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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D., has helped hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries find happiness, success, and fulfilment in their social, professional, and love lives. His presentations – whether keynotes, seminars, or workshops – leave clients with insights into their behaviour, psychology, and keys to their empowerment. His training methodologies are the result of over a decade of coaching and education of thousands of students around the world. Join him on the “DTPHD Podcast” as he explores deep questions of meaning, success, truth, love, and the good life. Subscribe now.
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Celebrity personal trainer, peak performance health coach and podcaster Ted Ryce has overcome a tremendous amount in his quest to live a legendary life.
Ryce has worked with Fortune 500 CEOs, busy professionals, and celebrities, including Richard Branson, Ricky Martin, and Robert Downey Jr.
Connect with Ted here: https://legendarylifepodcast.com/free
Episode 26 Show Notes:
2:40 How Ted overcame extreme adversity and changed his outlook on life to live his best life
10:25 The brain-body connection, does it matter?
14:40 The difference between pain and suffering, and why this is key to overcoming trauma
18:14 How the stories you tell yourself shape your reality
19:35 The difference between feelings and emotions, and how this is integral to your happiness
21:16 How the mind and the body are inextricably connected and why we mistakenly tried to split them
26:44 Being fully present as a way of life
32:23 One of the best ways to find happiness, fulfillment, and flow
Physical Fitness & Lifestyle in Your Psychological Healing & Growth w/ Ted Ryce
David Tian Ph.D. together with Ted Ryce, they talk about the mind-body connection in relation to healing and growth.
When people encounter a situation, they may react differently towards it. David Tian Ph.D. and Ted Ryce gets into a discussion on the different interpretations.
David Tian Ph.D. and Ted Ryce discuss the power of the story that we tell ourselves.
Feelings are different from emotions, David Tian Ph.D. explains how they are not the same.
In this podcast episode, David Tian Ph.D. shares the activity that we can do to help us heal and grow.
Truth, love, and the good. Here we go.
David Tian: Welcome to the DTPHD Podcast. I’m your host, David Tian. And today, I am very pleased and honored to introduce my guest here, a good friend of mine. We’ve known each other for quite a few years now and we’ve done a couple other podcasts on other platforms. I’ve been on his and he’s been on my other podcasts, and this is going to be a wide-ranging one. I’ve listed down some of the topics we’ll be covering, and I’m excited to get going.
So without further ado, my guest Ted Ryce. Ted, how are you doing?
Ted Ryce: Doing great, man. So great to connect with you again and to be on your show. It’s been a while. I’ve kind of taken a break from doing interviews because I’ve been so busy. And so, this is the first one I’ve done in a while and it’s just always great to connect with you, man.
David Tian: Hey, great honor man having you on here. You are currently in Thailand. How’s that going? How’s that treating you?
Ted Ryce: I’ve been a digital nomad for the past two years. And I keep finding myself back in Thailand. And there’s so many things about the culture that attract me to it. I come from Miami Beach where it’s training celebrities and multi-millionaires. And a lot of people, what they don’t know about Miami, is when they see it on TV, they see the great parts, the luxury buildings, the luxury clubs, the beautiful water, the beautiful ocean surrounding Miami Beach.
But what they don’t see is the very unhappy people that mostly live there, even the wealthy people. They don’t see the inequality, and even more importantly than that, the attitude of the people. So, one of the reasons that I keep finding myself in Thailand is because I’ve learned so much from being around Thai people.
Of course, they’re Buddhist. But even apart from the Buddhist religion, they also just have this thing. It’s called the Land of Smiles, as you well know. And then there’s Muay Thai, which is something I’ve trained a lot in the US, but now I’m learning it from the source. And the food is incredible, and man, just the lifestyle here, I really find myself — I end up in different parts of Thailand.
David Tian: Yeah. Can’t wait to get to that. I’ve got that on my list of things we want to talk about for sure. I lived in Thailand for about four years myself, just recently moved away from there, and I’m looking forward to visiting again in a few weeks for a wedding. So, hyped up to get into that. But before we do that, let’s get to know you better, Ted. Just in case the people listening or watching haven’t heard about you or haven’t heard my earlier podcast with you, can you just give us some of your background? For me, when I tell it, I can’t do it justice.
And it’s one of those stories when I heard you tell it many years ago when we were in Orlando… You’re a speaker at this event that we were speaking at, and it was a very moving story. Can you tell our listeners some of your story?
Ted Ryce: Like I said, I’ve been in the health and fitness business for about 20 years. I’ve trained a lot of celebrities, multi-millionaires, worked with Robert Downey Jr. on his first Iron Man movie, getting them ready for it while he was in Miami. Worked with Ricky Martin. I’ve trained Sir Richard Branson. He called me a “fit bastard” and I was in and still am in great shape.
