Courageous Leadership with Ryan Berman

Ryan Berman is the founder of Courageous, the author of the book “Return on Courage”, a keynote speaker and host of The Courageous Podcast. In todays’ show we explore:

  • Why courage is a prerequisite for leadership
  • The definition of courage
  • What’s common between all courageous leaders
  • Understand your core values to assist in unlocking courage.

Transcript:Thanks to Jermaine Pinto at JRP Transcribing for being our Partner. Contact Jermaine via LinkedIn or via his site JRP Transcribing Services

The Leadership Hacker News

Steve Rush: Courage is a prerequisite for truly great leadership. While it has many faces at the heart of courageous leadership is the willingness to take action and mist uncertainty to do what’s right over what’s expected and to risk failing and falling short in the process. The reason is unless leaders are winning to lay down our psychological safety on the line for the sake of those that we serve no amount of brilliance or showmanship will ever suffice. 

Now, one such leader who demonstrates great coverage is Reid Hoffman. The co founder of LinkedIn, despite many people telling Reid he’ll never win. He’ll never succeed. And LinkedIn will never work. He forged ahead with the creation of a global billion-dollar company and turned those doubters around. Throughout his life, his life’s mission was to enable and communicate through networks, emotions, and stories. And the irony is as whilst he’s been incredibly brave, he now also facilitates braveness and courage to help others unlock their courage and entrepreneurship reach.

Reid first act of corporate courage came from walking into a magazine editorial office at the age of 12, having read pendant article when he presented the findings to the editor, the editor was so pleased that Reid was offered a job. Throughout his life, he took a view of seeking out people, not like him, but who were opposed to him. And when studying at Oxford at a time where Apple stock price had plummeted, he was able to invest a small amount of money in Apple. And at the same time launch a new product that he called, In 1996. He started out as a dating site, also connecting sports clubs and friends, and in parallel, having launched an early version of the PDA called PalmPilot, which is a mobile computing device. And having unintentionally attracted lots of eBay sellers encouraged his investors to pivot. He encountered fierce opposition from them as this was not their target market. Despite this, he encouraged them all to be courageous and pivot entirely away from the mobile device, but focusing in entirely on payments using an early version, which has later become PayPal.

This was a courageous move, as he had to convince eBay, not drive them off the platform as they had their own payment system, visa to withhold the payments and not shut them down. And he also had to persuade the federal government that he wasn’t a bank. And this resulted in true disruption of an industry that was very established and very heavily regulated at the time. Faced with being sued by the fed for money laundering, remap with them and challenge their whole way of operating and ask some crazy questions such as, what defines a bank? which subsequently led to the way that banking license reform played out across the world. PayPal became such a force. The only way that E bank-controlled PayPal was to buy them. When he first to his well-established entrepreneurial friend network with the idea of LinkedIn, most said it would never work.

Why would I allow access to my well-established network? He managed to convince 20 of his friends to sign up on the service and described the process like throwing himself off a cliff and assembling the airplane on the way down building as he learned. And as it developed, now a multimillionaire in his own right known as the start-up whisper of the Silicon Valley, he has made early investments against the status quo, showing courage where others didn’t have that conviction, including in investment such as Facebook, YouTube, Yelp, Flicker. He’s now a partner at Greylock, essentially a Venture Capital Firm, which in its own right, is now worth over $10 billion dollars. And whose portfolio includes companies such as Airbnb, Instagram, Dropbox, Pandora, and Workday. His premise for all his investments is clear and it follows a very simple five step process. One, does it solve a problem that people don’t know they have? Two, is it transformational disruptive? Three, is it a great scale mission? Four, does it have an interesting application that can help the consumer? And five, will it create world-class entrepreneurs?  So, when you ask the question, what was it that sets Reid apart from others? The answer lay with action and a lack of fear of failing. 

That’s been the Leadership Hacker News. If you have any insights, information that you’d like to share with our listeners, please get in touch. 

