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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Gary Ware Founder of Breakthrough Play

Gary Ware – Founder of Breakthrough Play

Unleash the power of play. Gary Ware integrates playfulness into every aspect of his work. It’s not for the sake of play itself, but to help teams unlock and be more productive. He is an author, founder, speaker, and improv actor who quickly discovered that combining improv and play could be a powerful solution to achieving various business challenges. Thus, Breakthrough Play was born.

Episode Notes

In their conversation, Gary gives actionable advice on how he goes about opening up a team to have a hard but necessary conversation to speak their truth. They also discuss Gary’s book, Playful Rebellion, a literal “play” book for unlocking success across your organization.

[00:00:00] Ryan Berman: Hey everybody. Welcome to courage week. And this is something that I am really excited about. And, uh, if I'm really honest, terrified of, because it's my way of trying to bring together this community of people that want to do amazing things in their lives. And, uh, if you think about your life, think about maybe someplace where you might be stuck or you're scared or you're spinning or you're playing it safe.

[00:00:35] And the idea behind Courage Week is to sort of step back, put your life on pause, maybe be a little less robotic and to really, really consider what do you want out of all this and where do you want to go. How can you liberate yourself for it. It doesn't mean it has to be something happening in your work life or in your home life, but really step back and think about something that you want.

[00:01:00] And hopefully this is the beginning of helping you go for it. Courage Week moving forward is, it's always going to be the week right after Labor Day, starting with Labor Day. And, uh, this Courage Week will be only digital. It's just content, there's a courageous checklist, which we're going to help you check yourself, pun fully intended.

[00:01:22] Maybe start there, fill that puppy out. And see where it takes you. You can find that by signing up for my weekly dose of courage at ryanberman. com or even on LinkedIn. If you follow me there, we do have some new podcasts starting. Welcome to season three. We are also going to end our week with a courageous action chat.

[00:01:43] Which is a conversation that we host on Zoom. For those of you who might recall during the pandemic, we ran 55 of these every Friday at 2 p. m. Pacific Standard Time. It was just our way of bringing the community together, talk about real conversations and real things, and honestly, it's just good for your soul.

[00:02:04] If this is something you want to join this Friday, 2 p. m. Pacific Standard Time, 5 p. m. Eastern, we will put the link in the show notes. For you to jump in and reserve your seat. We do not record these calls. We do not record these acting chats. It's just a way for us to kind of go around the horn.

[00:02:24] And, uh, we've got some amazing people coming from all over the country to just give us a temperature check of what's going on out there specifically, we'll be looking at is this hybrid workforce working, What ideas do you have, are we really landing or has it become way too transactional? So again, we'll put the link to this Friday's courageous action chat in the notes, show notes for the podcast.

[00:02:50] Hopefully you can come out and join us. 

[00:02:52] This is a show about facing fear, unlocking courage and taking action. 

[00:02:56] Gary Ware: Courage isn't necessarily a daunting thing. It's going to give you more purpose. It's going to give you more drive. It feels like making a courageous decision is going to get you closer to who you aspire to be.

[00:03:05] It's knowledge 

[00:03:06] Ryan Berman: plus faith plus action equals courage.

[00:03:09] Gary Ware: And this is like life, just like if you're surfing or skateboarding or whatever, it's a calibration. Sometimes you have to be the kite and sometimes you have to fly the kite. And so as we're doing this, like, yeah, we have two times where I'm like, oh man, I'm, I'm pushing it too much.

[00:03:20] All right. You know what? Let me take a step back. It might take longer than necessary, but that's what we need to get to the right headspace.

[00:03:30] Is that one of your cool outfits? 

[00:03:33] Ryan Berman: This is totally cool. This is how we're going to start the show.

[00:03:35] Aviator Nation. 

[00:03:36] This is how we're going to start the show. This podcast is brought to you by Aviator Nation. Well, look, you're already making me smile, which I think is part of your business model, isn't it?

[00:03:44] Gary Ware: It's how I roll.

[00:03:46] Ryan Berman: All right. This is a long overdue guest that's joined us. And if you're not smiling already, like the two of us are smiling, you will. We have, and by the way, Yeah, it's fun and games today, but it's also, I want to acknowledge you for your courage for the moves that you've made, because when we, when we first met, you were a digital marketer.

[00:04:11] I mean, you've always been, in my opinion, outgoing extroverts, at least that's what we perceive you to be. I'm curious your take on that, but you made your leap. And it's cool to see you take the things that you're that bring you joy and monetize them. So let me do this properly. Gary Ware is the founder of Breakthrough Play.

[00:04:34] He is an author of Playful Rebellion. And he's got sound effects, I'm sure we might hear today from him. He's got super Is that the first one? Yeah He's got believe in the background Ted Lasso style a Super Mario one up in the background He's all about play and helping companies kind of like lighten up a little bit Gary This is a light topic, but it's had to been heavy at some point, right?

