Bio: In the 60th episode of the Year Of Purpose Podcast, we interview Ryan A Bell. He recorded with us early in the morning before the sun rises to show us the real side of entrepreneurship and what it means to hustle for every accomplishment. He understands that he is putting in the work and sleepless nights now so that he may find reward on the other side.
Despite it seeming dark and dreary sounding at first, Ryan talks about how entrepreneurship is worth the struggle after getting through the hard parts. We were fortunate to speak with him just as he was planning the first ever Periscope Summit 2015.
Ryan A Bell (@Ryan_A_Bell on Twitter & Periscope), Founder of Periscope Summit, is recipient of the Presidential Award for his volunteer work with Special Olympics and the youth in Oakland. He is a writer for The Good Men Project, Green Child Magazine and a branding/marketing specialist for companies wanting to migrate to live streaming. He also happens to be the most connected man on Periscope.
Zephan: Zephan Blaxberg here with another episode of the Year of Purpose podcast. And to—today—oh, can’t talk today. Today, I can’t talk! I’m joined by Ryan A Bell. And Ryan is the founder of Periscope Summit. He’s the recipient of the Presidential Award for his volunteer work with the Special Olympics and the youth in Oakland. He is a writer for the Good Men Project, Greenchild Magazine, and branding and marketing specialist for companies wanting to migrate to livestreaming. He also happens to be the most connected man on Periscope, and today, he’s hanging out with me. What’s going on, Ryan?
Ryan: You just made me sound really good. Thank you, man. Like, wow. Yeah, I’m just chilling in a WeWork office, a shared space with nobody around. It’s pretty cool.
Zephan: Good stuff. And so I heard you just had a pretty big move, and we just met recently at the Podcast Summit about a month back in Texas, and I thought that it would be cool to kinda have you on and chat a little bit about what it’s a like to leave behind the suit and tie world and what’s next?
Ryan: I—what’s next is what I make it, but the suit and tie world—I just had a discussion, I can feel the tendons on my neck and my shoulder—those balls right there just tense up and kind of come together. Yeah, I left the enterprise—I feel like Captain Picard when I say that. I left the enterprise because it was just crushing my soul with cleats on. And, yeah, so I’m really happy with what I’m doing right now. Even though it’s so much harder than what most people think of as actual work.
Zephan: Yeah. And I’m kind of in the same boat. I actually posted this screenshot the other day of what my typical calendar looks like. And this screenshot shows that pretty much yesterday from 8:30 in the morning until about 11:00 at night, I’m hustling. And it’s multiple things in a row, there’s a lot of multitasking going on, but trying to find the time for those breaks to have coffee with a friend—the co-working space I work out of has a massage chair, so I always try to schedule in fifteen minutes to jump in there even if I’m taking a client call from somebody. They’ll ask why my voice sounds weird because I’m like [jittery noise] in the massage chair. And I’m like “Oh, I’m just…It’s loud in here, I don’t know.”
Ryan: Yeah. Isn’t an awesome feeling, though, when you, like at noon, look at your calendar, your To Do list and what you’ve checked off and you’re like “Holy —-, I’ve just done forty hours of work!” I’ve done what usually would be a week’s worth of work for what I would have done in the past, and I’ve just done that in—but you know, of course, we’re up—I’m up at 6:00. It’s 6:30 here right now. Nobody else is around. Just gotta hustle and make those extra hours and squeeze in emails and—an entrepreneur works from the toilet, you know. Like, you’re sitting here not sending out emails and you’re like “Well…time’s a wasting!”
Zephan: It’s funny you say that, because I actually—I learned this from Gary Vaynerchuk. He has a couple of tech blog apps where he’ll just read up with the news to catch up with what’s going on in the world, and he says “I have five minute meetings. I never have meetings longer than that. When I’m sitting on the toilet, I’m reading these blogs.” And so I took advice from him. When I’m sitting on the toilet, I have certain websites where that’s where I get my news from and that’s how I know what’s going on in the world so I’m not wasting my productive time throughout the day with sitting there trying to watch the news and getting sucked into the latest shooting or the latest court case that’s going on.
Ryan: Yeah. I remember, years back, when I was a kid, there was—there’s Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers. They were these huge compilations of—and now we just bring our phones in. we’re painting such a beautiful picture for your audience too, for everybody. Everybody researching on the john.
Zephan: This is the real side of entrepreneurship, tough. And I remember the Uncle John’s Reader. My step-dad, I used to make fun of him because he would stack up like nine or ten of them in front of the toilet, and he’d spend hours in there! I always wondered what took him so long, and then finally, I went to the bathroom downstairs that he always used and there’s ten of these books that are like thick as a bible sitting there. Like, that’s why, because he’s sitting there reading this stuff!
