The Art of Transformation | Tony Martignetti | Restorative Action


In this episode of The Art of Transformation, you’ll discover practical strategies for enhancing your creativity and personal growth. You don’t need to scale Kilimanjaro like our guest, Tony, did, but if you do decide to take on such a challenge, we’d love to hear about it!

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Deep Restoration to Fuel Transformation

Climbing A Mountain In The Long Game Of Personal Evolution With Guest Tony Martignetti

We’re here with somebody who I was introduced to by another transformation expert. I’ve had the honor of being on his podcast. He is an excellent coach and multiple-time author. He’s got a new book out. I’m going to let you do more of the intro for yourself here, Tony. Tony Martignetti is here. I couldn’t be more happy to have you.

I’m thrilled to be here. Marc, it has been great to get to know you in this short period of time, but it’s been amazing. I love the show that you’ve put together because it starts with one of my two favorite topics, and it’s art and transformation. I’m an artist at heart. That’s one identity I want to stay connected to as I continue through my journey.

I’ll do a quick introduction about myself. I’m the Chief Inspiration Officer at Inspired Purpose Partners. We work on helping leaders connect with their journey to making an impact without burning themselves out in the process. We do one-on-one and a lot of group and workshop-type programs. The key thing that is important is that we work with people who want to make that change and are willing to do the work because it is a co-creative process.

Your idea is this is creative work, especially when people are trying to run businesses and are concerned about the machine. It is a creative thing to think about how to run that machine, how to do that well, how to lead well, how to create your revenue well, and all of these different things. You said that we’re co-creating. That is something that I see over and over again. Something else you said is, “People have to want to do this work.”

There are a lot of people who shy off of that first phone call or chemistry call, where you’re feeling things out because they’re like, “They’re going to try to sell me on this stuff.” From what I know of you and me, what would the point be? You can’t force somebody to do this work. Part of what you do is consulting, but I don’t consider myself a consultant. We are co-creating together. When we decide what the work is, I support you in doing that work.


The Art of Transformation | Tony Martignetti | Restorative Action


If you think about it in terms of art, they’re the canvas, and we happen to be part of the tools and the paints. One of the ways that we bring the tools to work is to help them. They’re directing the way that they want to bring that painting to life. We’re helping them by bringing the different colors to the canvas. They’re the ones who are the canvas and telling us what to do in the process because they’re the artists of their lives.

You said that we’re the tools. I’m curious. Do you know Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand book?


What I love about his framework is that when you’re talking about coaching people, and you’re talking about working with people in the modality that we do, they’re the hero. You’re not coming in as the hero to save the day. They’re the hero. You’re the guide. You’re the person who can pull them out of wherever they are and say, “Let’s look at the bigger picture. Have you considered looking over here? What do you even see over there?” You’re helping them get the strength, the tools, the resilience, the information, and whatever they need to go ahead and make those small first steps or big leaps in some cases.

Taking The First Step

It doesn’t have to be this massive leap from the get-go. If you try to push people too far or you try to get people thinking that they need to move fast and quickly, what happens is they end up giving up because they feel like, “This is overwhelming. It’s too much. I’m in this place where I’m going to retreat back into safety because safety feels warm, like a blanket. I can do what I was doing before, and it was okay.”

You want to help them to feel like it’s okay to step out on that growth edge to go that extra few steps up the mountain and feel okay with it because it’s going to feel a little uncomfortable. That discomfort is part of the growth process. It’s part of becoming who they’ve said they want to become, but it’s going to also be a sense of feeling into that next step that is going to require them to also not know what’s next.

You said a few things there. It transitions nicely into what we were talking about on the call we had before when we were getting ready for this episode. This idea is that when people come into this work. Whether or not they work with a coach, when they’re in a transition, we live in a society that’s like go big or go home. Get it done, and make a big splash.

You said on our last call, “Transformation is not one-and-done work.” I’d love for you to expand on it. One of the things that I love about that is that it gets to this idea that it’s okay not to be in a huge rush. It’s okay to have big ideas and say, “What do I need to do this year, this month, this week? What do I need to do now? That’s a phone call now.” With this idea that transformation isn’t one-and-done, can you expand on that?

It starts with having dreams and a thought about what’s on the horizon you’d like to aspire to connect to. It has to be something that comes deep from the inside, and you have to say to yourself to always have this feeling that this is something for me. It’s not coming from the external world. If it does, it’s not something that might, in the long term, wear down. You find yourself lost in that and say, “It wasn’t me. It was for somebody else.” If it comes from someplace inside, and you say, “I’ve always wanted to fly a plane.”

True for you.