And so, when people meet me, they think, “Oh, this guy is one of those guys who probably life has always gone so well for them. He’s hanging out with these high-level people. He seems happy and upbeat. He’s just one of those people. He’s got good genes, came from a good family, basically had all the privileges and none of the obstacles that other people have.” That’s how people think of me. But the truth is, I’ve had a lot of tragedy in my life. I lost my mother in a car accident when I was 14. And the truth is, she was mentally ill. She was abusive.
And she actually committed suicide, and that kind of really messed me up in high school. I ended up getting in trouble with the law. Got arrested a bunch of times for possession of drugs, for destroying property, for all sorts of things. And those are only the things that I got caught for. And then I started pulling myself together. And then when I was 19, I did so horrible in high school, barely got through it. When I was 19, I went to community college because that’s the only place where I could go to based on my grades because I was a smart kid. I had good test scores. But my grades were just so poor and I basically was smoking marijuana and skipping school all the time in high school.
So, when I started getting into college, I moved out of my house, which was a very toxic place. My parents were both attorneys, high-functioning alcoholics, but extremely negative. When I mean my parents, I mean my dad and my stepmom. And I started getting my act together. I started choosing my classes. I had this newfound freedom, as we can all relate to, those of us who went to college or university. You start to choose your classes. You can sleep late. And I started getting straight A’s for the first time in my life.
I was doing really well in school. I felt supported. I was out of that negative environment. And in defense of my parents, they didn’t put me out on the street. They’re like, “We’re going to pay for you, but you can’t live here.” And so, they put me up in an apartment. And things were going well for the first time in my life, really. And I guess in the first year of that, my nine-year-old brother was kidnapped and murdered. It became big news. If you Google my name, “Ted Ryce”, and “brother”, you can read all about it. It was huge news. I won’t go into all the details, but it’s one of those things.
Let’s put it this way, it was so gruesome what happened to him that it made it into an FBI True Crime Story. You can read about it. I was interrogated and had more run-ins with the FBI than I ever cared to talk about. But that event, losing my brother, and all the trauma associated with it, all the trauma that came with it, all the loss of hope in my life, the loss of direction in my life, and being emotionally distraught, I was wrecked physically, emotionally, even spiritually.
And speed up a couple of years, I found myself a few years later after working odd jobs, nearly going into the military, not really having much to do, I found myself in the health and fitness business. And it offered me a new life, and it basically saved my life because I don’t know where I would be without that part because it allowed me to get my confidence back, my mental and physical health back. And I was so passionate about what it did for me that I started helping other people with it. I got my personal trainer certification. I didn’t have much money in the bank, but I had enough to get this certification and I got hired at the first place that I interviewed at in Miami Beach, which happened to be the hottest place at the time. Now, it’s Equinox as far as I can remember, but it was the Eden Roc Resort and Hotel right next to the Fountainbleau.
It’s not really a hot place anymore. The Fountainbleau is a lot hotter if you’re familiar with Miami Beach. But man, that was the foundation for everything good in my entire adult career, but it hasn’t been without setbacks. Business-wise hasn’t been without additional loss. My sister committed suicide about 6 years ago now I think, in part due to what we went through as kids with the abuse from my mentally ill mother, with the alcoholism, and my abusive, emotionally abusive stepmother. She just lost total hope and also had a little bit of the mental illness that my mother had, unfortunately.
And so, through all of that, here I am now living my best life, living an incredible — two years ago, I left Miami Beach and personal training, and I’ve been doing what I’ve been longing to do for so long, is to do more travel, to experience more cultures, and to open my mind to things that I would have never been able to learn had I sat right on my ass, like so many of us do in America, and try to learn about the world through YouTube, or the news, or from watching movies. And me stepping up, changing how I treated myself, changing how I looked at the world, changing how I looked at my past. And hopefully, I can impart some of that today on this interview.
David Tian: Wow, what a powerful story. So many people who would have been in that situation would not have recovered as you have. And even trauma that’s far less severe, most people struggle many decades later.. I know you’ve gone through a lot of different approaches to healing, and growing, and you’ve experimented a lot. Can you just rattle off some of the things that have helped you over these years, to heal, and grow, and recover from what you’ve gone through in life?
Ted Ryce: I would say the first thing is recognizing there’s this split, as you well know with your PhD in Asian studies, in philosophy, and religion, this mind-body dualism concept in the west, where the mind is this and the body is this. And they’re kind of really separate, which is completely untrue. And Asian cultures have been talking about that for a long time. But in the west we have this idea, “No. I’m not a physical person. I’m an intellectual person. I use my mind.” Or we have the jocks who are dumb, right? Not really, but you know, “I just use my body. I don’t read things, you know.” So, what we know and what I did was I realized there was a deep connection between my mental state, my mood, and the state of my physical health. So, that’s the first thing that I tell everybody to work on.
