Running a successful business can be exhausting and overwhelming. In this episode, Ted Ryce interviews Ray Blakney, an award-winning entrepreneur.
They reveal the single most important habit for business success that will ensure that you never burn out again.
Tune in to learn this powerful tool, so you can lead a profitable and sustainable business and make time for the things that matter in life.
Ray Blakney is an award-winning entrepreneur who has over a decade of experience building and operating 7 and 8-figure location independent businesses.
He and his businesses have been featured in magazines such as Entrepreneur, Forbes, The Boston Globe & other top publications.
Ray was born in Cebu City, Philippines to an American father and a Filipina mother and grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. He received his B.S. in Computer Engineering from Case Western Reserve University in 2001.
He started his professional career writing software for a range of companies including Silicon Valley startups, Fortune 500 companies, the U.S. Government and NGO’s.
In 2006 he decided he joined the U.S. Peace Corps and was assigned to Mexico where he worked in the largely indigenous area of Chiapas, Mexico.
In 2008, he launched Live Lingua, a popular online language learning platform that offers a novel, innovative, and immersive approach to mastering a new language.
Linkedin: Ray Blakney
- Ray’s background and how he became an entrepreneur
- The importance of taking the road less travelled
- How Ray’s experience in the Peace Corps led him into entrepreneurship
- Does exercise make you more successful?
- The single most important habit for achieving super success
- The #1 key secret to optimize your productivity
- The mindset shift you need to take to make working out a priority
- Should you sacrifice everything else to achieve success?
- How to nurture all four pillars in our life in order to become successful
- The importance of having one or more hobbies
- The phases of personal growth
- And much more…
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Podcast Transcription: The Single Most Important Habit For Achieving Super Success with Ray Blakney
Ted Ryce: Ray Blakney, thanks so much for coming on the show today. Really excited to dive in and talk about health, about entrepreneurship, about peak performance.
Ray Blakney: Ted, thanks for having me on. I’m excited.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, man, we had a great conversation - just to give people some context on how we met - I was at the Dynamite Circle, Mexico City event, which is a group of entrepreneurs, we all get together, watch a bunch of talks. But that first day was about masterminding and you were in my group. I was lucky enough to be in your group, is the way I should put it. There were some real rock stars in there.
And we went around the table gave each other—we listened to the business struggles we were having. And I walked in, you were receiving feedback for your business, and then it came around and I was like, “Man, this guy’s a rock star. He’s taking his business from seven to eight figures now. You’re taking your business, you just started a new business, and then we got into talking about martial arts and fitness and how that’s really a foundation for living an amazing life.
And I was like, “Man, I’ve got to get this guy on the show.”
Ray Blakney: I appreciate it. Yeah, I mean, it was a blast talking to you there, and I’m glad we’re able to reconnect on podcast.
Ted Ryce: Cool. So can you tell our listeners a little bit about like…you know, you said something so great in the forum, like when we were trying to figure out like, hey, how can we really add value to the people listening, you said about taking the road less travelled. Can you talk about some of your experiences and how you became an entrepreneur and some of the challenges along the way?
Ray Blakney: Absolutely. And yeah, I’ll start with the caveat that there will be challenges along the way for anybody who takes the road less travelled. And yes, I am stealing Robert Frost’s saying from his great poem.
So, a little bit background about me, so to explain how I got to where I’m at right now. So, I was born in the Philippines. My dad’s from the US, grew up in Africa, but I grew up in Turkey, then I moved to the United States, when I was 15, or 16 years old. I am an American citizen, which is why I speak a little bit of English.
So, I went there for high school, college, and then did what everybody was supposed to do that entire time. I come from a family of academics. I was on the road everybody travels at that point, right? But since I came from a family of academics, I’ll tell the story. I was in high school, and I went to private school, and they brought in a group of people who were talking about drugs and addiction and all the rest of these—for recovering drug addicts.
I’m sure all of us who went to school in the United States had a similar program when they came to talk to us. And they broke us up into smaller groups of about 20 people. And I remember distinctly, one point, he asks, “How many of you are planning on going to college?” And we all kind of looked around the room confused and everybody raises their hand, it’s like, “Of course, what else do you do after going to high school, you go to college?”
It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that I bet he gives that talk in many schools where only one out of five hands go up, if that. It was because I was on a road, I was doing what I was supposed to do.
Nothing wrong with that; go to college, get a good job, work there for 40 years, get your gold watch. That was the road I was on. Albeit, for some people, I think that’s the right road. I mean, not everybody is cut out for these other things, you might be happier if you just get a paycheck every 15 days you do it. It’s kind of a little bit of self-knowledge to decide that. But I think for most of us, and a lot of us, that is not the way to do it.
So I was on the path, I got the job at a stable fortune 500 company that have been around for 150 years. And theoretically, I was going to be there for the next 40 years, and it would have been fine. It would have been a boring life.
At that time on TV, I saw this commercial for the US Navy. And while I had no intention of joining the Navy, my respects to everybody in the armed services. My uncle was in the Navy. But if you start shooting at me, I’m running away as fast as physically possible, so I’m like, yeah, that’s not for me.
But they had a saying that would pop on the screen. I remember distinctly at the end, it was Navy SEALs would be pulling up on the beach in the dark, so the whole top of the screen was black. And there’s a saying, “If they were to write a book about your life, would anybody want to read it?” And I remember looking at that, sitting in my condo, and thinking of like, no, if I continue on this path, I wouldn’t read my book. This is not really the direction I want to go in.
Literally, the next day, I applied for the US Peace Corps, which is… thank you. I mean, imagine I’m a computer engineer making over six figures and I apply to a Peace Corps, which they pay me $150 a month for the next two years to volunteer in southern Mexico. That was my path less travelled. I did it. It was the best decision I ever made in my life. It’s what led me in entrepreneurship afterwards.
