416. The Everest Challenge

Sep 4, 2023 | 0 comments

Are you interested in challenging yourself to test the limits of your physical, mental, and spiritual endurance? Getting out of your comfort zone is the only way to grow, but not all of us are willing to climb Mount Everest to get there. That’s where today’s guest comes in.

We sat down with Marc Hodelick, the CEO and co-founder of 29029, the Everest Challenge—an awe-inspiring event that emulates the physical endurance of climbing 29,029 feet in just 36 hours, all without the complications and dangers of scaling the actual mountain. In our discussion, Marc unpacks the fascinating journey of building 29029 and the community that has evolved around it.

But this isn’t just an episode for aspiring climbers or endurance athletes. Marc dives deep into the importance of creating a strong culture—whether you’re leading a team, an event, or even an entire company. He also reveals how he uses principles learned from endurance sports to drive success in his business and personal life. If you’re trying to achieve big goals, this conversation is packed with actionable insights.

Marc also shares how benchmarking against world-class organizations like Ferrari has transformed his approach to customer experience. Whether you’re looking to conquer physical challenges or corporate summits, this episode will equip you with the tools you need.

If you have questions, or you’d like to hear us work through the challenges you’re facing in your business or personal life, shoot us a message at podcast@the1thing.com. If you’re interested in exploring how The ONE Thing principles can help you achieve your goals, visit the1thing.com/coaching.

To learn more, and for the complete show notes, visit: the1thing.com/pods.

We talk about:

  • The goal behind 29029 and the value of competing against yourself
  • Taking risks and failing in order to spur personal growth
  • Approaching your business with an intentional growth plan
  • Creating a supportive culture and community

Links & Tools from This Episode:

Produced by NOVA Media


Nikki Miller:

Hey, everyone. And welcome back to The ONE Thing podcast. I'm Nikki Miller.

Chris Dixon:

And I'm Chris Dixon.

Nikki Miller:

And today, we are speaking with Marc Hodulich, who is the CEO and co-founder of 29029 The Everest Challenge. And we decided to bring Marc on because, as you all know, once a month or so, we like to answer the questions that you submit to the podcast at theonething.com. And I did this challenge a few weeks ago. A few of you reached out to ask how it went, and I thought, who better than to talk to about it than the CEO and co-founder himself?

So Marc came on and talked to us about 29029, how it came about, how he has leveraged his partners to build what is an incredible event and an incredible community. And for those that don't know what it is, 29029 is a physical challenge to climb what is the equivalent of Everest, 29,029ft, within the span of 36 hours without actually doing Everest itself and all the challenges therein. And we had a great conversation with Marc about how to build culture, how you create culture within team and within an environment company event, whatever it may be, and how he's used a lot of the principles that he's learned as an endurance athlete in his business and in his life itself.

And for those of you who love this conversation and want to hear us do live training, want to hear us work through the challenges that you're facing in your business or in the big goals that you're trying to achieve, send us a message or your questions to podcast@theonething.com. The, number onething.com for a chance for us to answer those questions, live coach someone through something, or to be featured on the podcast.

Chris Dixon:

I really appreciated so much of this conversation and what Marc shared not only about this incredible event, but he also talked about how important it is to benchmark against other world class organizations like Ferrari and these companies that have incredible customer experience. And I think there's a lot you can take away from that. Regardless, if you're interested in summiting the equivalent of Everest, like Niki did, or if you're trying to summit big goals in your life, I think there's so much you can take away from this conversation.

And as always, if you like what you hear on this podcast and you want to learn more about how you can bring the principles, the concepts of The ONE Thing to yourself or to your business, then check us out at theonething.com/coaching, help us be a part of you achieving your goals. So let's go talk now to Marc and enjoy the conversation.

Nikki Miller:

Welcome back everyone, to The ONE Thing podcast. I am super excited to have Marc Hodulich here, who is the CEO and co-founder of 29029 The Everest Challenge. And before I get into all of the questions that I know our viewers have, Marc, I just want to share a little bit about you, because you are a very accomplished entrepreneur and an endurance athlete. You've completed the Leadville 100, the Hennepin Hundred. You've completed an Ironman. And what I didn't know about you that I was most impressed about was that I did not know you ran a sub four-hour Marine Corps marathon pushing a wheelchair athlete for the Kyle Pease Foundation, which is incredible. I definitely have some questions about that.

And once a month or so, we do a question-based podcast on The ONE Thing where our viewers or our listeners get to send in their questions to podcast@theonething.com. And we have episodes where we answer whatever they want to know, whether it's questions about their business or about coaching or whatever it may be. And I got a ton of questions after I did and participated in the 29029 Challenge.

And then of course, I thought, I can't just describe it by myself. Who better to share about it than you as a CEO and co-founder? So I'm glad we've had a little space between when I did it and now because I'm not so mad at you and not so sure anymore. But for those who don't know what it is, share what the 29029 challenge is. And then I'd love to hear the story of just how did this even come about? Why did you put this crazy event together?

Marc Hodulich:

Sure. So a lot to unpack there. First of all, thanks for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. Big fan of the podcast in which you are doing with Chris, so it's just a pleasure to be here. 29029 stands for 29,029ft. That's the vertical height of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. And I like to say 29029 is a story to tell, right? Your story hopefully gets richer as the years go on. But the challenge itself is can you hike the vertical equivalent of Mount Everest in a weekend, 36 hours?

