Ryan Berman talks to thought leaders from around the globe in business, sports and entertainment to uncover what it means to be courageous in today's world.
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Ryan Berman & Nicole Miller of Courageous – 2022 Year-End Special
It’s the last episode of the Courageous Podcast of 2022, and what a year it has been! We’ve been so honored to have an incredible line-up of courageous, inspiring, and passionate guests join us this year to share so many amazing stories, bits of advice, and even some laughs along the way.
To wrap the year up in a nice bow, we are tapping guest host Nicole Miller from the Courageous team for a special year-end episode where many of our past guests have sent in their questions for Nicole to ask Ryan. We’ll hear what Ryan considers his most courageous act of 2022, and why his best advice for the year is to “pick the thing you want to be fired for.” The two also discuss why listening for the sake of remembering is a step toward becoming a better leader and reminisce about some of the inspiring leaders who made them feel seen in the early days of their careers. We hope you enjoy the final episode of 2022 and we look forward to bringing you another year of episodes in 2023!
Ryan Berman 0:00
This is a show about facing fear, unlocking courage, and taking action.
Steve Mayer (Female) 0:05
Courage isn't necessarily a daunting thing.
Speaker 3 (Male) 0:07
It's going to give you more purpose, it's going to give you more drive.
Speaker 4 (Male) 0:10
It feels like making a courageous decision is going to get you closer to who you aspire to be.
Ryan Berman 0:14
It’s knowledge, plus faith, plus action equals courage. The thing that I was afraid to address, again is, are we really helping people? Do we have a shot a decade from now? Not now, a decade from now, where we can inspire a ton of people to go for it.
(Intro Music 0:35-0:39)
Ryan Berman 0:44
I cannot believe that we're here, like, we're at episode number 94, by the way, of doing the podcast, and this will be episode number 51 of doing the podcast in year two. And when I think back at the guests we've brought on, we've had amazing learning opportunities this year. We had Bob Fillion, CEO of Puma on the board. We had Jaelin Kauf who dazzled us as a silver medal aerial mogululist. We've had Lauren Verrusio and Jennifer Zudonyi who they both have their own lives. One is at Google, one was at point at Bleacher Report, now at Warner, who, by the way, are together. That's an awesome story. Michael Preysman who is the founder of Everlane, Khartoon Weiss, TikTok. Landon Donovan who’s been zipping back and forth between Qatar trying to explain what's going on over there. Beth Malafa, hopefully, didn’t blow that name at Under Armour. And then, a guy just spent the last week with that in Mexico, Chip Conley, who is teaching heart-centered leadership, a teacher, a visionary. And you kind of pinch yourself, you pinch yourself when you realize that all these people have just given you an hour of their lives. And I've always said it's almost unfair… It’s like going to lunch. I get to go to lunch with all these people and learn from them and ask them questions. I would ask them on a regular basis. And, a few weeks back, we kind of flipped the script. And people were like, “Well, what's my story? And what do I do? And how did I get here?” It sort of sparked -- even when we weren't recording -- conversations with a lot of our guests. And they had questions for me. And they had questions about how did I end up in this, and how cool it is that I get to just basically talk about courage. Now, before I bring my guest for the day, because we're going to do a little role reversal here, I want to admit that it's hard to flip the script. I don't think this is an exercise and me being a narcissist. Inviting myself onto my own show, I think it's an exercise in like, Okay, you're in review, what have I learned? What have we learned? And yeah, there was questions that others wanted to sort of ask me, and so, it does change my role. During the year, I get the luxury of going on stage and my job is to almost be a philosophizer. Like, make the team, put their business on pause or timeout, take their minds on a little bit of a journey. Maybe you learn one or two new things while I'm there, maybe it kickstarts conversations that need to happen. And, in the role I get to play 90% of my time is a very different role than trying to stay out of the way and set guardrails, which is what the show is all about. The show is not about me, it's about trying to take what I learned and have other people guide the conversations, not what I've learned at all. Take what they've learned, and then, make sense of it all. So, as I sit with my podcast team -- and it's an amazing team -- and I'm like, between Mitch, and Kimberly, and Nicole, and all the people who make my show, whether it is Adam Baker is another one who's helped along the way. First of all, happy holidays to all of you. Thank you so much for all you do to help us get the show on the air. And then, fine, yes, for the first time we're gonna flip the script here. I'm bringing in my partner in crime here, she runs the action team at courageous. Hi, Nicole Miller, how are you?
Nicole Miller 4:58
Hi, I'm so happy to be here. And I can't believe that we haven't done this yet. It’s actually quite surprising. (Laughs)
Ryan Berman 5:04
I could believe it because I don't want to make it… This isn't about me. Again, like I said, it's awesome to just hear everyone else's stories and journeys. I like that I get to play cruise director, but I'm not really on the cruise, I'm just sort of in the background. But, yes, okay, here we go. So, today, I was going to say, I'm going to hand the reins over to you. And the control freak in me is going to try to step out of that and let you take it from here.
