You're listening to the Uncommon Life Podcast. Whether you're a startup or you've been in business for 10 years, this show is for you. Each week, you'll get mentored by business leaders who deliver valuable strategies, tactics and tips on how you can pursue your passion without compromise. We’ll show you how to achieve balance while sticking to your core values, so you can have an uncommon life.
Now, here's your host, Jimmy Fullerton.
Jimmy: Hello, and welcome to Episode 13 of the Uncommon Life podcast, coming to you from a mysterious location somewhere in the Chattahoochee Valley in Columbus, Georgia. I'm your host, Jimmy Fullerton, and today I got the pleasure of speaking with Jason McKenzie.
Now, Jason truly embodies the word “serial entrepreneur.” He owns, among many other things, Ride on Bikes, which is not just an ordinary bike shop. It's really a first-class operation, staffed with people who are passionate about what they do, and it shows in the way they treat their customers. The moment you walked through those doors, you know there's something different about that place.
Jason also owns Ride on Adventure, which includes a variety of different outdoor ventures. You name it and they do it. Skiing, biking, boating, skydiving, surfing, mountain biking, cross-country, motorcycle rods, you name it. Just check out their website at RideOnAdventure.com.
Jason also does some public speaking, motivational speaking. He also owned some commercial real estate in downtown Columbus and maybe elsewhere. He's also involved in some other businesses.
Now, in Part 1, Jason shares his story. He's got a very unique background and he shares some very personal, very dark experiences and how they’ve helped to shape who he is today. We talk about the value of your scars and how you can use your scars to have a positive impact on other people. So, it's good stuff. Let's jump right into part one.
I'm talking today with Jason McKenzie. He's a local celebrity in Columbus, Georgia. You are, man. You are.
Jason: I wouldn’t go that far.
Jimmy: Jason is the owner of Ride on Bikes, Ride on Adventure, public speaker. What else have you got going on?
Jason: I work with Incolr a lot. That's one of my favorite things to do, work with those guys. They have a video production company that does marketing in town.
Jimmy: That's one thing I did not know.
Jason: Oh yeah, sure enough. Jonathan Giles and his team, and they're absolute magic. I sell for them and just kind of get the right people in front of them, so they can tell the story they want to tell.
Jimmy: So, Incolr. What else have you got going on?
Jason: Really and truly, my family owned some restaurants in the uptown area, so I'm always trying to help in any direction I can I feel like. We have some property downtown, as well [03:00.0] as some tenants, so I’ve just really got my hands in a little bit of everything it feels like, as far as business goes.
Jimmy: Yeah, you're definitely like a modern-day Renaissance man.
Jason: I call it serial entrepreneur.
Jimmy: Yeah. When did you first realize you wanted to go in that direction, instead of taking the traditional route of a regular W-4 employee?
Jason: Yeah, I feel very fortunate. My grandfather on my mother's side, he was military. No education, lied about his age to get into the Army to be able to break away from the sharecropping, and literally stayed in the Fitzgerald, Georgia, jail cell one night, the night before he joined the Army, and he for 22 years ended up working for President Kennedy on his flight staff. And then, he became an entrepreneur after that, had the Ponderosa Motel and the Ponderosa trailer park here on Victory Drive.
So, the entrepreneurial spirit, I feel, started back then, and somebody that was willing to do whatever it took to get there, and you know as an entrepreneur, that's what it is. I mean, there are a lot of times where it feels like it's not going to work and you’ve just got to keep driving somehow.
So, I feel like most of the credit goes there into my grandparents’ side of things, and my grandmother was the one that kept the books. Recently, I was able to see their checkbook balance. I mean, it's literally $8. Things like that, you know? And I'm like, Man, I've had it so good. So, I was kind of set up with a really nice foundation of that work hard.
And then, my mother had a Victory Pawn Shop on Victory Drive. You can only imagine what that was like back in the late-70s.
Jimmy: Victory Drive used to be the Mecca of Columbus.
Jason: That was it, right next to the tattoo shop where Sailor Bill was and the Hells Angels, and the stories are pretty amazing. And then, that led into my uncle having the Colony Inn motel, and my father also had an underground utility business. So, I was kind of raised by entrepreneurs. I didn't really know there was another option, to be honest with you. It was just what my plan was all from day one.
