Many of us could not readily answer if you asked us what we had for lunch yesterday or how we spent our time last week. Talking to us today about making time for growth is Ryan Cutter, senior associate with CID Capital and positive intentions and actions enthusiast. Ryan tells us how he manages a full-time job yet still gives himself time to read books, exercise, and meditate. He breaks down the benefits of taking time to do the things you love, including being more productive and less resentful of those taking up your time. We find out why we should have the work ethic of a lion (short bursts of intense concentration) compared to that of a cow (prolonged, less intense effort) and why you owe it to yourself to make time to grow. We discover the creative benefits of relaxing and how looking back at previous journal entries can show you how much you’ve grown.
Key Points From This Episode:
- The importance of finding time to yourself in being intentional in your daily life.
- How meditating for as little as 10 minutes a day can set you up for success.
- Looking back at previous journaling and observing how you’ve grown.
- Owing it to yourself: giving yourself space to do the things you love.
- The Lion vs Cow work ethic: why being highly productive for a shorter period is better than being less productive over a longer period.
- Taking ownership of your time to avoid resentment.
- How spending time in your thoughts can help you grow.
[0:00:01.2] AD: Welcome to Branch Out, a connection builder’s podcast. Helping middle market professionals connect, grow and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections.
[0:00:20.0] AD: Hey everyone, welcome to The Branch Out Podcast. I’m your host Alex Drost. Today, we welcome Ryan Cutter, senior associate with CID Capital. A middle market private equity firm. Ryan and I discuss why making time to slowdown and think is so critical to your long term personal and professional growth. I hope you all enjoy.
Connect and grow your network, we are on LinkedIn. Search for Connection Builders.
[0:00:49.1] AD: Ryan, welcome to The Branch Out Podcast, excited to have you here today.
[0:00:53.2] RC: Hey Alex, thanks, I know we’ve been trying to get this scheduled for a while so I’m really looking forward to spend some time with you today.
[0:01:00.0] AD: I’m not exact — no, let’s chat about it and getting things scheduled, finding time for stuff and I’m going to talk to the listeners for a quick moment and Ryan and I were just chatting before we jumped on here and the conversation that we were having was really around like, well, we both think investing in personal growth is important, it’s something that we want to do and I think most people have that similar mindset but it’s all about time, it’s like, there never seems to be enough time for anything.
Ryan, why don’t we just start with kind of your thoughts around that? Like, you’re a busy professional, is it important, how do you find time, what are your thoughts?
[0:01:30.0] RC: I think it’s a great place to start Alex. It’s funny I was talking to a really close friend and mentor yesterday at lunch. We’re actually talking about how everyone is so busy and it feels like you’re just going from one task to the next constantly. When you really look back and say, “Well, what did you do yesterday or what did you do Tuesday?” you can list some things like well, I had this call with this person or I worked on this task but you’re like, “Oh my gosh, where did that eight, nine, 10 hours go that I was working during the core workweek hours?”
It’s really hard to pinpoint where that time went and that’s not to say that someone’s not busy, you’re not doing productive things. It’s just kind of a hodge podge of moving from one thing to the next. One thing that I’ve been really focused on and thinking about, really, over the last year or so is, how do you make time just to think about where am I right now, where am I going, where are some things that I really need to focus in on and try to improve, to try to just make time for yourself, not to just think about things and think about the world and think about where you’re at in life and really think about where you want to go.
That’s something that I really been focusing on and with mixtures on sit times. I think it’s important to at least make time just to think and what you did.
[0:02:41.2] AD: Right, I want to hint on something that you said there. Everyone is always so busy, we all always have things going on, everyone always seems like there’s a lot and you want to make time for thinking, right? to slow down and to really reflect on things. What do you notice in the times where, when you don’t make that time to think? Do you notice any difference versus the time when you do carve out that time to slow down and think?
[0:03:03.0] RC: Yeah. Recently I tried to start my day when I’m having my morning coffee and before I even get any emails, to just spend five or 10 minutes meditating or however you want to call it, just being still, being quiet and trying to just process what the day is going to look like.