Ryan: “No wonder you know so many factoids!”
Zephan: Right. And the funny thing is all my friends know me as the one person who’s filled with the most useless facts in the world. So I probably got hat from those books.
But I’m curious, what type of a job were you working, and what originally had you interested in it? Because I know, for me personally, I raised to think you go to college, you get a job, and you hold it for…ever, and you save for retirement—that’s what you do.
Ryan: The manicness of my life actually built me as an entrepreneur. I went to college and didn’t know what I wanted to be, so I tried to be everything. And—oh my gosh. I started out my life, I thought I was gonna be a writer. I was an award winning poet; I wrote songs for people—I wrote a song for the Zac Brown band, got their first radio play. I did all this, and then I went into sales. I sold BMWs, I sold tech, I sold metrics. And then I was regional director for something, and then I was selling like HR services, and then I was helping businesses to grow, and I just did all these things. And eventually, I was just like “Why am I doing all these things for other people? And I’m growing all these things for other people that I just don’t damn believe in!” and so then I just started helping smaller companies and trying to figure it out on my own and consulting and cobbling stuff together and making a hundred and fifty dollars for making a website or two hundred dollars for writing an article or whatever.
Until, finally, all these tiny little streams of income equaled up to be enough, and that’s kind of—when I had proof of concept, I was like “I can do this, I can make this work,” and eventually I—I’m now here in this world where I’m working my ass off still, but there’s so many things that I own now that are my property that I’m building, that I’m behind that I can see, I can visualize what’s going to be the future—I think of those things as properties and I’m like “This is what’s gonna work.”
Zephan: So I have to ask, because I think that all entrepreneurs kind of come into a moment—and I had this a lot recently because I was working towards—I built a virtual summit, I had forty-one people on it. I’m in the middle of writing my book, I’m twenty thousand words in. I’ve got my podcast going every single week, and none of this was the stuff that’s made me money yet, because it’s all been a passion, a side project, that eventually I’ll grow, but it’s a very slow process. So I’ve got—my video business is my only income generation full-time thing right now. And I’ve had these days where I’ll sit there and I’ll kind of take a step back, and I’m like “This is the day that I could quit. I could give it all away right here, right now, and just completely give up on myself and say ‘Screw it!’ and go back to someone making my schedule for me and go back to not having the freedom to hang out with people in the middle of the week or do the things I want to.”
So what is it that keeps you going and sitting here at 6:30 in the morning in California and being able to keep pushing for it?
Ryan: It’s weird—in Santa Monica at 6:00 in the morning, it’s dead. There’s nobody around. My family is—the catalyst for me leaving the enterprise was when my first daughter was born, honestly. I came alive when my first child was born, and I just realized that I couldn’t live this lie. Maybe I had a Caitlyn Jenner moment or something, [laughs] I just felt so uncomfortable. I just wanted—when I went home, I just had this moment that I was like “I’m a liar. I’m a ——- liar!” Sorry to go explicit on you, but I had that thought so many times.
And now, every time it gets really hard—and I’m in a hard part right now. Because I’m twenty days out on a big event, and we’re waiting for money from sponsors and we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, and now I feel like I have no Peter—pun intended. [Zephan laughs] You like that one. That’s new.
Zephan: That’s pretty good for 6:00 in the morning.
Ryan: [laughing] Pretty good for 6:00—I’m sharp, I’m sharp! I may talk slow, but I think fast. Oh my gosh—so, I just had to do it because I was so cloistered. I felt the suit enveloping me and I felt the tie choking me and I felt the fluorescent lights burning me and the cubicle closing in. and each time now that I have hard times, I think about what I’m building for my family and that one day my daughter will be able to say something about what I do instead of—I can’t imagine, if I had that job, selling HR services or something and then being with my daughter and somebody saying “What does your father do?” I just knew that that question would stab me in the gut and I’d crumble. It was one of those things where I can’t live this thing where I’m a husk and where I’m always ready to crumble.
Zephan: I think that makes perfect sense. That’s no way to live your life and, in the long term, I mean, that’s gonna destroy you probably much quicker than you’d even expect. So it’s—and is this corporate world in general, is this working for other people in general?
Ryan: No. No, no, no. Some—I’ve had many really good jobs, but luckily, for me, the last job that I had was just the one that was such a terrible fit for me. It had all the metrics—like, for instance, I went into work one time and to differentiate myself, to be the rebel, I was wearing a cardigan with a tie. I was wearing a frigging cardigan. I was looking all dapper and Mr. Rogers-ish. And then a memo came out later that day that we can no longer wear cardigans. No cardigans! The memo was basically directed completely at me and came from my boss’ boss who can five bosses about him who had three bosses above him—I’m not even lying—who had two bosses above him who had one major boss who had a board fo twelve people.