Jimmy: What was your first year, first entrepreneurial venture that you did?
Jason: This is probably not the answer you're looking for, but …
Jimmy: I’m not looking for an answer.
Jason: Okay. In my junior year of high school, I changed high schools. There was some politics involved and some baseball, and I got into a fight in my sophomore year on the baseball field and I couldn't play ball anymore, and that was my dream at the time. So, my mom put me into a private school and I went from 600 people in my class to 55 people in my class. I went from locks on my lockers to they don't have lockers. It was like that. It was such a different mentality.
My mom … I was buying accessories for my truck out at Mid car guy, and my mom knows I'm a good kid. I'd always get straight A's and never been in any trouble. But she couldn't figure out where all my money was coming from because I was only making $5 an hour, changing oil after school. And then, finally, she asked me and I explained to her that I could go to Chick-fil-A in the morning and the kids at school had money, and I could double my money on chicken biscuits in the morning. So, that was probably my real take at it.
Jimmy: I guess no one wasn’t liking it.
Jason: Yeah, and I was like, wow, and I wasn't hurting anyone [06:02.5]. They were hungry and they didn't have time to get there, and they had cash. So, I think that's probably where it started early on in my junior year in high school, realizing that I could double my money.
Jimmy: After that, at what point did you end up with the idea of Ride on Bikes? What led to that?
Jason: Yeah, so I got a chance to go travel with the Cincinnati Reds when I was 17, 18 years old, and I wasn't that good, but I was dating the coach's daughter. So, I was really able--
Jimmy: So, you played Minor League?
Jason: No, actually, I was playing college ball. I had an opportunity to walk on at Columbus State, and in this particular time, it was a very short period. I was only there. I only did a few practices with them, and Ray Knight, it was his daughter I was dating at the time. Her mother is Nancy Lopez.
They were very good to me and they showed me another side of the celebrity world and things that we dream about as kids, and then you get a chance to go see it. And, Ray, he treated me so well, and they allowed me to go out and go experience what it was like to be in the Major Leagues. I wasn't actually playing by any means, but I was going to take batting practice with them and Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn and Jason LaRue, all these people that I had really looked up to.
Jason: It was amazing, man. It really was. And what I learned is that it's not what you think, though. That is a very hard lifestyle. That is a very, very hard job. I know the money is great, and I understand the fame and all that stuff, but it just wasn't as glamorous as I thought it was going to be.
And I'm very grateful for that experience because that wasn't my dream anymore, you know? I was watching a lot of the heartaches they were having because they're literally, man, women were just thrown at them. It was unreal what was going on on a regular basis. And I want to believe that I'm strong enough in my faith and all those things that that would never affect me, but there is a point where I don't know. I haven't been in that situation. I'm not one to judge somebody in that place. So, I think putting yourself in temptation like that constantly is maybe an issue, and realizing they're on a bus or an airplane and eating at Star Chili at two o'clock in the morning, and just the grind was so hard. And I wasn't that talented in the first place. I was just very, very driven.
So, now, I feel like a lot of people always think, Man, if I wouldn't have got hurt, or if I could've just played that one game I would have been a pro, and if you make it to that level, which is very, very unlikely, let's be honest -
Jimmy: Small, small percentage.
Jason: - and then it's not what you think it is. I got to see it firsthand, so I'll always be in debt to Ray and Nancy for showing me that. And there's nothing. There's no negative about that. They were just very good to me and showed me what the real life was like that they chose to live, you know?
Jimmy: So, that kind of helped you define what you didn't want to do, right?
Jason: Yeah, exactly, which I think is almost more important than what you do want to do.
Jimmy: Yeah, and you never know until you try stuff.
Jason: Yeah, so I have a list of those things. But when baseball was over for me, shortly after [09:00.5] me and Ashley had split up. At 19, when you lose your first love, that kind of thing, it's like …
Jimmy: Oh, I hear you, man. You think the world is coming to an end.
Jason: Jimmy, I tell you, man, I lost weight. I started doing badly in school and I ended up getting a speeding ticket, my first speeding ticket. It was right there in Phenix City by Lakewood Baptist Church, y'all know downhill, and I got me at 16 to 35. I lost my license for six months.