And we really built this business very differently from the very beginning, which was if you want to tell kind of an epic story and go and say, hey, look, I'm going to hike the equivalent of Mount Everest this weekend, a lot of people can be intimidated by taking on that challenge. And what are things you can do to remove those initial barriers to make things easy?

So from the very beginning, it was about giving people an awesome story to tell. There's really no better story to tell than Everest. We're not climbing Everest. A lot of the dangers involved in Everest are not inherent in our events. Right? You're not at 20 or 25 or 29,000ft in the death zone in the Himalayas. But you have an epic story to tell about something that you're doing and also being surrounded by a community where you're very thoughtful in the very beginning, something I hope you really felt when you did with our event in Jackson Hole, which was you're not competing against others. I think we're all, as entrepreneurs, feel like you're competing against other entrepreneurs, other businesses, other startups, and in many aspects of your life you're trying to win. This is really something that we want to be a story that you're sharing with others.

And so from the very beginning, we said this is not a race, it's a you versus you challenge. And it's okay if you don't get to the goal, but let's set up an environment where it's kind of safe to fail and try new things. That was really one of the objectives from the very beginning.

Nikki Miller:

I have to tell you, as someone who did it, I actually felt that. And I felt going into it as an experienced endurance athlete, I was sure because I saw everywhere online and on the social and that it really wasn't a competition. Like that is very, very much at the forefront. And I thought, sure, sure, that's great. We'll all hold hands and walk up this mountain, but when we get there, there are going to be people who are competing.

And when I got there, it really wasn't. I think because it is so challenging, it's difficult to be competing with anyone except yourself because you really are within your own head, convincing yourself to do one more lap, convincing yourself to do this in the middle of the night, which is a challenge in and of itself. And I want to ask you about something that really stood out to me was that as someone who's done a lot of distance races, I've run 50 miles, 100 miles, an Ironman, this was the hardest thing I've ever done. It really was.

And I think the reason is because your body isn't -- it's difficult to train for, number one, and your body's not used to doing a vertical challenge like that so consistently. And I know there are so many experience endurance athletes that do this. So I'd love to know, number one, how did you teach people to train for this? How did you all train for this? Because I know you had to do it before you actually made an event out of it. And what do you see as an experienced endurance athlete yourself in terms of how challenging this is for you?

Marc Hodulich:

Sure. I mean, look, it's hard. There's no doubt.

Nikki Miller:

It's really hard.

Marc Hodulich:

But I love what Jim Fisher, who finished our event last year at Whistler, who was 80 years old when he finished our event, he said it's frustratingly doable. You heard Colin speak about that. The time limits imposed by a lot of ultras would not allow an 80-year-old to finish for the most part. That's not saying they're age discriminating. It's just that you have 30 hours to do Leadville. You have to have a certain amount of cardiovascular fitness that does decline over time. I'm not betting against Jim Fisher, but hundred miles to cover at 10,000ft of altitude, just as you start to get into your later, your back chapter of your life, it's not as physically capable anymore.

Our event -- you have a lot of time. And I would say one of the things about 29029 is that it provides you many opportunities to quit, right? I mean, some of our events, you stay in luxury glamping tents, some of them you stay in hotels. Jackson Hole happened to be a hotel that's a quarter mile away, maybe less. It feels further at 2 a.m. when you're walking back. But there's a lot of opportunities to stop and rest and you have to manage the clock. Whereas you've done 50, you've done hundreds. The places to quit in an ultra are not very great. You're in the middle --

Nikki Miller:

And you're stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Marc Hodulich:

And like, we didn't do that on purpose but a beautiful thing about this is you are on the same lap. You're on the same mountain, you're on the same trail, time and time again. And I want to give credit to the other ultras that are out there that have inspired me and races that I've done. And Ironman didn't feel like a race to me. Did I do well in my age group? Sure, but I wasn't competing for a Kona slot. I did it to say I did an Ironman. When I did Leadville, I did it to finish.

There were maybe 10 people out of 800 that were racing, right. Maybe 10 women and 10 men, 20 people. So a lot of these ultras are not necessarily a race for most people, but you are competing against them for age categories for certain recognition. And here, we really just wanted to remove all of that. So yeah, in doing the concept and training for it, one of the things that I pride myself on building this business, I surrounded myself people who are far better at things than I am.

Like, I have a big idea and I'm a branding and marketing guy, but I'm not a great event producer. Garth Wilson on my team is arguably one of the best in the business, right? I'm not the best customer care, customer service person. Matt Burrell, there's no one better on the planet to handhold participants after they sign up. Brent Peace was my initial coach for Ironman and he took someone that I couldn't swim the long course in a pool. I didn't even know what the long course was when I signed up for an Ironman. And I went to the local pool and instead of it being set up 25m, it was set up as 50, and I couldn't swim 50m across the pool. And yet my Ironman was six months, seven months away.

And I was like, if Brent can get me to be able to do that, he should be able to take people who have never done an Ironman, never done a half marathon. Like most participants have never done a half marathon, two hours, right? Like over 60 percent of our participants answering a survey, they never gone further than 13 miles.

