Episode 167: The Pivot to Fulfillment - Ron Duren Jr.'s Journey to Living a Fulfilling LifeSep 29, 2022
Ron Duren Jr. is, at his core, a teacher. In fact, his core purpose and mission is to elevate and inspire others to do hard things through value creation, teaching and inspirational speaking. This purpose drives his passion to groom the next generation through leadership development and what he calls, "leading to a better future." Serving in this role as a professor of leadership and management at the University of Colorado, Boulder. If you're feeling stuck in a rut, unsure of how to move forward, and feeling like you'll never achieve your dreams, then this episode is for you!
In this episode, you will learn:
- Ron Duren Jr.'s transition from mechanical engineer to university professor and performance coach.
- The importance of finding one's personal ethos or "ideal self."
- The value of a mechanical engineering degree as a tool for problem solving in any career.
“I learned a lot of my work ethic from sports, and I think that athletes need to understand, and I see a lot of young athletes that don't see the connection, the parallels to the things that we learn on the sports field. If we're paying attention. This is life, right?”
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Hello. Welcome back to your next stop. This is Juliet Han. In this episode, I interview Ron Duren Jr. He is a University of Colorado Boulder professor.
He has forging Metal Podcast. Also, his first book is coming out called Forging Metal. He is a TEDx speaker, a performance coach, and he used to be a semi pro baseball player and a mechanical engineer. So you guys are going to be so excited to learn the pivots that Ron took to be where he is now. It's so exciting.
Listen in on how he has figured out how to live a fulfilling life and what happened seven years ago that kind of blew his world up. You don't want to miss this. You can follow Ron on all the socials forging Metal podcast. Ron duren jr. He hangs out mostly on LinkedIn.
And you guys, again, you don't want to miss. You don't want to miss. But he's also doing this next year, which is really exciting, an episode that is going to inspire you. I can't wait for you guys to join in and we will see you next week. Have you ever been listening to your favorite podcast and that moment comes up and you think, oh, my gosh, I need to share it?
Well, now you can with picked cherries. What I love about picked cherries so much is that when I'm listening to my favorite podcast and that moment comes up that I want to share, I can take a Snippet, which is called the pick Cherry and I can send that to my friends and family so they can get involved in the podcast that I love. It's almost like sending an IG or a Tik tok available now, iOS and Android. If you're not picking cherries, are you really listening to podcasts?
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to your next stop. I am the host, Juliet Han. Another what do I say every single time how excited I am. But here is another guest that you guys are going to find inspiration.
Fellow storyteller Ron Duren Jr. How are you? I'm doing great, Juliet. It's good to see you again. So good to see you.
So if you guys don't remember, I was on Ron's podcast, which is the Forging Metal podcast. And when we spoke, I mean, I know it was last year, but everything I feel like kind of comes together and meshes together. So I don't even really exactly remember. But we connected and we had such a great conversation. It was really fun.
And I knew when I started season three and I was going to be having humans on your next stop, not just women. You were one of the first people that came to mind to have you on. So I'm really excited to dive into your story. I appreciate that. I'm part of that subset of humans.
Yes, you are. So, guys, Ron is a TEDx speaker. That was one of the things that we're going to dive into, which is really fun. When I was on his podcast, he was preparing for that. He is a college professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
He used to be a semi pro baseball player, so he has the athletic part. One of the things that we definitely connect on, he is a podcast host, foraging Metal podcast hangs out mostly on LinkedIn. You guys can find Ron, R-O-N. Not hard, but I know spelling is not my strong point. And Duran is D-U-R-E-N.
Junior. You can find him there as well. So, Ron, you're a performance coach. I mean, so many different things. I know you started your world, your life, and we're going to touch on that.
But you really worked in the Fortune 500 sector. So can you give us a little background, a little bit about where you grew up, if you went to university and kind of how you got where you are right now. But just in a brief because then we're going to get into the good conversation. Yes. Boy, where did I come from?
Should I start from diapers? I was born in Oregon. Salem, Oregon. So that's a good spot. And then really grew up in Washington State and then kind of meandered throughout the country.