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: We’ve got a very courageous guy on our show today. Ryan Berman is the founder of Courageous, which is a business change consultancy. He’s also a speaker, podcast host of The Courageous Podcast and author of the book Return on Courage, Ryan, welcome to The Leadership Hacker Podcast?

Ryan Berman: Hey man, thanks for having me. How are yah? 

Steve Rush: I’m really good. Delighted that you’re with us today. For folks that are not familiar with your work and what you do at Courage. Just tell us a little bit about the backstory, to kind of how you’ve arrived at doing what you are doing now? 

Ryan Berman: Yeah, let me start by doing what you shouldn’t do. I want to correct you out of the gate; that I don’t actually know if I’m courageous, you know, I’m a compensated observationalist. Meaning, I’ve been able to take it quiet and go around the country and here in the States and interview people who are courageous and try to sort of connect the dots on how they’re doing it and taking what I learned over three years of doing that has put me in a position to at least talk about what it takes for people to be courageous. It’s funny, I met with Bob Iger who was running Disney probably six months ago and our books had come out and we swap books. And I remember saying to him, man, like, there’s a big difference between observing courage and living courage. And you are living courage at Disney, like with Disney Plus and the things that they have created. And so, you know, am I an expert on courage? Do I want to nudge my clients to be more courageous? And do I give them the reasons we need to be courageous? Absolutely. Do I believe that courageous ideas are the only ones that matter? Absolutely. In my background, I’m a recovering advertising guy and I learned in New York city from the mad men days, those were my mentors and I’ve done creative work even till today, we’re doing work for like Google and Charity Water and Major League Baseball, Johnson and Johnson, Caesar’s Entertainment and their partnership with the National Football League. That’s the one in America with their hands, not your feet. And now, like I said, anywhere where a company really needs to re, whether that’s re-energized people or rethink an idea or re-invent tomorrow. We’re swooping in and bolting onto teams and helping them muster the courage to take action on that change.

Steve Rush: Isn’t courage a perspective though? So, someone argue that for you having the wherewithal to pivot from your career. Watch, learn, observe, contact these global organizations. That’s surely got to take courage, right?

Ryan Berman: Yeah, and I think it’s a little bit of a, to your point, it’s a relative thought. Meaning, I’m a metaphor guy, so forgive me. I’m going to speak in metaphor today, but imagine you’re a skier and we get you to the mountain and some skiers are bunny slope people. Some, some skiers are jumping out of helicopters on the black diamonds or double black diamonds. And so, I think the big takeaway is if I can’t get you to the mountain. If there’s no willingness to be courageous, then I’m the wrong guy for you. But once we get you to the mountain, we can start to build that courageous muscle. And it really is about the mindset, you know, in business, you know, this is exactly the time of year where people are goal setting for 2021, 2022. And what we usually do is we apply that skillset, like who can help me achieve this? And what’s missing is the metal and the mindset, the courageous mentality to get you over all those hurdles you are about to embark on. If you take on a hard-new task called change,

Steve Rush: Right, so what would be your definition of courage?

Ryan Berman: Yeah, you know, this is the question, this is the question that sent me down my own personal rabbit hole. Because if you look at the dictionary definition of courage, it’s the ability to do something that frightens one. And I don’t know about you, but like that doesn’t sound attractive to me. 

Steve Rush: Not particularly empowering, right? 

Ryan Berman: Yeah, let’s do that. And by the way, do something terrifying at work and like, please step forward, I’m taking a step back. Part of my journey of writing return on courage was could I come up with a better definition of courage, a more utilitarian version that while you’re in the messy middle of a project that needs courage, you can recognize, you could spot, Oh, this is exactly a moment where we are being courageous. And so, you know, and by the way, you can imagine like my own mental sparring on like, who am I to judge the dictionary definition by the way of a word, right?

Steve Rush: Right. 

