Overcoming disabilities & self-imposed limitations have been crucial components to Chris Ruden‘s journey of unlocking his potential for growth and contribution. Chris was, in fact, born with a congenital birth defect, which left him with only two fingers on his left hand, and a shorter left arm. That’s something that greatly affected his self-worth at a young age. He felt that he was born a monster and he was made fun of a lot. That is a very difficult condition to handle for a young kid, and that’s why he ended up hiding his disability under a glove for 17 years. He tried to fake confidence and happiness to make up for the fact that he felt like he didn’t have a place in this world, and that made him feel even worse.
On top of that, 19 years into battling his physical situation, Chris was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. That was a turning point in his life, as he decided that he would have stopped hiding. On the contrary, he would have stepped into his most authentic self. Chris now uses his bionic arm and autoimmune disease to empower and transform audiences with his perennial message “Limitations are Self-Imposed”.
From Feeling Unworthy to Public Speaker
Chris has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and health promotion as well as a long list of certifications and specializations, which help him in his mission of being an advocate for fitness, managing diabetes, and the power of a positive mindset in overcoming any limitation.
From the moment Chris started to embrace his disabilities, everything changed. He became an elite Powerlifter, entrepreneur, model, motivational speaker, and even joined NBC Titan Games Season 1 with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He now uses his struggle to inspire people to overcome any and all adversity they may face in their lives through molding mindsets into resilient fortresses of self-belief.
And now here’s Chris Ruden.
Full transcript below
Video on Overcoming Disabilities & Self-Imposed Limitations
Motivational Video From Chris Ruden About Overcoming Disabilities
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Podcast with Chris Ruden. Overcoming Disabilities & Self-Imposed Limitations.
people, chris, life, speaking, hand, disability, story, struggle, diabetes, world, feel, book, talk, hiding, prosthetic arm, person, tattoos, fail, speaker, pocket
Mike Malatesta, Chris Ruden
Mike Malatesta 00:27
Hey everybody welcome back to the how that happened, podcasts, and first before we get started I just want to thank you for listening, subscribing, and sharing what I bring you every week, and you’re going to want to do the listening and the sharing at least with today’s guest Chris Rutan, Chris, I heard for the, you know I was trolling, Steve Sims podcast which I do every week, and it’s called The Art of Making things happen, I believe that it’s an excellent podcast and I was walking the streets in Milwaukee. Just, just wasting time before a meeting and getting my steps in. And lo and behold I’m listening to Steve and in my ears is Steve with, with Chris and I was so inspired by his story that I decided to reach out on LinkedIn and and connect with him first and foremost, but then, and once he accepted my, my connection invite and by the way, Chris, thank you for that. I thought I would really like to share, I would like to explore and share his story with all of you. So, fortunately he agreed. So let me tell you a little bit about Chris. Chris is an elite power lifter and entrepreneur, a model and a motivational speaker. Despite his congenital birth defect, which left him with only two fingers on his left hand, and a shorter left arm. On top of that, 19 years into battling his physical situation. Chris was diagnosed with type one diabetes, which is an interesting thing to have happen at that age, Chris. But for Chris. Losing is not an option, and this guy, as you will hear is a total winner, he’s an advocate for fitness for managing diabetes, and the power of a positive mindset in overcoming any limitation. Chris has also been on the NBC Titan games season one with Dwayne The Rock Johnson that had to be pretty cool. And he’s also been featured in The Washington Post Men’s Health right this minute Unilad and, and probably a ton of other stuff that I don’t know about. So, Chris, welcome to the show I’m so happy to have you here today.
Chris Ruden 02:39
I appreciate you having me I’m saying thank you for reaching out.
Mike Malatesta 02:42
Yeah, my pleasure and Chris I started every one of my shows with a simple question for the guest and that is how did it happen for you.
Chris Ruden 02:49
You know, simple questions sometimes require complex answers. How did it happen for me. I was born with physical disability, you know, I was born two fingers on my webtoon and shorter I’ve done Yes, but I felt like I was born broken. I felt like I was born a monster, and my entire life. I woke up to the thought of not being enough. And if you can imagine as a kid, figuring out quickly that you don’t have a place in this world and committed to that idea over two decades, it can be a lot. So for me, I tried to make do. I tried to fake confidence I tried to fake happiness I tried to fake a lot of things I performed the majority of my life trying to overcompensate for a weakness I thought I had because of a condition I never asked for, and a lot of us wear masks and not the COVID masks, but the actual masks that we hide ourselves from, and for me it was a glove. I hid my disability under the love for 17 years, up until three years ago. So, how did it happen for me. It took me realizing that what happens to you is not who you are and who you decide to be regardless of your circumstance is who you can become. And until I started being unapologetically myself. I was destined to live a life that had a glass ceiling that I installed.
Mike Malatesta 04:22
And so tell me about, you know, as you were going well 17 years. It sounds like you felt like you were born, broken, like you were not enough like you were a monster that’s a really, that’s a really sort of harsh critique of yourself and I’m wondering, what’s the environment Chris like, what are your parents like when you’re going through this, what are your siblings, like if you have siblings, what, what is, what is, besides the, the, you know that the birth defect itself, what is it that’s manifesting or helping you manifest those kinds of ideas about yourself as you’re as you’re growing up.
