In this episode, I interview Ryan Zofay, a successful entrepreneur and motivational speaker who has dedicated his life to teaching personal development strategies... See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/unleashing-personal-growth-and-transformation-with-ryan-zofay/#show-notes
In this episode, I interview Ryan Zofay, a successful entrepreneur and motivational speaker who has dedicated his life to teaching personal development strategies that measurably improve performance, connection, and mindset. Ryan draws from his own experiences, both successes and failures, to facilitate deep change for individuals and organizations. As the founder of We Level Up Treatment Centers and Personal Development Events, Ryan shares how he helps people break free from the mental chains that bind them and operate at their fullest capacity. Join us as we delve into topics such as gratitude, transformation, honesty, living your truth, discovering your life mission, and becoming your best self. Whether you're looking to improve your personal growth or take your career to the next level, Ryan's insights are sure to inspire and empower you.
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Michael:Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well wherever you are in the world today. I'm very excited to be back with you with another episode with my guest, Ryan Zofay, who is the founder of We Level Up. Ryan, my friend, I've been very excited to have you on this show. It's very rare. Let me rephrase that. It's not very rare, but it's rare to see people go from massive rock bottom moments to massive transformation in a lifetime. And your story is one that when I came across, I was like, man, I cannot wait to have this guy on this show and get to share this experience, this real transformation. And so, thank you so much for being here today, my friend.
Ryan: Dude, I'm blessed and honored to be here to share my story and hopefully can impact and change somebody's life in the process.
Michael: Yeah, I hope so too. You know, that's always the mission of this show, and I know right now there's people listening who they find value and hope out of this. But I know there's also people that they're at rock bottom and they're listening to this ‘cuz they're grasping for something, anything to pull them out of that. And I know this ‘cause been there myself, and I know that you have as well. And I would love for you to give us a little bit of background and insight into your story and your journey.
Ryan: Yeah, so first off, I'm extremely grateful to be here and I'm a grateful human being first and foremost. There was a time in my life when that was not the case, you know, I felt like the world owed me. I felt like I was dealt this shitty hand, and what I realized is that a lot of people are dealt shitty hands, but it's what you do with that hand that matters, right? It's like, I think of, I don't know much about poker, but Doyle Brunson won the World Series of Poker with a seven deuce, which is like the lowest odds of ever winning a hand. And so, I think about that because that was my life, right? Like I was dealt a hand that had the lowest odds of potentially making it in life. And so, the fact that God found a journey for me or paved the journey for me to ultimately be in the position that I'm in today, I am super blessed and I had to do my part right? So, it's like I'm in partnership and I believe this is just my belief. I'm in partnership with God. My responsibility is the input, his responsibility is the outcome and so that's how my journey started.
Michael: You're good man. Paint a picture, what was childhood like for you? What was growing up? What was it like as a kid for Ryan?
Ryan: Yeah. So, I felt like I had a pretty normal life up until age five when my sister passed away and that's when, you know, it destroyed my family. My mom lost herself, my father really didn't know what to do at that point. And my mother turned to drugs and my father turned to alcohol immediately. And so, I started to adopt these beliefs that like, I'm not good enough and what about me? You know, here I am this five year little boy that also lost a sister that wanted the love and wanted the support from his family, but they were incapable of giving it to us or giving it to me. You know, my mother divorced my father, and she ended up remarrying and she ended up getting into a relationship with a gentleman who was extremely abusive. And so, my first real experience with childhood trauma was when I was nine years old. And I remember I came home from school and my father was in the kitchen drinking alcohol and he was drunk and I wanted to avoid him. So, I remember like I was walking towards my bedroom wanting to avoid him because when he drank, he was very abusive and I didn't want to deal with him. And I remembered him shouting out to me, he says, your mother just got shot and I don't know if she's gonna live. And I was just like, what? You know, it was so powerful and just overwhelming, I didn't even know what to do in that moment. And I remember I went to my bedroom and I remember I was like kicking the wall and I was just screaming and crying and the thought of not wanting to live, you know, cross my mind, I didn't really know what to do. I didn't know how to handle it and I definitely didn't get the support from my father.
And here's what's crazy, you know, going through that experience. My mother ended up living right? And so, nine months later, the gentleman that shot her gets outta jail, which is crazy. My mother is a victim to domestic violence and if you understand domestic violence, typically they go back. And so, my mother decides to go back to this man that pretty much try to take her life. And so, to think about it like, here I am this nine-year-old boy, like, what the h*ll is going on? Right? Like, I wanted your love. I wanted you there when my sister died, you weren't there, but you're giving this love to this man that treats you like this. And so, like this need to like, want her approval was just like so overwhelming. And I was like, I'll do anything that was like the belief system. I was like, I'll do anything to get your love. And fast forward like six, seven more months ended up stabbing her 13 times and attempted to murder her again. And so, I say this because this is like the core of all of my limiting beliefs, this is the core of all the rage and anger that I had, that I carried through my life for a very, very long time. And today I could look at those situations and say like, wow, I'm so grateful that I had those experiences because here I am today on your show with the opportunity to really be vulnerable and really show people, no matter what you go through, no matter how tragic your experience is, there's always a way out. And so, that was devastating for me, dude, I couldn't believe this is the life that I had with my mom. And I remember, she was in and out of like she went to the hospital. He ended up going to jail for like 18 months, his family was very wealthy.
