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Dec 28, 2023

World Series Champ and Olympian on Career Resilience and Mental Strength

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Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Welcome back to the True Sports Physical Therapy Podcast. You are about to hear an enlightening conversation that I just had with Ryan Lavarnway, where we cover all things necessary, specifically on the mental health side of things, to really achieve all of your goals, professionally speaking, even clinically speaking. There's so much good in this conversation. I wanna highlight the fact that True Sports is growing like crazy. So if you're interested in working in the ideal environment for your athletes to rehab, but also for you to grow professionally, reach out to us. All it takes is a simple DM on Instagram, truesportspt. We have really grown and gained from this audience reaching out and saying, "Hey, I wanna be a part of True Sports Physical Therapy." We provide one-on-one care with unbelievable career ladders, whether it be just becoming far better as a clinician and helping your athletes, or growing professionally towards leadership positions within this young burgeoning organization. We wanna hear from you, truesportspt. Shoot us a DM. Just say, "Hey, I'm interested in joining this awesome team," that we've created. We're now in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, and we have some awesome growth opportunities on the horizon, so please reach out.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt:
We also wanna hear what you love about the pod and what you want us to do better, who do you want us to have on, how can we better serve this awesome community and team of sports physical therapists really worldwide. Can't wait to hear from you. Please enjoy this conversation with Ryan Lavarnway.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Today, we're joined by Ryan Lavarnway, a dear friend of mine, one of my heroes, both in the industry of baseball and really in life. Ryno, thanks for joining us, dude.

Ryan Lavarnway: I'm so happy we finally are doing this, because we've been flirting with the idea for a few months now, and we're finally doing it.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Well, you finally made time, so I appreciate that. [chuckle] Dude, you have a crazy bio. And oftentimes, I'll pre-record the bio of my guest, but I wanna go through this bio, 'cause I know I'm gonna miss something with you and with our audience. So here we go. Ryan Lavarnway is a World Series champion and an Olympian. He is married to Jamie, with a beautiful daughter named Blake. How am I doing so far?

Ryan Lavarnway: You're crushing it. You hit the highlights already. You should just stop there.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That's why I wanted to start with it. Little known fact, and you're gonna get a lot of these, about Ryan Lavarnway today, this guy loves his freaking wife. He always tells me how amazing Jamie is. I'm sure Blake is no different. So I thought I would definitely share that. You grew up in Burbank, California. At least you were born there. You watched your dad play softball, and that's why you fell in love with the sport. You went to El Camino Real High School, I'm assuming, not to be confused with real?

Ryan Lavarnway: Yeah, it's Spanish. Yeah.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Right. Well, that's what I thought.

Ryan Lavarnway: The real road. The real road.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Oh, the real road? Okay. You then go to a little school called Yale, in which you pursue a degree in philosophy. Did you finish that degree yet?

Ryan Lavarnway: Not quite.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay, we need you to do that. [chuckle] But interesting nonetheless, you're a rock star in the Ivy League. And little known fact, you get there as a right fielder.

Ryan Lavarnway: Yeah.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That is true?

Ryan Lavarnway: True.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay, what happened to that, dude? 

Ryan Lavarnway: So in high school, I was never the best player on our team. I was never the best player on my position. So I actually caught exactly zero games on the varsity in high school. And in order to get in the line-up, I had to play outfield to get my bat in the line-up, and I played left field. I got recruited to college as an outfielder, 'cause that's what I played at the time. And then at a Hanukkah party, [chuckle] and I was home for a Hanukkah party, my 8-year-old all-star team coach said, "Ryan, when are you gonna stop messing around with this outfield stuff? You're way too slow to go pro as an outfielder. If you wanna have a future in baseball, you gotta go back to catching."

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: And you're like, "Yes, you're right?"

Ryan Lavarnway: I was like, "Well, that's a good point. I hadn't considered that." So I went back to school and I was like, "Coach, I wanna catch," and he's like, "Well, we have a catcher." And then the next day, that catcher needed Tommy John surgery, and it was like, the stars aligned, and I started catching.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Dude, stars seem to align wherever you go, and I think that's probably a product of some of your preparation. It's really amazing to see. So then fast forward through Yale, you mash at Yale, you get drafted by the Red Sox, and that was in what year? 

Ryan Lavarnway: 2008.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: 2008, you get drafted, you make it to The BIGS in 2011?

Ryan Lavarnway: Yes.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: And you stick around pro baseball until '21?

Ryan Lavarnway: 2022, I played also.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Obviously. Everyone knows that. You played for? [laughter] You played for whom?