Nikki Miller:


Marc Hodulich:

But they can go do something that's going to take them 30, 32, 34 hours. Right. So a longwinded way of saying I surrounded myself with people who are far better at things than I am. And we got the best coaches and the best support staff to develop a training program and help us do this. And yeah, and then doing it, right. I did this with Jesse Itzler, my initial business partner and still current business partner. And we did this together six months before we launched our first event and realized, like, it's hard, but it's doable, right? We hadn't trained for it. But if you fuel your body, right, and you put in some level of endurance training beforehand, you can walk for a long time.

I mean, it sounds unsexy. This is uphill walking, right? Like most people can walk. And if you remove that downhill nature, and I explain the event probably fully, you hike up a mountain and take a gondola down and repeat. And that removing that downhill removes a lot of stress and wear and tear on the body in terms of joints and muscles that you would feel if you had to walk or run downhill. And that's been a big component of allowing it to be much more approachable by a much broader demographic.

Nikki Miller:

I would totally agree.

Chris Dixon:

The downhills are brutal.

Nikki Miller:


Chris Dixon:

Yeah, the downhill's rough. I just did the half dome last week and the downhill was rough. It was the hardest part. Yeah. I wanted to say, Marc, that just to give some context, huge fan of the event, man. And before I'd even met Nikki and found out that she was doing the 29029, my best friend and I have been tracking at doing this next year and I really look forward to being a part of that with you guys. It's really cool. I'm doing -- reason not this year, I'm training for an Ultra in November. So.

Marc Hodulich:


Chris Dixon:

Yeah, so.

Marc Hodulich:

Love to have you. And it's interesting. It's an event you can do with your friends or family. I mean that's what's so different is you can walk with someone and talk for a long time. You're going to go through periods where you don't want to talk. Right. You're going to ties at different moments and loads at different moments. But it's a very great human experience to really think about being present, empathy, right, and patience. I think about how much patience it takes to go through and do an event like this.

So, look, I appreciate you watching. And I can tell you the immense pressure that I feel in a very good way about delivering to the expectations of someone like yourself has. When Nikki says it was such a great experience, this community is great, we have to not only maintain that, but actually make it better. And that's an immense pressure that I have in terms of running the business, in terms of keeping that quality and keeping that experience here, because some people have been watching this for years and finally getting the courage to sign up or saving the money or whatever it may be, the schedule aligns to where they can do it. They deserve to have the experience that they've dreamt of in their head.

And they're not just another participant to me. I don't say that lightly. There's a reason we've stayed small. There's a reason I bought the business back with my original partners. It's to keep it small and protect it and make sure that everyone has that same level of experience, if not better. So I'd love to host you and know that I want to make it better than it was.

And Nikki, when you come back, I want you to notice that we didn't cut back on things, that we invested more, and we want the experience to be better. I truly want to put the best product out there because your story that I want you to tell, I want it to have all the richness and the things that I know we can deliver. And I want it just to be repeatable again and again.

Chris Dixon:

And what I can see, it looks -- sorry, Nikki. It looks really good on the outside, but I can't wait to be a part of it. I did want to ask you something or bring something up you said earlier that I thought was really powerful and you said it's a you versus you challenge. And I love that. I love that you said that because I think there's so much to draw from that. I mean, the event itself is obviously incredible.

But I think even for people who are imagining like what they find to be almost like an impossible goal or a challenge for themselves, and there's so many parallels between that journey of challenging yourself and your own growth and what you're doing with 29029, I'm curious if you hear that or if you see that when it comes to these parallels between like the big challenges in life or business or like growing your business and this challenge of the 29029 and how it is, the you versus you event.

Marc Hodulich:

Yeah, it's interesting. A few takeaways from that is the first of how many unbelievably accomplished people will come to our event and be like, I've never trained or I've never done anything for this, but yet they may have put in 80, 90 hours a week. They may have multiple degrees, right? They may be managing multiple jobs and raising kids. Those things are far harder than training for our event. Now, finding the time to train for our event is one thing, but these people have shown unbelievable grit and determination and endurance in a different way for a long time. This is just an expression of it where there's no distraction.

29029 is beautiful because for 36 hours, all you need to focus on is climbing this mountain and enjoying the experience with the people around you. And Chris, what I see a lot of is people who have accomplished a lot be proud of themselves for the first time in a long time because they've gotten used to accomplishing things that they're expected to accomplish. Right?

If you're running a business that does $3 million in EBITDA and you go to $4, you're like, well, that's great. Or you go from $5 to $7, oh, that's really good, we grew 40 percent if my math is somewhat right. You know, I mean, it's like, okay. But you take it for granted and you're not as proud as you are of the first million you made or the first time you hit a million in revenue or did X amount in sales or sold X amount of homes or whatever it may be, right? Like you take those things for granted and you celebrate your wins a little bit less when you're focused on something every day.

This is something so out of the ordinary for people. I think it opens our eyes up to like, wow, I'm capable of so much more. I should learn a language, I should start a podcast. I should write a book. Why do I have these self-imposed limitations that my partner Colin O'brady talks about? Right? And get out of that negative self-talk and take all of those inspirational talks, all those things that you flag on Instagram and bookmarked that you probably never go back and look at, but you read it real quick and you're like, this is a great quote and I want to remember this. This is an actual time to put it into action.