And I was just like “There’s a no cardigan rule now because of me? A no cardigan rule?” And I just remember being like “You freaking bastards. You guys are just awful.”
Zephan: That was—I think that’s a big piece that hits a lot of people hard, is when they can’t make an impact or a change in a company because the way the chain of leadership is. You have to go to somebody else who has to email somebody who has to call somebody who has to fax a person halfway across the world just to find out if you’re allowed to scratch your neck while you’re sitting at your deck.
Ryan: I know, I know, I know! And it’s funny, because right as we’re talking about this—do you know who Brian Fanzo is?
Zephan: I’ve never met him before.
Ryan: He’s iSocialFanz. He does a lot of keynotes speeches and he’s really smart. He’s worked with the Twitter fan science team. So, as we’re talking, a text just pops up on my computer that says “You got time to chat today? I might have a gig you’re interested in.” Stuff like that would not happen to me if I was sitting there tethered to some stupid desk. And so, I got that text and I don’t know what that means. That could mean a few thousand dollars, that could mean I got an engagement with Verizon, I don’t know. Those are the things that pop up for me that are really fun. I’ve been able to work—the cool thing is I go and work with the enterprise, I go to SanDisk headquarters, but I go because they call me, because they want me for something, because I can more their needle because of who I know and what I’m building for them. That’s exciting.
Do you talk you people that are excited about their jobs? Yeah, I know you do, because you talk to entrepreneurs. You talk to me! I`m excited about what the hell I’m doing. And no matter how hard it gets, you know what, I’m learning. And every time I fail, I build off of those bones. Every time I fail. Everything that I’ve built, no matter how ugly it is, is a foundation for the next thing that might be pretty. And that next thing, even if that was ugly, I’m gonna build off of that, I’m gonna build off the knowledge that I got from building that.
Zephan: That’s a really good way to go, because we’re gonna have a lot of failures. It’s inevitable that we’re gonna do a lot of things and they’re gonna suck, and you’re gonna pull something away from that to take it to the next thing, and it might make that better. It might not make it perfect, but it’ll make it better.
So how do you go from—what happens in-between transforming from the suit and tie to being able to work for yourself? A lot of people just say “Okay, so what you’re saying if I quit my job and I wake up tomorrow, I start making money.” How does that work?
Ryan: No, no, that doesn’t work. For me, I was able to take paternity leave—that’s where that came. So during the time that I was on paternity leave, which is—in California, it’s twelve weeks. So we get a long time. And each day that that came, I was further away. I wasn’t being inundated with work, I was taking care of a child, and I really kind of got to know myself a little bit more because I wasn’t being pinged, I wasn’t answering to anyone. And I started writing more and I started feeling more myself.
And I had this time to kind of try and transition my thought processes, and I realized that I was wearing camouflage pants and t-shirts every day. That was like my thing. Because when you’re a dad, you’ve got camouflage pants to kind of hide all of the…detritus that gets on your pants and everything, all the little stains and stuff. So I started writing again, and I hadn’t written since I was like early twenties, for money, and I was like “I’m gonna write some dad blogging stuff.” And I was like “Hey, I’m making a little money off of this, I’m enjoying this.” And each time I made a little bit of money doing something, it made realized that I can do things that I enjoyed.
So my wife, who was an absolute rock star—I mean, she and I have built this life together and she makes good money when she works. She’s an occupational therapist. And so we cobbled together this thing where she was working Monday through Wednesday and I was working fulltime on this, not bringing in as much money but we were poor—I mean, not like poor, but we were thrifty. We were very thrifty to make it happen. We recently refinanced the house to pay off her student loans and we had a little extra money there too from that. And so as we chipped away at it, it started—I think we had something like thirty grand left, and as that thirty grand went down, it started to slow, the going down process, and then it started to go back up.
I remember when that needle hit going the upwards direction. I mean, it got real close to the bottom, and I’m like—because an entrepreneur knows the hell out of credit cards. you know what’s gonna happen “Okay, this eighteen months is gonna last another three months”—look at you! Yeah.
Zephan: So, for everyone listening real fast—this’ll go on YouTube so you can see it, but for everyone listening, I just pulled out three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine credit cards and just flashed them really quick. This is actually because my identity was stolen about a week ago, so these are me getting my life back.
Ryan: They do look nice and shiny and new.