[00:05:02] Of course The work is serious, but if I don't take my myself too serious, if you know what I mean Well, I think that's 

[00:05:09] probably why we get along so well. Right? Take me back into your, your mind on when you finally made the leap. 

[00:05:18] You want to go back? 

[00:05:18] How easy? Yeah. Well, like walk me through it.

[00:05:25] It'd be a great, it's going to be a great podcast. By the way, this is all Gary doing Gary things. All right. Take me back. How scared were you when you made the leap? Or like, let's hear the origin story if you don't mind. 

[00:05:35] Gary Ware: Yeah, I was terrified, but it was one of those things where. Looking back in retrospect.

[00:05:40] It was almost like the universe was like no, we're gonna push you off this cliff and make Make it so that you can't come back, or at least that's what I was thinking in my mind. So, I will tell you, like, before it started, I will give you the three days before. Okay. So, it is March of 2018. I'm in Nicaragua.

[00:06:04] I'm running this retreat. It's a play adventure retreat. It's the last day of the retreat. I'm on the beach with my co facilitator, looking at the sunset. There's turtles coming out of eggs, going to the water. And I thought to myself, Alright, I made it. I'm doing great things. 

[00:06:22] Ryan Berman: Metaphor? Turtle metaphor? Is that where we're going with this?

[00:06:25] Gary Ware: You're the metaphor guy. I will tell you the story, and you can tell me what the metaphor is. Deal. I was like, wow, I made it. I have a job that affords me to do this awesome stuff. And at the time I was a co founder of a digital marketing agency. And I was, I was so excited about this time in my life where I thought it was called harmony.

[00:06:50] That's the theme. That's what I called it. I got a tattoo on my arm that night. I kid you not. I had that in Epiphany. I got a tattoo. What most people don't know, I have a tattoo on the other arm that means chaos. So I've chaos and I've harmony. And I go back to the States. That Monday, I meet with my, at the time, I thought it was my co founder, only for him to say, I think we need to go our own ways.

[00:07:16] And we broke up.

[00:07:17] Ryan Berman: So this is now day two, day three or day two? 

[00:07:19] Gary Ware: This is day... Or day zero. Well, this is day zero of my new life at this point. Yes. So I, Saturday I had the epiphany, Monday everything, you know, the world came crashing back and was like, all right, here's the new reality. 

[00:07:38] Ryan Berman: Why does the universe do this to us?

[00:07:41] Gary Ware: I have this belief that we all want to do big things, right? And the universe is like, all right, you want to do these big things? You're not ready yet. So I'm going to put you through a test that's going to level you up.

[00:07:56] And most people are like that. It's like, oh no, oh no. That's what happened. So it gets worse. So my business partner breaks up with me two hours after that. Our landlord calls and said we have about 45 days to move. He's selling the house that we're renting. 

[00:08:14] Ryan Berman: This is where you should get another... I would get another special effect right here.

[00:08:19] Gary Ware: I'll do the same one. And...

[00:08:26] Ryan Berman: Totally. Totally. This is the right two. 

[00:08:29] Gary Ware: Yes. So, now, now I'm sweating bullets. What do I do? And, I guess, say, like, normal people would just be like, alright... Go get another job dummy like you have a network just call some people up and say hey look I'm out of work. You know, what do I do? But me and my wife were like laying in bed is one of these conversations that you have with your significant other it like 11 o'clock the kids put asleep and you're like, all right, what are we doing?

[00:08:59] And that's where so it was my wife She was the catalyst who was saying dude, you do you you're doing some cool stuff. Why don't you do more of that? And of course, I'm scared. I'm like, I don't even know, like, is this really going to make money? Like this had been a hobby. This had been a fun, like sort of side hustle, but I'm not really making money.

[00:09:21] It was just a fun thing to do. Yes, it brought joy. And yes, I saw the potential, but can I support my family with that?

[00:09:32] Ryan Berman: Hey, and I get it. It's We're funny creatures, right? It's like in the moment in the darkness. You're looking at the ceiling You're slightly flooded with fear. It's the thing, you know, like how am I gonna make money and Your wife's clarity is like, why aren't you going after this? Why aren't you doing more of this?

[00:09:55] And this is like the XY axis where X is joy and Y is money. Yes. And it's like, wait a minute, what is it going to take for me to do more of this? Right. And how, how, I guess, how much after the, you're at day zero, do you start to see? Okay, maybe there's something here. Maybe this is sticking. Maybe I can make a living doing this.

