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Ryan Blair

Ryan Blair is an entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, and most importantly, a dad. In this special episode, Ryan shares his incredible story and offers guidance for finding your way out of the wilderness and into a better life.

From Gangster to CEO
From Gangster to CEO

From Gangster to CEO

Ep
199
Jul
27
With
Ryan Blair
Or Listen On:

There is no other teacher like suffering.

Ryan Blair is an entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, and most importantly, a dad.

He is the founder and CEO of Alter Call, a multi-faith spiritual community that helps people accelerate personal transformation. Alter Call members value living a life of service and measurable impact.

But before the philanthropy and fatherhood, Ryan had a very different life.

After surviving an abusive childhood living in poverty, Ryan’s ability to adapt led him to join a gang. Though he thrived as an illegal entrepreneur, the lifestyle was taxing and dangerous.

Miraculously, Ryan was able to leave that life and transition into legitimate entrepreneurship. And through hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance, he built a successful life for himself as a CEO several times over.

Ryan lived that luxurious life, pleasurable vices and all until he couldn’t any longer.

In this special episode, Ryan shares his incredible story and offers guidance for finding your way out of the wilderness and into a better life.

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Episode Transcript

ryan:

They don't want it bad enough. They claim they want it, but they really don't want it bad enough. They want it, but they're not willing to step out of their comfort zone. They want it, but they're not willing to change their morning routine. They want it, but they're not willing to change themselves, their identity. They're not willing to address their ego. They're not willing to look at their shadow. They say they want it, they tell me, Ryan, I want it so bad. I want to be rich. I want to be successful. And I know deep down, they really don't want it.

chris:

So, Ryan, I'm really curious about your whole story. There is some connection between what I've learned about you, about being a dad, about raising autistic son, but also the company that you found, not founded, but purchased, sold and bought again, sold again. I think couple different rounds by Salas because one of my friends actually did work for you. So when I saw that pop up by email, I'm like, I think I know who this person is. So let's take it there, for people who don't know who you are, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your story?

ryan:

My name is Ryan Blair. I'm an entrepreneur and I'm an author as well. I write about entrepreneurship and since I was 19 years old, I set my sights on becoming an entrepreneur, and I started my career at around 20 years old. And I'm now 44 going on 45. So I've been doing this for about 25 years now. And prior to being a legal entrepreneur, I was an illegal entrepreneur and I was involved in all kinds of street hustles and things like that as a result of living in poverty and being involved in a gang. So I have a pretty vast experience in the subject of entrepreneurship, both illegal aspects of it and the legal aspects of it.

chris:

Now, as I track along your story, yours is quite interesting because you were living middle, upper middle class family life, things that happened with your dad, and then you fell into poverty and you've been going back and forth between those two states. For me, as a first generation immigrant, all I knew was poverty for a while, until I got out of it and never returned. So I'm fascinated by this, when we have something to measure ourselves up against in terms of like how things used to be, you talk about the clothes and the accoutrements of just living an upper middle class life. And when you lose that, how do you process that as a teenager?

ryan:

It's a great question because just yesterday as fate would have it, I was traveling back from one of my clients and I got rerouted. And next thing you know, I'm on my old childhood street when I lived in the middle class and I told the driver, I said, let's go, I want to look at my old house that I grew up in. I lived in this house up until I was about 13 years old. And I drove down the street. I looked at the nice yards. The people had boats in front of their houses. There were kids riding around on their bikes. And I saw a bunch of kids traveling up and down the street, riding on their different dirt bikes and mountain bikes. And that was me, I lived in that middle class environment.
When I pulled up to the house, it was really odd, because for the first time it really had sunk into me yesterday, what I had lost, because I went from this beautiful neighborhood, this beautiful environment. And the driver that I was with is a person I'm mentoring. And so he had come from poverty himself and he was looking at how beautiful the neighborhood was. And he was commenting on like, what a beautiful environment that you lived in this middle class environment. But that was the outside, but on the inside, the amount of violence that happened in that house, the drugs that my parents did in that house, the fear that I had living in that house, the intimidation, the bullying, the loss, just the tragedy that happened in that house was devastating.
And it was really ugly, and in fact... I've had many nightmares about that house. So to pull up to it and take a look at it and to see how beautiful it was from this perspective that I now have today and to see how beautiful the neighborhood was, was an interesting, deep dive into my past and my psychology around it. To answer your question specifically, it was terrible to be raised in a certain way, with a certain set of beliefs and values and an identity, and then have that identity ripped away from you at 13 years old. And when you're 13 years old, you measure yourself by your peer group, by the way other people see you, by your teachers, by the authority figures in your life, by the sports teams you play on, by a lot of things, they are your identity, because you have yet to form your own identity.
You're simply drawing from your environment and you're stashing away little elements of your identity left and right. And things that feel good when someone compliments you or you do good on a sports team or a girl likes you or you're popular in school. Those are the things that make you who you think you are. And then to have that all ripped away, you're no longer popular, you're no longer cool, you no longer dress well, you no longer have nice clothes, teachers no longer respect you. You're now bigoted because you're poor. You live in a bad neighborhood. And I told the person driving me, I said, I went from this neighborhood to a neighborhood where I walk outside and there's guys drinking 40 ounces, smoking weed, getting high all day long. And the moment they see you, they want to rob you.
I went from a neighborhood where you're riding bikes free with the kids at 10, 11, 12, and 13, riding around with free rain. My mom would tell me at 8:00 AM just be back by dark to a point where the moment you step foot outside your front door, you could face extreme violence. You're exposed to drugs, alcohol, and all kinds of evil basically. And so, just funny, you asked this question because it's brand new territory that I've just ventured into as a result of yesterday's experience. But seeing that house, it was an interesting deep dive into what had happened to me in a way that I hadn't dived into there prior.