Nicole Miller 5:40
(Laughs) This is fun.
Ryan Berman 5:42
Nicole Miller 5:43
This is fun for me, yeah. (Laughs) I was going to say that you can still look at it through the lens of it isn't about you, really, because it's all of these people who are asking you questions. So, you are helping people still, in the long run. So, it's about other people, not you.
Ryan Berman 6:02
Well, I appreciate that. That's what I love about you. Way to find the positive spin on it. So yeah, let's roll here. Maybe I'll ask one last question, and then, I'll hand it over. But for those who don't know you, can you do 30 seconds on your story, and obviously, what you do at Courageous?
Nicole Miller 6:20
Sure, yeah. As Ryan said, I’m the action lead at Courageous. So, I get the pleasure of working alongside Ryan, helping companies with corporate change and reinvention. And it's really fun day in and day out. My background is mostly on the agency side, I spent a lot of time in marketing, full service, PR, different types of agencies working on both b2b and b2c accounts. I did a stint in sports marketing as the director of marketing for the Padres, and now back. Back on this side getting to work with Ryan, and Ryan and I have known each other for, I want to say 10 years, 10, 11. S,o it's been a bit, so it's been a fun journey and ride. It's been fun getting the opportunity to get to work together again.
Ryan Berman 7:10
All right. Well, let's get the show on the road here.
Nicole Miller 7:13
Let's go, we got some juicy questions.
Ryan Berman 7:18
Oh, and let's just also acknowledge that awkward back and forth with the tea and we're like, “No, I don't want to look at the questions,” and that was cool.
Nicole Miller 7:26
And you didn't.
Ryan Berman 7:27
And I didn't. So, I don't really know what's coming.
Nicole Miller 7:30
Okay. Well, we do have a lot. Let's start with a juicy one from your friend, former podcast guest, Landon Donovan, who wants to ask you what was your most courageous act of this year, Ryan.
Ryan Berman 7:47
Wow. Okay. Great question. Nice one to kick this off, by the way. Funny, you can’t… Courageous act, you probably liked this because it's the action, right?
Nicole Miller 8:01
Ryan Berman 8:01
Can’t do action without act commentary. My most courageous act just happened, to be honest. It was basically going to Mexico; happened last week. And I went down to Modern Elder Academy, which basically gave me… It was an entrepreneurial workshop is what it was, but I knew I was really going down there to face myself and ask myself some hard questions. And I don't think I'm alone on this when you say we are time-starved. And sometimes it's a good thing because when you’re time-starved, it's a cop-out and an excuse not to face yourself, because, “I'm so busy. I'm just so busy. I got to do this for this client, and that for that client. I just don't have time to even think about myself.” Yeah. And I forced myself to basically go down there and give myself the space to just sort of, yeah, take the curriculum that Chip Conley puts forward. If you haven't heard of the Modern Elder Academy, check it out. He's an amazing teacher. He's teaching heart-centered leadership. And there were specific rules. I knew I was going to have to face myself, although the class was about entrepreneurship, which I was able to take on with 29, 28 others. There were some specific rules I told myself going in. One was I'm leaving my damn cell phone in my room. I'm going to go solo on this. Two, I don't want to spend the whole time with myself, so I really, really tried to collide with the others that were there and hear their story. What are they about? And then the biggie was, I always say to my clients, “Stop lying to yourself, what's the thing you need to bubble to the surface?” And even while we were there, even Chip had brought up “What's the one thing you're pretending to not tell yourself?”
Nicole Miller 10:13
I love that question. Yeah. That’s tough.
Ryan Berman 10:16
And so, I knew the third was like, just, go face myself. Face the mirror and be like, “Am I really helping people? Am I really making progress?” We're in or, gosh, fourth year now, third or fourth year since I left my last life at IDEA to go launch courageous, and I was excited to sort of see what would come of it. So, I think the act was just facing myself, and going through the process, and letting myself… I think I cried two or three times while I was down there. One was true tears on like, I remember saying this on the last night there, like, “I love what I do.” It wasn't in the head, it was like down in my soul that I got to say, “I love that I get to do what we do.” And there's true passion there. Another time I cried was for somebody else who I met who… It was more, just, I wanted the best for this person. And the pain that I felt. It's like, when you want to take someone else's pain away, and you can't. So, I think the act was knowing I was going to go down there, and I knew I was going to face some things. And when I told myself the truth, what came out of it was, okay, we're on the right path. I still love that we get to do this, I love that we get to try to help people where they're stuck, scared, stale, or spinning, and help them with their shift. And I also, I don't think we're there yet, but I need to be courageous myself on the tribe-building side of courageous, and it's coming. And this is not an advertisement for that, like, it's not figured out. But I had a moment of clarity while I was down there that I was like, okay, even though I'm scared, and even if it's going to cost money, I have to pay for, frankly, I absolutely need to figure out a way to bring together people that want to be courageous, and not in like a digital zoom forum. Like, “We deserve to know each other, and we deserve to support each other.” And I felt that firsthand from what Chip had built down there because it's like finding 28 new friends. Everyone's on their own journey. Everyone put their life on pause. Everybody came down here. Well, by the time we go back to our real lives, I'm actually not going back alone. We'll have a community of people that are together and you feel like you belong more than you did before you went in there.
