Ryan Judd always knew he wanted to work with kids. Growing up, he took jobs as a camp counselor and babysitter. That led him through college and grad school into a career in music therapy serving children with special needs and autism. He experimented with creating a music therapy “package” that he could sell online. The project didn’t work but it led him to writing and releasing original, clinical-based music for people suffering from insomnia and anxiety. These projects were very successful and gave him the space to heed the calling he felt to make art.

Guest Bio 

Ryan Judd is a Billboard Chart Topping recording artist, award-winning musician, and internationally known music therapist. He is an accomplished fingerstyle guitarist and is committed to making music that inspires well-being. Ryan’s unique musical style on the nylon string guitar creates a warm and gentle soundscape for the listener. His recordings have been streamed more than 340 million times. As a board-certified music therapist, Ryan has had the honor of working with children with life-threatening illnesses. This has inspired him to donate a percentage of his profits to a non-profit organization called Lucy’s Love Bus which provides free music therapy services to pediatric cancer patients. Ryan is also the co-founder of the app, Cool Koala – Guided Bedtime Meditations for Children with ADHD and Anxiety.

Turning 40 and Letting Go of the Sure Thing

In this episode of the Forty Drinks Podcast, Stephanie talks to Ryan Judd, a musician and music therapist who has transitioned from a music therapist to a successful musician in his 40s. Ryan shares his journey from working with kids to a career in music therapy, to producing clinical-based music for insomnia and anxiety, and eventually transitioning into the world of making music as art. He discusses the role of mentorship and courage in following his passions and taking risks. Ryan also talks about the importance of vision boards and goal setting in achieving success. The episode concludes with a discussion about Ryan’s milestone of reaching 100 million streams on Amazon music and the unexpected turns his life has taken. 

Highlights from the episode:

  • Ryan’s passion for working with kids and his journey into psychology and music therapy.
  • The transformative experience of working with children with special needs and finding his calling in that field.
  • Ryan’s exploration into creating music for sale, and his transition from creating clinical-based music to pursuing his artistic vision.
  • The role of mentorship and support in Ryan’s journey and the importance of asking for help.
  • The power of courage in pursuing new opportunities and overcoming insecurities.
  • The success of Ryan’s music on Amazon music and the impact of his work on listeners.

Resources mentioned:

  • “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss: A book that inspired Ryan to explore passive income streams.
  • Cool Koala app: An app co-founded by Ryan that provides guided bedtime meditations for kids with ADHD and anxiety.

Ryan’s albums: 

  • Sleep Soundly
  • Tranquil Guitar
  • An Open Sky

Listeners are encouraged to rate, follow, and review the podcast.

Is ‘should’ a positive or negative word?

The people who tell us what we SHOULD do usually have our best interests in mind. They want to give us the path to success and – more often – safety. But “should” is a loaded word. According to the definition, the word is used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions. And the bigger problem with “should” is that we can internalize those obligations or duties as the only “right” way to live our lives. But every one of those “shoulds” comes from outside our own heart and soul, which nobody else can fully know. In episode 3, Jaime’s friend asked when she was going to “stop shoulding all over herself.” And in episode 6, Eric talked about how our parents worked so hard to make sure we had opportunities they didn’t, and we could do things they couldn’t – and yet, many times, they tried to hold us to the same standards and timelines that worked for them.

Guest Resources

Ryan is generously offering Forty Drinks Listeners 20% off digital mp3 album or physical CD

Listening Link for New Album, Echoes of Peace (Includes all streaming platforms) 

Music therapy website: www.TheRhythmTree.com

Cool Koala app website: www.CoolKoala.co

Find Ryan on Facebook

Find Ryan on Instagram

Do you have the Midlife Ick? 

Download Stephanie’s guide to the Ick to diagnose whether you or someone you love is suffering from this insidious midlife malaise. www.fortydrinks.com/ick  

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The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications


Ryan: Hey, Ryan. Thanks for joining me today.

It's my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Stephanie: It's my pleasure as well. You and I were introduced by, our dear friend, Amy Nelson, who was one of my original 40 Drinks drinks. She was a part of the birth of this project, although I am delinquent in not having her on the podcast yet. Cause you and I both know she's got a great 40 story.

Ryan: Oh, yeah, for sure.

Stephanie: She introduced us and she said, Steph, you've got to meet Ryan. He's got a really cool story. So I'm really excited to jump in today.

Ryan: Awesome.

Stephanie: All right, so let's start. somewhere between your childhood and sort of age 30, 35 ish, tell me what forces made you who you were as that, young 30 ish adult kind of person.