And now I call home Colorado. So that's a little bit of a quick snippet. And how did I get here? Well, 18 years I worked as a mechanical engineer in industry, as you mentioned. And I remember and I think we'll get into this later, but I remember waking up one day saying, is this it?
I wasn't fulfilled. It should have meant all those things that made me happy, but it really wasn't. And then I had this again, maybe we'll talk about this in a bit here. I had this pivot, this kind of, I don't know, midlife crisis where I moved into what I do now. And I teach full time at the University of Colorado.
I love what I do. I also have my side business of forging metal. So I feel like I'm bringing more value to the world now than I used to as an engineer. And maybe that was because I wasn't such a great engineer. Who knows?
But I find my life much more fulfilling now, and that's a great place to be to get up in the morning. I heard somebody say recently that when you find your purpose and your meaning in life, you never hit the snooze button anymore. And I really feel like that's kind of the pit of me in my life now. I jump out of bed and in most days I'm excited to get after it. I love that, and I think that is what is so important.
And anyone that's listening to my podcast, first of all, I love that you said the word pivot. I have that whole NFL segment where we talk to players that pivoted out of the league, and you definitely did a lot of pivoting in your life. And so one of the things that I want my listeners to really listen to and this is why I think it was so important for me for season three to really add humans. Not just women. Is because there's a lot of men out there that are the breadwinners.
Or they're going after a career. And they wake up not happy every day. And then they're stuck. And they don't know what to do. And I want them to hear stories.
I know we really connected on the whole storytelling aspect of life because I truly believe that is what makes the world go around when people connect in stories. And when you start telling me a little bit about what you were doing, and I was like, this is what it's about. This is what it's about. This is what life is about. When you hit that day where you're like, I don't think I'm happy, but then it goes over and over over and and over again, and what you did is you pivoted.
You changed your life. So I would like to go back for a second. When you were in university, what did you study? I mean, obviously you're an engineer, but is that like, what you always kind of thought you wanted to do as a child? How did you land there?
Oh, gosh, I think probably about my junior year in high school. I really solidified on I want to be a mechanical engineer. I always like to work with my hands and build things. And I also didn't want to just go out and be like a carpenter, and nothing against carpenters or auto mechanics, but I wanted to maybe a notch above that. So I felt like that was a good thing to go out and design and build things, but also apply some math and science to it and hopefully make a little money at it.
Right. So I think I wasn't that kid that was not figuring out I didn't have a struggle with what do I want to be? But if we go back and I think this might be what you're getting at, when I was young, you could have flipped a coin. It was two things that I wanted to be when I grew up and was an adult, and that was either a major league baseball player or a military fighter pilot. And both of those kind of had competing paths as I was younger.
Neither one of those turned out to be true. But I do have an airplane that I built myself and have flown. It an airbag upside down and all that stuff. So I felt like I scratched that itch a little bit, and then I played as you said, I played semi professional baseball till I was the ripe old age of about 38 years old. So I felt like I got that itch scratched as well.
And each one of those has an influence on how I think, how I show up in the world now. Well. I mean. And that's the thing. And that's where so much of our and that's why I always love asking that question.
Because a lot of times. If we go back and really think about what we wanted to be as children. Before society. Before parents. Before people tell us what we should be or what society wants us to be.
I think back and think of my children and professional sports athletes. Now, they are very talented in sports. Will they be professional? Probably not, but who knows? You never know.
But it's one of those things that I think is really cool when you have that worth, that work ethic. Right? And sports, I really do believe, gives you that kind of foundation where you get up and you work hard for something every day that is such a foundation that I know for myself, really led me into the life that I'm living, because I know what it is to work hard. I know what it is to push my body and mind to limits that maybe someone else wouldn't. And I never realized, when you're training, when you're playing, that kind of is being shaped right.
It's kind of one of those things that it's like you just take it for granted. I took for granted that I was athletic and that I loved playing, and I love showing up in the field. I love being a teammate. But then as you grow and you see life and you see where that kind of intersects and sees how you grow as an adult, can you take us through a little bit of how you're playing sports and the level that you played at? Because you played at a very high level.
