Ben Rubin – Co-Founder & CEO at Ten Percent Happier
What would it take to make you 10% happier? Ben Rubin believes that making small incremental changes, like spending a few minutes a day meditating, can make big impactful improvements in your life. Ben has spent the better part of his career at the intersection of technology and human behavior change. He is the Co-Founder & CEO at Ten Percent Happier, where he and his team are on a mission to convince fidgety skeptics that meditation isn’t as intimidating as it seems.
In this episode of the podcast, host Ryan Berman and Ben Rubin unpack the question “How serious is the happiness business?”, which leads to some surprising and thought-provoking revelations. They also discuss how to find sweetness when experiencing sadness, and why if you don’t love what you are doing as an entrepreneur you may be fighting an uphill battle.
Ben Rubin 0:01
We have six values. I won't go through them all, but one of my favorites is called own your shit. It’s a Dan Harris for we all bring incredible baggage into every conversation, every action that we do. And that's human, that's normal. Acknowledging that, bringing it into the conversation, into the awareness. That's really the magic.
(Intro music 0:26-0:43)
Ryan Berman 0:43
I don't know how you felt over the last two years, but I would say if you polled America, you'd see high rates of just anxiety and stress all over the place. I'll also be the first one to admit that when I was growing up, I always said the word ‘mental’ to describe people, and sometimes I thought about my health but I never said mental health together. Those two words never came together. And now, kids, collegiates, college kids are talking about mental health. It's been democratized. And today, we are joined by Ben Rubin. He's the co-founder and CEO of Ten Percent Happier. Ben, thanks, man for giving us a little bit of your time today.
Ben Rubin 1:27
Thank you. Yeah, excited to be here.
Ryan Berman 1:30
Are you seeing this? Is that how you see it? As, like, this topic that no one talked about now is like the topic du jour.
Ben Rubin 1:37
Yeah. And I'll actually connect mental health for a second too, I think, the larger predicament that we're in as a culture, and maybe we can move towards solutions. But the entire modern project, I've stated as having three major problems: Unsustainable, there's massive inequality, and it's creating this general sense of unease in our minds and our relationships that is pervasive, and is growing, and it's challenged. And I think that that is a global issue that has been exacerbated by the last two years but was present and is continuing.
Ryan Berman 2:18
So, Ten Percent Happier, it starts as a book. I could tell you when I wrote Return On Courage, I wish I could have said I had a master plan to build a platform on courage, but that wasn't the case. I will state on record that, no doubt, I thought it was writing a pretty good business card for a point of view, but I never saw it as something that would lead to keynotes, and courageous leadership, and courageous change, and courage as we mentioned. Now, Ten Percent Happier is not just a book, it's a full platform. And who knew we were so deficient on being happy, by the way? You've been there since the beginning, what changes have you seen from book to platform?
Ben Rubin 3:02
Sure. Yeah. So, Ten Percent Happier, I think, is similar to what you're describing. It started as a book that became much more, and the book was written by my co-founder; Dan Harris, who is an ABC News Anchor, who was type A, thought meditation and mindfulness were bullshit and learnt differently. So he wrote a memoir that he was expecting no one would read, many people read it, including me. And at that point, I was starting a company -- I’ve been sort of an entrepreneur throughout my entire career -- that was looking to help people transform their behaviors and make meaningful change in their lives. And so, meeting Dan, and then really, eventually meeting all the teachers that we work with, led to this realization that not only could Dan open the door, but we could really bring people into an experience where they could learn not just the basics of meditation, but how it can really impact your life more.
Ryan Berman 3:59
And how did you two crossover? What's the connection there?
Ben Rubin 4:03
So, in starting this company, prior to being Ten Percent Happier, was called Change Collective. We have launched sort of eight different books with authors like you where we took a topic, turned it into content and a mobile app that someone could follow along with. And Ten Percent Happier launched, and one of the folks at the company read it and was like, “We got to do something with Dan Harris.” And we literally, I think, called a Boston Globe reporter that we knew that had written an article on him and said, “Can we get connected?” And, a day later, we were on the phone and he was interested in working together. So,long story from there, but that's how it started.