Ryan Lavarnway: 2022, I was in Triple-A. I started with Detroit in the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. And then my daughter was born, and I got traded when she was 9 days old to Miami for my second stint with Miami in Triple-A with Jacksonville.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That's amazing. So you play in the Bigs Four, the Red Sox, the Orioles, which was clearly the best organization, you played for the Braves, the Athletics, the Pirates, the Reds, the Marlins, the Indians. You touch the Bigs with all of those organizations. And so that's gonna lead me to... Well, before we jump to that first question, you also were an Olympian for the Israeli national baseball team, not just an Olympian, and not just on the Israel baseball team, but the captain of the Israel baseball team, and that's where I got the opportunity to know you. So let's jump off from there, provided I didn't miss anything. What did it mean to you to play for Team Israel, especially in light of the current Hamas war? And does it color your experience any differently knowing what's going on there now?

Ryan Lavarnway: Yeah. So I think you know better than anyone, when I first played for Israel, it was mostly because I wouldn't have made team USA at the time. I'm almost embarrassed that playing for Israel didn't mean that much to me the first time, because I was raised half Jewish, half Catholic, kind of both, kind of neither, kind of hallmark, so I wasn't connected to it, and I took it as a baseball opportunity. And really, going to Israel was super meaningful for me with the team. Being welcomed and being embraced by the Jewish community really meant a lot to me and started to shift the way I saw myself in the world. And then it was really a conversation with you. And I don't know if you know... I don't know if I've expressed to you how much that conversation meant. You were sticking electrified needles [laughter] an inch deep into my arm because my arm hurt. And you said, "Listen, Varney... " This was before our first game. You said, "If we don't win a game, it doesn't matter. It's enough. That ain't new." The fact that we are here, the fact that we earned our way here on an even playing field, the fact that the Israeli flag is flying on an even level with all the other countries, that is enough, because no one can deny a right to exist.

Ryan Lavarnway: And I ended up having an amazing game the next day and hitting two homers, [chuckle] and then I'm in the press conference and I have this translator translating questions from 13 different languages into my ear, and I basically regurgitated what you said, and I said, "Well, the way that our team was put together was the same way that Natzi selected who was gonna be killed during World War II." And none of my teammates could believe that I said it on TV, on international TV, and they were like, "Dude, you said it... We all think it, we all feel it, but you've said it." And just to see how much it means to everybody, it has become so meaningful for me, and that's a long way of getting to... You said, what does it mean to me to represent Israel in the Olympics, and especially in light of the current war. The first time I played for Israel, I would never have made Team USA. For the Olympics, I was recruited by Team USA, and I chose to play for Israel instead, because I wanna be a positive non-political role model for Jewish kids and for the Jewish people. And that is more important right now more than ever, because I think a lot of people in the world the Jewish people are in this place where they can't stop thinking about the Hamas war and they can't think about anything else.

Ryan Lavarnway: And I see my role in this as to be a role model, represent them. And also at times, when I give speaking engagements or when we do a podcast like this, whoever is listening, like, let's give them an excuse and a reason to not think about that for a little bit and think about something positive in Judaism and sports.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. And they're so intertwined. You really put that beautifully. Of course, I remember that conversation. I tend to be a little bit like Rain Manny with all the conversations that I had with my athletes. [chuckle] So I remember... Well, I remember you delivering that message at that press conference. And even you, now, kinda recounting, it just brings me chills. I was definitely lucky to be there or have any involvement with the State of Israel, especially as it pertains to athletics. Usually, those two things don't really go together, athletics and the State of Israel, and it's amazing to watch what you have done as captain of Team Israel. Led you to write a book, Baseball and Belonging. And I think it touches on a lot of what you just said, which is just that feeling of family that was created inside of that Team Israel clubhouse, both in World Baseball Classic as well later in the Olympics.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: It also tugs on some of your background, your philosophy background, which is so interesting to me. Varney, we lost touch for like, I don't know, a year or two years maybe. And then my financial advisor, Garnian Ben Hoffman, sent me a text, 'cause he's an avid Ryan Holiday listener, who's the champion of stoicism. He's like, "Do you know this guy, Ryan Lavarnway on Ryan Holidays Pod?" And you've become a voice of stoicism, or a voice of mental fortitude and health inside the sporting organization, definitely inside the Jewish sports world. So I'm always thinking, where does that world of stoicism fit into professional baseball more pointedly, and this is gonna be the beginning of our lightning round. Ready? 'Cause I wanna start with lightning round. Why does team culture matter in the sport of baseball?

Ryan Lavarnway: Oh man. Because if you fail two-thirds of the time, you need your teammates to pick you up.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: So you... Okay so it's... 'Cause the way I look at it from the outside, it's... Every single baseball play is a one-on-one endeavor. So why does it matter whether you get along in the clubhouse as it pertains to success on the field? 

Ryan Lavarnway: Every play in baseball is an individual play and also not.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay, keep going.

Ryan Lavarnway: Like, when I... In order for me to throw out a runner at second base, the pitcher has to deliver the ball to me with enough time to give me a chance in the first place, and then I need to do my part, which is receive, transfer, throw, and then the middle infielder needs to be covering the base in time and make it good tack. So there's three people involved in that play. If an outfielder, again, that's throwing somebody out of the base or a double play is being turned, there's three players involved in all these plays. When I'm calling pitches for a pitcher, there's two players and two minds getting creative and strategic. When you're hitting, you're hitting alone. But unless you hit a home run, you need someone else to drive you in, or someone else to be on base to drive you in. Also, if you swing at the first pitch and get out every single time, the opposing pitcher can throw 27 pitches...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: And be done.