Not many people I mean, I would say, what less than 1% really gets to be, even where you were, and then it's even a fraction of I'm terrible at math, by the way, so I know everyone knows me is laughing, going, she's giving percentages here. I'm just throwing them out. But you went after a dream and then realized, when did you realize, okay, I want to pivot from there. Like, it's not fulfilling me where I am. But also two kind of questions unfolded in there.
Where do you think that also took you in your work ethic? This is a good one. Let's start with work ethic. Yes. I learned a lot of my work ethic from sports, and I think that athletes need to understand, and I see a lot of young athletes that don't see the connection, the parallels to the things that we learn on the sports field.
If we're paying attention. This is life, right? And those are great skills to take into life. But I'm also really quick to say, I was always taught, work hard, and everything that you on, life will come to you right, just work hard. Put your head down, work hard.
I don't believe that. And there's plenty of evidence out there for people that have worked incredibly hard their entire lives and never achieved the success they want. So I say hard work is necessary, but not sufficient. I believe that we need to be smart about our work as well to really get to where we want to go. That's all wrapped up in this idea of what's your intent?
What's purpose? What are your values? I have my students and clients do a personal ethos. What's your personal ethos? How do you want to show up in the world?
So I think all of that is going to contribute to working smart. I would also say, as an engineer, I didn't really have a lot of desire to work hard. And so I spent a lot of time with self loathing and really kind of saying, why are you so lazy? Your coworkers are not lazy. They work harder than you.
And once I moved to what I'm doing now, all of that went away. So all I would say to the listeners is, if you're struggling to do good work, you might be in the wrong profession doing the wrong thing. Not necessarily. But I would say question that, say, is this the right thing? For me?
If it's a struggle, most days, it may not be the thing for you, and don't be afraid to say that's. Not for me. One of the things that I teach is something called the OT self. And this comes from Richard Boyatzis, not totally butchering his name, but the odd self and this idea that I ought to be this person, right? And a lot of times that comes from messaging from society, it comes from messaging from our friends, our family, that sort of thing.
And I think as a mechanical engineer, that was my life or my OTT self. That's what I felt like I should be doing. And then when I moved to what I'm doing now is more of what he would call our ideal self. And so be careful with the odd self doing things that maybe are not fulfilling for you because you think that's the right thing to do. So I would offer those up as maybe some tips of work ethic, how to find your way, and don't be afraid to question if this is the right thing for you.
So I love that you just brought this up because I think this is another thing that really is a great point. So many people will be in a path that maybe they find that it is not the path that they're meant to be in. And they'll say, oh, I wasted all this time in my life. But I always want to flip that and say, did you waste time or did you learn something that actually got you to the next step? So I would love to know what you took out of your mechanical engineering.
I love that you also built that plane because that also ties into a bunch of different passions that you had, right. The plane and then building that and flying that. So there's so many different things that you have actually done with passion. Maybe not the point where you thought you were going to be a fighter fighter pilot, but you still got to kind of itch that scratch and then say, hey, where is that going to take me? So the fact that you've always kind of and I believe this is a curious person, right.
A curious person that also believes in themselves. Not always. Right. We don't always believe in ourselves, but you took that. Okay, I have these different things, and I'm going to take them down a path and see where it goes.
So I would love for you to tell us, the mechanical engineering, what is one thing that you really learned about that experience in the Fortune 500 company world that you then take to what you're doing now? Yes. Great stuff. Let's back up for a second. I don't believe in this idea of wasted time.
I really feel like as a society, we've gotten a little crazy with every minute, has got to be productive. We got to get ROI on everything we do in life now return on investment. Why am I doing this? The statistics will say that hobbies are becoming less and less prevalent with people. Why?
Well, we always feel like we got to be making our million, and hobbies are a waste of time. Right. And of course, this isn't good for our mental health. And so even though I went down that path, I wish I would have figured it out sooner. I'll be honest.
I went down the path of probably staying in engineering a little too long, but definitely not wasted time. I learned a lot about myself and plenty of lessons that I carry with me now. I think the biggest thing for any engineer out there that has a degree is engineers are great problem solvers. We're really good at taking very complex problems and solving those. And so that translates to almost everything in life.
I always tell my young engineers, even if you switch careers later, that engineering degree has given you a lot of good tools. No matter where you go, you want to go into the world of business. Solving technical difficult problems is going to be valuable there as well. So there's plenty there that I still carry with me. It is part of who I am.
