Ryan Cote is the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned print and digital marketing company. He manages the digital marketing division (SEO, PPC, social media & content) including account management, sales, and strategy. Ryan is also on a mission to raise the awareness of personal development via his blog and podcast, Morning Upgrade.

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 in Kinnelon, a small town in New Jersey. I’m fortunate that I had a good childhood with a good family – not saying things were perfect by any means, but I’m grateful for the upbringing I had. My father ran his own business with his brother and being around that entrepreneurial drive I believe rubbed off on me because I’ve had the itch for as long as I can remember. Entrepreneurship…creating and learning new things…and personal development has been strong drivers in my life.

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

Definitely the critical importance of relationships – I’ve been fairly shy my whole life with moments of outgoingness – and it’s held me back from many opportunities to build relationships and meet new people. While I still struggle with this to an extent, it’s much better now…but I wish I would have realized earlier in my life that shyness is just a story I tell myself and to put myself out there and figure it out.

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

In my opinion, the advice to be everywhere is bad marketing advice. I get it, and I’m almost certain I’ve given this advice back in the day…but I’ve changed my mind on the concept. Unless you are a very large company with very deep pockets and resources, it’s hard to be everywhere while also being effective. It’s also hard to be everywhere without losing your mind from overwhelm. I would much rather have a tighter focus and see better results. For example, dominating Instagram instead of trying to dominate all the major social networks. Or going all-in on video content instead of trying to master video, blog, and email content.

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?

I feel like the more you try to do and achieve, the more potential dark periods you will encounter, but I do my best to just accept that as the cost of admission. For example, my wife and I decided to get into real estate investing and we’ve had some crazy stressful moments with mold issues and ceilings collapsing – but you get through it alive and it changes you – you realize you’re able to get through challenges.

We also had a period at Ballantine in 2017 when we were losing a lot of big clients and it felt like the sky was falling. It forced us to re-evaluate our services and who we work best with…but it also forced me to amp up my personal development and become a better version of myself.

The amount of success you achieve in life is generally dictated by the amount of stress you can tolerate.

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

I would say, my persistence in taking daily action, my speed at executing on ideas, and my morning routine. The set of habits I follow in the morning has been a game-changer. And the compound effect of doing this every day has been eye-opening.

What is your morning routine?

My wake-up time is not consistent and this is something I know I need to fix, but it’s usually around 6:30. My morning routine is 45 minutes and it consists of meditation, exercise, journaling, gratitude practice, writing down my win from yesterday, setting my 3 priorities for the day, learning something new, and jotting down one person I am going to reach out or recognize that day. I call it my BMP morning routine which stands for Body, Mind, and Progress – these are the 3 pillars I focus on in my routine.

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

Well, it has to be my morning routine, but I will also mention my pursuit for personal growth has really shaped my life from the books I read, the masterminds I joined, the way I invest in myself, and more. I think these all alone are awesome habits or behaviors to build. Want just one that will be a catalyst for personal growth? Hands down, join a mastermind group and go all in.

The thing I like about personal growth is it’s a journey that never ends because we’re all imperfect human beings – and remember, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.

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

I set my 3 priorities for the day and I make sure I get all 3 done before the day is over. Checking those 3 boxes off is super gratifying. I’ll also get other things done throughout the day of course, but I make sure my priority tasks are taken care of. I also stay off of social media and I try not to get lost down the rabbit hole also known as email. I’m not structured with when and how I check email, but I’m very aware of not getting sucked into email unless there are very important emails I know I need to reply back to quickly. I would also attribute exercise and healthy living in general to being productive. I exercise every day and eat well and it makes me feel good…and when I feel good, I’m in a better mood and I’m more productive.

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

I would say The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy because it’s a good mindset twist into how you view achievement and goal setting. It highlights the impact of small, daily improvements that compound into results. My second book would be How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I love this book because relationships matter most and this book offers timeless advice around building rapport and effective communication.

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

I love the affirmation “every day in every way I’m getting better and better”. It ties into the lesson behind The Compound Effect and 1% better every day is a mantra I try my best to live by. I also love the quote “how you do one thing is how you do everything” because it’s a good reminder not to slack off on the small and seemingly insignificant things.