All podcasts

Thinkers50 Conference Download And Campfire Lessons For Leaders, With Tony Martignetti

Around the campfire, people share stories, and behind the shadows of this gathering comes the beauty of sharing lessons from those stories and learning from them. In this episode, let’s gather around the bonfire and listen to Tony Martignetti’s lessons learned in his coaching career. Tony is the author of Climbing the Right Mountain and Campfire Lessons for Leaders. He describes how working with different people allows you to learn something new instead of working with someone who does the same as you do. He also shares his principles and approach to coaching. Warm yourselves from the invaluable lessons Tony Martignetti shares in this episode.


Check out the full series of “Career Sessions, Career Lessons” podcasts here or visit A full written transcript of this episode is also available at

Watch the episode here


Listen to the podcast here


Thinkers50 Conference Download And Campfire Lessons For Leaders, With Tony Martignetti

Executive Coach, Author, Podcaster, Poet, And Proponent Of Curiosity

In this episode, my guest is Tony Martignetti, one of the PathWise coaches and a member of our advisory group. He is the Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of Inspired Purpose Partners and he works with tech leaders on a variety of career-related topics. Tony is also the author of Climbing The Right Mountain and the published Campfire Lessons for Leaders. He is the host of The Virtual Campfire Podcast, a TEDx speaker, a member of the Fast Company Executive Board, and much more.

Prior to moving into executive coaching, Tony worked in the consumer packaged goods and life sciences industries with stops at P&G Gillette, Genzyme, Vertex, Sarepta, and Momenta. He holds a Bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Northeastern University. He and his family live in the Boston area. Tony, welcome. It’s good to have you on the show with me.

I’m thrilled to be here. This has been a long time in the making. I’m thrilled to sit down and have this conversation.

You and I met in person for the first time when we were both at the Thinkers50 Conference and Awards Gala. Let’s spend a few minutes maybe covering that. I thought it was a great event. They have an incredibly impressive group of attendees and a lot of thought-provoking speakers. Everyone was so open to meeting and sharing ideas. I left with a lot of new insights. Who left the biggest impression on you?

It’s not just the one person but I would say the sense of getting together with so many people I’ve met online and seeing them in person, being able to have a hug, and realizing that we’re 3D people. It’s amazing. In terms of speakers who left an impact, one person in particular was Ruth Gotian, who talked about mentoring. It’s one of those things that we sometimes misunderstand what mentors are and how they can make an impact on us. She did a fantastic job of bringing that to light.

She certainly laid out compelling statistics on the value of mentoring. Since returning to doing an episode of this show with me, we’ve got a recording set up so I’m looking forward to getting to do that with her. She makes the case so compellingly on the value of mentoring and what it can do for your career relative to people who don’t have mentors. She was great. For me, probably the most thought-provoking one was a tie, to be honest with you, between the one that focused on artificial intelligence.

We had Martin Lindstrom and Kate O’Neill. Martin being the we’re all doomed. Kate was the voice of optimism. That one was certainly very thought-provoking. The one on diversity, equity, and inclusion also had me thinking about some of it in a new light. I spend a decent amount of time thinking about it at work. In our company, DEI committee, I’d lead a couple of our employee resource groups as senior sponsors. Every time I get into one of these conversations, I learn something new and that’s a good thing.

The key thing is you have to have an open mind. You enter these conversations with that openness and do not feel like you’re being under attack or that you have to be defensive. That’s where you learn the most. That’s how I approach topics I may not have all the answers so I enter it with curiosity.

For me, there were also the people whose books I’ve read that I met for the first time like Dorie Clark, who you introduced me to, and Liz Wiseman. I interviewed Amy Edmondson but I got to meet her in person. The same thing with Wendy Smith among others. It’s amazing to be able to put faces with names and see people in 3D. More often, probably in that two-day period, I liked your book more than I probably have to anybody in my entire life. It’s great. There are so many ideas out there that people are sharing.

It’s an award ceremony, sure, but it didn’t feel like it had a competitive bone to it. It was more about everyone being there to lift each other and celebrate each other. I don’t mean to sound so wonky about this but we’re all winners in the sense that we get to celebrate and uplift the ideas together.

It’s a huge thing to make the Thinkers50 list. If you’re an academic or somebody who makes a living writing books and doing keynote speeches, getting on that list is a big income boost for you. There’s a lot at stake. For me, there was nothing at stake other than the commitment of time, a little bit of money, and an opportunity to learn.