It's my identity. Right. And again, just to reemphasize, that was not wasted time. I often ask my podcast guests, and I think I may have asked you this, Juliet, I go, did you expect to end up where you are right now? And I have yet to have one guest say, yes, this is exactly how I planned it.
It almost never turns out how you expect, including myself, I did not expect to be where I'm at. And so my message is, if you're that person that needs that certainty of if you need to know exactly what your path is, let's say try to let that go and just be curious and take these avenues that spark your curiosity, and you never know where they might lead. It's so true, and I love it. And that's one of the things when I was on your podcast, that we really connected on so many different levels. Everything you said, I was like, yes.
And I feel like everything I said, you felt the same way. Like, we really have such the same beliefs. And the thing that I love about the podcast and meeting people is there are so many more people that are alike than different, I really believe. And it could be the people that are being brought into my world have that same belief system. But it's really cool when I have a guest or meet someone and I start talking, and it's not like we trained and I studied all this stuff.
This is like, truly what I believe. And I believe it was how I was made, how I was born. This is my past in life kind of really led me to all of this. And I so believe what you said about there's no wasted time. I tell a lot of people that I work with, especially moms that are going back into the workforce, and they're like, was it wrong that I stayed home with my children?
And I'm like, no. When I stayed home with my kids as long as I did, I loved that time in my life. And I learned so much about myself and so much about what I also wanted to do, what I wanted to show my kids what legacy I wanted to leave behind. And if I didn't stay home, I wouldn't have obtained that, and I wouldn't have seen that there are women that I will work with that didn't stay home, and they were in the workforce, and they'll say the same thing, like, did I hurt my kids because I wasn't there for them? And it's always like, no, we all do the best that we can, and the past that we choose just make us.
At that point, I knew I was going to be a better mom by staying home. My best friend knew that she was going to be a better mom by going back to work. And neither is right. It's what's right for you. Or either is wrong.
Neither is wrong, but it's what's right for you. So I think that's so important. I love that you also teach our students that, because I feel like it's not being taught to our kids young. As you said, everything is about you should know what you want to do. You should take those steps.
And life is not like that. There's so many curveballs, so many pivots that we take, and we really need to give young kids and young people the ability to know you're going to be okay when you pivot. You're going to fail a million times, but that's okay. So I would love to touch a little bit on the failure part because I know you and I talked about this with my Dyslexia, I'm not nervous about failing because I failed so many times in the classroom, and it's like, yeah, whatever. Where do you think that you have gotten kind of the and I like to say the balls to really pivot as many times as you have?
I mean, TEDx speaking, podcasting, being a professor, all things again that you weren't looking to do, you kind of just pivoted and did it. Where do you think you got those balls to do it? Do you think that was from athletics? Do you think you were born that way? Can you give us a little insight in that?
Yeah, me let back up before I answer that question. I think there's all kinds of lessons to be learned and whatever journey we travel, just like all of what you said. But I noticed a lot of people just don't get it, and I'm really big on this idea of practicing reflection, introspection. What did I learn from that? Every phase of your life and even the failures, what did I learn?
And I don't think a lot of people spend the time to do that. They're just on to the next thing, whether it's a success or failure, they just move on without really sitting down to reflect and learn from it. I think that we all should be students of life, and if we truly want to get better, we need to pay attention. What can I take from this? So that's why I would leave with the listeners and then back.
What was the question about failure? I want to know, where do you think that you got the balls to really jump into all those different things? Because there's so many people out there that wouldn't do it, right? They'd be scared, and they would let fear hold them back. So where do you think you got that from?
Well, I think you plant the seed when you're young, and it probably had some seeds planted when I was in sports. But I'll be honest, my podcast and forging Metal is all about doing hard things, and it's there to not only encourage empower people to do hard things, but teach them how. And so I was roughly 47 years old, and I was coasting in life. I was stagnant, I was coasting. I was not tough mentally or physically, which probably led to not being fulfilled.
So how did I get that? I don't know. Call it the balls, the kajanes, whatever. I didn't have that. So if you're listening and say, I don't have that either, that's okay, I was there too.