And so, now I'm 11 years old and I wanna move in with mom because now I'm like the protector like I need to protect her, this is my responsibility. So, I adopted this idea of like, I'm gonna be the one to protect my mom and to support her and I've stepped into this like male role figure at age 11. And my mother was a drug user and she introduced marijuana to me at that time. And I remember like it was yesterday, I found the bag of marijuana and I was like, you know, what is this? And she's like, oh, it's weed and she's like, I was like, well, what do you do with it? She's like, oh, you smoke it. She kind of gave me the rundown and I remember her telling me like, I'd rather you smoke this with me now than getting it out there on the streets, because at least I know what you're getting which was insane to me. Like thinking about that today looking back like that was the start of my addiction. And again, I just wanted her acceptance and I wanted her approval and so I was willing to do anything and that's what I thought was cool, that's what I thought she wanted because she used, I was like, well, if she's using, this is a way for me to bond with her, this is a way for me to start to develop this relationship because I was watching her make these decisions and I just wanted her love so bad that I was like, this is what I have to do, this is what I have to do to gain your acceptance. And so that's when my drug addiction really started at age 11.
Michael: Man, there's so many thoughts and emotions going through me right now, because I sit and I hear a story like yours and I go, man, I resonate in so many different ways, you know, watching domestic violence in my house, being a victim of massive, massive, unbelievable abuse from my stepfather. I started doing drugs when I was 12, I mean, I got high for the first time when I was 12, popping pills drunk by 13, kicked outta high school. No diploma, the whole thing, man, and it all really started with my mother. Like if I rewind and I look at this journey, it is whether we like it or not the decisions that people make on our behalf and theirs when we are children impact us. And often because we're trying to vie, and I was to vie for the attention and love of my mother, even though at four years old she had cut my finger off like my mom was a major drug addict. And it was like I would do anything to get her to love me. And that carried this massive amount of ramifications in my teens, in my twenties, in my relationships, in my intimate relationships. And it was funny, just earlier I was on a walk and I was thinking as I was preparing to sit down and have this conversation with you, not knowing we were going here, but just something I was thinking. I was like, I'm going to talk about at some point in this journey, all of the reasons why it was my mother's fault that I had such a crazy childhood. And I was like, you know, but when you look at generational trauma, you go, well, how was her mother and how was her mother? How were their parents? And then that puts us in this situation where like you, I was like, man, I'm 12, 13, 15 years old, all I'm doing is getting high and getting drunk. That's it. That's my whole life. And most of it was a coping mechanism, most of it was seeking friendship, most of it was like, how do I get to this place where I feel love and that's a heavy burden to carry for a child. So, as you're navigating this you're dealing with your father, with a stepfather, with your mother, you're dealing and dabbling in drugs and who knows what else is going through your mind? One of the things that you said that really hit home was being, thinking about taking your own life as a kid. I mean, I think I was 14, I took a whole bottle of aspirin, dude. I was like, I'm done. It doesn't kill you; it just makes you throw up. I came to find out the hard way, you know. When you look at your life now in retrospect, and you use that word, gratitude, dude, this is a hard f**king concept for people to understand because I look at my mother and my stepfather and that whole thing of my youth and I'm like, I'm so grateful that happened ‘cuz every day I get to serve people, how the h*ll do you do that?
Ryan: It's a great question, man. And it's interesting, you know, as you're sitting here talking, I'm reflecting on my relationship with her. And just like you, dude, I blamed her for everything for a very long time. I mean, that blaming stopped just recently, 2018 when she actually passed away. And I blamed her for all of my anger. I blamed her for all of my behaviors. And I was sued by the Federal Trade Commission when I was in 2012 for 10 million for doing like deceptive sales practices, I opened and operated a commodity firm, and even at that point, I was unable to take responsibility and see how I found myself there because I was just constantly blaming my childhood, blaming my parents for teaching me. I mean, my mom, this is interesting. So, like age 11, I start using, by age 12, she's literally driving me to shopping plazas, dropping me off at the front and as old ladies are walking outta the store, I was required to steal their purse, run to my mom's car, jump in the car, and we would flee. And so, I had a juvenile, you know, I was in and outta juvenile detention facilities for two years, from age 14 to 16. I literally did two years of time. You know, I had 21 felonies, rob store with a handgun at 14 years old, had a ton of grant theft, autos, a ton of burglaries, criminal mischief, I mean, larceny, you name it. I had it. And that was all because of what my mom taught me and that was what I thought was normal, that was like a normal environ environment for me. And so, 2012, I'm sued by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive sales practices and I'm like, well, I mean, you don't understand like what I've been through like if you understood and I was unwilling to take responsibility. I wanted to blame everybody for all my problems. And you ask like, how do you take all that trauma and all those challenges and turn it into gratitude and turn it into serving and wanting to make an impact in people's lives? It's my perspective, right? There's only two choices in life, right? I could either look how it's empowering or I can look at it how it's disempowering, right? And so, there's only two choices to look at and I would always look at it as a disempowering experience, right? And like, blaming and looking at all the tragedies and all the pain that brought me and I was in revenge with everybody. The world owed me. You guys don't know what I went through. And it's interesting because, you know, it's like Batman and Robin, right? It's like both children grew up in a very difficult childhood, one became a hero, one became the villain, and I was a villain for a very long time. And I found myself so dissatisfied, so unhappy and I remember like it yesterday, I got sued by the Federal Trade Commission, 10 million dollars. My father calls me the next day, I was in the front of the Sun Sentinel newspaper and he says, I can't believe you are my son. I can't believe this is what you're deciding to do with your life. And that was such a crushing moment for me because I've always wanted his love, just like I wanted my mom's love and they didn't give me the life that I thought that they should have. And that was such an anchoring moment for me because that was the first time, I realized that I'm in a position in life and I have not taken responsibility and I haven't looked at these unconscious behaviors and patterns that were taught to me or that I adopted as a child. And I knew for the first time, this was my moment to do something different, this is my moment to take massive action and to change my trajectory in my life and that was 2012. So, the last 10, 11 years I've been on this new journey in which has led me to here with you and so, I know today, all of those tragedies, all of those hardships, all of that pain that I went through has given me the strength to be the man I am today, to be here, to share my message, to wanna make a difference, to wanna impact people's lives. And so, how can you not have gratitude when I'm looking at a 25 to life sentence? And for some reason, God found me, somehow, some way I find my way not going to prison for the rest of my life, right? Like that was the moment I was like, h**y sh*t, here I am 16 years old, just spent two years in juvie. I'm looking at 25 to life. How the h*** am I not going to be grateful for that experience? And so, like God stepped in and God intervened for me.