Ryan Lavarnway: And work very easily through a line-up. Versus when I was with the Boston Red Sox. We saw a lot of pitches, and we got the starting pitcher out of the game very quickly because we all worked at that, and it became a team approach. So there are more than individual battles going on in baseball. But you asked, Why does it matter if guys like each other? Well, since I've retired from baseball, I've partnered with a positive psychologist here in Denver who does executive coaching, and I've been facilitating executive coaching for almost a year and a half now, almost two years. And understanding how a positive culture and a mindset and outlook can affect performance in the workplace validates everything that I've understood and everything I've experienced on the baseball field and in a clubhouse my entire life. I'm understanding now... Now, I'm understanding the research and the science behind positive psychology and leveraging it for a team, and it really validates everything.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Dude, that's gold. Awesome way to think about it. I never really thought about... 'Cause I see that one-on-one battle batter pitcher. You make an awesome point of what's the reaction to whatever transpires in that interaction, and that transpires in the dugout. So when you come back from striking out, from getting a single whatever, it's the response and the camaraderie that transpires in that dugout that is... Then can facilitate the next step inning, maybe it's gonna facilitate your next step bat. So that's a really interesting way to think about it. I love that you made the connection between sport and business, because this is a podcast with a wide audience of sports physical therapists that's looking at it both from a clinical aspect and a professional aspect. And when I'm building my business of true sports, I'm looking at How do I support these teammates, the PTs that work for us, to deliver outstanding care? And how do we create a sense of culture and team around it? And that is absolutely gonna better the product, better the business, by the way, probably better the patient outcomes when that team is unified. Dude, I'm gonna change the title of this podcast, because that is so good. So thanks for bringing that to light.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay, next question in our lightning round, little known fact, Ryan Lavarnway is one of the last athletes to spot a goatee, but also a... [laughter] What? But also a massive foodie. This guy's life revolves around Michelin star experiences. So what's the most memorable dish you've ever had at a Michelin starred restaurant? And how did that dish affect your life?

Ryan Lavarnway: Wow, memorable dish is tough, because we just went to our, I believe it was our 12th restaurant of the top 50 in the world last month.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay.

Ryan Lavarnway: And just as far as memorable dishes, I'll just think of the two. I'm not following your rules right now.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Don't follow my rules.

Ryan Lavarnway: I'm making up my own rules.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah, good.

Ryan Lavarnway: The most recent, we went to Pujol, which is ranked number three in the world. It's in Mexico City. And the two dishes from that meal, the first course was a small Mexican corn with ant butter.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Oh, god. What is that, dude?

Ryan Lavarnway: It's unbelievable. It's what it is. You eat it and you're like, "I didn't realize I love the taste of ants."

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Come on. So what are they grinding up ants and turning it into butter?

Ryan Lavarnway: Yeah, it's unbelievable. And they smoke it. It's served inside of a hollowed-out coconut, you lift it, this beautiful smoke comes out. And then their most famous dish, which is later, it's so simple and yet so... It's mother mole with new mole, and it's just sauce on a plate. But it's mole that has been continuously added to every day for almost 10 years.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Come on. Come on.

Ryan Lavarnway: Mixed with new mole that they've made that day in the middle, and you taste the complexity and the difference in the flavors. And it just blows your mind.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay, so how did those dishes... Mole and ant butter, how do they affect you, Ryan Lavarnway?


Ryan Lavarnway: I don't know if they do affect my life, but my thought is you eat 1 to 3 to 5 meals every single day of life, depending on who you are. These are meals that I will never forget. So that's why I pursue them.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Love that. Okay, so take that all the way forward. That lesson, apply that to your life.

Ryan Lavarnway: Oh, you're asking me to learn the lesson actively in the moment? I would say, pursue... So I would say pursue unique experiences, memorable experiences, extraordinary experiences.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. And sometimes, that requires you to travel to all ends of the world, and that requires you to take a risk to stick your neck out and to just say yes. And I think there's probably a lesson in there. So to Ultimate Sports PTs that are looking out at their professional ladder or a career, sometimes you just gotta say, "Yeah, I am ready for this challenge," or, "I'm gonna take a leap of faith," and there might be some ant butter on the other side of that risk. [laughter] Okay. Dude, Varney, you're really freaking good at this. Okay, so you played for a billion organizations, you played international ball. What's the biggest difference between a winning organization and a losing organization?

Ryan Lavarnway: Standards and expectations.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay, gimme specifics. How does that show up in the day-to-day of a professional baseball player?