So, yeah, that’s kind of how that happened. Now, we’re still investing money into things, but it’s money that we have and into things that actually have value and are recognized. So it’s very stressful, but I do see an end in sight where I will not be working so hard to build this. But I know me. I know I’ll have something that’s working well on its own and then I’ll start building something else to stress me the eff out. That’s just the way that I am.
Zephan: And I think that I probably do that same thing too. I’m always questioning why is it that I do these things to myself. Because everybody around me things they can never accomplish it or never do it and it’s like, you can, you just have to embrace the fact that it’s gonna suck really badly for a little while, and then ultimately it’s gonna pay off. I think that’s the theme around entrepreneurship, being willing to put up with some really crappy stuff for a while, knowing that if you just keep working at it, it’s gonna pay off.
And so you’ve kind of fallen into a pretty cool place with Periscope, which is a new app that came out, what, probably only six months ago, right?
Ryan: I think that’s right around the time—yeah, yeah.
Zephan: Yeah, so this is a new—I guess it’s a social network, in a sense, that allows people to livestream video of themselves. And this this something that you’ve kind of taken on recently. So maybe talk about where has—where are you now? What is Ryan doing? What’s going on in the world of Ryan and in Periscope and how can money be made doing things that you can have fun doing?
Ryan: So when I put together Periscope Summit—and as this recording is hitting, we’re less than twenty days away from the even itself—and, yeah Periscope is, like you said, a livestreaming app owned by Twitter and in six months, it’s gotten more downloads than Facebook or Instagram or—I think any other app that I know of. Thirteen million downloads, I believe, is the last metric, which I’m quite positive is a low estimation by then. All people tend to come out low.
Yeah, so, by putting together the Periscope Summit, which is an event, I became very quickly recognized as the most connected man on Periscope, because I know how to get in touch with people. Right after I get off this, I’m pinged by Alex Comm, I’m being pinged—I gotta talk to the people at Howard Stern, I’ve gotta talk to all these people that are gonna have—already have huge relevance or will have relevance in the future. And that’s where the real value is for me. When I started this, I didn’t really want to be a public figure. I didn’t want to be speaking at Podcast Movement, I didn’t want to be on a bunch of podcasts, I didn’t want to have a lot of interviews, and I realized pretty quickly that if I was getting somebody else to talk about my vision, then it was going to get watered down. That game of telephone, just incorrect. So I realized that I had to start using myself as my own tool. So now I’m—now I’m a big tool. Everybody knows me as a big tool, right?
So that’s where I’m at. The New York event is a precursor to something larger. The San Francisco event will be more along the lines of a red carpet event mixed with tech. So it’s gonna be more along the lines of rewards or something like that. So we’re going big with everything. Maybe a little bit too big, honestly, but I think it needs—we need to plant that flag. When I started this—so I can tell you this quick story, because it’s important.
When I started Periscope Summit, I was just regular old Periscope guy. I was just doing my own broadcasts, and I had the idea to put together this awards show. And I was talking about it on a scope and I was like “I think this is a really good idea,” and everybody on my scope—this is when I had seven hundred followers or something like that. I don’t have huge amounts of followers right now, like six thousand, but it was like—it got back to me three days later that some C level exec was talking about my idea and it’d gone through the grapevine. It was on the week—it was on Memorial Day weekend, and I was like “Oh god, if the enterprise takes this from me, then it’s going to be watered down, it’s not gonna be as good.” And so that weekend, I came up with the idea to go too big to fail.
So without anything, I reached out to basically every major livestreaming person from Grant Cardone to Euro Maestro to Manda Oleander and I came up with this—basically this roster of people, and now it’s on Tuesday that we’re gonna have this event. And I put together a team—at that time, I had a team of four people? Yeah, four people. And yeah, that Tuesday—I think I worked eighteen hours a day from Friday until Tuesday and then released a website with all these people that were gonna be speaking and all this stuff. We didn’t even have a space or anything. but yeah, it was crazy, and it’s been—it’s been a lot of work ever since. Because we’re not just dealing with talent, we’re dealing with emerging talent that’s never been talent before so they don’t realize that they—they don’t realize a lot of stuff in that industry.
Zephan: Sure, they don’t know how to be in front of a huge audience like that.
Ryan: Right, right, yeah. I keep telling people—I’m like “You can’t be a keynote speaker. You just can’t, you’ve never done that before. You know how hard it is speaking in front of an audience?” It’s not like you’re talking to a picture of yourself with hearts on it and a little number that says two hundred people or a thousand people on it. It’s completely different getting up on a stage. I’ve been on stage multiple times and getting up at podcast movement in Texas, that was scary. That was a big audience, it was a big stage. It’s always scary. And if you don’t have any of that experience or expertise, then it’s just not gonna work.