chris:

What I'm getting from what you just told me was, from the outside, the appearances would seem like this is the idyllic way to grow up and to figure out who you are in life, but you said like, appearances are kind of deceptive because in that household while you're growing up, there was violence, there was drug abuse. So when you went from one neighborhood to the next, it seems like it's the same environment, just with a different exterior

ryan:

Without money, right?

chris:

Without money.

ryan:

You really learn a lot about yourself when there's no money, zero money. My mom was a homemaker. We had a pool in our backyard. Neighborhood kids would come over and want to play at the house because we had the pool table, a Ping Pong table, a nice pool in our backyard with a water slide and the diving board. I was a popular kid because I had all these neat things that people wanted to enjoy and experience. And then all of a sudden you're poor and people don't want to come to your house because you live in a very poor house. Your mom is miserable and she's suffering, you're suffering. The exterior and interior is a complete disaster. So I went from having a beautiful exterior and a terrible interior to having both a terrible interior and a terrible exterior.

chris:

Do you think those experiences, those challenges that you had growing up made you who you are? And what did you learn from that?

ryan:

They did make me who I am, but they've also contributed to characteristics that I've had to work hard on changing. When you rip the identity away from a young child, when you abuse a young child, when you bully a young child, when I was beaten pretty bad, a number of times by my dad. I lived in a very difficult situation. When you do that to a kid, you create some code to use a technological term that isn't always the most efficient, most optimized, most harmonious code. And so I have had to pay a price for some of that code in my adult years.
And I've spent a lot of time now, most recently, trying to reverse engineer some of those beliefs that I had built and those misconceptions and those ways of being that weren't ways of my highest self. Although it did give me a strategy that helped me elevate my socioeconomic status to a high degree above anywhere where I had ever dreamed of and anywhere... Anywhere in that neighborhood, I could buy a hundred of those houses in that neighborhood now. But with that came some real difficulty.

chris:

When you talk about growing up an environment like that, it does change you and there's things that you carry with you some good, some not so good. Can you give us an example of some of that code that is something that you're like, I wish I didn't have or respond in this way.

ryan:

Yes. Well, I'll tell you, at first I adopted immediately to the gang environment, the poverty environment. On the good side I learned to adapt because I had no choice, but to, and on the bad side, I then adapted to that environment. And I was constantly seeking approval, status seeking, seeking popularity, caring a tremendous amount about what other people thought about me, seeking power in ways that that victimized others. I became a perpetrator when I was in a gang.
And so there is certainly a tremendous amount of bad that comes from putting a child through that type of experimentation, basically, for lack of better words. And then as I became successful, I started drinking and doing drugs and parting and I saw myself going exactly to where my parents had gone and I lost... I never saw my father again after I was 13 as a result of drugs. And I lost my mother as a result of alcohol. I paid a tremendous price for my own drugs and alcohol that I gotten involved in, but I also witnessed tremendous agony and pain as a result of drugs and alcohol.

chris:

So even though you grew up in that environment and you saw the destructive power of drugs and alcohol and violence, when you became successful, you started to exhibit the same behaviors. You were parting like an animal, I assume.

ryan:

Yeah. I had an energy about me that would be best described as like a... My ex and I are friends and she texted me and she said, you used to be like a hurricane. And she gave me a great compliment that I was grounded. But I guess when there's probably people that have known me throughout my journey that, I had this hurricane like energy. And now I would say that I'm certainly more grounded as a result of the deep work and meditation and practices like that. I always had an unstable energy to me, even in entrepreneurship. And the way I would try to stabilize that energy, which is a failed strategy, was through drugs and alcohol.
Also, I had this sensable desire to be loved and to be admired. And the easiest love and admiration comes from people doing drugs and alcohol along with you. So I sought some fair-weather friends and I pursued experiences that were intensely pleasurable and I think I became addicted to pleasure. And so it wasn't only drugs and alcohol, it was sex, drugs, alcohol, and that entire lifestyle that became truly appealing to me because the amount of pleasure that I could receive from it powered by my vast amounts of money and notoriety and the other things that I had created turned into a very decadent life that I was living.

chris:

I want to dig into that a little bit deeper, but for a lot of people who aren't aware of your story, let's go back in time a little bit. I understand that you became the CEO of a company called by ViSalus. And when I was a younger person, I was like, how does one become a CEO of a company? Is there a school you go to study where that's your job? I'm curious how you became the CEO.

ryan:

Well, my first entrepreneurial endeavor, I worked as an engineer at a company and I convinced them to spin out a division of it that I was running at the time. I was the manager of their data center operations. And I convinced them to spin it out into an entity that I will be the founder of and I would run and I'd provide the services of that data center to the community. And they agreed to do it, but they didn't agree to give me the title of CEO because I was too young and inexperienced. So they gave me the VP title. I was VP of market research or something. And I hated that. I wanted to be the CEO. It was my soul's calling to be a CEO. So I left that company and started Sky Pipeline where I was a... I bought it actually for $15,000 and I became the CEO of Sky Pipeline.
I raised venture capital. And then I expanded that into an entity that still provides service to this day, and sold it in a 25 million deal when I was 24 years old. From there, after I exited Sky Pipeline, the ViSalus opportunity came my way. And I first joined as the chief strategy officer, but I realized there was a real absence in the existing CEO, just wasn't a great CEO, who wasn't being run to the standard that I wanted to run it at. And so I told my co-founders that I was going to become the CEO. And it was an awkward thing because we were equal owners and equal partners, but all of a sudden I had taken a higher degree of authority in the title, although we were equal in terms of ownership and in terms of our desire to build this thing.
It was an interesting thing. It created some conflict and it taught me a lot and I gained a lot as a result of that experience. There's no school for it. You just have to claim it basically. And that's what I did. At first, they didn't want to give me the title. There was some resistance to it. And I remember at one point in time, I never shared this publicly, I told them that it is my soul's calling to be a CEO and I'm either going to be the CEO of this company or the CEO of another one. And that's your choice. So it's either me or go find somebody else to be the CEO. And at the time, the other two founders were not ready to be the CEO of the company. Later on when I would exit, I handed the title of CEO off to my co-founder Nick, and he became the CEO of ViSalus in 2000. And late 2016, early 2017, he took over a CEO of the entity, but I ran it for 12 years, basically, as the CEO.

