“Effective Executive” Series with Kris Duggan, CEO & Co-Founder of Badgeville

This week’s “Effective Executive” interview series is with Kris Duggan, CEO and Co-Founder of Badgeville.

Kris is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for building innovative, fast-growing SaaS companies with thousands of delighted customers. He is dedicated to helping brands on the web increase user engagement by leveraging proven techniques in social gaming and loyalty. A sought-after speaker on gamification, analytics and user engagement, Kris is a thought leader of innovative ways to incorporate game mechanics and social loyalty programs into web and mobile experiences. Prior to founding Badgeville, Duggan worked in leadership roles at a variety of successful companies, including WebEx (a former PerkettPR client), and across a wide variety of verticals.

You have a great deal of expertise in startups.  What is it that you love about the startup environment?

I’ve worked in many different companies at this point in my career, from startups I’ve founded or held leadership roles in, to very large, global companies. I have learned a great deal from all of these experiences, but one thing I find most exciting in the startup environment is creating something from nothing. Over the last 20 months, with the help of an extremely talented and intelligent team, we have built a healthy global business with nearly 200 customers and 75 employees. There is nothing more exhilerating, fun and fulfilling than being part of this journey. I also really enjoy building a company from the ground up – defining the culture and team, and being a part of the larger product vision.
Gamification appears to be a solid solution to improving customer loyalty and employee performance.  Can you explain how Badgeville is leading the way in this effort?

Gamification for business is a strategy based on game mechanics to help measure and influence user behavior. With the proper psychological application for each audience, these techniques can drive behavior 20 to more than 200 percent. Badgeville is the global gamification leader, with nearly 200 customers across the globe, including Deloitte, EMC, Autodesk, VMware, Symantec, Bell Media, Interscope Records, Opower, Barnes & Noble, and more.


How is Badgeville leading the way in this effort? One of the main reasons customers tell us that they choose Badgeville is our unique view on gamification as part of a larger engagement strategy. We offer a full spectrum of engagement mechanics, including game mechanics, reputation mechanics and social mechanics. Instead of offering gamification for siloed applications, we offer a true Behavior Platform. This means that down to the way our platform database is architected using NoSQL, we are able to integrate our platform across multiple websites, mobile apps, and enterprise applications owned by a company.


This architecture design is extremely important for us, as large businesses don’t want to reward user behavior in one small area of their online experience – they are looking for a holistic gamification program across their online communities, websites, blogs, mobile experiences, CRM systems, training applications, support programs, and other digital experiences. The ultimate value of gamification lies in being able to connect the behavior dots between all of these disparate applications, and this is unique to Badgeville in the market. We like to call this “portable reputation” – where the user experience can tie together all of these online experiences. For the business, there is also the value of having this connectivity from a data perspective, being able to easily identify trends and insights around user behavior across their entire digital ecosystem.


What do you think is driving the rise of social gaming?

Gaming is nothing new. Social media enabled gaming companies to create new types of games which are largely tied to reputation. Instead of playing games by oneself or with a few friends, success in these social games can be viewed by many friends and online peers. This is the same concept used to inspire many behaviors with gamification. Another key factor in the success of social gaming is the rise of mobile technologies. Now game devices are in everyone’s hand. People have a few minutes of spare time in between their busy lives and they want to be able to get entertainment on the train or during a free moment. This is changing the types of games we play. Now, the important part of gameplay is being able to participate for a quick minute or two, and truly engage with this experience, and to come back later to engage even more.

Can you tell us a little bit about the recent launch of Social Mechanics?

Integrating Badgeville’s Behavior Platform begins with tracking important user behaviors. With Game Mechanics and Reputation Mechanics, customers can use the Behavior Platform to reward users for performing these high-value behaviors. With Social Mechanics, we take the behaviors we are tracking and surface them in ways that you may typically see in a social network. For example, our customers can use Social Mechanics to add real-time notifications, live activity streams, and even user-to-user or user-to-topic following. This enables every online experience to have the same social engagement qualities of today’s top social networks. When Game Mechanics or Reputation Mechanics are added to Social Mechanics, the experience is extremely powerful and engaging. The more social an experience is, the more value social rewards and status within that community will be for the user – and the greater the success of the gamification program one will see.

How do you explain your job to your children?