Jimmy: Your whole world crashing around you, yeah.
Jason: Oh man, it was just falling apart. And looking back at it now, it was kind of humorous because, really, things weren't that bad now because I've been through so much now, but at that time …
Jimmy: Perspective. Perspective.
Jason: Exactly. I pulled out of school. I went to work for my dad. He did underground utility work. We were burying fiber-optic cable, and that's another perspective. And I was in a ditch, six days a week, 12 hours a day, and for the first time, I realized what my dad had done to provide for me all those years and first time realized why he wasn't at the baseball games, and why I was able to have a dirt bike and able to go to private school in my last two years, because my dad had been in a ditch and he worked his tail off.
Jimmy: You learned to appreciate the sacrifices they'd made.
Jason: Yeah. Thank goodness for that, because you don't know as a kid. You don't understand why somebody might not be there at the time. So what that led into, I ended up working for my dad for two and a half years. I made a whole lot of money. You don't have the opportunity to have a dog or a relationship or anything. You're staying in a motel and ate, and it is what it is.
Jimmy: But if you look at it, I guess, like a short term, I'm doing this for just a short time and then I'll use this maybe as a platform for something else later.
Jason: That's exactly right. I think that for me going … that was another one of the things I learned that I didn't want to do. And, again, no disrespect to my father, man. I'm so grateful for what he did for us and our family, but it wasn't a lifestyle I wanted to live the rest of my life. And so, I saved my money and my mom's dad had left me some money in the stock market to pay for my college, but the deal was if I had a scholarship that I could have the money when I graduated to help start my own business. So, I came back in 2007 and finished my degree, and started working at Ride on Bikes during that time as well, just $7 an hour.
Let me back up just a little bit. In 2003, I was in Columbus. This was right before I got my speeding ticket. This was right during that time. And my uncle, Buddy Nelms, he had bought the building that Ride on Bikes is in now. Goodwill was in it at the time and they had moved. And we had the idea of doing a shoe store where the juice bar is now and a bike shop where the bike shop is, and it was going to be funky bikes and ugly shoes. That was our big plan. And our goal was to rent bikes for $10 a day, and at that time period I felt like if I could rent 30 bikes a day at $10 a day, $300 a day is a lot of money.
Jimmy: Was this your business or were you just working at the business?
Jason: I was just working for Buddy.
Jimmy: Okay, you were working for Buddy.
Jason: Yeah, we helped start it. I mean, I built the first bikes that walked in the door and learned a lot.
Jimmy: How old were you at this time?
Jason: I was 19. [12:00.4]
Jason: Yeah. But then, I lost my license and all those things happened, and then I ended up leaving. This is an interesting part of the story.
Buddy had hired Byron, who was my business partner over the last 11 years. Anybody that knows Ride on Bikes knows Byron. He's a typical grumpy mechanic in the back that rides 10,000 miles a year, literally, I'm not exaggerating, and can fix anything, but grumpy. And I was 19 and I knew everything, you know that kid, and Byron was going through some hard times at the time as well and we couldn't get along, and I told my uncle he had to make a decision between me and Byron.
Anyway, I took a job down in Jacksonville with my dad. That's the [crosstalk].
Jimmy: Yeah, that bluff didn’t work, huh?
Jason: Yeah, and I'm very grateful for that. Looking back, I understand why the decision was made and it was the best thing he could've done for me and the business. But we'll fast forward, when I came back in 2007, Byron was the owner. He and Buddy were owners and Byron hired me at $7 an hour, which was a little [crosstalk].
Jimmy: So, that ultimatum actually worked, but in a long form kind of way.
Jason: It did. Buddy, he has wisdom. He doesn't ever show it, but looking back and like, Oh, that's what he was doing. You know what I mean?
Jimmy: The conversations I've had with Buddy, and for those people that don't know, Buddy is part-owner of -
Jason: The Loft.
Jimmy: - Salt Cellar, the Loft. What else?
Jason: Several buildings in uptown, so he has a lot of tenants that work with him, and he never stops. I mean, he's always got something else going. He's pretty much focused in uptown at this point because he's sold the Colony Inn and a few things that he had going, but just a guy for me to really look up to, a really great mentor to have.