chris:

Somebody who's listening to this, who's like, wait, what, what just happened there? You were brought on as the chief strategy officer and you also then invested in ViSalus, so you were part owner?

ryan:

Yeah. I didn't invest. I brought in some capital. I lost. After I exited Sky Pipeline, I blew all my money very quickly, I was parting, bottle service. And my credentials made me appear much more wealthy than I was. And I used that bait to suit a lot of fish and spent a lot of money on lavish trips and shopping sprees and things like that for a company that that was along for that ride. I'm not criticizing it whatsoever because I completely created this persona and this identity to attract exactly what I was looking for. And I attracted it.
So when it came to the founding of ViSalus, I'd gone to a very... Or when I took over, I'd gone to a very humble place. And I had made a decision that I was going to serve. And when they showed up, I saw it as a spiritual gift basically. I took advantage of it and I aided them in acquiring the company. And through that process, I brought in capital, I helped to raise capital for it. And as part of raising that capital, I secured my position as CEO and an equal owner in the company.

chris:

I see. You had mentioned that it was like your life's calling to be the CEO of this company, but it didn't matter because you'll find it somewhere else. What is it about you or what is it about the title that has meaning for you?

ryan:

I believe that some people are just born to do certain things and I believe my soul came here to create through entrepreneurship. I have been an entrepreneur, even when I was on the streets, I was an entrepreneur. Prior to that, I had lemonade stands and paper route. It is in my soul to be an entrepreneur. I believe this is the craft that I came here to learn and to understand. And to be a CEO and an entrepreneur, requires a high degree of responsibility. It's a lot of stress, it is very difficult. Requires growth, requires you to scale as your business scales. There is a lot in there. I didn't know it at the time, but now as you're pulling this out of me, there's just a lot in there when you choose to be a chief executive officer. I was able to do so through the vehicle of ViSalus, at a very high level, because we eventually were acquired by a publicly traded company.
And so I had to be the CEO of a publicly traded company. And I had to go through a very rigorous training process and development process by my board of directors and investors and Wall Street for that matter to learn a lot about the levels of being a CEO. And so I've played that game at a very high level and I continue to iterate and innovate in that particular game because there's many levels to it and I've accomplished some pretty high level activity, but there's plenty more for me to do.

chris:

Just to follow up on that. I think a lot of entrepreneurs don't get the opportunity to become a CEO or become one and do it poorly. Can you go into a little bit more about, what gave you the confidence that, I think you're still in your twenties here, that you can come in and run this big company with partners and investors and carry all that weight on your shoulders. What does one have to do to be successful at it? Because you also mentioned the previous CEO, from your perspective, wasn't doing a very good job. What weren't they doing well?

ryan:

Well, so to answer your question, as a CEO of Sky Pipeline, I got my ass kicked nonstop by my investors. They were some of the most professional sophisticated investors and I didn't know anything about financial reporting analysis, presenting strategy, making your numbers, setting your numbers, I was green. These poor guys, they basically had a 21 year old kid that knew nothing. I was straight out of a gang. So I had a lot of street smarts, a lot of fight in me, a huge ambition and desire, but I had no skill. I hadn't gone to business school. I actually went to business school for a little bit but left to do this, but I wasn't credentialed, didn't have an MBA, had no real world experience in running a company. I did have some leadership experience prior to doing Sky Pipeline and that I ran a data center, but it was a small operation.
And so I was green. And so I really got beat up. And so when I went into ViSalus, I saw that they weren't running a high level business with the high standard of excellence in their operations, by any means, not from a financial standpoint, a legal standpoint and a strategy standpoint and some of the key areas that I was very knowledgeable and as a result of the very difficult experience that I'd gone through at Sky Pipeline learning from some of the best and they were intolerant of my ignorance and amateur nature. So at ViSalus, I had made a decision to really turn pro. Back to your original question, I just knew that I was to be the CEO of something and that I had that capacity within me and that I had to develop it somehow and there's no better way to learn than to do. And so that's what I did.
I think you asked another question about, what gave me the conviction. Because I had been in a gang, when you're in a gang... And I was a leader in the gang, so I had about a hundred people working for me, and some of them were growing men. You basically have to be afraid of people killing you, betraying you, hurting you, hurting your family, ratting you out, getting arrested, going to jail. There's a lot of things that can happen to you when you're in a gang that you have to be very careful of. And every move you make has to be very calculated. And so that experience led me to when I started becoming a legal entrepreneur, to realize that, the attributes of a legal entrepreneur are far less risky than the attributes of an illegal entrepreneur. And the characteristics that I had to develop and learn, the gap between being successful as a legal entrepreneur versus an illegal entrepreneur, was easy to learn.
Because if I could learn how to survive on the streets, I could learn how to survive combating against MBAs and Ivy Leaguers that are just soft people. Like I would show up the boardrooms and look at them and I would be like, if you only knew what I could do to you... If we were left to our devices. As I went through this journey I'd sit there many times and hear these people talk and in my head I was thinking about how these people are very weak people and they're not strong and they don't know, they might have the theory down, but they don't have the practice down. They have no idea what it takes to be an entrepreneur that operates at a very high level. I had that deep confidence inside of me that, I had a deep degree of street smarts and a high degree of survival skills that my opponents did not have.