Because what happens is you start feeling bad from trauma. No matter if it’s a divorce, a death, a murder, like what I experienced, the suicide; doesn’t really matter. It has physiological effects. Your brain chemistry changes, stress hormones rise, the good hormones go down and you feel bad. And one of the things that you need to realize is that, number one, grieving is okay. Feeling the feelings is okay. Crying is okay.
But there comes a point where some people like you mentioned, they have something bad happen to them and then 10 years later, they’re still stuck. I would argue, and of course, I’m no psychiatrist or someone who treats people. But from my experience, what I would say is this: people get addicted to those feelings, addicted to that story, and they use it as the reason that they haven’t been able to get ahead in life, or to experience happiness in life, or to have a family, or to meet someone, meet the person of their dreams, or whatever it is.
And the truth is — and if I were anyone else saying this, people would bring out the pitchforks and want to burn me at the stake. But very few people have the amount of tragedy that I’ve been through, at least in the west. And you know, ironically, the people in Rwanda, in Africa, or in Cambodia that went through a genocide as well. If you talk to those people who’ve been through these horrible things, they have more of a perspective similar to mine. First, you take care of your physical vessel, and that involves regular exercise, it involves eating food with good nutrition. It involves getting outside, experiencing nature, experiencing light.
So many of us, we work indoors all the time. We get up, go to work. It’s dark when we go to work. We get inside our office building. It’s just fluorescent light, and then we come home, it’s starting to get dark, then we turn on the light. So, we’re just bombarded by this artificial light. We don’t ever get real light, sunlight. And I don’t know how that sounds to you, if you’re listening to that, but we know there’s solid research on circadian rhythms, circadian biology that scientifically prove exactly what I’m saying to you.
And people with depression and anxiety tend to have disruption in their circadian rhythms. And circadian rhythms doesn’t just have to do with what time you sleep. It has to do with how much light you’re exposed to and other things. So, understanding that there’s a deep connection between your mood and the state of your physical health. And so, by doing that basic hygiene for your health, just like you brush your teeth so that you don’t get cavities and don’t have to get a tooth pulled or root canal, you have to do these maintenance things as a human being. And that is the first place to start.
The second thing is just to start to get some perspective on suffering because it’s all too easy to indulge into your own story. It’s funny, David. So many people are like, when I tell this story, they’re like, “Well, I’ve been through war.” I had one veteran who got real mad at me. He’s like, “I’ve been through war. My friends got killed in front of me. Your story isn’t that big of a deal.” And it’s like, “That’s not my point. I’m not trying to get your sympathy here. I’m trying to tell you that this is what I’ve been through and that we can all overcome trauma.”
Whether it’s the Cambodian genocide… Where this person in Cambodia who is a tour guide, actually, he talked about how he lost his 10 siblings. Or whether it’s me with my story. Or whether it’s someone who went through a divorce, a really nasty divorce. In a way, it’s like, “Okay, there’s different intensities of trauma for sure. But at the same time, we all need to gain perspective on it and understand that suffering, bad things happening, it’s part of most people’s story especially outside the Western world.
And understanding that, “Hey, this has been going on for a long time, and all these “bad things”, I don’t look at them like that in a way. We could talk about that if you want. But also that we’re living in the best time that we’ve ever lived in. Violence is at an all-time low. Literacy is in an all-time high. We’re living longer than ever because of breakthroughs in science. There’s more overweight people in the world than underweight people. We used to starve to death. Those don’t happen anymore. So, there’s so many good things. And those are two of the big things. I mean, I could go on and on about different strategies if you want, but those are the two probably biggest things.
David Tian: Yeah. Big part of what you said there was the story that you tell yourself about what happened. And you had hinted at those bad things maybe not actually being bad if you approach them in the right way. And in the wisdom traditions, east and west, and recently too, lots of modern work is about this: The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday’s book, and so many others like stoicism, the whole thrust of that school of ancient Greek philosophy was about seeing the events and the objective reality of life in a way that serves you or in a way that you choose, that you have unlike all the other animals in the world, and in evolution, we Homo sapiens have the ability to interpret the events in a particular way such that it either serves us or impairs us.
And a big part of this victimization narrative that people cling to, like the story that they tell themselves about what just happened to them, or what’s happening in their lives, the history of the lives… If you cast it in a negative light, it’s going to feel negative. But the very same events, if you approach them, have a different perspective, can then empower you. It’s a fascinating thing, the power of the story that you tell yourself or the narrative that you use to make sense of what’s happened. It makes it everything.