Ryan Berman: A guy that didn’t go to an Ivy league school. But here I was, you know, the first six months of the book writing process was really trying to come up with this definition. Where I landed was three levers of courage. There’s knowledge, there’s faith and there’s action. And, you know, you think about business and people wish that they had every bit of data, they needed to make a call. And if you’re going to wait for a hundred percent of the data, you’re just going to get past, you’re going to get passed by a competitor, but knowledge is important. You never going to have every bit of knowledge you need, which is why we need faith. We talk about faith; we’re not talking about it from a religious sense. We’re talking about it from an intuition sense, from a belief sense, from a feeling sense. And then how often in your career have you had the knowledge to make a call and you felt it was the right move and you do nothing about it. So, the action piece is the critical difference. It’s the piece that takes you from doing something and not doing something. And that’s the irony here, doing two or three in any directions is not courageous, right? Knowledge plus faith without action is paralysis. And faith and action, without knowledge is a reckless move. And what I’ve learned is knowledge and action without faith. Like if you’re numb on the inside, you’re probably just going through the motions, you’re working on status quo. And when your idea hits the market, it’s going to blend in with the thousands of thousands of other ideas. It’s not going to do what it needs to do. So, you know, what we do is try to help companies think through like, you know, which knowledge should I be following? How do you actually build internal and external faith with your employees or customers? And where do we take action?

Steve Rush: That’s a really neat metaphor. And ironically, you talk about intuition and faith and intuition is one of those things that you see in great leaders who could rely on their intuition. They use it, they recognize that it’s got some deeper sense of understanding. Cause it comes from that unconscious part of our mind, right?

Ryan Berman: You know what, maybe that’s another book. I just know, if the mind, the head part is the knowledge part and somewhere below the head part, right. I don’t know if it’s the heart or, you know, even started to explore this idea, Steve, of like, you know, we know where our mind is, right. We know that’s up top, we know where our heart is. But where’s our soul? Like where exactly does our soul reside in our body, is it everywhere? And in some ways, I think that faith part, that feel part, you know, finding that soul part of your company should be living everywhere. And I think that’s part of this conversation too. It’s like helping companies find their soul again and what makes them special. And then once you have that on lockdown, you know how to take action in all facets of your business.

Steve Rush: That’s really fascinating. So, your book Return on Courage is a bit of a playbook for helping people with that courageous leap of faith when they’re going through change and transformation. What was it that kind of gave you that energy to put pen to paper? 

Ryan Berman: You know what? If I’m very honest, it was a devious attempt at first to market my creative marketing agency in a city that’s not known for creativity. You know, my company is in San Diego, you know, we’re known for fish tacos, not for solving, you know, massive complicated business problems. And back in 2015, and I said this earlier, like we were growing and doing very good work, but the golf course conversation, as I would like to call, was complicated. We would find a decision maker who would fall in love with us and knew that we had done the homework and that we were passionate about the work, but then when they would have to go to the CEO and on the golf course and explain. Hey, we want to go with these guys down in San Diego.

They’re like, Ooh what? Let’s use someone in LA or New York. And overlay the fact that, you know, we were fully certain that Courageous Ideas were the only ones that matter that if we built like a point of view piece on courage, that would be an asset that we could drop on the desks of decision makers. And that would give us a step up on the competition. And then of course what happens like great storytelling is I go on this three-year journey and get quiet and just interview what I call the three Bs. The brave, the bullish and the brainiac, you know, on the brave side, it was astronauts and tornado chasers and navy seals and army infantry, men and firefighters. And just like, how do they do what they do? I was fascinated by how they could put their life on the line and why do they put their life on the line?

And then on the bullish side, it was the C suites, or vice presidents and up at Google and Apple and Amazon, some of the biggest companies in the world. And you would think that it was the little company that could be agile and nimble but these big companies are figuring out ways to stay ahead of everybody else. And then on the brainiac side, it was like clinical psychologists and Cambridge PhDs and co-writer of the secret and people that really study the way that we’re wired. And, you know, I went to television radio school. So, I had no idea what’s going on in the inside here. And I wanted to understand, like, what’s really calling the shots and you throw all that in the soup and you come out with a process for teaching leaders, how to be more courageous, right? Where do you take knowledge? How do you unlock that faith and where do you build action? And, and you know, the big joke was sort of on me. I wrote the book to position my last company. And imagine a thousand days later going to your two partners and saying, guys, I’m leaving. 