chris:

When you shared that experience, it reminded me a little bit of something I heard Robert Kiyosaki say where he was a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War. He says like, bullets couldn't kill me Wall Street is not going to kill me either. If you can survive this, you can survive anything.

ryan:

I was just going to say, I have been shot at, I have faced the flash of a muzzle and survived. I know what it's like to have your heart chop and you think this might be it, it's over, I'm dead. I'm very spiritual. I've had times where I've been rescued by my guardian angel. No doubt. There's no way I could have got out alive and I got out alive. And so I have to tell you that, knowing that from a spiritual level, I didn't really have it figured out until now about the spiritual side of this, but I believe that I was being spiritually guided through all of these endeavors.

chris:

I've never been shot at nor do I ever want to be in a position where I'm staring down the barrel of a gun. What did you learn about yourself in that moment where you think this could be it?

ryan:

Well, like I said, I have a guardian angel for sure. And I must have a deep purpose on earth if I've been spared what has been the demise of many others. And I was spared prison, I was spared death and many other endings that would've been far worse than the pain and consequences that I did face for the actions that I took. I learned about my higher power during those moments. I didn't always live a spiritual life and I didn't quite understand it until more recently. But in retrospect, looking back, I can see the hand of God guiding me to learn through suffering and then to now be a teacher to help people get through the suffering of their own.

chris:

Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back.
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Welcome back to our conversation. It seems like you've gone through a process of adapting to your environment and reinventing yourself many times over. And so somebody's listening to this... I'm going to ask the question for them or on their behalf, which is, how do you reinvent yourself and align yourself around your purpose? I've not been in a gang, I've not been shot at, I've not had to live this life. Can we distill some of the learnings from that life that seems pretty extreme to something that's more say more common place? What can we learn and extrapolate from your experience?

ryan:

Well, one, there's a lot of people in the world. And so you can just decide you want to become a new person and get rid of all the old people and start over tomorrow. If you're looking at yourself in the mirror right now, and you're like, all right, I want to become an artist. Great. Go out there and buy the paintbrush and the pallet and get to work, and declare that you are now an artist. It's easier than you think. Now, once you make the decision, the hard work begins because you're going to face resistance. You're going to face resistance from your friends, from your lower self. You're going to face a ton of resistance when you make the declaration that you are going to step into a higher version of yourself and a new calling in your life.
There's a lot of resistance that you'll face and you have to fight back against that resistance each and every single day. And for the first year or so, it's painful. And then eventually you get better at it and get better at it. You have new people show up into your life, you attract people to help you on your journey, and you become this new person. So it's easier than you think to make the decision to do it. After you make that decision to do, it's hard work, but at the other end of it, you will look back at it and you'll realize that the reward was far worth the risk and that the 20 people that you left behind to go be a new person will attract 20 new people or even more that are even more pleasurable and exciting and inspiring to be around.
And so when you get about a year into the reinvention, you'll realize that you made the right decision, but for the first year, you got to be prepared to fight resistance each and every single day, every step of the way. I'm now two years into starting altar call and my reinvention to be of service through entrepreneurship and to lead with my spirituality. And I can tell you that it's like, it's a dream come true. And I look back at the past two years and realize, wow, I had to overcome a lot of resistance. At first, there was a ton of forces lined up against me. For the first year I had people trying to stop me. I had people trying to poison what I was doing. I had people laughing at me saying I had become super religious, that I had hyper religious, they said.
They said, I had overcorrected, I traded one addiction for another. There was a ton of that. And now those very same people that criticized me will say, wow, look at all the people you're helping. And I've bumped into these people as fate would have it and they're cheering me on now that they've seen me power through the resistance, not realizing that their role was to provide some resistance to me so that I can build some strength that I will then be able to apply to this day. The resistance is going to come and that's where the deep work comes in. And anytime you step into a new calling and you make a new declaration of the self, you're going to be met with opposition. And this is what I teach people to develop the fortitude, to work through that opposition, basically.

chris:

I imagine that you've worked with lots of people and have touched a lot of lives. Have you noticed some theme that keeps people from making that first bold, big decision and taking their first step towards changing their lives? Because I struggle with this. Because there's an abundance of information out there, self-help books, videos, courses, workshops, things that you can do. But it's not because there's a shortage of this information, it's the shortage of the desire to actually take action to change your life. Have you found any kind of common themes with why people are stuck in the state of attachment and are resisting so much?

ryan:

Yeah. They have some opposition, and everyone has opposition. And there's tremendous cultural opposition, there's tribal opposition, cultural opposition. Right now you are being fed nonsense by the news. Your attention is trying to be subverted onto Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and YouTube as we speak. Like your soul might be like, every word Ryan is saying, I need to hear. And yet there's another voice saying, oh, tune out of this and tune into YouTube right now, and tune out of this and go check your Instagram and go check your email. And so you have a constant force that is trying to distract you from doing the work. And you are alone in this fight. You have the most experienced sociologists, psychologists, neurologists, scientists, galore that are working in think tanks at Facebook and Google and Twitter and a variety of others. And they're looking at you and they're saying, how can we get you away from your life's purpose?
They literally are trying to figure out how to distract you so that they can sell your attention to an advertiser. And in order for you to be successful, you have to be able to control and focus your attention onto one thing for a long enough period of time, until you get to a level of mastery, it's that simple for any profession, whether you want to be a pianist or you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to have focus and attention in order to do that. And these external things that are trying to steal and monetize your attention is literally theft. They're literally stealing your attention, they're using every technical trick in the book to do so. They're studying you at length over 5,000 data points that you've voluntarily given them about you to try to figure out how to get off of this podcast right now and onto a cat video or onto a self-help video that you think is going to be the thing that's going to change your life.
You are up against tremendous forces at work that you cannot see. There's spiritual forces at work. There's your lower self that's at work. There's cultural forces at work. There's capitalism at work. There's your tribal group at work, that once you go drink a beer with them and get high with them, and not get high with them, get low with them, because you're not really getting high, you're getting low. There's all these forces at work. And so the big theme that I have seen in the hundreds of people that I have mentored since I started altar call two years ago, is that, people just don't know how to inoculate themselves against those forces.
And then the second theme is, they don't want it bad enough. They claim they want it, but they really don't want it bad enough. They want it, but they're not willing to step out of their comfort zone. They want it, but they're not willing to change their morning routine. They want it, but they're not willing to change their diet. They want it, but they're not willing to change how they work out or exercise. They want it, but they're not willing to change themselves, their identity. They're not willing to address their ego. They're not willing to look at their shadow. They say they want it, they tell me, Ryan, I want it so bad, I want to be rich, I want to be successful. And I know deep down, they really don't want it.
Because I wanted it. I wanted it so bad that I will change anything about me, including my name. I will change anything about me. I will change my identity. I will change the way I walked, the way I talk, the way I dressed, the way I spoke, I would change anything. That's how bad I wanted it. And when I started AlterCall, I went back to those roots and I said to my higher power, God, I said, I will change anything about me to be able to serve at my highest capacity. Because as an entrepreneur, at running ViSalus, I was able to serve a lot of people, but I was never at my best. There was always a gap between what I could have been doing and what I was actually doing. I was an amateur at ViSalus. I was not a pro.
Now, as an amateur, I created billions of dollars in sales. So I had some gifts and talents that I was able to play with as an amateur, but I never really went pro at ViSalus. And when I made the declaration that I was going to become a new version of myself and starting AlterCall, I went all in and I burned the bridges, burned my old identity and said, I'm I'm going pro and I'm starting new, brand new. And did the work basically, and people were just not willing to do the work. I tell people... They'll come to me and they'll say, this is what I want, this is what I'm going through, here's the challenges I'm facing, here's the obstacles and...
Just yesterday I was with the guy who has a hundred million dollar company. And I'm like, I'll give you the solution. You want to solve your problem? You have to get internal clarity before you can get external clarity. And the way you get internal clarity is you got to meditate each and every single day and you got to do minimum of 30 minutes. That's it. It's that simple, 30 minutes a day meditate. I guarantee you. The guy I talked to yesterday, isn't going to do it. He just doesn't want it bad enough. He's not willing to make the changes. He'll hear me say it, he'll hear a hundred other people say it that external clarity comes from internal clarity. He's missing external clarity right now, let's go get some internal clarity. He's not going to do it. So people know what to do, they just don't do it.

chris:

Do you think when they're seeking advice or help that they need to hear what they think the solutions going to be and anything that doesn't sound like it, they're not going to do?

ryan:

I think, I think that people right now are guru shopping. They're looking for a little piece of, my buddy Grant Cardone, a little piece for my buddy, Tony Robbins, a little piece for my friend, Gary, Vanner Chuck, they're trying to go guru shopping. Eventually they might see a pattern that pretty much every single one of us is saying the exact same thing. We're just saying it our own different way through our own relative experience. There's a few, maybe areas of focus that each of us have in our work, but we're all pretty much getting down to the same exact thing. And we're in the age right now of a million messengers, which is a beautiful thing.
I think that maybe each of us in our own way are planting seeds in the lives of these people listening in right now. And over time, maybe those seeds will grow. But if you're not in the right environment, you don't have... Human beings are like plants. If you're not in the right environment, you don't have the right sun, the right water and the right soil, the plant is not going to grow. And so while people are... They're getting seeds from all these gurus that are out there, myself included, they're not in the right environment for those seeds to grow. And so they're just constantly filling themselves with more information that's basically going nowhere. It's like throwing seeds on the ground without doing the work to till the soil. It's not going to do anything. The age of the messenger is beautiful and it's showing some patterns and some common themes among all of us, but it's also creating a whole lot of people that have a great degree of input, but little degree of output.

chris:

Going back to the question about how one reinvents themselves. I think step one was to silence the distractions and they come in many forms. Some are technological, so you can just cut yourself off from the distractions. Some of them are cultural, some of them can be related to you, because they're pulling you into different direction, preventing you from making that change.
But the thing that was kind of intriguing to me, the thing that I have a question to you about is, you went through a lot of stuff. You went through the distraction phase yourself, with drugs and parting, chasing a lot of different things, but you emerge a stronger, more resilient person. I mean, could you imagine telling your younger self, when you were 16, 17 in the gangs saying, Hey, young Ryan, don't do this, do this other thing. I'm not sure you would've listened to yourself. The question I'm asking is, does a person need to go through this arc, their own journey to only then discover the hard way that that was the wrong path?

ryan:

Yes. I tell people when they come to me and they talk about the pain they're in, I smile and I'm like, Ooh, you got a better mentor than me right now, because your mentor is suffering, and suffering is one of the best mentors you could ever have. Suffering is the best teacher. There's no better teacher than suffering. I'm not nearly as good of a teacher as suffering as. I'm in a different college, right now you're in the college of suffering. And once you graduate from the college of suffering, then we could talk about the college of the light and the college that I'm a professor in. But I know the college of suffering, I've been in that college. I graduated from it and I'm no longer need to be taught by suffering to the same degree that I used to.
And we all learn from pain and suffering. That's part of the human condition. To answer your question, directly, it's like when I see a person that's still smoking weed even though they want a great career and they have a lot of potential in them and they're not, when I see a person that is self-medicating when they know that self medication isn't the way forward. I smile and I say let me know when you're done with the teacher of suffering and then I can work with you. But until then, I love you, I embrace you. You're in for the right of your life. And it's going to be... You're going to learn a lot from it. And so I can't wait to compare notes with you once you've graduated from the school of suffering.

chris:

I like that sentiment a lot, let me know when you're done with the teacher of suffering. It's empathetic, we're also saying like, everybody is got to go through their own thing, and when you're ready, it's going to be this beautiful, wonderful thing. I'd love to accompany you and be a friend, a mentor, and a guide to this other place. So I guess people do have to go through their own, the dark night of the soul before they're ready to climb out, right?

ryan:

Yeah. Well, if you want to be a hero, you're going to have to go through the darkest night, you're going to have to go through isolation. You're going to have to live in a cave for a while. You're going to have to have people attack you and crucify you. I mean, this is the formula that the universe uses to create heroes. And it's been the same formula for thousands of years. And every legend that we talk about has a very similar formula. So you're going to have to go through it. It is up to you as to how fast you want to go through it. So you're going to have to go through it, I had a student that lost his company because he had broken from his integrity and his values.
And I was like, you're going into the wilderness, I love you, but you're going in, how long you're in the wilderness is up to you. I can't help you not go into the wilderness. You signed up for this class. I see you're going there. You're losing your company. It's going to fall apart. You're not going to pick it back up. You're not going to save it. The more you keep digging, the more painful it's going to be. Surrender and enter the wilderness, and then ask yourself, how long do I need to be in here? And the way you speed up the duration and get out of the wilderness quicker is you commit, you do the work. You work on the south. You go deep, you heal, you contemplate, you meditate. And you do the work every single day consecutively. And if you do that, you can grow yourself out of the wilderness, but there's only one way out of a hole and that's to grow.
So anytime that I've been in a hole, I'm at rock bottom or I'm in a place I don't want to be, I have to increase my amount of growth to get out of it. What happens is, people go into the wilderness, and then they suffer from suffering. And this is an interesting distinction. You got to be very careful about. See, it sucks when you lose your company. It sucks when you fail. It sucks when you get a divorce or you get cheated on or you get left, and then you suffer about the suffering. And that creates a loop, and that loop reprograms you. And it actually shifts your state to more negativity in your life. And then you're going to stay in the wilderness even longer. So if you want to get out of the wilderness, if you want to get out the hole, you got to stop suffering from suffering and you got to start growing. And the faster you grow, the faster you're going to get to other side of that adventure.

chris:

Love it. You talked about being in the hole, in your timeline, in your story, you talk about your mom having an accident and finding out that she's in a coma while trying to launch this book, Nothing to Lose, Everything you Gain, and also learning that your son has autism. I think he was two years old at a time. That's a lot to be going through, highs, lows, and challenges. I want to talk a little bit, because as I watched the documentary film that you're in, I see you getting choked up, talking about your son and reflecting if it's somehow, maybe punishment for failing, for not doing whatever it is you're supposed to do, it's the universe saying, we're going to throw the toughest challenge at you. And also the importance that you put on being a better father to your own child than the one that you had.

ryan:

Yeah.

chris:

The reason why I want to talk to you a little bit about your autistic son is, I can see you trying to connect with them, trying to play with him, and he's just not responding to you. And my nephew, my younger brother's son is autistic, and it was like, as if he's paying attention or he's angry or something is off and it's just, we want to connect, especially to our own child. Tell me about the mindset that you're going through at that point, and then get us up to speed as to what's happened since then.

ryan:

Wow. That's a great question. It's deep and you're going to get me to choke up now because I didn't realize that was what was on the film. I was trying to connect with him and I just wanted nothing more than to feel this love and give this love that I have within me. I couldn't express my love the way I wanted to, and him having autism, he couldn't express his the way he wanted to either. It was a very, very difficult time. I cried a lot. There were times where I had to restrain him from hurting himself for many hours of the day. One time I counted, out of the 12 hour day, I had been holding him back against himself for like 10 of the 12 hours, meaning trying to soothe him and stop him from scratching his face and hitting and banging his head against the wall and these very terrible, difficult situations that he was going through.
I'll tell you that, the pain that he was going through was far greater than the pain that I was going through though. Although in the documentary, he was so young, I have to tell you that he was going through it. And by the result of the spiritual work that I have done, he has had a tremendous amount of healing. His mom and I have got him early help, we got him all kinds of therapy, throw as much love at him as we possibly could. And as a result of how much love we gave toward him and the therapy and the spiritual work, he's no longer suffering from autism whatsoever.
And I have the deepest connections with him, literally, most nights, he has his own room, he's 13 years old, but he no longer shows any signs of autism whatsoever. It is a true miracle that I have to give credit to God for him. My son had something inside of him that was stopping him and it was tormenting him and torturing him and that's something left him. When my mother passed away, after she had awakened also a miracle from the coma. She had a few years where she was severely handicapped and in a very difficult state, although I could talk to her, we could share some things. And there were some beautiful moments that occurred after she woke up from the coma, very beautiful. It was still highly traumatic.
For seven years, I had some severe family events. My mother's coma, my stepfather and mentor passing away, tragically my arms, my son's autism. And all of those things happened as I became ultra successful, very wealthy, and had a significant amount of notoriety as a result of the success of my books and my companies. So I had this wonderful duality, and that duality was like a pressure cooker. And to escape that duality, I turned to pleasure and decadence and self medication and sex and drugs, and a variety of other advices to try to escape that pressure cooker. And when my mother passed away, basically, for lack of better words, I would say I went nuclear.
My company was failing at that point, I had this ultra toxic relationship with my son's mother, which we've healed and it's beautiful now, but it was bad. My son wasn't healthy and my mother was gone. I looked myself in the mirror and I realized that, I would've given any of those late nights partying, by late nights, those benders five day benders partying, I'd given any of them back to have another moment with my mother. And so I was mad at myself. I was mad at those people that had taken my time away from my mother. I was mad at those people that had used guilt to persuade me to work. And I was mad at the world, and I was most importantly mad at myself.
And from that though, I was able to strip the layers of darkness that I had accumulated and get to the root of the light of where my soul was at and make a decision that I was going to make some changes in my life. And literally from that point forward, my whole life has changed to be blessed and filled with abundance and a lot of deep healing and a lot of deep work.