Chris Ruden 05:04
So, I guess, hindsight is 2020 Now you can easily, easily connect the dots looking backwards, and someone watching this podcast right now, we could describe what’s on screen as, oh my god it’s a nightmare. There are things everywhere there’s chords, probably going to trip on these chords. There’s just so much clutter like wow this is just exhausting, or. That’s really cool. There are some mics and they’re talking very professionally. The environment is the same in both elements, it’s just described differently. So for me, my environment might have been one thing but was really the problem was the way I described it the story I told myself about what was happening, my parents were actually great, they worked a lot, but they’re a great I grew up in a poor area low socio economic area I was made fun of a lot. And it took me a long time to distinguish being made fun of and being less than, there’s a space between the two. And I didn’t realize that at the time but what exists in that space is your decision to accept external factors and create an internal idea, you know, if I were to call you a draft, you would think I’m probably crazy, you’d probably be like why is this guy calling me a draft I know I’m not a draft but if I call you a loser you would probably like
me, maybe, maybe,
Chris Ruden 06:24
the ideas we let through because of those internalized beliefs we might have about ourselves. It’s natural to be jealous or want more envious and things like that but as a person with a disability as a person who saw a difference as a bad thing, maybe because of a few external factors. My idea very creative, and I took that creativity to a fault, and a lot of us do that, we tend to see one negative situation we create. That’s huge. I’m gonna keep saying, we create a story that hasn’t happened yet, and suffer in advance, and that’s what I did, I suffered in advance. I took a handful of happenings and told myself that this is what life was going to be. Now, I will never invalidate someone’s we’re going through struggle because it is hard. It is hard having a disability or being different, whether it’s a race issue or a sex issue some sort of diversity issue or any sort of, you know minority issue or whatever your struggle is everyone has their own service whether you’re rich, poor, it doesn’t matter. I will never invalidate a struggle, but what I will say is we often take the struggles that we rightfully have and make them worse. And that’s not okay.
Mike Malatesta 07:32
And what is uh, so when you say, create a story that hasn’t happened, Chris, what, what were you doing or what do you see people doing because I want to make sure that people understand what you mean by,
Chris Ruden 07:44
I want to make sure I go into that so for me the story was a kid made fun of me. And that’s all that happened, technically, but after being made fun of you have the you have opportunities to tell yourself, well, maybe that kid is right, maybe I’m not good enough, maybe I am ugly you know maybe no one will ever love me. If no one ever loves me, you know, then why am I even continuing this life, I should just quit now. You know, I’m destined for nothing, so don’t try to be like those people you aspire to be don’t look up, look down, keep your head down, disappear into the sea is that catastrophizing mentality we often adapt from a few, what we call bad things but really they’re not bad things they’re just things, we decided if they’re bad or good, and then we told ourselves a story about that so when a lot of people do is they’re not living the life that they think they want to live, and they tell themselves a story that they deserve it. They deserve to be happy. They deserve not to progress in life, what’s happened to them, is what’s always going to happen, they’re dooming themselves based on the story they tell themselves that they’re going to be a carbon copy of their past and there’s no potential future, given what’s already happened to them and that has no logic when we talk about it right now. Yeah, but it’s what most people live in it’s what I lived for a long time.
Mike Malatesta 08:58
And so it’s like they’re telling themselves well if I try this for example, it’s going to turn out this way.
Chris Ruden 09:06
Yeah, so I’m not confident, ignorance is dangerous you know it’s literally confident Ingrid’s is pretending you can tell the future it’s pretending you’re a psychic, you know, or it’s that if then philosophy that conditional philosophy that states, if I failed once in the past I will always fail in the future, right, and that’s a slippery slope fallacy to connect point A to point B with no real validity. The concept I talked about in my book. It’s called learned helplessness, and it’s basically, When an elephant is taught, unfortunately hate transmit I love animals more than people so I hate these stories but when an elephant is is taught to be in captivity as a baby, they’re tied to like a post or tied to a chair tied to something, and it’s a little too heavy for them to move because they’re a baby, as the elephant grows become a two time animal, It could probably break almost anything but that learned helplessness taught them to never try again, because of what they did in the past didn’t work. And we do that as people all the time we messed up, maybe a relationship or friendship or business, something. And we took that one or that isolated incident and we applied that to the rest of our lives that we haven’t even lived yet.