It’s funny, there’s a quote that says, “People who can’t make 10 minutes to meditate or be with their thoughts should probably meditate for an hour” because they probably need some time to actually reflect. If you’re so busy, you can’t carve out 10 minutes or so, for yourself, you really should probably find a way to carve out an hour.
I’ve noticed that if I do that, going into the day, just kind of a first quick win, make some time for yourself, on a much more patient, calm, understanding person and really, just a little bit more of the person I want to be kind of in my day-to-day interactions with others.
That’s something that’s really important is just you know, starting off there. Hey, can I make five or 10 minutes for myself just to get myself ready to go into the day?
[0:04:02.2] AD: I couldn’t agree with you more. I feel very much the same way for myself. This is something I struggled with. Let me just share some of my own experiences around the stillness in general. I picked up meditating and really trying to make it something I wanted to understand more, invest time into and create time for. About a year and a half ago, maybe going in two years at this point.
It first just seemed so terribly hard, it’s like, I have no time for that, I have so much to do, what is this doing for me, even just three minutes of it like seems like just such a challenge. What I’ve noticed is when I do, when I’m more consistent, I ebb and flow and I track it, I definitely have reflected and seen in myself.
In the times where I am significantly more focused on making that a priority, it just seems that I get more stuff done. I’m more effective in what I’m doing. I can’t not…
[0:04:54.0] RC: It’s just funny how it works.
[0:04:55.0] AD: It is. It’s like, it’s this — an adage once said to me that I would have — a couple of years I would definitely laughed at but it was like, “To get more done, slow down”. It’s unreal how that actually happens at times in what I want to go back to something you said that I think is really important to realize and recognize is, when we’re busy, when we’re going and especially as a busy professional, constantly going in the day-to-day grind of work. Do you really remember the details of what you’re doing?
How truly conscious are you about your day? I ask that and everyone listening right now, what did you do yesterday morning? What did you have for lunch yesterday? What day of the week is it, right? That just shows how easy it is to be unintentional, unthoughtful in how we approach our day, right?
[0:05:40.0] RC: Absolutely. Yeah, I think there’s a trend that everyone is trying to take more control of their time which is very important. I mean, that’s a finite amount of time we have to do whatever it is and also just time on earth, it’s just a finite amount but it’s also making special moments in that time as well, whether that be on a day to day, just taking five minutes for yourself to just get setup, get ready to go or making sure there to — I don’t have kids myself but remember when you saw your son or daughter ride a bike for the first time or check off seeing that wonder of the world that you always wanted to see.
Not only is making time for yourself important but making the time for the things that you want to do, because you never want to look back 20, 30, 40 years from now and say like, “Oh my gosh, where did it go?” because as we’re talking about, a lot of us can’t even remember what we did on Tuesday and it’s Friday today. It’s even more difficult when you look back 20 years and be like, “What was I doing during that chunk of time or those five years of my life or whatnot?” right?
I think it’s a blend because you can always look back, I try to journal at least a few times a week and look back at some of my things for a year to go and be like, “Man, I was so ignorant” or I thought I had it figured out and I was totally wrong and now I think I’m starting to get it and understand, I’ll probably look back at my journals or notes now three years and I’ll be like, “Oh man, I totally just still hadn’t figured out.”
I think that’s kind of part of life and part of the processes. You never really figure it out but hopefully you’re just kind of getting better and making yourself a better person in accomplishing what you can accomplish. That’s really the thing.
[0:07:10.0] AD: I think my experience around growth and trying to invest in myself and strive to be the best version of myself, what I’ve definitely have learned is there is no end point, it’s a constant process, you have to constantly be focused on it. One of the hardest parts is motivation to stay focused, motivation to want to do it, motivation to prioritize it over other things to make the time for it in my busy day and what’s really motivating for me and you pointed to this is journaling in some ways.
Because when you write it down, it’s one, in the moment of writing it, it’s an opportunity to reflect on it to see it, to think it through but also to your point, when you can really look back and really get in your head and understand where your way of thinking was a year ago, even six months ago, it’s wild to see and it’s like, it’s good that you should look at that and be like, “I can’t believe I did that” because the more you realize that, the more it just shows you’re growing, right?