Ryan Berman 4:43
Well, I'm curious, were you like, “Hey, we think this is more than a book?” Or, at the time, you were like, “Choice A is we have this platform that can amplify your content.” Or did out of the gate, like, “I actually think there's something more here.” Did that come later?
Ben Rubin 4:58
Yeah, it's a little bit of both so I'll mention kind of both sides of the story. On the business side, the original concept was struggling. We were making content that we really thought could be valuable, but we were not actually partnering with authors and finding big audiences for it. So, normal startup sort of early-stage problems, but it wasn't working. So, looking for some direction to move in was part of the impetus. But I think the more important part of it was that when I met Dan, about a year earlier, I'd gone on my first silent meditation retreat, and had kind of a lid popped off my head and started to understand that there's a lot here that was going to be meaningful for me that could be meaningful for many people. And so, when we started working with Dan and building some content, and particularly, met Joseph Goldstein who is one of the lead guiding features on the app, I saw a depth there that I had not experienced elsewhere in life that really pulled me. So, those factors combined.
Ryan Berman 6:08
You bring up the question of all questions, which is, why is it that it's like, “Oh, wow,” the minute that this works for us is super primal. That all of a sudden, you're like, “Wait a minute, if I need this and it's helping me, why isn't anyone else doing this at the level that I think they could do this?” And if you had to, maybe polled entrepreneurs, what percent would actually answer, “Well, it worked for me, and therefore I did it, versus, “Here's the opportunity.” It's more unemotional, maybe not so real. But what percent do you think are, “It helped me,” versus, “It's just a good idea, we're going for it.”
Ben Rubin 6:45
So, if I had to put a number on it, I’d say 90 plus percent it has to be real and emotional for you and it's because starting a company is so massively hard. You know this, anyone who's tried knows that you're going to have every manner of trouble along the way. And if you're not deeply committed in a way that goes beyond the financial incentive or your ego, you're going to fail along the way. You're going to give up before you overcome obstacles. So, that certainly was the case for me in all my entrepreneurial activity that unless I had that poll, it just wasn't worth going through that process of failure and challenge.
Ryan Berman 7:25
I still think that's a lesson for entrepreneurs. So, there's definitely been times in my career where I'm chasing the money. And now, I'm like, “Okay.” If there's an X, Y axis -- I think if you're listening, you could do this at home, by the way -- it's like, up one side, you could put love, and down the other side, you could put money. And the more you can find that sweet spot, that's where you should put your time as an entrepreneur. If you don't love it, good luck. Like you said, there's going to be too many speed bumps. And sometimes you love stuff, but you can't make money on it, okay, maybe you got a problem as well. So, by the way, you're based in the northeast. I know you lived in Boston for a long time, you just made a move. You went to quieter, quieter pastures in Maine. Do you feel like all of Boston can use this platform?
Ben Rubin 8:12
Yeah. Kind of coming back to that modern condition that we're in, not only could all of Boston use it, but all of modern society could use it, and really, all of humanity. And that doesn't mean that we're going to provide it or that everyone will pick up a practice like this, but at the root of most religious, psychological, spiritual traditions for thousands of years is this core insight that human unhappiness is caused by resisting the experience of what is going on, and that there's a way out of that. And so, that kind of core insight, I think, is useful for everyone in Boston and everyone in the human experience.
Ryan Berman 8:49
So, I want to unpack that a little bit, if you don't mind.
Ben Rubin 8:52
Ryan Berman 8:53
Well, I don't know if I'm interpreting this right but I’ll just take it the way that I took it, and this is pretty raw human moment for me too. So, my first baby was my dog. His true name was Herman Berman, I kid you not. He was actually named Herman, which is why we went to look at him because when you're a Berman, and he's called Herman, you go look at that dog.
Ben Rubin 9:13
Got to make it happen.