Jimmy: So, here you are now, Ride on Bikes, working for a Buddy and Byron. At that point, were you still their partner?
Jason: No, I'm a $7-an-hour sales guy at this point and I started going back to school because I had some college time in between. I think a lot of people go through this, but when I was in school, I was like, God, I’ve got to make some money. What am I doing? Then I would, after that semester, go to work. And then, you're working and you're like, I don't want to do this. I need my degree. And then, you go back to school. I did that for a little while back and forth, but for the second time …
Jimmy: It’s hard. I don't understand people that just have it all and they know exactly what they want to do from the time they're 15, 16 years old and they just go right after it. I admire those people. I wasn't one of those either. I just … It's hard. It's really hard to learn yourself and know really what drives you.
I think what the people that actually take action and do stuff, it helps eliminate a lot of those question marks. And what do I like? What don't I like? If you never do anything, you're never going to know, and the worst thing you can do is get locked up into a career that you don't really like, but you never try anything else. You just stick with it and you're miserable. That has happened to a lot of people.
Jason: Really has, and like my girlfriend Jordan, she knew she wanted to be a [15:00.0] nurse at eight years old, and I got to tell you, man, I've never seen anyone that is so serious about their job and so in love with their job. I mean, she comes home from work now and she'll pull the textbooks and study something, and make sure she made the right decision throughout the day. She is just in love with her job.
Jimmy: Very conscientious, yeah.
Jason: Yeah, I envy her for that. I mean, I love it. I love that she's that way. I'm still not that way, man. I'm 35 and I'm still trying to figure out what my next move is and what I'm going to do.
Jimmy: But you do. She has that passion for what she does. Now, you also possess that same trait about whatever it is you're doing, right? Whatever you're plunged into, you're passionate about it, right?
Jason: All in, yeah.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's the way to be.
Jason: Yes, it is.
Jimmy: Critical trait that we can stay energized.
Jason: That's right.
Jimmy: All right, so as far as Ride on Bikes goes, how did you progress? Tell me about how that happened.
Jason: All right, so, again, I tried for the second time. To kind of get to the gist of it, in 2007, it was August 2007 when Buddy and Byron hired me. I'm going to school, so I'm only a part-time salesperson. The manager quit two months after I started. She just didn't come back to work, just didn't ever show back up. And so, I filled in some duties at the time, like, Hey, I'll just help out till you find someone, and was basically a part of it.
Buddy pulled a brain ninja move. He and Byron, they both took me to Las Vegas to Interbike, which is no longer a thing as of last year, but it was the nation's largest bike show. Jimmy, you can't see all of it. I mean, it's five days and you cannot see everything that’s there. It’s unreal.
Jimmy: So, that’s how they hooked you.
Jason: They got me. I didn't know the industry was like that. I had no idea. I liked to race BMX growing up, and I loved my road bike and my mountain bike, but it wasn't like that and I was mind-blown. And they came back and I asked for it. They wanted to know what it would take for me to manage the store. Now keep in mind, I'm still in school, so I'm not going to be there all day, every day. But I asked for $300 a week and a bicycle. There was a $2,200 bicycle I really, really wanted in the shop, and that year, 2007, the shop did $470,000. It was their biggest year. It was doing really well.
Jimmy: What do you attribute that to?
Jason: That was just because it was a need in the community. The Riverwalk was there at that time. There wasn't a sign on the building. There was a need and you had Byron who was a rock star that could fix anything. In this community, it was the first time that people had taken the service part of cycling seriously. It wasn't like you wouldn't get a phone call back. Buddy is from the motel business, which is taking care of people, you know what I mean, and serving people, and when he brought that concept into the bike shop business, people had not seen that in Columbus yet.
So, I think that's why it was doing so well at the time. But I had told him for $300 a week and that bicycle that I could get the sales up to $600,000 in 2008. And they kind of laughed at me, but they needed the help and it wasn't that much money for them, so they made it work. It was a lot at the time.
