The Power of Purpose: John Ramstead #64

Warwick Fairfax

April 21, 2021

Some people may look at John Ramstead’s life and say he’s lost a lot. Crucibles cost him his dream of being a Top Gun fighter pilot, almost ruined him professionally and financially and nearly killed him in an accident that led to dozens of surgeries over two years — and still left him with physical challenges. Yet Ramstead, an in-demand leadership coach and successful podcast host, says those “losses” helped him find the most important things in his life: his faith and his purpose. He recounts it all in his new book On Purpose, With Purpose: Discovering How to Live Your Best Life — which offers readers insights and action steps to find the true north essential to navigating the journey of their lives.

To learn more about John Ramstead and his book, visit www.beyondinfluence.com

Highlights

  • How in her youth, a stalker gave her a passion for understanding resilience (2:45)
  • The three inconvenient truths she learned at 15 when she was stalked (7:22)
  • The definition of resilience (12:40)
  • Why she refused to be a victim (14:37)
  • How we can find redemption by going through our crucibles (16:26)
  • Why telling someone “everything happens for a reason” isn’t helpful (22:25)
  • The healing power of helping others from out of your crucible (24:09)
  • The practices of particularly resilient people: gratiosity (30:24)
  • Our story and our narrative are not the same thing (28:04)
  • Why assigning appropriate responsibility to our crucibles is vital (34:45)
  • The practices of particularly resilient people: vulnerability (43:18)
  • The practices of particularly resilient people: productive perseverance (48:09)
  • The practices of particularly resilient people: connection: (49:47)
  • The practices of particularly resilient people: possibility (50:52)

Transcript

Warwick F:
Welcome to Beyond the Crucible, I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership.

John R:
When you’re fighting a combat mission or you’re on an airliner flying along, the way those instruments up in the cockpit work is they have to have a navigational reference. They have to know where True North is so they can, not only set a course, but make a course correction when it needs to happen. Here’s the deal, we’re the pilot in charge of our own life. Our life is constantly being pushed off track, health, relationships, the economy, pandemics. If we don’t have a True North, which I believe for me, it’s my faith, but it’s also the identity.

John R:
As I moved from that person I saw in the mirror to my identity in Christ, and those got in alignment, making decisions, what to say yes to, what to say no to became very straightforward, because remember, folks out there listening, whatever you say yes to, you are saying no to something else.

Gary S:
That’s a clever metaphor about navigating through life from today’s guest, John Ramstead, but it’s more than that too, because John was a Top Gun fighter pilot who knows a little bit about the importance of knowing where True North is. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show and communications director for Crucible Leadership. On this week’s episode, John’s second time chatting with Warwick, making him our first return guest. He discusses his new book, On Purpose With Purpose: Discovering How to Live Your Best Life. He recounts, in the book and in the interview, the cavalcade of crucibles that cost him his pilot seat, almost ruined him financially, and set him on an arduous two-year path as he recovered from a terrible accident.

Gary S:
Some people may look at his life and say, he’s lost a lot, but that’s not John’s perspective. His is that all he’s lost has helped him find his purpose and that all important, True North.

Warwick F:
Well, John, thanks so much for being here. I loved reading your book On Purpose With Purpose, and so exciting, it’s coming out this month in April. You really weave in some just incredible stories, funny stories with some just profound points about what it takes to really lead and to be a leader with significance. It’s awesome. Before we get into the book, just, I know we’ve chatted before, so listeners will be familiar with this, but just give us a few highlights of your story that sets the stage for your book, just kind of the cliff notes version, if you will, some of the key way points, in your life.

John R:
Okay. Well, first of all, great to be with you guys, Gary, Warwick, and love what you’re doing, bringing context and I think growth to crucibles. Having been through post-traumatic stress through some things I’ve been through, I love this concept I’ve been learning about called posttraumatic stress called post-traumatic growth, and that’s what you guys are facilitating. Grew up in Minnesota, had a dream to go in the military, applied to the Naval Academy and ROTC, got in. Chose ROTC. Then I was in college when the movie Top Gun came out. I’m told, as I’m applying to flight school, I never knew if this was true, but we were told one out of every 10,000 people applying get to fly a jet.

John R:
I literally almost quit right there. That’s a whole story, but literally, actually I did quit and realized I was giving up on myself. That’s something we could circle back to, but got down to flight school. There are some great stories there. Flew the F-14. Like you said, I’m so excited, I get orders to go to Top Gun. Then a few days later, I get hit with a line drive in the eye, blow out fracture, nerve damage. I’m done. My entire identity is wrapped up in being a fighter pilot, being a Naval aviator, and it’s gone. I was a pilot who couldn’t fly, an engineer who’d never engineered anything.

John R:
That transition was really difficult. I actually started a company, and because I was not ready, I was still angry and bitter and immature and trying to figure out who the heck I was, I succeeded in my first company blowing up both a friendship and the company. Then I put 90 hours a week into a startup, grew to having a net worth on paper of millions, I mean walk away money, and the 2000 turned, internet bubble pops, 90 days later, not only is it gone, but I’m six figures in debt and I’m on the street, but you got to keep moving forward. You have no choice.

John R:
There’s these times in our life, these crucible moments that we don’t feel prepared for, and choosing to pause or stop or not move forward, not wake up the next day, I guess that’s always an option, not a good one, but you don’t feel like you can. It’s painful. But rebuilt from there and then got into the financial industry and had to manage an entire team and a practice through 2008 in the financial meltdown. We actually did really good, but that was hard. I’m like, you know what? Enough of this. I’m tired of working for these big companies. I want to get back to being an entrepreneur, and this is now in 2011.