I’ve flown a plane. If you say to yourself, “What I’ve always wanted to do is to fly a plane.” You start to put yourself in a trajectory of saying, “How do I make that dream come alive?” The starting point starts to come to a place of knowing, “Who can I talk to? What are the people I need to get to know? Do I know anyone who’s ever flown a plane? Do I know any pilots? What does the process look like? How do I get the discovery underway to start to put myself on a trajectory?”

The energy starts to build from there. It doesn’t have to be this thing like, “I’m signing up for flight school, and everything is happening.” It starts with one conversation, action, and step. Flying a plane doesn’t have to happen tomorrow. It can happen a year from now. It’s anything that you aspire to. Maybe it’s like, “I want to be taking a change in my career to go in a different direction.” You plant that seed, let it grow, and know that it starts from that thought, and that thought is translated into action slowly over time.


The Art of Transformation | Tony Martignetti | Restorative Action


I love the idea that the first step can be as simple as finding out more. I have a client right now who’s looking to step away from what they’re doing and start their own organization. He has a lot of information, but not all of the information. What we established was what holds you back is a fear of the unknown. I need to do these big things, but there are huge risks in the area of finance or people management. I’m worried about that. Why are you worried about that? I don’t have the information on how it works. What if you got that information? I feel a lot better. Let’s start to fill in that gap. It’s remarkable how we identify the fear. We can identify the action a lot of times.

When we identify the fear, we can identify the action a lot of times.

Another thing that comes to mind a lot for people is, “There’s no way I can ever speak on stage or deliver that big talk.” All of a sudden, you see them a year or two later. They’re speaking with ease on a big stage. You have to start with, “What would I talk about all day long if I had the opportunity? What do I know I’m passionate about talking about?” That’s a starting point. If you’re talking about numbers and numbers are not your gig, you’ll have a hard time talking about numbers on a big stage because you might find yourself feeling checked out when the time comes that you’re put on the spot.

It’s one of those growth questions or conversation starters. What could you talk about right now for 30 minutes without any notes? That’s where you start. That’s not the talk for the big stage. I do this all the time when I’m in my car and practicing a toast or a speech. I’ll talk it through. I’m not taking any notes or recording. I’ll discover, “The reason that I’m worried about this is because I don’t know how I get from this part to this part. Now, I know what I need to think about and solve.” You don’t solve by sitting and wondering how to do it. You take these small actions like talking to yourself in your car.

Luckily, everyone is doing it. It doesn’t look as odd as it used to in the past.

I leave my headset in. No one knew what was happening.

It’s such a great way to think about it because when I think about how I practice for a talk, I often record myself doing the talk. That way, I’m listening and getting all that memory in place. It allows me to start to think of it as natural. It’s me. I’m not listening to someone else do my talk. It’s me doing the talk.

Transformation Is Not One-And-Done

This is in line with the idea that transformation is not one-and-done. It can be a long process. The idea is you’re changing all along the way. You take those initial first steps. You went from someone who didn’t have some information to someone who does have some information. Sometimes, the information you get says, “That’s the wrong direction.” You go back and get some different information. There are many different paths you could take.

Something else that we talked about was the idea that people get burned out, frustrated, or hit a plateau. That’s a signal for some new work to be done in this area to discover what it is that they want to do. We talked about the importance of rest. It’s the idea that you need to have some movement. There needs to be a sine wave. There needs to be an ebb and flow to the work you’re doing. It’s like anything. This is work. You can’t go and never take a minute down. You have taken some exceptional minutes down. One thing that stands out to me is that you spent a month in India and climbed Kilimanjaro. Forget transformation for a second. What was that like?

Climbing Kilimanjaro

It was challenging. It was something that made me commit to doing it. After I wrote my first book, Climbing the Right Mountain, someone asked me, “What’s the next mountain you’re going to climb?

You hadn’t climbed a mountain when you wrote that book.

I climbed mountains, but nothing of that magnitude. That’s 19,000 feet. That was almost double the height that I’d been to at that point. The highest I’d been to was about 11,000 feet. Making that commitment was big because it makes a big difference, especially on a mountain like Kelly, because you are going through a lot of different climate zones, and the oxygen at the top or even getting closer to the top. There’s not a lot of oxygen to breathe. You are belabored on that journey. I suffer from headaches. Having that to add to the mix was not easy. It was also a good place to be where I could stretch my own boundaries and see what’s possible.

As I started preparing, it was about going into climbs and doing a bunch of climbs locally, but also mentally preparing. I’m saying, “I can do this. I can do hard things.” I’m preparing myself to think, “What is it going to take for me to get up to the top of that mountain? What do I need to make sure I bring along with me in terms of having all the right tools and gear?” I had a lot of time to prepare for it, which is great.