And to me, that's the beautiful thing about the event is most people haven't done it. We only have 4000 people in the history of our company that have ever done this challenge. It's a small group of people that understand what it is. I think that actually makes it really cool and unique. At the same time, you can't just go and get the cheat sheet. You can't get the cliff notes version, right? Half a million people run a marathon a year in the US. There's 330 million Americans. That's a relatively small population. But you still can find a ton about how to run a marathon.

This is just different in the sense you have to be vulnerable. And I think the more successful you are in any walk of life, the less willing you are to fail. And there's a real big risk of failure here. And I think that's where like growth happens is when you don't know what's on the other side of signing up for something you could fail. And that's what I think people take home from this. It's sure is the lessons of persistence and endurance and grit and patience.

But it's also like I need to take more risk. I need to sign up for more things where I don't know what the outcome is going to be. And by the way, I can ask for help along the way. And that's what I hope I bring to the table, is just being vulnerable and emotional and saying like, it's okay to ask for help. It's okay to say like, I'm not the best event planner, I'm not the best customer experience, I'm not the best coach, but I'll bring in those best people and I hope create what I believe is the best endurance experience on the planet. I hope that by me being vulnerable enough to say, I don't know exactly how to do this, but here's what I want to accomplish, bringing those people in has led to and will lead to more people having this kind of experience with us.

Nikki Miller:

Marc, I think what you just said is so important because the feedback I've given everyone on the event is invariably a few times while you're walking up this mountain, you're asking yourself, why am I doing this? Literally, why am I here. If I quit right now, no one's going to know. No one's going to know. No one's going to care. Everybody thinks I'm crazy anyway for doing it, so why am I actually here?

And I think there's a common thread amongst really successful people that we see that do these types of events, that do these types of endurance challenges, that they do want to find out what they're actually capable of. Because in the world of business, a scoreboard is pretty clear. And to your point, you're at a certain point you just get expected to grow. I mean, I can't tell you how many entrepreneurs I've had conversations with, businesses I've consulted where they've grown, they've doubled their business, they've grown 100 percent year over year, and they're like, oh, well, yeah. I'm like, no, that's actually something to celebrate. If we cut our marathon time in half, we would be on a journey to the Olympics.

And yet in business, it just becomes sort of what's expected. And in this, there is an actual challenge that is feasible to your point that we wouldn't be able to do. And so I think that's part of what makes it such an emotional experience. And that's something I saw throughout the mountain, just so many emotions, so many tears, so many people challenging themselves to a level and at a point that they haven't been able to for a really long time, if ever, and haven't had anyone challenge them.

And I love what you said about bringing in the best people because the coaches on that mountain made all the difference. And there was a coach and forgive me because I'm forgetting his name right now and I should have written it down. But there was a coach who said to me on the mountain, we started having this conversation and he said to me, the bill is going to be due. You get to decide when and how you're going to pay it. And I took it as we will face hard things in our businesses and in our lives.

And I think so many accomplished people put themselves in the way of these types of challenges so that when they face other hard things, they can look back to this as proof that they're capable of doing it. Is that why you got started in endurance sports? Like, is that something that you see as a common thread amongst your friends? Because I know your friend group and your business associates are doing a lot of very crazy challenging things.

Marc Hodulich:

They are, but it wasn't always that way, right? And I'll make it a story of it. In fairness, I ran college track. I was okay, and I was a great high school miler, and I got my ass kicked all over the SEC. Like, we joke about it now, but in high school I used to line up and look up and down the starting line and try to find the one person I needed to beat to win the race. In college, I tried to find the one person that I could be. And I'm not joking.

Like when I ran at Auburn, there were people who were -- there's only three Olympians every four years in the mile. Two of them happen to be running against every single weekend, right? One for Arkansas, one for Alabama. And it's a very humbling thing. And so in my 20s, I didn't run a lot of races. I didn't do a bunch of big things. I was a little bit burnt out from it. And in my 30s, Matt Burrell, who was one of my partners now and on our team, he did an Ironman.

And as a good friend who I always want to be loyal, it was his first Ironman, I was going to go see it. And my oldest son Chase, was six at the time, my youngest son was four, looked at me during the Ironman and was like, Uncle Matt did it, can you do one? And signed up a week later and said like, I want to show my kid I can do this. I didn't own a bike. I didn't know how to swim across a pool, as I said before, but it was something I wanted to show my kids I could do. And I had a curiosity around it.

And that led into a friend group that was constantly trying bigger things. And a big takeaway for me was like, when you put something big on your calendar like that, you're a part of a conversation that you didn't mean to start. People are constantly asking you about your training, what you're doing, how it went, what you're eating. And I didn't want to talk about myself all the time, but it was just so fascinating to see how many people had a curiosity around it. And that does feed an energy. Then you learn these lessons. You see these people who are challenging themselves, and that finish line is addictive, right? You get that feeling of being proud of yourself and working so hard and it's fine. Like in business, it doesn't end.

But when I signed up for Leadville, I knew on August 15th, 2018, I was either going to have a belt buckle or not. Right? And like that binary it ends is great. And I think that leads to so much emotion because it's over with. Whereas like in business, it's like, all right, you went from 10 million to 20, what are you doing next year?

