The contrast. I've been thinking about it a lot lately as pretty binary. So you're in nature or you're not, you're plugged into tech or you're not. And we both share these similarities, right? Where we have professions related to software. I'm a software engineer. You're a previous engineer with multiple degrees. So there's this toggling back and forth, especially as introverts, like we discussed. Like, ah, I need my time to recharge. But when you say contrast, it makes me think that there's a distinguishment there. However they can blend, they can be harmonious. Is that what you feel?

[00:31:14] Ryan: I do feel that. Yeah. And, and it's immensely challenging to discover that harmony. I'm not going to pretend that I've figured it all out.

[00:31:26] Ali: I'm with you. Anything left unsaid in terms of Backpacking Light? Just connecting with nature? Before we move on to some fun questions?

[00:31:36] Ryan: Yeah. Back to when I was talking about kind of our company purpose, which is to help people thrive outside and then tying in some of the motivation why we started the company in the first place, which was to be consumer advocates. And now we've seen the internet grow up and become this chaotic mishmash of stuff where everything now seems to be tainted by commercial interests.

And so if you go on the internet and I'm shopping for a pair of shoes and I type in Google, La Sportiva Ultra Raptors or whatever shoe I'm looking for, I'm going to get a lot of information about those shoes. The vast majority of that information is published by people who have a commercial interest in people buying these shoes. So affiliate marketing would be an example.

Because of that, it's become really, really difficult to trust the information that you find online about anything. I know this is true with news because of advertising driven headline business models. It's true with products because of affiliate driven business models. And so we're really trying to crack this nut of how do we break through all this noise with information that's actually trustworthy and not written by a marketing copywriter or an AI bot, and provides real deep value for people.

Because ultimately that's what we believe helps people thrive outdoors. Saving money on gear you don't need. Buying the gear that actually is the best rather than you know, you find the headline best tents of 20/21 or whatever. And so that's really our messaging mission is to create something that people trust. Because I think trust is the bottom of the pyramid that provides the foundation to people engaging with you as a brand. If they engage with you as a brand, they get value from you. They apply that value to their own life and that's how they grow. And that's ultimately what we want to be part of, is helping our people grow.

[00:33:57] Ali: Totally man. So that's what's in focus, I forgot to even ask you. That's funny. Okay, so let's stay here for a bit because you mentioned a few things. The first thing which you said previously, and I want to agree with is that the internet is a terrible place. I was just having this conversation with one of my other business partners this week. I made a comment around that. And I don't think many people know that. I think, I think many people trust the internet. Their default for learning something is Google or Youtube. We've stopped problem solving because the bots are so accurate. The AI is so accurate, especially for facts, right?

Like who even owns encyclopedias anymore. It's like they just whip out the phone, Google away, and then it makes people feel smart. When in reality, it's, it's actually using your brain less. So there's pressure getting dumber in a way.

Now back to the terrible piece, though. You live in a world where you have a business that has a huge online aspect. And like you said, even though you are promoting this authentic message rooted in trust, you still have to get it out there. So now you have to kind of cut through all the things, right? The Google algorithms, the affiliate barrage, where there are some affiliate systems that are pretty decent and there's others that they're just about the bottom line. How can they make a buck, push things out, send out emails. It can be a nasty business. Right.

And so tell me a little bit more, when we really start talking about this trust, like how have you pushed through that? Because I get fatigued in our own business. And even when people start talking about this, I'm like with the way that social media is evolving and like the Tik Tok evolution, I'm like, I don't know, like how do you push through? Because the competition is so fierce and you're literally fighting against bots. You're fighting against censorship. You're fighting against human agendas. So what is the strategy just to get laser focused. Is it back to the journalism?

[00:36:14] Ryan: It is consumer education. So this goes back to our roots in consumer advocacy. It is once people find us and open a conversation with us, we are ruthless about messaging to them about what it's like out there and what you need to watch out for. And it comes from a motivation. I've seen so many people spend so much money and go into debt buying all the things. It kills me because this is money that you could've spent taking your family on a trip to a national park or gone on a backpacking vacation or bought gear that actually was the right gear for you instead of what someone told you was the right gear. So we are educating our customer base about how business on the internet works. And so we are telling them how affiliate marketing works. We are telling them where advertising comes in and makes publishing messy.

And I, I think we come from a place where we can have that legitimate discussion because we have been and are engaged in affiliate marketing and advertising and some of these other business models, but our core is membership. It always has been, and always will be. And if advertising and affiliate revenue streams dried up for us tomorrow, Hey, no salt off my back. I would much rather grow membership. Sure. And talk to our consumers directly in a way that addresses their needs rather than in a way that feeds a business model that depends on me selling them gear.

[00:37:55] Ali: Yeah, I see that. Like I said before, you're one of the few people we've worked with on the professional side where your business is driven by loyalty. As you just shared, it's driven by trust. It's driven by authenticity. I actually just wrote down transparency. That's what really came out when you were, is that you are being truly transparent in terms of the education that you're trying to really almost force like, hey, we need you to pay attention to this. We need you to learn about this it's important, right?

[00:38:28] Ryan: Absolutely. You mentioned, how do you break through the noise? You are one of our core, key vendors, MemberDev. And how did I find you? Did I ever tell you that story?

[00:38:41] Ali: I don't think so.