And right now, I am very happy with how my life has turned out. And I’m sure we’ll go into that a little bit more detail in a little bit. But that switch, that divergence in the road, seeing the road less travelled. That was the moment for me. And that’s what sent me down this path. That was 15 years ago now.
Ted Ryce: Wow! Incredible. And what was it about your experience in the Peace Corps that led you into entrepreneurship?
Ray Blakney: Yeah, so when I was in the Peace Corps, my initial idea was I was going to go in there to learn a new skill, right? The Peace Corps, right, because they would send me and I’d be doing something new. Unfortunately, they sent me to a place where I was a computer programmer, I guess, I was actually helping writing computer program in southern Mexico and state of Chiapas. I was down there.
But I also did have a chance to interact with people who were small business owners, micro business owners, people who sell arts, artisan, really indigenous people there, and I got to interact with them. And I was able to give some bits of advice to some of the people there, stuff that’s obvious to most of us, but since nobody’s ever told them this before, they didn’t know it.
And I was able to actually help grow their business, just by giving little pieces of advice about, like, take your price up, you know, separate…Just really, really simple stuff. And we’re, you know, this whole business things kind of fun. And I talked to my girlfriend at the time, my wife right now. And we started talking, and we were saying, like, “Look…” She always wanted to have her own business. Her business being a school. She’s a teacher, she’s like, “I always want to start a school.” And I thought, “Okay, we’re young, we don’t have kids, we have no financial obligations, we have no money. But when does that ever stop anybody?”
You know, the Peace Corps gave me $2,000 when I left, and that was all the money we have. Let’s start. Worst case scenario, I’m a software engineer, and you’re a bilingual teacher, we’ll probably go back to the US, get six figure jobs and be fine. I mean, if that’s your worst-case scenario, take a risk. So, we did, and we were totally lucky.
I learned about something called SEO, search engine optimization at the time. And we launched our school in Mexico, which before we even opened, we were fully booked, because I’ve made us number one in the country when you look for learn Spanish in Mexico. We were fully booked for the first day, we asked for deposits, we used the deposit for the deposit on our school and buy our furniture.
So, by the time that the students arrived, there was actually furniture in the school. And that’s how I got started in entrepreneurship. We did everything. I mean, we slept in the school because we couldn’t afford our own place.
We mopped the floors, we took out the trash, we cleaned the bathrooms. And the next day, I was in a suit, welcoming students in there as the director of the school. But none of that fancy VC money, none of that, I bootstrapped all my business.
Ted Ryce: Wild. Yeah. Incredible. And did you have entrepreneurial training?
Ray Blakney: No, I know how to make websites and code, I had no entrepreneurial training at all. In fact, one of the stories I tell is, I never even read a book about entrepreneurships until I was about five or six years in there, I got lucky.
My first business, which was the brick and mortar school, worked, then the second business, which is now Live Lingua, worked. So, I had this thing, like why do people read business books, this whole business thing is really, really easy.
Then I failed at a whole bunch of businesses after that. And I’m like, “Okay, maybe I should start learning a little bit more about this entrepreneur thing.” Now I read a book a week, maybe two books a week on business and entrepreneurship.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, interesting. So, for whatever reason, the stars aligned, and it just worked out for you, because of where you were, who you are, the place where your clients were in and what your offer was. Incredible.
One thing that you and I got into talking about is like health and fitness, you’re passionate about it, you said, you and your wife, you’ve been workout partners for the past 15 years. And what’s interesting is…So I deal with a lot of entrepreneurs who are, I don’t want to call them traditional, but guys who have businesses in… you know how it is in the states where that traditional businessman, he’s in a suit, he’s in a luxury car, he’s going to steak dinners and he’s out of shape big time.
Ray Blakney: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I was in that world when I was in corporate America, I wasn’t the head of a company, but I wore a suit and had to go to steak dinners and all the rest of it.
Ted Ryce: And I’m just curious, because my business is health and fitness, so I’m super biased. I came through entrepreneurship through that lens like, oh, everything has to be built around my health, because I just felt like I needed it. I felt like I couldn’t even do the work if I didn’t build my business that way. You know, maybe my constitution is just not strong enough, really. Because I see the way guys operate and women too. And it’s like, I just don’t think I could do that.
How do you think about… So you came from that world of corporate America, sacrifice your health for the pay check, whether you’re coding computers or running the company, it doesn’t matter, it’s the culture, then you shifted into becoming an entrepreneur, bootstrap things. Why didn’t you fall back into the corporate mentality? How did that happen with health?
Ray Blakney: Great question. Great, great question. And I’m going to take a little step back and start by saying my introduction to health and fitness came from a deep-seated insecurity I had about myself. Does everybody here remember that little Asian kid who got picked last for the dodgeball teams when they were in high school? Yeah, that’s me.
There were a few factors in there: Filipino, luckily, I don’t put on weight easily but luckily, I don’t put on weight easily. So, in college, when I got to college, I’m 5 foot 11 and I weighed 155 pounds, not by any special diet or anything, that’s just the way that my body worked.
Another thing that happened to me as a child was, I skipped a grade, which they don’t do anymore, but I didn’t realize how much of an issue it was. So, I was two years younger than everybody in my class, all the way to the end of college, I started college at 17 years old.
You don’t realize what that means when you’re 10 and your classmates are 12, I thought I was short. I was slow and I was bad at sports and it really affected my self-esteem as I was growing up – I’m the short Asian guy that’s in your class.
