What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his own soul? Risking personal relationships and sight of your true purpose seems to be the costliest of sacrifices made when in the pursuit of achieving entrepreneurial success. In this episode of Minority Business Access, host Solomon RC Ali and Chris Ryan, President of Paredigm Enterprises and Managing Partner at R360, lift the veil to reveal that success means more than money and luxury while cautioning to not “sell-out” your significance. If you remain unclear if your current work will write your resume or your eulogy, then the cost of missing this Minority Business Access will be too grave.
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Hello From The Other Side Of Success With Chris Ryan
Chris, I am so glad and excited that you are here. Welcome to the show. We’re trying to help minorities and entrepreneurs who are starting out a business or thinking about it. I won’t do great justice introducing you. I want you to introduce yourself to our audience and tell them a little bit about who you are, what you’ve done and things of that nature. I’m going to ask you a bunch of questions so we can try to help them figure out where they want to go.
First and foremost, I want to thank you. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here. I’ve had the privilege of spending a few minutes talking to you, getting a little bit of your backstory and here’s my sense. My sense is you are a man of deep character, incredible resilience and people like that change this world in a meaningful and purposeful way. I have no idea where this conversation is going to go but my energy is up I’m excited about the opportunity being here because my suspicion is good things are going to happen.
My background is fraught with a fair amount of success but probably an equal, if not a greater amount of failure. I’m born and raised in New York. I went to school in Texas and became a technology entrepreneur at a relatively young age. I built and sold a number of companies. I had a bunch of failures and dealt with a fair amount of adversity. One of the things that all of us can appreciate is you learn a lot when things are going well but all of us learn more when things are going tough. I did that for years. I enjoyed the work that I did. I got married, had a daughter and then went through a dark period where I got divorced. I was rudderless and found myself falling. It wasn’t about money. It was about purpose. I felt like I had lost my purpose, which is an incredibly bad feeling because it feels like the world falls out of you.
You learn a lot when things are going well. But you learn more when things are going tough.
Chris, a lot of entrepreneurs want to do their business. They come up with a great idea or concept. They want to jump in and think they’re going to make all this money and have all this freedom. Can you speak to that a little bit about what it’s like?
Not to dispel the myth but both of us have been in a position where we retrieved what sounds like from the outside the dream. We have the success, money and house but to wrap it into the last question, I then after feeling lost, found my calling. What I do now is help very successful folks find their calling, significance, fulfillment and purpose in life. It’s a game-changer because we’ve both been at the top of the mountain and candidly, it sucks. Here’s why it sucks. Because in the quest for the almighty dollar and success, oftentimes, we sell out our significance.
Here’s what’s important. In the world that I inhabit, I have a community of folks that are billionaires on down. What defines this group is not the size of their wallets or the length of their financial sticks. They’re all super successful and way more successful than me. What they all strive for is significance, purpose, validation, relationships and love in their life. In building their empires and creating their fiefdoms, there’s a cost. Maybe it’s a relationship with a family member, their health or a sense of purpose around legacy or philanthropy. What I’ve experienced is that all of these folks, if given the chance to focus on their significance in life, they find a few things. They find purpose, fulfillment and relationships that may have been strained in the context of them becoming the kings and the queens that they are. All of that is real.
Chris, I want to ask you something. In my life, you had asked me about my name. I had changed my name from Richard Carter to Solomon Ali. I left the RC in there so that I’ll always remember what that struggle was like but I lost everything in 2006. It was very painful after building the business and thinking that it would last forever and sacrificing relationships with my daughter. I didn’t think I was sacrificing that relationship at the time because I would cut out time during the day, go see her, take her to cheerleading, take her to different places. In doing so, when she was about 28 or 30, she said, “Dad, you took me but you were on the phone.” That was years ago and it didn’t dawn on me that I thought just being present was there. I had given up so much Chris in pursuing being an entrepreneur. It’s like a cesspool. You get sucked into it. You start out thinking you’re going to have this freedom and this money if you work hard and do a good job, all these great things will happen. It didn’t happen that way for me. What can you tell the people who are lucky?
I have a few thoughts. In 1996, I was given a book written by a guy named Bob Buford and it was called Halftime. It was about the transition of success to significance. What he talked about is how men, in particular, hit this interesting midpoint where they’ve achieved something and for all intents and purposes, they should be successful. They should feel that they’re at the top of the mountain and they feel empty or maybe they feel like a fraud.
Here’s why. I’m really happy to be here if I’m being totally honest with you. We talked before this and you light up when you talk about your daughter. We haven’t talked about the millions you’ve made. We haven’t talked about the houses you have. We have had such a non-material, superficial bullshit conversation. We’ve talked about your daughter and when you talk about your daughter, you smile. You’re happy and you are leaning in. I hear a few things. I hear the regret in your voice for what you said but much more important than that, I hear the realization of the fact.
