Life is a series of unexpected moments which require us to build stronger relationships and continuously learn skills for transforming who we are now and who we are supposed to be. Ryan Bethea, the head of Restoration Fund, loves answering questions about how he lives his life and how others can benefit from his existence. In this show, host Thane Marcus Ringler talks to him about fellowship and connecting with others, shifting his momentum from unifying to dividing, and his cornerstone habits. Ryan believes that whatever experiences you have, mentors and role models are necessary to guide you and that you must choose your mentors wisely. Ryan also shares the importance of learning many skills while you are still young.
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Fellowship ft. Ryan Bethea: Unconventional Paths, Overcoming Divisions, Being Helpful, Personal Principles, And Loving What You Do
Ryan Bethea, welcome to the show.
I know it’s a sincere privilege for you and I’m here.
I wanted to start here. I love good questions and I am excited to hear your answers because there’s a lot of interesting questions that I have stockpiled up. We’re going to go through a handful of questions to get rolling. If you could only use three condiments for the rest of your life, what would they be?
I know I have to say ketchup because it’s versatile. I can imagine it would disqualify a whole litany of potato products if I was not able to use ketchup. This is going to sound probably devilish where I’m going to probably get a lower rating in the show. I think I could do without mustard. I’m going to get rid of that one. It’s not going to be one of my go-to, but I’m going to need ketchup. I will need hot sauce. We’re going to need that because that’s versatile.
I am a Cholula fan, but I also like good Sriracha. I would like ketchup, hot sauce and there’s relish but no one wants relish. That’s not necessary. Soy sauce because now I can have my Mexican food and my hot sauce. I can have my Sriracha. My soy sauce, so I can get my Asian food going and then ketchup, so I can eat French fries. Those are my three condiments.
That’s well-said and well-gamed. Here’s another one. If you can be a part of nature, what would you be and why?
There’s a loud insect that makes a lot of noise, cicadas, and I think a lot of people said I would be a cicada.
They’ve put that on you.
I don’t know where you get these questions from. I’ve never even thought about it. This is not what I was led to believe I would be speaking about here. I would like to be one of those sequoia trees because some of those sequoia trees have been around since the time Jesus walked the Earth. They’d probably seen a thing or two or not because they’re in the middle of nowhere. Maybe they didn’t see a lot. It was pretty much a view of other trees.
That’s a good point. We’ll do one more. Less, more and none. What do you want to do, less often, more often and not at all?
I want to do my taxes less often and not at all is one of them. Those two blends together actually. I don’t know. I’m thankful. There’s a lot to enjoy, even stuff like jogging, which I don’t necessarily enjoy. I still secretly enjoy it because it’s good for you. I’m trying to think of what’s not at all but less taxes. The more often, I would love to travel more. I’m blessed to travel quite a bit, but there’s a lot of worlds to see out there. I haven’t been to all 50 states. I’m not even a hometown hero yet. I’m missing out a bunch of states. I’d like to do that more.
Have you been to Kansas?
I have been to Kansas for four hours once and that was enough to make me not want to go to Kansas. I did see the movie, Twister, though and that also was not the best infomercial for Kansas.
I stand by Kansas. I think it’s beautiful. It’s a great place.
Were you from Kansas?
Hutchinson, Kansas, yes.
You’re one of the twenty people from Kansas.
We get a lot of flak out here in LA. We get a lot of, “You’re not in Kansas anymore,” which is a Dorothy joke. It’s pretty unoriginal, but I think that the western half of the state leaves a lot to be desired, but the eastern half is nice. It’s got a lot of beauty.
That’s interesting because, on the map, it looks like one desolate rectangle with tornadoes.
Where did you grow up?Even though there are unique challenges with technology, you can get connected to people more than ever now. Click To Tweet
I grew up in a little tiny village, a little hamlet south of LA called San Diego. It’s a little hamlet, quaint and right on the water. It’s beautiful and the little even more remote northern sector of that is a little town called Escondido.
It’s a beautiful place. We are in North Hollywood technically.
We are currently sitting somewhere between North Hollywood and Toluca Lake depending on which side of the street you’re standing on.
We’re in the Gray Zone in your beautiful place here. I’ve been excited for this conversation because ever since we met, I’ve enjoyed probably every conversation we’ve had because one, you think well about life and this is my perspective, so take it with a grain of salt. You are a learner and you’re constantly learning new things. You’re a relational person, which I love. I know you’ve self-described yourself as an extrovert. Where would you put yourself on that spectrum? Is there 100% extroversion or is there a 90/10? What percentage would you attribute to that?
