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Jon Vroman: Living in the Front Row

EO 360°: A podcast by the Entrepreneurs’ Organization

Release Date: 02/06/2018

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Jon Vroman is a husband, father and social entrepreneur who helps people live life "in the front row." In this episode of EO 360°, Jon discusses the importance of moments, community and family, and dives into what the art of "moment making" really means.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:33 – Jon is on a mission to show you how to live life in the front row; through the transformative art of movement making he is a social entrepreneur, husband, father, and ultra-marathoner
  • 00:49 – He has two books, “Living College Life in the Front Row” and “The Front Row Factor: Transform your Life with the art of Movement Making”
  • 01:12 – He is an award-winning speaker and has given more than 750 keynote speeches for companies, universities, organizations, associations; he hosts his own podcast “The Front Row Factor Podcast”
  • 02:35 – He is a community builder; he hosts live events, summits, retreats, and celebrations
  • 03:10 – The first experience that really touched Jon’s life
  • 03:30 – The story of how his dad created a rite of passage for him at a lake house when he was 10 years old
  • 04:11 – His dad started a boy’s club in the lake house when he was a kid, and he inducted Jon into the club
  • 04:53 – His dad and uncle brought him to the boy’s cabin and told him the acronym of the cabin “FLA” and what it meant to be a part of the club
  • 05:40 – That moment helped shape his thinking that drives him today; he’s obsessed with how we can make the most of all of our moments and help others do the same
  • 05:57 – Being a moment-maker isn’t controlling the moments, but controlling their meaning and your behavior
  • 07:12 – Plan for his sons
  • 07:19 – Jon and his wife talk about passing down traditions and rite of passage
  • 07:72 – He started the “Front Row Dads” retreat for men to open up the discussion as to how to become better fathers
  • 08:05 – Jon’s in the process of figuring out how to be the best dad
  • 09:00 – Being “of Roman” in today’s world
  • 09:36 – Jon doesn’t recall his father’s specific lessons in being a man; he taught basic values and how to show up in life
  • 09:50 – His father taught integrity and compassion
  • 10:27 - His father has been a part of the church for decades; a new pastor took a stand against gays in the church and his father left (he has a gay daughter)
  • 11:06 – He took a stand for his daughter; he is truly a family-first guy
  • 11:58 – Her sister’s coming out experience: It was tough, but Jon was accepting
  • 13:20 – When you make bold life decisions, oftentimes they are not easy
  • 13:41 – Jon’s jobs
  • 14:00 – He was a waiter at an officer’s club when he was 16 or 17, he worked at Subway for a day, he started selling Cutco when he was 18
  • 14:22 – Cutco was more his speed; he was more in control of his destiny
  • 14:36 – He is friends with Hal Elrod and John Ruhlin and they met at Cutco; the Cutco community built a space for friendship
  • 15:45 – “Living Life in the Front Row” reminder of “Man in the Arena” Theodore Roosevelt speech
  • 16:20 – Being the man in the arena vs. just a spectator
  • 16:34 – Where “Life in the Front Row” came from
  • 16:53 – Being a participant up front instead of a spectator in the back; whether you’re in the front row or in the arena, your participation is a choice
  • 17:37 – When you are in the front row, you can lift others up and participate; the front row is a metaphor of proximity
  • 18:10 – Proximity is power; get close to the people, places, things, and thoughts that make you feel alive and reach your goals
  • 18:40 – We often think of taking the front seat and miss the chance to be a moment maker for others and reap the joy of serving others
  • 19:05 – Front row fans give fuel and shine the light on the person onstage
  • 19:46 – Jon loves being onstage, but he also loves being in the crowd and giving that energy
  • 19:59 – The audience should remember that it is about stepping into your best space, no matter where you are; engage, be of service, and come alive
  • 20:45 – The background of the idea
  • 20:53 – In 2005, 3 things happened at the same time: 1) He wondered how he can make a difference in this world
  • 21:23 – 2) He was at a Jason Mraz concert and he saw people having an incredible experience in front, and people checked out in the back
  • 21:54 – The same thing was happening to two different people, but they were experiencing it in completely different ways
  • 22:35 – This lead to the question: How am I living my life?
  • 22:43 – 3) He was invited to run an ultra-marathon, started training, and realized that he needed a deeper meaning
  • 23:26 – They decided to start a charity to raise money; he needed to learn what he fears and love to find fuel
  • 24:15 – Connection to fear and love: He didn’t want to waste his moments in life, and he loves moments that matter
  • 24:38 – He thought of a way to help people who are possibly at their life’s end to experience a moment and connect with a community that engages in a “Front Row” lifestyle; like Make-a-Wish meets Tony Robbins
  • 25:05 – The organization has raised $2.5 Million so far and has created experiences to people all over the U.S. and Canada
  • 25:30 – Summary of 3 things that happened: The Jason Mraz concert, the ultra-marathon, and the looming question of what/how to give to the world
  • 25:45 – He was a part of the Tony Robbins community and the question of how to give/serve/contribute was often brought up
  • 26:03 – How do you choose which moments to maximize?
  • 26:18 – Sometimes maximizing a moment just means being in it; no effort needed
  • 26:58 – Maximizing means being present and aware and knowing what matters and how to behave
  • 27:08 – Habits, rituals, and routines help maximize moments and prepare for life