Zephan: Yeah. And it takes time. It’s a process and you build it up over time and it’s pretty cool to see the journey that you’ve taken to suit and tie to where you are now and here you are, you said—is it twenty days out from the event?
Ryan: Yeah, I think it’s twenty days.
Zephan: So we’re something like twenty days out from your next big project and to see how far you’ve gone in that period of time is quite amazing. So maybe, just to round this all off, what are maybe your final word of wisdom just for anyone who might be kind of stuck in that position with the suit and tie and feel like they’re being choked?
Ryan: Uhm… Think about what you want to do before you leave what you’re doing. And I think one of my best pieces of advice that I’ve learned over and over again—learn when to let things go. I’ve built a castle on failures. Some of them I’ve held onto for too long, some of them are just not good and not working. But if you’re sitting there in your cubicle and you have a friend that’s doing something, ask them. You don’t realize how accessible some of these people are that you admire so much and how much like you they are and how much less money that they have in their bank account than you do. You have to be prepared for those skinny months, and maybe even those skinny years. It’s hard as —-.
Speaking of skinny, when I was working at that atrophying job—is that even a word?—I believe I was two hundred and eighteen pounds at my heaviest. Right now, I’m probably a hundred and eighty. I live on coffee and bananas and I read the tech news on my phone on the toilet. I don’t have time to eat! So be prepared to lose weight and lose your money and your mind. But do it, because it’s worth it. If you have an idea and you have a dream, it’s gonna eat you away. It’s gonna be this weird little cancerous bug that’s gonna just gnaw at your gut.
Zephan: I think that’s the best way to round out this episode, man.
Ryan: I’m kinda black and bleak and dark, aren’t I?? I’m so sorry, audience!
Zephan: No! but this is the honest truth behind it, is that you better want this. If you don’t want the suit and tie, you better figure out what it is that you do enjoy and you better want it bad enough that you’re willing to be up at 6:00 in a co-working space, be willing to work the eighteen-hour day. And so, I guess, the only thing I would add to this is this is not what the rest of your life looks like. You in five years from now are not going to be in this same position. And that’s the greatest part about this. Put in the hustle now, and later you’re gonna be sitting in the castle.
And so I think that’s the best way to think about it. It’s not necessarily dark, but it’s the truth. And that’s one of the big things that I like to reveal here, is that this doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t wake up a millionaire, you don’t wake up with a mansion, you don’t wake up with the car the next day. And even those people who won the lottery, you can watch the TV shows, it destroys their life. So the people who do wake up one morning and become rich, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t last. And so I think—I applaud you for having the courage to share this with everybody and really to show the real side of entrepreneurship and what it’s like.
Ryan: It’s dark and dirty, people!!
Zephan: And then it pays off, though, right?
Ryan: And then it pays off. Oh my gosh, yes. As soon as I get off here, I’m gonna see what my next gig that I don’t know was. I’m in the process of being—I have to really segment my time and be like “Okay, this is how much I’m gonna get paid.” And since I’m in California and I’ve got clients in Florida, I’m like “We’re gonna do an engagement that starts at 5AM my time so that I can get a few hundred dollars before my work day begins.” So, each hour, if it’s a hundred bucks or two hundred bucks, that’s a little more pate on my baguette—what am I talking about?! Sorry! I don’t know what just happened! I don’t eat, so…
Zephan: Yeah, I think you’re going a little crazy without those calories, man!
Ryan: Let me go get my daily banana and coffee!
Zephan: This sounds good. What is the best way for people to keep in touch with your to check out the Periscope stuff? What’s your username for all that?
Ryan: Everything is Twitter. I’ve set up everything to be that infrastructure. @Ryan_A_Bell—I’ve dissolved all brands, it’s just me. There is, of course, an @PeriscopeSummit handle, and there’s periscopesummit.com, and my wonderful social media team makes beautiful peripherals around that, and I do that as well. So, yeah, follow me on Periscope and DM me and tweet me and retweet me and all that good stuff.
Don’t go on Facebook, that’s crickets for you guys. You don’t want to do that.
Zephan: Cool, man. Well, if there’s someone out there, an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to create business that sends bananas and coffee via Twitter, be sure to follow @Ryan_A_Bell and send this man a couple of McMuffin sandwiches for breakfast!
Ryan: Yeah, I’m gonna go. I need to eat. It’s been a pleasure, man. It’s been really awesome being on your show. I appreciate it so much. Have a good one.
Zephan: Alright, you too.