[00:10:23] Gary Ware: 365 days later. So what I do, what I do, we, we sell most of our stuff. We put the rest of it in storage and then we move in with my parents who live nearby and they were happy. I don't think they were happy for me, their oldest son to come back home more. So they were happy to see their grandson. Who at the time was one.

[00:10:45] So that was the, that was the, yeah, yeah, come on in. And I told my wife, I said, all right, two years, two years. If this is not working in two years, you know, I'll call Ryan Berman and see, will he hire me back? 

[00:11:01] Ryan Berman: Which I would in a minute. Yes. Wait, are you, is that why you're here? Do you need a job, Gary? 

[00:11:06] Gary Ware: All right, so Ryan, in front of everybody, can you hire me?

[00:11:11] Ryan Berman: So, the answer's no, but I will always work with you on everything, and the real, and it's not no in the wrong way, it's just like, of course, and full disclosure audience, and I'm sure there are certain people who went on the journey with us already, who know how amazing you are, and like, I will work with you every day of the week.

[00:11:30] I love working with you, Gary Ware you're like, I describe you as a little levitating Jedi who can like open up a room and get them to like relax. And, and like, you are the ultimate diffuser for when. It's time to have a real conversation and the way you go about play, and I don't want to take us out of the 365 story because I know we're right.

[00:11:56] We're right in it. I also want you to talk about like this improv background. And I mean, that was sort of. You were marinating in that way before you ever started this business, correct? 

[00:12:10] Gary Ware: Yeah, of course. At this point, I had been doing improv and actually starting to teach it. At this point, I had, it's, we're five years in of actually me studying the art of improv.

[00:12:21] Ryan Berman: Okay, so how does this show up? Like, where are we? We're, uh, you're back at home. Yeah. You're like, I, I need, I need a, I need some runway. You get the green light. Your wife is cool. You're figuring it out. Carry on. 

[00:12:34] Gary Ware: Yeah, so at this point now, then I'm like, all right, what, what is this? And this is where I did turn to my network and it did take some courage to say, all right, I'm doing this new thing.

[00:12:44] I'm not sure what it is, but I have a feeling that it can be transformative for your team. Do you want to taste? And that's where I started doing complimentary, what I call complimentary recesses. And I would go to anyone who would let me, any conference, and just start doing this and getting feedback. 

[00:13:09] Ryan Berman: I don't think it's any different than...

[00:13:12] The luxury I had, by the way, when I started courageous, you know, I had a little bit of runway because of the last company and someone once said to me, you know, you start talking to other speakers and like, I think I can do that. I think I can share what I learned along the way and see where the stakes us.

[00:13:31] And someone said, get your keynote price five times and double it. And I remember getting a sheepish call early. This would have been in my first two months from a good friend and the same thing you put your, you put yourself out there and she was like, listen, I have this offsite with Snapchat and she felt guilty.

[00:13:57] She's like, they only have a thousand dollars. I know if that's like beneath you. But will you consider it? And in my mind, I'm like, I would have paid you a thousand dollars. I would have, I would have given you a thousand bucks to say I'm, I'm speaking at Snapchat for the rest of my life. And to be honest, I remember that same moment of like, this is such a great testing ground for material.

[00:14:22] And I think I have something and I, I think I can help people. As you start your Little recess journey. Is that are you are you constantly auditing the feedback of the audience, which is probably what you learn in improv Anyway, yes. 

[00:14:36] Gary Ware: Yeah real time feedback that didn't work. All right, cool Let's try something else and I I had one of those moments to were Thanks to our mutual friend, Nicole. 

[00:14:48] She's at the Padres. Nicole Miller. 

[00:14:50] Ryan Berman: Nicole Miller. The great, this deserves a sound effect. The great Nicole Miller. 

[00:14:55] Gary Ware: Yes.

[00:15:00] Ryan Berman: By the way, anytime you talk to Nicole, that's actually what it sounds like. 

[00:15:03] Gary Ware: Right? Yeah. Nicole Miller, she's at the Padres, and she put me in touch to their director of sales, Jeff Gold, who was looking for training for his team. Similar situation. Hey, we only have a couple thousand bucks. Would you come in?

[00:15:18] And bring your stuff to the team. And I was like, yes. 

[00:15:23] Ryan Berman: Well, let me check the dates. Hmm. 

[00:15:26] Gary Ware: I don't, 

[00:15:27] Ryan Berman: can we pinch? Oh, it's, oh, I can't make, yeah, I can move some stuff around. 

[00:15:31] Gary Ware: I gotcha. So yeah. So that was like moments like those, it was very humbling. And then I was able to get some feedback in real time and make adjustments.

[00:15:42] Ryan Berman: I'm trying to recall if you and I have done three, three. Events together now or more. I know of at least three. 

[00:15:51] Gary Ware: Yeah, is it three or more? Well, it's two with okay. Is that one or is that two? 