Ryan Berman 9:14
Got to make it happen. So, my wife and I -- we weren't married at the time -- stopped everything and we fell in love with Herman. And Herman passed away this month. He was 13. Like, seriously, my baby before babies. So, what I heard from you is not to suppress the pain. I tried to choose to be like... Although I'm sad about my baby, I'm also like, “Oh my gosh, I got 13 years with Herman, this is amazing.” Is anything of what I'm feeling in this answer?
Ben Rubin 9:43
Yeah. I am also… My first baby was my dog. Her name is Laurel. She died about three months ago, sorry, three years ago…
Ryan Berman 9:54
Feels like three months sometimes.
Ben Rubin 9:55
It does. It's different than what you're experiencing. But to relate it back, going through that experience of having this amazing creature that loved me so much and I loved so much, meditation gave me the tool to really fully, as fully as I could, experience the sadness and see that there was a sweetness in there, that in addition to the pain, there was joy and gratitude. And I'm not the spiritual teacher, I’m very much on this path. I don't know where you are on thinking about this, but I'm closer to you than I am to our teachers. But what I can do is build an organization that can help these teachers, and other really incredible humans who've done that work, reach far more people in really amazing ways. And so, that's a privilege of mine.
Ryan Berman 10:48
Yeah. I was curious because I know you're on the business side. So, I was really curious to be like, “How spiritual are you?” Are you like, “Well, we got someone who does that, I stay in my lane”? So it's cool to hear that although maybe… I don't know what you call yourself; a meditation guru, or one who's just leading a meditation business, what is that relationship?
Ben Rubin 11:11
I'm certainly not a meditation teacher, or guru. And what I think has occurred over the last sort of six or seven years running this organization is that my personal life, my spiritual life has become evermore integrated into the work that I do every day, and that we've started to build an organization that more fully is integrating everyone's full humanity and their personal, spiritual, and personal psychological journey into the work in a really interesting way. Not without its challenges, but that has been the direction that the organization and me as a human has gone.
Ryan Berman 11:48
I have to imagine from an intentionality standpoint, can you share some of the culture sort of commandments or rules or whatever? I don't know if you call them something, can you share some of those?
Ben Rubin 12:03
Yeah, absolutely. We have six values. I won't go through them all, but one of my favorites is called own your shit. It’s a Dan Harris for we all bring incredible baggage into every conversation, every action that we do. And that's human, that's normal. Acknowledging that, bringing it into the conversation, into the awareness, that's really the magic. And that's what we encourage, and help create a culture that encourages that. So that one really stands out to me as something that we try and practice every day.
Ryan Berman 12:39
What I like about it is it's -- you're probably going to be like, “Well duh” -- but like it is human. And so many times, you have people that have this other persona called the work persona. And they put on their button-downs, and it used to be like you’d go to work, and during that time, you’d change into this other person. Own your shit is like, no, just be you, and it's okay to be you, and bring that person to work.
Ben Rubin 13:07
Yeah. I think you're hinting it. The scary story I was telling earlier about the modern life that we have being unsustainable, unequal, the sense of unease. There are pockets that are starting to change. And I think of this conversation, the work we're doing at Ten Percent Happier as being part of that. Bringing truly your whole self into your work environment, and bringing those walls down in a way that integrates those activities skillfully is, I think, part of what the world is starting to do in really exciting ways.
Ryan Berman 13:36
Well, I think, first of all, I should have probably started with this, but congratulations are in order. You're a blink away from 10 years, which is pretty awesome. I guess at 20 years, will you make people 20% happier? Or does happiness compound? I guess, is the question.
Ben Rubin 13:54
We launched a podcast project called ‘20% happier’ maybe a year ago, and we had the promise within the organization that there will never ever be a 30% happier. [Inaudible 14:05] works once and only once.
Ryan Berman 14:08
(Laughs) Okay, but in all seriousness, you've been behind the curtain now for a decade. So, how serious is the happiness business?