Mike Malatesta 10:17
I like that dolphin story I’ve heard that a few times and it does it, if you apply that to people it really makes a lot of sense because in a person you may not be tied up hopefully you weren’t tied up but you were told things you were told who you are, you were told where you belong, you were told what to do. And depending on how you were told those things. It’s kind of hard to get rid of that stuff sometimes when you know when you’re, when, when you get to the point where you have to start making your own decisions, they’re biased or influenced by these other thoughts you have and you just put yourself in a box and you keep your socks and
Chris Ruden 10:53
I like that you said that, I like that you said that you don’t get put into a box. You put yourself gray box. Yeah, that’s, I’m not talking about fault because I don’t care whose fault it is. I’m talking about responsibility, and we all have the ability to respond responsibility. We have the ability to respond to things I talked about these mindset shifts if you’d like all easier said than done. Yes, but better done than said one and two, it takes awareness first. My whole book a lot of people see me like a pro power lifter all these cool things like muscles tattoos yeah whatever but people don’t understand mental health is the base component of any sort of happiness. So, they talk about communication is key we push, push that in society communication is key. But we skipped step one. He skipped, the main thing. So communication is key if you cannot communicate with yourself, you will never be able to communicate with the people around you, and how can you expect people to communicate with you if you can’t communicate with you. So if you are putting yourself into a box there has to be a day or a moment where you say, hey, are all the things that I’ve learned from my past, helping me or hurting me, are they true, or do I think they are true. Is there another way to think about this that would allow me to succeed better than I am right now. We have to start asking ourselves the right questions and for years, I never asked myself the right questions.
Mike Malatesta 12:25
So when you weren’t asking yourself the right questions, Chris, or at one point where you described yourself as being over confident I think he said, You know you fake calm, you said fake confidence you fake happiness you know to sort of overcome what, what did you actually do what does that mean press.
Chris Ruden 12:46
So I’m going to tell everyone really understands when I actually think about it in a shorter lifetime and I have a prosthetic arm now, I don’t worry all the time but I got that a few years ago, before I started hiding my hand when I first went into middle school, I thought everything was okay. I grew up in a school that had like maybe 14 people in it so I didn’t expect anything crazy, you know, but when I switched schools, I quickly realized that people were very quick to point out my differences. It got to the point where I would put my hand in my pocket, you know, just to hide it. And before I started really hiding it, I decided to ask this girl she was going to be my first ever girlfriend and Crystal prettiest girl in school, and I decided to walk up to her and in front of the entire class asked her out. And as I was about to ask her out. I look back at my friends and they start laughing I’m like guys you’re messing this up for me. What are you doing, you know, and I looked back and she’s making fun of my hand with the stapler calling me club boy in front of the entire class completely humiliated me first ever attempt to be a man so to speak and yeah just squashed. From that moment I shoved my hand in my pocket, and it was to the point where I would have to ask to go to the bathroom, because I had my backpack on and my hand was in my pocket over my backpack and I wouldn’t take the backpack off unless I was in the bathroom because I refused to take my hand on my pocket even for a second. I ran miles with PMP, with my hand in my pocket. I would swim at the beach with my hand in my pocket. I almost got arrested at the Washington Monument because I refused to take my hand out of the pocket for security. I was that insecure but confidently insecure because I would dance I did end up learning how to like play drums and my dad was always the center of attention, which made me feel like I was distracting people from looking at my deficit as something that I couldn’t do. I was so competitive that I wanted to be the best at everything, but all I was trying to do is hide in plain sight.
Mike Malatesta 14:46
So you were the best and everything with your hand in your pocket. Yep, almost as if you couldn’t use your arm really
Chris Ruden 14:54
i i Actually, my story I don’t tell often the first ever fight I got into, I lost because I refuse to take my hand in my pocket. I ended up getting beat up because I couldn’t defend myself properly, not because I physically but. To make matters worse, I was actually in martial arts at the time. And I refuse to take my hand out of my pocket. Even when retrained,
Mike Malatesta 15:23
really. And so you had your hand in your pocket, then you mentioned before, before that you took the glove off at, you know, a few years ago only. So you
Chris Ruden 15:39
know I went from having my hand in my pocket to in high school, I found a way to play drums, and it was by using a glove with fingers cut off, so I could slide a drumstick through the finger. So I started, I would go through the entire day in high school with my hand on my budget, I would go into the band room and people see me they assume sports tattoos muscle. I didn’t play any sports I don’t know anything about sports, I don’t drink beer. I’m not that guy. I was a band, I was a band. Okay.
Mike Malatesta 16:11
Yeah, you don’t, well yeah, you don’t fit the mold that we’ve created for band people that all right,
Chris Ruden 16:16
I go, I also do cake decorating and like all kinds of weird stuff you would never really expect but I like breaking molds, I guess. Yeah, I would go to the bathroom at 3pm When the bell would ring, I would go into the bathroom, I would put my glove on, I would come out of the bathroom and I’d play band, You know, do my thing. And then the next year I was like, maybe I can just wear the gloves I don’t have to put my hand in my pocket that would help me a lot. Then I was like oh cool, we’re gonna do this that lasted for 17 years.
Mike Malatesta 16:46
What made you take it off.