chris:

Wow. That's a lot to process. I mean, I can only imagine dealing with one of those challenges, but all of them stacked together and simultaneously as your career was on some meteoric rise to the top, your personal life was just heading the same velocity in the exact opposite direction. It's a miracle you're still here and that didn't tear you apart. Because I can feel like may, maybe that's like two forces quite literally pulling you opposite directions.

ryan:

Yeah. It is a miracle that I'm here. The only reason why I'm here... Because I went through some really dark times during this whole process. The only reason why I'm here is because I love my son so much that I wasn't going to take my own life because I wouldn't do that to him. I knew that he needed a father and I knew that I had to... I went through a custody battle and I wasn't allowed to see him for six months. This is when my real reinvention was born. I said that I'm going to become such a different person. I'm going to shine so much light that there's not going to be a court or a judge or a lawyer that's going to stop me. That I'm going to get heal and stripped down everything that I constantly could.
I didn't know for sure that I'll get him back. I didn't know that I could convince the judge or the attorneys or... These things can take years, and these things can be devastating to a father, particularly in the California court system. And so the strategy my attorneys laid out for me could be a multi-year process and it could be a disaster. And so I said, I'm not going to follow the advice of my attorneys, I'm going to get so deep into my spiritual and personal growth that there is no way that I can be stopped because the light that I will shine will be so bright that it'll paint the sky blue and that my son will know that I'm the father that he needs and everyone else in the world will too.
I had a level of conviction to do the healing work and to fix the things about me that had created this toxic situation that I was in because I was certainly responsible for my fair share of it. I did the work and got my son back and I've been doing the work ever since with the same level of commitment and with the same desire to, now, not just be the father to my son, but be the father to as many people as I possibly can in the entrepreneurial field.

chris:

You mentioned something in the film about the love that you give to the world is with conditions. There are strings attached, there's a caveat, but with your son, it's unconditional, meaning without strings. I think about these things as the dad, myself, I have two boys, that the only people I will exchange my life for. Literally had to exchange my life if I could step in front of the train to save their life I would do that, and there's no one else that I would do that for. And to then try to pour your love and your energy and everything about you to heal yourself and to heal your child, and then to see this kind of miraculous transformation. I've never heard anybody say my child is now autism free or no longer autistic.
There's levels of autism because also my nephew has, he's as far as most people can tell, he's a pretty adjusted kid. He doesn't have the same challenges because of the same help and attention and love, and it's quite wonderful to actually see this healing process happen. Do you feel like at, at a certain point in your life that your child is the thing that helps to keep you grounded to make sure you have your priorities straight? Is that the thing that stopped you from being a hurricane to being grounded?

ryan:

Yeah. He came here to teach me, I like to think spiritually, he was sitting there saying, all right, this is my exact time to come in to stop this guy from going off the rails. And I'm going to come in and I'm going to come in with this illness, and I'm going to come in with this to try to steer Ryan on course. So he teaches me as much as I teach him, that's for sure. That level of responsibility, when you do have a child with special needs, it heightens your level of responsibility. It also changes you, you have to adapt to them. You have to understand how they learn and... You can't just parent by default, you have to be very active parent when you have a child with special needs.
A child of special needs teaches you more about yourself than you could ever imagine. And it is a gift. It is a true gift. I've learned more from my son than from any other mentor that I've ever imagined. And my son is very gifted. I actually go to him for counsel. I'll talk to him about my business, I'll invite him into the numbers. I'll ask him, what do you think I should do here? And he'll give me some wisdom sometimes that I think is divinely appointed. And I take it. There's been plenty of times where I've been seeking clarity and I'll say, what would you do if you were me? And he'll give the exact answer I need. And I'm like, all right, let's go. I have the benefit of having a son that is a tremendous survivor of having overcome great difficulties. He has some beautiful wisdom in him that he now shares with me. And I invite him to actually share that with some of my students as well.

chris:

So good. Okay. Many of us fantasized about making more money than we know what to do with, like F you money, more money than God as the expression goes. You've actually achieved that in 2012, you sold the company for 792 million. Now, I have to ask the question, why work? Why not be a philanthropist? Why not just enjoy the rest of your life and spend every moment with the people that you care about? What compels you to do the next thing?

ryan:

Well, I am a philanthropist. The for-profit model is the very best way to affect change. I'm actually on the board of a nonprofit and I... It's called National Angels. We support 3000 foster kids, and I'm very familiar with the nonprofit model, and having donated to a lot of charities I'm very familiar with it. There's just no better way to affect change than the for-profit model. This is the way that I'm affecting change. Right now in our company, we're innovating on technology that is going to revolutionize the coaching space. And we're deep diving into various psychology and research studies. It's the time of my life, when it comes to innovation, experimentation and growth. There's no better way to grow than an entrepreneurial vehicle, it's going to test you. And even though I had experience in the success in the past, starting a brand new company means you got to start over.
I can grow through things much easier this time around because I've already built a house. And so now I know how to build one. So I'm building it much more efficiently and I'm able to weather some storms and build the house in preparation for those storms in ways that I didn't know to do before. But nonetheless, there's no greater adventure than to create a company. And to see that company make an impact in the world, and to have a company and a team of people that are aligned in values and to grow, as they grow I grow and so forth. There's nothing more exhilarating and adventurous than building and growing a company. It's the time of my life right now.
I did try to not work. I took two years off, and I did nothing for two years. I resigned from all boards, I liquidated all investments. I had zero. I sold homes, I reduced... I had a fleet of cars. I had a bunch of homes. I had a jet. I had all kinds of things that I collected. It was like all kinds of stuff. And all that stuff had owned me. And it had actually stopped me from being creative, because the way my mind worked, I spent more time thinking about protecting and ensuring my stuff and collecting more stuff than I did in actually creating. As I'd gotten to that level of wealth, I did what I thought I should do, which is buy art and do this and do that and buy homes and live in luxury.
And I realized that all of that had stunted my creative growth. And so during the two years, I went down to zero, not financially, because I still had wealth, but I went down to zero in terms of the work that I did. I went down in terms of zero in terms of spending money and collecting stuff and consumerism. I wore gym clothes every day, I didn't care about $20,000 coats and a $100,000 watches and all those things that I had cared about. And I said, all of that stuff was great, it was an experience, I'm going to focus on getting to the roots of my creativity. And so I went down to a place where I zeroed out everything and I spent two years doing nothing but connecting to nature, my spirituality, my son, and my myself.
And after a period of time, I realized that I was now suffering again. You can do that amount of work because there's something in it for you, but after you get to a level of healing, you can't spend the rest of your life in tranquility and seeking tranquility, particularly if your soul is here to make an impact and to inspire and contribute to making some change in the world. And so eventually I realized, wow, I'm suffering again after two years. And it was my son who told me, he says, dad, you need to get a job again. I was like, what do you mean I need to get a job? And he is like, you are... He says, "You're not happy and you're bored and you need something." And I'm like, "Well, what should I do?"
And I gave him a piece of paper and a pen and he drew a hospital and he said, in this hospital, you're going to have a healing center. Because I had like sound bowls and I was meditating and I had all these healing things going on in my house. And he designed out this hospital and what he'd actually designed was, what we call the house of transformation, which is the house I'm in right now, where we literally have healing activities happening 24/7. We have events happening in the hous, we have people coming in and out of the house all the time to receive healing and growth and to learn how to heal and grow as entrepreneurs and so forth. He basically told me, dad, you got to go back to work because you're unhappy. And when he told me that, I realized, it's time to go back to work.

chris:

So your son, the person who grounds you is also the person who is like, dad, it's time, you got to go do something else.

ryan:

Yeah.

chris:

Wonderful.

ryan:

Yeah. It is time. I work with some entrepreneurs that they also go deep into their healing journey, especially for those of us that had the privilege to take that type of time and invest that type of time into it. The strategy works and then all of a sudden it will stop working once you've gotten everything you can out of the strategy and then you have to have a new strategy. Now, my strategy is two things, I optimize my productivity and my generosity. And the balance between my productivity and generosity is how I'm able to enjoy life to its fullest. I don't sacrifice time with my son. I don't buy into the myth that I need to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week. I think that's just nonsense.
If you're a highly skilled, highly talented person, you can attract highly skilled and highly talented people and you don't need to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week to be able to manifest your souls calling. There's a lot of entrepreneurs that I know that prescribe that. That is not the way. I do work 17 hours a day, seven days a week, but I probably spend six hours of that each day working on myself, and then on Saturdays and Sundays, I spend 24 hours of that enjoying myself. And as a result of that, I show up to my work with great energy, excitement, enthusiasm, and high level of conviction and a great deal of satisfaction and happiness, and that radiates and attracts people that vibe with that. And so we do great work more so than we ever did when I prescribed to the idea that I should work myself to death.

chris:

Will AlterCall be a greater financial success than ViSalus.

ryan:

It'll be tenfold. Tenfold than ViSalus if not more

chris:

Okay. You guys here, the prediction has been done. Ryan, I want to thank you for being on the show. I've been talking to Ryan Blair, he's an author, a serial entrepreneur, a philanthropist, probably most importantly, a dad. He has also written the bestselling book, Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I Went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur, and also Rock Bottom to Rock Star. Thank you for being my guest. Where can people go to find more about you?

ryan:

If you just go to altercall.com, it's A-L-T-E-R-C-A-L-L.com. Or you can catch me on Instagram. I'm in the DMs. It's me. I'm @realyanblair on Instagram.

chris:

Thank you so much.

ryan:

Awesome. Thank you, Chris. I'm Ryan Blair and you are listening to the Futur.

Greg Gunn:

Thanks for joining us at this time. If you haven't already subscribed to our show on your favorite podcasting app and get a new insightful episode from us every week. The Futur podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. Thank you to Anthony Barrow for editing and mixing this episode and thank you to Adam Sanborn for our intro music.
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