Michael: Yeah, that man that's heavy. And I look at that and man, there's just so many comparisons here. The only thing I would say different between my journey and yours, I was just a better criminal than you.
Ryan: And I was not a good criminal…
Michael: Like if I added up the number of felonies I should have, we would be here all day. Like, honestly, Ryan, there's things I don't even talk about because my lawyer was like, you might not wanna say that publicly because of the things that I did as a kid and it's insane. Dude, the number of times I ran from the cops and got shot at oh and did like stole cars and we would rob, we would just, all we did was rob and steal and breaking it, like all that stuff. And I'm like, it is insane to me that I've never been arrested like, and you talk about this idea of gratitude, man, I'm thankful every day I'm not in prison. And here's what was interesting the first time I walked inside of a prison, I was six years old to visit my uncle who's still there. We're talking about 30 something years later, he's still there. And I distinctly remember when I was six, I was like, this is the craziest thing I've ever experienced. I will never live here. And that's how I thought of my teens, I was like, the cops will have to kill me. I'm not going in. And so, you look at that and it's like, that is such a crazy, both of these things in parallel while very different are incredibly insane ways to grow up and then to be able to leverage that. And it's like, okay, there's a space in here where there's lessons and the thing that I often did, that was to my own detriment, is I ignored the lessons. I felt like the world owed me. I felt like I deserved everything and I got lucky in a lot of ways ‘cuz I made almost a million bucks by the time that I was 25 working for a Fortune 10 company, which is insanity and blew every single penny of it, I was 50 grand in debt. One of my little brothers literally says, never talk to me again. I was 350 pounds, like guys, I'm sorry, I know you know the story, but I'm trying to create a context here. And so, here we are in this situation where now my life is a complete and utter disaster and I looked at it and I didn't have the words for it then at 26 years old, 25 heading into 26. But I was like, it's not gonna get any worse than this, so you might as well make it better. And people ask me all the time, and they're like, how did you do it? How did you do it? And I'm always like, there was no other choice. And so, I'm wondering, I'm gonna ask you the same question people always ask me like, how did you do it? Like, how do you go from my life as a freaking disaster? I'm that rock bottom. I'm getting sued. I'm on the cover of the news like everybody probably is like, DMing me, you're a piece of sh*t, right? Like, how do you change, man? How do you transform? Like how do you really take all this chaos and do something with it? Because there's somebody right now who's listening to this, they're in the midst of the worst time of their life and they're a decision away from it all being different.
Ryan: Hundred percent and you just said it, right? It's the decision that needs to be made and the pain was so great, man, that's what I remembered. I literally remembered I was sitting in a coffee shop. I can't remember the name of the coffee shop, it's not there anymore. I was in downtown Delray; the news was out; everybody knew that I just got sued by the FTC and I was literally sitting in there helpless and hopeless, didn't even know what to do, who to turn to. I was just devastated. I remember this guy, his name's Josh Scott, and he's like, Hey man, I'd like to meet with you and really just kind of talk through this stuff and find out like what's going on, how I can help you? And for me it's like I believe like God sends us these messengers, right? I feel like when the students ready, the teacher appears, and the pain got so bad for me that just like you, I needed to do something, there was nothing else I could do. Like if I was one decision away from either spending the rest of my life in prison or one decision away from actually having the life that I have today, and that was such a turning point for me. And so, I remembered sitting down with him and I was like, you know, I was in my ego a little bit still, and I was talking about like, oh, I can sell ice to an Eskimo. I don't know why or how that statement or metaphor came up. And he was like, that's interesting, Ryan. He says, you know, that kind of reminds me of why you are in this current situation that you're in, because the truth is, is that Eskimos don't need ice. Right. If an Eskimo lives in the snow, there's plenty of ice. And he says, you're selling things to people that they don't need. And he says, as soon as you can start selling stuff to people that they actually need, that I can actually change their life, then that's when you become a real salesman or a real success. And so, I was like, for whatever reason, that just resonated with me because I knew I needed to shift my perspective, I knew I needed to learn why I was doing the things that I was doing. And I had some insights, you know, I had some intuitions that, like, there's definitely more out there for me. And so, he introduced me to a program called Onsite in Nashville, Tennessee. And I think they've been around for like 35, 40 years at this point, they deal with all childhood trauma, experiential therapy. And that was the first time, so that was the decision I made. I was like, I'm at the lowest point in my life. My fiancé had just left me, why not? Let's just give it a shot. Right? And so, I went to this program and they were able to trace back and identify where all of these patterns and behaviors came from and why I was so destructive and why I was being such a victim. And it's crazy because you probably wouldn't have enjoyed me as we grew up because I didn't even know this unconsciously, I was wanting to be rescued so bad that like, I feel like I almost like intentionally got caught. You know? It's like, ‘cuz once I got caught, my dad and my mom would run to the rescue because they felt guilty and like that was the only real experience I had where it felt like they cared about me. I would get in trouble and they would come and try to rescue me. And so, I was unconsciously doing all these behaviors. And so, dude, it's literally, I've spent the last 11 years obsessing absolutely obsessing and understanding patterns and behaviors and understanding like what's going on internally, you know, and managing your state is so important. It's so cool ‘cause when you got on the podcast in the beginning or got on the show, you're like, yeah, I was just getting into peak state and I wanted to get started. And it's so easy, it's easy to manage your emotions when things are going great, but how do you manage your emotions when sh*t's not going great? And I've spent so many years of my life unable to manage my internal world, unable to manage my emotions. And so, really identifying like what's happening internally, what's going on inside of me? Is a direct correlation of the behaviors that is happening externally, which is the anger, the rage, the robberies, the criminal mindset. And so, I needed to heal that process, I needed to go through and actually heal all of those wounds that actually happened to me and understand, you know, my parents did the best that they could, they truly did. And it's interesting, I was just watching the Ed Mylett video, and he talks about this transitional character. Are you familiar with the transitional character?