That mindset stayed with me for a while, after I was done growing, and I started working out, that mindset actually stayed with me until it was my early 30s. Again, I’m 5’11, I’m not a monster, but I’m not short. It just took a long time for my mind to catch up with that. And I suffered for it for many, many years.
I got into working out when I was 21. I went to California, was there for a few years. My roommate was a bodybuilder, I mean, you know, very hardcore, took steroids, that kind of thing, even though he’s an accountant at HBM, his day job was an accountant.
But he was 5 foot 1 and probably weighed more than me, he was pure muscle. He got me into working out. I never did the steroids. I have a phobia of needles. No way you’re sticking with one of those things. And I’m glad I didn’t, because at 21, it’s a harder decision to make.
And I saw how it...over time… Keep in mind, I mean, I’m 185 pounds right now, it took me years to get that way. And then years later, realized that, okay, I’m actually in pretty good shape right now.
I just recently came back from a retreat about 30 entrepreneurs, and I was the person in best shape there by a longshot—by a longshot. I mean, I can swim an hour, I can run five miles with no preparation. I can lift a decent amount of weight.
And you see not only how it helps your self-esteem, which helps all aspects of your life, right? I mean, if you feel comfortable with who you are, it helps your business, it helps your personal relationships, it helps your own internal mental health. And as a result, you can help more people that are out there.
Once I realized that, I never stopped. I mean, it was just like, this is something I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life, because not only is it good for my health, it’s good for me, and it’s good for my family to do.
Yeah, and I continue, I work with a personal trainer now five times a week, I do martial arts for a total of four hours a week and I swim three times a week right now, all while running multiple companies and having over 150 in place.
Ted Ryce: What would you say to someone who says, well… maybe they don’t have the amount of employees that you do and they’re not a serial entrepreneur, or maybe they are. But what would you say to someone who says, well, you know, I don’t have the time?
Ray Blakney: Yeah, so I didn’t come up with this either. There’s a phrase out there where if you change the wording from “I don’t have the time” to “it’s not a priority right now,” it actually changes your whole—your mind shifts about what it is, it should become a priority right now. ‘I don’t have the time” is an excuse. “It’s not a priority right now,” it’s more honest about what you’re saying.
body can make the time. Do you watch an hour of Netflix at night? You have the time. You’re spending time on this. People also look at this - especially if we’re talking in the entrepreneurship space – working out as taking time away from your professional work. You’re thinking about it absolutely wrong. Especially if you work out in the morning, there’s studies that show that your mind is 10 to 15% more efficient for the rest of the day if you get that endorphin rush in the morning, by working out.
Do the math, 10% more means it’s an hour more of work, you’re getting done theoretically in the same amount of time, which means over the course of the year, you’re actually getting much more work done than you would have been done if you didn’t work out, right?
So, you’re actually being more productive by getting healthier. This is not even talking about all the other things you’ve had.
If you have health problems, how much time that’s going to take out of your work. Or, I don’t know, you’re overweight, so you have sleep apnea so you not sleeping well at night. How is that affecting your work? You have to have back surgery because your lower back is weak and you hurt yourself, you can take two months off recovery. How’s that taking off your work?
So, if changing the mindset from working out is a distraction from work, to working out is essential to my success at work, would help a lot of entrepreneurs make it a higher priority in their life and make the time for it.
Again, it is not a matter of making the time it is just part of your workday that you work out.
Ted Ryce: I think the new shift is this idea where we’re starting to look at things—or at least a certain group of entrepreneurs who is starting to look at health in this way, like, well, listen, I’m saying that I can’t take time out of my work, because I need to get all these things done. Of course, the to-do list just rolls over and more things get added to the list and it never goes away. And you can always make a good argument for never spending time with your family, never working out.
But there’s a lot of people still stuck. One thing I’ve seen is basically when you’re in the flow in a flow state with work and you’re in the zone and you have to end it to go work out or to even go back to your family, it’s a painful thing to do.
And it’s an addictive thing as well. You don’t want to give up that feeling, especially when you’re making progress. And the problem with that is, it may give you a high level of business success if you stay there. But if you’re not making time for yourself, if you’re not making time for family, yeah.
I’ve worked with so many entrepreneurs over the years, mostly in Miami. I haven’t worked with guys anymore. At least we haven’t gotten into those stories, but they burned down their first relationship had their first divorce. And usually, it was a very costly, very difficult, sometimes multiyear divorce as a result of whatever had happened—dedicating time to the business. I’m just curious, man, do you see that in, in the entrepreneurial world that you’re in?
Ray Blakney: It’s actually not as common. So, the entrepreneurial world I’m in is generally the…I’m going to go so far as saying the lifestyle entrepreneur, that used to be kind of a bad word, because it’s like, yeah, that was just kind of like a slacker word.
Look, I’m a seven-figure lifestyle entrepreneur going towards eight, and I know eight, nine figure lifestyle entrepreneurs. So, it’s no longer the old days where lifestyle entrepreneur means you’re like, Yeah, I make like $5 a month and sleep in a tent, right? So, you need to shift your mindset about that.
But it’s also because within this space—and I’m, of course, grossly generalizing, there are people of all walks of life and there, but within this space, by definition, lifestyle means you’re building a business to have the life of your dreams. The business is not your life, right? Or the work is not your life. So, when I mentor people, or when I coach people on businesses, the first thing we work on is what do you want out of life?
That’s not how most people approach their business. They say something like, I want more money. But why do you want more money?
I mean. there’s the—everybody knows Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, right?
After you have food, housing, and all the basic stuff, taking care of, your happiness is not going to really go up by having more money. But there’s some other thing drawing you. Is it because you’re attaching yourself worth to the money? Is it something else?