For some of those people, it makes a big difference. They were consistently supportive of each other. There was a strong sense of community there. You don’t often get that at a conference in the way that you did at that one so that was great. You came as a guest of Dorie, who teaches at Columbia. She’s written some pretty well-known books, including The Long Game. You participated in her mastermind program. Can you describe what that is and what you’ve been taking away from the program?

CSCL 86 | Lessons For LeadersI’ve known Dorie for many years. I’ve had the chance to learn from her, not just through being in community with her but also watching as she shared her message along the way. There’s one particular message that has resonated with me and I’ve gotten to understand it well over 2022. People value you to the extent that you value yourself. That’s a powerful thing.

The more and more we understand our value and our voice, the more likely we’ll be able to get out there and have the confidence to stand in front of an audience, share our thoughts, and see ourselves as someone who can bring an audience to their feet. She’s a giver. It’s not just about her giving of herself but she’s also someone who curates amazing humans who want to also share what they have to offer.

Everyone comes into the space and we all start to help each other out in a way that will help to build each other’s businesses and find ways to collaborate. Like a true mastermind, you don’t feel like you’re going in there and feel as though one person’s going to one-up you or try to steal your ideas. It feels like a trusting and safe environment. That’s because Dorie created that.

When you get those groups together, be they peer groups in a formal sense or maybe a bit more of an eclectic sense, people come into those things most often with the right mindset about give and take, wanting to learn from other people, and not being competitive. If you go into one of those things with a competitive sense, you’ve missed the boat.

You’d be surprised. I’ve been on quite a journey since I got into this field. There have been moments when I felt like, “This is not the right space for me. These are not the right people.” When you find the right people and the people who you belong with, it makes all the difference. You start to see the difference in the community and how it can be amplifying and not just feel as though you’re bringing something to the table that other people aren’t bringing.

That’s where the curation can be a force multiplier in groups like that. If you bring people together who are different like different industries, roles, seniority levels, or age, there’s going to be more opportunity for a kind of learning that you wouldn’t necessarily get. People talk about don’t just rely on your first-order connections. Go out to your second-order connections because there’s a lot more variability in that. If you want to broaden your understanding and perspective, you have to think about that. I would assume how she puts these groups together is looking for people who are very different and will bring complementary perspectives to each other.

Build each other's businesses and find ways to collaborate like a true Mastermind. Click To Tweet

It’s how I think, too. I don’t want to be speaking into an echo box of the same people doing the same things all the time. What am I going to learn from that? I strive to be with people who are different and I can learn from, maybe a few steps ahead or a few steps back. We talked about mentoring. Mentoring is not always about having someone who’s ahead of you. Sometimes you learn something from a person who is a few steps behind you and who is doing things differently.

Whether you call it reverse mentoring or don’t put that title on it. You can learn from anybody. I’ve come to appreciate more and more as I’ve gotten older that you can learn things from people who may be well younger than you or may have way less experience than you. In some ways, that may be their strength relative to what you bring to a situation. If you’re open-minded about that, it can help you a lot.

The other element of this, and we haven’t talked about it yet, is you have to create that container of trust and psychological safety. It’s Amy’s keyword there. That trust is so important because you have to be able to trust the people around you. Otherwise, you may not feel the safety of opening up and sharing, and things that are not working. Sometimes when you’re working to develop a business, there are a lot of things that are not going all that great and you need some support. That’s why you’re in a room like that. You want people to point out the things that still need some support.

Trust the people around you because otherwise, you may feel unsafe opening up. Click To Tweet

What are some of the things that Dorie has taught you about networking that you’ve employed more generally?

It’s funny. I’ll start by saying that oftentimes we make it harder than it needs to be, not just about networking with people we don’t know but also knowing that the people around us, that we already have in our community, we’re not leveraging them to the extent we should. We should be looking at the people who we’ve known through our alumni networks and past companies, find ways to connect with them in different ways, and say, “I might be doing something different but it’s time for us to have a conversation about my new gig and what my new pivot in my role is,” and make sure we’re maintaining that relationship.