Ryan Lavarnway: You talk about winning, you talk about what you want to do, you talk about your goals, or you talk about excuses, and you talk about what's going wrong, and you talk about complaints.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: And so when you're playing for the Red Sox and they're chasing a pen in an eventual World Series, how did that level of expectation... How is it different for that squad than, say... I'm assuming the Miami Marlins were not vying for a World Series title when you played for them in '22. So what was different? What was it like with the Red Sox?

Ryan Lavarnway: Before I answer that, I'm going to close the blinds. You can edit this part out. Yeah.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah, of course. I'll be editing all night.

Ryan Lavarnway: I was getting a weird.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Blind?

Ryan Lavarnway: Sun through the blinds, in 2013 when we won the World Series. And I just posted about this on my LinkedIn, and it got a great response. The first day of spring training, I meet Jonny Gomes. I introduce myself. "Hey, Jonny, how you doing?" His answer is, "I'm great. I'm one day closer to the World Series parade."

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Jeez.

Ryan Lavarnway: Talking about it, day one, and I was coming from a place of, we don't talk about that 'cause I don't want to jinx it. Right? Like, superstitious. And he's like, no, if we don't talk about it, how are we supposed to make it happen? So we ended up talking about our goals, the World Series, why we were going to make it. Like, we talked about success and our goals every single day. The scoreboard at Fenway park, if you know or if you don't know, it's a manual scoreboard on the green monster. They do a standings of the AL East, and it's manual. You move who's in first place up and down, and they would say all the time, just paint Boston in first place. Paint it on the wall. We don't need a sign to hang because we're, no one's coming for us. The difference is, and I'm not going to poop on the Marlins because I was actually on the 2020 Marlins when we made the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. So let's choose the A's.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay, let's choose the A's. It's been a minute.

Ryan Lavarnway: I was on the A's in 20... What was it, 17 major league spring training. And instead of coming in, I'll never forget this, the A's were the first team I played for that wasn't in the east, it was west coast. First spring training in first really bad organization I had played for. Every year in spring training, the Red Sox manager, GM, when they lead the first meeting, they talk about, this is what we're, these are our expectations. We're hoping to win. This is how we're going to do it. When they led the meeting for the A's, they said, this is a rebuild year. If we got to 500, that would be a success and hang with them. And I'm like, that's the expectation you're setting. Are we kidding? And the A's were horrible, but it starts with leadership, and it starts with what you talk about. And then in the A's organization, nobody talked about winning at that time. Everybody talked about, "oh, you got to pay for sodas in the clubhouse. Oh, the stadium sucks. There's no fans here today You focus on the negative versus the positive.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That's really powerful. And that's probably why they're going to be the Las Vegas A's, right? I mean, crazy to think about now, having been through the minors for God knows how many years, you actually talking about conversations you and I had a million years ago. You once said to me, when you get called up to the Bigs, it's like no other promotion you're ever going to get. You go from janitor to CEO in the blink of an eye. I don't know if you remember telling me that.

Ryan Lavarnway: Yeah. I say that all the time. It's true.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Man, that freaking, that landed with me. So what is the difference, what is the biggest difference between a major leaguer and a lifelong minor leaguer?

Ryan Lavarnway: You're not talking about the experience anymore. Now you're talking about the talent level of the individual.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Talent level and mindset.

Ryan Lavarnway: Yeah, talent level and mindset. So you know what, you want to know honestly what the difference is? There's a lot of Triple A players that could be Big leaguers and may never be. And that's a sad reality. I think an average to above average Triple A player could be a below average major league or replacement player, Easily. I think honestly, the biggest difference between the average everyday major league baseball player and a minor leaguer that never makes it is how often do they perform at their best. And I would say the average everyday major leaguer is their best 8 out of 10. And the average everyday minor leaguer that never makes it is their best 5 to 6 out of 10. And it's not the potential, because there are high school players that have the physical ability at their best to be major leaguers right now. Right? If you throw 100 miles-per-hour, you're good enough. It's just how many times do you throw 100 miles-per-hour as a strike? Not down the middle.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yep, yep. On the point.

Ryan Lavarnway: So major leaguers do it more consistently and then the above average and the great major leaguers are that much more consistent.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay, so give me some tools in your daily that allowed you to be more consistent at your high level of excellence.

Ryan Lavarnway: For me, it was mental discipline, right? Physically, I had limitations. You know, I'm the slowest runner on every field I've ever been on. I had physical therapists examine, you included, examine my hip limitations and say it's a miracle you're a professional athlete at all.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah, it's a miracle you walk.

Ryan Lavarnway: Not to mention a catcher. Like, my arm. My arm was never above average. Right. My defense was barely above average at my best. And I can sit here and self-deprecate all day, but most of this is very true.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Very true.

Ryan Lavarnway: So I had to set myself apart by discipline. Right? I had to understand what were the thoughts that were going to get my body to do what I needed to do consistently.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Dude did you, yeah, but did you come to that realization as a 23-year old in the Red Sox organization? Like, when did you realize that? When were you really cognizant of that?

Ryan Lavarnway: 2011 I figured that out.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: You hadn't figured that out.