I’ve been thinking about this. There was a season where I tried to tell people I was an ambivert and I was met with derision and laughter. I do have a lot of extroverted tendencies. I think that the classic definition is what energizes you. I enjoy solitude as much in life and you wouldn’t know it. I think you would not believe that but I enjoy getting up in the morning and having a cup of coffee and reading and solitude for two or three hours. That’s a sweet time and then about three or four hours of solitude and I’m pretty much ready to talk to anyone. That’s why I’m here with you.
I happened to show up and you were looking. This is something that obviously is very LA. It’s like when you meet people, “What do you do?” It’s very human in general but for you, it’s got to be an interesting process to share what your life looks like because it’s about as unconventional as it gets. What we were talking about before was you make a living doing 0.5% of the people in the world in that sense which is a very nonconventional place. When you meet people, what route do you go about in them getting to know you?
Los Angeles is an interesting place for that. I would say Southern California in general. You mentioned LA but I think in general, we are increasing so probably in Western culture we are defined by what we do. I think it’s a natural question like, “Who are you?” and literally translated to, “What can you do for me?” As far as living in LA, I am pretty extroverted. I tell my life story to the mailman. It’s never been difficult for me to meet people. I will share way too much, way too quickly, but I love people so much and I find a lot of people don’t reach out to people in general. I tend to pursue pretty hard. If you don’t hear from me, that’s usually a worrisome sign because I’m usually having to be turned away because I love to reach out to people a lot and that’s the easiest way to cut through the SoCal shadowless boundaries to go after people.
I share a lot of that with you. I love intentional relationships with people. That’s one of the best blessings in life, but there’s a lack of that now. When you think about the skill of building meaningful relationships, which is largely what you do even for a living in some ways, how do you think about the need for that? What do you see is the need for that in the world that we live in or the importance of relationships even in life?
It probably would be helpful because it’s like that old Office Space quote. In the movie and they go, “What would you say you do here?” Most people have no idea what I do for a living and that’s okay. I run a family office right now and we’re focused on trying to address a lot. Specifically, California has got some large systemic problems with it right now. Like any state, you’re going to have your unique issues. Part of the work we do is we work with a lot of homeless initiatives. We also have a shelter to help women who’ve been victims of sex trafficking and abuse. We do a lot of work with education reform and throughout all those issues, we’re fortunate enough that those are all issues that all sides can get behind.
Building relationships across both sides of the aisle is important to solving a lot of these issues. That’s why that is so important for me and in addition to loving people so much and just enjoying people. It’s important for my work in particular because you might have to sit across the aisle from someone and work solving an issue. It is cool to sit down and brainstorm an idea on how to solve an issue. You both are coming at it from diametrically opposed viewpoints, but you’re both unified around this one thing of how can we help this sector? How can we help alleviate pain for this group? That’s really rewarding. As far as building relationships, I think it’s such a vital component even more so now. You’re going to hear this everywhere, “We’re so divided.” That’s the talking points and it is true to some extent. It’s ironic considering that we have all these tools to be connected more so than ever. I’m a big fan of technology. We do check that often. I’m totally guilty of being at dinner and mindlessly checking my phone or something.
The reality is it does allow you to stay in touch with people. I love the fact that within ten seconds you can pull out this little computer in your hand and send something to someone that either makes them laugh, makes their day and as I say, I’m like, “I should get back to those people.” There’s no excuse not to be. You can stay in touch with so many people. It’s such a blessing and a privilege. I love that I have several close friends who I see once a year if I’m lucky because they live across the country and thanks to all this technology, you can connect to them. Even though there are unique challenges with it, you can get connected to people more than ever now. There are many amazing tools. I love it. I think we’re living in a cool time for that.
It is and like everything, it can be a blessing and a curse. It comes down to us and how we use it and what our intention behind it a lot of times or if we even have intention behind it. We’re all human, so it’s not going to be a perfect glide path. It’s not going to be used best all the time. I think there’s grace for that, even for ourselves. Even in thinking about what is helpful, this is something that I’ve talked about. What is helpful in this time of our country, our society and the place we find our self in, feeling like it is one of the most divided places we’ve been in a while. It isn’t necessarily slowing down. How do we start thinking about ways to shift the momentum back into unifying versus dividing? I’m curious what your perspective on this. What do you think are helpful things for making that shift? Even on an individual practical level?
I can speak from a lot of failed experiences. There is a saying, “There are no shoes for a cobbler’s son.” It is remarkable that for someone whose job is so predicated on building relationships, I have had so many stupid arguments, pointless debates, division because of frankly my ego getting in the way of wanting to be right. There’s this human need to make it a game and to say who’s right. Humans are emotional creatures and that’s one thing that I have tried to work on and I’m still hopefully getting better at. There’s that old saying, “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
You read that in a book somewhere and it’s so true because people actually believe that you do empathize and you do care. I struggle with this. I am very empathetic. I do carry a lot of burdens for other people, but I’m not good at showing it at all. I am notoriously stoic, even in the face of some things where people are like, “That’s horrible.” I’m like, “It is.” It’s not that I’m numb to it all, but I’m just not expressive when it comes to some of those things. I’ve learned that you’ve got to seek to understand because the reality is you never know.