Ryan: And so, it's so wild because like guys like you and I, are literally changed in the trajectory lineage of years of people that are coming before us and even being here right now. Those that are listening, if you can even grasp like what we've been through and understand, like just because we went through that doesn't mean that you can't change your life and you can't turn all those tragedies into good and make a difference, and that's the trajectory that I'm on. And I'm so honored to be in this position to be able to do that.
Michael: Yeah, I'm so happy that you are, man, because it's like there are so many incredible people who are going to die in prison, and it is heartbreaking. You know, there are so many people who are incredible, who they had dreams and ambitions and goals and because of poor decisions as kids, they're not here anymore. You know, like my three best friends were murdered when I was a kid and it's like, man, I wish more than anything that they could be here ‘cuz I know they had dreams, they had goals, they had ambitions.
Here's what's so fascinating about it and people don't really sit in this. You're allowed to be the victim. There's no one in the world who will take that away from you. Anyone in their right mind would go, well, sh*t, Ryan. No surprise dude. Look at your upbringing. Of course, this is what happened to you. People look at me, they go, of course that's what happened to you. And I look at it and I go, but it's on me to change it and that's such a hard thing, man. I mean, even still to this day, it's hard because there's always these nuances coming up, there's these little things that show themselves. We're in a split moment like I'll go back and I'll be that version of me that I refuse to be anymore, and I just sit with and I go, hmm, that's interesting that showed up, where does that come from today? Why is that here today? Why are you leveraging this thing today? And it's introspection. It's sitting and doing the deep work. It's going hard on you. And I think that it's really difficult because when you go down this path, when I personally, I'll speak from my own opinion. When I went through the beginning of this journey, man, it was like crawling through glass, it was so hard because it was like all I ever felt like I was doing was breaking down, it's like every time I took a step forward, I'd be in therapy or in men's group, or I'd be at an AA meeting or anything like, and somebody would say something and I would be like, oh my God, like all these terrible thoughts would come, and then I started to realize this is just a domino effect, man, you knocked down one domino, the next one's gonna fall, the next one's gonna fall. And you'll look back and you ghost take a step back, you look at all those dominoes, and it's this incredible tapestry that's in front of you that all the things have happened as they're supposed to happen. And you can be the victim, and I don't want to take that away from you, you're allowed to have that. I even thought for the longest time, I was like, man, I deserve the world, somebody owes me, give me this and I played that role really well. And then I was like, wait a second, man, nobody actually owes you anything but you. Then you've gotta get honest with yourself. And so, because I know a little bit more about your story than I know that our audience does, what role did honesty play in your life?
Ryan: Yeah, and so you mentioned like human consumption, right? If I'm consuming good insights and positive thinking and loving and unconditionally powerful stuff, that's gonna be the output of my experience. And so, I say brutal honesty, it's like, to your point, you're like, I was telling you like I was being the victim, I wanted to be rescued and I was getting those needs met, right? Like I was getting in some version my parents to come rescue. But where I was at in life wasn't where I wanted to be and so like that, that was the first bit of honesty that I needed to look at is like, are you really happy with who you are? Are you truly happy with where you are in life? And the answer was no. I was not. I was absolutely miserable. And the turning point for me, I know we just talked about it, was when I was sued by the FTC because I couldn't believe that was the man I was, I couldn't believe. And be mindful, I got sober in 2001, so I have 11 years of sobriety at this point like I'm quote unquote working a 12-step program, and here I am at one of the lowest points of my life and this is what's happening to me. So, I needed to really have some reflection on like, who I was and what was I consuming, like what information was I feeding my brain, you know, who did I have around me? They say, you wanna see where you're going in life? Look, at the sum of five people around you, and that's where you're gonna be going. And at that time in my life, I didn't have positive people in my life. I didn't have people in my circle that wanted the best interest for me. And so, I needed to change my circle, I needed to change the consumption of information that I was bringing into my mind. And it's like planting seeds like if you plant corn, you're gonna grow corn. If you plant wheat, you're gonna grow wheat. If I plant sh*t, you're not gonna get sh*t so, what was happening for me as a child, dude, like my parents were feeding me sh*t and they didn't know any better. And then once I got old enough, and once these moments happened for me to see like, hey, I had a stop in time, there's this moment of clarity, there was this insight, which was potentially, you know, losing my life October 8th, 2001, that was a moment for me. I knew I needed to do something different, and so I made some decisions. And so, everybody is going to be introduced with a moment in their life that they can make a difference or they can make a different decision and get a different outcome. And so, that's what happened for me, but I needed to be honest with where I was at and who I was, which I didn't love.