Now that you’re telling me, I know you had experience climbing other mountains, but were there gaps in information that you had to fill by getting support from other people?

I always say that it’s important. With any climb, you can’t go it alone. I mean that both as a physical climb and the climbs that we take in our lives. We don’t do it alone. We need support from other people to make sure that they give us the emotional support we need to champion us and tell us like, “You can do this.” Give us tips and thoughts like, “When you’re doing this, do this. Make sure you put your boots in your sleeping bag because that’ll keep you warm at night.”

The climbs that we take in our lives, we don’t do them alone. We need support from other people.

It’s the stuff you don’t know that you don’t know. In my first book, I talk about the first climb that I had when I was a teenager on Mount Washington in New Hampshire. We were ill-prepared. We had a bunch of us teenagers who were like, “Let’s go climb the mountain.” It’s the middle of August. It’s snowing at the top. We had a failed attempt. We didn’t make it because we were full of that hubris. We didn’t have any preparation. We didn’t know what we were doing. That’s what happens when you start to get more experience. You start to realize you have to be more prepared for the climb and where you’re headed to make it more powerful.

In that failed attempt, I imagine you learned about what information you might need to ask for or that you might need to ask for information.

It’s like having a map and maybe taking the right trail because we were on the wrong trail.

There’s so much that I want to ask you about that because I’m an athlete, and I’m fascinated by that stuff. Something that you said earlier resonated with me. You said, “You have to start somewhere.” My passion in the athletic world is jujitsu. I used to do obstacle course races, which were running up and down mountains, but I don’t think that they were quite that high, and they were ski hills. They were not. Kilimanjaro.

Jujitsu is a great metaphor for me for everything, including this, because you have to start somewhere. There’s a guy in my gym who is an Aikido master. He runs a dojo and lives in the dojo. He’s got a school and students. He travels the world. He is an absolute master. He’s on the mat with me at the jujitsu gym with his beginner’s mind. He started with a white belt. They didn’t bring him in and say, “We’ll speed you up.” He started with everybody else.

When you’re going into new territory in your life, adding a new skill, or creating a new product or business, that beginner’s mind is important. We’re going to fail sometimes, and there are many analogies for that. It’s going to save you some time going, “There’s a teacher here for me somewhere.” The thing that I want to ask you about is the idea of rest. I know that this was a physically, emotionally, and spiritually arduous task that you did. How was that rest?

Taking A Rest

I love that you bring this back because we didn’t quite get to the answer we were looking for earlier. There’s a lot to it that we need to unwind. It’s when we step away from the doing of our work. People think, “You’re a coach. You are doing your passion job. It must be something you love doing every day.” I’m like, “Sure, but it’s still work.”

If you start to do it repetitively, it starts to become a pattern that needs to be interrupted. When you interrupt the pattern, you start to realize that it’s through the rest doing something different. When I say rest, sometimes that’s what we’re looking for. It’s not sitting on the couch and relaxing or sitting on a beach and relaxing, which is a short versus a long break. Sometimes, doing something different, getting into an activity, and doing it for a while gets your brain programming in a different way.

What happens is that’s where the most restful rest comes from because you’re getting out of the work and thinking about making different neural connections to your life and saying, “I’m here in this mountain. I’m starting to put things in perspective. I’m starting to think about what I want to return to. Who do I want to be when I return? How do I want to change things that I was doing before and do them differently now?

If you think about it, it shouldn’t compare this to a pandemic because it’s not a good thing. The pandemic was a long process of us starting to reflect and think differently about our lives. Taking a 3 to 4-week break from your life and doing things differently has you putting things in perspective and saying, “I don’t want to return to the normal I had before. That normal is not even possible any longer because I’m a new me now.”

The pandemic is a great example. It was an imposed break for a lot of people. It was not great for many people. I love the idea that it’s not about necessarily going and watching Netflix, but it’s about putting your brain on. It’s one of the reasons why I love jujitsu. It’s because you have to be present on the mat. Otherwise, you get choked out, which you don’t want to have happen. This idea that you’re doing something else ties into this idea of productive procrastination. You’re working in your business or art. You hit whatever plateau. You hit something where you’re like, “I’ve got this. I’m good at it. I’m frustrated with it.”

Whatever that plateau is, go and put your brain on something else, in your right brain, when you’re on that downtime doing something else that isn’t necessarily designed to be productive, or maybe it is, but it’s for something else. The right brain part of your mind starts to make connections that it can’t make if you’re on the ground every day, beating the pavement and doing your thing. The idea is that it feels like procrastination. I’m putting off the work that I need to do, but it’s quite productive in terms of creative work.