I’ve been wrong so many times where I have assumed that this person is coming to this conclusion for this reason. The reality is there is an infinite number of paths that may have gotten that person to think the way they do and you know one of them. There may be 99 and I cannot tell you the number of times that after someone explained why they had the view they did, even if I thought the view was wrong, I go, “If I was in that position, I would have thought the exact same thing. I immediately jumped to the conclusion of, “You think this. I know exactly why you think this and this is why you’re wrong.” I think it’s important to try and ask questions. Someone else said this, I don’t know if it was Jordan Peterson or someone, but he mentioned instead of strong manning someone, and they called this steel manning where you start as a practical level, make sure you repeat someone’s argument back to them. I’ve never done that. The few times I’ve tried it, it’s worked amazingly. That’s something I’m trying to incorporate too.
That’s so practical because a lot of times we don’t hear what they’re saying truly or accurately. Sometimes when they say something, we automatically put our interpretation onto that to where repeating it allows clarification to take place. Initially, that would clear up even some of the argument that may happen anyways. It’s amazing what something as simple as that. I can’t remember who said this but I love a quote that said, “Statements generate resistance, whereas questions generate answers.” I know we all are very quick for statements versus questions. The other quote that you remind me of was from Morgan Housel. He said, “Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.000001% of what’s happened in the world, but maybe 80% of how you think the world works were all biased to our own personal history.” That is a very helpful quote.
That’s a bias statement he made.
That’s a great and practical tool. What else do you see as being helpful? The last episode we had with Houston Kraft, which is a great interview, he phrased it by saying, “Do I want to be helpful more than I want to be right?” I think it’s a pretty powerful question to think about. It’s like, “How can we want to be helpful more than we want to be right?”
It’s a sensitive spot for me because I’ve had a lot of Pyrrhic victories in this area. You can be right and wrong at the same time. That’s the difficult things because you also might be conceptually right about something or principally right, but in practical terms, it’s not something that people are going to resonate with, especially if their experience completely contradicts your experiences. That’s the hardest part. It’s something I’m trying to work through. For me right now, the big thing is to stop and ask questions and then also try and ask myself if I was coming to this from their perspective. For me, that literally will take stopping the conversation and even asking whether this is a time to engage in that.Money is the only finite commodity we truly have. Click To Tweet
I have had so many disagreements where the signs were there for me. You know if people are looking for an actual conversation or for debate. I know I’ve done it. The smart people are like, “You don’t want to solve anything right now, you just want to process out loud.” I’ll be like, “You’re right. I don’t.” I have a good friend asked me like, “Do you want my opinion right now?” I asked him a couple of times. One time I was like, “You’re right, I don’t right now. I know how I feel about it.” He’s like, “Good, just save the debate then.” That’s something that’s asking yourself, “Will this move the needle forward in any meaningful way?” Nine times out of ten, I’m convinced the answer is no. If we’re talking specifically political or moral differences and stuff because humans are complex, we all got unique stories.
Understanding the complexity of humans is such a help and such an assistance in that. You’re right, I love asking, “Would you like feedback?” If it’s clearly a no, they’ll actually say no. If it’s on the borderline, some of them will say, “Sure.” Even that’s an indication of maybe not give it or give it a little slightly different. I think that is helpful. There are a lot of times where feedback isn’t helpful. The listening is what’s helpful, just hearing someone. One of the most powerful concepts I learned about this was the three core needs of human beings. I wrote a blog post about it because they’re non-obvious in my opinion. The obvious core needs are food, water, shelter, sleep. Other ones are family and other things like that, but the non-obvious ones are being seen, being heard and being connected to a community or something bigger than yourself. When those are all taken away or not a part of someone’s life, we start deteriorating as humans.
A lot of times, in this world with how distracted, busy, noisy and connected, people just need to be heard truly. I went and had coffee with my neighbor. She talked a lot and it was great. I’m like, “I think this woman needs to be heard.” There’s something to it that we can all provide those three things. We can all see someone, hear someone or try to connect someone to human interaction, connection, community or something bigger. It makes it a little bit more attainable sometimes. I think giving people a taste of that career path is helpful because a lot of times we think about coming from each stage of life and there’s this structure or this process that we all follow. You approach it a little bit differently than most. Tell me a little bit about when this first idea came during your college years and how it played out over the years after being in college and graduating.