Nikki Miller:

Yeah, exactly.

Marc Hodulich:

Like it didn't stop, right? So I'm blessed with the friend group that I have. And some of it is, it's self-selecting in a sense of when the survivorship bias. When you run a company like this, you're surrounded by these types of people. I've been in YPO for a while. You're surrounded amongst a lot of high performing individuals at a young age, and those people tend to challenge themselves, not always through the lens of endurance for it. But I think that more often than not, those have been the people that I've gravitated to because we just had a similar interest and outlook on life.

Nikki Miller:

One of the things that you said, Marc, about showing -- when your son looked at you and said, is this possible? And something that really stood out to me is that you brought your son with you to the 29029 challenge. I think he hiked at least one or two of the laps with you. And it made me think about I've got a young daughter, she's three, so she's not making it up that mountain just yet.

And one of the things that's so important to me in my relationship with her and in my leadership as a mom and also in my leadership in my company and companies that we lead, it's that I believe that we don't lead by telling people how we're going to lead. We lead people by showing them, right. We teach our kids how to behave in the world by how we show up in the world. It's not ever what we tell them. It's the vote that we take for the type of person that we're going to be every single day.

And I love that you brought your son for him to experience that. And I think it's so important that we show our kids that we can be vulnerable, that we can put ourselves in the way to do something that maybe we don't know if we're able to do it. And I think most importantly, that we fail in front of them, too. So they know that they're capable of doing hard things and that they can fail at things and retry them or move forward or learn from it. How do you converse with your sons around this event or specifically around entrepreneurship? Like I'd love to hear the conversations you all are having around the dinner table.

Marc Hodulich:

Well, my youngest would not want to hear it any more every day. But my boys are 13 and 11. They'll be at four of the six events this year. Dylan, my youngest, didn't get there till in Jackson Hole, till late Friday night. You may not have seen him, but it's family to me. 29029 is family. And having them be part of what I'm doing is super important. I want them to understand how I spend my time and what I do. If you ask them a couple of years ago what I did, they would say I took phone calls because all day, every day I was on the phone. Right.

And now they understand those phone calls from me talking to team members or vendors or partners or participants and clients, and what that leads up to, I think it's important to let them share in what this is. I also want them to absorb that environment, right, of seeing people struggle and something that's a chosen struggle. Right? And that's what happens at 29. And I think it's also important to see people show emotion, right? I think they're growing up in a world where everyone just puts their best face in the highlight reel on social media. And when they saw me, they walked across the finish line with me at Leadville, right, hand in hand, my wife and my two sons, but they saw me train for it.

And it's important for them to actually see me do these things, because if they just saw the finish line, they wouldn't understand the struggle and the climb, no pun intended, to get there. Right. And so it's very easy to see an entrepreneur having a success and say, oh, it's sure nice that you only work three or four days a week now, year ten. Well, they didn't see you didn't pay yourself for three years in the hours that you put in, right, or the failure.

So I try to involve them as much as possible, but I also want them to get to enjoy what I believe as a family and as a team and then as a community, what we've created together. They're part of the experience and not in a way where it's like they're a mascot. It's just they genuinely like to be there and see people doing these things because they were used to me doing it and running marathons and doing Ironmans and ultras. They were used to being there. And now this is something that they've helped create with me.

I truly believe it's a family thing and the conversations that I have with them are quite simple. It's work hard. Don't be afraid to fail and support others. Right? They're simple things. But I'm like, I'm never going to be upset at you if you made a good effort, if you supported others, and you gave it your best. Like it's okay to fail. It's not okay to fail if you left something out there, right. Because I quit on myself in one race in my entire life and still the worst feeling I've ever had. And I know I never want that again. And you have to answer to yourself, right?

Your reputation is a self-esteem you have with yourself. And I think that that's so important that you just understand, like how you feel about yourself is dictated by a lot of these actions. There are people that are going to always strive to improve those things and it's a messy process. So I want them to see the beginning, the middle and the end of a 29 is super important because it's not just red hats on Saturday afternoon. Right. There's a lot of people doubting themselves and a lot of emotions that take place Friday evening into Saturday morning. And it's important for them to see those things, too, because that's real life. That's not the highlight reel on social media.

Nikki Miller:

I love that.

Chris Dixon:

Marc, I know Colin O'Brady is one of your business partners and we were lucky enough to have him on the podcast last year to talk about his book, The 12 Hour Walk, which is incredible, by the way. Highly recommend. Question, I know that Colin is a big proponent of limiting beliefs and overcoming limiting beliefs, and he really hones in on identifying what those are and some different ways to think about them and how overcoming those thought processes can be a remarkable in your journey. And I'm curious what your thoughts are on limiting beliefs and how they've impacted you in building this business.

Marc Hodulich:

I mean Colin's one of the best in the world at it. I'm blessed to have him as a partner. He joined Jesse and I very early on, and he had the bona fides of like having climbed not only Everest but the seven summits and then doing it faster than any human in history. Right? So he was someone who was not only being part of the story of climbing Everest and the Seven summits, but he'd actually done it. And it just gave us a real legitimacy to our branding, which I felt like was necessary from the beginning.