Ryan: Yeah, for sure. I'd be glad to. I always loved working with kids. You know, it was always my jam. It was always my thing. It came naturally to me. It came easily to me. So as soon as I could start working, I took jobs working with kids in some context, you know, summer camp counselor and babysitter and all that stuff.

Then I really started getting interested in psychology, so I ended up doing my undergrad in psychology at the University of San Diego, which was awesome, and fun and great education. Then I graduated and, you know, I knew I wanted to do something more than what I could do with a bachelor's in psychology.

Okay, I got to figure out some kind of grad school continuing ed type thing. All right, I'll take a year off. I went and lived with my mom. I worked in a residential treatment center for kids. And that was amazing. really beautiful, a little bit of a side note, but plays into the whole story.

I had come off a breakup right before that year, and I lost my laughter, I lost my smile, I lost my sense of humor, and working with these kids who had been removed from their homes by the state because of neglectful parents and unfit parents, they gave me the gift of finding my laugh and my smile and my humor.

I still remember a couple of those kids who just responded so well to something silly I did. My whole soul opened up and it was like, Oh, my God, this is beautiful. So I knew I was on the right path with the kids. Right? Then I started researching, grad schools., I was really getting into playing music, playing guitar. I was a total late bloomer as a musician, like my junior, senior year in college. But I was pretty obsessed by it and practicing a lot, studyin g with some great teachers. I was really into Eastern arts and Eastern philosophy.

I found this school in Boulder, Colorado, that was founded by a Buddhist monk. Allen Ginsberg was part of the start of the school and it's called Naropa University. Amazing, amazing place. They had a three year master's program in music therapy, and transpersonal counseling psychology, which is a mouthful, but it's basically a type of counseling psychology that honors and takes into account someone's spiritual traditions and uses that as part of the therapeutic process. Uses, of course, the easy example is meditation mindfulness as the part of the therapeutic process. So that was an amazing, amazing education. taught you how to be a great music therapist and a great counselor, but it taught you how to be a human and how to deal with the insanity of a busy mind and all those things that, you know, mindfulness and meditation can help with.

Here's the thing, though. I had never worked with kids with special needs. When we grew up in high school, it was like, they're off on the other side of the school. You didn't really see them or interact with them that much. And I remember the first time a couple of kids with special needs came into our classroom and the teacher was like, okay, interact with them, have fun.

I felt so intimidated. I didn't know what I was doing. I was kind of hiding just off in the corner observing, but my internship was at Boulder Community Hospital. And a big part of it was at the pediatric rehabilitation unit. It was all the kids with special needs and I walked on that floor and I just fell in love with it and I started work with these kids and these amazing parents and I was just like, this is it.

This is my thing. I graduated and immediately started private practice and music therapy specializing in children with special needs. A lot of kids with autism and down syndrome.

Stephanie: I love it. My husband works in social work and he works for the state child protection agency. So when you talk about being in the locked unit with the kids who have been removed from their homes, I hear stories of that quite often. I know what challenging circumstances those can be.

So you were able to bring something to the table that sparked them then you, got your smile back. That's an amazing experience and in such a challenging situation.

Ryan: Yeah, and let's tie it together to my work with kids with special needs. My foundations of therapy were the therapeutic relationship, the trust, the bonding, music, and humor. And guess what? Playing music with a child with special needs creates that bond and creates that trust and that therapeutic relationship.

And using humor does too. You know what it's like when you're laughing with someone, having a good time, all that just kind of came full circle and, you know, I love this work. And so, been doing that for 23 years now and along the way I had a friend who was, MBA kind of dude. He kept saying Ryan you're so good at this stuff, dude. You got to package this. I was like, you can't package that. But that always stuck in my head, and I was like damn maybe there is a way to package this somehow so I can offer it to more families.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Ryan: throughout the country and throughout the world. I finally bit the bullet and I hired a film crew and I wrote all these songs and I recorded all these songs and I filmed this DVD, recorded a CD, imported thousands of instruments from China, put together a songbook and created this whole special needs package for kids with special needs and autism.

That was an amazing process that kind of got me down the road on like more of an entrepreneurial route. Then I started getting into releasing music, clinical based music, like music for sleep. One of my first albums was called Sleep Soundly for people struggling with insomnia. And I followed that up with Tranquil Guitar, all 60 beats per minute, like resting heart rate music, super chill ocean waves in the background, long tracks allow your body and your brain to entrain to that 60 beat per minute, resting heart rhythm, and the ocean track going in between tracks.

So there's not that silence to wake up the neurological system. I put a lot of research and thought into it. That was awesome and a huge success. I did more of that. And then I got into my forties. Here we go. Right.

Stephanie: Right. Right.

