Shelli Johnson

For Life on Purpose Episode #15, I’m joined by entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and coach Shelli Johnson from for an inspirational chat about building the Epic Lives we really want. Shelli dares her clients to go off-trail and uphill and to choose their way even if it’s the hard way. She asks each of us this crucial question: “We all have an Epic Life; are we living it?”

About Shelli Johnson:

People and organizations hire me to light a fire that is inside of them but that may be smoldering or not yet lit. I help you pull yourself up by the bootstraps. I help you get back on the horse. Actually I help you get on the horse in the first place, and the more unforgettable the ride, the better, since the ride is your life. Once in a while, you should have to hold onto your hat!

Shelli Johnson
Speaking of hats, I wear many. I’m an entrepreneur. The Webby Award-winning was my first. An amazing team & I built it over 15 years before selling it to Active Interest Media, the owner of Backpacker, Yoga Journal, and other great magazines. I am a master at bootstrapping and leveraging limited resources. I love creating things and “route-finding” my way to discovery. In 2009, I started my professional reinvention, and started Epic Life Inc/ I’m also a life & leadership coach (CPCC and ICF), a Certified Emotional Intelligence Consultant (EQ-i 2.0 & EQ 360), a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer, a motivational speaker, social media and personal branding consultant, writer, media producer, NOLS grad, certified Wilderness First Responder, and adventure guide.

Mostly, I’m a “champion-for-hire.” Someone who wants to, or has to, climb a tall mountain – i.e. make, or endure, a big change in their life – will often enlist me as a coach to help them make the climb. People hire me when they’re thinking about (metaphorically) climbing the mountain, or when they are at the base of said mountain. Often I get “called in” when they’re already en route up the mountain but they hit a particularly difficult patch and they feel they can’t go it alone. They want to stay the course, but could use some help. Rather than giving up on the climb, they hire me as their coach and they lean in and finish the work. In other words, I’m not a helicopter that gets called in. You don’t hire me to bail you out. Rather, you hire me to help you overcome the crux.

To learn more about Shelli and her work, visit:

Episode Summary:

In JUST the first 15 minutes of our in-depth conversation, Shelli and I discussed:

    • Greg nearly dying in a car accident at age 18 and what the newfound perspective of knowing that he had escaped death has meant to his life since.
    • Shelli: “I lost a good friend who was 52 years old… She lived life to fullest better than anybody I know. And she died instantly of an aneurism. It was over just like that. I remember going to her funeral and just feeling the tremendous loss and sadness. But also being really inspired that I’m not going to take any chances. We don’t know how long we have.”
    • Cheryl Strayed’s book Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar.
    • “When we sold the company, by all indications, my life was fantastic and epic if you will. We sold a company that we built and we made out pretty well with that sale, I had a husband who loved me, I had three wonderful blessings for sons, and yet the truth of the matter was I really wasn’t that great on the inside. I had been working 75 hours a week, I was addicted to my gadgets (always on). It was just kind of a rinse and repeat auto-pilot.”
    • “People who know me now don’t believe it, but I was sedentary for two years and fell into a deep depression.”
    • Shelli’s “personal reinvention” and the crucial steps to making it work, including self-awareness and solitude.
    • Reading Good to Great by Jim Collins and how that led her to finding a life/leadership coach in Boulder, CO and eventually becoming a coach herself.
    • “The thing I love about life/leadership/personal development coaching is that I don’t do the work for my clients, but I’m in their corner and I’m daring them and I’m holding them accountable.”
    • “I don’t actually like the word life coach to be honest, because in a way it suggests that I have it all figured out and I don’t! I’m still doing the work myself.”
    • “To me, self-awareness is the root of all happiness and fulfillment. I get most of my self-awareness from solitude. I hike about 1,000 miles a year and half of those are spent in solitude.”
    • “I really think it’s this taking stock of our life and our current position that is the key to realizing and pursuing the life that we want and being the person that we want to be.”