It’s kind of identifying what really it is in life that makes you happy— family being able to travel, whatever that is, I think is the key first step to avoiding falling into this trap of working for the sake of working, and only having work being the only central thing and you’re just sacrificing everything else. I think there’s like a big fallacy there.
So not to drop… I just recently had this amazing experience. About three weeks ago, I had an opportunity to go out to Necker Island and hang out with Richard Branson, and some people.
Ted Ryce: I saw that photo. Amazing.
Ray Blakney: Yeah. So, the reason I bring it up is a lot of us have the fallacy, it’s like, the only way you get up there is by sacrificing everything else to get to that level, right. So, I have to sacrifice family, I sacrifice my health, I sacrifice all of this. I just spent five days on an island with some of the most successful people in the world, and across all industries, like presidents of countries, top scientists.
I mean, we’re not only top—you know, Richard Branson, top entrepreneurs, though, there was some guy who was there, he was like one of the top people at JP Morgan, and they got there and they didn’t do it.
Richard Branson for those of you who knows, happily married for all these years. Health? Huge. The guy swims one hour between two islands every day, and he’s like 75 years old. I mean you could run circles around most of us, he hasn’t given up health, he hasn’t given up a happy family life. He loves his kids, he loves his family, he spent so much time as he can with them, in order to do that.
So, this whole fallacy of “the only way I can get there is by sacrificing everything else”, which is what a lot of us are taught, I think is absolutely false. And I think to get there successfully, we actually have to nurture all four pillars in our life, right? The personal side, the health side. I believe hobby is a pillar, you need to have something that’s not work that brings you joy, and then work being only one of the four pillars of life.
So don’t just focus on one, build all of them up. And that is really what…so you’ll be a successful person in all aspects of your life if you do that. It’s what I aspire to be. And I’m trying to be more intentional about.
Ted Ryce: I’d love to hear a little bit more about why do you go and spend…You must have done something or spent a certain amount of money to go hang out with Richard. Now that seems obvious, especially if you’re like an Instagram… if you promote your personal brand on social media, but even if you don’t like can you talk a little bit about why you do things like that to put yourself around people in those high levels if it’s not immediately obvious for someone listening right now.
Ray Blakney: Yeah, and I’ll definitely start, I’m not in Instagram, I don’t look very good in a bikini. So yeah, you shouldn’t be following me over there. And yeah, I’m not a personal brand. I mean, my businesses are not about me. They’re about the businesses. I love building them up, but I have no intention of being famous in my life, right? If I can help people, that’s it.
Going to meet with these people, it’s…So, I think there are a lot of phases of personal growth. And I’ve been through a lot of them. And I’ve done a lot of like trial and discovery to kind of figure out phases, at least the ones that work for me. And when you’re starting off, at least on your personal entrepreneurial journey, the first phase is just kind of the knowledge phase, you don’t know anything, so you need to learn something, right?
So, if you’re going to start a business, you have to do anything in your life, learn a basic skill. So I did that for the first phase. The next phase is the discipline phase, in my mind, which means okay, I have the skill, now I have to be disciplined in applying this skill in order to get ahead, right? I was a programmer, every day I got up, I programmed, which then built on to the next thing, which was like, okay, I can use that skill. Then I learned marketing, which allowed me to start online businesses, because I have the programming and the other skill there.
This helped me get to seven figures. And I was stuck there for many years. And I couldn’t figure out how to get kind of to the next level, like, what is the difference between me and the guy who has an eight-figure business? Or the guy who has a nine-figure business? Like, are they smarter than me? Are they working harder than me? What is it? I just couldn’t know, I didn’t know.
That was my initial impetus to start going out hanging out in these circles, where there’s these people, eight and nine figure businesses. To my shock the first time I got there, that wasn’t it. I mean, some of them are smarter than me; some of them aren’t. Some of them work harder than me; some of them don’t. But that is not the common pattern that I was seeing between all of them. What you learn is that old saying of you’re the average of the five people you hang out with. You realize…
At the beginning, I would always hear these stories of these five friends who all decided to start businesses at the same time and they all became successful. Like, wow, what a coincidence that these five people started a business, totally different businesses, but they’re all successful right now, what are the chances?
Well, you see, the chances are really, really high. Because if you’re surrounded by people who are doing stuff that you want to do, dedicated to your—we’re intentional about what they’re doing, and you spend your time with them, chances are, you’re going to be successful as well. So, in order to grow to the next level, my goal right now is to spend time with people who are already there.
So not only can I learn from them, but I can be inspired by them to think in bigger ways. Again, using the Necker Island example. The first night I was there, pure luck. So, we were there in the main house and we were there, it was a small group of 30 people, we were all just kind of socializing, then they invite us all to there.
And the story I tell is, like, Richard has the longest wooden table I’ve ever have seen in my life, like, one piece of wood, it wasn’t like five tables they put together, it’s like, 40 feet long. They must have like chopped a tree or something like that to do it. And I was like, “Okay, I’m going to sit in the middle of this table, just because that way, I’ll have the most people around you to talk to. If you sit at the end of the table, you only have the people on your left or the right to talk to. That was my only thought process.
So, I said the middle. And I started talking to somebody on my right. And then I look in front of me, and Richard Branson sits right in front of me, because obviously, he sits in the middle of the table, too. Now that I look back and like, obviously, that’s where he sits, but that was not my calculation when I did that.