[0:08:07.0] RC: Yeah, I mean, sometimes it’s good to always look back and for the most part, I enjoy it but sometimes you can get a little bit of an anxiety or be like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe I though that or thought I had that figured out and whatnot but for the most part, it’s just good just to see where you’re coming from and where you’re going.
Like I said, I mean, I think it’s a process, you know? 20 years form now, I’m going to be different than I am now, six months from now, I’m going to be a little bit different than I am now and different thoughts or have different experiences. Really, it’s just really enjoying, enjoying life every single day. I mean, that’s really the most important thing, right?
[0:08:39.6] AD: Let me ask you then? How do you balance it all? You’re a busy professional, you’ve got a lot going on, I think you just told me you just closed, you just worked on some deals, you’re constantly going, right? How do you do it?
[0:08:48.1] RC: You know, it’s difficult and I think that’s something that I don’t really believe in setting new year’s resolutions, right? I think you should find a date or January one, you should constantly be working on things that are important to you that you need to improve upon. You know, I still think there’s a little bit of “Okay, well what do I want to do and accomplish in the next year since we’re kind of turning the calendar?”
I think making just time for things that I enjoy and that really do make me happy is going to be really important. 2021, one of the biggest things that I did was just get back into a regular exercise routine. I owed that to myself to dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to my physical wellbeing, whether that’s going for a run, lifting some weights, doing a CrossFit class, going to an hour yoga class, just — I owe it to myself and my body to just spend some time focusing on my health.
That’s something I kind of lost, I was a college track and field runner so I was very physically active. Then, once I graduated college, kind of got into the professional world, I was still working out but maybe two or three days a week but I noticed just mentally and the effort I can give is just better when I knock out that 30 minute workout in the morning.
That’s something in 2021, it was like, I owe this to myself, this is a priority, virtually nothing comes above that. In 2022, I’m really going to — one of my goals is really just focused on some of the things that kind of fell by the wayside this year. I have a goal that I want to read a book every other week about just whatever. Fiction, nonfiction, biographies and then just making sure I’m carving out 30 minutes in the morning that’s from seven to 7:30.
I’m not going to look at email, I’m not going to work, I’m not going to answer phone calls, it’s my time, I owe it to myself. I think you have to go into the mindset of, “I can’t let someone else own my time” I have to own my own time and I owe those things to myself to get done before virtually anything else.
[0:10:40.2] AD: I really like the statement, “I owe it to myself” and what I think’s important behind that. I’m going to bring myself back to my time in investment banking. Particularly in my analyst and associate days and that was a time where I started my professional career, I ate a lot of takeout dinners, a lot of granola bars, far too much caffeine and the gym was something I didn’t even know existed at that point.
The effect was I became unhealthy because of it. The byproduct of that was me, as an individual, I was able to weather that storm for a period of time but over duration, it started affecting my mental performance and my energy levels and my clarity of thought and all of that affects the way I output, the way I solve problems, the way I complete tasks and really affects my work product in both personal and professional life. If I would have and I eventually did, but if I would have embraced it that time, the mindset of I owe it to myself and it doesn’t matter how stressed I feel about work, it doesn’t matter how much I feel like I have to go get done elsewhere.
I’m never going to be able to actually do my best unless I go do something for me first. Unless I take care of me and make sure “me” is in a good place and health and fitness is obviously an easy example around that but I think it’s a really important one. I couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of that.
[0:12:00.0] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, A connection builder’s podcast.
[0:12:05.4] RC: It doesn’t have to just be exercise, it’s anything, you know? Everyone has things that they enjoy doing and that are important to them but if you’re not allowing yourself to do that, a lot of times you’ll have resentment to people that interact with every single day because “I could do this but this person’s working me really hard or making me do this” and whatnot and this is not a good way to interact with friends, family and colleagues.
If you kind of hold those negative thoughts, negative feelings because man, I really wish I could do this and we’re talking little things, reading a book for 20 minutes in the morning, hitting up the gym, riding a bike, whatever it is that you enjoy doing. If you’re not able to do that, then you’re going to have resentment to someone else and that usually doesn’t bode well for your career or anyone.
