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7 Success Principles For Creators and Entrepreneurs – A conversation with Ryan Groves

I was 7 years old when I started my first business, and I officially became a paid storyteller. It all started with my dad’s advice to save money for my dream: learning English as a second language.

I believe that compelling stories can heal, teach, and connect us – and especially when it comes to the entrepreneurial journey and our relationship with money.

I recently discovered Million Stories, a unique project where learning about financial literacy and entrepreneurship is engaging and inspiring… through the power of storytelling.

Entertaining, Binge-worthy, and FREE!

My daughters were glued to the screen laughing, crying, gaining empowering new perspectives.

American Paycheck follows entrepreneurs across the U.S. as we get to see what they do with the money they make, and how they cope with adverse financial situations in their communities. 

Faceplant features successful and talented personalities who redefined their relationship with failure and reveal how it led to their success. You’ll love Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse Director Peter Ramsey’s episode! And, wow, Michael Santos’ story broke my heart in a million pieces and then melted it all back together.

Milk Money is all about millennial families raising kids in today’s economy: the true price of parenthood and the challenges of family finances. I could relate to Amirah’s story so much  I was sobbing well before it ended.

And there’s so much more! 

And you know, I barely missed the Millennial cut off, but all these topics are relevant and dear to my heart and I know you will enjoy them.

Interviewing Ryan Groves

I just about fell off my chair when I found out I was going to be interviewing Ryan Groves, who currently serves as the Head of Entrepreneurship at The Singleton Foundation for Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship.

I think we were supposed to chat for 20 minutes-max-, but we ended up going over time, mainly because I was just mesmerized by his wisdom and insight.

Brace yourself: this will be long and remarkably profound and insightful. 

7 Success Principles For Creators and Entrepreneurs 

Ryan Groves describes himself as a serial entrepreneur, and like me, he got bit by the entrepreneurial bug early in life. It was in his DNA, he says.

When he was a little boy, his mom would give him $1 to go to the ice cream truck, and since what he wanted only cost 25 cents, he would use the rest of the money to buy the other kids in the neighborhood something, too, which he jokes “set him up” for a successful career in nonprofits.

However, Ryan founded his first formal business, Wishing Well, during his Junior year in college. He created a movement of college students at more than 50 schools across the US, providing clean water to more than 40,000 people and making some of the most widely seen photography and video on the water crisis.

“It’s not about what the piece of paper said, it was about the relationship and transfer of value between people.”

As I write this, Ryan Groves has helped to start and grow dozens of non-profits, for-profits, and tech startups.

He’s the real deal – and he’s very humble and has a very calming energy. 

Plus, the decor and lighting matched his aura, so kudos to him and his wife! Even the mug had a picture of the two of them! Aw!

Ryan holds a B.S. in Interdisciplinary studies from Oklahoma Christian University and a Masters in Social Entrepreneurship & Change from Pepperdine University. He is a TEDx speaker and lead organizer of TEDxPepperdineUniversity.

Being a TEDx speaker is on my vision board this year… but don’t worry, I didn’t ask him about that.

Let’s dive into 7 success principles for creators and entrepreneurs that I found in my conversation with Ryan Groves!

Vision: Define what you want to create

What is it about entrepreneurship that you love so much?, I asked, because it was a safe assumption to make, right?

“Most people begin this journey thinking ‘I want to create’. 

He never thought he would start a business, but he would see a theme in the movies he’d watch of “ a happy band of friends/misfits/rebels going on an adventure together.” And he really wanted that.

“I started coming up with ‘excuses’ to do great things with great people, which naturally led to starting businesses. It just happened because I was going after a certain type of life and a certain type of world.”

I’m going to daresay that entrepreneurship starts with a story. In Ryan’s case, it wasn’t just the story he saw on the screen, but the one he wanted to write for himself and others. 

Value: Define what you will contribute

“When I look at the common thread of when things work, it’s when people are coming together, having conversations, sharing ideas, discovering needs, and then out of that sense of shared value and shared vision of what we could become and what life could be like. It became easy to find the specific answers and tactics.”

And, I noticed, as it often does when we come from a place of providing great value, his work with the foundation is the answer to a powerful question:

“How do we give permission, and you, beginning as a storyteller, how do we recreate that narrative to help people see that ownership, that possibility, that potential, to begin to look at the world as  these shared relational opportunities to provide value to one another? Out of that, phenomenal things are going to happen.”

I encourage you to take a deep look into what you do, whether in motherhood or entrepreneurship, and ponder on your question… the one your work holds the answer to.

Personal Power: Hustle until you “become!”

When I asked Ryan about his favorite story through the work he does with the Singleton Foundation, he had a puzzled look on his face, like that of the meme with the math equation.

I admitted it was a hard question. Almost similar to “Which one of your kids do you like better?” – Or in his case, dogs.

“If I had to pick just a story, gosh, that’d be hard. I’m gonna kick it this way. I love the story of Marshmello, the DJ. We worked with him and helped make a music video for a catchy, upbeat song, aptly named “Power.” 

The music video told his story, his dream. It’s this wonderful mix of vision, excitement, hustle, intentionality, planning. He’s creating the value that he wants to become…and he becomes that thing… 

He could not only do something that he loved for himself, but to give it away to so many others! … I think 42 million people watched that video!”

Purpose: Know what drives you to stay the course

And to continue hitting with the hardest of life’s existential questions, I asked: What do you think your purpose is?

Turns out, he had already answered. That’s how on purpose this man is!

“For me, that same drive of ‘How do I build a life of doing great things with good people?’”