Ryan: Here's a big transition and just thought like, okay, I'm good at making this clinical stuff.

I'm good at marketing it. There's a need. I've done it and damn it, I want to make some art. I don't feel like an artist. I don't feel like I've done anything artistic and it contributed to humanity in that way. So I said, you know what? I don't give a damn if I can make a penny off this album. I'm going to create the music I want to listen to, and what I want to listen to is solo instrumental finger style, nylon string guitar with a cello.

You barely ever hear those two instruments paired together, but such an amazing synchronicity and symbiosis there between those two instruments, just their range and the way they speak together. I found this beautiful cellist who's also a sound healer. So that was really cool. And we created this album of music of just that, solo guitar and cello, and it's called An Open Sky.

It was beautiful. It did really well. I was like, okay, I can't just create this music. I have to get it out there. I feel like it's my duty, my spiritual duty, to get uncomfortable, face my insecurities and put this music out to the world to try to help some people. No matter how difficult or challenging or, what kind of self defeating thoughts I might have, I really need to push through that. So I did that and I hired a mentor. And of course, it's all about mentorship. So had an amazing mentor and it was a huge success.

That was kind of the turning point. And then the musician career started really taking off. Okay, I have this thriving, huge music therapy practice with all these independent contractors working for me. And I just don't have it in me to like hire another one is when we need it.

I feel like I lost the fire and that I knew there were young music therapists out there fired up, who would do a way better job and be much more involved than I. So I ended up selling off vast majority of my practice. I kept some clients, I five clients who have been with me for 10, 15 years and I still see them and I love it.

Friday mornings, my music therapy day. So that's how I'm coming off of it opened up that space to dive deeper into the career as a musician.

Stephanie: Your junior or senior year, you sort of had an aha moment with the guitar. Tell me about how you came to guitar or how the guitar found you.


Ryan: I was noodling, you know. I had the old beat up classical guitar in the corner of my apartment and would noodle around with it, took some lessons, had a jerk for an instructor. That didn't help. That didn't really inspire me. I remember I was sitting on the couch in my friend Billy's house and he was a guitarist, a very good guitarist.

And he had this old video from Red Rocks, of this amazing solo instrumental guitarist named Michael Hedges. And I was sitting there with my best friend Nicole at the time, and I started watching it, and I just started crying. I just could not help but cry because I knew that there was this burn inside of me, this desire and this calling to follow that path and play like Michael Hedges.

He was light years ahead of me in his skills and still is. It was just one of those moments, one of those soul opening moments where you're just like, damn, that's it. So from then on, it was a game changer seeing that dude.

Stephanie: Yeah. Your guitar career I'll use that with sort of air quotes for the first 10 or 15 years was really pretty practical. And really combined with your professional background of therapy and psychology and research, is that correct?

Ryan: Totally. Yeah. I started composing and I started playing little gigs at fancy restaurants where I'd be like sitting in the corner doing background music. And that was cool. I was getting paid. It was actually paid really well. As a young student out of grad school, it was kind of fun to have, you know, a couple of weekend gigs like that.

And I recorded one CD. I didn't even publish it. t was a hobby, you know, it was a hobby and I was cool with that at the time. Yeah. And then the music therapy really started picking up. So I had even less time to spend on my personal music. And then those, you know, those clinical applications of music came about and I poured myself into that.

And then it was just that, that moment where I said, yeah, let's create some art here.

Stephanie: How old were you when that moment hit?

Ryan: I was about 43 or 44.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Ryan: Yeah.

Stephanie: Did art come calling for you?

Ryan: I think it was always there. I think it was always there kind of nagging at me. It was like one of those ideas that just pop up in your mind from time to time, but you let it slip away and then it comes up again and comes up again. And just being inspired by my work and the music of others and

I had just so much emotion that needed to be processed. This is the beautiful thing about my work that I'm so thankful for is that it's,it's so symbiotic. Then the music therapy work that I do informs the music and the music helps me in the music therapy work.

And that mindfulness practice and meditation, of course, informs it all as well. I was working with this beautiful young girl named Zoe and I started working with her as a music therapist when she was about three and she had brain cancer and had this insane surgery to remove the tumor in her brain and months and months in the hospital of all these super, super intensive, traumatic, invasive treatments. And I started working with her and that was it for her. Music was it for her and opened up her heart. She became so closed off in so many ways. I mean, you can't blame her. She created these like walls around herself and so much of her personality was hidden because of the trauma and then through the humor, right?

And the music. You could just see this beautiful personality starting to shine. I went to her house twice a week for a couple of years. And then she passed and that whole experience of the funeral and dealing with the grief and the loss, it, it just, it had to go somewhere. And I poured it into the album An Open Sky.