It’s not about, “I’ve moved on to something different. It’s time for me to shed my old skin and move on.” It’s about celebrating what was and moving forward in a new light of who you are. Particularly, Dorie talks a lot about the idea that being a great host is a great way for you to highlight who you are in this space by bringing people together and curating. You don’t have to all have the answers but you can bring some brilliant people together and find connections and commonalities between them. That’s a beautiful way to think about networking. It doesn’t have to be hard but it can be all about bringing people together and creating a space. As the host, you can help to craft how you want that to look and what you want it to be like.

When someone is a good host, there is generosity that comes with that. They are empathetically looking for ways to connect the people and the group. For the people who aren’t good hosts, it’s too much about them personally or they outright ignore everybody and let everybody fend for themselves. When you get somebody who is generous as a host, graciously introducing people, helping them find common connections, and breaking down barriers that come with meeting somebody for the first time and not knowing exactly what to say, she does that well.

I’ll use this example because this is one of those things that came to me. I’ve been running an alumni network of a company I used to work for, Genzyme. I’ve been doing it for several years. I didn’t think about it very much but what I realized is that I’ve been doing this because I enjoy doing it and people appreciate what I’ve done. It’s bringing people together who have worked in the company. There are over 10, 000 people who have worked at the company.

Through these little events I put together, people have found new jobs, collaborated, and stayed in touch. It’s created a bond that’s much stronger than that of a good company. It’s become a community. With the lens of looking at it from what can I do to keep them going, it’s coming back to the principles of what Dorie is mentioning. It’s this idea of being a good host, introducing people, and bringing people together. It’s not about just me as a host. It’s about creating the space for great conversations to happen.

Let’s talk a little bit about your business. You’ve been an executive coach for several years. What prompted you to leave the corporate world and start your coaching practice?

There were two big moments that prompted me. The first one was when I was in this space of being a finance leader and working in biotech. I have 25 years working in biotech and high-tech. I had a very successful career. I worked on some amazing projects and great therapeutic agents. It was cool to be in that space but a lot of people reflected to me, “There’s something different about you. You’re not the typical finance person.” I’m like, “Okay, but this is what I do. I work hard at it.”

I started to burn myself out so badly that I started to skip vacations. I’d work on vacations. It was one of those typical burning the candle at both ends. “Work as hard as you can until you can’t anymore.” It got to the point where I started to lose my whole perspective on life. I had that real burnout moment that had me feeling depressed.

For the most part, not a lot of people who saw me would have known how bad it was because I hit it well. I always had this affable uplifting attitude but inside I was dying. I started to think, “How am I going to get out of this? This is not sustainable. I had to be there for my family.” Slowly but surely, I clawed my way out of that darkness and found ways to cope.

It wasn’t all the way there yet. That was my first big dark moment. As I moved out of that space, I started to get a little help from therapists. I did have a coach for a brief amount of time and I started to see a light. I was like, “Maybe there’s a better way of living.” I’m still working in the space of finance and eventually found myself working at a biotech company.

All of a sudden, it dawned on me as I was sitting in this boardroom that the two executives that were sitting in that room were arguing about something that was somewhat meaningless. It was more about who’s right and who’s wrong. I looked around the room and saw all these other people in the room. They all had their heads down looking at their phones.

I said to myself, “This is ridiculous. We work for an industry that saves lives and this is a waste of our lives. This is not inspiring. I’m getting up and walking out. I’m going to leave this room to change this room somehow.” I don’t know what that means. I just know that I’m done collecting a big paycheck and doing nothing meaningful to me or the people around this room. I walked out. I was probably scared as all heck but I knew that my life had to be more meaningful than what I was contributing to that room.

Now that you’re into the coaching piece, what types of people are you working with? What kinds of situations are they facing?

Now that I’ve gotten into this work, the people I’ve worked with, most of all, are people who are working on big, meaningful goals. They’re up to some amazing things. There were a lot of tech leaders and people from biotech because that was my background. The reality is they want to have the impact but they don’t want the burnout. They come to me with this idea of, “I’m so frustrated. I feel something missing. I need someone to help me get on a better path or at least find a way to save time, manage my schedule, or find a way to lead better.”

Whenever I hear them say meaningful impact, that’s the trigger for me because I know that people who want to make a meaningful impact are always struggling with the downsides of that. Anyone who wants to make a big impact has all the baggage that goes with the burnout potential. How can we help them? How can we ensure that they do it in a way that is designed for them to be successful? That’s what I do. I help them figure out a way to do with intention and what I call grounded leadership so that they can be more intentional in the way that they live.