John R:
I just started with a new group, new partners, new company, going to grow it from the ground up. That’s when I had that accident you mentioned that put me in the hospital for two years. Had a severe traumatic brain injury. During that period of time, had no income for two and a half years. My health was gone. I was in chronic pain. Cognitively, I had recovered slowly, but 23 surgeries. Here’s the thing, you reinvent yourself and you’re working hard and you’re on a track, and now you literally cannot do it anymore. I could not show up as CEO or managing partner or any role and succeed when you can show up eight to 10 hours a week. That was the most I could work.

John R:
Going through that, I had to reinvent myself. Then building a coaching practice solo with no resources, and then the pandemic hits. Warwick, a year ago, dude, we had the big Mo going on. I had never been more fired up. As soon as they announced the lockdowns and then they continued, 90% of our events, which were in-person speaking, coaching training were just canceled. It just stopped, and I have 11 people on my team. Then guess what? You just got to turn back and trust God and say, okay, I wonder what I’m going to learn this time.

John R:
Then now, like I’m sitting here, you see me I’m tethered to oxygen. I was one of those few people that got COVID and they put me in the ICU for a week, and it was really ugly for a couple of days, were very concerning, and the hardest part, I think, in that scenario was the family can’t come visit and we’re FaceTiming, and they don’t know each FaceTime if it might be the last time. I mean, it was that bad. I’m not using hyperbole there. I saw, after I got home, I’ve been home now for two months, still on oxygen, tore up my lungs and affected my heart. But I also saw in that, especially I think in light of what happened in my accident, now nine years ago, it really shook my kids. They thought maybe this time they really were going to lose their dad.

John R:
That is a snapshot. But man, there’s been … In each one of those, there’s been other crucible moments, but man, it’s been a life that I don’t think is actually that different than most of the people out there. We have these significant highs, but then we have these valley times that we have to go through. What’s allowed me to keep moving forward is how I’ve been able to put those in context and think about them, which I was not very good at in the beginning, but the more and more you go through them. What I love about what you’re doing is you’re showing people how to move through those adversities and those valley times.

John R:
Honestly, there was times where God just did not make sense to me. I don’t see his plan. I don’t see his will. Why is this happening? But I learned actually how to think about that, I think, accurately and differently in a way that was helpful.

Warwick F:
Well, I mean, you’ve had … We talked off-air that maybe your next book would be on resilience. I mean, you’re in a sense an expert on resilience, not by choice, but by circumstance.

John R:
That’s true. Yeah.

Warwick F:
Lord, I want to be the world’s top gun level expert on resilience. Bring it on. That wasn’t a mission you signed on for, but for whatever reason, God signed you up for the mission.

John R:
By the way, it’s not a mission I would have signed up for either, I’ll tell you that.

Warwick F:
Yeah. I want to talk a bit about your book is, it’s so fascinating, On Purpose With Purpose, and there’s so many good things in here. Just the way you started off talking about being the pilot, in control of your life. You talk about early in your career, you felt like you were living the expectations of others and how you can rewrite the script of your life. Talk about kind of how you felt that in some sense you were living other people’s lives and expectations, because for anybody that knows you a bit, it’s like, boy, John Ramstead, he’s a guy that’s in control. He’s a fighter pilot, fighter pilots don’t live other people’s lives. They kind of take control of the throttle and here we go. It’s like, really? But I find that fascinating. Talk a bit about that whole living in light of other’s expectations.

John R:
Yeah. When you don’t have a very specific, I think destination for yourself, what you are trying to create in your life, what it matters to you, and you don’t have a plan, then you are part of somebody else’s plan. What happened is I fell into that trap unintentionally because when I got out of the military Warwick, that was my identity. That was everything about who I was. I didn’t grow up in an environment where I was around anybody of wealth or tremendous success, and couple that with a young kid who felt completely unworthy of success outside of what I’d been doing in the military, right?

John R:
My self-image was low. I always compensated for low self image. I used to joke saying, you know what? I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I will outwork anybody, and that’s what I did. I just tried to outwork everybody around me. There’s definitely some good things that can come out of that, but there’s also some consequences. What I realized was that I was under the thumb of the tyranny of they, and it was unintentional. What do they expect of me? How do they define success? The people in my company, the people in the community, the people at my church, my family, how do they expect me to show up to be able to succeed in this environment that I found myself in? Certain companies have cultures, right?

John R:
Some of those cultures, their values were completely out of alignment with my own. Now that I’m really in touch with those, my number one, one of my top values is family. But if you go back then and you look and say, okay, John’s working 60 to 80 hours a week, I’m out almost every night, in either a social event, a networking event or a charity event, and I’m traveling two to four days every single week, and I’m exhausted on the weekend. Sunday, I’m just grumpy and nauseous because I’m gearing up, not to get through Friday Warwick, but to survive mentally through Monday night when I can come home and my head can hit the pillow at midnight.

John R:
I never had any problem falling asleep because I was exhausted, because I had so much work to do. I’d come home at 10:00, 11:00 at night and I’d work until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and then I’d get up at 5:00. No wonder, over time, even though I had all these different successes, and you know what? I look back also during those period of times, when I made some big decisions either to leave a company, like I was talking to my wife about this the other day, that one of the technology companies that I rose to the management level, and I realized I’m totally out of balance. I got a call. I talk about it in the book. I got a call, I’m sitting there in this moment of just almost anguish, despair, dread about my future at this company.