And look, to see someone who's constantly challenging himself in a way that sometimes no other human has done before. He's now done things no other human had ever done before. Right? That's really being vulnerable in a very public light. And yet, I think he speaks very openly about the vulnerability and the fear and self-limiting beliefs that he's had in training for these things, and planning them, and then while doing them.

Again, like some people will just show you the finish line and what happened and him sharing his self-doubt and vulnerability, especially in his Antarctic expeditions, is super humbling for me. And it's humanizing. You say, all right, like it's okay that I'm doubting myself right now, but I can change that narrative. And I just think being able to put things into practice is much different than writing them in a journal or putting them in a bookmark on your Instagram.

And 29029 is just one of the many applications of something. Colin's 12-Hour Walk is perfect, right? You don't have to sign up for anything. You just go out your door and make sure you have enough electrolytes and food and water for 12 hours, and you're going to face a lot of self-limiting beliefs and surpass them. So I think the biggest thing is taking action, starting with something.

What we did at 29029, if there's anything I can really pass on the back about from the beginning, we just made it easy to say yes, right? And once you say yes, there's a lot of work there, but try to remove all the other hurdles that I feel like a lot of these other events put in place where you've got to be an expert in this. You have to know how to swim. You have to know how to ride a bike. You've got to buy a bike. You've got to buy a wet suit. You've got to book your hotel. You've got to find massage therapists. You've got to hire a coach. I'm not knocking those things. I've done them all myself. But the logistical burden of all that, it's a lot.

Remove all that, Chris. And just allow someone to say, I want to do this. I know I'm going to be supported. I know once I sign up, I'm taken care of and then I can just focus more on getting rid of those self-limiting beliefs. So look, I have two business partners that constantly practice this stuff. There are some of the most gifted speakers and motivational mindset speakers on the planet, so I absorb a lot from them. I hope I don't repeat their messages. I'm a very different person in the way that I approach things, but I learn a lot from them and I see how they have those self-limiting beliefs and then how their constant practice of signing up for things and being willing to fail quiets those more and more over years. Right.

And it's just like anything else, if you put in the work and you have consistency in it, that cumulative nature does change your self-talk track over time. Right. And it's same thing with this business. We started in 2017 and there's a different sense of confidence and self-belief that I have running this business than I did in 2017 or 2018. There's a real belief in what we're doing, and that belief has been growing every year by the more there's been a commitment to this community and to what we're doing.

Nikki Miller:

Well, it's making peace with the fact, Marc, that in this constant evolution and in this process of growth, to your point about the highlight reel, it's just not always pretty. There is growth that goes into these things. And through this experience, it's not going to be a great experience through all of it, right? You can get to the end of this and it's going to be an incredible accomplishment and an incredible experience, and it likely won't be incredible all the way through. You're going to have moments or lapse where you feel bad steps, where you don't want to take another one, and then you might have a lap where you feel great and that's part of what you sign up for. And by the way, that's the journey of pretty much doing or building anything of note.

I love what you said earlier wherein you're teaching your kids that sort of your foundation, your models are work hard, fail forward, fail often and treat others well. And I always say, I believe that every founder builds their company in their image. And I saw every aspect of what you said in 29029 as a participant. I saw everybody working their tail off to the best of their ability, right? Everyone was laser focused and hitting that mountain, and from what I saw, left everything there. And then people failed. Not everybody finished. And above all, I saw everybody treating people well, not only the participants and the community and the culture that was created by them, but especially I've got to give a shout out to your incredible staff because they did take care of the participants and create a great experience for everyone.

So when you thought this up and when you create and when you get all those partners and when you create that culture, how do you create something like that? Because I think that we have to build it and then the people have to execute it. And yet, that message has to be delivered. So how do you teach your team? How are you teaching the participants, coaching the participants to show up that way? I don't think that happens naturally.

Marc Hodulich:

I mean, look, well, thank you. First of all, thanks to my team for executing that and making you feel that way. I don't say that lightly. Look, as you were talking before, it's not a linear path. I had failures. I tried to learn from those failures. Right. Doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome is a definition of insanity. If you're not going to learn from your mistakes, you're going to continue to make them. And as I've gotten older, I've gotten a little bit wiser, I hope and realize like, okay, why didn't these things pan out exactly the way that I should?

And some of it is, I'll be vulnerable here and say that when we first founded this business, I had the ideas. I'd had some success in business. I'd sold a business before. I didn't have the confidence to lead fully in the way that would shape this brand as it is now, right? I was like, well, I have a partner who's an amazing speaker and I'll just let him go from the forefront. And Jesse and Colin are amazing. But what I've realized about 29 and not trying to take too much credit is that it's the best reflection of me, of who I am, and that they are just much better at motivating people to climb the mountain or belief in themselves.

But I think it's okay to say I needed to take a step forward after a few years and they had the grace to say yes, do it. Like you're the best person for this, right? And it's not saying whose ideas or who deserves the credit. It's to say that when I created our vision and values for this company, it was important for me to just start sharing those and not be scared about what the ramifications would be of not, right.

I think too often it's, well, I don't want to show that I'm emotional. I realized like, look, I can go and give a speech Saturday night. It's very cookie cutter and says things the CEO should say or I can just get up there and speak from the heart. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I mention my family, but it's not scripted. It's truly what I'm feeling right then.