Steve Rush: I bet that went down well. 

Ryan Berman: Yeah, you know, it’s unfortunate because, you know, I went into it going,  this is an investment we’re going to make as a company. And the truth is it was an investment, like I wrote the book first because I feel like I needed the book. Like I needed to get myself strong. So yeah, like I said, I wrote it to position the company. It gave me the courage to fire myself and I’ve found something that I’m madly passionate about doing. And when your company is called Courageous, Steve, your phone doesn’t ring for all those unqualified leads now, and only rings when you have the right person who’s willing to take on change, or at least to have that conversation. And, you know, the amount of time wasted on unqualified leads goes away because we’re very focused on like, where do you need courage? And how do we push that forward inside the organization?

Steve Rush: I think it’s super neat. The fact that you went through that whole self-discovery of your own limitations around where you were courageous or not, as the case may be to end up doing what you’re doing now. I think it’s just really super neat.

Ryan Berman: You know, it’s terrifying too, right? Because about a year before I was leaving is when I knew that I was in the wrong place for me. And, you know, the irony is how can you write a book about courage and not make the courageous choice yourself? And so, I don’t feel like I really had an option at this point. 

Steve Rush: Right. 

Ryan Berman: It’s like, well, if you’re going to write the book, you got to live the premise. And you know, it’s one of those things too, that the doors that open up when you finally take action on the things in your own life and start designing your own life along with your value system. And I never thought I’d be a keynote speaker. I never thought I’d be an author on a topic like this. I’d never thought I’d have my own courageous podcast where we were having really amazing guests come on ourselves. And you just sort of follow the thread and you keep going, you’re at peace being in the middle of it all. And you just see where it takes you.

Steve Rush: And that’s part of being courageous too, is letting go of what you believe to be true and letting stuff happen, right? 

Ryan Berman: Yeah, what are you controlling that you really shouldn’t be controlling? And what aren’t you controlling that you should be controlling? If that makes any sense whatsoever, right? 

Steve Rush: It makes load of sense to me. 

Ryan Berman: You know, like one of the things I found myself say recently, and I’d love your take on this. Is like, you know, there’s this famous line that the customer is always right. I don’t think is always right. Like, especially if you’ve discounted your product completely, and you’ve now like landed on the wrong customer. And the only reason they’re interested in you is because you’ve discounted your product for so much. That is not the right customer, and I believe the values are always right. Like if the values of the company are set and they’re not BS, and they’re real, that should be what’s mirroring the people in your company, your products, your communication, and your customer. So, if the values are always right, which is a place I think you can control, right? Like that is on you to control that. Then there’s an arrow that lives directly from those values all the way through to the customers that are acquiring buying your stuff, whether it’s content or a product.

Steve Rush: My thoughts are the customer is always right in their mind about what they feel, what they want, what they want to experience. But in facts, it’s more about the fact that you haven’t got the right customers.

Ryan Berman: Agreed, and I liked the way you said that too. Like, because I think realistically, if you’re going to run into my brand for the first time and I’m going to give it to you for 50% off. Good for you, take it. But when I try to try to charge you full price, you’re probably looking somewhere else.

Steve Rush: And then therefore they’re the wrong customers. 

Ryan Berman: Correct. 

Steve Rush: Because they don’t see the value in what you’re trying to do. Right? 

Ryan Berman: Yeah. 

Steve Rush: Got it. Now in your book, you have a question I want to put to you. I’m dying to find out the answer. The question was, what do an Astronaut, a Navy Seal, the co-founder of Method, the former VP of Communications at Apple and the President of Domino’s all have in common. What is it? 

Ryan Berman: Wow. Okay, by the way, you the first person to ever ask me this question and the answer, the obvious answer is they weren’t afraid to take action.