The example I give on this, and it comes from the philosophy of emotions. What is an emotion? How do you define that? And it’s a combination of interpretation plus the phenomenology. Here’s an example of how powerful the interpretation is over the phenomenology. A snake slithers towards you. Most people would freak out because it’s a big-ass snake, but there could be somebody else who’d be like, “Oh, my snake.” And he puts his arm out, and the snake curls up on it, he’s like, “Oh, my pet snake Fred that I’ve been missing for weeks! I found you!” And he’s really excited because this is his pet snake. And he’s a snake trainer or something.
And notice the interpretation of the exact same event makes the difference on the emotion that the person feels. And the interpretation that you can bring to the thing, to the phenomena, to the event, the outside stimuli is what we have in our brains, this ability to control it, to interpret it. And you can control that. And a big part of training on how to control it is what modern people call cognitive therapy. And that’s what stoics 2,000 years ago called thinking. And it’s an amazing thing. You can actually think your way into happiness.
Now, obviously the more severe the trauma or the more severe the phenomenology — there’s a difference between feelings and emotions. So feelings are simply the phenomenology. So, if I were to cut you with a knife, you feel pain. The emotion of suffering is the second order on top of that. You then have to interpret that feeling of pain as something bad and something that maybe you’ve lost, or that you’ll never get back, or whatever. You have to interpret it as a bad thing, and then that would cause the suffering. And so few people in the world even realize this. This is the kind of thing that you can teach a high school student. I think they would get it, but school doesn’t prepare us for this so it’s not your fault that you don’t know this.
But Ted figured it out and you made an amazing life for yourself despite — or maybe, I don’t know, depending on how you interpret it, because of the amazing things that you’ve gone through that have caused you to go through, to force you to grow in these ways. Otherwise, you might have ended up just partying real hard through college like so many people and not have to face this deeper question of what is the meaning of life, what is the meaning of pain and suffering, and how do you get through that? Story is such a powerful message or lesson.
I’ve dedicated a mini course inside my big course called Lifestyle Mastery. There’s a whole module, it’s about 6 hours or so, just on story, including guided meditations, that help people to think about what the story of their lives have been and what they want the story to be going forward. And to just teach them how they can rewrite and reframe the story of their own life so that it empowers them and drives them forward to make those breakthroughs. Well, that’s the second point you made.
The first point was on the mind-body connection. And you know, it’s right that the modern world, so many people still think of problems as being intellectual, that you can’t address psychological problems through movement, through the body, the physical body. And this has been traced back, and this is pretty well known now in the academy, it has been traced back to the enlightenment. And in fact, this knowledge, this understanding that the bifurcation of mind and body, being traced back to the enlightenment, was actually part of what kick-started the postmodern movement which has now warped into something much more extreme, overtaking the universities in a really toxic way.
But it started in a way that — I was actually in the 80s — the kind of post-modernism that flourished in the 80s is something that I identified with. And one of the hallmarks of the early postmoderns was the bringing to the bigger perspective of the mind-body split and the mind-body dualism. And there’s a great book by a neuroscientist and it’s now a classic book called Descartes’ Error, and it’s by the neuroscientist António Damásio. Really famous, one of the top neuroscientists in the world. Very prolific as well. And I think this book was published in the 80s. And here’s an amazing thing that people don’t stop to think about.
For all these people on Reddit and Quora who give their opinions about treatments, psychological treatments based on body like somatic treatments and saying, “Oh, I don’t think this could work. It should just be talk therapy.” Which is funny because they probably have never engaged in any real talk therapy themselves. But get this, for 30 years, the dominant treatment of psychological issues was drugs. What do drugs do? They affect the physical body. So even the experts that all of these engineer types — I’m picking on engineers because I have so many friends who are, but these are the engineer types who think, “Everything can be figured out with the brain and nothing in the body.”
They would go to the psychiatrist for a problem, and the psychiatrist wouldn’t bother very much, the average psychiatrist, digging deep into your past and all that. No, they just give you a prescription. And what does that do? It’s a pill that affects your physical body which apparently affects your psychology and makes you feel better. So, how about we do the same thing without these drugs? And you can actually do that, right? And so, that’s something I remember you were sharing with me your core meditative approach, which is a somatic type of meditation?
Ted Ryce: Yeah.
David Tian: Moving meditation? Has that been very helpful for you in all kinds… I assume it has. I’m setting up this one for you. Tell us more about that type of meditation as a segue into — from mind-body into meditation.
Ted Ryce: So, you made such an excellent point where, in today’s modern world, it’s all about… Like, for example, we’re doing a podcast. We’re discussing these things intellectually. People look for the answers to problems in books, using their intellectual part of their brain to try to solve things. And by the way, by no means am I downplaying the importance of using that area of our brain because that’s how civilizations — that’s how we’re all living together in society.