[0:12:51.0] AD: You make a really good point behind that and that’s something I certainly have experienced that it part to my life where I have not let myself do stuff where I have put off doing things for me and it comes out in the form of resentment or frustration towards someone else.
What I think is the important part of that is, I think it’s all in your head most of the time, right? There is work demands, there is things you have to get done. I don’t want to discount that there are work cultures that can be very challenging and have a lot of workload that come within. I don’t want to deny that but at the same time, exactly your point, these small little things that we just say, “I don’t have time for that.”
Often times, that’s really just the story or the narrative we’re telling ourselves in our head and as soon as we get out of our own way and say, “Nope, I actually do have 10 minutes to do this, it goes back to what I said earlier, like you all of a sudden make that time and then magically you still get more done. You accomplish more stuff because you did that because now, we took that time to clear that negative thoughts and get yourself in the right headspace, set yourself up physically to be whatever it might be that all helps you ultimately succeed better.
[0:13:56.1] RC: I’d rather be a highly productive for six hours than moderately productive for 16 hours and I don’t know about case study or a Harvard PDH study on workplace productivity but I can imagine if you’re highly productive for five or six hours, you’re probably — it is going to lead to a better result than being moderately unproductive for X amount of hours, right? There is a good quote that I’ve always liked, “If you need to get something done, give it to the busiest person because they’ll find a way to efficiently get it done”.
That’s not directly related to what we’re talking about but it is just being efficient and intentional with everything you do whether it’s your work product or physical wellbeing and just making sure that you’re allocating it then. You know, one of the things that kind of talking about allocating time is you know, I was always in inbox zero guy. I wanted when I left the office whether it’s 2:00 or two PM or 12 at midnight, I would always want to be like, “Okay, I have no emails in my inbox.”
Sometimes, I am still probably need to get better at but you can’t just do inbox zero every single day. Sometimes, you just have to let it go and you have to go home and say like, “Look, I just need six hours to myself to watch some bad TV or do a hobby or just lay on the couch or just reset and then I’m going to come back firing on all cylinders the next morning. Sometimes, you just have to be okay with that.
That there is just stuff you can’t get done whether it’s something that’s on your plate or someone else’s plate and just be okay with that because whether you respond an email at 8 PM at night or 8 AM in the morning, it’s probably not going to change the outcome so much, in most cases at least.
[0:15:36.0] AD: I think you’re very spot on in that. I’m going to talk to listeners especially any of our earlier career listeners, where I can reflect on my own time and my own experiences where I felt like I needed to be working all the time no matter what like no room for hobbies, no room for personal life, no room for fitness, no room for barely sleep, get back to work, chug a Monster, keep going kind of thing, right?
It was a toxic mentality that I, it was very much self-induced on myself in that, in creating that but the outcome of all of that was ultimately, my — just in general, I wasn’t functioning well because of it and the hard part though was building the habits. Let’s dive into that a little bit like you have to build habits to break out of that. If you find yourself, I find myself in a place where I feel like I just don’t have time for myself, how do I actually start overcoming that?
[0:16:29.1] RC: You know, in general in every career and profession is different but in general, especially in your MNA, we should work lions versus working like cows and what I mean by that is a lion will lounge and lay around and be just thinking and going about their day but if they find a big juicy gazelle, they’re going to go out and chase it full throttle and then once they’ve kind of been fed, they go back to lounging and relaxing.
Cows is kind of the opposite where they are just constantly kind of walking around, the range constantly grazing, 16, 17, 18 hours a day. When there is stuff to get done, you have to sprint. You have to be efficient with your time, you have to get things done, right? But don’t make busy work just to be busy work or just to be seen. I mean, it is just silly. It is a waste and no one really cares how often someone is in the office.
You know, most good employers are going to look at the work product and look what you’ve done, right? So that’s not to say you can just be lazy and lounge around but when you see something that’s high priority or a really good opportunity, chase it down ferociously and then go back to waiting for the next thing to come, right? I think that leads to more free time, more time spent enjoying the things you want to do.
