Finding Health and Joy – 3 Years in SF

February 5, 2015 · Print This Article

This photo says it all. Let me share the story behind it.

After spending 27 years growing up on the East Coast and becoming a hard-nosed workaholic entrepreneur, I never thought I’d be one of those hippies from San Francisco talking about wellness and mindfulness. I didn’t think wellness had anything to do with being an impactful entrepreneur.

Seven years ago at age 23, I was 212 pounds. I was often anxious and stressed out. I had a ‘racing mind’ that would keep me up past 2am. I had chronic neck pain from a car crash in Florida when I was 16 that doctors said would require surgery. I ate a terrible diet of processed foods (lots of nachos, frozen dinners, Bagel Bites, Hot Pockets, etc.) and had heartburn 3-4x per week. I drank lots of coffee and was addicted to caffeine, once installing a Keurig machine in my iContact office that would keep the French Vanilla K-Cups within arm’s reach! At my most overwhelmed points, I even had two panic attacks caused by stress in 2008 and 2010.

I hadn’t yet learned how to live with calm and ease while taking on big things in life. I worked all the time but I wasn’t exactly optimizing my productivity and effectiveness and I was far from a shining example of vitality.

I thought being an entrepreneur required me to suffer and work hard. I didn’t get that for me to make a big impact externally, I had to be healthy and happy internally.

The passing of my mom Pauline from brain cancer in 2012 caused me to reevaluate a lot. And the unexpected passing of my Dad in September 2014 from leukemia inspired me to begin to share what I’ve learned so far.

While I’m in the middle of this journey and have so much to learn, the last few years I’ve made a few changes and learned to live with much greater health and joy, while being more productive than ever. I’ll share how I’ve learned these lessons and share three programs that completely shifted my perspective.

When I moved to San Francisco in 2012 I was exposed to all kinds of new ways of living holistically (what they heck is quinoa, anyway??). Yet there were three programs that especially changed me and stood out–The Landmark Forum, The Art of Living Happiness Program, and Camp Grounded. I highly recommend taking all three of these programs, especially to those who work in stressful jobs. Here’s what I learned from each of them…

In the Fall of 2013 I took a 3-day course called The Landmark Forum after my Connect co-founder Anima Sarah LaVoy recommended it to me. What I got from Landmark was a better relationship with my Dad before he passed away (this was priceless to me and I tear up thinking about it now). I also learned how to be fully present in deep conversations with friends and colleagues, how to become a really good listener in any situation, how to ensure I always honor my word, and how to make commitments thoughtfully. The next San Francisco Landmark Forum is next weekend Feb 13-17 and they have programs in 35 U.S. cities and 21 countries.

In the Spring of 2014 I took the The Art of Living Happiness Program in Palo Alto based on the recommendation of my girlfriend Nadia. Art of Living truly gave me my mind back! After learning some basic breathing exercises anyone can do in 20 minutes per day (they call it the ‘Kriya’), my mind went from anxious and racing to feeling calm, present, relaxed, and joyous–which has made me way happier and productive the last year. Art of Living now runs programs in 150 countries and has taught 30 million people to meditate and reduce stress in their lives. The next Art of Living Program in the SF area is this weekend, taught by my friend Ben Henretig. You can sign up at

Then in the Summer of 2014 I attended Camp Grounded, a summer camp for adults in Northern California that focuses on teaching you how to play again. There was a talent show, capture the flag, face painting, costumes, camp fires, a talent show, and lots of singing. I absolutely loved the experience, and it broke me out of my serious shell. Please, please, please come to Camp Grounded this Memorial Day weekend!! The next Camp Grounded is coming up this May 22-25 and May 29 – June 1 in Medocina, CA.

Now at 30, I am in the middle of a journey and still have a lot to learn. Today, I weigh 152 pounds (60 lbs less), have calmed my racing mind through the breathing exercises, have gotten rid of the chronic neck pain by learning two simple yoga moves that I learned at Art of Living (sun salutations + cat/cows), have learned to deepen the quality of my relationships, and have learned to love to play again. I’ve been through quite a transformation over the past few years and what I’ve learned has made me way more effective in my work at Connect and Hive.

Here are the web sites for these programs where you can learn more. You can sign up for all three in 10 minutes.

Art of Living –
The Landmark Forum –
Camp Grounded –

The best book I’ve ever read that summarizes so much of what I’ve learned the last three years is The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma. Grab a copy on Amazon and you’ll devour it in a day or two!

With the support of close friends, I have changed my diet from chips, Hot Pockets, and Bagel Bites to healthier foods that I now love like tofu, tempeh, quinoa, spinach, kale, carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, avocados, broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, almonds, walnuts, cranberries, figs, bananas, apples, oranges, kiwis, lentils, chia seeds, fish, eggs, almond milk, carrot juice, and green tea. Not only do I feel a lot better and kicked the heartburn–the meals I eat today actually taste better too.

Thank you the team members of Connect and Hive and some extraordinary friends (like Nadia, Anima, Kyra, Dani, Bear, Caen, Alexander and so many more) who pointed me toward this path and helped me grow immensely over the past few years. I am so happy to be on this journey with you.

Lastly, I know each of us are on our own journeys toward health. While I’m still learning, I’m lucky to know a few people who are real experts in this field of holistic health for people who are up to big things. So if you want to talk to me about what I’ve learned or talk to others who are actual experts who specialize in this type of thing, just send me a message. In the comments, feel free to share your experiences and any changes you’ve made or programs you’ve loved.

Thank you in advance for your encouragement and support. Here’s to living a life of health, joy, and impact.

Sending love from San Francisco,


One Response to “Finding Health and Joy – 3 Years in SF”

  1. cyndy on February 6th, 2015 8:14 am

    Ryan, excellent blog post! Not only are you an inspiration to entrepreneurs, you are a gifted writer and recovering workaholic. I hope others will follow suit. (I’m a fan in Raleigh and friends with two of iContact folks, JWong and VKovalak.)

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