Chris Ruden 16:50
I started getting my degree in Exercise Science at 19 I wanted to be a lawyer, just because I love arguing with people and I realized that’s not a good reason to be a lawyer, so I switched my major from political science to exercise science because I loved exercising, and honestly because people told me I got it. Having a disability. And I was like I’m gonna prove you wrong. I’m just that stubborn. I ended up getting my degree in Exercise Science, and because of diabetes. I took that seriously I wanted to help other people you know I was like I can’t be this disabled diabetic kid, there has to be more to life than like just being as broken, broken Did you know. So exercise is an opportunity to work with other people and help them to find ways to adapt. I ended up becoming like a pro power lifter deadlifting 675 pounds with one hand, you know, like I did so much, I recently won a bodybuilding competition, I did a lot but I was still holding my head, still holding my hand throughout all this, and I told myself if I ever got a prosthetic arm, I would stop hiding my disability. Now, it’s almost impossible to get a prosthetic arm with surance and all this stuff they’re like $150,000 It’s insane. So I tried I was trying I figured it never happened, but then it happened. And I can’t, I have to be a man of my word. So I made a YouTube video kind of taking the glove off for the first time ever, even at the time I had my ex girlfriend, she was three and a half years into dating me and she had never seen my hand. So, I ended up posting that YouTube video and woke up the next day to 4 million views, Washington Post posted it and jumped in the deep end, so to speak 4 million views Arius, but the best thing that ever happened to me in my life. Yeah.
Mike Malatesta 18:36
How long did it take you to think about doing that. Is it was it,
Chris Ruden 18:41
somebody’s entire life. I have okay I had committed now there was, there was a probable like 30 minute window in that day, which seemed like forever, that I was like, Am I really gonna do this like is this really gonna happen. I don’t know if I’m ready for the whole like catastrophizing that used to happen when I was younger, but I stopped it and I was like, No, you committed to this do this need this like, whereas in the past I would allow it to run and then I would just push it away and disassociated I got to focus on other things. I faced it, I sat with it and I was like, committed to being the person I wanted to be, and stop running, But I’m the person I want it to be. And a lot of times we do that, you know, we know what we need to do when I asked you, or anyone. What is the one thing you know you’re not doing that would help you be better. Everyone sweeps it under the rug because we don’t want to talk about it, we don’t want to face it, they want to. Let’s talk about these things. It’s like the smoke and mirrors don’t look at this, look over here. We do it because we all have that nice that one thing that we know if we started doing, or did more of, or less of, we would be better, but we don’t want to talk about it because it’s uncomfortable and for me it was that moment, I had a decision was I going to keep being the person I was or was I going to allow myself to become the person I want it to be, and I’m very thankful that I made the right decision.
Mike Malatesta 19:56
And when you hit the Upload button. Were you to YouTube, with that video. Were you excited. Were you scared. What, what were you feeling I didn’t even hit the button, I told my ex girlfriend at the time I was like please upload it. Okay, so she was with you supporting me through,
Chris Ruden 20:14
but not in the room. She was in a different room while I was recording it, she ended up like editing it and uploading it for me, so she saw it the first time she saw it was while she was editing my video.
Mike Malatesta 20:25
Okay, so you wow alright so you, you have no idea what that’s going to do this is, this is cathartic for you right
Chris Ruden 20:32
this is for me, it was 100% for me and I was like, I just wanted to, for me that’s like jumping into deep and I knew I needed to do. I still wasn’t ready to go out in public like officially I started to, but after that video, it forced me to be comfortable more quickly and I was like man I wish that I had this, you know sooner, but it showed me so many people, hundreds and hundreds of messages of people saying, I’ve been hiding my disability for this long I’ve been hiding this for this long or sharing their struggles because you know struggle is a universal language. I’ve spoken in Uganda in Africa. When it was translated into different dialects, but I was still able to deliver a message of overcoming adversity, which is a universal concept so that video wasn’t just for people with disabilities. It wasn’t just for people with type one diabetes it was for people who wear a mask or what for me it was a glove, people who are not themselves who fight to be authentic and struggle with validation or struggle with body image issues.
Mike Malatesta 21:37
The differences, people wearing mask is like a metaphorical thing you actually wore a glove, that’s
Chris Ruden 21:43
physical very physical representation. Yeah, and I mean a lot of us still do it with physical representations, whether it’s like we feel we need to wear makeup to go out or we need maybe a hat. Maybe we need a certain pair of glasses, maybe we need to drive a certain car have financial, there’s a lot of masks or gloves that people do wear in different ways. And once you start recognizing them they’re like no that’s who I am. It’s not who you are, it’s what you do and there’s a difference.
Mike Malatesta 22:10
And what. So, you wake up, you’ve got this, You said 4 million views, people were coming out of the woodwork to contact you son that was insane. Yeah, how did did so. Can you remember what you were feeling that day when you were like, holy, like I don’t know what you were expecting Chris,
Chris Ruden 22:28
I wasn’t there was no expectations whatsoever I was still calm at that point you know like I was just like, This is what I need to do. And I blocked off in my head what could happen because otherwise I would have convinced myself not to do it. Yeah, when I saw these things like when Washington Post reached out and all of these things I was on the front page of Reddit and YouTube. And I saw this stuff, it was that it wasn’t the likes or the, the Washington Post, which was cool. It was the messages from people that really reaffirmed what I did was not only good for me, it was good for other people whether it’s an adult or a kid who is struggling. Maybe they saw my perspective, And they said, I could do it too. I never had that I never saw that I never saw someone in my similar case, do something like that so for me I was like this is what I want, this is what I want out of life. I want to be that moment I don’t, I don’t want to make people change I want to put people in a position to make the change for themselves. That’s from that video from that day, that’s what I tried to do in every aspect of my life.