And then to his left, sits the first female president of Africa, a Nobel Peace Prize winner. And to his right, sits Dr. Astro Teller, who is the head of Google X, which is the Moonshot Factory at Google. Essentially, he is the smartest guy at Google, which theoretically hires like the smartest people in the world. So that tells you the level the people who are sitting in front of me, so a scientist and entrepreneur, and a former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Just sitting in that conversation, you know, we did small talk, we all started talking, but then they started talking about things at a level that I couldn’t do, so I’d ask questions, but I’ll be honest, I can’t contribute at that level. Nothing they said was like, I didn’t understand; it was just, they’re all 34 years older than me, they have a lot more experience, they have all this...
But they would say certain things like when Richard was talking to President, surely, she’s like, “Remember when we were sitting over there with Kofi and Mandela, and you and I were sitting on a couch over there, and we decided, we were trying to figure out a way to stop the Iraq War.” And I’m just sitting there like, what? Who has these kinds of conversations as a casual thing over coffee?
Then next he turns to the other side and talks to Dr. Teller about, ‘You know, I think we have a solution to global warming,” spoiler alert—something to do with seaweed and catching carbon or something like that. But that was it, like, and I understood what they said, it wasn’t intellectually passing me, but by being around them, I was starting to think at a different level.
You know, I was just starting to think about things at a totally different level than I ever did before. I was always like, okay, how do I make business to grow 5% by learning marketing? That’s not how people at that level think that’s not the kind of thing they’re thinking about. And that is what you learn by just simply being around people at that next level from you.
We’d be talking about martial arts; it’s actually a similar thing to martial arts, right? In martial arts, the best people to—let’s say if you do a combat martial art—to spar with, are people who are just like one or two levels above you, right?
You don’t want somebody that’s too far above you, because then the level is just too different, you’re not really going to learn anything from them, but if they’re like one or two levels above you, they’ll still beat you, but they’ll teach you something you can actually understand.
That is what my intentionality is about going forward, I am looking for places where I can find people two or three levels above me and hang out with them. I’ve been doing that for the last few years now. So, the first group I started with, when I started, it felt like the right level. Two years later, I went back and I felt like I had grown past everybody at that level. Went to another group that was at higher level—two or three years later, I feel like I’ve gone past it.
And that has been my intentional journey for the last five years. And I hope to continue with going forward. I’m looking for those people, the next level, to hang out with them, so that next time I go, maybe 5, 10 years if I go and sit in front of those same people, I feel like I’m at that level, and I can talk to them about their thing.
So, that is the benefit. That’s why I pay to go to these things, to get inspired and to kind of get to that next level of my personal growth.
Ted Ryce: What I love about this is, yeah, I’ll share briefly my…By the way, I used to…I’ve met Richard, I trained him, trained his wife, Joan, mostly.
Ray Blakney: It was her birthday while we were there.
Ted Ryce: Oh, cool. Yeah. And I really always appreciated hanging out with them. They were very nice to me. They were kind of the exceptions with —most of the people that I had worked with, in Miami, they were very successful financially, but they didn’t have lives that I aspired to. One guy had a $20-million mansion had the Rolls Royce Wraith or Ghost, whatever Camry, can’t even remember, not that into cars, but had a driver, and there’s very similar stories about that.
But I always looked, and I was just like, “This is not what I would want. In fact, if I ended up here, I would not like it, it would be a negative.” And what I like about hanging out with the DC, I’ve had a lot of conversations, I was in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico recently hanging out with a lot of people in the Dynamite Circle.
And we were talking about crypto and real estate and investing and how do you think about things and we didn’t even talk to each other about our businesses so much, but having these conversations where a lot of the conversations that I had with my clients in the past in Miami Beach, it was about restaurants and yachts and $1 million paintings to $2 million like, bigger deals.
It was okay, but the issue is, I think the takeaway is this, really getting past that. Like you mentioned earlier, the Hierarchy of Needs, once you get to a certain point, the taking your yatch from 100 feet to 150 feet, it might do something for you, and there’s nothing wrong with it.
But if you’re trying to satisfy a deeper yearning, a deeper purpose, and you’re kind of playing small…What I’m kind of trying to… I’ll just get right out and say a lot of people play small, even though they’re worth 100 million bucks and they’re making money, they’re playing a game they’re good at, but they just keep playing the game.
And it’s like, you really have to ask yourself, what do you really want? Going back to what you said. And one of the reasons…Even if you’re listening to this podcast right now, I know Richard Branson, I talked about him recently on Twitter and got some, you know, some people just don’t like him. And that’s okay if you don’t like him, or if you don’t like any of the people that Ray mentioned.
But the big takeaway, in case you’re maybe a bit triggered by something or trying to figure out like, what am I trying to take away here? is get around the people who are thinking big. And thinking big and trying to solve big problems, can force you into a conversation where like you, Ray, you didn’t feel like you could add a lot, but you were taking away so much from the conversation. It’s just such an important thing. And I’m thinking differently, even though I’m not surrounded by the DC anymore. I’m in Orlando, Florida at the moment.
So, thanks so much for saying that. I want to change gears a little bit, unless you have something to add on top of that.
One of the things that I’m really passionate about, and something that I know you’re equally passionate about, is the hobby thing. And when I think about hobbies, you do Japanese fencing. Right now, I’ve done martial arts before, kind of been taking a break from it, because it beat up my body. I’ve been doing cave diving, right, making my way to doing cave diving. And I want to talk to you about like, what do you get from doing that?
Ray Blakney: Yeah, great question. And actually, just practice about 12 hours ago. So, this is fresh in my mind. So, I was actually thinking about this just last night. This was our last practice of the year because we practice at a university facility and the university closed down for four weeks, so I’m already missing it. It’s only been 12 hours since I’ve been doing it. So, as you mentioned, I do Japanese fencing kendo. I’ve been doing it for about 20 years now. I’ve been practicing it.