[00:15:57] Ryan Berman: I just counted it as one but you're right So I I think the first time I used like utilized you used you was like loyal you came in and kicked off the day And that's what I was like, this is awesome Like you can instantly see the magic at work and you got everybody off their feet and playing the second time we tried A virtual, yeah, right with PRSA.

[00:16:18] I was in New York, I think. 

[00:16:19] Gary Ware: Yep. And then, and then we went to Houston together, 

[00:16:23] Ryan Berman: which was Houston. Oh my Lord. Which was, 

[00:16:25] Gary Ware: that was for the podcasting company. 

[00:16:27] Ryan Berman: Okay. That's right. Okay. That was ad results, media. Yep. And that's what four times. And then you came with me to Michigan, Michigan. We did the three day or with Spartan Nash, which was an amazing journey.

[00:16:40] Nicole Zuby, huge shout out to you. Just an awesome session with them and like, like you're one of them now, like they love you. Like you can just, and so it's been amazing for me to sort of have a, you know, a front row seat to some of the, Oh, you know what? You could say there's a, there's another one. Do you remember when.

[00:17:03] Interactive day at lunch when it was a total disaster. Oh my gosh, like give me that's the downer sound Where's the downer sound? 

[00:17:10] Gary Ware: Yeah. Yeah, here we go

[00:17:15] Ryan Berman: It was literally a a I think the day before we were supposed to have We're supposed to have Loretta Hidalgo who was a founding astronaut at Virgin and the night before she's like, I'm so sorry I'm sick. I cannot make it but she had recommended somebody else and that person did their best But was a little flat and 

[00:17:37] Gary Ware: it was a downer 

[00:17:38] Ryan Berman: It was, and so as this person is going and doing their thing, I am like speed walking over to Gary where I'm like, Gary, can you please do 20 minutes? Let's get up there. Just, you got to turn this around and in typical improv fashion, you were like, okay, I got you. Let's go. And yeah. And you crushed it. And it was Gary Ware 101.

[00:18:06] All right. Let's talk about if I'm at a company now. And I think it's, I think it's pretty clear that companies are over indexing, in my opinion, on productivity, on the bottom line. Yeah, we're saying all the right things, right? I think during the pandemic, we knew we needed to be creative. We needed to figure out ways to like, Bring the team together, right?

[00:18:38] Retention matter, not that it doesn't matter anymore, it does, but I feel this shift to seriousness. Yes. Are you sensing this too? 

[00:18:47] Gary Ware: Very serious, and it's almost stressfully serious. 

[00:18:52] Ryan Berman: That's the name of your next book, right? You can take that one. All right. So what what are you hearing? Like when you have quiet conversations with leaders that hire you What are they saying to you?

[00:19:06] Like as a temperature check for the rooms you're working 

[00:19:10] Gary Ware: Well, I actually just had a conversation with someone like that just recently there's so much uncertainty. And they have to keep a straight face like they know what's going on. They have to keep everyone calm and collected when Deep down inside, they're stressed out, you know, something could happen tomorrow or in a week and they can lose a big client and then, you know, everything is, you know, on the ground.

[00:19:41] Ryan Berman: So, do you feel, do you feel like they're? Also in a position where they have to justify every dollar they're spending. 

[00:19:48] Gary Ware: Yes. Everything has to be justified because there's this fear that yes, it can all go away tomorrow. And so as a result, everyone's stressed and they're super tense. And you know what happens when you're super tense.

[00:20:03] You can't, you can't move this where the paralysis comes from. This is where, well, that's how we did it last time. We're going to. Do it this way, even though, as you know, that that doesn't work out. 

[00:20:13] Ryan Berman: As the play expert. Let's say there's someone right now that's like white knuckling there in their car in the ten and two position They're they're they are responsible for setting the tone for their team or a culture Like give us something right now that we can do with our team that we can take back right now and that we could run our team sort of sort of like Open me up, chill a little bit, get the conversations flowing.

[00:20:43] I always say, you know, fear breeds fear and courage or courage breeds courage. It's a choose your own adventure. But if you're in the fear breeds fear, people get quiet necks go away, right? Nobody talks. So like, open us up, give us something that we can take back to our teams. 

[00:20:59] Gary Ware: All right. What we need to do is we need to create a level of psychological safety.

[00:21:03] And so what that means is when people have psychological safety, they feel assured that whatever they say is not necessarily going to come back to bite them. They can speak their truth. They can be their authentic self. And so in order to do that, you need to create dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, those neurochemicals that are going to help us be creative.

[00:21:23] That's going to help us connect. And. It's super simple. This can be done virtually, this can be done in person, and it's a game called True for Me. True for me. All that it is. Okay, let's play. You're making statements and if it happens to be true for you, yeah, that's me. That's me. And so if, if your listing or, or watch this, if this happens to be true for you, let let us know, let let us know.