My two sons have a very good understanding of gamification. They would explain it as “making things more fun and engaging.” I’ve gamified a lot of experiences as a parent. When I was coaching T-ball it was hard to get the team of 20 kids motivated… they were more interested in jumping around on top of each other than paying attention to learning how to improve their game. I started to use points to help the kids focus. I created a whole points system where if you caught the ball you get a point, and soon found out the more points catching the ball was worth, the harder the kids tried to catch it. The points were never worth anything, but just adding a point value to the experiences made them try that much harder. The T-ball gamification got increasingly sophisticated. I added virtual rewards like a treasure chest or virtual space shuttle for catching, hitting the ball, and so on. I’ve never seen them work so hard. Gamification is part of everyday life for my kids, so it’s not hard to explain the core concepts to them.

You have traveled extensively. Do you have any memorable trips or spots you would like to share?

I’ve traveled to over 35 countries around the world and have had some very memorable moments… such as visiting the Pyramids of Giza and staying on a houseboat in Kashmir, India for a month. But most recently, the most interesting moment that stuck out in my mind related to gamification was an experience I had on my visit to Japan for the Japanese Gamification Summit. In Japan, aspects of the culture are heavily focused on gaming. When I visited a standard mens restroom, I found a completely gamified urinal. I’m not kidding. Without getting into to many details, there were many options to play this game and win. I thought that was pretty incredible, so I decided to investigate this product further. It turns out it’s made by Sega and it’s call the “Toylet.”  We’re actually working on having one special ordered for us to have at the Badgeville headquarters, with some special Badgeville ads and games built into the machine.

What is next for Badgeville for the remainder of 2012?

Badgeville is growing at a very rapid pace. We recently raised our Series C round of funding in under two years of our business launch. This funding is being dedicated directly to product innovation and team growth. This September, we will move to our fifth office in two years with 25,000 square feet for long-term growth. Our employees enjoy “leveling up” each time we move to a new space. Beyond the move, we are constantly working on new products and overall growth. Hiring is a major focus of ours as we continue to seek out top talent in our Silicon Valley, New York and European offices, as well as among our regional teams around the world. We are also fast expanding our global partner network, with emphasis on System Integrators, ISV/OEM partnerships, Agencies, and VARs.

In addition, our inaugural Summit — Engage 2012 — which occurred August 8-9, was a huge project for us — our first two-day event featuring customer stories, key industry analysts and gamification workshops led by our team of expert game designers and producers. We have a lot of photos to share from this great event, here.



Influencers Who Inspire: Hubspot’s Mike Volpe

Just a little over a year ago, Christine Perkett won a guest spot on Hubspot TV with Mike Volpe.  Christine received 40% of the vote and had the privilege of guest hosting with Mike live from their Cambridge, MA offices.  We’ve always had a huge appreciation for Mike here at PerkettPR, and appreciated him welcoming Christine so warmly and making her guest spot a really fun and rewarding experience. We were psyched he agreed to do an interview for our blog and to be a part of our Influencers who Inspire series.

Mike is the Chief Marketing Officer of HubSpot. He joined in early 2007 as the company’s fifth employee  and currently serves as Chief Marketing Officer.  He heads  HubSpot’s lead generation and branding strategy through inbound marketing, including blogging, search engine optimization, video marketing, and social  media.  Since Mike joined HubSpot, the company has  grown from 10 to 5,000 customers, expanded from five to 300 employees, and raised $65 million in venture capital.  Under Mike’s leadership, HubSpot’s marketing  has won more than 30 marketing awards and has been featured in over 20 marketing  and business books.  Mike is a cutting-edge B2B inbound marketer who speaks at  numerous conferences, hosts a weekly live marketing video podcast on HubSpot TV, is one of the 100 most popular marketers on  Twitter, consistently posts on blog.hubspot.com, and appears as  a marketing speaker at  industry conferences.  He has also guest lectured at Harvard Business School,  Babson University, Carnegie Mellon, TCU, Boston University, and MIT Sloan School of Management.


You wear many hats at HubSpot. How do you manage it all?

The truth is that I don’t manage it at all.  I have a great team.  At this point in our growth, there is little I can do as one person directly that has a huge impact.  The impact I can have is by setting the right strategy and playbook, making sure we have the right people on the team, and mentoring the team members to help them grow.


What do you love about your role at Hubspot? Anything you dislike about your role or would like to change?

I love marketing.  Call me a marketing geek, but I love thinking about marketing problems and talking about marketing.  Doing marketing at HubSpot is like a triple dose of marketing because we’re marketing our marketing software to marketers.  There isn’t much I would change – I’d love it if we had a gym in the office or had a chef cater our meals, both of which we are considering for our next space.


If you could golf with anyone in particular (celebrity or athlete), who would it be and who would win?