Ryan Lavarnway: The year that I made it to the Big leagues The Red Sox. And for me, it was mostly offensively first 'cause that was my strength coming up, the Red Sox would make you journal after every game, and you would have to turn it in once a week about your hitting so they would say who was the pitcher, what was the team, what was the date, what was the count, what was the situation in the game? What were you thinking, and what was the result? And I took it pretty seriously, and I had done it for two years with no results. I hadn't really dove into it. And then in 2011, I started paying more attention. Okay, like, I'm being really aggressive, and this is working. I'm being too aggressive. This isn't working. I'm trying to aim the ball this way. I'm trying to pull the ball this way. I'm trying to think about the runners. I'm trying to this, I'm trying to that. And then I started to notice a trend in my own hitting. I would let the ball get deep. I would not try to do too much. I would take my singles to right field, and then from there, I would start to feel a little bit more comfortable. I would get a little bit more aggressive, and then I'd start hitting doubles in the gaps, and then I'd start feeling really good. I'd stay, get more aggressive. I'd hit homers to the pool side, and then I would start striking out, and I would strike out, and I'd be in a slump until I started walking.

Ryan Lavarnway: And walking was the key to then I'd start getting my singles again, and it was really walk, singles, doubles, homers, strikeouts, and it was a loop. So in 2011, I said, well, why don't I try to improve this loop? And when I get to homers, go straight back to singles, like skip the strikeout to walks or skip the strikeout, certainly to the walks. And I would understand, well, how do I walk? It's not because I'm looking for a walk, it's because I'm letting the ball get deep and thinking right field. So, for me, I learned when I started shortcutting the bad part of the cycle, that's when my career really took off.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That's an awesome story. Is this Tewksbury who's walking you through the journaling.

Ryan Lavarnway: Tewksbury was there for other mental skills aspects, but not for the journaling. That was more the hitting department.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay, so hitting department, it's really interesting 'cause hitting department gives you a tool. They say, you got to journal. And what I heard from your example there is you did that for two years and it didn't help you at all. Now, number one, good on you for not just being like, dude, this doesn't work for me. What you did was you looked at and said, how do I do this better? How do I optimize it? How do I more simply do it properly? I see this every single day where I'll get athletes that come in having tried therapy in a million different places, let's say with a shoulder injury, and I'm like, okay, what exercise did they give you? And they'll tell me the right exercises, and I'm like, let me see you do them. And I'm like, no, no, no move your shoulder blade here, not there. It's just, how often are you doing the desired tool or the prescribed intervention properly and being present to see what you're doing, analyze what you're doing, and really implement it? That's a great example of you doing that. I think that's the carryover to what it is I do for a living. And really what everyone who's listening to this pod does for a living every day, even in your career you know, okay, I got to hard so I can move up the ladder.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Well, are you working smart and hard? What does working hard mean? Are you optimizing your work to produce results? It's amazing that you came to that so young. I'm not surprised that it put you in the bigs.

Ryan Lavarnway: It's a matter of values and understanding what's important when you walk down the street and you're in a good mood, you notice that there are more people smiling at you. Or when you hear that song from Prince, the little red Corvette, you end up noticing more little red cars on the road. It's like when you focus on your goals, you will see more opportunities to get there. Right. So in 2011, I was the closest I had ever been to the big leagues before. But I wasn't pounding down the door, I wasn't demanding. So as I'm focusing on my goal. Okay, well, let's focus on it enough to start noticing the opportunities to get there. The journal had been there the whole time, and I hadn't used it as that opportunity until I started really focusing on, okay, well, what's the goal and what do I need to do?

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: And so now, that's awesome. Now that you're done with baseball, you're in the professional world. Let's say, what do you do now? Currently, that looks like that.

Ryan Lavarnway: So now, yeah, I am coaching leadership for executives, and I am giving keynote speeches, and I'm really enjoying it.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: What do you do that allows you to be present, see trends? What are your practices in your professional life? Much like you journaled, analyzed as a hitter, what do you do today?

