Episode 007: Ryan Blair – Gangster turned Millionaire on Decision-Making, Game Theory and Incentives
Ryan Blair is a serial entrepreneur but his path to becoming a millionaire is both unique and fascinating. From a middle-class family who lost it all, Ryan became a gang member and, at times, carried an AK-47. life changed for Ryan due to a strong work ethic and a will to succeed. He overcame great obstacles to achieve extraordinary success.
With six multi-million dollar companies by age 30, Ryan vowed to make his current company, ViSalus Sciences, be the first billion dollar company to come out of the Great Recession and to help many people along the way. He is a philanthropist and New York Times best selling author.
Economics and Finance Themes:
In this interview, Ryan Blair mentions and discusses: decision-making, incentives, rewards, compensation, leveraging, poverty, entrepreneurialism, economic systems, philanthropy, venture capitalists, investors, Game Theory, complementary goods and capital markets.
How being a gang member is similar to being a business person:
- “A gang is an economic system. Similarities exist between being an entrepreneur and a legitimate businessman and doing business as a gang member on the street”.
- “A gang is simply illegal entrepreneurship. It has a management hierarchy. Generally a gang will have various revenue streams. It has a compensation system. There are incentives and rewards as a recruiting system to recruit new members. There’s replication that occurs as a business model. The gang will have different hubs and different cities and countries it operates in. There are so many similarities”.
- “Game theory is simply the idea of a game of chicken. Sometimes you have to be willing to risk it all and a lot of the time you have to be willing to walk away from a deal”.
- Bob Hunt: Ryan’s step-father. Find out what he taught Ryan.
- John Wooden: basketball player and NCAA coach, author on leadership and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- John C. Maxwell: Expert on leadership and New York Times best-selling author.
- Dale Brown: NCAA Hall of Fame basketball coach.
In this episode, you will learn:
- what life was like for Ryan growing up with a violent, drug-addicted father and how his family lost everything.
- how Ryan overcame this to teach people how to overcome their poor decisions or the decisions of their family or the environment they were born into.
- what skeletons Ryan takes out of the closet (revealed in his book) giving us some insight in this podcast.
- why people are shocked that he was in a gang but how people that he knew in the past are even more shocked by his appearance, level of education and his ability to articulate on subjects that he is passionate about.
- how over-leveraging and keeping-up with the Jones’ fuelled by credit in the economic ‘good times’ can be destructive for some families.
- how Ryan went from middle-class to poverty to multi-millionaire.
- how Ryan went from earning minimum wage at 18 to earning 6 figures within 2 years.
- how staring at a 60-year old prisoner became the defining moment that changed Ryan’s life-path.
- how Ryan overcame dyslexia and ADD to create his own auditory learning system, something which the current educational system failed to do.
- why Ryan believes that ‘vision’ is so important in your life.
- how Ryan helps people facing life in adversity: Clue? – The creation of foundations and philanthropic work.
- about Ryan’s work with autism.
- about the importance of having mentors and having a life purpose.
- why Ryan had the perfect attributes to be involved in gangs. [Ryan was forced into a gang because he was a young kid, influenceable and could be productive. He was an angry kid, got into a lot of fights and had something to prove to society].
- how Ryan learnt powerful lessons from the boardroom on how to structure agreements.
- how Ryan used the economic theory of Game Theory to get ahead in business and become the dominant player.
- how Ryan applies mathematical techniques to get the result he’s looking for.
- the meaning behind Ryan’s tattoos: ‘Carpe Diem’ and ‘8411’.
- how a tragedy that befell Ryan’s mother has become a great learning experience and a way to develop and to value certain things in life.
- how Ryan will help give his son a strong work ethic and an incentive to do whatever he wants to do.
- what Ryan would tell his younger self? –
- Ryan’s life purpose goal: “I will measure my influence by the network of the people I can draw upon for inspiration and economic creation’ – Ryan Blair”.
- Ryan’s Philosophy: “Success is about your beliefs, values, actions and skills. So if you work on all of these things you will be successful” – Ryan Blair”.
- On Vision: “I use that method in my life and my conscious and subconscious has no choice but to pursue them because I really fall in love with the vision”.
- On Failing: “I fail forward and try to draw from certain things or from my gang past or maybe perhaps an investment that I made that didn’t work out so well”.
- On Recruitment:
- On Getting the Best Deal: “If you’re not prepared to walk away [from the deal] and the other party knows that, then you’re gonna be out-negotiated in many cases or you simply won’t get the best result possible for you, your family and your shareholders, which is what’s most important in a business negotiation”.
- On Learning: Because Ryan knew that he wanted to be an entrepreneur, it was easy for him to associate learning with growth as an entrepreneur.
- On Opportunities: “Opportunity exists all around you. If you’re looking for it and if you train yourself in how to see it – start there. If I sat in my garden, I could possibly find an opportunity to become an entrepreneur and be successful”.
- On Nutrition and Learning: “Have a breakfast in the morning before school so as to have a proper education. Nutrition is so important to learning and to growth in an individual”.
2. Asking questions: “I ask a lot of questions of myself. Am I doing the right things? Am I making the right adjustments necessary for me to achieve the result that I want? I ask myself the question ‘Why not?”.
“If I want a vacation and I can’t afford one I then go ‘Why can’t I afford one and someone else can?’. Generally, there’s a reason for that. Maybe you haven’t properly saved or you don’t have enough income coming in. If I want a new car that I would really like to have and I can’t afford it, I’ll ask myself ‘Why not?’ and eventually I ask that question enough times then I got the new car or I got the vacation or I got the houses or I got the stuff that I wanted. Now I ask myself ‘Why can’t I have a billion dollar company?’ The answer is a multi-faceted one and it’s one that I will find a solution to and solve the problem”.
3. Making decisions: “Making the right decisions is harder to do because you can’t always have all the facts and all the information in front of you. I look back on a lot of my decisions, reflecting on them and say ‘Hey, maybe I didn’t make the right decision’, meaning there was another decision that would have been better”. A wrong decision could have been made because “I had the wrong facts or, perhaps, the wrong intentions or emotions in the decision-making process that made me fail to make the right decision”.
4. Evaluating decisions and making the necessary adjustments: “In life, you’re going to make some bad decisions, particularly in business because you don’t always have all the facts or you can’t predict the future or you don’t know how the economy might change or how capital markets might change”.
“If bad decisions are made, you’ve just got to assess it, understand it and make better decisions, and eventually you accumulate enough right decisions to where you’ve got success”.
The Golden Rule that Ryan Lives By:
“The Path is all Math” – “you’re reverse engineering or you’re finding the mathematical equation to get the result you’re looking for and that could be a result of fixing any deficiency in your life or to improve something. There’s generally a mathematical path to it and that could simply be the number of steps in the formula or the amount of time it takes for you to get the result that you’re looking for”.
- Don’t let anyone steal your milk: a gang member lifestyle allowed Ryan to develop an innate ability to spot trouble in the boardroom and to fight his corner.
- Be careful in deals that you do as an entrepreneur with venture capitalists or sophisticated investors. Ryan found himself in a situation where he had created value and wealth but faced not receiving any of it.
- “Life can deal you a bad hand and if you sit at the table long enough and you play with the best strategy, you’ll end up getting a great result out of it. And I’m living proof of that”.
- Attributes required to make multi-generational wealth: creativity and strong work ethic.
- Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain by Ryan Blair
- David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling by Malcolm Gladwell
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
- Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
- The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential by John Maxwell
Favorite Internet Resource:
- Audible is the leading provider of premium digital spoken audio information and entertainment on the internet.