David Tian: I mean, just the whole idea of the story and the [INAUDIBLE].
Ted Ryce: But it’s imbalanced, and people are like… especially with me in health and fitness, people are like, “Okay, fine. What’s the secret then?” If I told you on social media, even if I gave you the secret, you won’t do it. You won’t learn it because learning is experiential. It’s embodied. I can get a PhD in how to ride a bike, to use a silly example. But until you get your ass on the seat, I can tell you, “Hey, listen, all you got to do, you get on the bike,” explain the physics to you, and you get some momentum going, and you hold the handlebars really steady, and you start pedaling, and then you got to hold your balance. And you’re like, “Oh, I totally get it. Okay. Cool. I know how to ride a bike now.”
But then you get on the bike and then you fall down right away. So, you don’t really know how to do it. And people have this disconnect, this disconnection, disembodiment between like, “Oh, yeah. I know all about nutrition. I know this.” It’s like, “Then why are you overweight? Why are you obese?” You don’t know. Why do you have elevated hemoglobin A1c levels? Why do you have cholesterol levels that are a mess? Why is your blood pressure so high? You don’t know because you can’t get results. That’s like trying to…
I mean in other areas, we would laugh at people, it’s like, “Hey, we make fun of people. Hey, I’ll tell you how to make money online by you paying me money online.” No, you got to know how to get results in the real world. And that’s what our world is really all about: It’s about results in the real world. It’s not about parroting back facts or rote memorization. And so, to come back to your question about somatic meditation and just somatic approaches in general, I think talking about things — and I mean, this is more of your area of expertise than mine, but coaching, talking about things, especially when you get the other person talking about it, not you as a coach, can be very helpful.
But there needs to be an experiential component to it. So for example, I’m big into the idea of flow states. Let’s say I’m checking my phone all the time. I’m checking Twitter all the time. I’m in this thing where I’m constantly thinking, “I can’t stop my mind. It’s stressing me out. I feel like I’m not productive.” How do you stop your mind? How do you break those habits? Well, one of the things that I found, and we can talk about meditation, somatic meditation because it’ll fit in with this, but you have to engage in some type of activity that brings you into the present moment, puts you in that flow state.
For example, I’m in one now talking with you. If this were live in front of more people, then I would be even, you and I, we’d be even at a more heightened level of flow, right? We’d be so… Because of that pressure, we would be even more like, “Okay,” and feeding off the energy of each other and showing up because of that experience. And so, we all need to find things that bring us into the moment. And the more we spend time on those things that bring us into the moment… David, you’re a fan of martial arts, as am I. When you’re hitting those Muay Thai pads, you’re not like, “Yeah, let me see what emails do I have to…” No, you’re like, [grunting].
David Tian: Because if you do, your trainer is going to whack you with one of the pads in your head or take your down and throw you on the floor or something.
Ted Ryce: Exactly. You’re immediately in the moment. If you don’t resonate with martial arts, that’s fine. It could be golf. It could be tennis. It could be be playing a musical instrument. It could be playing in a band. For a lot of people who don’t know, I used to play music. I studied music for a little bit and played in a jazz band. I play the upright bass. I played the electric bass in a rock band. You’re not like, “Oh, yeah. What am I doing later on?” or “What’s my to-do list for tomorrow morning?” No, you’re in the moment.
And the more we can be like that, the more happiness we’re going to feel because the moment is all there is. The past doesn’t really exist. The future is just imagination.
David Tian: Or you could play in the… Just going through the motions and it would suck. To the untrained ear, maybe you couldn’t hear, but everyone who’s really paying attention will be able to tell. As a kid, I went through the motions with no heart.
Ted Ryce: You played the saxophone, right?
David Tian: Yeah, and classical piano from 5 to 14 years old. And all those classical pieces, I liked them, but I’m not really into it. I don’t really feel emotion. That’s one of the reasons I love saxophone a lot more. But yeah, I could get through the technical parts. You get through, you play the right note at the right time, but it sounds like a very basic AI that you program to play music, and I just am in the embodiment of it. But I mean, that’s not great music. That’s just like robotically playing.
It’s the same when people work out and they just robotically follow a workout program. Their brains go elsewhere. Their mind’s literally thinking about something else, and they’re just sitting there going, “Okay, I did my 12 reps, put that down.” And they’re wondering, “Why am I not getting any gains?” Well, it’s because you’re not actually mindful when you’re doing it. You’re just getting it over with and move on to the next thing. Your mind isn’t there.