You still got to get your work done, you still have to give capacity to the work but think about that as, “Hey, does this stuff really matters or am I just kind of twiddling my thumbs doing busy work to be seen?” it’s how you work on a day-to-day basis.
[0:17:56.3] AD: I’ve never heard that before but I like it a lot. Work like a lion versus working like a cow and it makes total sense. The sprinting, the — and the busy work. Actually, let’s talk about that for a second. I want to now actually talk to any of our listeners that are a little bit more senior. If you are going to position leadership or a management position where people are reporting to you, the butts in the seat or the hours that someone works.
The time that someone is online, I don’t think, I hope that nobody argues that that is a good measurement of productivity or success. I understand that there are cultures and there are people that function that way in some ways. I encourage everyone listening to really recognize that exactly the point that Ryan is making that if you instead if you create the right culture, it doesn’t mean that people don’t have to be available.
It doesn’t mean that there is work and there is things that have to get done but recognizing that if you’re always trying to accomplish something, the number one goal is just to get more task done, get more work done, get more done, get more done, what if you get the wrong things done because you just got so much stuff done but you forgot to slow down and look around and make sure you’re getting the right things done, right?
I think it’s really important to recognize that that free time, that unstructured time not even working and even necessarily intentionally thinking specifically on work but just doing other stuff, going to the gym, riding a bike, going enjoying your life, experiencing things, spending time with family, whatever it might be that tends to be when you start to see things way more clearly and start to be like, “Oh, we shouldn’t be doing that” or “Oh, here’s how we solve that problem” or “Oh, here is how we do this more efficiently.”
Those ideas at least for me they tend to just like appear when I am in that mode of taking time away from being so deep into the work right?
[0:19:30.1] RC: Yeah Alex, maybe I’m wrong on this but you started a business a couple of years ago and I guarantee, when you came up with the idea, the first idea, it wasn’t — you were creating a PowerPoint or an Excel sheet. You were probably exercising with your thoughts or reading a book and then you said, “You know what?” you know, the thought kind of came through that way.
It wasn’t because when you’re responding to an email of just some attorney and you know, midway to the end you’re like, “You know what? I am going to start this Branch Out Podcast” so it was probably when you’re doing something a little more leisurely would be my guess.
[0:20:01.0] AD: No, you know it’s a really good point and I’ll say actually one of the hardest things I’d had to learn since starting this business is there’s a huge creative element to this both in the podcast work but also in some of the content work that I do and the creative thinking and writing that comes behind it and learning the creative element, which I think many of us can acknowledge regardless of the work you do, the creative element is what drives success, right?
Speaking to and Ryan in your specific role, you’re in a private equity role, the creative way of figuring out how to get the deal done, bring everyone together and drive value is the value proposition, right? It is not the underlying capital. It is the creativity that comes with figuring out how to get it done and I think that applies to any professional one way or another the creativity is key.
Going back to myself, I do a ton of creative work now and I know the only way I can be successful of that is totally taking time for myself and if I take the time for myself, if I am and it’s actually been hard because I have to take a meaningful amount of time for myself to the point where the internal thought that I fight with consistently is “You’re not doing enough. You should be doing more. You’ve got a to-do list to get done”.
You get a long list of tasks you need to be working on and having to say, “Well, I know but I am going to take this time for me because I know if I do, when I go do those tasks specifically the creative type, the value-added work, that’s when I do the best is by having the time first.
[0:21:24.1] RC: Yeah.
[0:21:24.2] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle-market professionals.
[0:21:31:2] RC: People should probably do less and spend more time with their own thoughts because there’s probably a way you can do it more efficiently or find someone to do it more efficiently or automate it but you’re just kind of stuck in the same wheel, you know? There are a lot of business models that have been the same for 20 or 25 years and then all of a sudden, the world changes on.
I mean, they get hit like a ton of bricks, right? But “Well that’s just how we’ve always done things” and it’s like, well, someone figured out that you don’t always just have to do these things that way and now, they’re doing it a whole lot better than you even though you have 20 years of experience. A new company that started two years ago figured out a little bit better way to do it and serve their customer’s needs and now you know, they’re kicking your butt.