There’s such a direct analogy. When I was teaching art, I’d have students. I taught figure drawing and beginning illustration. Students work for participants on a painting, and they get to whatever point in the painting. They’re starting to make lateral moves. I’m not sure where to go from here. I would often tell them, “Stop working on that for two weeks. I’m going to give you some other assignments. You’re still going to make art, but I’m going to have you use materials that you didn’t use, make sketches that are intentionally not good, and do something completely different out of that go big or go home mindset.”

I cannot think of an exception to someone who came back from that and said, “That’s weird. I was doing this different thing, and I had an idea about what I wanted to do on this painting that I wasn’t having before when I was sitting and staring at it every day, or your business or whatever it is that you’re working.”

It’s brilliant. It has me thinking about this visual. This is going to be weird, but you’ll get it. Do you remember those? This is your brain on drugs. I see a frying pan with an egg. You say, “This is your brain after productive procrastination.” It’s full of color and vibrancy. It’s sparkling with all this amazingness. That’s what we’re after here before an interruption. It’s sizzling away or maybe not even cooking at all because it’s doing its thing, and it’s not productive. It’s feeling fried, and all of a sudden, you do some procrastination on purpose. You step away and find yourself coming back to it. It’s like, “All the things are starting to fire up again. I can feel the color coming back.”

You said that the Kilimanjaro break was after your first book.

It was a year after my first book. Yeah.

I’m curious. From your own path, where did your life lead you after that climb?

Let me share two things about the experience, and I’ll share the answer to this. First of all, what I realized is as I prepared for that climb, I also realized that I was going to be away from my business for about a month because I took the climb and did the safari. There was a lot of this anxiety of, like, “I’m going to interrupt my business for a period of time. What am I going to do? I’m going to lose clients.” Everyone was cool about it. I’m on the way to the airport. I’m getting a call from somebody out of the blue about coaching. I’m like, “I’m stepping away from my business. I got a client on the way to the airport and on the way back from the airport. The less I stay stuck in my business, the more I create business.”

It’s weird how that is. It’s because there’s an energetic thing we put into ourselves that we are like, “We stay tight and stuck in our place.” We are not putting the energy into the people who are connecting with us to tell them we’re open to connecting. I don’t know what that is, but that’s how I looked at it. When I did come back, what I realized was that I wanted to do less with more. I wanted to find leverage and ways to find more group types of activities. I’m creating more programs that are connected with groups. That’s what I’ve leaned into since I returned.

There’s an energetic thing we put into ourselves that keeps us tight and stuck in our place. We’re not putting the energy into the people who are connecting with us to tell them we’re open to connecting.

I’m still doing one-on-one, but I found myself changing the mix and doing a lot more where I could get people together. I also realized that’s what my work is about. It is creating deeper connections with people. I’ve leaned heavily into those types of programs where I’m allowing people to have a connection that’s not about me saying, “Let’s connect you and me one-on-one.” It’s like, “How can I connect other people to have a deeper experience?” That is only getting bigger in terms of the impact that I’m having as we go into 2024.

This is a question that I’ve been asking a lot. We’re at the end of January 2024. I can’t say I’ve never been a fan of resolutions, but I’m clear that I don’t do them anymore because they’re BS. It’s good to have goals. It’s great, but I’m not going to sit here and say, “I’m not going to make some giant change in my life. The gym memberships go way up in January, and no one shows up.” I’d rather think about the small, subtle shifts that I’m going to make that are going to get me where I want to go.

I’m not going to go to the gym for five hours a day or go to Jiujitsu five days a week if I’ve not done it before and not doing it very much. I’ll add one day, or I’ll exercise at home. I used to exercise at home for 25 minutes a day, and I could maintain that. It got me to the place where I wanted to be physically. I found out I didn’t have to do all the stuff that everyone else was saying because I was in action and discovering my authentic truth and my path along the way. The question that I’ve been dancing around here is, what is a challenge that you’re excited about in the coming year?

Leverage And Connection

I’m done with resolutions. I do have some words that I’m working with, and there are ones I’ve mentioned. Leverage and connection are the two big macro words that I’ve already mentioned, but they’re all important to me. The challenge that I am embracing is to have more meaningful conversations with people whom I wouldn’t normally connect with. I’m reaching out to folks with whom I haven’t had conversations. I’m exploring the edges of my network of the world that I live in and trying to find out where I could learn more from other people.