Nicole Miller 13:04
That's outstanding. I'm just curious on this. Was it easy for you to figure out what that one thing was that you were lying to yourself about? Or, did that take you some days to figure out what that thing was for you?
Ryan Berman 13:22
I honestly don't know only because I trust the process. It's like I've been doing this long enough where I truly trust, like, stay open, acknowledge that you don't have an answer yet, but don't let yourself get frustrated by that. The thing that I was afraid to address like, again, is are we really helping people. Does the brand, does the idea… Do we have a shot a decade from now, not now, a decade from now, where we can inspire a ton of people to go for it, whatever that might be? And it's not just the corporate side, if I could give you the tools to change jobs, okay, easy. If I give you the tools to come out if you're gay, or if I give you the tools to start your own business, or the tools to move to a new city, or the tools to say no where you never had the courage to say no. And then, the community of people that supports you so you don't feel like you're alone. I have found myself saying in some ways we continue to be on this quest to take the courage out of courage every way shape or form. If we can continue to take the courage out of courage and give you practical steps that you can follow, or take the courage out of courage, like, here's other people just like you that are trying to make it in the world, that is really kind of the mission of what we're doing. So, the good news is when I actually like -- go back to the stock, scared, still, or spinning -- I think I was spinning on a very particular issue and I finally came out the other side with total clarity. It wasn't anything that I was afraid of other than the obvious things that come with money, and investments, and shit like that. So, I'm excited. And thank you, Chip Conley, for making the Modern Elder Academy because I know his intentions are pure, and I know if he get the opportunity… Look, I don't love the name Modern Elder Academy, Chip’s probably going to…
Nicole Miller 15:48
(Laughs) It’s a creative brain going.
Ryan Berman 15:49
Yeah, I want to rebrand it. I think that's par… Look, he has a whole story for why it's that, and I'm sure he loves when people then… It sort of nudges you to ask the question why that name. And so, it works in their favor, too. But, I'm 46, I don't see myself as an elder in the definition that I give an elder. If he was here, he would say, “I didn't say elderly, Ryan, I said, elder.” So, anyway, that was the act,it was going down there, and facing myself, and having the courage to sort of spar with the specific issue and now know, like, “Okay, we've got to build a community piece,” or, “We're kind of doing a disservice to everything we're trying to build.”
Nicole Miller 16:36
That's awesome. Sounds like a really cool experience of growth. So, maybe when I get to the [Inaudible 16:41] I can go… Just kidding. (Laughs) It's just because you have wisdom, that's all.
Ryan Berman 16:48
Well, that's what he says they teach. They’re teaching wisdom.
Nicole Miller 16:53
Yeah. All right, you’re ready for another one?
Ryan Berman 16:54
Sure, bring it.
Nicole Miller 16:56
This one is from a… This is a good one. Okay, what is the number one opportunity that you see for leaders to, quote, “lead well,” as in what do you wish leaders would do that many may not be doing?
Ryan Berman 17:12
So, this would be a good time to say I'm sure I'm going to get a lot of shit from Billy Collins, who's our third partner because he's not asking the questions today. Billy runs the knowledge part of our business. And during COVID, Billy was instrumental in being part of almost every courageous action chat that we had put on. For those of you who are like, “What the heck is the courageous action chat,” Redpower, another great leader, and I basically put on this every Friday, one-hour forum on Zoom. And if you can make it, you can make it. And if he couldn't, all good, we'll see you at the next one. And for the full year of 2021, every Friday, we would come together and whatever was the topic du jour, we would hit. And there was some crazy stuff. It wasn't just COVID, it started as COVID, and then, the thought was like, “Well, it's going to get pretty lonely as an extrovert if I'm stuck here in my house for the next 52 weeks.” But then, in one of those talks, I remember us talking about what makes great leadership. And it was something that Billy said that really, really stuck with me. And I think the conversation started as what makes a great leader is a great listener. And I still think that holds true. Like, I think about some of -- just calling it like it is -- I think about some of my past partnerships and we could have been better leaders. I remember coining this concept “Ivory tower syndrome.” You're too far away stuck in the ivory tower, and there’s this massive moat between you and the people actually doing the work and I think that's an issue. I think you've got to roll up your sleeves and get in there because I think that's where the listening starts. Now, Billy said that I just loved that, yes, leadership takes listening. And then, he also said, “I think leadership takes remembering” and, to me, that takes listening to a whole nother level. The irony is I think this moment is a listening, is remembering moment. It's also something that Billy said over a year ago and it still sticks with me, it still lands with me. And I think employees… The bar is so low. They want the world, they don't think they're going to get it. The expectation of what they think they're going to get from where they work, or who they work for… And as the great resignation happened, or the great reshuffle happened, it still comes off transactional that the employee has the power. But I think if you're really not just listening, but remembering that specialness and making the employee feel like, “Oh, my God, they actually heard what I said.” And it wasn't just like, at the end of the call, “Thank you so much for speaking up.” It's like 90 days later, 60 days later, sort of continuing to acknowledge that what you said landed and matters. So, I think if I'm a leader, it's not just about listening, it's about remembering, and it's about really taking a moment in your time with your team, and co-creating the future with them. And it starts with, “Okay, we're now in co-creation space, what do I need to remember from this conversation?” And then, look, everything that everybody says isn't going to be the most brilliant thing in the world, but it starts with the forum. It starts with listening, and then, it's about remembering and bringing into other things that you do later down the line.