Mike Malatesta 23:33
Right, this sort of like a, this is who I am, what am I going to do with it, the epiphany.
Chris Ruden 23:39
Yeah. Like, it’s so crazy to go from that, the struggling the hiding the, you know, just hating myself and how I looked to people hiring me to model, you know like Nike and Tommy Hilfiger, crazy, like being on a billboard with the rock like what that is so crazy to me, to go from this weak broken kid to something that people are like, I just have a two page spread and People Magazine, and I’m like, I still can’t I see it on my kitchen counter, and I’m just like how is this. How is this possible, but then I think you know like, I struggled for so long to accept my circumstances and a lot of us do. We are fighting our past, we can’t control, and we’re telling ourselves, because our past is crappy to us. How can we ever be good. How can we ever be happy, it’s conditional happiness if I didn’t have this past, then I wouldn’t be happy. But it’s more so if I were to be happy, than maybe the past wouldn’t seem as bad or wrong, yeah like I have it wrong and it’s when you learn to have an unconditional happiness in the sense of, you don’t need to be happy all the time, I think, constant happiness is toxic. I think the pursuit of constant happiness is like a drug. You can’t always be Hi like that, it’s
Mike Malatesta 25:03
just not something wrong with you if you’re.
Chris Ruden 25:07
And to be fair, we’re in the United States for the largest consumer of self help books but the sad is country so how is depression and self help, the highest number, because the rest of the world doesn’t preach, Chase happiness they preach Chase growth. Chase impact, you know, growth and impact involve ups and downs but over here we’re like, observing that just stops right, life is not just ups. You learn from the downs and you learn that the biggest teachers for me were the painful moments that I was able to get through in some way shape or form. You’re not always going to be a superhero. But you can save yourself in the sense of Don’t make it worse. Don’t make it worse, and tell yourself a story that predicts your success, not your failure.
Mike Malatesta 25:51
So, how did you come to get your prosthetic, how did that come about so
Chris Ruden 25:58
I got connected with someone in hanger clinic which is a largest prosthetic orthotic company in the world. And they were like we can help you get that oh my god, that’d be cool like no like honestly we think we could help, you know, you’d have to go to different doctors to support. As a person with one fully functioning then you get things like overuse syndrome. Carpal Tunnel cubital tunnel, a lot of issues man issues or overuse injuries, you know, and I had a good case to get it but I was like, I will see if it happens, when I got approved. And I saw like what we’re going to build this silicone carbon fiber arm with like a multi articulating and I was like no way. And I lived my entire life without one, you know, so it was a very different change to kind of go through that but he kind of showed me that I didn’t need to hide I didn’t use the prosthetic arm to hide anymore the prosthetic arm was like a bridge for me to use it and really, you know, it was cool to have two functioning hands I’ve never had that before. You know most people take for granted what they have like to be able to hold two things at the same time, is incredible. So after that I started taking the rest of their time off. And then I was like wow I can be me without the arm I don’t need a cool, you know, and now I’m able to go into a grocery store and not hide, and a lot of people think that’s nothing but for me that was everything. You know I’ve broken world records and powerlifting in front of 20,000 people, but the largest challenge for me was being able to go into Walmart and not hide my disability. So that is so interesting to print, getting it actually prove to you that you didn’t need it. Not that I did my dad is the best way I’ve ever heard it but honestly, getting it did prove to me that I didn’t need it and a lot of people were scared for me, and I was told by many people, make sure this doesn’t become your new glove, very tempting.
Mike Malatesta 27:55
Yeah, sure. Yeah, you know, what you’ve been waiting for your whole life is something. Yeah, right.
Chris Ruden 28:01
Yeah. A lot of people maybe not watching a video but I would put my phone on my residual limb. Even after, like, as a habit, but it was also like kind of hiding, you know, that was a way of hiding right after I took my glove off, and one of my friends actually called me out on it which I love, you know, he’s like hey man you know you don’t need to do that and I was like, You’re right, you know, and a lot of times we have those subconscious behaviors that pull us back to a past, we don’t want to repeat. You have to be aware of them, you have to constantly ask yourself questions. That’s the major issue I see with people is they don’t ask themselves enough questions. Okay,
Mike Malatesta 28:37
so if you’re watching this on video you’ll see the Chris has a lot of tattoos. And if you’re not, you’re gonna have to take my word for it. But, so I was wondering Chris What because you’re because everything you’ve said so far. You know connects like how you think, how you present yourself, how you feel about yourself. So I’m wondering, what’s the story that your tattoos are telling you and or the or what’s the story you want them telling other people if you do.
Chris Ruden 29:06
Absolutely. So, the unfortunate part about societies, people will see someone like me, muscles, and all about the tattoos and legs and those don’t build a picture in their head before I even talk. Right. It was anyone who’s just listening and not watching. Imagine a guy with muscles, tattoos, who says he’s a model. And he uses Instagram regularly, you already think he’s a douchebag. Instantly, that’s just what you’re like he probably has a vape, he probably drinks beer on the weekends like you’re telling yourself this entire story. And unfortunately we stigmatize people like that so for me I wanted to break that stigma. Most people wouldn’t look at me and think, oh, wow, this is a whole Edgar Allan Poe piece. Oh, he knows what poetry is. That’s so crazy. They wouldn’t see this and then wow that’s Greek mythology and Hercules and 12 tribulations. Oh what’s that do she tattoo on his chest is that a nonprofit that he works with with kids with disabilities, people wouldn’t think these things, you know, but that’s the problem. Judging is easier than thinking and that’s why people do it.