Steve Rush: Okay. 

Ryan Berman: All of them. 

Steve Rush: Right. 

Ryan Berman: Even with the obstacles in the way, you know, Dominoes throwing out a family wide recipe and then having the courage to change that and tell America that they changed it or an Astronaut, who’s not afraid to take action and fulfil her dream of going into space. The, you know, the CEO, founder of Method, having the courage to look at a whole category of how it’s always been done and yet still going on that long journey. And I’m finding a new formula, that’s a cleaner formula that they call themselves the people against dirty. And pushing forward with that formula. I mean, I love the Method soap story, because it is a commodity category that they found a way to make soap cool. Like people want to work for a soap company. How amazing is that? 

Steve Rush: That’s nice. That’s really cool. 

Ryan Berman: The point is like, if soap can do it, any category can do it, right? Like if you can make soap cool, right. Same thing with Domino’s, right. I tried to pick commodity arenas. Domino’s right, this is cheese, this is sauce, this is dough. They found a way to take their stock price from $3 dollars to $300 dollars, their return on courage just by changing the formula and then being vulnerable with America here at least, where it started and saying, oh yes, we did. We changed everything from the crust up. Really played well here in the State.

Steve Rush: So, while we’re on the food metaphor and you’re a great storyteller. In the book you have for a fact that leaders have got to have this taste for courage. How would that manifest itself?

Ryan Berman: A mean, I think where it came up was with an interview with a guy named Jay Coen Gilbert. And I’m not sure if you’re familiar with B Corporations over there, it’s like the good housekeeping seal of approval for purpose driven companies over here. Jay before he was doing this was running a basketball and apparel brand called AND 1. It did have a really good run like 15 years ago. And the conversation was like, you know, it’s interesting because courage to me. This is Jay. And he goes, courage to me is not like a right in front of you thing. It’s a peripheral thing because you’re so focused on the day to day. And you’ve just got so much on your plate, but if you just put the business on timeout for one minute, you recognize how central this concept of courage needs to be. If you’re going to win the long-term game, and that was it. It was like, how do you take this concept that sometimes isn’t top of mine, it’s this peripheral idea and start to bring it back to the top of mind, because if this is the difference, and I truly believe that courage is a competitive advantage for any company who can unlock it. And when you look at the staggering statistics of how many companies are failing or dying off, it is absurd. You’re going to have 9,000 brands that rattle on and off the fortune 500 here in the next six decades.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Ryan Berman: And I think of all things it’s knowing like, okay, this is a moment where we can be courageous and being overt about talking about like, this is the opportunity with your team.

Steve Rush: I just love that, really simple and that’s the premise, isn’t it? It’s around something is in a unconscious making that front of your mind. So that it’s really clear what action you do need to take. 

Ryan Berman: And I think that’s the issue too. Like you probably have, like, even if you’re, like think about your listeners, like if you made it 18 minutes in here today, and you’re a curious soul and you want to be better and you want to be proactive at your work. But the question is like, does anyone else at your company actually listening to this podcast as well? And maybe that’s how it starts. Is like, get all 10 of your teammates in a room and listen to this podcast at the same time. Because if you’re playing up one playbook and they’re playing off of another, you can see why we have a hard time with change, and that’s the thing. The whole point of the playbook is to get us all on the same page, all having the same conversation, which is hard to do when you have so much other stuff going on in your life, you’re trying to balance a family and you’re going through a pandemic and you just don’t want to get fired.

And, you know, there’s all of the normal things that we don’t like to talk about, but we should be talking about because a hundred percent of your time is not just the 80 hours or 60 hours you spend on your business. It’s all the other things too. I think the minute you bring context into the equation, then you can start to address, okay, we really don’t have that much time. And If we’re going to jump in front of somebody, let’s make sure we give them our best shot, which is again, I know I’m a broken record here, but why it feels so strongly about the courageous idea. We’re not wasting people’s time and it’s going to break through. And hopefully that starts to connect and land with people.