Ryan Lavarnway: So now I'm starting to notice, right? If I'm looking to get more speeches, make an impact on more people, right. Spread this great message and help people, how do I get the word out? Right? Because now that's the challenge. I've developed a great speech. Okay, well, there's someone that can coach you to be a better speaker because you're new at this. Alright. So I pursued speaking school this year. For seven months I was in speaking school. I got a graduate type program certificate from speaking school. Awesome. Now that I've developed the message, now that I'm delivering it in a great way, how do I get it to more people? Oh, LinkedIn. So if I'm going to do LinkedIn, I'm going to start posting on LinkedIn. How do I get my post to get more people? Okay, well, there's this group that will help you spread your message and hack the algorithm. Great. What's the next thing? Okay, well, now I'm starting to speak at Vistage meetings, so I can speak straight to CEOs and get it to their companies. Great. What's the next thing? So you start to look for. There's a duality between seeing this big goal and then seeing the little steps along the way to get there.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. And I guess it's taking the time to sit down and say, first of all, what is my big goal? And then how do I deconstruct that? Right? How do I hit those little goals? I just went through an exercise of, it's end of year now, end of December is when we're recording. It's probably come out in January. To look at. Here we are as a business, where do I want to be in '24? Okay, if I want to be at this place of revenue in '24, what do I need to, what are the little steps that are going to aggregate to get me there? Well, we got to hire more physical therapists. Well, we got to increase insurance reimbursement. And then, okay, how do we hire more therapists? How do we go about that? How do we increase reimbursement rates and then all of that with the backdrop of I need my athletes to be getting better and improving. I need Ryan Lavarnway's hip internal rotation to improve dramatically. How do I do that? How do I seemingly do the impossible by getting his hips to open up? Here are the little steps to do it. I loved you mentioning your arm and your throwing abilities because one of my career highlights, I had like two with the world baseball classic. One was warming up a pitcher. Just when guys are doing like soft toss before the game, half the team will line up on a foul-line, the other half will go opposite them. And you guys are just playing catch.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: And I got, the PT got matched up with Jake Kalish and he starts like ripping off breaking balls, like at my shins in front of 60,000 people in the Tokyo dome. And my life just flashed before my eyes like that. That was one career highlight. Another career highlight was taking down, coming down throws from the catcher. And so I was taking throws from you and I was taking throws from your backup. And here's why this is interesting. It's an interesting story. Other than me just regaling the audience with my athletic prowess, your throws were so catchable. Your backup had a cannon. Had a cannon. Broke my hand throwing down to second. Why is this interesting? Because he was the backup and you were the starter. Right. And so it's not always about that athletic prowess. You obviously brought other types of production that allowed you to be the starter. That was really eye-opening to me. I want to say I learned that lesson then on that day when I feared for my life, when your backup was throwing to me and I was totally comfortable when you were throwing to me. But I think in retrospect, there's definitely a lesson in there.

Ryan Lavarnway: It's real that I was never the best athlete on the baseball field, but you could still be one of the best baseball players. And that's one of the unique things about baseball. I think that translates uniquely to the business world. Right? You don't have to have the best Ivy League education or you don't have to have the best business school background to be the best leader or to be the best engineer or to be the best insert physical therapist. Insert your job here. Right. There are soft skills that lead to hard results that are not just the physical tools that show up on a scouting report.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah, no question about it. Okay, so you Varney, looking forward to 2024. What skill are you working on at adding to your toolbox for lack of a better term?

Ryan Lavarnway: Number one, always trying to get better at being a dad 'cause as my little girl continues to grow up, she's changing and her needs change. So I need to change with them. But I'm really just trying to make as big of an impact as I can and help people achieve their goals, achieve their team goals, be the best team and most efficient with the best bottom line they can. I have 11 speaking gigs already scheduled for next year and I'm starting to book out. So I'm excited to spread the message.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That's awesome. And that's super powerful. Do you sit down and say, "hey, here's what I want to accomplish in '24."

Ryan Lavarnway: I have tended to do vision boards before.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Tell me about them. What the hell is a vision board?

Ryan Lavarnway: A vision board is more of a visual representation of writing down goals. And it's very much like when you were a teenager and you cut out pictures from magazines and you put them on a piece of paper on the wall. I got into that movie The Secret when I was in college and it's all about visualizing, manifesting, bringing the things you want into reality. And I'm in, dude. I'm into that because I've seen it work. I had a vision board from a couple of years ago that I forgot about and you find it and you look at it and you're like, every single thing on this board came true.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: What was on that board?

Ryan Lavarnway: A new house, a new car, a salary level that I wanted to reach. The fact that Jamie and I would have a child, which wasn't a certainty for us. A new job with an MLB team, which when I made the vision board, I was selling mortgages and I thought my career might be over. It's incredible just to see things that I thought were a pipe dream. All came true.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That's amazing. Okay, vision board. I got to get to work on that. You mentioned a ton about how do you create success. You hinted at the fact that baseball is wrought with failure, right? Yeah. So seven out of 10 times you're going to fail and you're a hall of famer. So give me some secrets as to how it is you overcome that failure when it smacks you in the face.

Ryan Lavarnway: Yeah. So I think, I want to give you a couple of tools here. Number one is the most successful, especially baseball players in particular, 'cause I've been around them a lot. The most successful performers relate to their success and identify with their success and let the failures go. Right? Like, I struck out. That's just something that happened. That's just something that I did. And then you hit a home run. That's me. That's who I am. That's what I'm capable of. And it holds more weight than the failures, and it has to, because there are more of the failures. The other way to think of it is I mentioned I'm into teaching how to leverage positive psychology, and people don't always understand what positive psychology is. I share the idea that in contrast to traditional psychology, traditional psychology is when something goes wrong, you study your problems and you get back to neutral, right?

Ryan Lavarnway: Well, but neutral, think of it as like negative versus positive. You don't wanna be at zero. Ideally, you wanna be as far in the positive as possible.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Sure.