For me, it’s, for lack of a better word, escapism from the rest of my life, but I don’t… So, people sometimes use that in a bad way, right? You’re escaping from your problems. But sometimes you just need a moment, and meditation can do this as well, where you separate yourself from the rest of your life, and it puts everything in perspective when you come back to your life afterwards.
And the separation for me is just an hour and a half practice twice a week. That’s all it takes, right? The reason I like martial arts personally, is because it forces you to focus on the now. As an entrepreneur, I’m always thinking like, okay, three-year, five-year plan, where are we going to be 10 years? What’s the growth going to be in six months? I’m always doing that, and I don’t always have time to be thinking about what’s going on right now. This helps train me to do that.
The example is, if you’ve done martial arts, if somebody is beating you up, you’re not thinking about what you have to do at work tomorrow, right? I mean, it’s simply just not something that’s going through your mind, you’re like, “I have a problem, right now, I’m getting hit. What do I do to not get hit? And you know, maybe hit the person back or whatever it is within the context, not in a violent way.
But it’s just a mental thing is you’re focused in on the now. And in today’s world, that’s sometimes lost, right? I mean, it’s just be in that moment. And that, to me, is what a hobby should be. It doesn’t matter whether it’s martial art, it could be painting, it could be singing, it could be everything. But you should be doing that at 100% when you’re doing it. If you’re singing and you want to sing well…
I mean if you’re going to do something, I always believe in doing it well. So, if you want to learn to sing, and you want to sing well, you can’t be concentrating on work while you’re trying to hit the high note, right? You’re concentrating on where my esophagus is, how my breathing is, all the rest of it. If you’re painting, as soon as you start thinking about something else, you’re painting goes off, your painting doesn’t turn out.
These are things that make you focus on there. And I think, again, it’s really important for our mental health to have these hobbies, you know, maybe with a family, or maybe something totally separate just for you. I am actually a strong believer in that, what I’m going to call here the selfish habit, or the selfish hobby.
Have one hobby that is just for you, the rest of your life will be thankful for it, your family will be thankful for it, your business will be thankful for it. Depending on your hobby, your health could be thankful for it, if it’s some kind of physical activity. Running, for example, right? So, to me, it’s extremely important to have this these personal hobbies. You can have more one. I happen to have one, but you can have two or three if you have the time for it, and if you really enjoy two or three things that bring you joy in life.
Ted Ryce: Are you familiar with the author Steven Kotler?
Ray Blakney: I don’t think so, but I’m bad at names.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, he wrote recently, The Art Of Impossible. He’s written a book with Peter Diamandis called Abundance. Anyway, I love hearing your story, why you do it. He kind of helped put a framework around like why I’ve done some of the things that I’ve done with martial arts as an example, and with seeking out some other challenges. And basically, what he says in there is we all have things that we want to do in life that we feel are maybe impossible for us.
It’s, I don’t see how to get from where I am now to where I want to be. And if we take that journey, we struggle along the way. Number one, we struggle with persistence, it’s hard to get up and have the grit to go back and keep doing it after falling on your face.
And what he makes the argument of doing is something where, like you with kendo, even if you become like a 10th Degree Grandmaster, they’re still going to be things that you’re learning, they’re still going to be things that you’re challenged with, especially as you get older and you try to hang with guys who are using speed and strength. For sure, there’s ways to get around that, so you’re going to be challenged.
And the same thing with what I’m doing right now with the diving I’m so into, because with diving in caves, it’s not… I first started diving to go like check out fish, to be a fish. Instead of snorkeling and looking in on it, I wanted to be a fish I wanted to experience it. It’s like being an astronaut but underwater, But when I started cave diving, you don’t really get into the fish thing, but you face a lot of your fears.
And there’s a great quote by the late mythologist, Joseph Campbell of the Hero’s Journey, Fame, right? “The cave that you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.” And so every time where there is a fear of like getting beat up in martial arts, because, man, that sucks and if you were this skinny Asian guy with bunch of big athletes, it’s like, eww...
Or if you’re like in a cave, or jumping out of a plane you’re facing… Although it’s very controlled, right, you’re not really going to get one of your… you’re not going to lose any limbs and kendo, I’m not going to do any caves that I feel I’m going to get stuck in and never come out of. And if you’re jumping out of planes, you’re going to have like a backup shoot, and it’s going to be in a–everything’s going to be checked.
But still, we have that fear. And when we overcome that fear, it builds the character that we need, the confidence that we need to go after those big goals. And it can’t be the pursuit of what you’re trying to do, say like business, you’ve got to, like you said, you’ve got to turn your brain off and get centered and focused in the moment.
It’s fantastic, he’s… the rise of Superman, The Art of Impossible. I can’t say enough about his books and his work. So, a little bit nerdy with the neuroscience side of things and less storytelling a little bit, but it’s just fantastic. Hearing that, does that resonate with why you do things too?
Ray Blakney: Yeah, absolutely, I’m thinking on some of the stuff we’ve been talking about up until now. So, there’s two aspects that you were talking about here, right? So, there’s the fear aspect, which is the biggest one, there’s two good things about fear. If you’re fearful of doing something, and I’m not talking about life-threatening fear, just nervous public speaking fear, right? I mean, that kind of fear.
That means if you have that fear, you confront it, and you do whatever it is you scared to do, you grow. That’s an absolute clear sign that you just had growth.
And there’s almost nothing else in our life, that defines growth, as much as overcoming a fear.
Otherwise, it’s kind of hard to tell, even those folks who go to the gym, I mean, you curls for a while, but unless you’re measuring your biceps every single day, like, it’s going to be a few years before you’re there. It’s a very long journey.