Steve Rush: And it’s also learned behaviour, right? Something you have to practice at.

Ryan Berman: I really do believe that to be true. I think it’s a muscle and it’s like going to the mental gym and starting to grow that muscle. And I’ll give you an example in the book. So, the way is book broken down, I don’t actually say this in the book, but like the front half of Return on Courage is like the why now. Like why now of all things do we need courage? And why now do I see this as a competitive advantage? And we kind of like go through the four truths of what I call the business apocalypse. And if one of them was happening by themselves, that’d be brutal enough. But the fact that all four are swirling, you get why we need to make change now. Then there’s a three-page chapter in the middle of the book called break glass before emergency.

And the idea is, okay, let’s get you ready because you need to know how to do this stuff before you actually need it. And then the back half is the, how, you know, we talked here is our why, where’s the how and the, how is the building that muscle, as you’ve stated, it is going to the mental gym, getting the reps you need, which knowledge should you be following? How do we build faith with ourselves or with our team? And then it’s go time. Where do we take action? But one of the cool things about the book is sitting with a guy named Jeff Boss, who is Navy Seal. And then I also sat with a woman named Tricia Baylin Chaplin. I’m hoping I just got her name right, who was a bank teller.

Now the Navy Seal willingly knows that when they go through their training, they are going to see some things on the other side, right? They call it stress inoculation, by the way, which sounds like marketing to me, but basically. 

Steve Rush: Its defiantly marketing.

Ryan Berman: You know, you’re going to see everything in training. So, by the time you see live rounds in the real world, it won’t feel the same, you’ll be ready for it. And the higher purpose, all that training, you can see why Navy Seal would go through that for whatever reason that they do. Now Tricia, as a bank teller, she wasn’t looking to be bold or courageous. She was looking to get a job. And like the only way she gets the job is to pass the actual module, the training module on what happens if your bank gets robbed? And if you don’t pass that model, guess what? You don’t get a job. She’s not looking to be hero. This is up in Canada; she goes through the module. She passes with flying colours and wouldn’t, you know, it, a year later, she gets robbed in the bank and she follows the protocol to a T. She tells me a story about, you know, hey, let’s not turn this into a homicide and her body just takes over. The training takes over, and afterwards when the robber leaves, she goes to the cage to her boss and she’s like, I was just robbed and they react. And she then sees their reaction and reacts off that then finally breaks down and starts crying. But her body went into like autopilot, right. It went into the training that she had learned, and she doesn’t see herself as courageous.

She just sees herself as like, I was just doing my job and following when I was supposed to be doing. Same thing with Jeff Boss, the Navy Seal, he goes, I don’t see anything as I’ve done as courageous. I see it as a by-product of the purpose I’m pursuing. And so, there’s a little bit of irony here, right? Like when you do things that are courageous over time, it feels less courageous the more you do it. And the fear of the unknown as it becomes known, the fear goes away and you do it again and again and again, and you really start to grow that muscle. And then you’ve seen that thing and it makes it a little bit easier each time out. So that to me is the irony here is like, am I really being courageous? We’re almost full circle back at the beginning of what we talked about, I’ve now like done some courageous things enough times. And I think you got to be careful cause like, you sound really pretentious being like I’m courageous, but when you do those things, it makes it easier for you to try new things and keep pushing forward.

Steve Rush: I suspect it’s also easier observed by others. So, others will perceive courageous behaviour in others, easier than you might see it in yourself. Is that a fair observation?

Ryan Berman: Yeah, I think so. And again, back to it’s relative. 

Steve Rush: Right. 

Ryan Berman: Right, so what’s courageous to you might not be courageous to me, just by the experiences we’ve both been on. And that, you know, that red bull wing demand, you know, the guy jumps out of planes with no parachute, just the wingsuit, right? Like they’ve properly trained for that job, right. They know what the weather looks like on that particular day. If it’s going to minimize a little bit of the risk and it’s so courageous but to somebody like me who has no training and that’s a reckless move, that’s not courageous. But to that person who is trained for it, their whole lives, they understand the risk that comes up.