Everybody’s different. Their situations are all unique but are there some common bedrock principles that underpin your approach to coaching?

The thing I often start with is I get people to think expansively. I call it Expand Your Vision and Narrow Your Focus. We need to think bigger first, which is to say, if you’re constantly struggling and finding yourself knocking your head against the same wall, it’s probably because you haven’t dreamed or thought big enough, or considered the options that are on the table.

Expansiveness is the first step. With that expansiveness, it’s like, “What if I thought of my job in a different way? Maybe I don’t need to do all the things. Maybe what I’m doing is too broad of a scope. Maybe I need a bigger organization or team.” Once we get clarity about what are those potential things, it’s about narrowing your focus. Not just what you do but what you will do next, which is the steps that you’re going to put in place. That broadening and narrowing is a way to continue to do the coaching. It’s like, “Step away. Step in. Zoom out and then zoom in.” That process gets people to see new opportunities.

Apart from broadening your view and narrowing your focus, what are some of the other things that you do to help them break the cycle of burnout or the overwork that they may be putting themselves into so that they can have that impact on a greater scale without killing themselves in the process?

The second thing I like to share is what’s called the time travel model, which is what it sounds like. It’s taking a moment to take inventory of where you are by looking back first and saying, “What are the things that have gotten me here? Why have I accumulated all this stress and pressure? What are the things that I want to keep because they’re important to me? What are the things that I’m starting to resent because they’ve become part of the baggage that keeps me down?”

The forward-looking, which we’re time traveling into the future, is to envision a future and think, “What is the future that I want to see? How is an ideal day or situation set up for me?” That’s where we need to get people to stretch their perspective a bit more and see a bigger picture for themselves. That future vision is the next thing we will look at.

It’s coming to the present and saying, “What can we do now? What is it that we’re going to do in this present moment that will allow us to get into action and start moving towards that vision we’ve set?” Those three steps can work on any level, smaller or bigger goals, but the key thing is you have to go in and look at it from three different angles.

You made a fairly big shift in your life. You realize that you didn’t want to be in a room where people were arguing over something that didn’t matter. You want to find a different way to have an impact and change other people’s lives. You’re several years into your entrepreneurial journey out of the corporate world. How do you find it, the portfolio of things you’re doing, and the experience of running your business? What do you like best and least about it?

Not every day is walking on clouds but I feel a lot more alive than I ever have because I feel like I’m living the life that I was meant for. That’s important. It feels powerful. The funny thing is that I could have been still sitting there toiling away doing the work that I was doing. I’m not saying that it’s an indictment on the corporate world. It’s not. For me, I knew that I had to do something drastic to get out of that spot and that’s what I want people to think.

“What are you doing that’s not serving you? What are you tolerating in your life that you shouldn’t be tolerating?” When I think about some of the things that come up for me, sometimes I’m getting stuck in the weeds with certain parts of my job. I have to step away and say, “Is this lighting me up? Does it bring joy to me and allow me to do the things that I’m skilled at?” If not, I think about outsourcing, doing less of it, and ways to leverage other people in a way that helps me to stay in the place that keeps me most alive.

Writing is a piece of that for you. You write prose and poetry. You have a new book out, Campfire Lessons for Leaders. Do you want to tell us a little bit about it?

CSCL 86 | Lessons For LeadersThis book is exciting for me. This is something that I’ve been toiling away with for a bit. What makes it interesting for me is that it’s based on my podcast, The Virtual Campfire, but particularly, it’s taking these ten lessons that I’ve realized are important for helping people to take a look at their lives and look at where they’re coming from and where they’re going to. How to use their past and narrative is a powerful tool to propel them forward.

The reason why it was a challenging journey is because I have 27 people in the book who I’ve included who have trusted me with their stories. I feel honored but also there’s a lot of responsibility to make sure I include them in the best possible way. I respect and honor the challenging parts of their journey because there are some challenging stories in there that will help other people navigate their journeys. That’s what made it hard to bring this together but it’s going to be an amazing book that people will be able to dig in, hear some great stories, and learn some great lessons. There are some great action tips in there for you to put into your life and use as a tool to see what your narrative could be if you dig in.

Can you describe 1 or 2 of those lessons?