I love to golf, and Tiger Woods is the natural choice because his raw talent is a level above everyone else.  But I don’t think it would be much fun to play a round with him, it would be too intense and he’d probably get really frustrated with me really fast, and it just would not be fun.  So I’ll go with Bill Murray.  He is a good golfer and hilarious - nothing could be more fun than to play 18 with him.


What topics do you enjoy speaking about the most?

Is there something to speak about besides marketing?  I actually don’t speak a lot anymore, but when I do, I prefer to speak about my own experiences in marketing.  That is what I know best and I usually hate it when some “guru” is up on stage talking about marketing, yet they have not worked in marketing at a real company in years.


What is next for you in 2012? And, for HubSpot?

In 2011 my wife and I had our first child, sold our condo in the city, moved to the suburbs after we renovated a house, hired a nanny and my wife went back to work.  So we’re looking to have a less hectic year in 2012.

For HubSpot though, I think 2012 will be a huge year where a lot of the groundwork we have done over the past couple of years starts to pay off in a big way.  I am more positive about the next 12 months than I have ever been in the history of the company.  There are so many things to be excited about, most of which are not ready for prime time yet.  All I will say is make sure to join us at Inbound 2012 for an amazing event and some big announcements.


Influencers Who Inspire Series: Ramon Ray of SmallBizTechnology.com

We begin our PerkettPR “Influencers Who Inspire” series with a chat with Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com.

Ramon is a journalist, technology evangelist & editor of Smallbiztechnology.com, author of “Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses” & “Technology Resources for Growing Businesses” and a national, in-demand speaker.

What made you choose journalism as a profession? 

I didn’t choose it,  it chose me and it was quite accidental. I just really loved to write and so I started writing, then one day Black Enterprise and Inc. Magazine said could you write some articles for us – and the rest is history :)

What four  or five things are always “routine” in your day?

Deleting email, sorting email, sending email, toggling tons of tabs in my browser, wishing I could do puppet shows for poor kids in Mexico, Dominican Republic or somewhere.

Why is small business technology news of interest to you in particular? What has it taught you?

Not sure. I’ve always been a tech tinkerer (as in take apart talking teddy bears in the 1970′s/80′s, shutting off the lights in my home, etc). I think this love of tech and the blend of my love of reading/writing became the love of small business technology news. It has taught me that things change, companies go and come but relationships are forever, ideas are a dime a dozen, successful execution is all that matters.

 Over the years you have had the opportunity to interview some truly great public figures and influencers (such as Hillary Clinton). What has been your favorite interview thus far? Why?

A few things stand out… Back in the days when I didn’t know how to be a journalist I tried to slip Bill Gates a hand written note. His team saw it and took the note away. I didn’t know you were supposed to asked his PR person to interview him. This was many years ago.  I opened an event for Michael Dell and he said he read my blog – that was cool.  Scott Trip founder of TripIt – his story of his company’s growth was really nice (listen to customers). In another context I’ve meet President Obama, President Bush (both) and several other heads of state.  I also really love SXSW and other events where I can meet with my media peers from the world of small business.

What tips do you have to help PR professionals better work with you?

True relationships are so important; where I like you and you like me. Not giving me a story that does not fit. Knowing that I love the story and the market at times more than the feeds and speeds of a product. I like talking to people, but I’m also a massive reader so I get much more (at times) out of some video, blog posts, pdfs and other things than a phone call with an executive running a prepared PPT.  NOTE: the PPT talks are GOOD I just mean that there are other ways to get one’s message across.

What advice would you give to a small business to help them continue to compete with larger competitors this year?

Wow….I could write a book on that.

1)  Be honest

2) Over give

3) Be very excited

4) Do not take NO for an answer

5) There is plenty of room at the table for the big guys and the little guys

6) Fit in where you can and show your value

7) Don’t be afraid of big companies – even those who are direct competitors

8) Big companies who are evaluating you and a bigger one of your competitors will give you a big chance if you’re prepared

9) If you screw up, fess up and OVER make it right

10) I could go on…

You traveled a lot as executive producer of the Small Business Technology Tour and for other events you attended in 2011. What travel secrets save you time, money or sanity when you are on the road?

Plan in advance. Be redundant (I often have 2 notebooks, a tablet and 2 phones) failure is NOT an option. Leverage your network of friends. Pay people (even friends/or “child labor”) for work done (even if you ask for a discount). Review, review, review. Get a team member (I have lots of areas where I’m not so great – hence my team shine in those areas), have a virtual team – even if you are solo,  your virtual 1099 team can do wonders.