Anyway, in 2008 we did $740,000, there wasn't a [18:00.0] sign on the building. There wasn't a Facebook page. There wasn't a website, nothing. That was all that. I was getting my marketing degree at Columbus State, so I was learning all these things. We weren't really studying social media yet at that time, but the rest of them were.
Hey, guys and gals! My apologies for interrupting, but I have something I want to share with you.
If you want to recession-proof your life and be able to thrive financially in any environment, then I have something for you. It's a blueprint I use for business and life. It's a combination of what I've learned from my mentors, and through my own blood, sweat and tears over the course of 20 years. It contains five key principles that will transform and elevate your life and business, if you apply them consistently.
Believe me, if I had this blueprint 20 years ago, I could have saved myself a lot of time and money, but I'm sharing it with you now for free. When you go to www.UncommonLifePodcast.com, you can get yours for free today.
Jimmy: Yeah, social media, that kind of got full throttle around 2009 …
Jason: I think ’09 and ’10 was really when it started picking up.
Jimmy: I guess when I got on Facebook was when I got my first Facebook invite.
Jimmy: Basically you're studying marketing at CSU and, at this point, you're running Ride on Bikes.
Jason: That’s correct, yeah.
Jimmy: All right, so what were some of the biggest challenges you were facing at that time, while you were doing those two things, which is a lot on your plate?
Jason: Yeah, that was a lot going on. I’ve really got to tell you, man, I was obsessed with it. I loved it. I would sleep in the office. At that time, if you wanted to go on a date with me, it was Friday night at the bike shop. You’d tell me to do inventory and I would order in, like go and get some tonic and a Papa John's pizza. That was my Friday night routine and we would label products.
I mean, it was everything to me. It wasn't I grind as I know grind is now because I didn't know any better. I was so excited, man. And it lasted for years, that excitement of just I cannot wait and I had goals I was trying to hit. At the end of 2008, we did $740,000 and I was cocky at that point. I was like, Hey, man, I'll tell you what, if you give me $500 a week, a Subaru Outback, which was what I wanted, and a $6,500 bicycle, I'll do $1 million next year.
And they laughed at me. They said, “Man, there's no way in hell you're going to over double our numbers in two years.” And it wasn't just me. I was just the one driving the ship. Obviously, I had an awesome team all around me. But they said, “We're going to do it because you've kind of already deserved it dollar-wise.” So, they got me that stuff, man, and on December 18, 2009, I graduated from Columbus state university. That day I walked with my degree and we hit $1 million.
Jason: And that night, at my graduation party at the Loft, Buddy and Byron with me had zero thoughts that this was going to happen. They pulled me up on the stage and they offered me a third of the business. So, that's how I became owner of Ride on Bikes. It was by just staying there all the time, acting like I was the owner anyway.
Jimmy: Yeah. And so, you've been the owner [21:00.0] of Ride on Bikes since 2009.
Jason: December 2009, part-owner, yeah.
Jimmy: And I had to say, it's a first-class operation that people you all have working there, they're really good at what they do. They really make sure you get the right bike with the right fit. They're awesome at what they do. Now, who does the hiring? Who selects and hires the people y'all have working for?
Jason: That's me. I do a hundred percent of the hiring and firing. I tried to hand that off at one time and then I just saw the direction of my business going to an area I didn't want it to go.
One of the biggest challenges in the bicycle industry, in my opinion, is that elitist mentality. A lot of people are intimidated to walk into bike shops because you’ve got … and there's nothing wrong with the guys that shave their legs and it's all about how fast they can go, and I love that customer, too. They're my friends. But I feel like that is such a small, small percentage of the people. That person is going to find the right bike shop, but the non-cyclist is super important to get them in the door because you can change their life.
I mean, I have a customer right now, man. She's 5’1” and has lost over a hundred pounds. She needed to find us, and if we'd have been too intimidating for her to walk in the door and her conversation is now is if … I'm not going to tell you how much money she spent because I know this is probably going to be outwear, but the amount of money she spent, I was like, Hey, you don't need to spend that much money and for what you need on your bike. She said, “Jason, it's cheaper than my medical bills would have been if I wouldn't have met you.” It was a very big reality for me.