Nicole Miller 21:30
And I think, too, it's about being very present in conversations with people. The best thing I ever heard about listening was that most people listen with the intention to respond, versus, with the intention of actually understanding. And so, actually trying to listen to people, and not trying to respond but just trying to listen to understand, I think it's difficult sometimes. But I think trying to listen through that lens is where people can actually grow and become better listeners.
Ryan Berman 22:04
I adore that. And I think what I'm doing right now is recounting a few conversations that have happened in the last few years. It's funny how our brains work that you can rapid-fire through specific moments where you felt like you're in a safe place with someone. And again, when your company is called Courageous, it does give you permission to be courageous with what you share. And so, I remember a few times when I was just being me, and sharing information -- and I think you could do it with tact and grace, by the way, you don't have to be a jerk about it. But I still remember specific responses, the way that people responded was through the lens of fear. Like, so worried that I was like, they hadn't thought of that, or I was coming at them. Okay, so, if you are a client or a future client listening to this, always know I'm coming at it from love. It's always love first. Again, it's so funny, I just had this conversation like, tough love is still love. Tough is, “You’re a jerk,” but tough love is still love. And you try to go into every conversation you can prepared, and you're trying to help. But it starts with like… I think it starts, like you said, like, I'm not trying to respond to everything. It's like, “How do I take in what you said, remember that thing and push it forward?”
Nicole Miller 23:41
And I think… It’s like I’m hijacking your questions, but I think tough love is really just honesty. It's just honest love, and I think you've said it before, but sometimes, honestly, it's hard. And the fact that it's sometimes the most challenging thing we could do is just to be honest. If it were easy, I think everyone would do it all the time.
Ryan Berman 24:02
Well, what’s sort of sad is that it isn't easy. Even as a leader, back to you, or Billy, or Kimberly, or whoever on the team, how do I make sure that I'm creating a forum for you guys to call me out on my shit without fear of repercussion? I don't think, I hope you don't feel terrified…
Nicole Miller 24:26
I think you do that beautifully. I think you're an excellent example of creating that space, for what it's worth.
Ryan Berman 24:32
I'll take it, because, to me, it's like, “Put yourself in a position to listen and remember,” It's like the other part of this.
Nicole Miller 24:40
Right. Let's do another one. What's one small easy thing that someone can start doing daily today to make them more courageous?
Ryan Berman 24:51
So, if I were listening to this, I would buy a journal. And before you get ahead of yourself and think, “Oh, here we go. Dear diary.”
Nicole Miller 25:05
Dear diary (Laughs)
Ryan Berman 25:07
“Today was a scary day..”
Nicole Miller 25:09
“Ryan told me to write, I'm writing.”
Ryan Berman 25:13
And again, maybe this is something at some point we will actually create for people. But, in the meantime, I would take this new journal, and I would break it into three, like, taking your first piece of paper and literally break it into three sections from left to right. And, on the left side, I would put, at the top ‘knowledge.’ In the middle, I would put ‘faith.’ And, on the right, I'd put ‘action.’ And underneath that in parentheses, I'd put ‘think’ on the left, I’d put ‘feel’ in the middle, and I'd put ‘do’ on the right. And I would just start to list out your ‘think, feel, and do’ on things that you feel are most important to you. So, maybe, the start is three things, like, start back from, “What do I want to do?” What's this big, audacious, courageous move you want to make? And, look, this episode's going to go live at the end of the year, and I'll be slightly morbid. I was thinking about putting this in my newsletter, which I'm not going to do because I don’t want to be that morbid, but I could do it because it’s in a verbal, like, a podcast. So, 2022 is about to die.