Ben Rubin 14:15
I can't see myself not being involved in an organization that has a mission like this; to help humans have more happiness, have less suffering. And I think it's very possible that I'll be running this organization for the next 10, 20, maybe the whole career of mine because the work that we're doing is clearly meaningful, and it has such a deep impact on me personally, that it's fully integrated. I don't have my personal life, and my spiritual life, and my friendships, and my work in separate little buckets. They're intermixed in ways that are helping all of those. So it makes me really excited to continue to do the work?
Ryan Berman 15:01
Do you feel like you can stay in the joy and stay in the happy when you're also focused on running the business? Or, I guess I'm kind of back to the last question a little bit too, like, you already mentioned the sort of trilogy of gaps that need to be looked at. Those are fairly unhappy realities. So, how do you toggle back and forth between the two worlds?
Ben Rubin 15:22
Yeah. The suffering of running a business is very real, and running a happiness business does not opt me out of that suffering. And so, I think, as many entrepreneurs would tell you, I've had countless anxious moments, sleepless nights, rageful reactions to things that are out of my control. I think the difference, at least, as I had experienced it, is that sort of in the name Ten Percent Happier is this concept of continuous small steps forward improvements. The process of meditation, mindfulness, personal growth doesn't come with cheat codes that change everything. It's numerous small steps that add up to something meaningful. And so, over the years, what I've noticed is that I spend less time in those ruminating negative thought loop spaces because I'm noticing them. It's not because they're not happening, it's because I'm picking them up a little more quickly. And then, I'm more skillful about what I do next.
Ryan Berman 16:25
How hard is it to get someone to surrender? A customer? Like, they think it's going to be all, like you said, get the whole thing on day one, but it isn’t. It is these little steps. And how hard is it to articulate that? So, when you run into people, the joys of advertising. Like I always say, “Sorry, you don't get 100% of anyone's attention. They're thinking about what time they're picking up their child, or what they're going to eat for dinner. They're hangry, and then your message comes across.” How do you short circuit that human?
Ben Rubin 16:57
Yeah. I think this is the brilliance of Dan's original message of Ten Percent Happier and who he is as a human. If you think you're busy, and stressed, and trying to get out in the world, Dan is that times 10 given where he sits in the world, and like, how ambitious he is. And so, lots of people can look to Dan and say, “If he's telling me that small incremental improvements are going to add up to something meaningful, and he's going to make a bunch of jokes and say the word [Inaudible 17:28] along the way, I'm going to try it. That's the entryway. From there, the challenge, and the joy is to convince someone that more than 10% happier is possible. And in fact, this points in a direction which can be quite meaningful for you personally, and those in your life.
Ryan Berman 17:48
Yeah. It is the belief piece, right? Like if you don't believe it's actually possible, it's certainly not going to be possible. Unpack the relationship a little more with Dan. How does the relationship work? What's the dynamic? Are you guys texters? Are you talkers? Are you Slackers? That's not Slackers. Are we on Slack? What's the relationship look like, and specifically, even like, what lanes do you both play in?
Ben Rubin 18:13
Yeah. Most people, of course, when they think about Ten Percent Happier think about Dan. He wrote the book, it’s on the app, it's talent, like, it's everywhere in our material. And that really is his role. He is creating content. He is talking to teachers. He is getting curious about what this whole thing is all about and doing it in public in a really courageous way. The word courage, I think, really applies to the vulnerability he brings to that. And it is really dramatically different from my language as building an organization that has the capacity to both bring his voice and his incredible teachers, and over time, many more voices to millions of people in ways that are transformative in their lives. And so, I’m sort of day-to-day doing a totally different thing than Dan. And our communication is sometimes very close when we're talking about something that, like, where the business and the creative intersect. And sometimes he's off writing a book, heads down, seven hours a day, and I'm off doing a company and there's not much communication. So it varies by season.
Ryan Berman 19:30
Is he like, “Ben, you got it. I'm going to go make content. Please don't bring me into that,” or like, “I trust you with that? Is it more like that?