The outreach project, like most Millennials, I always struggle and to an extent, I still do with which it’s like, “What do I want to do?” We have the privilege of deciding to a certain extent what we want to do with our lives. That is still not a reality for a vast majority of the world. I’m reading Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography right now. You turn sixteen and your dad lines you up and he said, “You’re going to be a tanner. You’re going to be a farmer. You’re going to stay here and then go to college and then you get out of the house.” You’re kicked out of the house and you grew up quickly. Ironically, he ended up doing what he wanted to do, but imagine someone in that period looking at their father and going, “Farming doesn’t fulfill me right now.”
That’s so foreign. The idea that we get to pick is so relatively new in society. I was the classic analysis paralysis, a paradox of choice, went to an amazing school that presented a lot of opportunities. I started studying entrepreneurship there. One thing that I always enjoyed was connecting with people who had gone before me and asking about their journey, how they got to where they are, what they’re doing for a living now. Do they enjoy it? It’s a big one for me. I struggle with that because I don’t think you necessarily get to enjoy what you do, but if you can and that’s amazing. I wish that for everybody, but I know there are people who work and work is work and that’s it. If you can enjoy it, great. That was important to me and I ask a lot of people this question. When I was at USC, I went on our database and I started emailing tons and tons of alumni in any industry and company I found remotely interesting; Trader Joe’s and Bristol Farms. Obviously, I was a food fan, Oakley and Weather Channel.
What did this email say when you reached out?
The email essentially was, “Hi, my name is Ryan. You have never heard of me, you don’t know who I am, but I’m a recent graduate. I don’t know what I want to do, but you sound like you have an interesting job. Could I ask you a few questions? I’d love to know your journey, how you got to where you are, what you’re doing now. Do you enjoy it? Also lastly, if there’s anything I can do to help.” You’d be amazed. People feel sorry for you when you’re an undergrad. When you’re young, people want to help you. I was amazed. I’d say 40% got back to me. I don’t know that for sure, but it was a pretty high number and said, “I’m a fellow Trojan. I just want to get to know you better.” I was amazed at the people, even senior people got back to me. It was amazing. I want to give one star, but I don’t want to do it for fear that we could inspire everyone to email him, but there’s this one senior executive of a really big company. I didn’t know it was him. It was just one name in our database, so I emailed him.
Only afterwards when he responded and the signature line and the title, I went, “I should have known that.” The lesson here is to do your homework before you reach out, but he was amazing like, “He gave me a call.” We’ve chatted and we’ve stayed in touch over the years and it’s been awesome. I found that for me is just being sincere, succinct and being genuine. That helped and I met so many incredible people. I found out that most people had no idea where they would end up unless you were a dentist or a lawyer and you had a track. Most people had no idea. They started one way and ended up in another. Also, a lot of people don’t enjoy what they do for a living. That was a bummer. For me, time is infinitely more valuable. Money is the only finite commodity we truly have. I said, “I want to hold out for something. I want to be that guy that if someone emails me and says, “Do you love what you do?” I can say, “Absolutely.” I’m blessed to say that I 1,000% love what I do.
The interesting thing about that is out of that absolutely loving what you do, how much of what you do still work to you? I think that’s a common misperception that just because you love what you do, doesn’t mean it still isn’t work. You still have to at times grind and do things you don’t feel like doing at in the moment or whatever it may be. I don’t think that there is this dream where work isn’t magically work. There’s still a work component. For you, even in that absolutely loving it, what percentage or how much of it still feels like work at times?
I’m blessed that a lot of it doesn’t feel like work. There are things on a spectrum that I’d rather be doing and things that are more fun. Senator Ben Sasse has an amazing book called The Vanishing American Adults. He has this anecdote in there about sitting across from John McCain and they’re in this air-conditioned room. He, Ted Cruz, John McCain and a couple of other senators are all discussing agricultural policy. They’re in these plush leather chairs. They have these amazing assortments of refreshments and snacks and it’s 100 degrees outside. It’s super humid and hot and he’s gone, “I’m so bored.” He’s like, “You’ve discussed agricultural policy and it’s not as glamorous as it sounds being a senator.” He said one of his exercises is he’ll look at John McCain and obviously this is before Senator John McCain passed, but he would think, “This guy was taken prisoner in Vietnam, tortured and spent two years. It was an incredible length of time in a camp and now comes back and he can’t do certain activities anymore. If that guy has spent two years right there, I can get through an air-conditioned, refreshed office session discussing the policy.”