Ryan Lavarnway: So positive psychology takes over where traditional psychology ends and says, okay, now that there are no problems, how good can it get? How close to your potential, how far into possibility can we reach? How much can you maximize your potential, your skill set? How happy can you be? So that's what we leverage. And especially you start from a leader position. Leaders, a leader's outlook will affect somebody that they come in contact with for up to seven hours. And it translates one level further. So a leader affects someone that they report to and they affect someone that reports to them. So a leader's outlook and mindset and the way they choose to show up will affect someone that they don't even interact with for seven hours. That's basically the entire workday.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah.

Ryan Lavarnway: Think about, if you've ever been in an elevator with a stranger who's in a really crappy mood or like your spouse comes home and they had a tough day and you're like, you, try to feel for them. Right. You try to empathize. If you allow their negative emotion to affect you for two minutes, that's the seven hour window. But, if a stranger comes in with a more dominant emotion, it takes 33 milliseconds to transmit that emotion. It's quick. Your body reacts, your body as a human connects and understands faster than you could even say a word.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That's, that is unbelievable. It reminds me of a classic Jewish phrase called B'sever Panim Yafos, which is like, you should have a pleasant countenance about you, you should have a pleasant way about you, right? You should put a smile on your face. You're giving me unbelievable data and science to support this ancient teaching of you put a smile on your face, the impact you're gonna have, whether it be on that stranger in the elevator or your direct report as an employee, is massive and even long lasting.

Ryan Lavarnway: Yeah.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I freaking love that. That is, that's unbelievable. Now, you went from Bigs and then in off season, I didn't include this in your bio, but I should have, you turned yourself into a triathlete. Now, this as a big lead catcher, anyone can Google some, Google images of you, Varney, to take a let's call it a 240 pounds felt man and then say, listen, in the off season, I'm gonna, turn myself into a triathlete. That's usually a very different body type. They's a tremendous amount of mental fortitude that goes into success as a triathlon, or a triathlete as I would assume. What took you down that road and how different was conquering that goal than it was making the Bigs?

Ryan Lavarnway: I always wanted to do an Ironman.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: You're a lunatic.

Ryan Lavarnway: It's just been on my bucket list forever and I can't explain it other than the famous quote that I think about all the time. "Why do we climb mountains? Because they're there." Right? So somebody created this race and I wanted to do it. And the biggest difference honestly, in an Ironman your biggest competition is you. So your training, your commitment, your sticking to a nutrition plan, your capacity to deal with pain and discomfort, your willingness to just keep going. And it's kind of fun. It's kind of fun to see how far can I push this, how miserable am I willing to be for the goal that I set. And I feel like in every race I've done... I've done two half Ironmans and a full Ironman. So I've done three races now. And in every race you learn something a little bit different about yourself.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: And most recently your most recent Ironman endeavor you learned what about Ryan Lavarnway?

Ryan Lavarnway: The most recent one was the first full Ironman. And it was in Sacramento which this course was designed to be one of the easier Ironman courses there is. Except on this day there was a strong wind and it rained for four and a half hours during the race. So when I got to the turnaround point of the bike, so I... 56 miles down 56 miles to go, I was exhausted. And my bike training had not been as strong as it could have been because I was playing baseball in the European Championships. So my bike training suffered severely. 56 miles was the longest training ride I had ever done. So I have now equaled my longest ride ever and I have to go do it again. And some of the supporters had poster signs that they held up that said, smile, you paid to do this. And for the rest of the day, the more miserable I got, I would just laugh to myself. Yep, I chose to do this.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Dude, that's, B'sever Panim Yafos, right? Like that's putting a smile on your face in the face of adversity. It seems like it worked because I'm assuming you finished that race.

Ryan Lavarnway: It worked. I finished. I beat a thousand people. I also was beat by a thousand people. But I finished the race and I forced a smile on my face as I crossed the finish line and I'm so happy to have done that.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That's, that is incredible. So okay, with all of these crazy endeavors and successes and then your ability to overcome failures, is there a, failure that sticks out in your mind that either propelled you forward or you wish you would have handled differently? 

Ryan Lavarnway: Oh, there's so, there's so many failures. I say in my speech and it's true. I got fired from my dream job 26 times.


Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: And so you get fired from your dream job of being a major league catcher, a professional catcher. What went through your head as you went through those trials and tribulations?

Ryan Lavarnway: Yeah, some of them I handled better than others, especially towards the end as I learned how to do it. And I understood the business of baseball better. Early on in my career there was some that felt particularly not fair. I was playing very well. I didn't feel like I was given the opportunity that I deserved. That word deserved is a funny one because the more you feel like you deserve, the more you're setting yourself up for the fall. And the more that you understand that most of us are replaceable in anything. Right? Like you're maybe not replaceable to your family, to your friends, but in a business, in a corporate setting, even in professional baseball. Like most everyone is replaceable. And once I understood that, I tried to lean into the things that were more valuable and take things less personally.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: There's a great, there's so many lessons in that. 26 times is a lot of times.

