Ryan Bennett is a high-performance coach, author, serial entrepreneur, and former Academic All-American. He is the founder of The Intentional Day, a movement helping people to live a more intentional life. Bennett guides people to be more intentional in their lives, businesses, and teams through his proven method of intentional growth.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew up the middle child of 3 in Kansas City, Missouri. My childhood was a pretty idyllic middle-class environment where I was able to attend good schools and was outside playing sports all year round with all the other kids in the neighborhood. I think this is probably where I developed my competitiveness.

One particular experience in my childhood really shaped my life. Growing up, I loved baseball and it was always my favorite sport. Around middle school, things started to get really hard for me because I was very short for my age and as kids started to hit their growth spurts, I was left behind. My Mom (who’s Italian and can be very convincing) would have to be on the phones with coaches begging them to let me play on their team so I wouldn’t be left out. As high school rolled around, I really wanted to be a Division 1 college shortstop. However, with my size, all the college coaches told me it wouldn’t be possible that I set my goals too high and that it won’t happen. I needed to shoot for something lower. This fueled my fire and I was determined to prove them all wrong. Almost 7 days a week, I would train to hit hundreds of baseballs, taking grounders and working on my footwork, and doing extensive speed dreams to improve upon my best attributes. As I hit my junior and senior year, I was finally being recruited and ended up getting a Division 1 college baseball scholarship. I took those same disciplines I learned in high school and applied them to my college baseball career earning me the Academic All-American award by ESPN.

This experience shaped my life immensely because the process I applied to be successful on the baseball field, is the same process I applied to myself and get to share with others.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

I wish I had realized how to be a student of life earlier. For me, school was about passing the test and moving on to the next thing. Not until my mid 20’s did I discover the power of studying and learning about topics that interested and intrigued me. I wish I would have known this in college.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

There are two recommendations that I hear in my profession that cause me to cringe every time I hear them.

First, telling people to set S.M.A.R.T goals. It has been proven that only 8% of people who set goals each year actually achieve them. With a 92% failure rate, why do we keep suggesting establishing SMART goals? Setting goals just focuses us on the scoreboard (or outcome) and not on the process it takes to develop the habits and disciplines to achieve those goals.

Second, when people suggest that you need a certificate or degree to get started. I think this is poor advice. In my field, people get distracted by working towards the correct coaching certificate, when they should be focused on original ideas that they can use to bring value to other people’s lives.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

After college, I moved to Silicon Valley and founded a startup company. I recruited a team, built some good products, but after 2 ½ years I was out of time and money and had to shut down the business. After the business failed, I had to move back into my parent’s basement after losing all my money and years of my life, I felt humiliated, discouraged, and empty. I started to coast through life, gained some weight, lost my drive, and just became a version of myself I didn’t like. After I had this realization, I knew I had to do something different but didn’t know exactly what to do. That’s when I started to pick up the habit of reading. I started to study personal development, success, leadership and started to learn from some of the smartest and most successful people. This moment really shaped who I am today.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

The one thing that I do that has been the biggest contributor to my success so far is reading. It sounds cliché but the author has put 10+ years of learning into 200 pages for me. Reading allows me to learn new ideas, study, think and take notes on ways the author’s thoughts can apply to my life.

What is your morning routine? 

I’m a morning person so I wake up at 5:30. I pray, journal, read in 20-minute cycles rotating between two different books, spend a few minutes with my daughter (right now it’s changing her diaper for my wife) and then shower. I try to get to my desk by 8.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

The habit that has most improved my life over the years is to reflect on an experience each day to help grow my emotional intelligence. I call this ‘watching film’. Each day I will replay a conversation or situation and watch for areas where I could have improved. It was eye opening how many things I missed at the moment that I was able to realize after the fact.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

For me, I have to write everything down or I won’t use my time efficiently or productively. For work-related items, I use a Moleskine and write down each item that needs to get done each day. For all other items, I use the Boomerang Gmail application. This application allows me to email myself at a later time/date, which allows me to schedule a time to do it but doesn’t let me forget about it.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

Get-Real Leadership by Harry Campbell
As I was just starting my professional career, I had the chance to have Harry (the author) as a mentor of mine. His book taught me that you could be both a very effective leader and also have your team’s best interest at heart. Harry was able to learn his leadership style from Sam Walton and provides some of his ideas and frameworks and this short, but powerful book.

The Law of Success: In Sixteen Lessons by Napoleon Hill
This is a timeless book on the principles of personal development that are just as relevant today as they were when Napoleon Hill wrote this book in the early 1900s. It has really helped me establish my mindset as I started to study personal development. I’m not a big fan of the trend to ‘hack’ or find shortcuts on your growth and this book laid out fundamental principles of growth that work from Ben Franklin to us today.

Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden
As an athlete, I resonated with John Wooden’s teaching and principles of success. He is the most successful college basketball coach in the history of the NCAA yet never talked about winning the game. He preached a definition of success that focused on establishing the right mindset and habits and focusing on doing the best you can each day and letting the scoreboard take care of itself.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

Two of my favorite quotes are by Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King Jr.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive” – Howard Thurman

I love this quote because we each have unique skills, experiences, and desires of our hearts that shape our lives. This quote is a good reminder to check in with myself and to make sure I’m still enjoying the life I’m working to intentionally create.

“People must taste defeat as well as success and discover how to live with each” – MLK Jr.

I’ve had both national recognition and business failures. Without both of those wildly different experiences, I would never have discovered and developed my true self that is grounded and authentic.