Stephanie: Wow. One of the things that's fun for me is, and I don't talk about this often, but in my day job, I own a marketing agency.

One of the things I love about your story is it's not only the 40 story, it's not only the transition, there's a piece, there's a whole piece of marketing here that, ties into your story andhow you transitioned from, your guitar playing and your, artwork.

If I recall correctly from our earlier conversation, your first package that you talked about for special needs kids, didn't really hit the way you wanted to to the extent that you had invested in it and tell me what you did from there.

Ryan: Oh, man. It brought me to my knees. You know, I still remember the moment where I decided, okay, it's been two years of content marketing strategy to try to get this off and sell more than one every week or two.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Ryan: I had spent so much time and energy and effort and then my wife became pregnant and it was like, damn, she wanted to be a full time mama.

I'm like, I got to make up for her whole income stream and then some because, you know, kids ain't cheap. I had this heart to heart to her and we talked about it. She made me realize like, listen, your music therapy work's going so great and you're starting to have like a waitlist.

Why don't you expand upon that and pull back some of your time and energy from your video blog and all the marketing for the DVD kit. And and I just remembered one of those moments I curled up on the couch bawling because I had to let it go and I let it go and pick my ass up off the couch and thought, okay.

You just learned so damn much over the past two, three years producing and marketing this. You've learned about video blogging and content market strategy and social media and blog posts and article writing and graphic design and copywriting. There's so many pieces to it, and I'm not saying I mastered any of that stuff, but you know, I got a decent handle on a lot of it.

Okay, damn it, how can you take your unique skill set and everything that you've learned and find something that people are actively searching for because no one was going on Amazon or Google and typing in music therapy DVD kit for kids with autism. It just wasn't happening. I had that massive project on my shoulders and it didn't work out.

And then I discovered that, Oh my God, people are needing music for relaxation and sleep. And I listened to some of the stuff that was out there. I'm like, that fired me up. I'm quite competitive. I'm not saying it's all, but I'm hearing a great deal of crap out there that had absolutely no clinical basis.

Or just sometimes no logical basis to help someone struggling with insomnia, or sleep, or relaxation, or whatnot, anxiety. I was just so fired up. I'm like, damn it, I can do better than that. Sothat was helpful. Heh heh heh.

Stephanie: I love though that you, you reverse engineered it. You, had this project that came from the soul and that you put together and you poured into for years and it didn't work. So one, you do have to, at some point, let something go if it's not working, right? So you had that opportunity to let it go. But all those skills that you had developed and I understand you're not suggesting that you're a professional content marketer, but after spending a couple of years working that hard, I know you've learned, quite a bit, but to then reverse engineer it and go, what are people searching for? And then create for the need is a really cool way of doing things. And that, I believe, if I'm remembering your story right, that kind of set you up for the next couple of transitions. Certainly you and your wife having your kids and, and also this transition into art.

Ryan: For sure, it set me up in so many ways. The skills, but also the income, and I became obsessed about passive income streams after reading Tim Ferriss's 4 Hour Workweek. He made it sound so easy, Steph, which I'm so glad he did because I, went a whole hog into that. I'm like, oh my God, this is amazing.

Passive income. Holy cow. That sounds brilliant. Like, yeah. I would love to have the significant passive income stream that covers all my bills without me having to put in 40 hours a week. And yeah, I was very delusional about,

Stephanie: Little bit, yeah. Define what passive income is and how it sort of works into the mix. Tell me a little bit about that.

Ryan: Yeah, passive income is when you don't have to trade your hours for your money. My music therapy work is not passive. I don't get paid unless I'm sitting in front of that client and doing my thing. But I'm getting paid right now through the royalties from streaming of people listening to my music on Amazon Music, Apple, Pandora, Spotify.

I'm selling physical product, physical CDs of all these albums on Amazon right now. So here I am having this beautiful conversation with you and making money at the same time when I was on vacation two weeks ago. Like I did pretty damn well that week and I didn't do any work. So like, that's kind of the beauty of passive income.

And of course. It allows me to pursue projects and invest in projects to try to serve and try to help people in need.

Stephanie: Yeah. So those, those reverse engineered musical projects, for sleep and for relaxation, those set you up with that passive income to be able to make a couple of these different leaps in the next couple of years. So your wife wanted to be a full time mama. Were you guys able to do that?

Ryan: Yes.

That was amazing. That blew me away. I was like, I didn't see a path forward. I don't know how I'm going to like almost double my income in the next year, but intention, mentorship, obsession. Those things help.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Ryan: So yeah, that was very helpful.