Michael: I don't think anyone loves it. Today, I don't even love it. I look at my values, my number one value is honesty. And a lot of days, dude, I don't love it because a lot of days I have to go stand in front of that mirror I'd be like, did you show up? And I learned this from Brendon Burchard probably 12 years ago or something, this idea of did I live, did I love, did I matter? And I ask myself those questions every day when I look in that mirror, because I'm like, that's the crux of it like did I show up? Like was I of service? Did I do what I said I was going to do? You know, what I think that I really appreciate about these experiences and journey of honesty is if you're willing todo it everything's different because you can't hide from yourself. I mean, how many times are you gonna get caught up in the lie with the girlfriend? How many times are you gonna get caught up in the lies and the cheating? How many times are you gonna get caught up with the not paying the bills and going to collections and hanging out with the people you know you're not supposed to be with and drinking and getting high in all this stuff? And it's like, you know, I'm not saying that like, don't live your life and have fun and enjoy, but like, can you do it through truth? Can you do it through truth? And that to me was the hardest thing because I don't know about you, man. So actually, I'm really curious about this. My mother taught me how to be a liar, she was masterful. Like my mom might be the greatest liar to have ever lived like seriously, she got out of everything and she would get everything and I would just watch ‘cuz as children, of course, we're learning, we're in these developmental states, we're bringing in this data and this information. And so, I became this person who could lie myself into or out of any situation like you I could definitely sell ice to an Eskimo, that's how I became so successful at such a young age and then I realized all I'm doing is taking from people. And so how do you navigate? And here's the truth. I know that I still lie and immediately the thing that I do when I do it is I go, that wasn't true. I don't even know. I don't even know why I said it. Right? It's so dumb. I have no idea why I just said this thing. And there are people who I know are like, man, everybody lies all the time. I'm like, okay, cool. But can you admit it? And I think that's the thing, man. And to me that admitting that came in the form of, and I know we talked about this before we got started for me, that came in the form of Tony Robbins. He said one thing that literally changed my life. He said, life is happening for you, not to you. And I'm the same guy who 17 years ago, heard about Tony for the first time I was like, that dude's full of sh*t, that dude what is this fool talking about? He never been to the hood. He doesn't know my life. And then I realized like all he's doing is telling the truth. What's that like for you? Like really in your day-to-day honesty obviously switched for you, but what is it like for you as a human, as a man, as a spiritual being to live in your truth?
Ryan: You know, it's wild. And actually, Tony said this, he said, if you wanna know what someone's lying, they say they don't lie. And so, it's a human experience, right? Like everybody lie. Yeah. So, I mean, once I heard that I was like, ah, sh*t makes sense. And what's interesting is I'm a seventh-grade dropout, I still can grammatically destroy an email, I barely can write, you know, I have a hard time reading as it is. And so, when I was in seventh grade, my parents they got me this program, it's called Hooked on Phonics Works for Kids. And so, it was like this, it was for the kids that had learning disabilities. So, I adopted this belief that I have this learning disability and when my sister passed away, that was more evidence that like, something's wrong with me, right? My sister died; something was wrong with her. Well, clearly something's wrong with me and here's evidence because my parents decided to get me this, this learning disability program.
And so, when I started on this new journey after being sued by the FTC. I realized that I wanted to create change and impacting people's lives, and through this journey, what I started to realize is the more vulnerable and the more open and honest that I was with individuals, the more I was able to impact and to, and to create change in their lives. And so, that was my strategy. I was like, okay, like I may not be the best communicator. I may not be able to articulate my words properly and my vocabulary isn't what other people can have, but I was like, okay, what can differentiate me from everybody else? And I realized that being honest with who I am, how I'm feeling, what my experience was like was gonna give people practical application, was gonna actually show people, because that's what everybody wants, everybody wants to have the ability to relate to you. And that's what Tony did and that's what Tony taught me. And I've spent the last four years with Tony. I went to my first event August, 2018 after horrific breakup, I was engaged. And I went to his seminar for the first time and I've done about 30 seminars over the last four years with Tony. I was also a part of his inner circle, which I'm extremely grateful for being in proximity of that man. And I realized that the reason why he is so successful, and you said it is because he is so honest. He is truly telling you real life stories, real life examples. I have heard him say the same story every single event. And I always ask myself like the first like maybe seven or eight events, I'm like, why does he tell the same stories? But then I realized that he is just being completely honest and he's giving his life experience. And it's not about the story that he is telling, it's about the lessons in his story and the journey that he took with that lesson. And that's how people can create transformation is by overcoming objections through storytelling. And that's what Tony has mastered. And so, like I've heard the same story so many times, but now it's like, well, wait a minute. What's the lesson in this story and how can that relate to my life? And how can I take those little nuances that are gonna significantly change the entire trajectory of my life and apply them to my life and my principles? And you said to yourself earlier about honestly not liking or loving, I think I don't wanna misword it or mis, but did you mention something about like, not loving yourself or not loving how you're showing up at times? Is that what you mentioned earlier?
Michael: Yeah. It's always, that's a part of the journey for me.
Ryan: Right. And so, I can resonate with that so much, dude. Like every single day I wake up, bro, and I'm just like dude, it's almost like I battle with like hating myself. It's like every day I'm like, dude, your life sucks. You suck. Like why are you doing these things? And there's this negative self-talk that just destroys me. And I needed to understand like the human mind and understand like, what's really going on. And I don't know if you know this or not, but the human mind has about 65 to 70,000 thoughts a day. About 85% of those thoughts happen to be negative thoughts, and about 85 to 90% of those negative thoughts happen to be repetitive thoughts, and your unconscious brain is designed scan the horizon and find what's wrong in every situation to keep you alive and so, that is the human experience. And once I realized this through Tony teaching me that I'm just having a human experience and there's nothing wrong with me. I'm not broken, I'm not my thoughts, I'm not my mind. And once I started to understand that, and I started to understand the distinction, well, if I'm not my body, I'm not my mind, then what am I? I'm soul. I'm spirit. Right. The heart existed before the brain did. And so, once I realized that something above me has me on this journey and something wants me to be a better version of myself so I can make a difference in this world, once I started to understand that distinction, my life significantly changed.