One of the things he said was whenever you’re bored or thinking about something, you have to think about it and put it in perspective. The comparison goes both ways. It can hurt you when you start comparing yourself to others, but then it can also help when you start going like, “Right now, our lives are awesome. You and I might feel this is a little boring at times, whatever we’re doing, but putting that in the context of we could be out in a rock quarry doing manual labor all day. We don’t have to do that. Thank goodness.” There’s a lesson in there. One of our mentors is fond of saying that you can’t find a purpose through passion, but you can find passion through purpose. He uses the example of being a father. He said being a father is the greatest thing. It’s so amazing.
You love being with your kids and it’s so fun. There are other times when you’re like, “That is not my kid. I don’t know how that kid is behaving or what is going on.” He goes, “Just because you’re not feeling it at the moment doesn’t mean you turn off being a dad. You have to find in those moments the joy of being a dad.” I am blessed right now that in a lot of the stuff we do. It’s all part of a bigger vision and a bigger goal. It doesn’t take long to get in the right headspace of why we’re so blessed. That brings a lot of enjoyment to it.
It’s the power of perspective. Even speaking of comparison, I heard a great quote by James Clear, one of my favorite authors said, “Comparison is the thief of joy when applied broadly, but the teacher of skills when applied narrowly.” It’s a cool contrast if we’re comparing our job or where we’re at in life or our marriage or whatever it may be, put X, fill in the blank with whatever you want. It’s not helpful, but if you’re comparing your golf skills to your playing competitor and seeing what little things maybe you need a tweak to get better or within a specific skillset or even evaluating yourself within the day can be a helpful thing too. It depends on how you use it, but it is amazing the power of perspective. I think that’s what’s so cool even with what God provides is that he allows us to redeem anything and everything. One of the greatest gifts of faith or hope is that everything can have meaning then. That purpose then creates passion, which is such a beautiful way of putting it. I think that’s an awesome framework for operating out of.
I hope to steal that quote more and more often from him, but I did not come up with it unfortunately.
Speak to me a little bit about the role of mentorship in your own life. How has that impacted you as a person?
It’s been huge. I’ve been in a ditch somewhere. I’ve had many amazing people pour into me and if you can find it, get it fast. It’s so vital and I think we can always be mentoring people. I was very blessed early on. USC actually did a program called CAP, which was a mentorship program where they paired up young entrepreneur students with mentors in the business space. Some of them went on to do some amazing things. I’m always amazed by people who turn it down because they’re literally offering you a fast track pass to Disneyland, skip the line and go straight to the good stuff. It is so vital. I have a large number of mentors. Thank God, they haven’t dropped me yet. I have not always listened to them. I think you need a spiritual mentor. You need a business mentor and even different industries too if you’re involved in multiple works. The same way if you have someone like a general life coaching mentor, I cannot speak highly enough about it. It has been absolutely game-changing and life-changing for me.
How do you go about pinpointing a person that you want to learn from?
First is how good-looking are they because you need to make sure that whoever you’re seeing being mentored by is viewed as being beautiful because that will increase your own appeal. That’s why I’m asking you to mentor me. For me, it’s one of those things where if they’re interested in me, what is their motivation and why? For a lot of people, being able to mentor people is a way of making sense of their past experiences. I want mentors who have been successful, but I don’t hold it against you. There is a lot of wisdom from people who have tried things and not seeing the success that they want.With the changing nature and dynamic situation our economy is in, especially as Millennials, we're going to have multiple careers. Click To Tweet
Those people get overlooked a lot at the time too. There are some amazing wisdom and mentorship to be gleaned from them. For me, do we get along well? Do we enjoy each other’s company? How are they that invested in me? There are all sorts of different types of mentors. There are ones you speak with occasionally, but also as someone who I’m going to follow their advice because it is tragic to take advice and not follow it. You have too many mentors than you can have a committee to make decisions. If you search hard enough, you can find anyone who agrees with you. There is an element of being more selective in that regard.
I feel like there are seasons too because when I was playing golf, one of the things was I found myself oversharing and over-communicating while I was learning, working through or growing through and inviting a lot of voices in. That can be unhelpful a lot of times because then it’s like the discernment of which voices are you listening to and not all voices are created equal. All humans are, but voices don’t need to be. Some merit more ear and less ear. It was a process for me of having to overshare and learn from that to then now I’m on the other end of under-sharing in mentorship. I’ll be swinging back to the other side. It’s an ebb and a flow a lot of times even from my life at least. It’s been interesting to see that.
The other thing that was interesting too about your story that I love to hear your thoughts on is this. There’s always a lot of talk with career choices of generalization versus specialization. I started out in a much more specialized field and now I’m in a much more generalized field. You have been somewhat of a generalist in a lot of ways and going the relationship route from my perspective and I could be wrong. I’m curious to hear what’s your perspective on those two different genres and the trade-offs associated and how people think about that even in their own careers or pursuits.