[00:38:44] Ryan: I vet everything, right? I think I got a referral from somebody over at MemberMouse and I did a lot of vetting and I looked primarily at the clients you were taking on. And the clients I saw you taking on were people who were actually solving problems and helping people. So that was their business model. You are not in the business of helping others be in the business, of helping others be in business. You know that cycle, the internet business, like how to make a million bucks on the internet. I can't stand it. And that's, that's where I think so many of these business development organizations are investing their time.

They, they mainly want to serve people who want to make money on the internet. They don't want to serve people who want their problems solved. Now, that's not to say that being a small business owner isn't satisfying, it does not solve its own set of problems. There's, there's a lot of reward in being an entrepreneur. But being an entrepreneur that just helps entrepreneurs who helps other entrepreneurs is it's almost a pyramid scheme. And you weren't part of that flywheel. And that was, that was the gateway to finding somebody I could trust.

[00:40:04] Ali: Thank you, man. That means a lot. We've always been on the same page in terms of alignment from our early discussions. So I appreciate that you have very similar values and that you took time to research us. I've become hyper focused on how we vet clients these days. You've made some great points. It's pretty easy to sniff out people who are just purely interested in financial gains. And that's not the game that I like to play. And also, one person who is out of alignment with what you're doing, whether it's backpacking or in our case, building membership platforms, it can just change the energy and it's just not worth it. So, I appreciate that.

Okay. You want to wrap with a few fun questions?

[00:40:57] Ryan: Yeah, let's do it.

[00:40:58] Ali: So, first one, what's the best book you've read lately?

[00:41:02] Ryan: The Road by Cormac McCarthy, it is a dark, moving, father/son novel. I thought about you when I was reading it.

[00:41:13] Ali: I'm going to do it, man. Thank you. I don't get a whole lot of new book recommendations just because I pick up a lot of books. So thank you for that.

Next, which I'm very intrigued to hear your answer to this. What animal are you most scared of? Assuming you've met a lot of them.

[00:41:31] Ryan: I have met a lot of them. I have to say two. One is obvious it is any animal that is small enough that you can't really see, but, bites, punctures, your skin and injects saliva into your body, like a mosquito or a tick. We've seen so much growth in biting insect borne disease. And as planetary temperatures warm we're seeing a lot more of this and they're going to flourish. And so I am a little spooked at what the future holds for biting insects.

The animal I'm most practically scared of is probably a moose. Having been charged a couple of times, one in particular where the moose came very close to me and it was very, very unpredictable behavior. And I've been around grizzly bears up in Montana most of my adult life and have seen them in the wild, I've been charged by grizzly bears a couple of times. And the moose is still just, I don't know. I don't know, man. And maybe it's because after moving down to Wyoming and then Colorado, we've seen so much more. And so I, I get a little edgy.

[00:42:44] Ali: Dude, this is just, just too coincidental because I've actually been charged by a moose as well. And I don't know that it's the animal I'm most scared of, but it was one of the most fearful moments of my life. It happened out here in Colorado. A lot of people who know me well already know this story. The brief version is that I was hiking with my dogs in midsummer and they stop, which they never stop. Right. They're usually charging.

I look up and there's a moose, a female moose. And at first I was just playful, like, oh, cool dogs, it's a moose. And then it charged me and I screamed like a very frantic, a young man. That's that's the best way I screamed, like for my life. And luckily it diverged at the last second. I suppose the noise scared it, but it did this multiple times until finally someone else came down the trail and kind of scared it off a bit. And I assume it was protecting its young, but to your point, that was real. Yeah, it is real. I've never been charged by a bear, but moose are big and you don't realize that until you see them and they're charging you and you're like, oh, this thing will trample me. Wow. Okay. Interesting. We have the same experience.

All right. How about one more? Where would you live if you could choose anywhere in the world?

[00:44:19] Ryan: I thought Estes Park. That's been on our radar for so long. Now that we're here, it's incredibly satisfying to wake up and see the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park every day. So that's my practical answer, but my, my lofty answer is, is either remotely and on the south island in New Zealand or Iceland. Or in a Scandinavian country like Sweden or Finland. And again, it's, it is based on a motivation to be out in a place where you're surrounded by an immense amount of natural beauty.

[00:45:05] Ali: Great choices. I've seen all those places with exception to Iceland, which is on the top three of my list right now. And yeah, I joke with my wife a lot that I want to retire in New Zealand. That was one of the most memorable experiences I've had. They're also kind of isolated. So I feel like it's a country well-designed for introverts. There's a lot of people here who to some degree appreciate isolation because you are, you're removed from the world down there.

[00:45:34] Ryan: Yeah. And I love the small town vibe. Estes Park is the smallest place I've lived in. It's about 7,500 people live here and then 7 million come through in the summers. But you know, outside of the summer months, this is a really small, tight, lovely community. And that I really, really love.

And I, I did not understand the depth of that when I lived in Bozeman and then Laramie. And if I moved to one of these other countries, I think I'd want to live in a small village and enjoy that community rather than the city. But I want to live close enough to the city because I do still appreciate arts and culture.

[00:46:11] Ali: Sure. Yep. That's the balance, right? That's always the balance.

Well, Ryan, thank you. This was amazing. And I appreciate many things about you. So thank you for spending some time with me today.

[00:46:25] Ryan: It was very enjoyable. I appreciated it as well. It was lot of fun.

[00:46:29] Ali: Awesome man. Well, until the next time. Talk soon.

[00:46:34] Ryan: Cheers.


Ali Jafarian

Ali is a father, husband and serial entrepreneur with a deep drive to create. He writes, records, codes and builds things to inspire the artist in all of us.


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