One of the lessons is that out of darkness comes a light. This particular lesson is about how sometimes the darkest moments of our lives can reveal the thing that we’re meant for. I have one particular story of a woman who navigated a period when she was suicidal. It’s very dark but what she realized as she was navigating this was she was an Ironwoman. She used to do these competitions. She was the strong friend everyone relied on but here she was in a psych ward because she was suicidal.

She finally got through all the initial pain and challenging periods and realized, “I made it through this. I feel like my life is meant for something related to helping other people know that they’re not alone and that they can seek out help if they’re having those ideations.” She created a foundation and business that is geared towards helping people feel like they can be heard. She’s made a huge impact in people’s lives to the point where she even identified friends of hers who she didn’t even know were having these challenges too. It’s a very powerful story. That’s one example of many.

A lot of these came out of your podcast. How long have you been doing that, The Virtual Campfire Podcast?

I started during the pandemic in 2021. I would have never seen myself being a podcast host but I have to say that when I started to do this, it fit with me. It felt natural as things started to progress. I feel like this is something I love doing and the people I’ve had trusted me with their stories. I show up with real intention to give them a space to be open and vulnerable.

Sometimes, our life's darkest moments can reveal the things we're meant for. Click To Tweet

What’s the mix of guests that you seek to have on your show?

It’s a great mix. It’s anywhere from artists to business leaders, thought leaders, authors, and coaches. It runs the gamut. I had these two artists who came on and wrote a book called Two Beats Ahead, which was fantastic. I interviewed them both at the same time. It was a cool episode.

Who have been some of the other memorable guests that you’ve had on your show, the ones who’ve left that lasting impression?

One person who left an impression on me was Lane Gardner, who started a foundation that helps people use their voice to write stories and songs that will help them deal with trauma. She worked with the kids down at the school shooting in Florida. She worked with them to write a song to help them deal with their trauma. This is something she does over and over again to help people. It came from her journey of how she navigated her journey through life it was not exactly a rosy picture either. It was a beautiful story. It tells the story of how we have within us the power to heal ourselves if we’re willing to express what’s deep inside of us. For me, it was a beautiful session.

The new book, Campfire Lessons For Leaders, is your second book. You published one a few years back called Climbing The Right Mountain. What was its key message?

CSCL 86 | Lessons For LeadersIt was all about defining success on our own terms. It’s the sense of people working so hard to get to the top of their mountain and then realizing that they don’t love the view or where things have ended up. Here, it’s about resetting the clock for yourself and saying, “What do I want to experience? What is my definition of success, not what others want for me? How can I navigate a path that is more aligned with my intentions?” That’s what the book is about. I have eight guideposts that I set up for people to follow to get on that path. It’s a very simple and approachable book. I made it that way.

We talked about this a little bit when we were together, about the fact that it was a very relatable book. I read it back in 2021 but I remember it being accessible. It’s good. In your coaching work, how do you help people figure out their right mountain?

It’s similar to what I was saying with the time-traveling model. It is to get them to understand what I started to climb initially. Why did I get to where I am in the first place? What are the things I want to celebrate and honor? One of the big things that I do in the book is this idea of celebrating the gain or looking at the gain, not the gap. This comes from another coach and author Dan Sullivan, which is The Gap and The Gain. That’s an important factor.

We often think, “Look how far I have to go.” We focus so much on the gap but if we look at how far we’ve come, understand all of the things we’ve done, and use that as fuel to get us to the next place we were looking to go, then that’s helpful. Understand that we have to decide who we want to be, not think of it as a title or, “I want to be happy when I get to that place.” It’s instead rewiring ourselves to say, “Who do I want to be that will put me on the trajectory of becoming the person that I’m meant to be?”

I use this analogy a lot, even though I’m not a marathon runner. If you want to be a marathon runner, which you are, then you know that marathon runners act differently and do things differently. A marathon runner does not eat junk food all day long and does not go running. That isn’t the way a marathon runner acts. If you declare yourself, “I’m a marathon runner,” and you say it, it starts to put in your head the seeds of who you want to become.

You’re linking to a concept that James Clear wrote about in Atomic Habits to this idea of linking habits to your identity. “I’m a runner. Runners run. Therefore, I should go out and run.” You build that kind of habit and make it part of your identity. I run but I also eat a lot of junk food or at least a lot of candy.