Ryan Lavarnway: It's a lot of times.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: It's a lot of times to get fired. I just wanna come back to one point you hit with a positive psychology standpoint, which was leaning into that, which is positive in your successes and self identifying as a successful individual. The home run is me. The strikeout is not me. Can you reconcile that idea with classic stoicism the way I understand it, which is just letting everything pass by. Just understanding that positive negative, the picture that I imagine is it's simply all weather, right? And we are the backdrop that is the sky and weather is just passing by and we're not gonna jump into either of them. We're not gonna hold on to the negative. We're not gonna hold on to the positive. Reconcile that with no, no, no, we're not gonna hold on to the negative. We're gonna grab and wrap our arms around the positive.

Ryan Lavarnway: Yeah, so I think where stoicism is is a lot of neutral thinking.

Ryan Lavarnway: Yeah.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: And that's Russell Westbrook or not Russell Westbrook, sorry, Russell Wilson does a lot of that thinking and I love the book by his mentor, Trevor Moawad: It Takes What It Takes. I think that's a fantastic mindset book. I think you lean into stoicism when times are bad. And, again, instead of going into the negative, go, to neutral, go to the facts, go to this is just weather, go to this is just something that happened. I don't identify with it. But you don't have to stay there. That can just be the beginning that can be as low as you allow yourself to go. And on the high side, you can embrace more. So to me, stoicism is is fantastic. I love stoicism, especially in a failure based game like baseball. When you fail, go to neutral, don't go to negative. But you can allow yourself to go to positive. I still remember the first two major league home runs I hit. The culmination of dreams coming true. I did not allow myself to smile as I rounded the bases, because I was being stoic. I was trying to act like I've been here before, I've done this before, I'll do it again.

Ryan Lavarnway: That is my, my memory of that is not allowing myself to smile when I wanted to. My memory of my next two home run game for the Cincinnati Reds in my debut, I'm smiling almost bigger than my whole face. And my memory of that day is so much better. And my experience of that day was so much better because I allowed myself to go into the positive.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I love it. You allowed yourself to go into the positive, you allowed yourself to be present, you allowed yourself to feel success.

Ryan Lavarnway: Yes.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: And man, that must have generated a memory. My memory of you hitting two home runs for the Cincinnati Reds was you were coming off an oblique that you had texted me about a couple of weeks prior. I remember we had a long phone call about, hey, here's what you need to be doing. As always, I'm like sending you exercises and crap like that. Fast forward to a Saturday night, I sent you a text being like, "Hey, dude, how's the oblique?" You're like, "did, you watch any baseball today?" I'm like, "no, it was, you know, it was Shabbat. So I didn't see anything." You're like, "go on ESPN. And it's, Varney gets called up, hits two bombs" and you were, you were smiling like a little freaking kid with an ice cream cone being totally present.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I'll never forget your smile on that day. I'll never forget probably the smile I had like watching you reach back to that pinnacle. Really, really powerful stuff, unbelievable lessons. I knew having you on, by the way, worth the wait, I knew having you on this pod that I would learn a ton and get better for having a guy like Ryan Lavarnway have a quick conversation. Your ability to motivate, to educate, to inspire, it really knows no bounds. I don't say that to many and I appreciate your time and everything you've taught me and our awesome growing audience here of Sports PT, so I really appreciate you, Ryno.

Ryan Lavarnway: Yeah, thank you, and you know what? I would love to see you get back to, and this is on a very serious note, to your version of the goatee.


Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Dude, I can't do a goatee. Maybe I'll grow my hair out like you.

Ryan Lavarnway: I've seen you do the goatee before.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: You have never seen me.

Ryan Lavarnway: I've seen you, I've seen you. You've got the full beard going right now.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That was a different PT. I think you're mixing me up with Root.


Ryan Lavarnway: No.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Are you gonna keep this goatee forever? 

Ryan Lavarnway: I think so.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: It's there forever?

Ryan Lavarnway: I think so, yeah, my, Jamie, she likes it.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: And she would have a problem with a full beard?

Ryan Lavarnway: Yeah, sometimes, I can't grow, I don't grow on my cheeks. It's just not part of who I am.


Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: It doesn't work. Varney, last words of wisdom for this audience?

Ryan Lavarnway: Do what you love. Find where you belong, and chase your dreams.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That's good freaking advice as this entire pod has been, how do sports PTs around the world... How do business people around the world find you? 

Ryan Lavarnway: I am real easy to find,, I'm on all social media. I handle my accounts to myself so you'll be talking to me not an assistant, not a robot. I'm on LinkedIn at Ryan Lavarnway, Instagram rlavarnway, Twitter, You can find me anywhere. I'm easy to find.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I love it and you're super responsive and obviously a wealth of knowledge so Varney thanks for everything it is that you do we all really appreciate you.

Ryan Lavarnway: Great, great to spend some time with you buddy.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Hell yeah.


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