Stephanie: Yeah, but then you make the shift to art Talk about the discomfort there once you start shifting into the place of art versus solving a problem.

Ryan: I mean, I've always felt inferior to so many people that I've surrounded myself with, whether it's the recording engineer and I'm in that recording studio, just sweating and second guessing myself and knowing that the clock is ticking and it's very expensive and you know, there's those insecurities.

I've gotten better with time for sure. But I still surround myself with people who are way better than me in so many ways for different skill sets, you know, so I think that's so important. it was facing a lot of those insecurities. It was knowing like, Oh my God, I'm going to hire this cellist who's way better of a musician than I am like on so many levels.

And I'm going to ask her to accompany this music and I'm going to have to sit and rehearse with her and she's going to see my flaws. That's for damn sure. She's going to see my flaws as a musician and I'm going to just have to be humble and eat it and accept it and learn.

Stephanie: Was there a difference between putting the. I want to be thoughtful in how I say it, but the, the sort of the, the musical product to solve a problem, right? Sleep relaxation. Was there a difference between putting that into the world and then putting the music that you considered art hmm.

Ryan: Oh my God, such a difference. The art was so much better. Alright, so, the like, music for insomnia and, you know, stress anxiety, 60 beats per minute. I'm sitting there in the freaking studio with the headphones on, with the damn click track in my ears. At 60 beats per minute. How expressive can I be with that?

Ha ha ha. I'll show you a little, an example of what I'm talking about here. So, if I'm playing to a click track and it's just this like

That's kind of what you're dealing with, right? If you're free to express your heart and your emotion, then you can let it breathe, and you can put some soul and timing into it.

Something like that.

Stephanie: Yeah. Wow.

Ryan: the clinical stuff had no heart and soul and catharsis in it. And the artistic stuff was all about playing from my heart, playing, not even thinking about it so much, just letting the music flow. It's so much more flow and expression and emotion. And yeah, it was good.


Stephanie: Was there something about you personally that made you feel that you could do the art at that point in time versus you couldn't do it earlier? I'm just trying to get around the two different kinds of guitar. You know work that you've put into the world. I'm just trying to see, is there any connection to your life and your ability to express that way?

Ryan: Yeah, I mean, I think it was partly the people I worked with in creating some of the clinical stuff were so kind and supportive and cool to work with that they gave me some confidence to believe in myself that I could do the artist thing and they had the contacts like my sound engineer for all the the more insomnia based clinical music introduced me to the cellist

She actually just lives in Newburyport and, I can totally hook you guys up and I, I can record it for you. I think it would be awesome. just those things of having some people be supportive of that was really helpful and gave me the wings to really pursue that.

Stephanie: it sounds like a really organic journey from junior, senior in college and having yourself cracked open by finding this amazing guitarist all the way through to your clinical work and, and then into the art phase, it just feels like a really organic journey all the way through.

Ryan: So many of these major transitions have just been openings, you know, just a door opening, opportunity opening, a part of my spirit or heart or soul opening and allowing something new to come about.

Stephanie: That piece is what I'm so interested in. Tell me what an opening feels like to you. How do you know that you are opening or have been opened? Or tell me how that presents for you.

Ryan: I think when it feels right and there's that passion and enthusiasm. Yes, I've had a couple moments of, you know, you can't really put it into words kind of experience where you're, the only way I could explain it is like, your soul feels like it's on fire in a good way,

Stephanie: Mm hmm.

Ryan: Where you're being that deeply inspired.

I don't feel like that's true for everyone. And it wasn't true for all my transitions, but it's definitely a calling. It's this thought and this dream that, as I mentioned before, just keeps coming back. It took me years before I pulled the trigger on the special needs DVD thing.

Again, it just kept nagging at me like, you gotta do this. Oh, it's gonna take too much time and energy and money. Oh man, I don't know if I can do it all. It wouldn't let me be . So that's why it just kind of felt like a calling because it kept tapping me on the show, like, dude, Come on now, let's do this thing.

And even if I had pushed it away for a little while, I'd come back a few weeks later. Come on, see this opportunity. You got it. You got a great chance here. So part of that and yeah, part of just like heart opening and then opportunities presenting themselves and just feeling like, damn, that's a good fit.

You know, like this whole other project we haven't talked about yet, but I'm also the co founder of this cool app called Cool Koala guided bedtime meditations for kids with ADHD and anxiety. it wasn't my idea. It was my co founder's idea, Misha and Misha had heard a couple of these guided meditations with my music and them for kids on YouTube.

His kids loved them. He's like, dude, we gotta do something with this. And he had built this other app called, Sound Sleeper that was super popular, like a white noise for babies and stuff. So he had a lot of experience. He's like, dude, we can do this. And I just like, Oh my God, this is going to be a lot of time, energy and effort, but I'm like, son of a gun.