Nicole Miller 26:33
Ryan Berman 26:36
Like, we're almost there. This is it. And a lot of times with death, there comes life, there's a birth, there's a rebirth, which is what 2023 is going to be. So, that's also the optimist in me doesn't look at that moment, like, “Whoa, Ryan jeez,” it's the opposite, it's, you have this moment where the rebirth is coming, what can you also have die with 2022? What thing didn't you do that you wanted to get to? Or, you told yourself you'd get to, but you never… You even knew deep down, you lied to yourself, we're back to that, and you knew you never were going to get to it. So, I love the idea of triggers like January 1st. The rebirth, this birth of a new, and what do you need to leave in the past and start fresh in the new year? So, I'd go get the journal now, and my 2023 journal with ‘think, feel, do,’ maybe first page, I could go back a step. It's like, “Okay, what are those three big acts that you want to do?” I always talk about New Year's resolutions. I'm a fan of resolutions, a lot of people aren't, for whatever reason. I don't know, I feel like people who aren’t fans of resolutions don't make resolutions, or failed on the resolutions. I like them.
Nicole Miller 28:05
And I'm in the ‘I hate them’ camp, by the way.
Ryan Berman 28:07
All right. Well, here, you'll be my challenge, if I could give you the tools you need. But, hey, look, the way I look at New Year's resolutions, I always have a mind resolution.
Nicole Miller 28:20
Yes, I love this.
Ryan Berman 28:21
I have a body resolution and I have a spirit resolution. So, maybe, on this rebirth 2023 journal, ‘think, feel, do’ journal, you put on the first page, your mind resolution, your body resolution, and your spirit resolution. And, by the way, if you liked this stuff and you never knew that I had a weekly dose of courage, this sounds like a shameless promotion. Every Thursday, we send out these little nudges, these little quips, and, a lot of times, I'm taking what I learned from other folks. By the time this podcast will go live, last Thursday was this concept of fear but fair, fear but fair. Set it firm but fair. Fear but fair is a great leadership style that I learned when I was 16 at summer camp, counselor and leadership training. 30 years later, I'm like, “Oh, it's fear, but fair.” Fear is not a bad thing, and it's not unfair fear, by the way. It's like, fear that makes me a little bit nervous, but also helps me acknowledge if I'm going to take it on then I'm challenged, and that I'm alive.
Nicole Miller 29:33
Yeah, that's a good feeling. It's like that's when you know, “Okay, I actually shouldn't act on this.” You have to have that little bit of pit in your stomach sometimes for it to feel real.
Ryan Berman 29:43
So, to me fear, but fear is a good example of that. What is this fear that I'd like to take on at 2023 that's fair? It's like not out of bounds, it's not like, “I want to be president of the United States.” It's like, “Okay, probably not fair.” But if it's, “I want to…” For me, on the body side, I want to drop 10% of my body fat. I really do. This is by far the biggest fear that I have for me. By the way, this isn't about anybody else, it's about me, and like, somebody that I want to take on and I want to challenge. I love food, so I got to figure out how to do that in a way that brings happiness, not anxiety, on a regular basis. I know the next book I want to write, that's going to be one of my, ‘on the mind’ side. So, imagine if I had these three figured out, and then, the first page is all on the first resolution on mind, ‘think, feel, do.’ And then, the second one is all on faith. And then, the third is on the action side. And now, you're creating daily triggers that you're going to run into. It's like, if I went to the mental gym every day, just like if I went to the actual gym every day, and use the weights, you're going see a difference, but you got to create those speed bumps along the way to get going. One other little quip, little note. This is also another place where I'd say technology can be your friend. How do you utilize technology? So, let's just say you're like, “Ryan, I like the idea of… How about I set one resolution for next year? That's enough for me.” Okay, then, maybe what you're doing is you're actually putting on the calendar blocks of time. Schedule blocks of time on Mondays, and Wednesdays, and Fridays, or whatever day, once a week. So, at least it pops up on your phone, you're creating… Let technology work for you as a reminder. And so, when you see it, you're like, “Oh, yeah, shoot, that's right. I said that this was important, let me get to it.”
Nicole Miller 31:59
Those are all great suggestions. My favorite being what to let go of. I think sometimes that's just as important as what you decide to do. Love it.
Ryan Berman 32:09
If the roles were reversed, I'd ask you to give me one sort of tool or idea to help people on the let-go part.
Nicole Miller 32:23
Oh, man. This is what always works for me in the letting go part is remembering that nothing is permanent in life. Jobs are impermanent, life is impermanent, homes aren’t... Everything is impermanent. So, sometimes when I feel like I get stuck feeling like I can't let go of something, I try to remember that. Like, really zooming out and remembering, some kind of a lot of those things end up feeling really small when I'm able to zoom out of it.
Ryan Berman 32:55
This too shall pass. This too shall pass.
Nicole Miller 32:57
This too shall pass, Mr. Berman.
Ryan Berman 33:00
All right. What else you got? How are we doing, by the way? Is this what you wanted?
Nicole Miller 33:06
I could do this all day.
Ryan Berman 33:09
Okay. Good to know.
Nicole Miller 33:10
This is fun. Is there a time that you chose to be more cautious, versus courageous? And if so, why did you make that decision?