Mike Malatesta 30:11
And that’s the unfortunate truth. Yeah, and that’s why I asked the question because I knew that there would be a reason around it, and I, and I didn’t want people to assume what you just said they probably horse
Chris Ruden 30:24
yeah and I actually love that because anytime I meet someone, especially at an event I speak at events all around the country. Right, I’ve done hundreds of events as a keynote speaker, and I get that little look and I talked with people while you’re not what I expected. I’m like, Oh, what do you expect. Did you have an expectation based on a preconceived notion like a label the one you said you don’t want for yourself but you’re getting other people’s really crazy how we live that and it’s, I understand it’s when I have my arm on and I wear navy or military green people salute me and they just assume that I was in the military and I understand but also you don’t want to do that because that’s like assuming, imagine if I came up to a person who’s overweight and I said wow you need to start running, and they’re like, actually I have lupus and I exercise, seven days a week but I can’t lose weight because of my autoimmune disease. Now you feel stupid for judging you know and that’s it, I get it a lot. So, breaking that notion of, maybe there’s more to people than what you automatically think because your cultural lens that you were brought up with has biases and preconceived notions about things you don’t know anything about back to what I said we all need to do more have asked more questions.
Mike Malatesta 31:37
For a guy that was hiding his arm for so long and feeling the way he felt you describe feeling, how did you become the person who just said what you said you’ve got to be a personal.
Chris Ruden 31:51
I wish, and there’s a book called The Power of moments that I love. And a lot of people will kind of ask what was that moment, you know, I wish there was there was a few like powerful moments that I’d had that kind of helped redirect, but I failed a lot man. I failed myself a lot. I showed the way I thought, I failed in businesses a lot I’ve lost lots of money. I’ve made a lot of wrong bad decisions. I, I went through enough pain to decide that that’s not the life I wanted to live. And now my job is to make to help people avoid the pains that I went through, because, you know, learning from your mistakes is one thing but smart people learn from other people’s mistakes. So, I want to help people not go through that, and I’m very fortunate that the constant mess ups that I had in my life led to something good and not the other way around.
Mike Malatesta 32:49
Let’s talk about the diabetes for for a little bit here so that came, you became aware of that when you were 19. And how did you become aware of it, what did it start to manifest
Chris Ruden 33:02
normal signs of polyuria polydipsia about Vasia basically increased hunger increased thirst increased urination, and both my parents are nurses but they had no clue because if you see a relatively like not out of shape kid who type one diabetes doesn’t run in your family, you would never assume it’s those signs are there they were clear as day but we didn’t know for how long
Mike Malatesta 33:26
was it for how long. For how long were they as clear as day before,
Chris Ruden 33:30
honestly, looking back, I’d say at least eight months, eight to 10 months. But these symptoms were there, and I was I felt like trash and I just felt terrible. And I was actually working at a hospital at the time when I was diagnosed with diabetes. So, I was working at a hospital I felt terrible. I was going to the bathroom like 30 times a day like excessively, and my mom worked in another department of the hospital, I ended up going to get checked out, and we did a urine test and figured out I was diabetic and I had to get admitted to the hospital that I was admitting people into
Mike Malatesta 34:07
really. Yeah, which is really crazy. And so what, what, where are you with that. Now obviously that’s not a curable,
Chris Ruden 34:16
is not a curable, but my diabetes is managed and I help other people manage their condition. Now, as a diabetes coach and educator. All right, good
Mike Malatesta 34:25
for you. So let’s, um, when did the powerlifting start and why
Chris Ruden 34:31
I started powerlifting at 20 years old because of babies and because I felt like there had to be something more to life than what I was going through there had to be something that I could do, and I fell in love with bodybuilding, but it’s gonna take a long time to build muscle as a scrawny kid I was 150 pound kid in high school, You know, people used to make fun of me for not having muscle and now those same people are asking me for a workout program so it’s pretty funny, but I started finding ways to lift, you know, I found ways to adapt and I ended up getting a hook that could lift like a hook onto a bar and I lifted 135 pounds and I was like wow this is awesome garbage is so cool. And then I was like maybe I can go more and I trained and I got up to 225 pounds, you know, I was like wow this is crazy and then 315 and then 405 and 495 585. And then last year 675 pounds, you know, So, the only person with a disability in the world that was able to deadlift over 600 pounds and a 675 So, I’ve come a long way and I realized that success is not always sexy and in social media, we’ve kind of made it that way. It seems like people want the sexy form of success where there’s this aha moment and then you’re just, you come out with the next Facebook or Disney or you know, you’re just the best world or whatever it is. And it’s not sometimes it’s just running the race and quitting last. Sometimes, I literally won by default because so quit and as in my journey, I wasn’t 100% And I was maybe 80%, on average, maybe 90% On average, but I just kept going resilience in not in a not in a motivational way like yeah yeah yeah like there was days where I hated it. I just, I hated it when I was at the gym. I didn’t hate it and not go or just hated it while I was there, you know, and I’m very thankful that I just kept going, regardless of how I felt, you know, in the moment.