Ben Rubin 19:38
I think the relationship has morphed over time. And he and me have realized that he is really happiest when he's able to talk with teachers, go deep personally, and tell stories and create content and bring that to life. That's where he gets his joy and where he can have the most impact. I'm pretty much the opposite in that. I get my joy and have my impact by building the system and creating the company, rather than being the frontman.
Ryan Berman 20:11
You had brought up this concept earlier about control. And when you can control things, usually, it's like, “Alright, cool,” but the last few years we really haven't been able to control much. Pandemic happens, and next thing you know, we're all trying to figure out remote work. And, as the leader of the organization, I kind of like, “Okay, how do we do this? How do we…” And so, I'm curious, a lot of people now that went through it have said, “We have a happier workforce because of remote work.” Do you see that? And then -- one, two punch here -- great, we're happier, but are we as effective as we once were?
Ben Rubin 20:52
Yeah. So, for us, I think what the pandemic accelerated was a pretty painful disconnection as we grew as an organization from a group of people who in the early days were like four or five people, and then, 15, or 20, people in a single room who really felt cohesive, felt the trust, to suddenly growing, doubling, doubling the company again, and being remote in a pandemic at the same time. That led to trust gaps and relationship gaps that made it really hard for a significant period of time to operate the business and be effective. And what we did with that -- and there's plenty of suffering to bring us to this point, so it was not easy, and it's not done -- is we recognize that the way that we're working together needed to fundamentally change to move towards more collaboration, more trust, but in a really deeply pragmatic way. And so, as we've been transforming the organization in that way, I largely credit the pandemic with sort of having forced our hand on that. And so, that's how we've reacted. More globally, I'm happy to chat about that as well but very different stories.
Ryan Berman 22:05
Yeah. But I'd love to hear more on even internally. Yeah, I fully agree that before the pandemic we talked a lot about early adopters. The early adopter will lead the way, and word of mouth and that's how this thing spreads. But I felt like the pandemic, I'm not calling you guys a late adopter, by the way, but it was sort of the late adopter, if they wanted to stay slightly connected they had to figure stuff out. Like, they had to figure out technology. Like my mom, love her. She's getting close to 80 here. If she wanted to stay connected, she had no choice but to figure out stuff that she had never played around with before like Zoom, or The Zoom as she might say it. So, for the company, I'm curious to hear more about what you mean by… How did you create those collaboration opportunities, those trust loops, and close those gaps during the pandemic?
Ben Rubin 22:54
Yeah. The way that traditional companies run is the people at the top have the power and set the goals, and then, distribute those goals in ways that folks who are across the organization then have some level of autonomy to go execute on. But that's the structure of our world and the modern economy. What we're attempting to move towards -- and it's a challenging thing, and I don't want to present it as anywhere near done -- is an organization that intrinsically has more trust, and has sort of sufficient feedback loops and trust loops flowing, such that more people in the organization can make decisions that matter. More people in the organization can have autonomy around the work that they do, the impact that they have in a high-trust environment. And so, my passion as an organizational leader is trying to create the conditions that make that possible, but it has a lot of components to it.
Ryan Berman 23:55
I'm not sure if you can share this so you could call me off on this one. If they were into proprietary arenas, I get it. But like, other than 20% happier, or maybe 30% happier, when do you think about the horizon and where the company's going, what can you share about where do you think you all will end?
Ben Rubin 24:14
Sure. So the first thing I'd say is as an organization that cares primarily about the mission of helping people see what leads to happiness and what doesn't, I'm more than happy to share what we're doing. And, if it inspires other leaders towards that same mission, that's amazing. It could inspire collaboration, very excited about where we're headed. What I'd say is what gets me most excited outside the internal transformation is that we're starting to take customers on a deeper journey. Ten Percent Happier starts with a book. It's a beach read, it's fun, it gets you into the world. Dan on the podcast is easy listen, but with really deep content. You get into the app, you start to learn how to meditate. And until very recently, that was where it ended. We've just introduced a coaching product where you can both, in a one-on-one setting and as part of the group, be in the same space as an incredible meditation teacher who can help you think about your meditation practice, think about your life, think about how you want to make change in your life. And so, that's the type of transformative sort of experience that we're moving towards; coaching, and then, at some point we want to move into physical spaces and retreats because those are so meaningful for people in their process.