John R:
Because I had heard that I was going to be promoted, and I knew the guy, and he worked harder than me, and a recruiter called. He said, “John, hey, I heard things are going great at your company. But hey, can I run something by you?” I’m like, dude, absolutely.” Guess what? I made a complete career change. I burned some bridges. Now, in hindsight, I honestly wish, I don’t know if I’d made a different decision, but was there a way to actually look at my role and do things differently from a different perspective with a different purpose?

John R:
What I learned actually back then, the reason that I was so consumed with hours is I didn’t really trust people. I was a total control freak. I didn’t let people go do their best because I knew it would reflect on me. Some of that self-image thing was creeping back in. I blamed everybody around me, my boss and the culture for this feelings I was having. I’ll tell you right now, looking back on it now, I take responsibility for those results that I actually had back then, and that’s not how I saw it. I saw myself as a victim of all these things around me.

Warwick F:
It’s almost like, as you’re sharing, it’s interesting you put it in the introduction, because it’s a prologue to your whole book because you didn’t do the interior work. You were running a hundred miles an hour trying to achieve the expectations of your bosses and the shareholders. Not thinking, will this affect my family? I don’t know. This is what it takes to be successful. If I don’t do it, the guy next door is going to do it, and I don’t want him to outwork me. It’s just living some role where without thinking, okay, what destination, what’s my True North? Some of these key concepts, it sounds like you weren’t really asking yourself at the time.

John R:
No, think about what we’re all taught, right? Get a good education and work hard and everything will be fine. That’s kind of what I was taught. I don’t know if that is really the mindset of the generation coming in the workforce now, but man, that is so far from the truth if we’re having some real talk here.

Warwick F:
Yeah.

John R:
If you’re not doing work and that is connected to something that’s meaningful to you, that’s purposeful, and you’re not doing it as that best version of yourself, we can talk about that too. That whole concept of joy, which is internal. My inner game, what I’ve discovered, determines that outer game. I was totally focused for the first, until I was 45 years old and had an accident, on that outer game.

Warwick F:
But don’t you think that, that’s most people in the business world, most aggressive, hard charging folks, that they’re focused on the results and they’re not really thinking about, who am I, what are my values? A lot of people in that they don’t contemplate or reflect. They just move and they just act. Don’t you think your experience is not uncommon, right? There are a lot of others like that.

John R:
No, it’s not uncommon at all. Unfortunately, it’s almost epidemic. I have been able, over the last year, because of Zoom, have mastermind groups and trainings and forums with literally thousands of mid-level to very senior leaders. Fortune 50 type leaders. One of the things I do when we jump in the room, I say, hey, everybody just do a one word check-in. What is the preeminent emotion you’ve been feeling over the last week?

John R:
Something that kind of shocked me, and it’s been consistent and it’s in 80% to 90% of the words are depressed, anxiety, stressed, restless, words like that. Very few of the words are excited, fulfilled, joyful. I think that there’s a lot of us out there, whether we’ve gone … We’re in the middle of a storm, like Warwick, I know you went through. I’ve been through, you’re coming out of a storm or you’re going into one.

John R:
Cause you know what, there’s kind of three cycles, right? Sometimes there’s that calm. There’s a storm coming. What I realized was, when adversity hits, nothing ever remains the same. You either emerge from that adversity stronger or you emerge from it weakened. The question is, there is going to be another storm. I got to the point in my life, I said, I realized is, what can I do to emerge and set myself up so that when it does happen, I not only emerge stronger, but help those around me emerge stronger with me?

Warwick F:
Absolutely.

Gary S:
Can I jump in really quickly? Because you said something at the start of unpacking all that, John, that I think is really important for listeners to understand, and Warwick talks about it a lot. You said that your identity was caught up in what you were doing in the military. You were a fighter pilot. How much do you think the pain of your crucibles, the changing of trajectory of your crucibles has been tied to maybe your identity coming from external forces, not from your own passion?

John R:
Well, it came into sharp relief, Gary, after my accident, when I had to rebuild everything, I’ll never forget. I was actually sitting there with a coach of mine, and I’m trying to figure out what’s next. I said, I need to figure out how I’m wired, then I can figure out what I should do next. He goes, “You know what? What if he asked yourself that question differently? What if you asked yourself, how did God wire you and what did he wire you for?” That, Gary, started this process where I started to really, this whole quest of self-awareness, to look in the mirror and say, what is it that I really do see if I actually pull back the curtain? Because it’s kind of ugly in there.

John R:
What are those limiting beliefs? What’s in my identity. Are there things that people said to me that are lies about who I am and my capabilities that I’ve accepted as truths. As an example, when I was getting into business, I had a corporate job and I was going to go start that first company with a friend who didn’t graduate college. I had a family member that was really concerned. They were very conservative, grew up in the depression, and they thought I was an idiot putting my family at risk, and they told me that I would never succeed as an entrepreneur, and that they were ashamed of me and embarrassed that I would put my family in that situation.

John R:
Now, that stuff sinks in. I told you, that company that blew up, I was, I think, making decisions and taking actions and working so hard as much to prove that person wrong, or more to prove that person wrong than actually trying to do the best thing for my company, my team, my customers. That was always front of mind. But I went through this process of saying, okay, here’s what I see. I have what I call my should values, right? I’ve adopted all these values that make me show up in a way that’s appealing at work and where I’m at.

John R:
Are they really in alignment with those core values, the ones that are wired into me? What are my passions? What are my beliefs? How do I root out some of these lies that I’ve let into my identity? Because what I realized was there was this enormous gap between that identity that I was allowed being given to me externally to an identity in Christ that already existed. What I have discovered for me is, the bigger that that gap is, the more stress, and anxiety, and panic and indecision and ambiguity that we experience in the moment.