I've got a lot of those stories, man, that people walked in and they weren't intimidating by our store. I'm not, man. I'm not. I'm a skinny guy in the first place. I'm not some hotshot cyclist. I just love cycling and I love to help people, and I feel like that is very obvious when you walk in the door. Hope it is at least, you know?
Jimmy: Yeah. And at that point, it sounds like, after that conversation, you realized after talking to her that what you're doing has some serious value to people.
Jason: Really it does, man. I always questioned myself, if my uncle would have been in the shoe business, would I be in shoes right now? I don't really know that answer because I didn't have a passion for being in the bicycle business, but my passion is helping people. Period. And whatever that happens in this, the bicycle business, happens to be the vehicle that I've been presented with and an opportunity was given to me, and I'm taking full advantage of it every direction I can, and the relationships.
It's interesting, man. The bike business, the margins are small. There's not a lot of profit. My team works there because they love bikes and they love helping people. That's the reason. Nobody's out here stacking up cash.
Jimmy: So, you look for passion, basically somebody that really loves it because you can't fake it.
Jason: You can’t fake it.
Jimmy: I think, by this point, you could probably spot it pretty quickly if somebody is faking it, right?
Jason: I'm getting a lot better. I'm getting a lot better. I'm very grateful for Ross Cathy with Chick-fil-A. He's Truett’s grandson and he's become a friend of mine, and I talk to him because they do such a good job hiring, and he has helped me so much in my [24:00.0] hiring processes and the questions I ask, and how to get the authentic people that I need standing at my front door.
Jimmy: People, yeah. Hiring and interviewing people is really an art. I mean, learning how to dig stuff out of people is not easy to do.
Jason: Some of the answers I've had, I mean, it is ridiculous.
Jimmy: Yeah, and asking people the same question several different ways to get at what the real truth is.
Jason: That’s right.
Jimmy: But the passion thing is really important, because when I was hiring … looking for a GM for Launch, that's one thing about Jonathan that set him apart to me. It was that I could tell he was hungry. There were other people that I interviewed that had more experience and probably more qualifications, but this dude, I could tell, I knew he was smart. I could tell he was also really, really hungry, and so, that was a big deal for me because that hunger will sustain you through the ups and downs and the bad times.
Jason: Very similar. I can teach bicycles. I can't teach that drive. I can't teach compassion. I can't teach people to care. I can teach you bicycles. I mean, that's just ... and it changes so fast if you're not constantly studying and get behind on the times in the first place.
Jimmy: That's why they say to hire for the values and train for the skills.
Jimmy: Unless it's some specific thing like you're a doctor obviously. So, let's pivot for a second. You, you had some life-altering experiences that changed you. Can you talk a second about that?
Jason: Yeah, for sure. I think that life we all have. We all have major things in our life that happen and I think it's important to tell those stories, so I want to talk about it. I haven't talked a lot about it in public in general.
But, yeah, I got married to Natalie in September 2010 and she passed away in March 2011. When I do a lot of public speaking, I kind of just leave it at that, but I think today might be an opportunity to actually talk about a little more of the details of what actually happened.
I don't want to go too far into it and get too dark, but she actually committed suicide and, man, I've battled with that a lot, how to talk about it, because it’s such a scary subject, especially now when we're seeing more and more of it, more with the soldiers and things.
And I feel like, man, at first I have so many people say, man, how selfish that must be in that kind of thing. But it's not, man. This is the least selfish person I’ve ever met in my entire life that did this, so kind of digging into what actually happened. And I feel like I understand it more now, the older I get. It's been nine years. To this month, it has been nine years from when that happened.
It rocked my world, man. The first thing when I found out, I wasn't home and when I came home, I was accused and had to be taken downtown for questioning, and it was very …
Jimmy: Traumatizing, I bet.
Jason: Man, it's unreal because you're already trying to process that you just lost your wife. And the truth is, man, I did feel responsible. [27:00.0] I felt like I didn't … I would've handled things differently if I would've known the mental state that she was in. I think I did feel like it was my fault. But you can't say that because you're actually being accused of murder at this point, you know? And so, making sure that I said the right things.