One of my biggest regrets is not getting deadly proficient at one thing earlier on and quicker. On the other hand, given the changing nature and the dynamic situation our economy finds itself in, especially as Millennials, we’re going to have multiple careers. Being a generalist is more important than ever and having great relationships is a way to ensure that you’re a linchpin. Humans want to work with humans they love, they care about and they enjoy. Both of those are important, but I always tell the younger guys and girls that I mentored, you need to get good at one thing. It’s something that I regret not doing more of, especially when you’re younger too. When you’re younger and you get proficient at something and you get good at it, there are an inherent appeal and allure to the young pro, the young expert.
When you’re older, you’re expected to be good at one thing. When you’re younger it’s like one plus one is eleven. I had a friend who was saying that if you’re going to work in the entertainment industry, you want to make sure by 40 you cannot by definition be known as the young culture shaper because your age is out of that bracket. I thought that is another reason to get good early on because you can have some unique opportunities that wouldn’t be afforded there. On the other hand, it is good to get multiple things because you don’t know what’s going to work out. You have no idea, the days of joining one company and working your way hierarchically up the ladder are gone.
You’re going to have fourteen, fifteen different jobs. You don’t know which startup, which company, which thing is going to happen. I do encourage people to also broaden and learn. There’s another cool thing too. A good friend of mine, Emerson Spartz, he’s one of the top viral marketing experts in the world. He would always point out that 80/20. If you want to become an expert on something in the information economy, read the top three books on a subject. He’s speaking particularly about business subjects. The reality is if you want to be a great marketer, go read three top books in marketing. Start studying it regularly. Read the top blogs, articles and interview with people. You will have a certain amount of knowledge greater than a massive proportion of the population. Anything you want to learn now, there is a YouTube video for it and there are experiences out there. You can get information sent immediately to you. It’s a great time and place to learn. Masterclasses, you can learn so much right now.
That’s why it’s even more important that you do pick something because otherwise, we can end up trying to learn too much and learn nothing. They’re all at our fingertips. It’s all at our disposal. It is an awesome time, but it does take more focus with more options, which can be even more challenging a lot of times too. That’s cool because I think you’re spot on. Generalization has become way more important even in the last several years. I know a lot of people have recommended the book, Range. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve heard that’s a good one on that topic. It is that ability to learn well. That’s what underlies this. Can you learn how to learn? If you can learn how to learn, then there’s nothing you can’t learn. That gives you the versatility to adapt to the changing trends.
I’m going to remember that when you criticize my golf game. For the audience, Thane and I get to play golf sometimes. I remember when he said there’s nothing you can’t learn when I try and beat him next time, which probably is not going to happen.
Your memory is ridiculous. I was blown away by the first time I had a conversation. This guy’s memory recall is literally not human.
I’ve thought about that sometimes and I’m like, “I remember it so clearly,” and someone will clarify that. Maybe if someone said with enough conviction, you could convince yourself of anything.
That’s a good point, but even memory itself is our interpretation of it. It is an interesting rabbit hole to go down because it is an interpretation of an event you experienced and it’s changed because you’ve changed.
I am blessed with a pretty good memory. If I care about it, I have an amazing memory. My parents would always joke that I had an amazing memory as a kid, but it’s funny that certain tasks around the house or whatever, I would conveniently forget. We don’t know whether that was willful insubordination or truly the memory that goes towards stuff you care about. If you do care about it, you can remember stuff easily. I’ve always had a photographic memory as a kid. My parents encouraged me to read a lot early. I think that helped. I am a little OCD too. Part of the reason too is I repeat things in my head without meaning too. I’ll be walking around the house sometimes and quoting movies and not realize I’m doing it. I think that basically ingrains and builds in you. Sometimes I’ll be having a conversation with myself in the kitchen out loud. That reinforces right or wrong whatever I think I remember.
What are those conversations usually about?
If I want to talk to someone about something, for example, if I want to bring up a debate we’re having or something, the reality is I don’t consciously know I’m doing this until afterwards. I was doing the dishes and I caught myself having a theoretical back and forth with someone about a disagreement.
It’s a pre-debate to a debate.
It was and afterwards, I was like, “I see your point.”
The other thing that I’m curious to hear about even for myself is that from what I’ve seen, you are a principled person. You are a person that does live by conviction and has a lot of fun along the way and tries to. It’s sometimes better and sometimes worse. Are there guiding principles or things that you are preaching to yourself often? What are those cornerstone habits for your life?
I have noticed disconnects in some areas between what I believe or my core beliefs and actions. The human experience is trying to synthesize those two and where we veer off because principles can guide us and keep us in the right direction. I’ve had great mentors and friends come alongside and say, “We know you are principled in this area, but these actions do not go hand-in-hand with these principles that you have stated and outlined that are core to your life.” For me, regardless of how well I am currently adhering to or following them, I have a few basic ones.