John R:
As I really worked to close that gap, and God helped me, and people who were coaches and mentors and disciplers helped me to close that gap, I got to tell you, that stress and that anxiety just melted away. In that, I’ll tell you this before, Gary, that whole concept of purpose, what I should do and why. It’s our big why. we all talk about it. I never felt like I honestly really connected to it. I was compensating with my work ethic, and I felt like it was this mystery. Either I wasn’t worthy of being connected to something meaningful or I didn’t have the tools to root it out of the ground and find it like it was a treasure hunt.

John R:
I realized, my whole life I’ve been going about it backwards, because as I was on this journey to close this gap between my identity and my true identity, the one I saw in the mirror and then the real one, the best version of me, it’s like the fog cleared from the playing field and my purpose was right there in front of me and they have been the whole time.

Warwick F:
I find that fascinating, because it seems like the core of your book is this quest for identity, True North, destination that it’s feels like the foundation is that. You have so many things you put in there, like when that softball accident happened, you talk about you couldn’t get past that broken heart. You’ve felt like smoldering discontent that obviously, who is John Ramstead identity? It’s being a fighter pilot. It’s being the number one through the whole ACE of the base story, which we’ll get to, hopefully, the one in 10,000. You’re the best of the best. You’re about to go to Top Gun. Who is John Ramstead? He’s one of the top fighter pilots in the US Navy. That’s who you are. You had that sense of identity. Then, okay, I’m going to outwork anybody.

Warwick F:
I’m the guy that can work anybody else under the table, because I just will, I have that determination. So, you had these series of identity, and then after that accident, it seems like things change. You have this wonderful quote about that accident, talking about identity. You say, “though, from the outside, the accident might’ve looked like a tragedy, God used it to bring me to my life’s purpose, having to dig deep into my true identity as I did after the accident resulted in living my life more fully than I ever have.”

Warwick F:
In some way, that was unbelievably painful, but you mentioned 20 plus surgeries. Be it in some sense, there was beauty or purpose that came out of that tragedy. Was that the culmination of a journey of, after you went through that, that you really found who your identity was and your purpose?

John R:
Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I came to give you life,” and so that you may live it to the full. How many of us actually feel, say scale of one to 10, here’s my 10 dude, Paul gets the tar beat out of him, cane, whipped, thrown into a Roman nasty prison in the basement, shackled to a wall, and what does he do? He busts out in praise songs. I’m like, okay, that’s a 10. A one is you’re barely hanging on. I got to tell you when I ask people that today, like, where are you on that scale? I have never had anybody rank themselves over an eight. The majority of people are a four or five. I actually, when I really, and actually created … To assist in to actually figure out where you are on a scale like that. I’m an engineer, right?

John R:
I like to have a process. I was a 2.1. I actually calculated it, and I’ll show you how to do that, but here’s the thing. But if I’m a two, this is at the height of my career before my accident, running a company, working those hours, recognition in the community, I was so out of alignment, my identity was so external, and I was miserable. That place of smoldering discontent. I could not have told you, Warwick why, I just knew I was unhappy. My big focus is, for me, because I’m honestly a simple guy, it’s what is that next small step?

John R:
That became my mantra in recovery. What is the small step that I can take today? If I’m a two, what would a three look like? Do I need to bring my passions more fully into my life? Do I need to maybe work at honoring my values a little bit better? Do I need to work on some mindset issues? I only could work on one or two things at a time. I just had to think through and pray and say, God, what is the one thing today that I need to work on? It’s like 10 years later. Totally, we overestimate what we can do in a year, but under estimate big time what we can do in 10 years. You know what? This is a journey.

John R:
Through this, we’ve come up with a model that my whole family knows, and that is excellence is the standard. But grace is the word, because guess what? I’m going to have bad days. There’s days I might feel like a victim. There’s days I’m working on some of my anger issues and I blow up at my son, but I want to get to a place of excellence. I want to get gooder. I want to improve. Guess what? I’m going to give myself some grace. I’m going to go to my son and I’m going to apologize. This was a shift, and I’m going to ask him to help me be accountable and share with him, here’s the relationship I want to have. I just hurt our relationship.

John R:
I want you and I to be best friends, because I didn’t have that with my dad until it was a lot later, or my mom, our whole lives. Today, Warwick, my marriage is we walk down the street holding hands, and my kids, every one of them, I’ll guarantee you they’ll either call or text me today. I am as close to my kids that I’ve ever been beyond anything I’ve even ever hoped for as a father. Just focusing on those little things. Something else too, I got to tell you, it was an exercise, I was with Lance Wallnau. You might know Lance.

John R:
He had me take out this huge piece of paper and turn it sideways. Like one of those ones you draw on, like when you’re doing a conference, like a retreat, the ones that you peel off and stick on the wall, but you turn it sideways. He had me draw a line all the way through it. He goes, “John, I want you to plot on here, highs and lows, but from a spiritual perspective, where were you spiritually? What’s the earliest high or low that you can remember?” I marked that. Then we have the lines, and he goes, we’re going to do it in pencil because I want you to make them start making them relative to each other, the peaks and the valleys.

John R:
Then we looked at all of these things and said, hey, what was happening that turned the peak into a downturn? What was happening through the valleys? What caused the upswing? Are there anything here in common? But then he asked me a really important question because there was a number of valley times. He goes, “Do you look at some of those?” Some of them, I haven’t even shared in public. They were very painful, personal trauma. Some things, especially in my childhood. Do you go look at those things from a place of pain, anguish, fear, or do you look at those from a place of learning and equipping?