Ted Ryce: And that’s such a great point. And I would even bring up to follow up on that point. I would even bring up like the loneliness and social isolation, the loneliness epidemic. We’re all looking to feel better. And yet, if you see so many people while they’re out, you’ll see couples and they’re on their phones. You’ll see friends together, they’re on their phones. They’re not present. They can’t be present. They’re too addicted to the phone that the dopamine spikes, the brain chemistry changes that you get from being on the phone all the time. You can’t break it and then you wonder why you’re not happy. Well, we know what makes human beings happy.
Exercise, connections, real connections with people, and having a purpose. Are you in an intimate relationship? And is that relationship healthy? Do you feel like you’re part of something at work? Or if you love what you do, do you have hobbies outside your work? Do you have these things in your life? And what I truly believe that makes us thrive the most is those healthy connections with each other. And if you can’t be present in a conversation for your husband, or your wife, or your children, you are never going to… I’m not going to say you’re never going to be happy, but you’re never going to experience life on the level that you could, and you’re never going to be as good of a husband, wife, partner, friend, whatever, colleague, co-worker, boss, entrepreneur if you can’t have that type of connection with people.
David Tian: Yeah. Absolutely. If there’s a relationship with no connection, then there’s no passion either. That relationship is pretty doomed. So, on those topics of happiness, connection, of finding flow in life, forcing yourself to be mindful, so you’re not staring at your phone all the time. It’s one of the main reasons why people will look for distractions like scrolling through social media, it’s because their lives are very routine or humdrum, and there’s nothing new, there’s no novelty. They’re not growing very much. And if there is any growth, it’s very small increments.
And one of the great ways that I discovered to get out of all of that, and to get all of that, to find the happiness, fulfilment, flow, all that good stuff is travel. And actually, that’s a topic that I wanted to start with right after you shared your background. So let’s dive into that. So right now, you’re in Thailand. I’m a little jealous you’re in Thailand. Talk about how you left Miami and the situation in Florida, and you found yourself traveling all over the world and settling in Southeast Asia for much of it.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, as I said earlier, when I got into health and fitness and I was working in the Eden Roc Resort and Spa, the hottest place at the time in Miami Beach. I felt like I had a new lease on life. I won the lottery. I solved my problems. And for a while I did. But eventually, it started becoming like you mentioned, people aren’t growing a lot. And here’s the truth. I mean, you know this David, but a lot of people don’t. I work with guys worth a hundred million. I’ve worked with billionaires. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. Everyone gets into ruts. Money doesn’t solve the problem. It’s about up here that solves your problems.
And so, a lot of the clients that I was training, they were in ruts. My comfort zone might be working out in the gym or coaching people on how to work out, but a businessman’s comfort zone is running their business and making money. But it’s still a rut. Doesn’t mean they should stop doing it, just like I’m not going to stop working out, but I need to find things that allow growth. And I felt like I hit a dead end. And I wasn’t feeling a connection. I felt like I had evolved as a person through all the work that I had done. I wasn’t feeling a connection with Miami. Not to talk too much about it, but it’s wonderful place, go and visit, go to all the clubs, go to Lincoln Road, go to Ocean Drive, watch the craziness. You’ll have a good time.
But if you are like me and you had lived there your entire life, it gets old after a while. And I was craving change. And specifically, I wanted to experience… Now, I had traveled a lot. I’ve been to Tahiti. Most people haven’t even ever been to Tahiti. I’ve been there. I’ve been to Costa Rica, Montreal, Toronto, where else, the UK. I’ve been to so many different places, but I really wanted to… What we talked about, I wanted to experience a different culture and experience it in a way unlike my clients would where they go from one luxury hotel to another, kind of like what you do now David.
David Tian: Yeah, that’s my real lifestyle.
Ted Ryce: But you paid your dues. You ate the street food. You did all that. A lot of people, they don’t do that. They go to the resort, they stay in the resort and they don’t travel around and experience the culture. I was determined to leave. And it turned out I had some money saved up, although not as much as I needed, and the woman I was with at the time, my business partner and wife, she said, “You know what?” Because I started, like a good American, started paying off some of my debts, credit card bills. And I was like, “Yeah, awesome, got this money, going to pay off some credit card bills.” And she was like, “Listen, you’re not happy. I’m not happy. We don’t like Miami. You’re training these millionaires.”
If you looked at my life, man, I got invited to yacht parties, $20 million mansions, hanging out, eating, but it wasn’t doing it and I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t be like, “Oh man, $20 million.” I didn’t feel it. And in all this about that feeling. And so, she said, “Let’s move to Thailand.” And I won’t tell too many of the details of this story, but we had planned to go and my back got injured. It just didn’t end up happening. But we had heard about people doing the digital nomad thing, like working online, living, traveling, experiencing the world.