Ryan Berman 33:18
Yeah, good question. So, I do think courage is a currency. So, I think courage is a currency. And to be really, really clear, I remember reading about this idea. Someone at Harvard had written about this, and it makes sense. It's like, you wouldn't go to spend all your money at… You got to be careful where you spend and where you don't spend. And I think, from a corporate standpoint, it's the same. You can't be wildly courageous on every project, you'd just exhaust yourself and others along the way. And I think it's picking a few spots where to really lean in on that currency, especially because it's not just you, you're working in a team, and you're bringing other people along. I've always said courage is also relative, to me, it's very much like skiing. There's bunny slope people. There's drop me out of a helicopter Black Diamond courage folks. And just, depending on your experiences, it’s sort of where you land on on the mountain. And I've always said like, “Look, if I can't get you to the mountain, we probably shouldn't work together.” But if there's a willingness to get to the mountain, then off we go. But, of course, you don't know when you're on a team if you're… “I made the Black Diamond version. Am I the bunny slope version? Or, the realistically, like, ‘Oh, I didn't even want to go skiing. It's cold. I don't know how to ski. I don't want to be courageous. I just want to get my paycheck.” So, this is the reality of how teams are formed. So, the idea of going slow in some places, or being cautious at some point, I think sometimes it's as simple as… Especially if you're inheriting a team or you're inheriting a project, how do you get that team on the same page as fast as possible? I think there's an audit that's needed. I don't think this is the new idea, but sometimes, it's easier to completely break and start new, versus, you've inherited something, and you got to go backwards. And then, how do you move on from people that don't want to be courageous? So, just sort of the starting slow part, I think, is making sure mentality-wise that the team is on the same page. I think that is a biggie. And then, if you have the luxury, you actually have a budget and the luxury of handpicking teams, or, as I like to say, breaking specific rules, and building a team that can break rules out of the gate, then you do have a serious advantage because you can pick mentalities of people that are all playing on the same team. I'll also say, look, courageous is like my third creative business that I've owned. And I've learned a whole lot from each one. My first business, when I had no business running a business, was called Fish Tank. And the idea with Fish Tank was everywhere you go, there are fish tanks. Hotel lobby, Chinese restaurant, fraternity houses, and you think you're watching the text, but no, the fish tank is watching you, “Ooo, the fish tank is watching,” right? And the whole idea was, as observationalists, we're going to take you in as you are so we can better figure out ways to build messages or brands that are going to land with you. And we were kids, but it was cool. But I really have like the ‘aha’ moment where I really stepped into the shoes of a client. And I remember many -- again, I was 29 -- I remember many clients walking into our office and being like, “Cool. And their comment was more like, “I wasn't sure if you had an office. We like your creative product, but I wasn't really sure what you were other than it was a cool product.”
Nicole Miller 37:29
Yeah. “You're for real, wow, you have an office.”
Ryan Berman 37:34
Cool. it wasn't like we were working with local businesses, we worked with UNICEF, to Puma. We had done some good stuff. And then, my second business was IDEA. You mean idea? Okay, sure. IDEA, idea. And the way that we had built the business was there was a powerful idea side of the business. And there was the powering ideas part of the business. And the idea was that when you integrate those two, the powering idea gets better when the power idea people are brainstorming with the powerful ideas. And the powerful ideas part of the business gets better when they're brainstorming with the powering ideas, people that understand media, and it was like truly this integrated IDEA. And you take that out to a client, and still there's confusion. Like, “I know you're in the idea business, do you do digital media?” There's all these other things. And, actually, because I don't think we were super clear, it allowed us to say yes to things we probably should have said no to and didn’t have the cause to do that, frankly. But that was successful, and we grew it to like 80, 90 people. That's where we met, obviously Just, the amount of talent that we had in that building at one time was pretty special.
Nicole Miller 38:57
But realized again, same thing, when the phone actually rang, the person on the other line wasn't totally sure what they were getting from us. So, to go back to the cautious commentary, a lot of my detective work on, like, does the world need this? Are we being as clear as we think we are? Anywhere you still have the reins before an idea, or a brand, or a message goes out into the world, and you're not there to defend it. By the way, it could be internal. You send a newsletter internally quarterly to your staff. I do a lot of detective work. “Hey, call me out on my bullshit. Is this even worth… Am I just talking to myself or is there something here?”
Nicole Miller 40:00
Ryan Berman 40:01
I think when Courageous as an idea was finally like, okay, the germination period was up, I had talked to enough people to go, “There's a need for this.” And I do like how wide it is. But like, our phone doesn't ring when somebody wants a web banner, which is great. It's like, do they need courage? Is there a shift that needs to happen? Is it a courageous leadership moment where, look, it's really lonely to be the leader, it's hard to be the leader. And so, if we can be an ally on that journey -- and, a lot of times on the keynote side, or the workshop side, I'm being brought in by a president, or head of HR, or a CEO, that they want that courage, they want their team to be a little bit more courageous. On the creative idea side, I think we still feel courageous ideas are the only ones that matter. The courageous reinvention side, it's answering the call to where a company might be stuck, scared, stale, or spinning, and we could help them pivot and shift. And a lot of the work we're doing with Kraft Heinz, in my opinion, is like, in that arena. So, to me, it starts with go slow so you can go faster later. And I would say that the go slow is the cautious part. Once we're out there, we're off and running.