But this is what I tell my students and clients, and sometimes people are a little bit offended by this, but I'll say this and I say it very confidently. You don't know what you're capable of yet. I would say most of the population has no idea what they can truly do. And the only way you do that is you got to go out there and you got to stretch yourself. I like to use the word the phrasing.
You got to explore the frontier. You've got to go looking for your limits. I like to use the terminology of soft limits and hard limits. Out there, you have soft limits and hard limits. Let's start with hard limits.
There are certain things I will not be able to do. I'm not going to be Einstein. I'm not going to be Michael Jordan. It's just not going to happen. So if your parents told you you can be anything you want in life, I hate to break it to you, but that's not true.
So I would call that's a hard limit. Right then we have soft limits and they don't appear to be hard limits. But more than likely, if you keep working at it, you're going to be able to break through those soft limits and one day you wake up. And by the way, I do stretch goals every single year. I never did that until about seven years ago.
Now I do one every year. And once you start breaking through these soft limits, you'll wake up and you go, wow, I didn't think I could do that. And you did do it. And then that leads to you stretching out there even further and further each time. And one day you wake up five years down the road and you say, oh, my gosh.
You look back at your former self and say, my former self would never even contemplate doing what I do now. And so in that way, you just transform into a different person that can go out there and do hard things. And to the average person, they look at you and go, wow, I can't believe you do that. Each and every one of you listening has that capability in you. But here's the thing.
We all know this, but let's say it anyway. You've got to make yourself uncomfortable. It's going to be awkward. You're going to fall down. You're going to fail.
It's not always going to be fun. And so most people shy away from that. Much of my Ted Talk is this idea that we shy away from adversity and discomfort. And what the research will show is actually embracing that adversity and discomfort can make us live. I don't like to focus on the word happy.
I say let's live a fulfilling life, and then happiness will come along for the ride. But really, you should be shooting for a fulfilling life. And by doing hard things, facing that adversity and overcoming it will make you fulfilled again. It's worked for me, it's worked for countless others and it's backed up by good research. And it's so true.
I tell this to my kids all the time and they're teens right now, so they, I'm sure, cursing their heads at me and giving me the finger behind their back because they're like, okay, here's mom giving us another corny. But it is so true. If you are not waking up majority, right, if you wake up happy every day, then maybe you're on the happy pill because that's not normal and no one should be waking up every day very happy. But for the majority, more on days than off days, if you're waking up happy, it's because you are in the path that you're meant to be in and you're out there stretching yourself. So I love that I say all the time, I don't even love the word failure because I like to call it missteps, because I look at it whenever I do have a misstep.
I'm like, what can I learn from that? Right? Let's not repeat that self. Does it always happen? No.
Do I repeat it sometimes? Yes. However, I always learn something. But I also learned something about myself, which I think is also really important. And I always am impressed by myself and not like tooting my own horn, but I'm always be like, you know what, I'm really proud that I dusted myself up.
I fell how many times I dusted myself up, I mean, starting the podcast and how many times I look back and listen and think, OK, I could have done that differently. But again, I don't look back and dwell on things like that. I'm like, okay, I learned from it, I move on. Let's see how I can make it better. And so I love that you touched on that.
So I want to touch on your podcast now. What gave you the idea, when did you start it, and what have you learned the most out of podcasting? We'll just throw those three questions at you and I can repeat them if you need. Yeah, let's start with kind of what you alluded to. I remember when I first started the podcast, right at the beginning of the pandemic, and I had no idea what I was doing.
I had to do a lot of research. I had never done this. I had never even known a podcaster. So it was intimidating. Again, once you get good at doing hard things, you can do more hard things.
And so I had been trained to kind of take on that idea of, hey, I've never done this before, but I'll figure it out. So I think, again, good message there for everybody is when you take on a daunting task, it's going to scare you, it's going to intimidate you. Just burrow in and embrace that and go forward, just like Juliet did. Just like I did and countless others. So I would start with that.
Why did I start it? It's called Forging Metal and it's this idea of I was that person. As I already said, I was that person that got soft. And I know this is going to sound judgmental, but I'm going to say it anyway. I feel our society, especially in the United States, has gotten soft.