And we had this opportunity. And I was so unhappy in Miami, and it was affecting my productivity. Not only was it making me unhappy or I was unhappy with the experience I was having. I wanted something different. I wanted to… So, not only that, but I wasn’t able to work as hard because we were in an environment that is really crushing our souls. We packed up and moved to Bangkok, Thailand. And even one of my clients who owns — he’s one of the biggest outlet mall owners in America. He’s like, “So, you’ve never been to Thailand and you’re just going to move there and but you’ve never been there.”
And I was like, “Yep, that’s exactly what’s happening, Steve.” He’s like, “You’re my hero.” Because this dude won’t even go to a restaurant that he’s not greased in at. He wants to be treated in a certain way everywhere he goes and he feels uncomfortable to go somewhere else.
David Tian: You need uncertainty to move forward.
Ted Ryce: Well said. And so, this is completely uncertain. What if I hate Thailand? What if it sucks? What if I don’t like Thai people? What if I don’t like Thai food? I knew that I needed to make a change so I took the leap. And I had a partner, and we did it. Not only has it made me happier, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my adult life now in spite of everything that’s happened. All the tragedies I listed at the beginning. I’ve grown so much. I’ve experienced so much. I don’t look at the world differently. It’s hard to even talk to Americans sometimes because they’re suffering from that — you’re too stuck in your own culture. And you don’t realize it, but you’re a fish swimming in water.
And then someone says, “Hey, you’re swimming in this water, in this fishbowl.” You’re like, “What are you talking? What is a fishbowl? All I know is this experience that I have.” And so, yeah, it’s been the best thing for me professionally. I’m making more money now. My clients are getting better results now, and personally, I’m on another level as a human being and just couldn’t be more grateful to be you know having this experience.
David Tian: Yeah, it was awesome because I met you early on when you moved to Bangkok. And that was about halfway through my time there. And it was really exciting to see how excited you were, and that you were seeing everything with fresh eyes. Man, it was great. And one of the things I’d recommend to people listening and watching… I know a lot of people come to me or found me through Googling “how to get over your ex”, or “how to recover from a breakup”, or “how to change your life”, and “how to heal and grow.” One of the best things you can do is actually change your environment.
And a major way of changing your environment is to actually move to a new country, especially one where you don’t speak the language. So if you move in from America to Canada… I mean, that’s sort of like you’re in a new country, but I’m Canadian, so I got no problem saying this, it feels like…
Ted Ryce: You just got to say “eh” after everything and that’s all you got to do.
David Tian: It’s pretty much the same. I mean, it’s a lot safer. You probably can’t put your guns up there, but it’s pretty much the same. It’s colder. But if you move to Thailand, you probably don’t speak Thai. The thing is, even in Thailand, there’s increasingly — especially while I was there, the past five years, the hospitality industry has really improved. I mean, it was amazing to start with, but now there’s so many people who speak English well that in Bangkok it’s hard to actually learn Thai. Because they’ll just give up and speak English to you because your Thai sucks so bad like me. That’s my excuse for why after four years, my Thai still was really bad.
But yeah, you reminded me that I did, what I call, slum it for a while. When I first moved to China in 2004, and even then I’d done a lot of travel. I was, as a kid in the summers between school, being sent by my parents back to Taiwan and various parts of Asia, visiting Japan and so on. But it was that year abroad, the full year, and that turned into four years in, Beijing, and Qingdao, and Shanghai. And I was a poor student. Of course, being a poor student in America moving to China in 2004 meant that I was a middle-class adult.
And then when I got all my fellowships together, I was living like a lawyer, like a lawyer’s income. So, I was living it up by the end of that time but that cracked the system that way. But I remember riding around on a bicycle, that was my main mode of transport my first year in very polluted Beijing wearing one of those face masks, and parking my bike like everyone else. And even in the winter, as the snow started to come down on very slippery roads, because the tires were crap. And just contending with the buses and the cars, and eating the street food and loving it. And some of my most favorite memories are with very little money.
I was just a student on a regular student stipend in Beijing riding my bicycle while the leaves were falling in autumn. And just like red and yellow, and all these beautiful trees were just shedding their leaves as we’re riding into the campus at 8:00 a.m. There’d also be thousands of students riding into campus at the same time. So, you can imagine eight bikes across, everyone going the same direction. If you’re one of those suckers going the wrong direction, you’re like that one lane is just you on the side like, “Eh.” But if you’re with everyone else, it’s just an amazing feeling. And man, it cost no money.
And I would never have experienced that in North America. And since then, I never looked back. I just couldn’t… I’d go back for a summer at most, see family or whatever, but the lure of this new environment, so much to see, and so much to experience, you’ll never get into a rut. I mean, you’d have to purposely get into a rut because there’s so much out there to experience. In Southeast Asia, I didn’t experience that until about five years after moving abroad. I took up that position at Singapore to be a professor. That’s when I found out it’s kind of embarrassing being a PhD in Asian studies.