How do you unwind after a hectic work week? Do you have any interesting hobbies or little known facts about yourself you would like to share?

I play piano, love doing puppet shows, love joking around and laughing loud, love great food at restaurants (I hate those restaurants that give you a big white plate and a tiny piece of food and charge you $78 for it), watching movies (Bourne, Bauer, Ethan (as in MI3) are my heroes and others like that). But really in my downtime – I TOTALLY ENJOY email, RSS feeds, Twitter – related to small biz tech (I know it’s lame but I really, really LOVE IT).

What are you most looking forward to in 2012?

I’d love to speak lots more to audiences on tech, marketing/pr and/or entrepreneurship. I’d love to provide more content on my own site and for others. I’d love to speak lots more to audiences on tech, marketing/pr and/or entrepreneurship (you know I think I wrote that twice..hmmm). Event production is tough, but I really love it and I think I do it well so working with bigger companies to produce events for their audiences would be like mint!

I’m looking forward to being 40 years old in 2012!


Do you have any follow-up questions for Ramon? Suggestions for other influencers you would like to see interviewed in the PerkettPR Influencers Who Inspire Series? Please add them in the comments below.

PerkettPR’s “Persuasive Women” Series Continues with Aliza Sherman

Aliza Sherman is a Web pioneer and has worked as a digital strategist since 1992. She speaks around the world and writes about the Internet, social media, mobile marketing and new technologies, platforms, and apps. She is also known for her focus on women’s technology and business issues. Aliza specializes in making tech more accessible to humans.  And yes, she has been known to wear a pink tiara and boa at conferences! Aliza’s books include “The Everything Blogging Book,” “Streetwise Ecommerce,” and “PowerTools for Women in Business.” Her 8th book is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing” published in July 2011. Her 9th book is “Mom, Incorporated” and was co-written with Danielle Smith. She lives and works in Alaska.

You can read more about Aliza here or here.

You have done so much in your career. What role have you enjoyed the most?

I enjoy being an entrepreneur. I love the freedom, the creativity, and especially the variety. I also enjoy being a writer and public speaker because they provide opportunities to share knowledge, motivate, and inspire. For many years, my LinkedIn account has said “I am the wearer of many colorful hats.” This is my way of explaining that I can – and do – play multiple roles in business. I hate feeling trapped or limited. I fully subscribe to the idea that you’re “only limited by your imagination.” Too many of us try to crowbar ourselves into a single role or very distinct and immutable roles, and then wonder why we are frustrated or dissatisfied. I say break out of predefined roles. Create your own.

You have spoken before about empowering women to be public speakers. What words of wisdom can you share that can help a woman struggling with public speaking?

My efforts to support women as public speakers – and to be a resource to companies, organizations and conferences to help them find and book more female speakers – culminated into a group called Chain of Daisies. Every week, we share speaking opportunities, encourage each other to submit proposals to speak, and are sounding boards when we hit obstacles. From this group, I’ve learned that we all need mentors as we pursue new things – business mentors are common, but speaking mentors are valuable, too.

Find a mentor, someone whom you’ve seen speak and whose style you admire. You can also turn to a speaking coach to help you hone your presentation. If you are just starting out, speak often in front of audiences, and start charging right off the bat. Many women tend to speak for free, thinking that is the way to get their foot in the door. I’ve learned the hard way that each time I agreed to speak for free, the same event organizer was paying my male counterparts. Why? Because they asked to be paid.

And get video. I’ve been speaking professionally for over 16 years, however, there is very little video available of me speaking, and the footage that is available has poor lighting and sound. My goal for 2012 as a speaker is to make sure I get usable footage of several of my presentations so I can put it up on my website to better demonstrate what I can do. This might mean investing in a professional videographer, but that’s something that should pay off enormously.

As a mobile app pioneer, what do you envision for the mobile app market in 2012?

I’m not really a mobile apps pioneer, but I have been called a Web pioneer for my early work on the Web in the 90s. I tend to find myself at the forefront of where new media is going because I’m curious and totally enamored with technology. Maybe it’s my longtime love of science fiction, something that has driven my imagination since I was a little girl.

In 2006, I started providing social media marketing consulting. I began looking toward mobile a couple of years ago while everyone else was all aflutter about social media. I’m still interested in location-based social networks, QR codes and mobile apps for marketing, and am keeping an eye on the developments in augmented reality.