We are a society that doesn't want to do anything that's difficult. We want to take shortcuts. We want hacks. When I tell my students to read a book, they say, can I read the Cliff Notes? I mean, this is prevalent in our society, and I don't believe it's serving us well.
It didn't serve me well. I was not happy when I was living that life. And I feel like there's a need here for people to not only understand that, hey, that adversity, that hardship, that discomfort, those stretch goals are good for you not to avoid them at all costs because there's plenty of people that avoid those at all costs, but to embrace them and then not only embrace them, but seek them out. So what can I do to challenge myself this year and then make that part of your DNA? This is how you live your life.
This is a habit you have as you go out and do hard things and you come back and talk to me. All right, try this on for a year or two. Come back and talk to me and tell me that you're not going, wow, I love my life. Now, again, I want to be very clear. It's not always fun, it's not always easy, but that's part of the game.
And once you can get your mindset wrapped around the idea that this is making me stronger, this is making me better, this is exactly what my brain is wired for. We are wired to improve, to strive for meaningful goals. We are not built to sit around on the couch and watch Netflix. All right? If you're stagnant in life and you can't figure out why you're always agitated, I'd say, okay, let's take a look at what you're doing with your life.
All right? And again, I know that sounds judgmental. I've been there. So I feel like I can talk about this. I was that person.
But the sooner you can get away from that and start doing some hard things, I think the better off you're going to be. So that's why I started not only the 4G Metal podcast but also Forge Metal Academy. What have I learned? Well, part of the thing, as you know, Juliet, it's so much fun to talk to people. I'm going to say it.
I get to talk to people way smarter than me. And I feel like I'm a student of life. I'm curious and I love to ask questions of people that I can learn from. And I'm going to shamelessly say I leverage almost all of it. I'm always picking from every guest.
I learn at least one nugget that goes into kind of like into my kind of guidebook for life. And with each podcast, in each conversation, I get smarter and I hope that the listeners do as well. So it's been very fulfilling in that way. And I've got to meet people that I never would have met before, including you, Juliet. I mean, I hate to say it would probably never cross paths if it wasn't for the podcast.
The only problem with podcasting right now, well, I think when I started my podcast, there was about 700,000 podcasts out there. And I think during the pandemic, it went over 2 million. I could be wrong on those numbers, but everybody was doing a podcast. And I feel like it's going to die back down. But there's a lot of competition out there for guests and podcasts.
I'm in this dilemma right now. I really enjoy it, but it's getting harder and harder to find good guests. So if you're a good guest, come and talk to me. No, I hear you. And you know, another thing is, and I love that, because you're right, we would never have connected our pads, this would never have crossed and we wouldn't have learned from each other.
So another thing is that I think a lot of people do, and I love that you said the year thing, because when I started my podcast, I started in 2019, it really was just a passion project. It was like I wanted to try it. I didn't know anyone, just like you. And I kind of researched it and figured it out on my own. But I gave myself a year.
I said, there's going to be some days that I don't want to podcast. I don't want to have an episode, but I'm going to say I'm going to do one episode a week. Now it's two. And I probably could even do more than that a week, but I've limited to two a week. But I was like, I will give it a year.
And I remember saying when I wake up, when that year comes and I am not loving what I'm doing, it's okay to say, okay, I tried it, I did it and it wasn't for me. But I gave it a year because so many people, I think, give up too soon. They start something, they get to that hard thing and they're like, oh, okay, that's scary. I'm quitting. And I remember, just like you said, you're finding guests.
I remember when I was a period when I pivoted and I started doing interviews and I was like, how am I going to keep finding people? Keep finding people? And it just always doors just continue to open because this is what I'm meant to be doing. This is what I was put on this earth to do. And so I know it's always going to be, have I pivoted?
Like this summer, this summer, things happen out in kind of the world and my family. I didn't have the time to do it as much. And so I said, you know what? I'm going to stop for a second. I haven't done reruns.
And I have so many episodes that I started in the beginning that people haven't heard because my listenership has gone up so much. I was like, you know what? I'm going to do some reruns. And they were amazing. And that's when then I was like, okay, season three, I want to have humans on.
