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We all start somewhere. We all have a history behind us. We all have stories that have helped to shape who we are. For a lot of people, maybe our stories are a little bit difficult. Maybe there is something in your past that is painful. Sometimes we feel like maybe the scars of our past are on display for everyone to see and we feel broken. We feel like those things make us damaged goods. But what if those things actually make us beautiful? What if those things actually make us stronger? My guest today is telling her story of how growing strong roots is actually what makes the broken in our past beautiful. Mary Marantz grew up in a single-wide trailer in rural West Virginia. The first of her immediate family to go to college, she went on to earn a law degree from the nation’s top-ranked law school, Yale. After ditching six-figure salary law firm offers in London and New York, she started a business with her husband, Justin. Together they’ve built a successful online education platform for creative entrepreneurs. Mary is also the host of the highly-ranked and popular podcast, The Mary Marantz Show is an author, speaker, podcast host, and just yesterday, she released her first book, Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Broken Beautiful. She and her husband Justin live in an 1880s fixer upper by the sea in New Haven, Connecticut, along with their two very fluffy golden retrievers, Good Speed and Atticus. Mary has actually been a friend of mine for quite a few years. When I tell you that Mary Marantz is the real deal, I mean she is the REAL DEAL. If you have not purchased Mary’s book, go do it right now! It’s available wherever books are sold. She is an incredible storyteller, a painter with words. I absolutely loved our conversation and think you will too. Without further ado, join me to hear from the incomparable, Mary Marantz.
Mary grew up in rural West Virginia at the very top of a mountain in a single-wide trailer. Her father was a logger, and her grandfather a coalminer turned logger. Mary was the first in her immediate family to go to college, and moved from West Virginia to New Haven, Connecticut to attend Yale Law School.
Mary took quite an educational leap in one generation with her dad barely graduating from high school and going straight to work in the woods of West Virgnina. When Mary graduated, instead of going to work a six-figure job at a prestigious law firm to help pay back those Yale Law student loans, she decided she wanted to open a photography business.
Mary met her husband Justin while she attended law school. They met in New Haven and started the business together in 2006, right after they graduated. Mary just recently retired from wedding photography last year when she signed her first book deal to be an author full time.
Mary is now a full-time author, and her first book just was just released this week. It’s called Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Broken Beautiful. It’s the story of her life and growing up in West Virginia. The idea is that it all started with dirt.
In 2014, Mary gave a talk at a conference called The Pursuit conference. She thought she knew exactly what she wanted to talk about. She started realizing how many parallels they were to her dad’s story and her own, even down to attending the same small elementary school.
Mary felt called to certain scriptures about building bridges. They all wove into Mary’s story. The story of Paul being called the “bridge” among people in Philipi stood out to her, especially after realizing her dad had worked cutting down the trees that rebuilt a bridge in West Virginia called Philipi.
When Mary started putting her proposal together her talk for The Pursuit conference in 2014 and what she’d be talking about, unbeknownst to her, many of the other speakers had themes of dirt woven into their talks too!
Mary had no idea why she was being pulled to use the imagine of dirt, she just knew that was the way it had to be. Even the sound engineers at the conference shared stories with Mary that would end up in the book.
The book is centered around the idea that God breathed life into dust. That from dirt we can and to dirt we shall return; being reminded that our time here is fleeting. Sometimes we want to run from the dirt, and while we can find new stories, it’s important to remember where it all started. God is in the small things, in the whisper.
Rural West Virginia has become almost a forgotten place. It’s overlooked when we talk about poverty in America and areas that need structural, positive change. Mary wanted to honor West Virginia in her book as well as how it fits into her story.
Mary’s book is divided into two parts: “The Girl Before the Trailer”, and “The Girl After the Trailer.” On many levels, Mary felt like her childhood was a dream, despite the stereotypes most people think of when they hear about the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia.
There can be both the hard reality of growing up in a rural, poor area AND beauty, integrity, and honor; the kind that Mary experienced growing up. She touches on both in the book and the complexity and work ethic and dignity of the people in her story.
Mary was launched on a path that would have been very similar to her dad’s story. She was raised by her grandma Goldie, just like her dad. They both had the same mother figure, went to the same school, church, and Sunday School. They even played in the same yard.
Mary’s dad was determined that her life would look different than his. The lynchpin moment was realizing the power of education. Her dad did his best to make sure she had access to learning. Mary started to excel in school, thanks to her father doing what he could to prepare her.