Michael: Yeah. So, I talked about Tony, I talked about Brendon Burchard. I'm gonna talk about one more mentor, and that's David Meltzer. This guy who has just spoken into my life in ways that I can't even begin to talk about, right? He taught me this idea that we are always being protected and promoted and what that means is that no matter how bad it is, even in the worst days, you are still being protected by, call it God, spirit, Source, mother Nature, Batman. I don't know, you're always being protected. And you're always being promoted, like you're always being given the thing you need to get to go to the next level, to level up. And I think that there's something for, especially kids like us, man, you grow up the way we do when you grow up the way that the people of the Unbroken Nation do, the people listening to this show right now, I'm gonna say this and I mean it with every ounce of my soul, you need a f** mentor. You need a guide. You need a coach. You need somebody to show you the right way. You already know the wrong way. Bro, I know how to forge checks, man. I know how to steal cars. Bro, I know how to do all that stuff. You know what I had to learn? I had to learn how to love myself. I had to learn how to love other people. I had to learn that the world isn't as bad as I think it is. Right? And that only has come through the willingness to say submit is a weird way to phrase it, so, I'm gonna use the word surrender. I had to surrender to the fact that there are people who are actually good in the world. And I think that that can only be done through mentorship and through guides, and that's a big part of what you do. And I would love for you to talk a little bit about what your mission really is, to distill it down, to go into it, and to give us a little bit more insight.
Ryan: Yeah, so originally my journey started in 2000. I mean, I've been in recovery since 2001. So, you know, I've been sobered for 21 years, and so my foundation is a 12-step program, a spiritual program with spiritual practices and spiritual principles. But my real work started when I went to onsite, which was in 2012, and I started to identify this trauma, and so my intention was to like continue to seek these answers. You know, I was that guy that was unfaithful in every relationship. I was that guy that would find a way to manipulate and lie my way through anything to get my needs met. And I was just in selfish relationships, it was all about Ryan, it was all about what you can give to me, what are the benefits that you have. And as soon as you stopped giving me what I wanted, I was gone. I was like, this relationship doesn't exist anymore for me. And I kept finding myself so lonely and I kept finding myself like dissatisfied and then I started to learn that I was the cause of this, my decisions, how I'm treating people is the very cause of this. And so, you know, I learned through this journey that in order for me to keep what I have, I have to give it away. And so, after about 7,000 hours of doing experiential therapy, psychodrama, NLP, going to Tony Seminars, doing inner child seminars, I realize the only way that I'm ever gonna continue to grow and to be a better version of myself is I have to start teaching this to other people. I have to start showing people how to live their life because what happens in that dynamic once you show people ‘cuz we all have b*^** detectors. And you know, you're from the streets, I know when somebody's full of sh*t. So if you have a mentor that hasn't walked the walk, he's not a good mentor. I don't want somebody that read something out of a textbook and says, oh, this is what I read, this is what you should do. Now I want somebody to show me through practical application. Like, yo, this sh*t was tough for me. Here's the steps that I took and this is how I got through it. And so, once I realized that that's the only way that I'm gonna have integrity with changing and have integrity with who I'm becoming, I have to be able to make those changes in my life first. And once I was able to make those changes in my life, I was like, you know what? I need to give this away.
And so, it was June, 2020. I was at Tony's house for the first time and the pandemic just happened and literally he was making a couple hundred million a year at the time, and he went negative 200 million because all of his seminar businesses went to a screeching halt because the whole world was locked down, and I remember seeing him devastated. And that was the first time I got an opportunity to see everything that he's been teaching me. Actually, he actually applied it in his life and he was like, there's a gift here and I was literally sitting in his house. He was crying and he says right now, I'm being called this is a worthy opponent, right? Life gives us worthy opponents, and this is my worthy opponent. This is next up for me and I have to find the gift in this right now. And he says, I have no idea where the gift is. I have no idea what's next for me, but there is something that's in front of me that I need to look for. And that's when he converted everything into to his online business. And now he is probably quadrupling what he's making and he's quadrupling the impact. And so that was the decision that I made, I was like, if this man literally just lost everything and turned it around and found the gift, I asked myself in that moment like, what's your gift, Ryan? What are you gonna do to make a difference in this world, Ryan? How are you gonna step up? And that's when I started doing the personal development seminars. And I've done 20 events at this point, I do every six to eight weeks, it's a 20-hour workshop, I bring in about 60 to a hundred people, anybody can go, it's free. It's a way for me to give back and I go through different segments and different inner childhood experiential therapy and NLP processes to show people about their belief systems and patterns and behaviors and learning how to heal these traumas so they can actually learn how to love themselves and release that energy that's just stored in our body. And so, yeah, man, that's been my experience, dude, is to just give back and to make a difference and it's all through my own healing and my own journey.
Michael: Yeah, man, and I love that and that's really beautiful. I love that you give back and that's the same reason we host Unbroken Conference and we do the podcast and people can literally get my books for free, there's $0, you know, and it's like, give back because there was so much taking like for me, this is really how I think about it. There was so much taking, man, just constantly taking, taking, taking, taking, leaving this what could have been and I hope will not be a disastrous footprint left after I'm gone. And I was like, dude, just go be of service. Go help people. And when I was at my rock bottom and I had this transformational thought, I was like, dude, your life is like this because of the choices that you're making. And I was like, go, just be of service. And I didn't really have those words in, I was just like, I'm gonna write blogs, that's where this whole thing started. And I always try to tell people, just start where you're at. I love what you said, like there's always a gift, there's always a worthy opponent in front of you, there's always this potential and possibility. There's always the ability to have more health, wealth, happiness, and worthiness. But you have to seek it, you have to find it, and more so like you have to follow through. There's so many people, it breaks my heart, man, so many people who just are like, I want to change the world, and I'm like how you gonna do that? Getting stoned and playing video games all day, bro, you know? My hope is that people will feel some inspiration through this story and this journey of yours to recognize like you can have it all and lose it all and have it all and lose it all and have it all like the, the ebb and flow.