And most of the time what I feel is love, community, gratitude. And I'm not hesitant to show that. That's what I want people to feel. And the first thing that Jesse and I wrote down when we were starting the business was, we will care the most. And that's still our number one core value, and that's got to come through in everything. And look, you're running a business and to be able to run a business, it's got to be profitable, or it won't exist.

You can't care so much and do so many things that they're not repeatable, they're not scalable. They don't allow you to actually be able to pay your employees and be able to grow a business. Right? But you need to make thoughtful decisions that are always going to be in the best interest of the participant. And I think we've really put the participant first at this event and the experience first. And I've just surrounded myself with people, as I said at the event, like we've had a no asshole policy since day one.

And people say, how do you make sure that happens? It's the way you talk. It's how you communicate. It's in your marketing. It's in your language. It's what type of incentives you're putting out there. We don't recognize anything but effort, right? There's no VIP ticket. There's no way to buy a seat license for our event. There's no cutting the line. It's just you've been there and supported us. And if you have, you're going to be an alumni who gets a little bit of an advanced window to buy tickets. But aren't that like we're all showing up in the mountain as equals and the only people who recognize any different way are those that have showed up before.

So a longwinded way of saying, look, it's a belief that the best thing for this business in this community is for me to share what's built this business. And that's not being scared of who we are and the type of people we want to attract. And it's very much knowing who you are. And I think being very self-aware has allowed me to do that. And look, if sharing that brought in -- I know the type of people it's going to bring in, and I'm comfortable with that.

And so it's okay that we don't have the people who want to be at Kona or want to win races. That's okay. We're not going to draw that type of person. And you have to know who you are and what kind of product you're bringing to market. And I'm very comfortable and I realize the more that I share this, the more I get surrounded about around people who I want to be doing this event. And if that turns off those that don't want to do it, I feel bad about that, but not so much. Right. I don't want to turn off people, but, like, if this doesn't speak to you, it's okay. I want to make sure that who we really speak to gets to our event and feels like this is their place and they're understood and that we're speaking their language.

Nikki Miller:

Like I said, I just hear the care coming from you and it's so evident and apparent when you attend the event itself and the aftermath of the event and the people that you meet there. I mean, I'm still texting people that I met there about how are you feeling? What are you doing next? Which one are you going to do next year? It just creates such an incredible community.

And I love what you said earlier that you aren't giving service and care in the absence of running a profitable business. And I think sometimes entrepreneurs create a false idea that it's people or profits. And I tell them all the time, it's people and profits. You can do both. You can run a profitable business and treat your customer, your team, your people well. And I think that you're showing that in what you're doing.

Marc Hodulich:

Thank you. I mean, look, we're constantly thinking about how to make the experience better. And also, where is there waste? Right. You have to constantly look at your business. We get the opportunity to do this six times this year where we're just trying new things and then say, look, what's adding to the experience and what it isn't? And are we able to remove some things that people aren't valuing? And where can we go in and do more of the things that work?

So you have to listen to your customers. And you also, I don't want to say it's just trusting your gut, but you have to have other companies that you admire and you see what works for them and realize like, well, if Ferrari has a way of treating their customers and a way of building and protecting their brand, maybe I should read their annual report cover to cover every year and see what they're doing and how they think about brand and positioning and customer access and lifestyle and things like that.

No, we're not Ferrari. We're never going to be. But what does Louis Vuitton do and how do they approach it, right? And there's these great avatars you can look at about really great customer care and product and quality and service. And you don't have to recreate it, but you have to figure out what are those little nuggets that work for these brands or companies and then which ones can we execute on and what is part of our core competency that we can do.

And for us, so much of it is realizing that we do things in events that most event companies don't do. Right? We are doing it differently. My partner Jesse always says, do things differently, get different results, right? We are definitely doing things differently. No one else bundles ticket prices. We do that, right? And there's a reason, we want to control the entire experience, right? Like it just allows them. We want to make it simple. But at the same time, we're not growing like crazy.

And I think a lot of that is I see what gets lost if I can't be at every event, Garth can't be at every event, Matt can't be at every event, they'll be different. And so at the point where you start to stretch your people too much, and that's not to say that this is a business that still couldn't thrive without us, but I do feel like it would be a different experience. And I don't want to jeopardize that experience for people, for the sake of profit.

Chris Dixon:

Marc, I think there's such a valuable lesson in what you're describing there and ultimately not trying to be all things to all people, to all customers, but really truly knowing what your business is and what your model is. And in developing that, identifying and benchmarking the best in different businesses and using all of these to build a vision of what your brand is and knowing how important it is to stick to your model, even if it's at the expense of rapid growth in some cases, to hold that quality and consistency in the vision of the business that you're trying to build. Can you share a little bit about how you came to this level and how you hold the line on the expectations of what is your product?

Marc Hodulich:

Yeah, that's been a learning experience, Chris. Like it wasn't linear at all. Right. I think initially, year one, we said we were Burning Man meets Ironman meets, you know, we're clearly not Burning Man. There are parts of Burning Man that are amazing and it's a pilgrimage, and it's people going to the same place at the same time to share a common purpose. We do do that. There's so much about Burning Man that I aspire 29029 to be.