And it wasn't just one time. I was questioned. They told me they knew that I did it and things like that, like it was over. And I know that's just their job. They were just trying to prove my innocence, I guess, more than anything. But it was just a … man, it was an absolute nightmare, man. You see this stuff on TV. You see this stuff in movies. But when it's happening to you and your house is the one with the caution tape around it and it's your wife that did that, it was pretty surreal.
Jimmy: Like a nightmare that you just couldn't wake up from.
Jason: Yeah, still, man. Nine years later you look back at it and you're like, man, I still can't believe that actually happened.
Jimmy: How did that change you?
Jason: If we kind of, again, fast forward to where I'm at now, my understanding of people is understanding that I don't know anything first. It was a big deal for me. Understanding, more compassionate. For example, I'll give you an example. I've never been a guy to bully or make fun. I've always kind of accepted everyone. It's always been my thing my entire life. But when I would see someone cutting themselves, for example, I just couldn't understand it. It felt stupid.
Jimmy: Cut on themselves.
Jason: Yeah, you see people cut them. You see people cut their arms and stuff, mentally off.
Jason: I didn't ever understand it.
Jimmy: What's that called? There's a name, a term for it.
Jason: I’m not sure.
Jimmy: But I know what you're talking about.
Jason: Yeah, and I couldn't figure it out. And then, one day, I was at the CrossFit Inception. I was working out and the coach at the time, Chris, he always pushed me very hard. And one day I was doing deadlifts and he put his hand on my back. He said, “Hey, man, you need to stop,” and I was like, Dude, I’ve got two more sets. I kept going. He said, “Jason, stop.” And I kept pushing, and then he grabbed me and got angry. He said, “Stop right now. Put the bar down.” He said, “You're bleeding all over my floor.”
And, man, this was two months after I lost Natalie and I realized for the first time that the physical pain felt better than the emotional pain, and all those people I had seen throughout my life that were dealing with it, that's what they were doing, man. They were trying to cover up the mental pain they were going through.
Jimmy: What caused you to bleed, though?
Jason: It was just my calluses being ripped off my hands. I was just pushing so hard, and I'm not that guy, man. I'm usually that guy like, Oh, thank God I'm done now. I don't have to finish the set. But I was just I had gotten so engrossed in trying to deal with all the things I was processing.
Jimmy: The physical is like a distraction basically.
Jason: It was what it was, yeah.
Jimmy: Yeah, it absorbed your concentration.
Jason: Yeah, man, the weird thing that happened, Jimmy, I lost my fear of dying. I didn't want to die. It wasn't that. I just lost a lot of my fears. I got rewired a little bit. I started winning the motorcycle races that I was in. I lost 44 pounds in those six months by exercising and diet. It wasn't like I just wasn't eating.
Jimmy: Intentionally [30:00.0] lost weight.
Jason: Right. I started with skydiving. It was just like this thing changed. I was the guy that didn't want to get on a roller coaster before then and I just changed.
Jimmy: Was it like one of those things where you felt like you just wanted to get the most out of life? Like life is precious and short?
Jason: Yeah, you don’t know how long you’ve got.
Jimmy: And you might as well make the most of it while you're here.
Jason: And the decision that she had made, I don't feel like it was her that made the decision, so understanding that, too, it was like she was killed. You know what I mean? It wasn't her. So, understanding that, that things can go really, really wrong.
In the middle of this, man, it was August 2011, I broke my left arm really badly. I wasn't even racing. I was doing a wheelie across an airfield like an idiot and just broke my left arm, and it was a bad, bad break. I couldn't ride my bicycle or a motorcycle for 14 months. I had multiple surgeries. And that was the darkest time of my life then.
It was several months after it had happened. It was five months after everything had happened, but it was because I was processing it for the first time and I was having to deal with it. I couldn't just go get on my motorcycle. I couldn't go jump out of an airplane at the time. I couldn't go work out.
Jimmy: You had to deal with that grief, which you did not deal with -
Jason: Not at all.
Jimmy: - when you had the chance.
Jason: Yeah, that was the time I got … Before I get too far from this, man, I’ve got to tell you, at that time, man, my friends and family, they came to support me. I'm in debt, too, forever.
Ryan Edwards, man, he was there the night it happened, and he showed up at the house and he took care of me. He let me live in his home because I didn't have anywhere to go at the time.