I'll come back to Ed Mylett ‘cuz he says this a lot, I didn't understand it the first time he said it. Probably not even the first 20 times he said it. It was like you're operating at a certain temperature and you're trying to turn the thermostat up, but you're still stuck in that old temperature and that's identity. At some point you have to shift into being this version of Ryan, this version of Michael, this version of Stacy or Ben or Kevin or Tammy, whoever you are, you have to shift and become that person. And so, I'm curious like what has the shift really been like if you quantified it, if you really look at it? ‘Cuz a lot of people will be like, yeah, I went to Tony and it kind of changed my life and this but your life is very different, you're living in integrity, you're living in honesty, you're living in truth. Like what was really the shift? Like what has that journey been to this day?
Ryan: Yeah. And so, you mentioned, it's like I was incapable of making those decisions myself. I didn't know how to do the things that I'm doing now. And so, proximity is everything. You know, you mentioned earlier like you need a mentor, you need somebody that has traveled the road that you wanna go down and in the beginning, you have to adopt those behaviors because I personally didn't know. And so that's why I said I did 30 seminars because I would go to a seminar, I would learn this unbelievable information, I would leave the seminar a week goes by, I start going into old patterns. Two weeks goes by, it's almost like I've stopped, I forgot everything that I just learned and I realized, I was like there's only one way for me to really change. I have to obsess. I have to literally become this new identity, become this version of myself. And so, I needed to surround myself with people that were living the life that I wanted. So now I have a spiritual adviser, you know, I'm best friends with a pastor at a church. I started going to church four years ago. I was like, okay, who would be the best person to put in proximity of me that's gonna teach me a spiritual path? Well, a pastor, the path of a pastor is extremely difficult. So, I said, if this man can do it, then if I can adopt some of those behaviors, then I'm gonna be a better spiritual person, have a better connection or real relationship with God. Then I was like, okay, well who do I want as a business mentor or as a mentor in general? Tony was that guy; I spent the last four years in proximity of have. I've also learned how to have better relationships because of how him and his wife's sage have relationships together. And so, like I'm building all these this content and building all these experiences so, when it comes time for me to apply them, I have a roadmap, I have a clear path to how I need to show up and that's a direct application of who is around me and who I'm seeing. And so, you know, I wanna look better in the gym, I gotta coach. I said, you know, this guy can teach me how to eat, this guy can teach me how to train, this guy can teach me my systems, my strategies. Then I started doing some meditation. I said, how do I ease my mind? Because my mind is going a thousand miles an hour every single day. And so, it's like, what applications can I apply to slow me down, to really get centered and get grounded with what's going on inside of me? Because what I realized, my mind's going a thousand miles an hour because I didn't love the guy I was, it didn't feel good. And so, the slower I got, the more I got to have reflection and introspection of who I am and I then I was like, oh, well now I gotta change. I see these versions of myself that I don't like.
It's literally, you know, they talk about, I learned this there's like the thinking brain, there's the doing brain and then there's the being part of the brain. And so, you know, for a very long time, and a lot of people, probably a lot of you listeners are thinking, right? They're like, I know I need to do something. I know my life isn't where I want it to be. I know I have more, and there's just this constant thinking, right? It's you're just sitting in that part of the brain and then it's like, okay, well take action. Do something right now to put it in motion and then you're accessing the doing part of the brain. And once you do this over and over and over and over again, eventually it becomes this unconscious competence, it becomes a new version of yourself, and then it's who you're becoming, right? And that's exactly what's happened for a guy like you and I, you said you did 400 plus podcasts, I guarantee your first podcast wasn't as good as you're doing today. But you obsessed, you're like, I know this is my path, I don't care, you can't skip the suck, right? Like in life, I wanna skip the suck. I wanna go from start to good to great, you know, I don't wanna do the suck. And so like, you gotta go through the suck. You gotta do it. You gotta fail forward. You gotta just keep stumbling. And you know, like they say, I think it's like a rocky babo, or I don't know who says it, but it's not about how hard you get hit, it's about how hard you get hit and get up and keep going. That's true. That's a real statement and that's my experience. And so, it's just obsessing to constantly change who you are, practical application, find people around you that can show you the path.
Michael: I love that. And success leaves clues, man, you look at it. I love what you said about Tony and Sage, that's how I look at Grant and Elena Cardone and that's how I look at Tom and Lisa Bilyeu. You know, and it's like you want to have these successful relationships. Nehemiah Davis and his incredible wife like you look at these people and you're like, yo, this is what it should be, not what we grew up with, not what we understood. But you have to find it, man. And you've gotta find it and then you've gotta execute with the tools. You've gotta do what people tell you ‘cuz if you don't, none of this works. Like when I'm coaching people and we're in our Monday coaching sessions or when in our one-on-one sessions. I'm like, if you don't do this, don't come back next week ‘cuz it's not going to matter. And I think that that's the thing that you have to shift is the willingness to be the person that you are capable of being. And man, I love that you've had this journey, it's very inspirational, it's very beautiful. Before I ask you my last question, can you please tell everyone where they can learn more about you?
Ryan: Yeah, so I would say follow me on social media ryan.zofay or you can go to our website, welevelup.com you can message me there. We have our next event, March 25th and 26th in downtown Delray Beach, south Florida. Love to have you come join the community, be a part of change, be the change that you wanna see in the world.
Michael: Yeah, I love that. And you do this every six week, you said?
Ryan: Six to eight weeks. I promoted on my social media. So, you know, I'm putting it out there. I'll put the schedule on there so people can plan accordingly.