One, and I don’t know if you’d call this necessarily a principle in the classic sense, but I do believe in being audacious. Audacity has a certain shamelessness associated with it. There’s an upside and a downside to this, but far more often than not in life, I have gotten more blessing out of risking a little embarrassment and asking. When in doubt, just ask. Not if you just don’t know, but also as humans, we’re such tribal creatures. We’re like sheep. If you read the Bible, there are even old proverbs and scripture associated with people who have the chutzpah or decided to go out there and get a little aggressive in their asking. I made fun of this for sometimes. They’ll be like, “I cannot believe you asked that.” That’s something where I’m like if you have a chance to be valiant, try and do that.
Try to be bold and ask. If you’re all nervous and as long as it’s not offensive, go for it. I also operate under a bless-first mentality. This is tricky because I’ve not always succeeded in this and I’ve tried very hard. It can get tricky when your business relationships, specifically when it comes to sales and marketing where relationships do transfer into monetary gain. I try very hard. There’s a proverb in the Bible that says, “Withhold good from no one if it’s within your power to do so.” I try to do that. I try to ask myself without condition, “As long as it’s not to my detriment, a detriment to someone I’ve made an agreement with or a detriment to the person asking,” because people can ask you for things that you know is not going to be helpful for them.
As long as they say, “It’s not going to hurt you and it’s not a conflict with another agreement you’ve already made.” Number one is the trickiest one because maybe you worked hard on something and you pushed. A classic way this manifest is in the entertainment industry. You might have a contact if you’re working on pitching a show with and you have another friend who you know would truly benefit from this. You know that by introducing them, you might open up other pathways to prevent your show from going forward as much as possible or that you’re asking too much and it’s impossible to know what the line is.
Generally, all those considerations aside, I try to say, “Go ahead and bless them.” Don’t worry about getting screwed over. Don’t worry about getting taken care of because generally, it’s very rare. I’ve been taken advantage of once or twice in many years of doing this. That’s a big one for me is to try and bless them because I am the direct recipients of a lot of people I introduced. Half of my closest friends were because two individuals, in particular, decided to introduce me to these people. I’m in a lot of social debt to a lot of people and so I have no excuse not to. Those are my big two guiding principles.
I love the audaciousness. I think a lot of people and myself included don’t think about it. It’s a beautiful way to think about being courageous because it’s almost a little bit more reckless than courageous. It’s like audacious, which gets us out of our comfort zone a little bit more. I think that’s helpful. I love that proverb. When I think about for me, the thing that withholds me is always pride. It’s always wanting to be in a superior position and operating on fear. To protect that superior position, I withhold. That’s the thing that gets in the way.
It’s the same with me. It’s like saying, “Can you love more than one friend?” That’s happened to me where I’m good friends with someone and I introduced her to another friend and they become best friends. You get jealous and you get a little nervous and insecure. You’re like, “What?” You have to realize that them having that relationship is no reflection on how they care about you. There’s another lesson in there where when your business specifically like mine is predicated on when you have to know a lot of people, when you’re out there doing marketing and you have to work with so many different people. Your value is completely contingent on the number of people you know and the relationships you have.
It can be scary to see those going elsewhere. I think that’s what you’re good at. That’s what you’ve been blessed with. You also tend to hold on too tightly to. That’s a season that I’ve been in. That became the best-known thing about my business-wise. I go, “He’s one of the most connected people.” That crept into some of my identity and I found myself holding on too tight and violating some of those principles that I know that I hold dear to. It is an interesting cycle that you go through because you get really good and you hold on too tight. There are these ebbs and flows we have to learn to let go again. I will remind myself sometimes like, “Let’s run through the numbers.” I did an exercise one time where I traced back all the blessings from this one side of the house, all these people that I met and they literally all came through one person who was asking a favor from me. After I did that, I was like, “How could you possibly refuse them anything?
I think that’s a powerful principle in general. I remember a mentor told me once that even if you look especially in the Christian world, when God has given a leader, someone or a person with a large deposit as he called it, like a lot of charisma, a lot of ability or a lot of talent and that person fails to pass it on to the next, it leads to corruption, decay or downfall. That’s such a vital part of any process. It’s not just having it but giving of it to the next so that you can equip and empower those to come.