This is like combines my skillset of music and my mindfulness work and my love of working with kids and helping kids. And my joy of storytelling and even humor, we got some crazy characters and I do all the voices for Cranky Cat and Busy Beaver and Worried Walrus and, Oh, I'm so worried today.

You know, I had a blast recording some of those characters. So again, I infused a little bit of humor knowing that kids with anxiety or ADHD or both, is laying in bed and they know it's going to be another struggle to fall asleep. And all of a sudden they're hearing these goofy little characters and they laugh a little or smile a little.

guess what's happening on a neurological level? it's releasing some of those hormones, those feel good hormones that can calm and relax. So when opportunities arise where it's just like, damn, this is too good of a fit to say no. When it's a hell yeah. I love that. This guy, Derek Sivers, the guy who founded CD Baby, my music distributor he said it's got to be a hell yeah.

You know, you get to a certain point where there's so many opportunities, like you put yourself out there in the world, you got a little bit of success and all of a sudden people are like, Hey, do you want to do this? Hey, do you want to do this? Hey, can you help me with this? And so it's those like, hell yeah moments where you have an idea presented to you.

You're just like, damn, hell yeah, let's do it. So that's what it takes for me these days to get fired up about a new project.

Stephanie: I love it. Hell yeah. You were talking a minute ago about the, opportunities that would nag you and would tap you on the shoulders and that wouldn't go away. How does courage play into choosing to follow those opportunities or take advantage of them or say yes to them.

Tell me about how courage plays in because I think in the hell yeah, it's, it's like, there's almost no courage necessary there. Cause you're just in the ocean or you're just in the river and it's just sweeping you along. Cause everything fits so perfectly. There's no courage necessary, but for those, for those ideas, even your first art CD you know, or even the kids DVD package, you know, if they tapped you for a long time and you said no, and you let them percolate and tell me about courage.

Ryan: I mean, courage is having the fear and doing it anyways, right?

Stephanie: Mm hmm. Mm

Ryan: It's kind of becoming comfortable with the unknowing and comfortable with the insecurity.

Stephanie: hmm.

Ryan: I'll tell you another pivotal story where I felt like courage was a total game changer. Here I am this fresh green music therapist right out of grad school diving into starting a private practice, having a few clients.

Things are going really well, but I'm still doubting myself on a daily basis and my skills and my ability to really make a difference in these children's lives. And there was this amazing therapy camp called Adam's Camp. Five kids with special needs, five therapists to get your occupational, speech, physical therapist, art therapist, music therapist, and you have five days to intensively work with these kids up in the mountains, the whole family's up there, everyone's staying in cabins. It's amazing, and I kept getting invited and I kept saying no, because I didn't want these therapists to see my work because I was insecure.

I thought these therapists would see my work and be like, dude, you're coming, what are you doing? You know? Music therapist, like, are you really doing anything with this kid? is this going to help? So people kept encouraging me again, like the mentorship, right? The positive, supportive people who believed in my skills when I was doubting them myself.

And finally I said, yes. And that changed my life. Because I'm up there and I'm immersed with these families and these kids on such a deep level and immersed with this team of amazing therapists and everyone is just like, dude, you're so awesome. This is so great. And oh my God, I'm seeing you got to lead the group. The thing that we like end the whole week, where all the parents come for the first time and watch us, you're leading it. And I'm just like, oh damn. More courage needed. Dial up more courage, please. So, you know that experience again of having people believe in me when I was not believing in myself was a game changer and I walked out of that camp with just so much more confidence in my therapy skills, which made me a better therapist because then I didn't like, Oh, if I do this, it might not work out.

And Oh, mom's observing me. And she might think I suck. It was just like, shit, I'm going to try it.

Stephanie: Yeah. You know, one of the pieces that I like to talk about a lot is that this transition sometime between 35 and 45. We go from what is called first adulthood, and in first adulthood, that's when we do. All the things that we think we should. We are guided by other people's authority. We take advice from people who we know, love and respect, but we just do it because that's what they think is going to make us successful. And this transition that most of us go through can sometimes be messy and that's when we really start trusting ourselves and our own experience and our own inner voice and, and really trusting ourselves to determine what's right for us.

And so I'm curious to hear a little bit about what is it that you gave up that was a should what have you left behind that? You had done for a long time because you thought it was, quote unquote, the right way to do it or the right thing to do.

Ryan: You should keep making clinical music because it's profitable and you know you can sell it. You should hang on to this music therapy practice because it's working. And if it ain't broke, don't fix it. You should do these things because you see the stability that's already there. listen, I'm not a risk taker.