And so it's a constant evolution. It's a constant growing. And that's with anything that's with anything we do, we have to allow ourselves to say, okay, my back is a little bit up against the wall. Where am I going to show up? What am I going to do?
How am I going to grow this? And it's so funny that I keep hitting my mic. It's because my hands are going everywhere. When you guys see the video, I'm like, all handsy. So I also now want to talk because you are constantly growing.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a professor and how did that come about? Well, that's great. That's what I call my nuclear year. Oh, gosh. I feel like it's about maybe seven years ago.
I may have already kind of started the story where I wasn't fulfilled. I was working at one of the top five best places to work in the United States at the time. I was a mechanical engineer making pretty good money. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I was living my OTT life.
But I kept thinking, something's not right. I don't feel fulfilled. And I remember thinking, is this life? Is this it? Do I just keep doing this for 20 years?
And then I retired and then I die. And I remember one day and I know this sounds a little melodramatic, but I said I used to go for a walk on my lunch hour most days. And I remember thinking when I was on my walk that if I got hit by a bus and got killed, I don't know that many people would care. And I know that sounds a little dramatic and my friends and family, of course, but as far as my co workers, not to say they didn't like me, but they would just have somebody else that would fill my spot. I was just a cog in the machine.
And not to say that's terrible, but I said, I want to have more impact on this world. That's when I had my nuclear year. I was engaged to be married. I was working as a mechanical engineer. I was doing all those things.
I was checking all the boxes that I thought society wanted me to check. And then I blew it all up. I caught the nuclear because it was like a detonated a bomb and blew it all up. And I said, I'm no longer going to live my hot life. I'm going to live the life that I want to live.
The number one regret of the dying is I wish I would have lived a life true to myself. I was not living a life true to myself. And so when I blew it up and it was painful for about a year, it was very painful as I went through the transition. But I said, I'm going to design a life exactly how I want. Everything is going to have intent and purpose.
It's not going to be driven by society. It's not going to be driven by my family or any other outside external force. It's going to be driven by me. When you blow your world up like that, you get to start with a blank canvas. And so here I was at 47 years old, starting with a blank canvas, and I have never been happier.
As I said here today, I've never been happier. And I just wish I would have done it sooner. Again, I'm not going to say it was wasted time, but I wish I would have figured that out 20 years ago instead of seven years ago. So that's how I got to be a professor and just to share a story, to say, hey, are you now living a life that matters, Ron? Are you giving back to society?
Are you contributing to a greater good? That was the idea, right? And so I remember one of my undergraduate students said to me at the end of our semester together and I really like this student. He came up to me at the end of the semester, last class, comes up to me after almost everybody had left the classroom, and he said, Ron, he goes, Can I bless you? And I kind of had a sense that he was kind of a religious guy.
And I remember thinking, okay, this is not something I've ever been asked. I don't know how to answer this, but I said, yeah, sure you can bless me. And he put his hand on my shoulder and he just went into this about a three or four minute kind of talk and it sounded almost like it was scripted. But he had all this information about me. He had been paying attention to the stories I told in class.
He incorporated all that into it. And so I always like to say I could work as a mechanical engineer for 50 years and nobody's ever going to bless me. One of my students bless me. And I feel like that's the impact I want to have. So check that box.
In my humble opinion, I'm having that impact that if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, somebody's going to care at least a little bit more than before. So that was my pivot, my nuclear year. And that's what led me to this. And I would just say to everyone out there, if you feel like that career is not doing it for you, don't be afraid to look deeper. Don't be afraid to go against the grain and say, all right, this is not for me, and then have the courage to go out there and search for what is for you.
And I know Julia can attest to this once you find that life changes. Life changes so much. It really does. And I think it's so beautiful that you said that, because that is and it wasn't melancholy because it was how you felt, right? So it was how you felt, but you took action and changed it.
And it doesn't matter what age, because, I mean, you could live to 100 years old, right? And so with half what you lived, you did before, you learned from these, and now you're doing what you're meant to be doing, and you could be living into your hundreds and being viable and still giving back and doing so many things. So now I want to I know we're coming close to an end, but I would love to also touch on the Ted Talk, because I know when we did your podcast, I believe we're like, a couple of weeks out. So you were preparing for that. So was that a goal of yours?