He’s found that he’s not alone. He believes everyone wants to do that in some way. 

Do you?

“We all want to belong. In behavioral psychics and if you go into positive organizational psychology, the most powerful driver of creative cognitive behavior in participation is belonging.”

Ready for a gem?

“If I change where you belong I change what you believe.” BOOM!

And if you’re wondering, “just how does that play into what Ryan does in the foundation?” I asked him that, too!

“We’re trying to spark that accessibility, that permission, that spirit of fun and togetherness. That’s the purpose that drives me, and I am so fortunate to be in a place where we get to live that purpose out and extend it to others.” 

Ryan has such a big heart – I could feel it through each of his words. He’s such a genuine human being!

Inspiration: Use stories to paint their picture.

Now it was time for the obvious question:  “Why do you love stories? What do you think stories can do?” 

He must get asked this a lot, but I just had to hear it from him, you know?

“What can stories not do? You know this, I love how even in your bio,  you write your life as a story. Not just because it has a good flow and it’s actually easier to read, but it communicates so much more than what is on the page. We understand the arcs, if we’re looking through your journey, I love how we all get the “once upon a time there was….,” and then you have the inciting incident, and the drop,  and you feel it viscerally,  and then we also know what it’s like to grab a hand, to have the introduction of that guide, like a Yoda, that says ‘Here: I’m going to give you knowledge, inspiration, tools, and the belief in yourself  so you can rise and become something different.

Even when you tell your story, your audience not only sees you as the hero of the story, but they see themselves as a hero as well. It’s not just the conveying of information, it is the sharing of identity, of what is and what could be.”

If you’re thinking that he’s one of my new favorite people in the world, you are right.

Collaboration: community and creativity go together.

He really liked my “To BE list” ritual, and this is who he strives to be everyday: 

“I was working on this with my mentor yesterday – getting centered, deep breaths, and thinking back through times of when I was the most me, connected, filled, and flow. Almost all those times for me are when I am with this small group of awesome people, creating things together. Community is really strong for me, the act of creation and the creativity part goes along with that.”

Another tweetable moment from Ryan:

“People don’t fight what they help build.”

I’ve found this to be true in my collaborations with diverse teams from all over the world, and even at home with my kids.

“It’s not just your idea, you need to get that idea to other people. If people are on board with it, you are building it with them and bringing them into the process, which not only gives you greater product, but the magic of the emotions and combining ideas.” 

– A sidebar on nurturing a child’s creativity

Then Ryan proceeded to school me on creativity, since I’ve been keeping all of my daughter’s paintings to myself (They are soooo amazing!). I wanted to know his best advice on nurturing a child’s creativity.

“Don’t do it alone. You can’t do this alone. Creativity is something you cultivate, and it will come more naturally with others. Creativity is only real when it’s shared.”

Did you write that down? Oof!

“Things in the world only change when you find the other people who begin to share and grow and experience things together. It’s because we’re in community that we are able to respond. That’s what helps people make success; it’s when they are in this together.”

Support: creating is challenging AND worth doing with others

As I am ready to embark on a new journey as a creator, Ryan’s words really resonated with me. 

Whether your path is being a full-time entrepreneur or someone who pours your creativity in a project someone else created, you need structure, tools, and mentorship to succeed.

“The entrepreneurial spirit, the spirit of participation, creation, and belonging needs to be consistent to have a healthy society, to have a healthy free market.”

I couldn’t stop nodding my head when we chatted about the belief that “entrepreneurship is hard.” Here’s his take on that:

“Where there’s a struggle, where there’s tension, flip the switch and ask: where is there an opportunity for help.”

That’s why the Singleton Foundation invests so much in finding stories and telling stories. They feature .

“Someone may have spent decades paving the way, and they want their ceiling to be your floor.”

Ryan Groves believes that mentorship doesn’t have to be this formal, paid, elusive interaction some would think: it can be anywhere: in your coffee shop, your city park…

“I’m a Kansas farm boy at heart: I want people to be aware that there can be a balance in intentionality and cultivation, you have to either seek it out or cultivate it.”

A Million Stories…

And because I see stories as a form of mentorship, because “success leaves clues,” and those patterns to success can be found in stories, I believe you can find that at millionstories.com.

You can find ownership and creative significance by reading stories from people from every walk of life and at every stage, so get ready to be inspired, tell your story, share it with others!

What’s one success principle you can take away from my conversation with Ryan Groves? It was such an honor to chat with him! Share in the comments below.

Elayna is a homeschool educator, single mom of 4, founder of the Positive MOM Community, award-winning Storyteller, Story Strategist, and Student of Pain. She’s a bestselling author, internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, and 3x TEDx speaker. To receive a gift from Elayna, click HERE.

Be Positive and You Will Be Powerful ~ Elayna FernandBe Positive and You Will Be Powerful ~ Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOMez ~ The Positive MOM
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Terry Bellender

Monday 29th of March 2021

Defining to me seems to be the hardest to do BUT perseverance to me is the key to achieving anything that I head towards a path and I am trying to teach this to my grand kids as they are now at an impressionable age to get them thinking about life's goals.

Cassandra D

Sunday 28th of March 2021

Thank you for the inspirational post and the positivity.

athena graeme

Sunday 28th of March 2021

Step #2, define ... that's the one that always seems the hardest. Great stuff here.

aaron r

Saturday 27th of March 2021

I agree with the statements because it's important to know what you want.

There is also nothing wrong with taking time to discover yourself. I think most people do that.

However, usually, at least for me, once I discovered myself, I was all in. :)


Friday 26th of March 2021

I won't lie, I have a hard time with it but very inspiring