I'm pretty damn conservative. I took a huge gamble with our finances. I Did I take a gamble. Hell yeah. I took a gamble. Was it huge? Was it going to ruin us? Definitely not. That's not my style. It's some people's style. You know, everyone's got their, their different risk tolerance.

Right? So what taking that chance of like letting go of something that's paying the bills and is stable and like to take a chance on something that may or may not work out, you know. But every time I've felt that calling and I vetted it and I've researched it and I've gotten mentorship on it before pulling the trigger that it's always taken me to a higher level.

So that's been kind of nice.

Stephanie: Wow. You have said a lot through our discussion today. You've talked a lot about mentorship My path has not included a lot of mentors that, that I've been able to stick with or who've been able to stick with me. So it's, it's something that I don't necessarily have in my life. I have utilized coaches. And so maybe we could, you know, split hairs about the difference between them. But tell me a little bit about the role mentors have played and how you've used them.

Ryan: Yeah, I'm not afraid to ask for help. And luckily, because what I'm doing serves others, it seems like people are pretty damn open to helping me. And a lot of times offering services for free, especially when I was bootstrapping it. Now, I've had paid coaches, like my mentor that helped me get into the artistic music world.

That was a very expensive three month engagement. That I was having all sorts of hesitations about. I'm so glad I bit the bullet on that, threw down the cash and worked with him because that was a game changer. Return on investment. Oh my God. In like the first couple of months. It was ridiculous. But other people like my brother, my brother is this brilliant graphic designer, advertising executive.

He's helped me with all of that. He's done hundreds of thousands of dollars of work for me for free, just because he believed in me and wanted to support me as the big brother. He's my big brother and like my only sibling. And that was so beautiful and just, man, I've just, sometimes there's been a, a synchronicity that's still just blows my mind. Like, all right, I'm struggling with the, I'm getting the DVD kit thing ready and I'm like, Oh my God, I've got to import thousands of instruments from China. What the hell do I know about that? I'm a music therapist. I know nothing about importing goods from China and I was freaking insecure.

And there's this like special person you have to hire at the port to inspect and then ship all the stuff to you. And there's a bunch of people ripping people off. And like, I didn't know any names and I'm driving through this teeny teeny little New Hampshire town with the smallest freaking post office you've ever seen.

And I'm like, you know what? Damn it. I'm stopping. And I'm going to ask like, maybe they know someone. I'm trying to hire the, the guy who deals with the importing at the Harbor and Boston. And like, she's like, Oh my God, I used to import children's toys from China.

I've got the perfect person for you, . There's just like moments like that that I'm like, damn, that's amazing. So I just feel like having the gumption to ask for help and put it out there and be vulnerable and authentic with people and let 'em know that you might be struggling with something. And I think that's huge.

Man, you want to tell someone I'm struggling. I don't know what the hell I'm doing. And I'm having doubts and fears. Do you know of anyone who can help me? You know, just being authentic like that and talking to people and being real instead of putting on this bullshit facade of like, everything's cool. Everything's going great. I'm having so much success. You know, it's just like, God get humble.

Stephanie: Yeah. If everybody thinks you've got it all together and you know all the answers, they're not going to help you find any of the answers.

Ryan: Totally. Totally.

Stephanie: So thesort of culmination of our story is that I did a little Instagram stalking before we got on the call today, because I just wanted to sort of see what was up with you and I saw that this summer you hit an amazing milestone, a hundred million streams on Amazon music.

Ryan: Yeah. Crazy.

Stephanie: That's an absurd number.

Ryan: That's an absurd number.


Stephanie: don't even know how to comprehend that number. Is that all of your work,

Ryan: Yes.

the cool thing is most of that's come from my music, which I love. Because on other platforms, it comes from like the sleep stuff. And then, you know, I did like a lullaby sleep album and that's beautiful. I just like to picture a mom who's struggling and putting on this music for their infant who's crying and having a tough time falling asleep and having it work is like that, that thrills me.

But yeah, it's the cool thing about Amazon music is it's mostly my music and I just, I can't believe it. it's just one of those things where you have that goal and you do the vision board and you, you fudge the numbers on your statement. you like envision something that might happen in 15 years, or maybe I'm just doing a pipe dream. I don't know, man. people say this shit works. I'll give it a try. And then all of a sudden in a couple of years, you're like, damn, there it is. Like, it's crazy. It's crazy. It still surprises me.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. For a couple of years after I did a workshop,once a month, I would write myself a million dollar check.

Ryan: Ah, nice! I love it. Oh, yeah,

Stephanie: I don't do that so much anymore, but yeah, it was that same kind of thing. Like looking at, you know, the absurd and, and trying to figure out, how to envision it in your world.