Mike Malatesta 36:29
How’s it been for you, Chris to you know have the accolades, of the power lifting and then all the exposure that you’re getting now, You know maybe started from the YouTube video and then all the appearances and speaking that you do when you meet somebody like The Rock, for example. Do you do you say to yourself, This is exactly the room I should be in, Or do you say to yourself something different.
Chris Ruden 36:58
So in the beginning when I first started speaking and meeting people and people are hiring me to talk instead of paying me to speak for 30 minutes and my business crazy. I had a little bit of imposter syndrome feeling like maybe. Am I getting this. Is this real like do I deserve this, I started questioning my value and I was like wait a minute, whether a $20 bill has wrinkles or it’s perfectly straight, it’s still $20 You know, so why am I lessening my value because I think, something you know I start telling myself a story again I had to catch myself. Now when I go into a room, I know my worth, and it doesn’t change because other people fail to recognize it. You know your opinion of me is not my responsibility. My job is to give value and impact to the people around you and whether I’m hired by a CEO or I do a show at the rock where I work with major brands. They are not technically my goal, my goal is that people they want to reach their communities, impact their values everything for me because I’m proud to be the person I never had growing up. I never had that role model of going through adversity and growing through adversity and becoming something Despite seeming like life just didn’t want you to do it, you know, that’s that matters to me most and I aligned with people and brands and companies that align with that message. Okay.
Mike Malatesta 38:23
And do you feel like your since you’ve had these. I call them epiphanies maybe they’re transformations, maybe there’s something else I don’t know. But if you found that now you feel like you’re inviting the right people into your life versus before sort of feeling like you could never get invited anywhere.
Chris Ruden 38:50
I would self sabotage a lot when I was younger, you know I would make myself seem like the cool guy I was always in front of being in the limelight, so to speak, but I never allowed connection with people, because if someone got close to me they didn’t realize that I wasn’t truly competent I wasn’t truly happy and that’s too risky. I self sabotage a lot with connectedness and people, and now I realize that it’s so much less exhausting to be yourself just authentically you and to realize if only two people like you, it’s better than 10 or 20, that don’t actually like you, they just like the version of you that you’re putting out.
Mike Malatesta 39:28
Right. You don’t like you, but they like you.
Chris Ruden 39:31
Yeah, it’s and that’s the funny part because they don’t actually like you, they like the fake version of you that you’re performing, yes you know it’s like going up to Robert Downey Jr, but I love you iron man and he’s like, that’s not me. That’s the role I played, and a lot of people fell in love with the role that I played, and that only hurt me, and I asked people listening now. Are you playing a role in your life, Or are you, you, you know, if you’re acting understandably play that role. But life is not acting. And when you act your life out it’s exhausting.
Mike Malatesta 40:06
And when you that when you act your life out that’s exhausting. That’s really nice. That’s good, That’s good stuff be when you were. I guess when you were. Well let’s talk about now, let’s talk about now. So you are speaking, you’re helping people with diabetes, you’re helping people with all kinds of conditions you’re trained to do, to do some of that at least or, you know, so take the speaking part out but the physical part. How has your academic training. And I guess your real world training, sort of influenced how you work with people sort of on on that level outside of the the inspirational stuff just the real physical stuff or are they not separate.
Chris Ruden 41:01
Sometimes they intertwine but in terms of fitness I got my degree in Exercise Science and specialization certification so bunch of letters behind my name and they may seem fancy but at the end of the day, I did that to learn as much as I could for my clients at the time I was working with people in person and then I started working with people online I had hundreds of clients all around the country, all around the world, and I’ve helped hundreds of people lose 1000s of pounds through that training that academia type, and then I realized that it wasn’t the way people want to lose. It was the appearance of the way and it wasn’t the appearance of the way that they wanted, it was the feeling that they would get from losing weight, so it was always tied to an emotion. People wanted to lose weight because they thought that if they were in shape they would feel better about themselves. Thus, people wanted to feel better about themselves, to feel better about yourself is a mental process not a physical one physical can contribute to it and influence it, but at the end of the day. I’ve seen many people who have technically perfect bodies and terrible mentalities. You know, so, fitness was a huge and still is a huge component I still work with some people I take case by case basis. But fitness taught me failure, well failing, so to speak. And in my talks I speak on overcoming adversity, which is more of the motivational diversity and inclusion, especially in underrepresented populations and then also a patient influencer marketing which is more like bridging the trust gap between communities and companies, learning about failing in the fitness industry taught me that you know when you lift weights you go you want to hit 15 reps, you only make it 12 When you only make it as well when you let the weight down you don’t say, You know what I sub This is terrible. I’m quitting everything I’m going home on a semi Coronavirus. We don’t do that, we just might not I didn’t get it. It taught me how to fail correctly, how to put no emotion into messing up failing is a verb, it’s like stubbing your toe that’s completely fine to fail. But failure is a noun, it’s an identity it’s, it’s something you become it’s okay to fail, it’s just never okay to be a failure, and very thankful for the physical lesson in the mentality
Mike Malatesta 43:18
that came from the gym, and the people that you mentioned that you know you can have a perfect body and a terrible mindset would those be people that would look at the 12 reps versus 15 as a failure. So even though
Chris Ruden 43:32
everything will take it personally. Yeah, everything would be taken personally, they’re looking at themselves in the mirror and I was leaner before I could be better. I don’t look like him I don’t look like her. Yes, I have ABS but you know I hate who I am or any of these things it’s, it’s that conditional type philosophy, if I had this, I would be happier not gratitude, you know, there’s a saying I had. Gratitude is the antidote for greed. And when I say greed, I don’t mean greed and wanting money but sometimes we get greedy and wanting anything we want more friends we want more freedom we want, want, want, all we do is want and that desire for more reduces what we already have. And even people and I hate saying bad or good situations because that’s all relative to your mindset, you know, it’s more effective situations or ineffective situations relative to your life. People who think they’re in compromising situations, tend to struggle to find gratitude because they only look at what they don’t have. And that’s one of the easiest ways to be happy and one having gratitude and to helping other people.