Did someone approach you saying, hey, you should do a Ted Talk? I mean, you're speaking you're a professor, so it kind of seems like it's something that kind of comes naturally and is but there's a lot of I know a lot of work that goes into a Ted Talk. So what made you want to do that? As you're growing your business, as you're growing your podcast, as you're being a professor, why did you want to add that into your life? Great question.
One of the things I like to do, the mindset I like to have and this is what I teach my students and clients as well is stop worrying about how's it going to make me money. What's? My ROI. Why should I do this? Look at is, how can I bring value to the world?
And I know let's be honest, the money and the ROI is not something that's not significant. To me it is, but I wanted to do it because I wanted to bring what I thought was an important message to as many people as I could. So that was part of what drove that or the main part, to your point. When I walked into again, this was another one. This was one of my stretch goals for this year.
And I speak in front of students all the time. I do a lot of lecturing on any given year, hundreds of hours of lecturing. So I'm used to talking in front of a group like, okay, this can't be that hard, right? Doing a Ted talk is just another lecture. I was amazed how much work it was and how nervous I was.
All right, if you've never done a Ted Talk and you want to do it, more than likely, even if you're a good speaker, it's going to make you pretty nervous. Now, that's not true for everybody. There was a person in our group that he just looked like a natural. I'm like, wow, you don't even look nervous. So that was not me.
I had to work at that. And I was very nervous, very scared. And I think that's, again, back to this idea of doing hard things. I had been forged in the fire, to be honest. By the time I got to doing the Ted Talk, I'm like, I've done hard things before.
I probably wouldn't have handled that situation as well as I did if I hadn't already done some hard things before. And so I think, again, we're just building on this idea that if you keep doing it, you can do more and more amazing things. And it was incredibly hard. But now I look back and go, wow, I did that and what's next? What's the next step?
And so, again, just the messaging of do hard things and it's going to be scary. By the way, I think I've mentioned this when I blew up my life, my nuclear. That was scary. Understand that fear is part of the game. All right.
I don't like this idea of I need to be fearless. No, you need to embrace fear as a natural thing that your brain is going to do. Embrace it as quite honestly, it can be a powerful motivator and then just switch that fear into excitement. But the thing is, I see a lot of people trying to remove fear from their life. And all the great performers, all the lead performers have fear.
They just find ways to get through it. And you can do that, too. And that's part of what I do in my coaching, as well as teach people how to deal with that fear and perform well under pressure. That's great. I love that you brought this up, but this is a great segue.
As we leave the show, what is next? Is there something else? Do you have another goal that you are working towards right now that you can share with us? Oh, goodness, there's a lot of things going on, Juliet. I appreciate you asking.
I just created three courses on coursera, basically in partnership with the University of Colorado. So those are out there. You don't have to be a University of Colorado student. Anybody can take those. They are focused on leading oneself.
I would probably change that name, but the university kind of likes leading oneself. I'd probably call it personal excellence. So just to give you an idea, it's a three course series on personal excellence. I am also working on another coursera course that will be the neuroscience of leadership. So applying neuroscience principles brain science to being better leaders.
So that's in process right now. I contributed to a first of its kind textbook that's coming out December 23 of this year. It's called adventure psychology. Knowingly going into the unknown. And it was a previous podcast guest, and she asked me, do you want to contribute a chapter to my first of its kind of textbook?
And I said, absolutely. So I did. Again, another stretch goal. By the way, I'd never done a textbook chapter, and that's on enduring performance. So how do we perform in an adventure context for long periods of time?
And, oh, by the way, what is life? Life is an endurance sport, so I think there's good stuff there. So I have that going on. And I'm also writing my first book, which is going to be called Forging Metal, that is hopefully going to be published early next year. So those are all the irons in the fire right now with me.
So exciting. Well, I love catching up with you. I mean, there's always I know even if we catch up in a bunch of months, there's going to be something else that you're working on because that is how you're living your life right now. You are taking steps to keep bettering yourself and bettering those around you. So thank you, Ron, so much for joining your Next Stop.
You're welcome. Thank you for having me. It's been a great conversation, guys. You know what to do. Like rate review.
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