I was focusing on East Asia, so that’s China, Japan, and Korea, so I didn’t know that much about Southeast Asia, embarrassingly little, until I moved there and I realized there’s a whole language group that’s referred to as Malay or Bahasa in Indonesia. I found out that still many people around the world don’t know where Indonesia is. Some of them think it’s some offshoot of India or something. So, Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world. It’s the largest Muslim country in the world, and it is where Bali is. Many of you have heard of Bali but maybe not Indonesia, the country in which Bali sits.
And the amount of richness of language, of culture all around that region, you’d hop on a plane for like an hour and a half flight, and boom, you’re in a completely different — or even just an hour. You’re in a different country with new different food, and different language, and different background. And even in the modern period, you were mentioning Cambodia, the kind of crap that all of these different countries went through or the rise of them. It’s just fascinating, endless source of inspiration, and challenge, and opportunities. And I picked Thailand as you did partly because the food, the weather, the beaches, the chaos in the cities, which is — for a masculine man, or for a feminine woman, very energizing.
There’s always something going on, the city never sleeps, and lots of action. I’m a fan of martial arts, of course. Those are my wife’s Muay Thai gloves. And yeah, man, I just love it. I moved to Taiwan this year, finally settled in the first time in five years. So this past five years, I’ve been living through Starwood Hotels now Marriott, as an ambassador, which I learned through stays, not like many of you guys who hacked the system. I earned that. And I’ve hacked miles. So if you want to — a lot of people are like, “Okay, I can figure out how to be an English teacher.”
So if you’re in your 20s, and you don’t care too much about your current job, you can make some decent money teaching English in Asia, East and Southeast Asia, and actually everywhere. Middle East, and you just got to get your teaching certificate. You don’t even need that. I was teaching English without it way back when I was 19 years old. Anyway, so now it’s about flying, and you can hack the miles. If you’re in America, you can get those credit cards and they’ll give you a bonus of like 30,000, 50,000 miles, and you can just open and close these cards. I know so many people doing it, and then boom, you’re over here in Asia living it up.
And it’s a great way to stretch yourself, to get outside your comfort zone, to grow, to get new perspectives on life. I highly recommend that you mix with the locals, that you don’t just stay in the Sheratons, which are solid choice if you’re in for a conference, but horrible if you’re… You want to localize. So, you get on the Airbnb app, look for some local guy, and then start from there.
You can pay your way in, or if you got some social skills because you took some of my courses, you can show up to the local bar and just mingle with the friendly people there. Anyway, Ted, you’ve done a lot. You’ve seen a lot. You really embraced the digital nomad lifestyle, and I’ve seen you do your check-ins all over the world, not just Thailand and the surrounding region, but all over. So, if you’re looking for coaching from Ted or if you’re looking for guidance, he’s got a new master class that’s come out or coming out soon?
Ted Ryce: Yeah, we have a master class that you can go to at LegendaryLifePodcast.com/free. That’s really geared towards someone who’s looking to make a transformation in their life, but using health and fitness as the foundation. If you want more personalized then we can talk about that. But the first thing you got to do is to watch the master class and see what I’m about. Because otherwise, I won’t get on a phone call with you. You got to jump through a few hoops first just to make sure you know what you’re getting into and know what I’m about, and to make sure it’s a good fit for you. But LegendaryLifePodcast.com/free is where you can go watch that. And of course, if you’re not interested in coaching, watch the masterclass, use the information, change your life.
David Tian: It’s free too, right? That’s the backslash free part.
Ted Ryce: Exactly. It’s free.
David Tian: Awesome. There’s nothing to lose, yeah. Just get on that. I’ll have the link in the text description. And yeah, Ted’s going back to the US timezone. It might be easier to sync up if you’re out there as well. So, take advantage of that and check it out. Thanks Ted so much for being on here. It’s great that we were able to connect so many times out in Asia and hope you make it back out here after your time in the States.
Ted Ryce: Are you kidding me? One of my trips is to Taiwan to go see you, to go check out the beautiful landscape, the beautiful culture, and to eat some Taiwanese food, man. I can’t wait.
David Tian: Yeah. I’m trying to keep Taiwan a secret from everyone so I’m not plugging it at all.
Ted Ryce: “Don’t come to Taiwan.”
David Tian: Thailand already has so many foreigners now. Don’t come to Taiwan. The culture, the food, it’s… Yeah. So anyway, thanks so much. Looking forward to meeting you again, Ted, in person, and thanks so much for listening and watching. As usual, you can get ahold of me at DavidTianPhD.com, and we’ll have all of the descriptions for all that stuff in the show notes. Thanks again Ted for being on here.
Ted Ryce: My pleasure, man.
David Tian: And thanks to all those listening. See you next time.
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