Steve Rush: So, given your vast watching observations and being courageous herself, what do you say is the biggest blocker for individuals being courageous?

Ryan Berman: I think by far it’s just the action piece and, you know, cause so many people and this is just the way our minds are like are constructed, right? We have this thing, that’s calling all of the shots inside your mind and your body called your central nervous system, right. And that doesn’t exactly just come up in normal conversations now does it? Or you’re like, hi honey, how’s your central nervous system feeling today? Or did you see the game last night? Man, their central nervous system wasn’t even there. When you break that term down, central. At the core view system, you’re an operating system, you’re a computer and right there in the middle is nervousness. Your standard operating system is nervousness and it’s designed to keep you safe but it’s sending up signals saying, don’t do that. Don’t suggest that, don’t try that. Here’s why, and it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to do, but it’s a system that’s been around a little bit and we really haven’t evolved at the level that we thought we could. So, the whole idea is, how do you help people develop what I call central courage system? Like if I can help you develop that muscle, develop that central courage system to combat what your central nervous systems trying to do. It will give you the tools to try and to take action and to start off with maybe a little experiment. And then as those little experiments work, then you turn them into bigger experiments and you can do that even at work. And so, it’s recognizing first, cause it’s hard to be courageous. If you don’t recognize a courageous opportunity, spot that opportunity first put resources towards it, make a psychological safe arena for your team to play in and then get that central courage system going and explore a little bit but experiment a little.

Steve Rush: The next part of the show is where I get to turn the leadership lens on you. And this is where you now have to get a bit more courageous because I’m going to be tapping into your leadership mind. Firstly, I’d like to explore with you, Ryan is if you were going to give some advice or tips, what would be your top three leadership hacks? 

Ryan Berman: Wow, okay. I think the number one hack by far is to really get to know your personal core values and treat yourself like a business. And if you can’t rattle off your own personal core values and Steve permission, granted like to have your guests email, I will send you the values assessment and it’s not lame or anything like that. I’m not asking for anything from you, but like we spend all this time scrolling social media now and I wish we’d spend more time scrolling ourselves. And so, I would get really clear, crystal clear of your top four personal core values. I’d put them in the order that they matter most. And I would start making decisions based off of those values. And I think that leads me to the second hack because once you have that level of clarity, you’ve got to find tools to operationalize those values.

One of the things I still do today is I’ve changed all my alarms on my cell phone. I’ve got like multiple lives, but the labels that come up are messages or affirmations that I need to see throughout the day just to make sure I’m like abiding by what I believe in. And I know that sounds silly to be like, well, if you really believe in it, you don’t need a message, but it’s just important. Like start my day off, seeing what I need to see right. To stay on, like focused on the straight and narrow. So, you know, my core values, the first thing I see in the morning when my alarm goes off or the values, or sometimes I’ll see build strong central courage systems. And it just keeps me focused on the things I need to do. And then I’d say, so however you to operationalize your values, whether that’s putting them on a piece of paper on your refrigerator, on your phone or on your lap, you know, your computer, in a tattoo of it on your face, whatever works for you.

And then three is mentorship. Find a mentor and that’s nothing to do with age. Maybe your mentor is younger than you. Maybe they’re older, but like just somebody, I mean, even this is a courageous act, declaring a mentor and say, hey, do you mind? Like if I can, you know, we could talk once a month and I can, you know, ask questions on how you did this. Or, you know, you’re my mentor and it’s a hard conversation, but I needed one and we spend a lot of time inside our heads and we need to get out of our heads a little bit and bounce off other people.

Steve Rush: They are awesome hacks. Thanks. Ryan. And I love the whole principle of thinking of yourself as a business, really neat.