So are you a vision board kind of guy? Is that something that you practice?

Ryan: Yeah, for sure. I dig it. I do goal writing on a yearly basis in a month by monthly basis and every Monday morning I write down what I really want to accomplish for the week in terms of a spiritual level, a professional level, a relationship level on the health and well being level.

I also write down what will hold me back from attaining those things. That's a nice practice that helps me get centered and focused for the week. And a nice little reminder. I try to read it every morning and be like, Oh yeah, this is something I want to work on with my kids or my wife or something in my, myself or my health and well being.

And this is what I want to do professionally this week. Things like that help. And I do like the vision board thing. it's nice to, to meditate on it and see it as being the present moment. And I find all that stuff is inspiring and helpful. Would I have accomplished everything I've accomplished without that vision board?

I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. I don't have all the answers. That's for damn sure. it seems like it, it helps me.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. Are you the kind of person who can make a plan, work a plan and achieve a plan? It's not a loaded question. I am not.

Ryan: I feel like when I have a plan, even if there's lots of little logistical things that have to happen, I feel a compulsion and a bit of an obsession sometimes with progress. As I'm able to move towards that goal by doing all these sometimes monotonous tasks that have nothing to do with composing and everything to do with just, you know, data entry kind of stuff.

It gets me fired up I just love, finishing projects like that and having the spreadsheets with all the things I need to do. Like I've got this crazy spreadsheet for now I'm releasing one single a month. It's kind of a new strategy. A lot of musicians have been using for a few years to stay on people's radars, to make the Spotify algorithm happy, all that kind of stuff.

And it keeps me motivated and driven. So I'll like do a single a month. And then once I have nine singles or 10 singles I'll release an album of all those. Without that spreadsheet of like, here's all your pre release tasks and here's the timelines and don't miss these deadlines and then here's the like night before task and here's the day of task and then here's the after task.

I wouldn't be able to do it without that. I Some people have the kind of memory and brain that can keep things more organized without that. But for me, Oh, I would be dropping balls left and right. it helps me stay on track.

Stephanie: let me back up two steps. So I, I am a person who cannot be told what to do. And even if I tell myself, like, even if I say, okay, Steph, today we have to do this, or like, Steph, we got, you know, we've got a deadline coming up again. I literally, in my head, you get that little like, hmm, now I will not do it. Like it's terrible. So I can, I cannot make myself do things so I've had to find workarounds. And so many years ago, and actually this is an Amy story. I brought on a part time project manager into my business and Amy was between marketing jobs at the time. And so she came on for a couple of years as my part time project

Ryan: love it.

Stephanie: Yeah. It was amazing because of course she is, a marketing pro. So it was like, you know, getting, a full artillery for, the price of a couple of bullets. It was amazing, it worked well for both of us at the time. And then when she left, you know, I brought on somebody else who has been with us for a number of years now she manages our project management system.

I'm not in there. My brain just works a little bit differently, a little bit more creatively. I, I do find myself hopping from this to that, to that, to that, to that during the day. The more I allow myself to work the way my brain wants to work, the better things go for me.

That's why I was asking whether you were a, plan and goals guy, because I, envy people who can make the list and work the list and achieve the list. There's got to be so much better that way.

Ryan: And I'm with you too, I outsource so much stuff.

I have a whole, like, team of people on Upwork who are helping me with stuff. Sometimes those weekly check ins and those weekly meetings help keep me driven and motivated. Knowing that my social media manager needs this content, all right, I'm going to get it to you if it was all on me I'd be probably dragging my feet, but since these people kind of need some of these assets to do their job that I'm paying them to do, that helps keep me going for sure.

Stephanie: Yeah, there's definitely an element of that in my world as well. One last question. Tell me, did you ever, could you ever have imagined that your life would look like this? At 18, 24, 32?

Ryan: Wow. Definitely not at 18. No way in hell. 24. No, I mean in thirties. Nope. No way. I mean, if you came to me at 34, 35 and said, this is, what you will have accomplished and these are the things that will be in your life and this is the house you'll be living in the town. Like no way No way, you know, Shout out to my wife for dreaming and thinking big too, because part of what I've accomplished is because she has always had this envision of, having this big, beautiful house in the woods where our kids can run around just play and be surrounded in nature and living in this beautiful little quintessential New England, Exeter, New Hampshire town and things like that. She thought bigger than I did at certain times for sure. ,

Stephanie: Great, great. Well, Ryan I thank you so much for joining me today, and I just wish you continued success in your music career.

Ryan: Thank you so much, Steph. It was such a pleasure.

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