But at the same time, we're not creating art. We're creating our own art on the mountain, I guess, through our shared experience. But there's a lot of differences with Burning Man. And we're clearly not Iron Man, right? And we're clearly not business networking, right? And we're not -- so I think it's figuring out exactly who you are and being very comfortable with it and then leading very clearly with it, so customers don't get there and not understand if this is a fit for them or not.

And that was really apparent in 2018 when I looked at our demographics and realized we were like 64 to 65 percent male and 35 percent female. And it was seeing my wife do the event who had never done a 10K before. And that she was the hero of the family. Right. And that it was after my Leadville, and I haven't done a major race since Leadville in 2018. And it was my turn to be the cheerleader and my turn to support her and watch the kids while she went out and trained.

And I realized like, that's what 29029 needs to be. There's enough avenues for a lot of men to go out there and do something huge. Let's make this a place where women feel just as welcome, if not even more welcome, to be the hero, because they should be the hero at home. I mean, my wife, work at home is far harder than what I do every single day, but she doesn't get the red hat for that, right? She doesn't get the medal.

And it was like, look, how can we change the way in which we position this to showcase those stories, to say you may never have had an opportunity to do a race like this or a challenge like this. This is for you. Right? And being comfortable with the fact that we wanted to speak to people who had never done something like this before, more than we wanted to speak to people who are like, oh, I've done a marathon, I've done an Ironman, I want to check this box. Nikki is a very accomplished endurance athlete. I want her to feel comfortable there.

But I realize there's a much greater need to be addressed, which is there are people who have never had an opportunity to do something like this because they didn't have the support system or it wasn't easy enough for them, or they didn't feel like they were welcome, that we wanted to address that niche and do it thoughtfully but aggressively. And now we're actually 53 to 54 percent female and less male. Right? And like it's not to say that I want women at the event more than men. I just wanted that kind of female voice to come through more, that I felt like was so important, that to me was missing in a lot of the endurance challenge world.

Nikki Miller:

I love that, Marc. And I think it's so important because what I hear so clearly from you is that you have the vision for what you want this to be. And then you're actually taking tactical steps forward into how do we actually take action on that. And that's what has continuously showed up for me in this conversation, that you get clarity on your vision and then attack that vision.

Clarity on the vision, attack that vision, and be comfortable with the fact that you might need to change along the way. You might need to readjust or reorient or redirect, analyze the business or the original plan. And that all shows up when you're doing these types of challenges. That's how you work through these challenges. This was my plan originally to get up this mountain. That plan has changed. I'm tired, I'm more hungry, I'm needing more calories, whatever it is. And I think that's part of what doing these challenges so often, that skill that it actually builds.

At the end of this podcast, Marc, we always ask our guests to leave our listeners with the one thing that they want everyone to get out of this. What is the one thing that you would want people to take away from this conversation?

Marc Hodulich:

Sign up for something where you don't know what the outcome is going to be, right? It doesn't have to be 29029, but like do one thing a year where you have no idea where the outcome is going to be. Right? And like I challenge myself to do that. I don't do it every year, but you find that so many amazing things happen. You meet new people, you have new experiences, and life is richer when you have a little bit of fear. There's that bit of unknown.

I like to say you have to lean in, right? And these type of events, they're way more mental than they are physical. And it gives you an opportunity to kind of lean into that unknown, that fear, but in a safe supported environment. So the one thing I would have for people is sign up for something where it's not a known entity. Don't just make your goals be increasing and getting better at things you're already good at. That to me is just it's continually trying new things and understanding that there are these supportive environments out there where people want to help and want to see you succeed.

And it's actually a better, richer experience if you don't have the perfect challenge or the perfect race. Very rarely does everything come together. And when it does, you almost wish you had more of those moments of struggle because that's where you grow, I think. Chris Hallett says, one of our coaches, growth happens in the dark. Like true growth is when no one's looking, right. And you want those hard moments -- and they don't have to be an endurance event.

I don't want people as a message to think that that's what they have to go out and do. I just think it's a very readily available thing that exists to where you can put something hard on your calendar. You can fail in a safe environment. You can learn a hell of a lot about yourself and most likely walk away proud of yourself. I see my kids be proud of themselves all the time at a young age. It's rare where I look back on myself, I'm like, Marc, I'm really proud of you. Like Marc, way to go. Right? And like, this is a moment to do that, and we need more of that in life.

Nikki Miller:

I love that. It's really putting yourself in the way of doing hard things because they're going to come at you one way or another. You might as well get good at handling them.

Marc Hodulich:


Nikki Miller:

Marc, where can everyone find you if they want to hear more? If they want to learn more about you, about 29029, where can they find you?

Marc Hodulich:

Yeah, So I'm @M-A-R-C29029 on Instagram. I'll say the best place to learn about us is just Google 29029. Just the numbers 29029. We have so many great videos and testimonials that have been put out there. We have a nice podcast that our Mountain Host Colleen Rue does. She's a phenomenal individual. And I think the best way to learn about this event is to read the stories of those who have done it. Don't take my word for it. Listen to others' experiences, put yourself in their shoes and come hike with us and build your own story.

Nikki Miller:

I love that. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for having me at the event. It was the best experience.

Marc Hodulich:

Oh, cheers. Thanks for coming.


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