Ryan Berman: Yeah, I mean, you know, we do it for all these brands, like, well, okay, treat yourself like a brand. Like, what are you really all about in the world? And by the way, you’ll be happier. Like if you can design a life that’s based off of your actual values and by the way, okay, let’s really kind of just dumb down what values are. Your chemical makeup, okay. The way you’re wired. Like, why wouldn’t you be more true to that human being? And that’s just clarifying your values. Yeah, that feels like me. Yeah, that feels like me. And now that you have that clarity, imagine designing a life around that.

Steve Rush: Brilliant, love it. Next part of the show is we call Hack to Attack. So, this is a time where things haven’t worked out as well. We may have screwed up, things have bumped into maybe a bit of adversity, but as a result of the experience, we’ve used it now as a positive in our life, what will be your Hack to Attack?

Ryan Berman: By far having the courage to like leave my last company? Cause we were 70% agency. And again, you know, I’m going on this journey to write the book. And like I said, just imagine being realizing in your heart that your values are not perfectly aligned with your partners and that you have different goals and motives. Like I said, it was taking action on that and leaving that even when it was scary and not knowing what was coming up next was a necessary reminder that you only live once. And even though it’s scary and hard, if it’s the right thing, you should do it.

Steve Rush: Love it, thank you, Ryan. Last thing we want to do is take you on a bit of a metaphorical time travel and allow you to bump into Ryan at 21 and give them some advice. What’s your advice going to him?

Ryan Berman: Wow, one really appreciate the hair you have. 

Steve Rush: I know how that feel. 

Ryan Berman: I have it in the right place. But two, you’re going to be okay. Continue to follow the choices that you’re making and don’t forget to enjoy the ride a little bit. You’re doing it, I’m air quoting. You’re doing it right for you, and keep going. Oh, and declare mentor earlier. I’m stubborn, I can’t imagine I’m the only one that’s stubborn, but like, you know, being stubborn can sometimes get you in trouble and you feel like you have to do by yourself. And someone once said to me, takes you 40 years to figure out who you are and the next 40 to be that person. And I think there’s some real truth to that. So, get there faster with the mentor.

Steve Rush: Love that, fantastic stuff. Now for folks listening to us today, talk. How can they get hold of a little bit more information about you, the work that you do with Courageous and also it would be rude of me not to help promote your Courageous brand as well, while we’re here, so how can we kind of get people some more visibility about what you do?

Ryan Berman: Well, first of all, Steve. I mean, if people are listening to you on the regular, they already know that I feel the same about you as they do. Like when we talked for the first time, it was so easy and we both, weren’t afraid to share our own stories. And so, I really do love what you’re doing. 

Steve Rush: Thank you, man, I appreciate that. 

Ryan Berman: And you and I are going to find a way to work together on something. I don’t know what it is yet, but there’ll be some opportunity. If you want more on me, like I said, is a good place to start. If you’re ready to really go to the playbook, that would be Or just email me like, if you wanted the core values assessment, and you know, I welcome questions or comments and you know, like I said, I’m very at peace with the idea that like we’re all in different places in our journey. And if I can help in any way, please reach out.

Steve Rush: Fantastic, and they’ll all be in the show notes as well. Ryan, it’s been awesome talking. I’ve been so pleased that we’ve met and it’s been a while since we spoke last, but it only feels like yesterday. So, thanks ever so much for coming to join us on The Leadership Hacker Podcast. You’ve been a great guest.

Ryan Berman: Thanks Steve. Be good over there. Stay safe.


Steve Rush: I genuinely want to say heartfelt thanks for taking time out of your day to listen in too. We do this in the service of helping others, and spreading the word of leadership. Without you listening in, there would be no show. So please subscribe now if you have not done so already. Share this podcast with your communities, network, and help us develop a community and a tribe of leadership hackers. 

Finally, if you would like me to work with your senior team, your leadership community, keynote an event, or you would like to sponsor an episode. Please connect with us, by our social media. And you can do that by following and liking our pages on Twitter and Facebook our handler their @leadershiphacker. Instagram you can find us there @the_leadership_hacker and at YouTube, we are just Leadership Hacker, so that is me signing off. I am Steve Rush and I have been the leadership hacker.

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