Michael: Brilliant. And of course, Unbroken Nation, we'll put the links in the show notes at thinkunbrokenpodcast.com just go to thinkunbrokenpodcast.com look up Ryan last name is Zofay, will put the links for his website and social media on the site. Ryan, my friend, my last question for you, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?
Ryan: What comes to me? I know you asked me the question in the beginning of the episode and what just kept coming back for me was just really accepting yourself for who you are and just knowing you're right where you're supposed to be in this very moment and everything is gonna be okay and I think that that really just speaks to being unbroken because there's all these different parts of us and even for me, like there's still parts of me that I don't love, but I'm working towards loving those parts of me and I'm working towards identifying, because for me it's like that was the journey on why I'm even doing this show and why I've continued this path of getting on podcasts and speaking on stages because every single time I do this, I'm exposing myself and the more I expose myself, the more I learn how to love those parts of myself. Because what I'm so scared of is that you may see something in me that you don't like, and then I'm never gonna be accepted, I'm never gonna be loved, which is what triggers all the b*** that I grew up with. And so, every single time I get on here and do these shows or speak in front of people, I'm conditioning that muscle to know that I am right where I'm supposed to be and I am learning how to love myself.
Michael: Yeah. That's so beautiful, man. Well, thank you very much for being here. Unbroken Nation. Thank you for listening.
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Ryan Zofay is a successful entrepreneur and motivational speaker. He teaches personal development strategies that measurably improve performance, connection and mindset. Using the teachings of his own successes and failures, Ryan has a unique ability to facilitate deep change for individuals and organizations. Ryan Zofay is the founder of We Level Up Treatment Centers and Personal Development Events. We Level Up produces a liberation from the mental chains that bind us, and enable us to operate at our fullest capacity.
Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.
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On Today's Episode: I am joined by my guest Moran Cerf s a neuroscientist and business professor at the Kellogg School of Management and the neuroscience program at Northwestern University. See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e379-moran-cerf-how-lucid-dreaming-can-impact-mental-health-and-trauma/#show-notes
What if I told you that anxiety and worry were emotional, behavioral habits that you can end through a simple three-step process. Jud Brewer. AKA Dr. Jud is a New York Times bestselling author and thought leader in the field …
In this episode of the Think Unbroken Podcast, Lisa Bilyeu shares how she kickstarted herself out of the mundane to become one of the most influential voices in the personal development world-and how you too can gain the confidence to …
About seven years ago, I listened to today's guest, Mark Divine, on Tom Bilyeu's Inside Quest. And I was immediately captivated, like I could not actually put into words the thoughts going through my head. See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e346-the-mindset-of-a-zen-navy-seal-with-mark-divine-mental-health-coach/#show-notes
Change is inevitable; it's as imminent as the moon, the tide, and the seasonal Starbucks menu; it's a rite of passage for all of us. Transformation is power, energy, and momentum. It keeps us moving forward. See show notes at: …
In this episode, we have an amazing guest – Doctor Caroline Leaf, who has played a massive role in my personal healing journey over the years, someone that has been a voice that has helped me get to where I …
In this episode, I speak with one of my great friends David Meltzer. David has spent the last vast majority of his life on a mission to help over one billion people be happy. See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e318-how-to-be-happy-and-manifest-the-life-you-want-with-david-meltzer-mental-health-coach/#show-notes
In this episode, the number one celebrity coach on planet earth is about to have a conversation with us, Unbroken Nation. I am to announce and share with you that you are about to listen to none other than the …
In this episode, I'm very excited to be back with you with another episode, and today's guest is Paul Gilmartin, the host of Mental Illness Happy Hour. If you've ever had thoughts about suicide, this is an episode that you …
In this episode, I am excited to bring on Dr. Anna Lembke, one of the leading researchers and scientists on addiction on planet earth. She is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine and Chief of the …
In this episode, I was recently on The Seven Hats Podcast, and I've never done this before, so this will be my first time on the show that I do anything like this. You're about to listen to an episode …
In this episode, I sit with my friend Dave Hollis and we talk about his journey to where he is today, you know, it's a really fascinating conversation and a story about not only facing your fear but what it …
In this episode, I sit down with my friend Iris McAlpin. Iris McAlpin is a certified trauma coach and NARM® Practitioner specializing in self-sabotage, eating disorder recovery, and complex trauma. See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e131-overcoming-trauma-and-self-sabotage-with-iris-mcalpin-cptsd-and-trauma-healing-coach/#show-notes
In this episode, we have a guest speaker Tom Bilyeu. Tom is someone I consider to be both a peer and a mentor who tremendously helped me in my journey – singularly, I can point to him and three other …
In this episode, I speak with one of my very close friends, Damon Burton. Damon is a Forbes contributor and an Amazon best-selling SEO book author that helps you show up higher on Google… without paying for ads. See show …
In this episode, we have a guest speaker Jordan Harbinger. Jordan is a former corporate lawyer who became a master podcaster. Jordan lays out some of the most incredible and practical tools about what it means to create a change …
In this episode, we have a guest speaker, John Lee Dumas. He is an incredible human being, a former officer in the Army, entrepreneur, and host of the number one rated business podcast that I've had the privilege of being …
In this episode, I would love to share my back story with you. I'm going to include the preface to my book Think Unbroken Understanding and Overcoming Childhood Trauma. This is a dive into my background, story, journey, and what's …
In this episode, we have a guest speaker Cole Chance. She is a yoga teacher, instructor, and educator who I've known for quite a long time, who actually played a pivotal role in my healing journey. We talk about her …
In this episode, I speak with my friend, the unstoppable Anthony Trucks. Listen as we break down how to turn pain into triumph and why becoming the hero of your own story starts with making Shift Happen. Please Rate and …