Words have power, and people spoke truth over Mary from an early age, calling her smart and instilling the confidence of the truth in her capability and potential. By the time she started kindergarten, Mary was reading at a 5th or 6th grade level.
Mary’s family goes back eight generations of loggers in West Virginia. Her great grandfather, Harry Curl Betts was the first to do both coal mining and logging.
If someone tells you that you are something enough times, you start to become that thing. Mary dives into the good and bad of that in the book. It did help her succeed, but it also put a lot of pressure on her to succeed and check all the boxes for a happy ending. The flip side of that is getting caught in a cycle of putting your worth in your achievements.
It’s taken time, but Mary has finally reached a point where she feels like she can allow herself to stop running; her and the “girl from the trailer.” At some point, it has to be enough. No amount of achievement will be enough and we have to stop and do the real work of healing.
Mary talks in the book about feeling like she never really felt she belonged at Yale Law. She knew that was in her head, not because of the way anyone else there made her feel. When she got through to her fourth year, she realized if she could do it over again, she would have gotten to know her classmates more.
Mary had put up walls anticipating people rejecting her, and to project herself, she rejected them so they couldn’t reject her first. People had spoken truths over Mary, but she was having trouble speaking those truths over herself at the time.
Mary realized photography was what she was meant to do. Perhaps Yale was just a detour to lead her to Justin. Our purpose and our highest callings don’t change. The calling Mary feels like she’s been given is storytelling.
She had a hard time embracing the title of storyteller at first, but not Mary cannot imagine any other calling now. In law school, her favorite classes weren’t learning about the law, but how it came to be the law.
Mary comes from a long line or epic storytellers. People who use stories to teach. Her stories are a spiritual growth memoir, and she invites her readers to join in and decide for themselves what parts of her stories relate to their own.
Mary and Justin decided to build something out of nothing; something that allowed them to spend more time together rather than go work 40+ hours a week for someone else.
Find out which of Mary’s pet peeves is the strangest, what she’d eat if she could only eat the same thing for dinner for the rest of her life, what her “walk-up” hype song would be, and definitely be sure to stay tuned to hear from Mary about what it means to her to run a business with purpose!
Go get Mary’s book! Check out a special URL, just for my listeners: thebookdirt.com/molly for the live bonuses that have expired on the regular website! Be sure to check out this Business With Purpose podcast exclusive for some treasures and upcoming gems from Mary! Thank you so much, Mary!
12:41 – “First you try to run away from the mud and you realize that you can outrun it because you can’t outrun you. Then you try to make, not just peace, but actually take ownership of that mud. You started from that place and yeah, you can be the one who changes it in your generation, you can be the break in the chain, but don’t forget where it started.”
11:07 – “I feel like he was giving me glimpses, in 2014 of where we were headed in 2020. And so that’s what I mean by ‘God is funny.’ This is not going to make any sense at the time, but when you look back on it, all the dots are going to connect.”
18:55 – “…There is this caricature picture in your head, but you’re going to look at it completely different on the other side.”
23:40 – “To the person listening who feels like it’s hopeless, I would say never underestimate a) the power of education and how that can change a family tree in one generation, and b) just as importantly, the power you have to be the first person in that child’s life to give them those kinds of labels of smart, talented, gifted and this is what I see in you and I’m going to set you up to the best extent I can and let the dominoes fall from there.”
34:14 “…at some point it has to be enough. We have to stop running and we have to say, no amount of stuff, no amount of achievement is going to fill this hole, and so lets go back to the beginning and do the real work of healing.”
47:48 – “We get to take this dust in our lives and determine what it’s going to mean, too.”
About Mary Marantz:
Mary grew up in a single-wide trailer in rural West Virginia. The first of her immediate family to go to college, she went on to earn a law degree from the nation’s top-ranked law school, Yale. After ditching six-figure-salary law firm offers in London and New York, she started a business with her husband, Justin. Together they have built a successful online education platform for creative entrepreneurs. She is also the host of the highly ranked and popular podcast The Mary Marantz Show. Just YESTERDAY, Mary released her first book, “Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Broken Beautiful,”. She lives in an 1880s fixer-upper by the sea in New Haven, Connecticut, with her husband, Justin and their two very fluffy golden retrievers, Goodspeed and Atticus.
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