Let’s come back to the idea that words create worlds. It’s so important that the choice of words that we use makes all the difference because it starts to create this sense of if we want to be happy, then be happy. If you’re waiting to be happy, then you’re never going to be happy with who you are. If it’s always going to be off in the distance, then it will be always off in the distance. You have to choose to be the person you want to be.

It’s an important concept. It’s simple but sometimes hard to put into practice. I want to talk a little bit about curiosity. This is a little bit of a jump from one topic to a different one but would you describe it as being in your top three values?

A hundred percent. Curiosity has been with me before I even knew that it was a strong value. Let me explain to you where this comes from. When I was a kid, and this was embarrassing, I used to read the encyclopedia, which was wild.

I’m sure you weren’t the only one.

I wanted to know everything about everything to the point where curiosity to me became dangerous because I got into wanting to get to know everything about everything. It’s still something that has me picking up all these different hobbies and little things and learning about ways to do different things. The more curious I am, I get to see the connections and connect dots to different worlds that I’ve been part of.

I’m someone who started as an artist. I went into pre-med and got into business. I’m doing coaching and leadership development, which is wild, but also at the same time, I wouldn’t have done it any differently. I’ve learned a lot about how people think in different ways because I’ve been around different people.

How do you help the people that you work with learn to value and nurture their curiosity?

This is going to sound odd but slow them down. The idea is that we’re always so quick to say, “I want to get it done. Let’s go. Move forward.” The idea is that we need to slow things down and have more ideas. “Let’s stay with this a little longer.” That is where the power of curiosity can become a tool for not only self-discovery but also for ideation of many things.

The power of curiosity can become a tool for self-discovery and ideation of many things. Click To Tweet

There’s not just one answer. The best answers come after sitting with a problem for a bit longer than you would be comfortable with, especially when it comes to personal exploration. We’re uncomfortable being with ourselves. Even if you’re with a coach, it’s uncomfortable to have the spotlight on you and ask questions like, “What is meaningful to me? What are the things that are important to me?” The first things that come to mind may be great but they’re not the real things. It takes time to explore.

For anybody who’s worked with a coach or been through therapy where you have these open-ended questions, there’s no place to escape. It forces you to start thinking about your situation, yourself, your behaviors, actions, context, and broader environment in a deeper way than you might otherwise have done so. Once you learn to do that, in a way, you’ve slowed yourself down to your point. You start experiencing things around you more deeply but it takes work.

Martin Lindstrom was another person at this conference. Other than being very negative about artificial intelligence’s impact on humanity, he went so far as to get rid of his phone. That was his way of being more in the moment and more present. For a lot of people, especially in this world of hyperactive activity, it’s hard to do that.

It’s funny when you talk about Martin Lindstrom. Sometimes the best way to stay curious is to also be counterintuitive. In some ways, what he’s looking at is staying on the counterintuitive edge so that he can see if maybe that will refute the thing that he may even believe. A lot of us have to take that counterintuitive argument to push against the established norm. That’s a good way to think about it. If you have something you believe strongly, what would the opposite be? That’s curiosity at work.

You do a lot of different things. That’s one of the ways that you nurture your curiosity. You write poetry, coach, and all sorts of different things. You run the Genzyme alumni group. How do you fit all of this in, Tony?

Everything is in due time. I don’t do it all at once. I try to find ways to get help wherever I can like having some people on the way who I can reach out to and ask for help, which is interesting because that’s one thing that I never would have seen myself asking for help in my prior life because that would have been seen as embarrassing or something that you don’t do. Now, I see the power in asking for help and how important it is to say, “This is what I need help with. Can you help me?”

People are more apt to say, “I can do that and I can help you. Let’s do this together.” If you have a very clear ask and it’s something that that person is good at, they’re willing to do it. When I think about people doing job searches, I’m always telling people this, “People want to help you. They just can’t help you unless you’re clear but what it is you want?” The more clear the ask, the more likely you’ll get the help.

You made reference to things that people are good at. What are the things that you’re good at? What are the strengths that have carried you through the many different parts of your squiggly career that you described?

One of the things that I’m good at is generating lots of ideas. Maybe it’s because of the curiosity but the dark side to that is I got to also make sure they execute on the right ones and not all of them. It’s knowing where to focus. That’s not always easy for me. Having someone on board with me to be able to say, “This is the right thing to do based on what you have put on the table, at least for now,” is important.