Folks in my industry tend to think something is “over” and the media will hype the “end of apps,” and yet the rest of the general public is just catching on. There is plenty of room for adoption growth, plenty of opportunity to participate – although if you’re an apps developer, you need to be thinking about an overall business model and not just “build a couple of cool apps.” As consumers, our expectation is high, but we also experience a lot of frustration because it is hard to find great apps that become ubiquitous for us.

I think mobile apps are still going to be huge in 2012, as well as hybrid blends of sites and apps, apps and the cloud. With the tremendous growth in the tablet computer market, the demand for great apps will increase as well.  Ultimately, techies and the marketers need to be careful about being too enamored with the next “big thing,” and understand the huge shift in the way all of us are consuming information, using products, and purchasing things.

We always have to make sure we take our blinders off and really look around. It is never really about the technology. It is about people.

In your book, Mom Incorporated, you focus on giving advice to women on how to take charge of their work/life balance by starting their own businesses. What are some tips you offer women who are eager to start their own business but are hesitant to do so, due to the shaky economy?

The first tip is “Stop using the word ‘balance.’” My co-author Danielle Smith and I like to say that “balance is a mythical bar that we hold over our own heads, and just when we think we’re getting close, someone moves the bar.” There are people who make a living trying to “teach” you how to be balanced but the truth is that everything is in flux, and you will always be striving for it yet never obtaining it.

So we use “juggle.” As moms with businesses, we juggle. We can’t be at 100% as a mom or as a business owner at the same time. We have to give ourselves a break, forgive ourselves for not being “perfect.” It isn’t about balance, it isn’t about perfection, it is about doing our best and having the conversations at home to create the system that works for us. We shouldn’t judge others, and we shouldn’t let it bother us when other people judge us.

Regarding the economy, Danielle and I haven’t encountered many women who are hesitant to start businesses in this economy. In fact, more than ever women are starting businesses from home because of financial motivations. Maybe their husband’s job was down-sized, maybe they need the extra income. There is no guaranteed job out there, and childcare can be even more challenging when you have smaller children at home.

So I’d encourage women to reach for business opportunities where they have experience or established leads, to more readily generate revenues that can help support their household. That means if you’ve been a publicist before and have the skills, start there, then build out your skill set over time to incorporate other services such as copywriting or social media marketing.

What are your favorite apps?

I’m an apps fanatic. I’d divide my apps into utility – the ones that are useful; social – the ones that help me publish and share; and entertainment – the ones that are my little “escapes.”

For utility, I use Google Apps a lot, including the iPhone app to access my email, calendar and shared documents. I am using Evernote more and more for everything from taking photos of receipts or whiteboards to voice memos to web clippings. I am also using the Cohuman app to build task lists for each of my projects that I can assign to others and manage from my laptop, iPad or iPhone.

For social, I love Instagram, Twitter and Foursquare. I also like GLMPS, Pinterest, Foodspotting and Trover. And I access Facebook and Google+ through their respective iPhone apps.

For entertainment, I’m hooked on Words With Friends, and usually have 15 to 20 games going at once. I also enjoy Drop7, Muddled, Bookworm, and Bejeweled.

Who or what inspires you each day?

I’m inspired by so many things every day. Being pretty isolated where I live in rural Alaska, I rely heavily on the Internet and NPR for my connection to the world, to the voices of interesting people, to stories, and to ideas.

As a mom who struggled to have a baby, and then struggled after pregnancy for several years, I feel like I’m finally coming into that place of being inspired by my own child. My daughter is 5-years-old now, and the stuff that she thinks about and talks about astounds me. I love her perspective on life, and hope to encourage her creativity, individuality, curiosity. I don’t want her to ever feel there are limits.

Being able to create and share what I create and to be able to connect with other people is inspiring to me. The Internet opened my eyes in 1987, and literally changed my life in 1992. I am inspired by the world, really. By people all around the world.

What do you have planned next for 2012?

The next part of the line in my LinkedIn profile after “I am the wearer of many colorful hats” is: “I love reinvention.” Every end-of-year, I go through a personal inventory of what I’ve done, and what else I hope to do. Then I shift gears, move in new directions, choose different paths. I will still bring some of what I’ve been doing – writing, speaking, consulting – into the New Year, but I’m really interested in finding new ways to share my knowledge with others in ways that are useful and valuable to them.

As a Sagittarius, I see more travel in my future but will also be more mindful of not being apart from my family as much as I was in 2011. So I’ll have to be more selective about where I go and why. I’m definitely going to take more advantage of video conferencing and video in general.