[0:22:14.1] AD: I could not agree with you more. Ryan, I’m going to run through a little bit of a recap of what we talked about here and tie this all together. We started our conversation really around making time for growth and I really like that you said that everyone is so busy we need to make time to think and that’s finding that time, that clarity to really step back, slow ourselves down and recognizing that to do that, we have to be able to take control of our time.
That often times is really the mindset internally, it’s our own series of thoughts and its saying to ourselves, “Hey, I owe it to myself to make this time for myself to do things that will help me slow down, help me calm my own thinking that’s good for my own mental health” and that includes doing things that you enjoy and when you recognize that, you start to step back and see things more clearly and that really tied in to this analogy of work like a lion versus a cow, right?
Especially as a professional, you run, you grind that stuff. When you have to grind, you grind and you do it but then you take a step back and you look and you breathe and you relax and you wait until you go do it again. In doing that, what everything we’ve talked about really drives us to the point that by doing that, by making a conscious habit to consistently doing it, not just once here and there but like a real consistent habit behind it, we tend to be more effective, more productive, more efficient in all of the work we do and every element of it.
At the end of the day, we tend to actually accomplish more than less by actually spending less time and having more time for ourselves personally.
[0:23:47.1] RC: A hundred percent. You know, if you look at the best athletes or the best business leaders, they are constantly changing and innovating. They are not doing the same things for 20 years, you know? I was actually at a Pacers-Knicks game this week and I grew up about an hour outside of Chicago, so I am a huge Chicago Bulls fan. When I grew up, when I was in high school, Derrick Rose.
You know, Derrick Rose was this freak athlete, most athletic guy, quickest, fastest and I was watching him now play with the Knicks 10, 12 years later a couple of knee surgeries, he was a much different player than he was 10 years ago. He is still twitchy, he’s still fast but he has a three-point shot now, right? He can make the bounce pass to the big guy who is kind of laying that he couldn’t when he was 21 years old.
He’s a different basketball player but he is still a very, very efficient basketball player even though his game is a lot different than it was 10 years from now but that’s a little bit different because a lot of that comes through with athleticism and skills but it is the same process, you know?
You have to constantly be changing your strategy and who you are professionally and thinking about those things because if you are just doing the same thing and they’re in the same power point, you’re doing the same presentation or you’re doing the same accounting reconciliation and you’re not thinking about how can I do this better or how’s the market changing, how are people interacting with each other in a different way? You’re just going to get stuck in the mud.
[0:25:07.2] AD: Stuck in the mud. It’s such a great way to say it, the world’s going to evolve past you and you’re going to fall behind and you’re never going to move yourself forward if you don’t make that time for yourself to think, to truly think about how do you improve, how do you do things better and that’s the root of growth.
I think to our listeners, the call to action I really want to give this week and you probably already guessed it but I’m going to tell you, in the next seven days, find 30 minutes to sit down with your thoughts and just think, just give yourself some space, don’t — nothing to do, don’t worry about your phone, don’t worry about answering emails, don’t worry about accomplishing anything.
Just take some time for yourself, just think and I think that calming yourself down will be, I think you’ll see a ton of benefit from it. Ryan, for our listeners, how can they get in touch with you?
[0:25:54.1] RC: Yeah, absolutely. Most of the main channels work. I’m fairly active on LinkedIn so you can always connect with me there and I try to respond to all messages in a fairly timely fashion and my email is public, so feel free to drop me a line at any time. Love meeting new people and having a chat.
One of the things I have about a 30-minute commute into the office every morning because I’m in the office most days now. I know everyone’s a little bit different but I love using that 30-minutes to just network or talk to people while I’m driving to the office. I would love to connect with anyone and chat about topics here or just anything in general.
[0:26:27.0] AD: Awesome, well listeners, make sure to reach out and get in touch with Ryan and we’ll link your details in the shownotes below. Ryan, appreciate you being out here, it’s been an awesome conversation, enjoyed having you here and I’m sure we’ll do it again soon.
[0:26:38.0] RC: Thanks Alex.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
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