But if you overcame fear today, you know tomorrow you’ve grow. I mean, within the next hour, you can grow by overcoming a fear. So, it’s this instant thing you can do. A tip that I have, what I use to overcome fear is going back full circle to the why, what do you want your life to look like? And this is a wonderful exercise for people to do.
This is actually an interview question I asked some of the people we hired in our company and it’s, you leave your house, it’s a big flash and boom, this time machine appears in front of you, and you from five years steps out of the time machine, and you look at yourself, you’re like, “Wow, that’s awesome. How was my life in five years?”
And your five-year-old, older self says, “My life is amazing.’ Why is your life amazing five years from now? And we ask actually our employees to answer that question when they apply for a job for us, because then we actually get to see their dreams.
So, I encourage anybody here who maybe feels a little directionless right now to go and kind of do that exercise where you just pen and paper on, you know, old school, write it down. Why is your life in five years…? What is your amazing life in five years? That brings it back to the fear because once you know what that amazing life is, you kind of have a much clearer idea of what you’re going to.
And it helps you overcome those fears to get there, because it has to be such a vision of life that it excites you every single day. It’s something that you can get up every morning, and you take one step towards that life, and another step towards that life, and another step towards that life.
And that way, when some obstacle, hero’s journey, the monster comes in front of you, and you have to overcome it, you know why you’re overcoming it. It’s not a tedious chore. It’s not something you’re avoiding, because something’s between you and your dream life, that’s only five years away.
It sounds like a long amount of time. But if anybody here I’d say, hey, if I give you a roadmap, and there’s a lot of tough stuff along the way, but five years from now, you will have your dream life. Most people would be like, yeah, give me that roadmap, right? I mean, that’s five years, unless you’re a five-year-old, in which case five years really seems like a really long time.
But for most of us, you know, I’m 40, I’m like, “Five years?” I’m like, “that’d be awesome. If I could have everything I ever dreamed of in five years, I would do whatever is necessary to kind of get there, as long.” As long as my dream is all encapsulate; not just money, it’s like having a happy family, everything. So, you describe the whole thing. So yeah, what you were talking about made me think about that kind of five-year vision, that question that we ask everybody we interview in my companies.
Ted Ryce: I love that. You have to know why you’re getting up to slay the dragons. Otherwise, you’re like, “I’m out of here.” there’s no point to it.
Ray Blakney: Yeah, It’s not fun. It’s like the gym. My personal trainer asked, ‘Did you have fun today?” I’m like, “No, I didn’t have fun today. I can barely walk and barely breathe. This is not fun.
I love the results. I know why I’m doing it. That’s why I have, you know, I never miss a gym day. I’m always there. I go at 5:30am, I go to the gym every morning.
And I never miss it. It’s not because of the dragon I have to slay at the gym. you know, increasing all the rest of it, I know my—as I said, I can’t do a push up right now because my chest hurts so bad that if you put me on the floor, I’d be stuck there for the rest of the day.
But I know why I’m doing it because I know the end goal that I’m going for. And that’s a step on the journey to get there.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, so well said. One thing I would add to that; I had a conversation with another entrepreneur over brunch at the DC and it was fascinating because I resonate with this too, right? I got to the point where –I’ll just use my experience, but I got to the point where I’m a brown belt with two stripes in Brazilian jujitsu.
I’m not going to say it’s not challenging to do, because it is, and to get to my black belt, I don’t know if I’ll ever do it to be honest, Ray, we’ll see. I’ve got a lot of injuries. Maybe with some stem cell injections and some other things, I can make it—to be determined.
Ray Blakney: If that works, let me know because my lower back certainly do, so I’m looking for that.
Ted Ryce: So yeah, we’ll do, right? But the thing is, it wasn’t emotionally challenging to me, like when I did my first competition, I walked into the tournament, and a guy got his knee snapped and a heel hook. If you know what those are, it’s a move to twist your knee to pop the ligaments and I got freaked out. I said, “If that is what I signed up for…’ I felt like, man, my life is in danger here.
But then I did it, and I was okay… I got really sick, to be honest. I was not in the type of shape I needed to be, but I survived and I didn’t get injured. And I went on to do a bunch of tournaments, and then I got really comfortable with it. Because I was getting my butt kicked. I knew who could kick my butt. I know whose butt I could kick. I know who I had a good battle with back and forth, and I was comfortable with it.
And sure, there was some challenge, but at the same time, Ray, I could not even speak, like if I was asked….I went back to school in actually, my late 20s. And I remember being in a class and we would go around the room and we had to talk about why we were there. And when it came closer and closer to my turn, my heart is pounding out of my chest. I didn’t even have that level of fight or flight response, even when I was doing the tournament, even when there was really some risk on the line.
And I knew I had to conquer it. And so my point in saying this, and now I speak and certainly if you put me in front of the big audience, I’ll be challenged. But during these podcasts, I used to get nervous on these. And what I’ve learned is that you have to keep challenging yourself. You have to keep challenging yourself.
And I’ll bring it back to the guy I was talking to, he’s like a madman with motorcycles. He’s taking motorcycles 160 miles an hour, wiped out one time at 120. It freaks me out, man. But he was saying, “Oh, I’ve never gone diving before. The idea of it totally scares me.” And it’s sometimes, what is he going to do to take that motorcycle riding? Is he going to go 180? Is he going to go 200 miles for an hour? How is he going to challenge himself? And what is the return on investment of that challenge versus something he’s never done.
He could go into the pool where the risk is low, and get like what you said, you made such a good point, you’re like, showing up to the gym every day, it still takes a long time to see results. But if you go conquer your fear, it’s instantaneous, you’re a different person afterward. So just some food for thought.
