“When You Have A Big Vision Or A Big Goal, People Are Going To Try To Shame You, but Don’t Let It Hurt You”: Words Of Wisdom With City Gala’s Ryan Long
I had the pleasure to talk to Ryan Long, the founder of LA’s City Gala, the annual star- studded charity event that raises enormous sums for important philanthropic causes.
What is your backstory?
As a youth, I endured a troubled and impoverished childhood. I met my birth father at age five, but was badly beaten during one of our only outings, to the point that my mother never allowed us to be alone together again. My mother remarried, and the new stepfather was a disappointment as well. Ultimately she fled, taking my, my half brother, and an unrelated stepdaughter along, for the child’s safety, and raised her as her own daughter from then on.
As I reached the age of junior high, my mother was able to move the small clan to a better level of assisted housing and worked full-time to support the young family while putting herself through college at night. I spent many hours in the company of my beloved grandfather, who, in an effort to quell my troublesome nature and to channel my energy, persuaded and taught me how to play baseball. It was a life-changing adventure that gave me a welcome taste of success.
My troubles were far from over. In my first semester of college, a school mate took to picking on me and bullying until one day, in frustration, I fought back. With a bat. It became the first of several confrontations I was to endure with the law.
I fathered a child, which spurred the desire to be ambitious and to be a present and supportive father. Like my grandfather, my work ethic knew no boundaries. I took on two jobs, as a personal trainer and a provider of roadside emergency service.
Then I joined LA Fitness, quickly rising to Fitness Director of personal training, selling at a pace the company could quickly see was unmatched. I became a trainer of other trainers. My entrepreneurial life began when friends persuaded him to invest in a nightclub party. But fate was not kind when the project failed, the money was lost. The team’s re-attempt at success failed as well. Worse still, when LA Fitness discovered the moonlighting project, the adventure also cost me my job.
Now desperate to succeed, I endured several more failures in the nightclub business, but ultimately was able to turn the tide to breakthrough success. Music showcases. A successful income, at least. But tragedy struck again when I learned that my beloved grandfather, now suffering from dementia, had taken his life. Distraught, I plodded through a painful time of his life, getting engaged, ending his engagement, and dabbling in the nightclub and real estate business. But things were still “off” and I ended the engagement.
Broken and alone, I moved in with my grandmother. From my grandfather’s former room I read personal development books. Now feeling progressively more alive and inspired I built vision boards. Every one of them had a common theme, I quickly discovered — the concept of contributing and giving. From that time forward, I knew that whatever influence I might achieve in my lifetime would be tied not to fame, but to contribution. I would help musical artists be discovered. I would join with everyone of influence I could gather to create opportunities to “connect and contribute” — an increasingly magic formula that I knew would be a central point of focus for the rest of my life.
In 2014, the concept of the City Gala was born in order to assist startup, non-profits obtain seed funding so that they could launch into a full fledged business. The idea was to bring highly visible, and influential individuals to speak on behalf of the charitable organizations, and attract large donors and sponsors.
After City Gala 2016, I was contacted and invited to be the Executive Producer of the Novus Summit at the United Nations. The focus of the Novus Summit, which took place on July 17th, 2016 was to bring together leaders in innovation and technology and create a conversation on how to advance humanity into the future. That event, which took place in association with UN DESA, was centered on the Global Goals initiatives of the United Nations and featured a keynote speech by Xprize Founder Peter Diamandis among other notable speakers.
For the future, I envision making the City Summit & Gala series an event of such magnitude that I hope to no longer be issuing invitations, but instead becomes an event that many celebrities would eagerly want to attend, and to share their own stories of hardship, achievement and the sources from which their own inspiration has come. The program is fulfilling my dreams and has become my primary business.
Those who attend also come to give, for now and forever. I am most proud, perhaps, that my early events have contributed several hundred thousand dollars to programs that support LA Youth, Health & Medicine, Domestic Violence support programs, U.S. veterans and more.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
The very first time that I produced an event on my own, I was enchanted by Puff Daddy after having seen him at a few night club events and then I was inspired by a marathon that he was involved in New York. The marathon was helping children with chronic illness. It was about raising funds and awareness. Puff Daddy ran this whole marathon and I was inspired by him. So, I thought he would be a good candidate to host a Post Grammy Awards at the Playboy Mansion. I called the Playboy mansion and told them that I already had Puff Daddy as the host of the event and I told Puff Daddy that I had the Playboy Mansion reserved and the truth is that I didn’t have either one booked or confirmed. But they both came back with a yes. In order to fund the event for children with chronic illness, I began a campaign to sell tickets and table package to potential customers in order to raise the capital to put the event on. It was a maddening experience so much so that Puff Daddy’s manager called me during the final week before the event and asked to meet me in person. So, I went down to the hotel that Puff Daddy’s manager was staying in. His name is James Cruz. And James told me that he was going to pull Puff Daddy out if he didn’t get the event completely funded within three business days. So I had to raise over $150k in three days. And to quote James Cruz, he said that he was going to “take a pin needle and bust my balloon and all of the air was going to come whistling out of my event.” So the pressure was on to deliver and although I was very very stressed out by the comments that James Cruz made, it motivated me. I was able to get the event funded and Puff Daddy went on Jimmy Kimmel… the name of the event was named Fame at the Mansion… and two days after the event, Puff Daddy went on Jimmy Kimmel and said that it was the BEST PARTY he had ever been a part of at the Playboy Mansion after the Grammy’s. I learned my lesson about producing events and found a lot of humility in the work. I also learned to get my permits straight as the Attorney General fined me $16k for not having the proper permits. So now, I have better understanding of permits and planning ahead. Very thankful for the entire experience.
Are you working on any meaningful non profit projects? How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Yes. It is my bleeding heart passion to lead campaigns that confront the worlds global grand challenges. This year at the City Gala we will assist organizations in feeding hungry people, sheltering homeless, liberating slaves from human trafficking, educational and mentorship programs, and healing families.
I have called on highly influential celebrities to appear at these events to help spread the word about our call to action.
Wow! Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
A gentleman by the name of Chris Breed told me about how someone saved his life by donating a kidney to him. Chris then asked me to get involved in the 2017 City Gala because he wanted to help other people by saving their life. In order to pay it forward, Chris started a foundation called Breed Life. Chris then went and took the proceeds of the money raised at the 2017 City Gala to save lives.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started,” and why?
You’re going to experience a lot of adversity and overcoming adversity is the one and only key to a thriving business and lifestyle.
You’re mind and body need to have extreme amounts of endurance. So train your mind and your body physically to push your endurance over capacity.
People are going to try to shame you when you have a big vision or a big goal. Don’t let it hurt you. It’s their opinion and their opinion is not your business.
Don’t seek advice from people who are not experts in the given field that you are attempting to excel in. Only accept advice from people who have proven themselves.
Keep all of your good relationships. Build new relationships and treasure them. And quickly throw away relationships that are not serving you.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Barack Obama because he is a hero!
Originally published at www.buzzfeed.com.