And I’ve been getting hired more and more to create and lead educational webinars about new media, social media, online marketing, and technology – so that fits perfectly into my vision of sharing information in new ways. I used to say in the early days of the Web, “Have modem, will travel.” Of course, the 2012 version of that is probably “Have iPhone, iPad, and wifi….can travel or work anywhere.”


PerkettPR’s Interview Series “Persuasive Women” – Shelli Johnson

PerkettPR is pleased to continue our series of “Persuasive Women” interviews with Shelli Johnson, a life/leadership coach, consultant and entrepreneur who lives on the Frontier of Wyoming. Shelli shares her thoughts on living life to the fullest and how she pushes herself and others to take on new challenges and pursue new goals. We think you will truly enjoy and benefit from her motivational answers to our questions. Shelli spent 15 years building her first business, Yellowstone Journal Corporation/NationalParkTrips.com, before selling it in September 2008 to Active Interest Media (owner of Backpacker, Yoga Journal, & other magazines).

In addition to consulting and writing, Shelli is a life/leadership coach with the mission to help others create a life of meaning. Her coaching business, Epic Life, is unique in that it offers on-demand coaching throughout the year with an option to include an epic, outdoor adventure in an awe-inspiring place.

Shelli’s own blog is HaveMediaWillTravel.com. Topics include adventure, travel, family, leadership, etc.

Our Q&A:

You are a wife, mother, life coach, writer, consultant… and still find the time to embark on life-changing adventures (such as your backpacking adventure in Alaska). How do you fit it all in?

I make it all fit in. There’s a difference between a full life and a busy life. Mine is a full life.

To fit it all in, one has to know what’s important in her/his life and what isn’t. It sounds cliché, but every morning, I consider that today could be my last. None of us knows how much time we have left. (I have a 52-year-old girlfriend who died, suddenly, of an aneurysm a week ago Wednesday.)

If today will be my last, how will I live it? Ask this question, seriously, and you get to the heart of what’s important real fast. This type of thinking is a motivator that helps me fit all that is important into my day, and to not waste time on that which isn’t.

Speaking of important, my husband of 19 years, Jerry, and our three sons, are wonderful blessings and a huge support in my life. Without them, my life would not be full. They deserve a lot of credit for my life.

There are more practical reasons I am able to fit it all in. For one, I wake up and work out at 4 a.m. three times a week. After we had our first son, it was 6 a.m. After our second son, it was 5 a. m. After our third son, who is 4, it became 4 a.m. Waking this early works well for me. It “creates” time for me, energizes me, which causes me to be more productive during the day, and it provides a tremendous health benefit.

Second, I live by my calendar. I put a lot of emphasis on planning each month, and then I stick to the plan. If I set “rules,” I tend to honor them. Good planning means I can tackle one day at a time, focusing on the present – rather than worrying about the future. (This is no small thing for me, a predisposed worrier.)

Third, I live on the Frontier of Wyoming, which means my commute, if I choose to have one, is an 8-minute walk or a 2-minute drive. (My office is a 1973 RV parked by the river.) When you live in a small town, where everything is nearby, there’s not much time spent running errands or to appointments. So, I no doubt have more available time in my life because I live in a small town.

Fourth, inspired people tend to be more vital. Wyoming provides me not only with more time, but also more space. I love the expansiveness of my backyard, Wyoming’s Wind River Range. All of the things my family and I enjoy doing, and that most inspire me, are right here. Most days, I wake up inspired.

Finally, I say “no” a lot. When you get to be 43, and you’re a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, business owner and adventure-seeker, you have to say “no” more often, or suffer the consequences. Like I said, life is short.

As for fitting in epic adventures, I include a number of them in my life each year. These are not vacations. There’s nothing leisurely about them. They grow and inspire me. I become more as a result of them. And, interestingly, except for my recent NOLS Alaska Brooks Range backpacking adventure, these adventures are not costing me much in the way of time. For example, it cost me only one day (23 hours) to hike 44 miles, crossing the Grand Canyon and back, and another long day (20 hours) to hike 48 miles across Zion National Park. Yet what I gain from a single-day, epic adventure, is lasting.

I should mention that I don’t fit it all in, 365 days a year. Some days I fail miserably at doing so. The wheels come off; things happen that weren’t planned, or I am just tired, and I waste a day or three. But, hopefully, this is the exception, not the rule.

On your blog, you talk a lot about “route finding.” Can you explain this concept a bit further?