[00:21:44] So I start off. Some simple stuff like hey, who's a morning person? We're morning people up true for me. Very cool And I learned a new one. I feel this is more me hummingbirds So we have we have our early birds that they get up super early, you know, hooray. Hooray. Hooray Then we have our hummingbirds.

[00:22:04] They're the ones that don't necessarily like to get up early, but they're not super Late, you know, like me, like I, I get up like maybe like six o'clock and I'm probably falling asleep on the couch about eight. Those are the hummingbirds, you know, that's true for me. And then I'll say, oh, we're night owls, we're the night owls.

[00:22:19] And we got the folks, oh yeah, true for me. I'll ask a simple question about like, oh, introverts. Any introverts? Alright, cool. Alright, thank you for raising your hand. I know you probably didn't want to. Right. Appreciate that. 

[00:22:32] Ryan Berman: Crickets for me. No introvert over here.

[00:22:35] Gary Ware: Yeah, ambiaverts. I fall more in the ambiavert thing.

[00:22:38] Like, yes, I can be very outgoing, but at the same time, I have a meter. And once it depletes, I need to go recharge. 

[00:22:45] Ryan Berman: Yeah, this is another show altogether, but I'm not sure I'm sold on... Introverts and extroverts. I think we're all on troverts and off troverts. Oh, Depending on the, um, you know, where you are in the, in the cycle of life.

[00:23:01] That's just me. 

[00:23:02] Gary Ware: All right, this deserves the

[00:23:12] Ryan Berman: All right, so this game is called true for me that that game is called true for me It's yeah, it's a great defroster right get us going raise her hand. 

[00:23:19] Gary Ware: And you you can mix it in I do some fun stuff. I'm like, hey any day drinkers, you know sports fans Like I do all that stuff and then once people start to defrost I I can ask some very serious questions and I will get people that will give us Answers.

[00:23:33] So when I'm setting this up, I tell people, Hey, look, we don't have lie detectors. So, you know, you disclose what you want to disclose. So if you don't want your colleagues to know that you're a day drinker, if I ask that question, don't raise your hand. It's all good. And giving people permission allows them to just be truly Fully present, but I will ask questions like how many people feel afraid at work, and I'll get people That's true for me and again when you start to see you and your superior Both raising your heads about like oh, yeah, yeah, I feel like a fraud sometimes.

[00:24:09] You know I I feel like yeah I have imposter syndrome now. We're starting to connect Again, it seems like a throwaway, but it's very intentional about everyone sort of being on the same page 

[00:24:18] Ryan Berman: Yeah, that doesn't feel like a first inning true for me. No, right that feels like we're almost done. We're warmed up 

[00:24:24] Gary Ware: now Yeah, yeah, and then I'll end I always end on a high note like, you know Hey, how many people are excited to like finally be in person?

[00:24:32] Oh, yeah, that's true for me. All right, cool Boom and scene, you know, so yeah, I'll start like light and I'll throw some silly things I'll throw some sports stuff and then I'll get a few serious ones Serious nuggets in there, and then I'll end on a high, but it's very intentional about, and I'll ask, how many people feel like you learned something about a colleague that, you know, you didn't really know before?

[00:24:53] Now by getting people to actually self identify They're being seen and being heard. 

[00:25:00] Ryan Berman: So, you know, like you've heard the term armchair quarterback. Yes I think there's a lot of arm folded CEOs or decision makers I mean if there's if someone is still listening to the show today I do think well, they even know us or they're a believer Right.

[00:25:17] Or they've heard us. Agreed. But there's a lot of non believers. There's a lot of fake believers out of there that don't really understand, like, I don't understand how this is going to improve productivity. Like how does this help us be more effective? You already said it. We're in a very serious, stressful time right now.

[00:25:34] So give me a little bit of the reasons to believe, like why? Why is it, and why is it so hard for like these serious leaders to not see, like, if you aren't landing and connecting with your people, you've got a, a bigger problem. 

[00:25:51] Gary Ware: Well, it's more of where their, their line of focus is. If, yes, if your line of focus is revenue, if it's on, you know, pleasing your shareholders and stuff like that, then you're only going to see Those through lines. However, the folks that are the believers, they start to realize actually the people are the ones that that matter.

[00:26:15] If we don't have people that believe in us, then how are we going to continue to thrive? 

[00:26:22] Ryan Berman: And so. How often, or let me rephrase this, what percent of the time is your lead a warm lead by the time you get them on the phone? For me? Yeah. It must be pretty high. 

[00:26:32] Gary Ware: Most of my business is referral. So, get this.