John R:
Because he shared with me, that’s how God sees it. Each one of those are these beautiful treasures, because the first thing God said to me at the accident, if you remember this, the first word, the Lord of the universe standing next to me, he said, “All things work together for good, for those that love the Lord.” I’m thinking about that and I’m looking at some of these very painful things in my past going, okay, how does that work together for good?

John R:
Well, instead of seeing that as something that defined me or something painful, I asked myself, is that something that could equip me to do better today or/and help somebody else that maybe has that either in the past or was going through something I think similar. It was a process, I’ll tell you that. But I would say that today I’m in the healthiest mental place I’ve ever been because I look at all those valley points now from a place in context, really from, talking about transforming my mind to the mind of Christ.

John R:
From a place of equipping and learning, not a place of pain or doubt or regret. Even though some of that is there and some of it kind of creeps in, then I got to ask myself, where’d that come from, and why did it come in there?

Warwick F:
Absolutely. It’s interesting you mentioned Lance Wallnau. You have a very interesting quote of his, and from a spiritual perspective, may make sense, but people may be not familiar with this. You mentioned in your book, Lance says something like, God calls tells you to do something or gives you a vision and just surrendering our life purpose for which you’ve been created. It’s almost like maybe the creator has a plan, maybe we don’t fully realize it. Rather than saying, well, what do I want to do? It’s almost like what you’re saying is, what was I made to do? What was I designed to do? What was the God given passions that are within me?

Warwick F:
It seems like there’s, it’s not just an internal, there’s almost an external part of finding your purpose. Is that some of what you and Lance were kind of grappling with?

John R:
Yeah, 100%. I noticed as I’m … There’s been a evolution in my prayer life, I would say, before the accident, I was going to church and all those things, but my prayer was here’s the desires of my heart, here’s my business goals, here’s my plan, here’s this. It was almost like the spiritual ATM. It was very immature. It’s like my three-year-old grandson, right? It’s like juice, snack. Then as it evolved, it was like, God, what is your will for my life? I was looking for that assignment. If you actually looked through the Bible, as I’ve now read, because I didn’t do it till after the accident, cover to cover, those assignments, Moses, Jacob, Isaiah, others, they’re actually kind of few and far between.

John R:
What we’re called to do is to love God with all our hearts and love others. We’re called to disciple nations, which is to talk, I think about the gospel and the kingdom, and be ambassadors to that. What I realized was, in all this, having been in God’s presence and realized, not only that he cares about me personally, and I’m not special. This is everybody. But he is, I knew in that moment, he was moving big time in this world and it’s accelerating. I truly believe it’s why I’m alive. I have a part to play in some way.

John R:
My prayer today Warwick is God reveal your will to me that you’re doing in the world. Reveal to me what you’re doing in the life of Warwick in Gary. What are you doing through crucible leadership or this company, this client that just hired me, and what do I need to do to adapt, to grow, to change in order to partner with you and join you in what you are already doing? I got to tell you, some of that is a big stretch. I’ve got to tell you, I’m just being real, some of that has prompted some serious crisis of faith, because that gap felt really big between where I was and serving in that capacity.

John R:
I got to tell you, but think about this, everybody talks about the Ephesians 2:10 calling, right? We want to find the calling part, but what’s the first part of that verse? That you are Christ perfect workmanship. That does not have dependent events. That doesn’t mean you have to go get ready to get ready to get ready.

Warwick F:
Well, I think what you’re really reinforcing is the notion of the being of the leader over the doing of the leader. Metrics are overrated. Nothing wrong with metrics, but metrics, if a leader says, gee, my vision is to grow the company 20% per year for the next five years, you always know that’s the wrong answer. Every leadership textbook will say, well, that’s not a vision. It’s sort of like, I think what you’re really emphasizing is just the being of a leader rather than what you accomplish, how many books I sell, you sell, how many workshops you have, how many leaders you help. That’s not the relevant thing is, am I doing what I feel called to do today?

Warwick F:
Next year and in the next 10 years, am I being who I’m meant to be? The metrics will take care of themselves, but that’s a backwards way for most leaders to think. They think of numbers and doing, which is not wrong rather than, am I being who I’m called to be?

John R:
Well, yeah. From a leadership perspective, you’re spot on. Think about this. What does it say in scripture, that there is no love greater than this than to lay down your life for me. If I’m in leadership, what if I said, you know what, there is no love greater than this if I was to lay down my agenda to serve the agenda of others? I got to tell you, this was modeled to me, believe it or not, by my commanding officer when I was first in the military. I went up to him one day and I said, “Listen, I want to stay in the Navy as a career.” I didn’t know the softball thing was going to happen. I said, “What advice would you give to me?” I’ve always reached out to people who have succeeded at what I want to do and get their input.

John R:
As a junior officer, and he goes here, “Do this, John. Do your job with excellence. And every day, you go find somebody in this squadron that you can serve, senior to you, junior to you, enlisted officer in your department or not and you help them succeed, and you might never get any credit or rewards or recognition, but trust me, those in charge, those that care are going to notice. If you just do that from a place of integrity, you will never have a problem with your career.” What was he saying? Serve others. A rising tide lifts all boats. I think the reason I had the business success I did, Warwick, is my philosophy was always, if I help other people to succeed in that role, max out their comp plan, be invested in them personally, know their families and their kids and what’s going on outside of work.

John R:
And I just help them succeed as a person, and I have enough people do that, just as a by-product of that, I’m going to do just fine. That’s what I was doing this whole time. But that success that I was looking for, for myself had never been defined where that goes. I was like in this mode of constantly working and serving with really no direction or end in sight, and I think that’s what just wore me down to a nub.