By “route finding,” I mean being at choice in life. We go through each day, week, month, year and decade with endless opportunities to choose how we want to live our life. Routes represent choices. In life, you arrive at forks in the road. You can take a common route or get off the trail and chart your own course. Route finding is a metaphor I can relate to because in the outdoors, I route find a lot. I often follow a trail, but I also like to go off-trail for purposes of exploring and to experience a different vantage. Sometimes one choice is harder, but the rewards are greater. Or, it could be that the hard way is just the right way. Or, sometimes it just makes practical sense to take the safe and easy way.

We make choices and we are, largely, the result of them. Our life is a story. The key is to have an active role in that story, and to actively choose and determine how your story plays out. Route finding refers to the choices we make along the way that impact our life. (Choices, by the way, also include choosing how to react when things don’t go as planned.)

In your adventures, you have pushed yourself to take the “high route” and push yourself more physically. What motivates you to continuously challenge yourself in this manner?

Family hikes, ski trips, trail runs and bike rides are physical pursuits that inspire me and keep me fit and healthy. These activities are fun and they fill me up, while creating wonderful family memories.

On the other hand, an adventure that pushes me physically, mentally and emotionally, and makes me uncomfortable much of the time, is what I call “epic.” Why do I do these epic adventures is a question I get asked a lot. There are moments during an epic adventure that take my breath away and fill me with overwhelming joy. This is why I’m drawn to natural, awe-inspiring settings in the first place. It’s a given that the views will take my breath away, and yes, that’s a big selling point for me when it comes to an epic adventure. But that is only the beginning.

There are also mentally challenging moments during an epic adventure when I want to quit, and in fact it would be easier to quit, and I may exclaim to myself, “Whose idea was this?” These are the times my saboteur shows up. And let me tell you, I can negotiate and argue with myself pretty effectively to continue – or to quit. I can make compelling arguments on both sides of the issue, but I only want the story to end in one way, and that is as a success. The whole experience causes you to discover and know yourself; there’s no hiding. The kind of pushing myself that is required of these epic adventures means I will have this opportunity to choose the hard thing, to beat down my saboteur(s), so to speak.

In my experience, the harder I work at something, the greater the reward. The view is always grander after hiking up a hill. And, chances are I’ve learned a great deal more in the process than had I stayed on the (safer, more predictable) trail, or on “lower ground.” So, the more physically challenging an adventure is, the bigger the pay off. No doubt, the accomplishment is part of the lure. The accomplishments mean something to me, and help me, in all areas of life when I lack courage or confidence.

There are also moments during these epic hikes when I’m emotionally tender. I am often moved to tears during the later stages of these adventures. The end, which typically amounts to more of a solitary march than a hike, sometimes during the dark of night, is very personal for me. About 95% of the personal growth I experience on an epic adventure happens during this last 5% of it. During this stage, I am humbled, and have the most clarity about what’s most important in my life. It makes for a great ending. This emotional part of the adventure, despite its difficulty, is one of the reasons I keep going back for more. It is what makes me more, and better than I was before.

Although building a business isn’t physical, it has similarities to an epic adventure. Building our first business, Yellowstone Journal Corporation/NationalParkTrips, over the course of 15 years was like climbing a mountain, complete with hard work, loose terrain, “false summits,” exposure, risks, uncertainty, disappointment, pain, re-routing, falls, storms and other difficult factors. But, ultimately, there were many rewards, which made it all worth it.

Whether it’s in my personal life or a business pursuit, it’s this combination of going further than I have gone before, and expanding all of my capabilities, that grows me, and makes me better. Why wouldn’t I make time for things that make me better? When at your best, you participate in your life more. It’s a lot of work, but as far as I can tell, the result is all upside.

As a goal-oriented person, how do you personally prioritize your goals?

It goes back to the first question. I really try to live like I’m dying. I spend a lot of time getting clear, and reminding myself of who and what are most important in my life. And then my first priority is honoring these people and things. They are at the top of my life. When I’m not honoring one of these, a sort of “service engine soon” alert goes off in me, causing concern (and insomnia).

My family comes first. My cell phone is shut down from Friday evening until early Monday morning. Weekends, especially, are for family, although we have ‘lots of family time and traditions built in during the week, as well. Other important relationships are also a priority, and I schedule time for them. For example, I have a standing date on Wednesday afternoon to have tea with my parents.

I just read a book where the authors interviewed 104 hospice patients. At the end of their lives, when asked what brought them the most joy and meaning, every single one of the patients answered: relationships. It wasn’t work or things they did. It was the people in their lives that mattered most. I think this is a good lesson for the rest of us, especially when it comes to prioritizing.

I still have work to do to create more time with family and friends. Then come all the other priorities, which include coaching calls, writing, marketing, consulting, meetings, reading/researching/learning, and the list goes on. Google calendar keeps it all organized for me.