  • 27:20 – Jon has a morning routine that allows him to focus on creating front row moments
  • 27:42 – He stays present throughout the day to remember that he has the power to create moments; his tattoo reminds him of this power
  • 28:30 – When he wrote the book “The Front Row Factor” he looked back over the past 12 years to see how moments were made and experienced by those with a life-threatening illness
  • 28:50 – When the timeline is shortened, it becomes really important to do that
  • 29:18 – Urgency to maximize moments; what is really important gets clear
  • 29:31 – We can do that without getting news that we are nearing the end; we can make the most of the moments we have and be more intentional with our time
  • 30:02 – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
  • 30:37 – Main character is forced to live life again for the first time since his father died
  • 31:39 – Two characters experience a moment together; the photographer doesn’t take a picture to have a moment for himself
  • 32:55 – Jon’s college experience and inspiration for a college-focused life in the front row
  • 33:04 – He spent a lot of time in Cutco, which deals with many college students, so it was a group that he knew he could serve
  • 33:32- He transitioned to speak mostly to non-students as he grew professionally and became a father
  • 33:58 – He speaks to organizations that value the idea of creating a culture where people show up for others, make moments count, and improve productivity and efficacy
  • 34:29 – Examples of the Front Row experiences that he’s created
  • 34:48 – In the beginning, they created an experience for a sick rugby player, Thomas
  • 35:30 – Jon and his team raised money to send Thomas and his family to see the rugby world cup
  • 35:30 – Weeks before he went to the event, he had a goal to be able to stand for the national anthem at the world cup; he was extremely committed to his physical therapy
  • 36:00 – When they started the charity, they thought it was all about the moment and the day; they underestimated the power that hope plays in peoples’ lives
  • 36:38 – Hope brings the power of future moments into this current moment; a future vision changes how we see the world today
  • 37:11 – Hope pulls the future into the present, which gives us/teams/companies power to change the present moment
  • 37:54 – This story shows how the moments go beyond the experience
  • 38:07 – About 10-12 experiences were offered a year, they are growing to offer about 16 this year
  • 38:29 – Money is raised in different ways; ambassadors give monthly, Hal Elrod gives a percentage of book sales
  • 39:13 – People are attracted to purpose-driven businesses; you can contribute by going to the Front Row Foundation website
  • 40:20 – Foundation directors typically prefer monthly ongoing contributions over one-time donations so that they can predict their monthly budget
  • 41:20 – Steve Sims business: “Bluefish”
  • 42:03 – Possible relationship between Bluefish and Front Row Foundation?
  • 42:45 – Are there people that are introverted that simply don’t enjoy life in the front row?
  • 43:10 – If you are truly an introvert, be an introvert in the best way you can
  • 43:23 – There is evidence that introverts enjoy being in the front row and onstage; they oftentimes love being leaders and influencers
  • 43:38 – Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”: Some of the world’s greatest leaders are introverts
  • 44:05 – It’s not the front row, it’s your front row; the best seat in the house for you, not literally the front row
  • 44:43 – Are we choosing to get close to the things that make us come alive and matter most?
  • 45:20 – Story of an event they created for one of their first recipients, Derek
  • 45:50 – Recipients get the gift of a video documentary and photo book that documents their experience
  • 46:06 – Jon personally delivered the gift and Derek was soft-spoken and reserved, making Jon wonder if he enjoyed the experience
  • 46:30 – Jon expected a different response and questioned the way they operated
  • 46:58 – A few weeks later, Jon got a message saying “someone is more committed to the Front Row” than you are, and hinted to him to check out Derek’s Facebook
  • 47:16 – Derek had gotten a tattoo of “Live Life in the Front Row” across his back in their font
  • 48:00 – Jon had misread Derek and the impact they had on him; we all show emotion and a “front row” feeling differently
  • 48:50 – Front Row Factor website
  • 49:00 – Boxers or Briefs
  • East Coast or West Coast? East Coast
  • Prius or Pickup? Prius
  • Tesla or Ferrari? Tesla
  • Jeans or Khakis? Jeans
  • Book or Movie? Book
  • Stay in or Go out? Go out (and do new things)
  • Ocean or Mountains? Ocean
  • One Ultra or Two Marathons on back-to-back weekends? Ultra
  • Bike or Run? Run
  • Bike, Hike or Run? Run
  • Bike/run on roads or hike/run on trails? Trails
  • In school, back row or front? Back
  • 51:03 – How does the book play into the role of Jon’s finances?
  • 51:35 – Don’t write a book to make money
  • 51:54 – Most don’t make money on books
  • 52:09 – His reason for writing the book is his children; he wanted his kids to know their dad and his work
  • 52:28 – The book is fuel for everything they do; more donors, ticket connections, etc. come from the book
  • 52:46 – He makes a living through Front Row Dads and professional speaking; the book brings in clients
  • 53:30 – Contact Jon through his website or by email
  • 53:55 – Front Row Factor is grateful for ticket connections, venue connections, etc.

Key Points:

  1. Being a moment-maker isn’t controlling the moments but rather controlling their meaning and your behavior within them.
  2. Maximize moments by being present and aware; maximize doesn’t always mean effort or muscle.
  3. The “Front Row” has a different meaning for everyone; be in the front row of your life by getting close to what makes you come alive.

Resources Mentioned:

Susan Cain’s book – “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”