There’s no doubt that you did everything you thought you should do when your daughter was in cheerleading practice and you were driving her around. As I told you, “You were the coolest Uber driver before Uber driver was around.” Did you love your daughter? Sure, you did. Were you loving her in the way that she recognized and wanted? No, but that’s not because you didn’t love her. That’s because you were doing what you needed to do at the time that you thought was the best for her and you thought that was enough.
Here’s the great news. All of us have the opportunity if we realize what we’ve done to go back and to make the changes that give you the relationship that you want with your daughter or with the wife that you have or with the brother that you may be estranged from. I see this day-in and day-out. What we talk about is the fact that you were on a journey of character. You were an entrepreneur. You were successful. You’ve seen the highs of the highs and the lows of the lows but what you’ve really done is you’ve defined yourself and we said this when it came to your name.
What I experienced of you in the short time that we’ve spent together is high integrity, deep relationship care, a sense of purpose around what you’re doing right now and helping other individuals with their entrepreneurial journey. My comment to you is if you were talking to your 25-year-old self, what would you be saying? It’s what you’ve talked about on the show. This is your purpose and calling in life and you do with strength, integrity, truth and a real heart that to me, having met you moments ago is apparent.
Showing kindness costs nothing, being humble costs nothing, yet it’s a phenomenal gift to the people around you.
What would you say to the entrepreneurs who are starting? You know all these great billionaires, work with them and all of this going on. You know where a new entrepreneur is and where they’re trying to get and that circle that you’re in, someone will probably feel the same way. I gave up a lot to achieve this level of success and it wasn’t worth it. Because we all get there and when we’re at the end, it’s like, “I did almost half a billion. Is it worth it and what I gave up? I’m starting to doubt whether or not my life had meaning.”
What I would like to do is try to make sure new entrepreneurs coming are a little bit more well-rounded before you sit back and chase that new business and everything and pull yourself in incorrectly. They will get to where I’m at or where I was when I was going to take my own life because I had lost $100 million or something. I don’t want someone to do that. They may not get a phone call at the right time and not know that there will be a tomorrow whether you’re successful in business or not.
My answer may not be the most popular of answers but it’s the truth that I live day-in and day-out. It’s also the experience I have in working with a phenomenal group of very successful entrepreneurs. Here’s the secret formula that seems to be common sense but isn’t common practice. At the end of the day, you can’t lose focus on what’s most important to you. There is no question that building your business is important and you need to stay focused on that but oftentimes, you’re not focusing on the three things that stand out.
The first one is health is the ultimate currency. If you don’t believe that, wait long enough and you’ll figure that out. I’m not talking about health when you’re 60, 70 and 80 years old. If you’re not eating or sleeping right and focusing on the health that allows you to be the best version of yourself that you are, you’re selling yourself out. Health is key at whatever age it is. The second thing is everybody needs to grow both in the context of what they’re doing professionally entrepreneurially but outside of that as well. You may be the coach of your daughter’s cheerleader squad. You may be the missionary that goes on mission trips all around the world. If you serve yourself, you will be a lonely person, male, female, old or young.
You have to find things including your work that is greater than you and embrace them because you grow, learn and benefit from this journey called life on this rock that’s rolling around the sun by serving others in ways that help them help the community as well as help you. Purpose in growth is critical. The third thing and we haven’t talked about this but I’d be surprised if you didn’t agree with me. You got to focus on relationships. Figure out your top five. It’s your daughter, wife and God. Figure out those top five relationships that are most important to you and treat them preciously.
I wish I would have known that earlier because we read the books and things like that and we say, “I’ve never heard of a person on their death bed asking for more money. They were asking for relationships, their wife, their kids and things of that nature.” I tried to do that in the sense that I understood, which was physically to be there but I didn’t understand I was not mentally there and engaging. I’m sitting back and trying to make up years and you can’t make it up. You don’t get to go back. We can share something with you that will keep you from making those mistakes because it’s great to make the money and develop a business but that business you’re going to have ups and downs. You’re not going to always be on top but the relationships that you develop throughout your whole life would last forever.
I had a thought that hit my head that may be worth sharing with your readers. The question that you clearly are asking yourself whether you realize it or not and I got this from a gentleman by the name of David Brooks. The question is, “Are you living for your résumé? Are you living for your eulogy?” There’s a 5-minute and 2-second video on YouTube called Should You Live For Your Résumé … or Your Eulogy? It’s the best five minutes of any piece of media that I’ve ever watched, television or movies. What it does is it gives you clarity on how you wanted to find your life. If it’s 30 years from now and people are speaking in your field, do you want them to say you made a lot of money? Do you want them to say you had a lot of houses and businesses or you want them to say that Solomon was a man I looked up to? He was a man who I saw as a mentor, a great dad, a child of Christ, a man I admired, respected and love. That’s how we want to go out.