Another tool I use for prioritizing is routine. I try to create good habits and then develop them into routine. Routine means not having to spend energy or self-control on making decisions throughout the day and week.

Finally, this may seem like an answer to a different question, but because it’s a priority it comes up for me. We each have one body. Why wouldn’t we want it to operate optimally. Eat right and exercise and you have more energy. Everything is better. If you value your life, taking care of your health has to be a top priority. For me, it’s non-negotiable.

Have you ever encountered someone or something that has gotten in the way of attaining a goal? How did you handle it?

Sure. Often. Usually it’s myself, or my own limiting beliefs, that get in the way. I am impatient. While at times this serves me, it also costs me. I often will not achieve a goal because I try to force the timing of it. Out of my impatience, I will fight the current instead of going with the flow. I’m sure I have worn people out with my impatience. Being more patient is a forever goal for me.

I have abandoned goals when success seems unlikely. I don’t like failure, but I sure value it. I also remind myself that I’m not saving lives. Because I’m so goal-oriented it’s easy for me to get consumed by a goal and lose perspective. I’m getting better at detecting this earlier and more often during the process of trying to achieve a goal, but it’s an ongoing effort.

You have traveled quite extensively, but what is your favorite spot to visit?

Oh, I can’t answer this. The question is unreasonable! Seriously, I am very lucky to be living in my favorite place, Wyoming’s Wind River Range. My favorite travel spot is probably a national park – probably Yellowstone. But asking someone to name their favorite national park is like asking them to say whom their favorite brother or sister is. I love each national park for its own reasons. My favorite national parks are Yellowstone, Zion, Grand Teton, Grand Canyon and Yosemite. For cities (and culture shock), I love San Francisco and New York City. For leisure? Hawaii. Oh Hawaii, how I love thee.

What is your favorite movie or book?

I love movies, but I don’t have a favorite. Reading, on the other hand, is one of my passions. I’m a voracious reader. It’s hard for me to choose a single favorite. But, some favorites that represent a cross section, are: The Solace of Open Spaces, by Gretel Ehrlich; Endurance, by Alfred Lansing; The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig; A Pearl in the Storm, by Tori Murden McClure; Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom; Good to Great, by Jim Collins; and Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.

What is your next goal (what do you have planned next)? Could you tell us a little bit about your leadership coaching business?

My focus right now is developing my life/leadership coaching business,  Epic Life. The work I want to do is inspire people to live as if they’re dying, as if every day matters. I will be asking my clients to invest six months to a year with me to do the work and make the changes that are necessary to create a life of meaning.

As my client’s life coach I am their champion, but I am more than that. I remind, and hold my client accountable, to what their life purpose is and to what they say they want their life to be.

In 2005, I hired a life coach, and it had a tremendous impact on my life. Today, even with a full life, I continue to work with a life coach. Having a champion in my corner, cheering me, but also holding me accountable, is of great value.

As a life/leadership coach, I want the hard cases. I want clients who are willing to work hard, to make hard, positive change. I think life should take your breath away. We should strive for an epic life.  Epic Life’s core offering is unique in that it combines year-round coaching (scheduled monthly, or used “on demand”), with an epic adventure. The adventure will be a sunrise-to-sunset, unforgettable experience in an awe-inspiring location.

The epic adventure serves as a platform from which clients will grow and be able to practice for life’s hardships and challenges. Part of the unique proposition of Epic Life is “leveling up” my clients. I want to choose an adventure that my client isn’t certain he/she can do, but that I know he/she can do.

Finding an adventure that will inspire my client is the easy part. To be effective, the adventure needs to also test them physically, emotionally and mentally. For example, if I have a client from San Francisco who has not hiked more than six miles in a day in the Marin Headlands, I might select 10-mile and/or all-day hike at altitude for his/her epic adventure.

My clients will gain an unforgettable experience, a significant accomplishment (inc. “bragging rights”), inspiration, expanded leadership, more confidence, increased emotional range, a health benefit, and a greater mental toughness and resilience that will serve, and better prepare, them for life’s challenges and hardships.

If I do my job well, my client will return more, and better, than he/she was before the experience. (The website and fan page for the business is under development; for information, email Shelli.)

I’m also starting work on a dream project that involves producing and publishing and what I hope will be a work that facilitates a legacy of inspirational wisdom. It is still very much in development.

Shelli Johnson’s blog is HaveMediaWillTravel.com, which includes posts about travel, adventures, life and leadership, personal development, fitness, nutrition and more.