Ryan Berman 25:32
Yeah. Look, I think after being pent up for two years too, we are ready for experiences. Experiential is real. I see you guys as anxiety insurance. I don't have access to your employee manual, but I would not be surprised to see the democratization of stress relief in there. And, like you said, you kind of touched on it earlier, that's not a… I made a joke about Boston, that was probably because I lived in New York. It's not a Boston thing, it's not a northeast thing, it's a global thing. The concept of being the democratization of stress relief, there's no borders on this thing. Does that bring you joy to have such a big quest to know the work is not done, this is actually for 7 billion people. Or like, is that how you look at it for the long game?
Ben Rubin 26:23
Yeah. The way that I see it is that as a society, we need to solve these key issues around sustainability, lack of equality, and this sense of unease and anxiety. If we do not address those, do not pass go, I don't know what happens; It's bad. And so, I see us as being one small part of a larger societal movement that is doing that. And what brings me excitement is that we potentially can have even more impact than we're having today, and we're having a ton of impact. The number of people that we're reaching at the depth that we're reaching them is truly meaningful, and I see sightlines to far more impact than that. So, how could that not excite me given where I come from and what I want to do?
Ryan Berman 27:07
I'm glad you kind of went there. So I'd love to learn a little bit more about you, if you don't mind me going there?
Ben Rubin 27:15
Ryan Berman 27:17
So, where'd you grow up?
Ben Rubin 27:17
Grew up in Reading Mass, just north of Boston. So, I spent most of my life hating New York.
Ryan Berman 27:23
(Laughs) And this concludes our show. No…
Ben Rubin 27:26
We can trump up a feud.
Ryan Berman 27:29
Yeah. I would say Red Sox? Sports guy and not a sports guy?
Ben Rubin 27:33
Was once in the day, barely pay attention to it now.
Ryan Berman 27:38
What was the path for you to entrepreneurship? Did you know when you were six? Was it in your family?
Ben Rubin 27:45
It was my family. My parents were both small business owners. My mother was an audiologist, my dad helped her run two offices in the practice. So, I saw both the freedom that offered them and the incredible amount of tension it created in their lives and their relationship, and somehow I decided to do that myself. So, I think the thing that I most appreciate about experiencing that growing up is that I had permission to do it. It didn't seem weird or strange to anyone. And I also had permission to fail. It was known that that was not only a possibility, but a likelihood. So, I ended up starting my first company in the last two years of college. It's a company that was called Zeo which helped folks measure and manage their sleep quality, and did that for seven or eight years, and crashed it into the ground at near full speed on the other side of it. And then, got up and started this.
Ryan Berman 28:42
Yeah. But you are way ahead on that. That's like a known idea. Now, I don't want to bring up any pain points, and I don't want you to lose any sleep over that but I think we're doing just fine at this point. Any siblings?
Ben Rubin 28:55
Two younger sisters.
Ryan Berman 28:56
So you're leading the charge here. And do you mind sharing what those two, what they're up to?
Ben Rubin 29:01
Sure. Yeah. My middle sister also lives in Boston area, has two young kids. And my youngest is a veterinarian, lives in the Virginia area. And it's interesting that coming together with family these days has a different quality to it because I'm interested in more depth. I can sense they're interested in more depth, but it's hard to connect those dots given all the lifetime of pattern that sits underneath it. So, love both of them, and want to get deeper but it's hard.