It’s from David Brooks. He wrote a book called The Second Mountain. I had the privilege at a conference of getting a chance to meet him. There was a point where we were all asking questions. I got up. I went to a microphone and I said, “I’m not asking a question. I’m making a statement. The statement is that I’ve never been so moved by somebody who in the context of a YouTube video has helped me recast where I want to focus.” If you search it on Google or YouTube, you’ll find the video. I cannot recommend that enough because it helped me repurpose and recast myself from chasing the almighty dollar to tracing real significance and purpose in my life.
What would you want to share, Chris, that we haven’t talked about?
Health is the ultimate currency. If you don’t believe that, just wait long enough, and you’ll figure that out.
This has been good and I feel drawn to you because I sense that you and I connect across pretty much everything that we’ve talked about. At the end of the day, there are three things that I would say. The first thing is you have to focus on health, personal growth and relationships. If you lose sight of that, you’re ungrounded. That’s one thought. The second thought that I would say is, as you go through this life, showing kindness and being humble costs nothing yet it’s a phenomenal gift to the people that are around you.
The third thing is in the community that I serve, I use a lot of little silly tools and techniques that tend to get benefit, validation and love into this world that I inhabit. The things that we do are, as an example, we did a program called A Random Act of Kindness where everyone in this group had to go out and do one random act of kindness. People bought coffee for folks and gave extra tips. What I find is when you give selflessly to others, that gift tends to come back to you as much if not more. The benefit is not just to the giver. It’s also to the givee.
What would it take for you to do a 30-day challenge where you did one thing that was important to you? We use the example of your daughter. The question is for 30 days, could you send your daughter a text message, an email, a phone call and write her a note? If you do that to your daughter, how would that change your relationship? The other program that I’ve instituted this year is one level beyond. Think about a relationship that’s important to you. If you did one thing more so let’s assume you’re talking about your bride. What would it take for you to bring her flowers one day when she wasn’t expecting it or write her a love letter and maybe you’re married 10 years or 100 years, whatever the case may be? What’s one thing more you can do in the relationships that matter to you that can create significance, impact and validation in a way that truly benefits you both?
Chris, how would my audience reach out to you to get the help that they may need either for coaching, some mentoring or participating in one of the programs?
My email address is Erapmus@iCloud.com. That was the name of the first company that I had. There’s a story behind that. They’re more than welcome to reach out. In terms of coaching, I run an organization. I don’t do individual coaching but what I do is I have a newsletter that I send out to my community that I would be happy to modify for anyone who’s interested in getting it. That’s where things like David Brooks’ video or I’m also a big fan of a gentleman named Sam Harris and others where I share some of that information.
Chris, this has been so awesome to have you on the show and I enjoyed it. We have a lot in common and it’s been a wonderful energy level.
Solomon, you’re an exceptional human being. Your story resonates at a real soulful level for me. I suspect your readers get a chance to read about you all the time. This is my first exposure to you. I am truly grateful and I acknowledge the journey that you’ve been on. It seems like in the path that you’ve taken, you’re now in a great space and I commend you for it.
Chris, thank you so much. We appreciate you coming on.
- Chris Ryan
- Should You Live For Your Résumé … or Your Eulogy? – David Brooks TEDx Talk on YouTube
- The Second Mountain
About Chris Ryan
With a focus on people and purpose, I work to create a culture of care in both individuals and organizations. My name is Christopher Ryan and I am the President of Paredigm Enterprises, a consulting firm helping individuals, companies, and nonprofits realize their goals. In addition, I am the Texas and Puerto Rico Chair for TIGER 21, the premier peer-to-peer learning organization for ultra-high-net-worth individuals.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 1989, I started my first business, Erapmus Network Services, when I was 23 years old. Working in the distributed computer network operating space, Erapmus helped organizations such as Exxon Mobil and WorldCom integrate and streamline their computer systems. Under my leadership, I instilled a culture of self-reliance and perseverance, successfully growing Erapmus to over 130 employees with revenues of just under $10M before its acquisition.
Following my success, I founded Paredigm Enterprises in 2003. My ability to formulate a vision, create a strategy, and plan an execution, allows me to guide individuals and organizations to maximize their potential and exceed expectations. From launching robust careers for various authors and speakers, to turning around a multitude of underperforming companies, to building revenue models and strategic partnerships for non-profits, Paredigm Enterprises has created success for many and has helped to make the world a better place.
The perspectives I have acquired throughout my career drove me to TIGER 21 in 2013, where I lead the organization in Texas and Puerto Rico. I harness the carried expertise and collective intelligence of 50 TIGER 21 members, to improve their investment acumen, business decisions, and family dynamics. The magic of TIGER 21 happens when members give first, receive second, and take third, creating a brotherhood and sisterhood amongst themselves, making it truly a family away from home.