The other thing is a word that I’ve mentioned but I didn’t get into the details, which is this word grounded. It’s something that people reflected on me as I coached them. As I worked with them, they said, “There’s something about how you show up. You’re very grounding. You’re someone who’s very calm and relaxed but also feels like you know where we’re headed.” That is something that is not easy to come by. Not every leader is that way but it can be learned. You need people like me who can stay calm and connected when there’s a crisis. That’s one of the gifts that I bring to the people who I work with.

It is a great strength to have because a lot of people need that. They need somebody in their life who helps them stay grounded. Otherwise, they go off and get overly down a rabbit hole, emotional, or overly excited about something. They need somebody to make sure that they’re not losing sight of things. Other than learning to ask for help, what are some of the other things that you’ve had to develop along the way?

I always say this in the form of a quote because this quote captures it all. “I had to learn that amateurs compete and professionals create.” What I mean by that is you think about starting a business or getting into a space where you’re trying to build something. If you go in with the idea of, “The people around me who are in the same field are my competition and I can’t share. I have to beat them to the race,” what happens is it’s a race to the bottom.

However, if we look at it like, “I can learn from them and maybe I’ll teach them 1 thing or 2 too,” we can create a bigger pie together instead of taking the limited pie and cutting off slices of it. I had to learn that. One of the biggest things that made me successful in this field is being open to collaborating, learning, sharing, and giving, not necessarily avoiding people who are not like that.

You describe yourself as Chief Inspiration Officer. Who or what inspires you, Tony?

I always say I have to earn that title every day because it’s a big title because of the fact that I have to think, “What is inspiring me? How can I stay inspired?” Leaders have to be inspired to inspire others. What inspires me? People who are doing interesting things in the world, who are making big impacts, and who are creating a better future. I think about this idea of, “What am I doing that’s contributing positively to the world, not me but people who are doing that?”

When I think about those types of people and having conversations with them, I get excited. It energizes me. That inspires me to want to do the work that I’m doing because I know that by having more conversations that connect the dots between different people, we’re going to make the world better. We’re sharing ideas that build on each other. It’s not about competing for ideas. It’s about building on the ideas that we have.

Last question. What’s ahead for you in the next few years?

I’m hoping a good vacation will be ahead for me. I’m due for one with my family. What is ahead for me is I’m going to be doing some retreats that will bring some of the ideas from my book into the retreat-style platform. Locations are still to be determined but it is something that I’m working on. I’ve got a partner in crime with whom I’m collaborating. I’m looking forward to bringing it out to some people who want to get out of their offices and spend some time together in places that are inspiring.

It sounds exciting. I look forward to hearing more about it.

Hopefully, you come join us.

Is there any last advice you want to share with our audience?

If there’s a conversation that you’re not having with a person who’s important to you, have the courage to go out and have it because these conversations are important. I say inspiration through honest conversations. That’s my tagline. It’s so important to not hold back. Time is precious. We need to have the conversations that are going to make an impact.

CSCL 86 | Lessons For Leaders

Tony Martignetti: Have the courage to go out and talk to the person important to you.


Good advice to close on. Thanks for doing this, Tony.

Thank you. This has been fun.

Thanks again and have a good rest of your day.

You too.

I want to thank Tony for joining me. We covered a pretty broad range of topics, including the Thinkers50 Conference, Tony’s coaching practice, books, and podcasts, and his career journey. If you’re ready to take control of your career, you can visit If you’d like more regular career insights, become a PathWise member. It’s free. You can also sign up on the website for the PathWise newsletter. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Thanks and have a great day.


Important Links


About Tony Martignetti

CSCL 86 | Lessons For LeadersTony Martignetti is one of the PathWise coaches and a member of our advisory group. He is the founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of Inspired Purpose Partners, and he works with tech leaders on a variety of career-related topics. Tony is also the author of Climbing the Right Mountain and the just published Campfire Lessons for Leaders. He is also the host of the Virtual Campfire podcast, a TEDx speaker, a member of the Fast Company Executive Board, and much more. Prior to moving into executive coaching, Tony worked in the consumer-packaged goods and life sciences industries, with stops at P&G Gillette, Genzyme, Vertex, Sarepta, and Momenta. He holds a Bachelors’ Degree and an MBA from Northeastern University, and he and his family live in the Boston area.



Share with friends

©2024 PathWise. All Rights Reserved