That even speaks to America, is that so much of our hardship and trouble and divide is not realizing that this isn’t about us. It’s about the generations to come too. How do we sacrifice the moment for the future? We’re bad at that now, partly because of technology and the way we’ve been wired. There are a lot of forces against that. How do we start returning to that the long now, the mindset of people to come? I think a lot of that is if you have good, don’t withhold it. That’s a great way to accomplish that in many different levels. It’s hard for all of us. We’re going to have to do maybe a round-two because there are a lot of things we didn’t get to. Maybe we’ll do another fellowship with you and Chad. We ask every guest this question. Before we get there, I’d love to learn or hear from you since you are a voracious reader. Out of the books you’ve read, what books stand out as having an oversize or the largest impact on you as a person?
I’ll do three different categories here. Business-wise, a timeless classic for me is How to Win Friends and Influence People. That’s a great one. It’s a terrible title to read. If your friends see you reading that, they’re going like, “That guy is weird.” That’s a huge one. I have it on my desk right now. It’s fantastic. It’s probably tied with a book by Harvey Mackay called Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty. I read it years ago in school and it sends me down that relationship management and building relationships. Integrated-wise, spiritually, we need to care for our souls as well. The book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire was cool by Jim Cymbala. That book is encouraging and a cool testimony of what he’s doing in that church. It’s a real story of faith regardless of where you’re at in life and what you believe. It’s a powerful testimonial story.
Here’s from a fictional standpoint, Endurance. I have a book called Endurance by Alfred Lansing and I offer $50 to everyone to read this book. If they don’t like it, I will pay them $50. No one has ever asked for the money. I’ve read it five times. It is my favorite book of all times. It is the story of Ernest Shackleton and a true story of him being trapped in the ice with his men. It’s a two-year saga of how they lived on the ice and eventually made it back. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s like you think something bad happens and then you’re like, “This can’t get worse,” and then it gets worse. It’s one of the most remarkable survival stories ever. Each time I finished the book, I weep. It is one of those beautiful stories about the human spirit and triumph over immense obstacles.
I will correct you though. You said that it was fictional. What’s your favorite fictional book?
I was thinking of non-business books. I do love to read fiction. Dune is I think the greatest science fiction book of all time. I think it’s amazing. It’s politics, religion, history. It’s beautiful, epic and it spawned a bunch of mediocre movies. It’s fantastic. I’ve heard rumors of rebooting it, but it is fantastic. I’ve read that several times. I highly recommend Dune and of course, Lord of the Rings is also amazing. More people have read Lord of the Rings, but Dune is fantastic. I can’t recommend enough. Frank Herbert is a genius.
This is the last question and we ask every guest this. If you could send a morning text reminder to every up and comer out there, what would you say and why? It can be a phrase or a short message, but they’d get this text message every morning from you.
I think I would send them, “The valiant never taste of death but once.” I think the entire quote is, “Cowards die many times, but the valiant never taste of death but once.”
I could not have imagined a more fitting quote coming from you. That is beautiful. I would like that text, if you want to send it, I’m down. Ryan, if people want to say hi, where do they find you and where is the best place to say hello?
You can catch me on Instagram, @TheBethea. It’s a weird one. It sounds pretentious, but isn’t it a cool story? I played football, lineman and I went to USC. I didn’t play football at USC, but I went there. There is a Ryan Bethea who is a tight end who went to the University of Southern Carolina. We’re about the same height and about the same playing weight. He was an all-American and really good. When people would Google Ryan Bethea or USC, he comes up a lot. He’s actually helped a lot because people go, “Did you play football?” I was like, “Yeah.” They’re like, “You were pretty good.” I was like, “It sounds like you think I’m really good, but that was not the case.” Anyways, you can reach me, @TheBethea. I respond pretty regularly because I’m an extrovert. You can also ping me on my website, RyanBethea.com
Until next time. This has been awesome. Thank you.
- Ryan Bethea
- Houston Kraft – past episode
- The Vanishing American Adults
- Emerson Spartz
- How to Win Friends and Influence People
- Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty
- Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire
- Lord of the Rings
- Instagram – @TheBethea
About Ryan Bethea
Ryan Bethea currently heads up the Restoration Fund, an organization dedicating to funding and accelerating ministries and programs that radically expand freedom and opportunity for the most disenfranchised of our citizens. Ryan has had a strange career journey inviting more questions than answers. He began his work at one of the nation’s first contactless payment companies and transitioned to working with best selling authors on their marketing campaigns. After that Ryan went on to lead grassroots marketing and online growth for the largest digital non-profit in the world, helping them grow their traffic to over 300 million views a year. Ryan has advised and done enterprise sales for a variety of tech companies and even run marketing for a major motion picture. He has guest lectured at USC on building effective relationships and is an avid tea drinker. He’s a lover not a fighter, but also a fighter so don’t get any ideas.
Connect with Ryan!
– Instagram – @TheBethea
Check out our YouTube!
Send us an email – email@example.com