Nicole Miller 41:22
Yeah, so to ride a bike you got to start with the training wheels.
Ryan Berman 41:25
Kind of. Slow cooked.
Nicole Miller 41:28
Yep. As you talk about it, like, full circle, it's cool to see also what you've learned from business to business, and to see where you're at today. It's really cool because you kind of paint the whole picture. Congratulations.
Ryan Berman 41:46
Oh, I don't see it that way. We're in it. You know, we're just in it still.
Nicole Miller 41:50
Yeah. But every now and then, you have to congratulate yourself, right? Like, yeah, you've done a lot of great work and a lot of cool things to get you to where you are today. So, if no one else tells you that today, I'm telling you that today.
Ryan Berman 42:02
Thank you, Nicole Miller. I appreciate it.
Nicole Miller 42:05
You’re welcome. All right, I feel like we're getting close so I'm going to close with one final question. So, this one is coming from Jeff Cottrell who was recently on a podcast. He wants to know what is your leadership advice for 2023.
Ryan Berman 42:19
All right. So, first of all, Jeff is the coolest. He's the best. Jeff's the Chief Marketing Officer at… He just got a new title. It's like Chief Brand Officer at Top Golf.
Nicole Miller 42:34
Yes. I believe that's right.
Ryan Berman 42:38
And he calls it; it's golf, and it's not golf, and he’s right. And for something that’s stated like that, it somehow makes perfect sense because TopGolf is golf, and it's not golf, and they're opening a few here in San Diego, which I'm excited about. Okay. I'm going to say something that was inspired by Jeff. And, Jeff, if you go back to his episode in maybe… Okay, Mitch, this is a great way to give Mitch a shout-out right in the smack of the episode. Hey, Mitch, go do me a favor and find the first episode we have with Jeff and insert it right here right now.
Jeff Cottrell 43:19
I believed in something so much that I had to quit. I acted like I was four years old, and I went in and threw a tantrum and quit because they wouldn't let me do it. And then, they did let me do it because I said to them, “You're going to fire me someday, I actually want this to be the thing you fire me about.”
Ryan Berman 43:39
Pick the thing you want to be fired for. Now, this really isn't about the Jerry Maguire moment where you grab the goldfish, and you grab your shit, and you're heading out. If you haven't seen that movie, you’re under 25, that's fine. Just rent it. Jerry Maguire. Tom Cruise.
Nicole Miller 44:00
I can't believe there's people who don't know Jerry Maguire, but I guess you're probably right.
Ryan Berman 44:04
They're out there. They're out. And I think what Jeff means, he only means one or two things. He means, “No, actually, you're going to get fired. And that's it.” Or, he means like, have the courage to not be afraid while you're there to go for it. What is the thing that will really move the business even if it's scary? And, by the way, when you go for it, you'll probably ignite all the right people in the company that are going to be like, “Yes, finally, let's go for it.” Now, to build on the Jeff's comments of ‘you're fired.’ By the way, that's the end of that answer. The answer is, go for it, go for it, and go for it. Don't be an idiot about it. Take your budget -- another thing that a guy named Jason Sparrow at Google once told me is that he takes 5% of his budget every year, here we are at the end of the year, take 5% of your budget, make that your experimental budget. I call it building an experimental Task Force, an ETF, a 5% of your budget, take some of your smartest people, give them six months of coverage to come back with a recommendation to move 20% of your budget to. And cover them. And again, we're back to now, the thing that you'd have to go slow on before, which is “I've inherited a team, or not everybody's… Some people are stuck in the day job,” which was a fair thing. Now, it's a call for courage. And you build this courage cohort inside your company that all want to go forward and they're part of this sleuth mission team working on some magic project that just energizes them. And if you get it right, it becomes a new revenue stream, or new awareness opportunity for the business. So, I adore that now. Anyway, to go back to the Jeff comment, I actually think, the more I thought about it, there really is only three quips, three isms that you hear. One is; you're fired. Okay, as Jeff said, “Pick the thing you want to get fired for,” at least. It's better than like, you hid and you knew it was coming.
Nicole Miller 46:34
Right. I feel like there's probably very few people whose leadership advice for the year is going to be pick what you're going to get fired for. Which I love.
Ryan Berman 46:42
Right? And again… I hope you don't get fired guys.
Nicole Miller 46:45
No, no. I know.