[00:26:35] Someone has heard about me. They said, oh hey, call Gary. And the person who I'm talking to is like, alright, yeah, I get it. We need to sell this to my boss. I'm like, I got you. I got you. Right. We, we will take out the P word. We won't say play. You know, we'll, we'll replace. 

[00:26:51] Ryan Berman: It's a four letter word, Gary. It's a four letter word.

[00:26:54] Gary Ware: I know. It is. We'll replace those. We will, we will use the words that make sense. So in the world of improv, one of our core values is make your partner look amazing. So essentially, yeah, we're having a training where we're working on communication, where we are working on strategies to help the team be more productive.

[00:27:13] And then at the end of the day, it's a Trojan horse, because By the end I will seriously ask them how many of you are having fun right now and feel more relaxed? Hands will be even that true for me arms crossed CEO true for me boom And then I guess what we were doing like what we're playing 

[00:27:35] Ryan Berman: And here we are on the path of productivity.

[00:27:37] Gary Ware: Yes, because people are feel more relaxed 

[00:27:39] Ryan Berman: Do they connect I mean like does it take hello horse? Welcome to water in your mind for some people do they get it then? 

[00:27:47] Gary Ware: It does yeah, they have to experience it Which is fine.

[00:27:52] Ryan Berman: Yeah, I'll tell you what the amount of times someone has come up to me It was like I was really skeptical Right when you stumbled in here when you walked in here and then 

[00:28:03] Gary Ware: and then you took off your shoes and you showed your socks So my socks said that they like I don't know where we're going with this.

[00:28:09] Ryan Berman: This is do I have to take off my shoes? I am out of here No, no, no, it's just me. Don't worry. Keep everything on no problem. What has been the one Massive mega takeaway you've had from your improv training that you try to weave into any talk you give? 

[00:28:30] Gary Ware: One of the big things that I have to continuously remind myself and I get this from improv is that the audience is rooting for you when I'm on the stage performing improv.

[00:28:43] And this is, I feel like, the difference between improv and stand up comedy. Where stand up comedy, someone's heard, alright, this person's funny. So people go in very, like, judgmental. Alright, you're funny? Alright, prove it. Arms crossed. Prove it. They're like, alright, this person needs to make me laugh.

[00:28:58] Whereas, improv, they're like... They're going to do what? They're going to get a suggestion and they're going to make something up without a script. People can't believe it. And so one of the things that we remind ourselves is that the audience wants you to succeed. And that's something I remind myself all the time.

[00:29:15] And it brings back the humanity. Like at the end of the day, we're all humans. 

[00:29:19] Ryan Berman: Do you have a ritual you go to before you take on stage before you go on stage? 

[00:29:23] Gary Ware: Oh, yeah. And this is, yes, I, I have a ritual and this is what I do before I perform improv. This is what I do before a keynote, before a workshop. The first thing is all about getting in the right state.

[00:29:33] So I do close my eyes, focus on my breath. When we are performing, we do this activity and I can't do this by myself, but we do this activity where we're in a huddle and we first focus on each other's breath. And our goal is to count to 21. One number at a time, but we have our eyes closed and it's random.

[00:29:52] And if two people happen to say the same number at the same time, we start over. And the goal is to get to 21 and imagine how challenging that can be with six people. But what it does, it just gets you completely focused, completely present. And so I can't do that myself, but I do focus on just grounding myself.

[00:30:10] And then the next thing we do is Energizer. So we get grounded, then we get hyped and then we get focused.

[00:30:16] Ryan Berman: I'm like. Well, if I could start every day with my team, even with their eyes open, try, try to count to 21, it might, it'd be like 11 a. m. before we finally got it some days. And it's probably my fault, probably talking over somebody, like three, four.

[00:30:36] Gary Ware: That's the takeaway. So that's, that's the one thing, like, the group that, that I perform with, we've been together for like over six years. And so we, we know that it's a calibration and this is like life, just like if you're surfing or skateboarding or whatever, it's a calibration. Sometimes in this workout for you, sometimes you have to be the kite and sometimes you have to fly the kite.

[00:30:57] And so as we're doing this. Like, yeah, if we have two times, we're like, oh man, I'm, I'm pushing too much. All right. You know what? Let me take a step back. Cool. Let's keep going. And you're right. It might, it might take longer than necessary, but that's what we need to get in the right head space. 

[00:31:13] Ryan Berman: All right.

[00:31:14] So take us back. You know, you have this two year. Runway, are we still within two years?

[00:31:20] Gary Ware: No, it's been It's been five years. 

[00:31:24] Ryan Berman: Wow. Do you have a like a standing ovation?

[00:31:27] Gary Ware: No, because guess what? Two years into it what happened? I started in 2018 focusing on this what happened in 2020? 

[00:31:37] Ryan Berman: Nothing that I can remember.