Ryan Berman 29:33
All right, we'll send them this, this will be the cue. It's funny, I always said that -- again, it's going to sound like a shameless promotion -- but when there's a hard conversation that has to happen at a company, I'm always like, “Look, give them a copy of my book like.” And first of all, one: Who doesn't like to be gifted knowledge? And then, two: Okay, what's this really all about? What kind of hard conversation do we have to have? So, I truly do like the idea of sometimes it does take something like this that becomes the first inning, the portal to opening up those conversations. The reason I was really curious to hear your story and background, I had a very lucky childhood. I had an older brother, he is five years older, went to Georgetown Law. Do we pick our jobs, do our jobs pick us? I'm an observationalist for a living. We just watched, like, “Oh, my brother said that and they got in trouble.” “Don't do that. Don't go out that door if you're going to break out of the house in high school.” Parents still together. I kind of feel like I had a cheat code, came out on level five, that so many people didn't have and I do relate that back to happiness. I don't have a lot of that baggage. I own my shit. I had my own stuff, no doubt, but I know that I was very lucky compared to most. This is a show about courage, if you were in the room with yourself and it was today Ben talking to the 21-year-old Ben, what's that conversation like? Who leads it? Who's saying what?
Ben Rubin 31:09
I also feel very privileged. And all the baggage that any human growing up in a modern society brings is there, but I was really tight. The process of meditation, personal growth has just slowly loosened me up much more to go. So, I might point in that direction, which at that time when I was 21, I don't know whether I would have listened even to myself, but that directionality around loosening, softening, felt very antithetical to where I felt I needed to be. And yeah, it's the direction that leads to happiness, fulfillment, at least for me.
Ryan Berman 31:53
All right, here's the opposite. So, Ben today meets Ben 30 years from now. What do you hope 30 years from now Ben tells Ben today?
Ben Rubin 32:03
The same lesson; loosen, soften, be more open, keep going. Every step that I take in that direction is confirmatory that that's meaningful, beneficial to me, to others. So, who knows, maybe in three years from now Ben may learn something different that he brings back, but that's my guess.
Ryan Berman 32:24
So again, I always say there is no courage without fear, fear and courage are kin. You got to go through one to get to the other. And, sadly, a lot of people, they suppress their fears versus bubbling them up to the surface and addressing them. So, if you could share one personal fear that you have today, permission granted to go as vulnerable or not as you want. And then, one professional fear that does keep me up sometimes. Can you give me one for each?
Ben Rubin 32:54
Sure. I'll start with the professional fear. The fear is that I’m not that good, actually, at what I do. Not terrible, the data would suggest that I’m not that terrible, but like, yeah, how much of what brought me to today is luck? How much of it is repeatable? Don’t know. So, there's a pretty deep-seated fear that, actually, not that good a CEO, not that good a founder.
Ryan Berman 33:24
That's deep and it so resonates with me. Like, for me, I've always been like, “I'm not that good, I'm just going to outwork you. Since I'm not that smart, or that good, I must have no choice but to outwork you.” It definitely resonates with me, and I am grateful that you went there.
Ben Rubin 33:45
Yeah, it’s interesting. I had that for a long time, the outworking. And at some point, it almost destroyed me and I had to do something else. And it took me a couple of years of not knowing if I can't outwork everyone else, because that's destroying me, what else can I do? But yeah. My encouragement would be to open to the possibility that that level of intensity, that there may be a courageous opening there to soften.
Ryan Berman 34:16
I think these little stories that we tell ourselves are loops. I don’t know if you call them loops or not, but that's the joke for me. Actually, I’d be curious if Dan felt this way or not. Like I said, going back to the top of the show, I thought it was writing a pretty darn good business card. And you go on this journey and you meet all these sage people; some astronauts, some founders, some people that study our brains, and every single person I met -- it was almost like if the universe even decided the order that I was supposed to meet them -- sort of reminded me like, “Oh, wow, I thought I was writing this book, right for business but I wrote the book as I needed the book.” I'm the one that needs this book first before anything else. And so, again, this is where I wish we had video because there's a lot of head nods going on my side specifically like, yeah, that it totally lands and resonates. What about on the personal side, if you don't mind?
Ben Rubin 35:15
Ryan Berman I25:16
I'm not letting you wiggle out of that one, Ben.