Ryan Berman 46:47
But the point is to pick that project that lights you up. And if you feel like you can't find it at the company you're at, that leads to the second suggestion which is the words ‘I quit.’ And I think a lot of us, we’re just tired of… That's what the great resignation happened. It shouldn't have taken a global pandemic, by the way, to like, look at yourself, and look at the people we were working with, and going, “I don't really want to take this anymore. And I know this isn't right in my heart.” The numbers are fairly staggering, by the way, where it's like a third of people quit with no backup plan. The better choice was sitting at home than working. Just wow. Anyway. So, one is, ‘you’re fired.’ Two is, ‘I quit.’ And three is, ‘thank you for your service.’ Thank you for your service, in my mind, is more like you've retired, like, you've retired, you've done your time, and thank you for your service. And so, as you think about, like, which would you prefer to hear? Would you rather be the one delivering it. If it's ‘thank you for your service,’ by the way, you have found a home that lets you be you, that lets you do you, the less you like… Again, especially if you're listening to this podcast, it's not called the ‘play it safe’ podcast. It’s called The Courageous Podcast. When you actually hear ‘thank you for your service, we appreciate you,’ you are the luckiest of the lucky because you found a place where you could do just that. Where you can challenge yourself or build teams that are working on cool shit for 10, 20, 30 years or beyond. ‘You're fired.’ Okay, fine. If you hear those words, did you pick the project that you're just… And then, ‘I quit’ is the ‘stop lying to yourself’ moment? And so, all of that is are you really doing the thing that lights you up? Have you really found the thing that excites you? Are you part of a change? Are you part of something new? I just sent this other newsletter out about new versus change where change can come off as like scary. But oh, if we need to change, it's like scary fear. But No, we get to do something new, cool, exciting, budget. Let's do something new. And again, ask yourself if you can figure out a way to push forward with that new where it truly lights you up. That's my hope for you. And if you're a leader, create those environments, create the environments where you don't want somebody coming back and like, “I quit.” That's really it.
Nicole Miller 49:27
That's beautiful. And honestly, if nothing else, I feel like I have a lot of really good things to take away from a lot of the things you said. And honestly, a lot of the things to think about and journal about when I need to go get my journal and everyone else who's listening is going to get their journal also.
Ryan Berman 49:44
I'm going to get my journal too. To me, I know that I need to make more time to journal. I have the luxury of the newsletter that helps me write every week, and I think that there's no fear on writing it. It's almost, again, it's more therapeutic than anything because I get to keep the muscle sharp, and share what I'm learning from really, really smart people, and put that out into the world. And away we go.
Nicole Miller 50:13
Yep. Journaling is my favorite tool for sure. Okay, so maybe before we close, is there anything that you didn't share that you want to tell listeners before the end of 2022?
Ryan Berman 50:26
Yeah, and this will be a succinct one, which is just thank you. If you have allowed me to be in your ear -- and again, you're still listening to this episode too -- it tells me that the work we're doing is meaningful. And that's all you could ask for is to try to find something that you're passionate about, that you want to share with the world, that will move people or inspire people. And that's how I feel about this. Like I said, that whole Mexico trip pretty much sort of further validated that if I can help you fight fear, create change, and be courageous… To really fight fear, be courageous, and make change, I think that's the right order. But, I'm so down with that. So, thank you for coming on the journey. By no means do any of us feel like, “Oh, we have it all figured out.” We're still learning, and growing, and staying curious about all this too. But just super grateful, and have an absolute wonderful New Year's Eve. And I hope you had a wonderful holiday. And yes, sorry, about 2022 dying, but that gives us an opportunity to talk about the rebirth, right? There's a new birth, something new is coming, and you get the opportunity to, like, if you so choose, to be excited about how you want to take on the new year. So, happy, happy New Year. Nicole Miller, I'm looking forward to doing more cool shit with you in 2023. We got a big year ahead of us and let’s keep on rolling.
Nicole Miller 52:12
Same. In the spirit of gratitude, thanks for letting me crash your podcast. I had so much fun.
Ryan Berman 52:19
Oh, you're a great host. I now know that if I like if I go down, like if I get COVID and I'm out for six months…
Nicole Miller 52:27
I’m in. (Laughs)
Ryan Berman 52:29
Don't get… You can't give me COVID, though.
Nicole Miller 52:30
No, no. Yeah, we won’t do that.
Ryan Berman 52:34
Don’t try to actively… I'm sure I'll hear, like, we said, Billy Collins is going to come after me, like, “Why didn’t I get to host this episode?” Totally pissed.
Nicole Miller 52:42
Ryan Berman 52:43
All right everybody. I hope you enjoy this very different unique end-of-year podcast. Thanks for listening. Get that journal. Maybe consider that mind goal. That mind resolution. That body resolution. That spirit resolution. And I probably should offer this up earlier, but if you want to share, or you have a question, email me, RyanBerman@couragebrands.com. I'd love to hear what you think you want to do and take on in 2023. And if we can help in any way, look, as your friend, as your courage Sherpa, let us know, we'll help where we can. Happy New Year. Stay courageous.
Nicole Miller 53:24
Ryan Berman 53:28
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the courageous podcast. If you enjoyed the show, don't forget to rate and review us on Apple podcasts so more people can find us. See you again next week.
(Outro Music 53:39-53:48)
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