[00:31:39] No, there was nothing that happened. It actually that was what happened is nothing happened. I know right?

[00:31:49] Gary Ware: So I thought I thought 2020 was gonna be my year to be honest. I thought 2020 was gonna be my year. I had a framework I'm like, all right, I know how to make revenue and then Everything shut down. Matter of fact, I think no was our our thing with loyal like it was right in February was a February or was it January?

[00:32:09] Ryan Berman: It was right before, because they, they, at the time, I, you know, I can only remember I was brought in to help them set the values. And for those who don't know what we're talking about, this is the team that Landon Donovan coach, San Diego loyal here in town, USL professional team. And when I had come in yet, no, no values were set.

[00:32:27] No mission statement was set. Solid leadership team, but there was work that needed to be done And I remember we had a full day off site and you kicked off our day But it was it was clearly before the pandemic because I think they had six to eight games before the world shut down

[00:32:43] Gary Ware: Yeah, so yours and a few others were my last couple and then I Slowly, so I had things booked up into like April matter of fact I was gonna be speaking a South by at all these things and they slowly got cut And then I was back to square one. At least. So I thought 

[00:33:08] Ryan Berman: well, I'm curious when when fear when fear wins Right when fear wins in your life, where do you go? 

[00:33:16] Gary Ware: So I had to practice what I preach one of the things that I remind people of When you get in that sort of fight flight and freeze you need to get back into Creative you need to use creativity as a way to get that and play is a form of creativity and so for me What I did was so the first time in 2018 the thing that brought me out was Legos So I would just tinker with Legos and then I was like I need something else and since we were sheltering at home.

[00:33:44] I Told myself I wanted to be The worst magician that I can I don't want to be like a david blaine type magician. I wanted to just be a crappy magician. Because I asked people what are the things that you love to do when you were younger that maybe As life got in the way you stopped doing and magic was one of the things I always was a fan of And so that was the thing that I that got me into the state of creativity again is I just started Teaching myself how to do bad magic.

[00:34:15] Ryan Berman: Nothing says Pandemic, like, let me teach myself how to be a bad magician. Yes. You're a bad magician, Gary Ware. 

[00:34:23] Gary Ware: Everyone else had their, their sourdough starters and, and all the other things. I, I had a few decks of cards, some sponge balls and. There we go. 

[00:34:33] Ryan Berman: Well, I'm pretty certain you were also in the midst of Playful Rebellion, correct?

[00:34:40] Gary Ware: Ish. Ish. That, that was, it was, it was being prototyped via a challenge, but the challenge came of the pandemic, of so many people were stressed out, and then the book happened a little bit after that. But, It was starting to brew it was in the it was it was in the hopper. 

[00:34:58] Ryan Berman: I mean any fear for you and like in writing the book or you're like I have to keep going I've got to keep pushing.

[00:35:04] Gary Ware: Oh heck yeah. Like so the my book the playful rebellion how to maximize work to the power of play It started as a 30 day challenge as a way to help people during this pandemic when they were just completely stressed out and I was like You need to, you need to rebel against that inner, inner critic that's telling you that play is something that kids do.

[00:35:23] And so it was a 30 day challenge, which went amazingly well. And then, this is where my inner critic started hitting me. Someone said, Do you have this in the form of a book? I was like, What? No. Pfft. And then, Another person asked, and then I was like,

[00:35:41] I guess I'm going to sit down and write this thing. However, being someone that my goal, you know, I like to say for every job that must be done, you add a little bit of fun and snap the jobs, the game, Mary Poppins. I wanted to practice what I preach. And so I said, how can I make this as playful as possible?

[00:35:56] Oh, tell me more. And, and so what I did, and I got this from reading Big Magic, Liz Gilbert's book, and she talked about how Brene Brown would write her books. Brene Brown does not like to write books. However, Brene Brown's an amazing storyteller. So, what she did, I couldn't afford to do this, but she would have like a, uh, a ladies retreat and she would take all of her best friends to a cabin, she would tell them stories and then they would take notes and then she would go in and write some stuff.

[00:36:25] I couldn't afford that. And we were still in a pandemic, we weren't meeting in person. And so what I did was I, I got someone that ended up helping me with the original structure. She, we got on Zoom every week. And I would tell her stories we outlined what the chapters were We got on zoom and she asked me questions so much of this and I would just tell stories tell stories 

[00:36:48] Ryan Berman: So i'm sure you remember when I was writing return on courage.

[00:36:52] Oh, but of course you had one idea For me. Do you remember what the idea was? And I was, no, I was stuck. I was like spinning on the idea and you had given me one idea. What was the idea? Do you remember what, do you remember what this was? No. Tell me. You told me to write a certain person to check. Yes. You want to take it from here?

[00:37:12] You take it from here.