Ben Rubin 35:20
Yeah. I think what's most resonant with me right now is a fear that I'm not playful, and fun, and sexy enough. Very early in my life, I kind of got the message that I wasn't enough of those things and I had to outwork everyone, and I put my head down and go, go, go, go. And that still feels scary to me. And there's still tightness when I'm confronted with the opportunity to open up and be to more playful. Sometimes it's a go, and sometimes there's still contraction and fear.
Ryan Berman 36:01
I'm not sure if you're going to let me go here, but where do you think it came from?
Ben Rubin 36:04
I think in my early life, my parents didn't talk to me about any form of sexuality or any form of like… I started to go through in sixth grade, like we all do, of being in intense social situations either romantically or not and just feeling inept, and not cool, and not okay. I didn't have support from them, or the support that I would have wanted for myself at that point. And so, I think I've walled it off and said, “If I can't win there, I got to win here.” And win here was academics, and business, and success. And it took me a decade to start revisiting that and working through it. And still there, still deep-seated, working on it.
Ryan Berman 36:54
When you feel that, is there stuff… And we're kind of back to the same conversation about like, “Wow, this is helping me, I think there could be something here to help a lot of people.” Are there components of Ten Percent Happier that play in that arena as well?
Ben Rubin 37:14
What you said two minutes ago that you thought you were writing a book that was a calling card maybe for other people, and it turned out to be the book that was for you. I feel the same way about the company I'm building. That fundamentally, of course, reaching out to people, aiming to reach more, and I'm building the company that's helping me move along this path of healing, including some of these deep-seated areas. And so, I think the tools that I'm picking up through meditation, through mindfulness, through navigating uncomfortable scenarios in more open ways is translating directly to like that set of deep-seated fears that are more sort of social, sexual, and in ways that I think are still playing out.
Ryan Berman 38:01
What a ride, man. This life is something else. Again, this is another reason I wish we had video. I don’t know if you could see this, I’m going to turn the camera down.
Ben Rubin 38:12
Mistake it, you’ll make it.
Ryan Berman 38:14
Mistake it till you make it.
Ben Rubin 38:15
Mistake it till you make it. Yeah.
Ryan Berman 38:16
Yeah. So I'm a big component of this idea. I'm not a fan of fake it till you make it, I get why it happens. I'm a ‘mistake it till you make it’ guy. It goes back to that own your shit and the messiness that comes of it. And your story really resonates with me, I am so appreciative of you opening up and sharing, and I try to reciprocate that. I do think we're all mirrors. If you were going to sort of wrap up our conversation, and you wanted the viewers to walk away with, like, a 1, 2, 3 punch. You could do a one, but if you do, what do you hope sticks? What do you hope lands with them?
Ben Rubin 38:54
I think we're all doing a lot... At least people that are listening to this podcast are likely doing a lot in the world to try to make things better through their business, through their profession, through whatever they're doing in the world. I think my encouragement would be that although it can feel selfish, or hard, or some combination to work, look at your own unease, and anxiety, and fear, and where that's showing up and those showing up for you. That far from being something that's self-centered, it's part of what your work, your relationship to the world needs from you. And back to the Ten Percent Happier sort of mantra, it's a lot of small things added up over time, it's no one big thing. And get curious, get curious about where you can find a bit more ease, a bit more understanding.
Ryan Berman 39:51
That's great. The other thing that really resonated with me was often you've got these audacious ideas but it’s the little steps that grow the habits, that build the muscles, that puts you in a position to enjoy the journey to then, oh, by the way, you don't even realize that it's been 10 years that you've been doing it. And like, wow, how many people are you helping? And you're still trying to help yourself as you go along and you recognize that. So, that was my takeaway, Ben. Ben Rubin, thank you so much for joining, man. It's an absolute pleasure to get to know you a little bit, and let's stay in touch.
Ben Rubin 40:35
Yeah, same. It’s really lovely to get to know you, and wonderful conversation.
Ryan Berman 40:40
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