Warwick F:
I want to talk just briefly about some of the key principles in your book. I don’t want to give the whole thing away because obviously you need to read the book to fully understand them, but you found your true purpose. You have this wonderful chart there, page 24 of the book, in which you’ve got personal assets, talent, skills, experience, and passion, and you’re on the upper right. You found your calling, working with leaders, empowering them. How do people, at least at a high level, find that true purpose, that sense of joy and fulfillment you have despite all the pain that you have? As you say, you’ve had more joy, more fulfillment, greater marriage, greater relationship with your kids.

Warwick F:
You’re serving your clients. Life is pretty good, even amongst the physical pain, but there are some key building blocks that you outlined in your book of True North, destination, accurately describing your present position. Just touch on some of those key elements that listeners will then … Hopefully their appetite will be whetted to then read the book, is what are some of those key building blocks to help you get to where somebody like you are in a sense in terms of that sense of joy and purpose?

John R:
Yeah. Think about it, when you’re flying a combat mission or you’re on an airliner flying along, the way those instruments up in the cockpit work is they have to have a navigational reference. They have to know where True North is so they can, not only set a course, but make a course correction when it needs to happen. Here’s the deal, we’re the pilot in charge of our own life. Our life is constantly being pushed off track, health relationships, the economy, pandemics. If we don’t have a True North, which I believe, for me, it’s my faith, but it’s also the identity.

John R:
As I moved from that person I saw in the mirror to my identity in Christ, and those got in alignment, making decisions, what to say yes to, what to say no to became very straightforward, because remember, folks out there listening, whatever you say yes to you are saying no to something else. I am a born people pleaser, right? The next thing is, think about you jump in the car and you pull out your Apple maps or Google, and you’re going to go somewhere. You’re running an errand and now you got to go to a different spot.

John R:
What’s the first thing you do? Type in the destination. That app is useless without a destination. It doesn’t even know where to start. It can just show you a map of where you’re at. Of course, I can look around and see where I am. What is that destination that we have in our own life? What is that purpose? Why are we doing this? What is that outcome that we’re striving for, both short-term, long-term, and that legacy we were creating? I want to live a life, Warwick, so the use of my life would outlive my life.

John R:
I’ve got clarity on that one. I should have died 10 years ago, and I realized in that moment, that is not how I’d lived my life. The other thing that we talk about is your present position. Who’s ever pulled up that map and you’ve typed in that destination and it really has, Waze is actually the worst of this man. That’s why I don’t use it anymore. It doesn’t know where you’re at. Then, so you’re trying to make a guess because I’m not familiar with this part of town, and I always go the wrong way. Then I’m on a one-way street, and then it adds like eight minutes to my trip and I’m now I’m late and now I’m frustrated. It’s no different than our own life.

John R:
If we don’t know where we are at, our values, our passions, our mindsets, we can’t figure out, hey, where we’re at and then compare that to the better version of ourselves and start making some progress. Really, the last chapter is where it all comes together for people to create a strategic action plan, and that’s a place called convergence. That’s where all this comes together to move up into the right in that chart, like you talked about, to that 10-10 life. That’s a life fully alive. All of these work together.

John R:
What I’ve discovered is, and this is hard for a lot of busy high capacity folks, I have never found anybody that’s moved into what I would call an extraordinary life, a life fully alive without first slowing down in order to speed up. Even if it’s honestly, just carving out 10, 15 minutes a day or a few times a week to start determining, hey, what are those small steps I need to be taking today? It doesn’t take a lot, but those small incremental changes.

John R:
Then you start getting awareness on all this, and all of a sudden, the fog on that in front of you just starts to lift a little bit, and then what that does this got me excited. Then I took the next step forward and the next step forward and the next step forward, and all of a sudden, 10 years later. But I got to tell you, two years into it, I’d already restored and healed my marriage and relationship with my kids. There were some beautiful milestones along the way.

Warwick F:
I mean, your story is kind of remarkable, and most people, they don’t think. They just act. As you said, I want to go to a good college and I want to get a good job, and I want to work my way up, and nothing wrong with all of that, but is life more than going to a good college and making lots of money and moving up, whether it’s in the military or in the business world? For most people, it’s like, well, what else is there? That’s achievement. I mean, it’s just such … I don’t mean to put people down, but it’s just a superficial way of looking at life. You’re not living true to who you are, your own identity, your own True North. You haven’t really marked out a very clear destination other than I want to work my way up.

Warwick F:
Because that’s what the destination is, just work my way up to the top of the ladder, and then what? I say, you outlined just some key principles and it’s just remarkable that your accident seems to have been just that key point where you could start thinking about your talents and your passions in that upper right quadrant, and getting your marriage to the point where it is. But you had to have a lot of conviction. I’m just trying to find it here. There’s some interesting point here where you were trying to reset your life, and you have this fascinating quote.

Warwick F:
You said, “there were people around me who thought it was irresponsible of me to pursue my passion. They told me to accept my new normal. What I heard was they felt I should settle for an ordinary life.” These are probably well-meaning people, but you wanted to reset your whole life in light of your God given purpose. But yet, it felt like some people were saying, well, no, no. Right? That probably wasn’t helpful.

John R:
Yeah, that was coming out of the accident. I had a well-meaning doctor, Warwick, sit wife and I down. This is as about a year and a half into my recovery. At this time they really knew the extent of my brain injury and physical limitations. He goes, “Listen, I just want to set expectations. I just want you to know John probably won’t be able to be a greeter at Walmart.”