[00:37:13] Gary Ware: Yeah, so, again, as a way to motivate yourself, especially when it's something very scary, sometimes we think we're motivated by the carrot, but sometimes we need to be motivated by the stick. And, so... I forgot where I learned about this. I think it might have been Tim Ferriss or something like that, but it was basically, find, like, something either that's going to make you very jealous or very angry, and write a check that is going to be an uncomfortable check if it actually got cashed.

[00:37:40] Set a deadline, give it to someone, and tell them, if I do not deliver by this date, you have my permission to cash this check, or send this check to, you know, X number fund, or whatever the case may be. Yes. 

[00:37:53] Ryan Berman: I've never written a book faster, Gary. Oh, snap!

[00:38:01] Gary Ware: There we go. 

[00:38:01] Ryan Berman: Okay, I can't actually remember if I wrote you a check. You didn't write me a check, but... But I remember you being like, you're like, put a date on it, right? And if I have it by this particular date, I can cash it. And I still, clearly, I remember that to this day. I am now working on my, you know, I've got lots of little side books that I'm working on.

[00:38:21] I got a kid's book coming out, trying to get that ready for holiday. Shout out to my partner, Chad Farmer on just a, just a talented, we actually found, he found our illustrator in Belgium, which is amazing. So that's coming. I'm going to leave the name out for now, but I've got the next business book in the hopper and let's say I am a little stuck.

[00:38:43] What advice do you have for me to like, make this book a reality?

[00:38:47] Gary Ware: All right, if you're stuck again, this is where you're in the judgment center of your brain. Quick aside, there's a researcher at a USF, Charles Lim, and he did a, he has an amazing TED talk. Google it. It's your brain on improv and he put. Jazz musicians in the EKG machine and he had them do just play music off sheet music and then improvise and he found When they improvise it they got quickly into creativity Super fast and they turned off the judgment center of their brain, etc And quick plug I was at a conference this last weekend in Vancouver, British British, Columbia, and I got the pleasure of improvising with Colin Mockery of Whose Line Is It Anyway Amazing love him.

[00:39:34] Yes, and he was one of the first improvisers that they did this test with where they put him into that same thing and they found out that not only jazz musicians, but improvisers just doing something spontaneous and whatnot get you into creativity. So my point is, if you want to activate the creative centers in your brain, you need to do something, believe it or not, that is going to make you feel creative.

[00:40:00] So my. Invite to you is what is something that brings you into the play? Is it soccer? It, you know, are you in movement? Go do that. And then immediately after you're done, jump in and give yourself a time box and like, all right, for the next 30 minutes, I'm just going to just write because again, I'm out, I'm out of judgment.

[00:40:20] Ryan Berman: Beautiful. I love that. Thank you for that. I'm going to, I will use that and I will report back on that. Now. And I know we're coming down the homestretch here, I felt it was important, since you're all about play, that I would create a game that we could play. Yes. It's called Blank. Are you ready? I'm ready.

[00:40:42] Every time I say Blank, fill in that Blank with what feels right for you, okay? You ready? Perfect. Let's do it. Okay. Alright, here we go. It's four questions. Four questions. Number one. Right now, the thing I'm most excited about with my work is Blank. 

[00:40:58] Gary Ware: Changing the world. 

[00:41:00] Ryan Berman: When I think about how I'm going to change the world, the thing that keeps me up at night the most is blank.

[00:41:07] Will they like it? When I worry about my family and my wife, the thing that comes top of mind first is blank. 

[00:41:15] Gary Ware: Caring for them. 

[00:41:17] Ryan Berman: As I think about where I will be in 2025, my hopes and dreams has me speaking at Blank. 

[00:41:27] Gary Ware: Has me speaking at the TED conference in Toronto. 

[00:41:32] Ryan Berman: If I have my way, for the rest of my life, I will help people blank.

[00:41:38] Gary Ware: Be the best version of themselves. 

[00:41:40] Ryan Berman: Gary Ware, you always helped me be the best version of myself. It's not a throwaway, it's for real man, I love ya

[00:41:46] I love you too.

[00:41:46] I'm, I'm, I'm so like excited to be on the rocket ship and watching you do your thing. Thanks for coming on, brother. 

[00:41:54] Thanks for having me. 

[00:41:55] And, and you and I, we're going to continue to do what we do together, uh, everywhere I can bring.

[00:41:59] I tried to, cause you're just, you just light up a room and you're so good at what you do. Thanks for being you, Gary.

[00:42:05] Gary Ware: Thank you, Ryan. Love you 

[00:42:07] sound effect.

[00:42:12] Ryan Berman: Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Courageous Podcast. If you enjoy the show, don't forget to rate and review us on Apple Podcasts so more people can find us. See you again next week.

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