And Garrett Lawrence, I don't know if you know him. He owns Nonic, Jarfly & Maltitude. He's one of the owners.
Jimmy: I want to talk to them, though, at some point.
Jason: Yeah, they're great guys, man. And Garrett, he was my manager at the time and, dude, he stepped up and he ran my business where I disappeared. And even when I showed up, I wasn't mentally there and I will never forget what he did for me during that time.
And the list goes on, man. People just, they cooked for me. They tried to cheer me up. They brought me things to … I don't know, man. It goes on and on, how good people were to me at that time.
Jimmy: Yeah, so there was some good that came out of it. There's usually always something good that comes out of that situation.
Jason: Yeah, there is.
Jimmy: You see who your true friends are. It can bring out the best in people, too.
Jason: Anyway, it was a weird time. I remember the first time I decided to go out to eat away from the house, and go and put myself in the public, it was a few weeks after all this happened, and my mom, we went to Denny's because I knew I wouldn't know anybody that would ever go to Denny's.
Jimmy: I love Denny’s, man.
Jason: I’d look at that grand slam. Boy, I was going to get it. And we overheard a couple talking about me. You could hear them whispering.
Jimmy: See, I told you you were a celebrity even back then.
Jason: Yeah, but it was about what had happened and my mom went over there. My mom is a fighter, man. If there's anybody, my mom has been unreal, somebody to follow in her footsteps. But she went over there. She was like, You know he can hear you, right? And they were embarrassed, but it was like this constantly whispering when I'd [33:00.0] walk into somewhere, because I am in retail and I do know a lot of people, and so did Natalie. She worked at Synovus. She'd been there 14 years and she was very well-known in the community as well.
And it was just a constant, man. You knew everybody was talking about it and they weren't talking to your face. It was a very not easy time, man. But I'll tell you one of the good things that came out of this is I was sitting at a red light the day after the funeral and I was kind of zoned out. I was the first one at the light and the light turned green, and I didn't go. The guy behind me lost his mind, man, honking the horn, and there was a realization for me.
I was like, Man, if he had any idea what I was dealing with this week, he would not be upset. And now it makes me think of that, even now that I'm nine years away from it. When I see somebody do something stupid or I'm frustrated about how they're acting, that goes back to my mind. I don't know what they're dealing with today.
Jimmy: Yeah, I've been through the same thing where there's something, especially about traffic that can infuriate you, but now what I try to do, sometimes unsuccessfully, but I try to put my … You never know what someone's dealing with.
I was at the grocery store one day and there was this older guy probably in his eighties in front of me and he was taken a long time. He was counting all his money, but he was dressed in this little suit and he had this nice gold watch on, but he looked like he was sad. And I was thinking, man, at first I got upset, but then I was like, You never know, this guy could be going through cancer. His wife could have died. There's no telling. And he looked really sad.
I remember I made a comment about how nice his watch was and smiled at him, and he just kind of lit up that I actually noticed him and was nice to him. It just made me feel good, because you never know what somebody is dealing with.
Jason: It's so important to get a smile at that time, you know? Man, when you're in that, when you're in that dark place, and everyone goes through that. There's not an exception. Life is hard. If you haven’t had it happen to you yet, I'm sorry to tell you that it's going to. Something bad is going to happen. It's just the way it is. And once you understand that, I feel like it's a lot easier.
Jimmy: Okay, so that is the end of Part 1 of my interview with Jason McKenzie. Now, you're not going to want to miss Part 2. In Part 2, we're going to talk … This is the first podcast that I've done since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic that has swept across the land, so we do talk about that and how it's impacted us, and some things that we've done to try and stay positive in a time when it just seems like there's so much darkness, negativity and uncertainty, and people are panicking and hoarding. And we're trying to talk about giving and trying to stay positive, and some things we're doing there.
We also talk about morning rituals, the importance of those to get your mindset right. We go into some different … off to some bunny trails here, but we talk about the cold plunge, what that's about, some books that have impacted us.
So, anyway, good stuff. It was a lot of fun. I think you will get a lot out of it. So, everybody out there, y'all have a good day. [36:00.0]
This is ThePodcastFactory.com.