Gary S:
Oh my goodness.

John R:
They kept talking about the new normal that we had to adapt to. I’m like, dude, I ain’t going to have no new normal. I’m going to have the old normal back. I hate the word new normal. Here’s the deal though, I do have it and it is different. When I said, okay, here’s a guy, two years, two and a half years no income in a hospital bed, chronic pain, brain injury. I had seven figures in debt because of the medical bills. I had a lien against me. I said, you know what I’m going to do? I can’t go work, so I’m going to go start. God led me into this. That’s a whole nother story, but a coaching, I’m going to start my own coaching business out of our house.

John R:
Talk about being the most likely to succeed in the entrepreneur lottery. Here’s the deal. I looked at my wife and I said, we’re going to do this. She goes, “If this is what God wants you to do …” Everybody else thought I was nuts, to put my family at risk, to go do … Now, I’ll tell you something because God gave me a vision, and this is what led to my purpose. This was just a lot of time in this whole process, but I’ll never forget it. This is after I’m recovering from a whole reconstructive surgery to my shoulder, very painful, in bed, reading the Bible, and I heard God speak to me. It wasn’t external like at the accident, but it was very clear.

John R:
He said, “John, I want to use this life I’ve given you to equip and inspire leaders in my kingdom.” That led me into coaching, and I want to share with people, I would go to meet with somebody. Let’s say Warwick is somebody that might either hire me or refer me to somebody. This is back. I could literally work eight to 10 hours in a week. I would go, schedule a meeting with Warwick at 8:30, because that’s the earliest I could, say, get to Denver. I’d meet from 8:30 to 9:30, and then I would schedule one other meeting at 10:30. I would go to my car and sleep. I’d set my alarm for 45 minutes, and I would pass out because I had no cognitive energy.

John R:
Then I could have a second conversation, let’s say with Gary, and I would be done. Wiped out in bed in a dark room for the next two days. I’m telling you, because God … I had to do something, and calling people, showing I couldn’t network, but calling people, developing a list, learning web, all the parts to develop a business like this, most of it to me is not enjoyable. All this stuff that I’m sharing with you guys when you are on purpose doesn’t mean that every element of your life is just like ye ha, being a fighter pilot, being out at sea for six months and all the stuff we had to do, 80% of it kind of blew, but that 20%, …awesome!

John R:
When I’m sitting across from somebody and they connect with who they are, they connect with their faith, I help them make decisions that save their company and save hundreds or thousands of employees’ lives, or I’m with somebody and I see them change who they are, and they tell me that their marriage has been restored, their relationship with their kids has been restored, all that stuff and the stuff that I don’t like to do, but needs to be done, so worth it. I think we also have to keep that in context too Warwick that. The stuff that we’re talking about, being on purpose and connecting all these, just doesn’t make everything all cotton candy, and roses.

John R:
What it does though, there’s thorns in those roses and it makes me very comfortable, happy to move through some of that because I know that I’m moving towards something meaningful, not only for me, but in partnership with God, if that makes sense.

Gary S:
That is an excellent time. I would normally say something just simple and not inspired like, the captain’s turned the fasten seatbelt signs and we’re getting close to having to land the plane, but because I’m talking to a former Top Gun pilot, I’m going to probably mess this up, but I’m going to say the tower has connected to us. It’s time to make sure that you’ve locked your seven point harness, that you’re strapped to your ejector seat, and we’ve got to be putting the F-14 down on the carrier in just a little bit. But Warwick, I know you have some further questions to ask John. Before we get there though, John, let me … I’d be remiss if I didn’t give you the opportunity to tell listeners where they can find out more about Beyond Influence and where they can find out more about your book.

John R:
Yeah. Thanks Gary. You know what? You did a really good job on that.

Gary S:
Well, thank you.

John R:
The book, just go to beyondinfluence.com/book. All the links are there on how to pre-order. If you guys pre-order the book and then leave a review, we’re in the middle of producing our audio book, you’ll get a copy of the audio book for free for just leaving us a review. That’s where you would just let us know that you’re signing up for that. We’re excited about this. My goal is to make this a best seller. We want to bring this out into how people lead, because I really think we can change organizations, ministries, families, and cultures by helping other people become a better version of themselves. When you start on that journey, not you master it, but you’re on a couple steps into it, you can help somebody else. One helps a hundred, that’s 10,000 helps another a hundred, it’s millions. God’s moving right now big time work.

John R:
Warwick And Gary, it’s why you’re doing the work you’re doing. We’d love for you guys to be part of what we feel is a movement, and it’s God’s movement that we’re joining him in, and I believe that’s what where my message in the book. So, beyondinfluence.com/book, and it’s at every bookstore, On Purpose With Purpose, or you type in Ramstead, R-A-M-S-T-E-A-D, at any place you buy books and you’ll find it. Thank you for letting me share that with your crew, Gary.

Gary S:
Absolutely. Warwick.

Warwick F:
Yeah. I mean, boy, I really enjoyed just the concepts in your book of living on purpose. There’s a couple of quotes you have at the end of the book that talks about, sometimes, as we say in Crucible Leadership, amidst the ashes of your crucible, you can find your purpose. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, that’s what happened to you. You say these couple of things, you say, “I experienced a lot of obstacles on my path towards my vision and destination. Most of you have too press on, you can do this. My accident could have been a showstopper, but God used it to bring me to my life’s purpose.”

Warwick F:
Then, in the about the author section, there was this wonderful quote it’s just talk about synchronicity between what we’re both doing. You say this, “John had a personal encounter with God at the accident site who shared with him that he would be getting a second chance. With his life hanging in the balance, John emerged with a profound vision of how to live a life of significance.” Now, we didn’t write that, you did.