It sounds like a weird challenge because it’s natural for you, but it’s about seeing where I may be wrong about my assumptions, and I want to be so that I can learn even more. That means getting into communities that I haven’t been part of, going to places that I haven’t been to, not physically, but maybe a conference that I haven’t embraced. That’s where I’m at.

Have conversations with people. It’s energy. I would use the word energy over work to say it’s not bad, but it is energy. I love cooking, and I cook every day if I can. I cook for my family a lot. In the end, I have spent some energy and am thinking about the exchange of energy I get with my family. I have a teenager. The exchange is one-sided right now, but there is energy put in. That energy comes back in positive ways. You learn new things and things that you don’t want to do. This is not one-and-done. This is the ongoing life of transparency.

When I published my book, I was like, “My book is not done yet.” I continue to write more chapters. That’s the way to look at it. Transformation, for me, is never complete.

In my group program, somebody shared a thoughtful analogy or way of thinking about this. It was related to art, but getting 80% done or complete takes X amount of time. The 80% to 90% takes the same amount of time as the first 80%. The last 10% takes as much time or more as all of that put together. One thing is being in the mindset of like, “This last 10% is going to go slow.” It’s to say, “90% is good.” I’m going to launch or go at 90% and figure other things out as we go.” You can approach it in different ways.

I like that because there’s something about that, which is to say, “People might be scared about that taking so much time or effort.” It’s also a great reframe about that, which is to say, “It’s amazing that’s going to take a long time because what else would you live for?” If you think about it as an iceberg, the known part is the part that we already know, the 80% technically, but in reality, that 10%, which we think is a small portion. It is the unknown part of us that we have to continue to lean into. That is unknown to us and everyone else. That’s what’s cool.

We’re coming towards the end here. I wanted to make sure to ask you about your book. Tell us about that and where people can find it. I know you’re looking to have conversations with people. If people are listening to this and they’re like, “I’d love to have a conversation with Tony and find out what he’s about,” let us know how to find you there.” Let’s start with the book, and you can tell us how to find you.

The book is called Campfire Lessons for Leaders: How Uncovering Your Past Can Propel You Forward. The book is about the journey that people have gone on to find themselves. When you look back and understand your past, it can be a powerful tool. What I’ve done is I’ve compiled ten lessons that will help you to think differently. There are some good questions and prompts along the way to help you on your journey.

When you look back and understand your past, it can be a powerful tool.

I’ve also backed it up with some amazing stories from people who have been on my podcast and have been on transformational journeys. Some of them are sudden and dramatic, and some are gradual and come from moments that have said, “I’m living the life I want to, and I know I’m ready for something different.”  The core of this all is about connection. Connection with your story, yourself, and others on your journey of life. You can find that on Amazon or wherever books are sold. I say that with a caveat because you never know about small bookstores these days. They’re hard to know what they’ll carry.

I found that, in, you can search for books and the local bookshop that has them. It’s a local bookstore aggregator. If your local bookshop doesn’t have it, but maybe one five miles away, Bookshop will help you find it close to you so you can support a local bookstore that way.

Beyond the book, another great place to find me is on my website. It’s If you go there, you can reach out and connect with me. We can have a conversation and see where we want to go from there. I’m also available on and active on LinkedIn.

I’ll link our previous podcast episode to your podcast. Briefly tell us about your podcast.

It’s The Virtual Campfire. You can find that show anywhere you listen to podcasts, and you can also find a link to it on my website. I’ve recorded north of 200 episodes, which has been a great journey. It’s covering stories of people who have been through a transformational moment through flashpoints. That has ignited our gifts into the world. Check out Marc’s episode. It is fantastic.

Tony, I feel like we’ve got ten more episodes in us from this conversation. We have to say goodbye now. I want to thank you so much for taking the time with me before and during the show. I look forward to continuing our conversations in the future.

Same here. Thank you so much.


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About Tony Martignetti

The Art of Transformation | Tony Martignetti | Restorative ActionTony Martignetti is a trusted advisor, leadership coach and facilitator, best-selling author, podcast host, and speaker. He brings together over 25 years of business and leadership experience and extreme curiosity to elevate leaders and equip them with the tools to navigate through change and unlock their true potential. He has been recognized by Thinkers360 as one of the Top Voices in Leadership and by LeadersHum as one of the Biggest Voices in Leadership.

Tony hosts The Virtual Campfire podcast and is the author of Climbing the Right Mountain: Navigating the Journey to An Inspired Life and Campfire Lessons for Leaders: How Uncovering Our Past Can Propel Us Forward. He has been featured in many publications, including Fast Company, Forbes, Life Science Leader, and CEO Today.


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