As the first person in his family to attend college, Jerritt Johnston, ’95, felt like a fish out of water when he arrived at Maryville University. Now, he makes a living taking other people out of their natural habitat.
Johnston challenges individuals and groups to solve mysteries, scale heights and spark fire to build teamwork and leadership skills. It’s all part of his True North Consultants business in Ely, Minnesota.
“Being in a place that you’re not comfortable with requires some confidence,” Johnston says. “It requires the ability to step out of that comfort zone and take some risks.”
The political science and liberal studies major honed his outdoor skills during a Maryville internship with the American Youth Foundation, an organization dedicated to character building.
Being in a place you’re not comfortable with requires confidence, the ability to step out of that comfort zone and taking some risks.
Eventually, his outdoor pursuits surged from scouting-level to near Fear-Factor intensity. Braving temperatures as frigid as 30-below, Johnston completed — on foot — the 135-mile Arrowhead trek across the wilds of northern Minnesota. He also completed it on cross-country skis and is registered this year to compete on a fatbike. If successful, he’ll be one of only a handful of people to ever finish it in all three modes.
In 2008, Johnston launched True North to help others reach their potential. The outdoor component of his work drops people into the yawning unfamiliarity of outdoor adventure with a set of goals that can only be met through team effort.
He also works with teams and boards in their work settings, but even then, participants are required to leave their comfort zones to experience success.
With each adventure, Johnston brings home something new. It reminds him of a favorite phrase he learned from his former English professor, Germaine Murray, PhD.
“She always said, ‘Put that in your quiver of knowledge,’” Johnston says. “And I really liked that, because it gives you that sense of lifelong learning.”