Gary S:
Don’t worry Warwick’s not going to call his attorney about that. It’s just that-

Warwick F:
We can all use the word significance, but …

Gary S:
It shows how universal that concept is, right?

Warwick F:
Absolutely. For listeners you may be going through the darkest pit, the darkest trial, and it may seem pointless, and whether you believe in God or not, certainly God or the universe can use it for a purpose. It’s just remarkable how he has. I mean, maybe this is an unfair question, but I think of myself, of my own crucible with the whole family business. I don’t know that I ever could have left that if the family business hadn’t gone under. I’ve never been in the military, but the whole loyalty and duty is pretty hardwired in me. The idea to abandon a150-year-old business, abandon the mission, I couldn’t have done it.

Warwick F:
There’s no way I could have done it. I would’ve felt like I was dishonoring my family and my ancestors. I couldn’t have left. God, I think said, okay, I’ll figure out a way for you to leave. You’re leaving. I don’t know, maybe I’m just stubborn or stupid, but for yourself, do you think you would have found your own joy and purpose without that horrific accident with the horse riding accident connecting to that steel fence?

John R:
It’s an interesting question, right? People say, could you go back and take it back and not do it? Because the answer is, in reality, you can’t, but I would say with total integrity that the person that I am today, the father, the husband, what I get to do in the world, I know for a fact I would not be doing it today had it not been for the accident. I would not be the person I am had it not been for the accident. It’s like, you know what? My vine had fruit on it and God lopped the vine off, the one that had, I thought, some nice fruit on it. That’s good fruit. What grew back was something so much better. You know what? It’s just on my heart. Maybe I could share with something to anybody listening that’s in that dark place.

John R:
Because I’ll never forget. Being at Craig Hospital with a severe brain injury and being in that environment, I mean, I was in so much pain, in addition to my brain not working and being told that I couldn’t be a greeter at Walmart. Imagine all this stuff like … My wife went from being a stay-at-home mom to be my caregiver and having no idea how we were going to survive. We were under the assumption for a while that there is no way for me to earn income, a living. In that, the darkest days, I saw people around me that were not injured as much as me, but they started focusing on, I think the victim side of thing.

John R:
Why did this happen to me? They started focusing on the loss. They started focusing on, I saw them despair, and what I witnessed, Warwick, is them spiraled down into a place that’s scared the wadding out of me, because God told me. He said, all things work together for good for those that love Lord. I held onto that with my fingertips, my fingernails, because it gave me hope. Even though there were some days, literally, I had to have God’s strength to get through the next five minutes, because they’d give me morphine and it would last for an hour and a half. They only could give it to you every four hours. That’s how much pain I was in.

John R:
That last hour and a half before they could give me another dose was absolutely excruciating. I was out of my mind for weeks and weeks and weeks. I’m like, you know what? Maybe, maybe tomorrow could be better than today. When I got to tomorrow and it was worse, I said, maybe next week could be better. I said, well, you know what? I have these amazing people around me and they’re praying and I have my friends, and I am alive. What could I possibly be grateful for when all the evidence is against it? Well, I’m grateful that I’m still here with my family, and maybe next month could be better. I started looking at things from a place of hope and a place of expectation, and I was learning to trust God and what he was doing through all this.

John R:
I know for a fact, that is the reason, some people marvel at it, that I was able to get through all of this, I think, with the way that I did. Anybody that’s out there, that right now, this feels like your darkest day, that today is worse than any other day that you’ve been, I just want to tell you, and I’m sure, Warwick, you would echo this, that trust me, next week, and it doesn’t feel like it, and the evidence isn’t there it can be better, and next month can be better, but what I’ll tell you is, a year from now, it will be better.

Gary S:
I have been in the communications business long enough to know when a Top Gun pilot has just landed the plane, and that’s what we have just heard from John. Thank you listener for spending time with us on this fascinating episode. Our first return engagement with a guest, John Ramstead, the author of On Purpose With Purpose: Discovering How to Live Your Best Life, which releases on April 27th, which if you’re hearing this on the day that we drop the episode is a week from now, but you can find it at his website beyondinfluence.com, back slash or forward slash, John?

John R:
Forward slash.

Gary S:
beyondinfluence.com/book, right?

John R:
Yes, sir.

Gary S:
That’s where you can find it to pre-order if it’s before the 27th of April, and you can order it there if it’s after the 27th.

John R:
Yeah, and if you leave a review, we’re going to … Just let us know. We’ll have a form on there and we’ll send you a free copy of the audio book as soon as it’s out of production.

Gary S:
Fantastic. Listener, until we are together next time, thank you for spending this time with us. If you’ve enjoyed this conversation, if you find hope, if you find perspectives that help you overcoming your own crucibles, moving toward a better time, moving forward on purpose with purpose, if these conversations help you do that, we would ask that you subscribe to the podcast, for one. Two, we’d ask that you’d leave a review at the app on which you’re listening of the show. Be honest, tell us what you think of it, but that helps more people find the show and hear discussions like this.

Gary S:
We ask you to remember, as you move on right now, that your crucible experiences are hard, they are painful. John describes some terribly painful crucibles that have happened to him, even just recently with his COVID challenges, but what his life proves, what Warwick’s life has proven, what your life can prove, is that your crucibles are not the end of your story. In fact, they can be the beginning of a new chapter in your story. They can be the most exciting chapter in your story, because where that chapter leads, where your book is going to wrap up at is what we call here, and what John called in his book, a life of significance.

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