Ray Blakney: Exactly. And I’ve seen it multiple times in life. I mean, I have the common fear of public speaking. I’ve actually went on the speaking circuit on purpose to overcome that. So the biggest crowd I’ve spoken in front of about 1,000 right now.
Yeah, I’m sure there’s plenty of people who have spoken to 50,000 people, I’m sure I would do that. I’m not going to say I don’t even get nervous. I still get nervous before I talk, like you will not see me.
If it’s at a conference and my talks in the afternoon, you will not see me that morning. I will not be attending the rest of it. It’ll be my hotel room practicing, relaxing, trying to get into it. I feel super nervous into the moment I get on stage.
But since I know myself and I prepare so well, that when I go on stage, boom, the nervousness falls away. And I consider myself a good speaker now.
But it took… trust me, I mean, the first time I was dripping sweat, palms sweaty, all of that, like, don’t talk to me. I was a nervous wreck, the first few times I did it.
And that, I found has been an experience and a lesson for almost everything in life business. I didn’t know what I was doing in business.
Arguably, some will say I still don’t know what I’m doing in business. But I still learn every single day while I’m going in, and that’s kind of part of being human and part of growing in life. So you don’t stop growing after college. You just continually grow every day.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, I love that, Ray. Man, I feel like we could keep going here. We’ve got to do like a part two. I feel like there’s a lot more to dive in here. Now I want to just say briefly you came on here just to have this conversation, just to get out, just to share some things with people to help and you do have a few businesses and if it resonates with anybody, they’ll have someone that they can go to for these things.
In fact, I signed up for one of your businesses, podcasthawk.com, which is a program that you use to reach out to podcasts, to get on podcasts and to grow and create brand awareness or maybe to sell program, whatever you’re into. But if you use podcasts to outreach to people to get more clients to bring awareness to your brand podcasthawk.com.
Can you talk a little bit about your other business, because I don’t know it that well?
Ray Blakney: Yeah, sure. So, actually, my biggest business right now is Podcast Hawk, though we’re about a year in, still in the beta, is called Livelingua.com. This is a business I actually launched with my wife 13 years ago. Wow! So, we are one of the top five online language schools in the world. And we’re the only one that was bootstrapped with no VC money behind it.
So, if you guys don’t want to be giving your money to these big rich venture capitalists, you can come from our small little business over there. I actually started at after the Peace Corps. The story behind Live Ligua, when we started it, I made a really ugly five-page website. And my wife was the first Spanish teacher, because my wife is a Spanish teacher, she was my Spanish teacher, which is how we met.
And that’s what we did and it exploded. We did this like 14 years ago, back when classes on Skype were just like this big revolution, and nobody was doing it. So, we had the early mover advantage, we got lucky.
And yeah, Livelingua.com is not an overnight success. A lot of the stuff that we’ve been talking about on this is about this journey. It took us seven years to get seven figures.
So, I joke that I’m going to write a book about that one day, and nobody’s going to buy it because nobody wants to work seven years to build a seven…
Everybody wants that 30-day solution for a seven-figure business, right? Like, no, no, no, I can show you how to do it in seven years of hard work. Honestly, I think that’s the more realistic way, and that’s how most people build their seven-figure business, is working on it for multiple years to get there.
So that’s what Live Lingua is, we pair you up in the top 11 spoken languages in the world, we pair you up with native speaking teachers from those countries, and teachers, not just native speakers, these people have to have college degrees in education, and have at least two years’ experience teaching the language of Spanish, Mandarin, English, French, German, Italian, all of that. And so, you have class via zoom, Skype, whatever technology you prefer, and we take care of everything for you and get you paired up.
We have a learning style quiz on our website, which is for free. It might just be interesting for you to take even if you don’t want to sign up for language learning. Basically, teaches you whether you’re a visual, auditory, kinesthetic, mixed in with the young end types as well. So we actually will give you a little bits of advice on how to best learn for you, not only languages but how you learn best.
So you can take that knowledge from your free report and just go out into the world and use it to learn singing, use it to learn martial arts, use it to get better at work, because you know how you take in information best so you can go there liveligua.com/quiz and take our free quiz.
Ted Ryce: Cool, I’ll have both the URLs on the show notes to this episode. Ray, such a pleasure, man, it was a lot of fun to connect. And I love how, yeah, I get to learn from you and how we have so many similarities. I would ask you, what is one piece of parting advice that you would give people?
Ray Blakney: Yeah, so we’ve alluded to this a lot today. And it’s, to be intentional in what you do. And this is something I’m working on right now. It’s something that I never did in the past, I just kind of let things happen. So, whenever you do something, and not in a sleazy way, make sure that you’re doing it in a way that advances you and gets you towards what your dream is.
This ‘why’ that we’ve been talking about the entire time. The example that I’ll use is the networking that I’ve been doing. Before, I would go to conferences and just whoever I met, I would meet. And over the last year or two years, I’ve actually been looking at the people who were at the conferences, and making lists of specific people that I wanted to meet, and going out of my way to meet them and talk to them, because I think I can grow from them.
Again, it’s not sleazy, I am actually interested in meeting them. These seem like fascinating people. I’m not looking to get anything out of them. But I am intentional in what I’m doing. And all the choices I’m making my life, you know, which conferences I go to, business decisions I make, the time I take off, vacations I take, I’m trying to be intentional, there’s a reason for them.
It’s not just some reaction reflex. You know, my hopes this time, I might as well do this. So, by doing that, I think all of us could kind of get to our goals more quickly, and with less heartache along the way.
Ted Ryce: Pure gold. Ray Blakney, thanks so much for coming on the show, man, and looking forward to speaking to you again real soon.
Ray Blakney: Thanks, Ted. It was a blast.
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