Mike Malatesta 44:40
Right. It’s funny that you were talking about, you know that perfect body but still thinking you’re a failure, I was thinking about bodybuilding and, you know that the, the whole process of being judged as a bodybuilder is all about people saying this should be like this should be like that, this should be like, so I can imagine how someone that’s doing that would be like, I’m not good enough, this is not good enough because you know I’m judged by. Oh yeah, I’m like pointing out my body like it’s a thing like Chris is judged by. I can make that applicable though
Chris Ruden 45:18
do you think about yeah you have the end of one’s report, and your sales are up by 10% You’re You’re killing it, you know, and the your boss is like, next month we’re going for 15 you’re like Wait, was the 10 not good enough, am I not good enough you know like did I not do good enough at my job, it’s those questions there’s no emotion behind it but we added in, you know, in bodybuilding it’s you’re supposed to be judged for that. That’s literally what the what the whole goal is you know and a lot of times we take that criticism to heart critique is not a bad thing unless you make it a bad thing. And if someone is critiquing you in a way that’s ineffective those people don’t belong in your life. That’s just as simply as it is, you know, so you have to you have to be the gatekeeper of what people say and what you feel.
Mike Malatesta 46:03
So let’s talk about your book, the upper hand. Leveraging limitations to turn adversity into advantage. So, before I talk about what’s actually in the before we talk about what’s actually in the book, Chris. I’m fascinated with people who write books I’m in, I mean I’m in the final stages of writing my own book my own first book, congrats. Thank you. So I’m wondering what was your process like, how did it come to be.
Chris Ruden 46:28
Well the first the beginning part of my process was three years of procrastination so great so we’re in this,
Mike Malatesta 46:34
I’ve already done that so check that
Chris Ruden 46:36
out you already got step one you guys anyone who’s listened to that but ladies don’t please don’t do that, too. You have to know who you are and what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. I’m a speaker, I will say that I will tell. I’ll toot my own horn because I invest in it to become a speaker again and I constantly do so. I tried to write book, physically, in a way that was not conducive to how I operate. Okay. And that killed me mentally like just was draining,
Mike Malatesta 47:09
you know, so in other words you’re like I can grit this out I can do this
Chris Ruden 47:13
sounds like I’m just gonna be a writer now I’m like wait, I’m a speaker, who can write, I don’t want to be a writer, you know who is not speaking. So I decided to use diction like dictation speak it into existence and have it recorded and then edit it from there to maintain my natural voice a lot better at speaking than I am writer. And when I started doing that, it took about six months to write this whole book. It took me years of procrastinating and trying to do it, how society told me I should, should be isn’t the world. Yeah. And, until I realized wait there’s no universal fix to an individual problem. Why am I asking, what should be done when I should ask myself, what’s best for me. And that made a huge difference for me.
Mike Malatesta 48:00
Nice and then how’d you bring it to life from there.
Chris Ruden 48:02
So from there I found an editor, and this lady started heading helping me edit it, and I was just going to Self Publish until she was like I actually know a small publisher and I talked to the publisher, they were really cool. And it things just kind of happened. This is cool is really exciting. and I just went with it. And that’s been my life honestly I wish I could say better but I just went with things a lot. I was supposed to be a lawyer, I was supposed to be a purse. Physical Therapist I was supposed to be a lot of things that didn’t end up being, and I’m so glad they didn’t because I would have limited who I could be with who I told myself I should be. And I just started asking the right questions like why not.
Mike Malatesta 48:46
Well I love the way you approach the book because the be knowing where your skill sets are, and I don’t mean that you don’t have the skills, but knowing where your energy really comes from like speaking in this case in your case versus writing, and getting someone to help you with that, or figuring out a way for you to get it out the way that you would struggle to get out on it with a keypad, but with a voice you get it out and then finding someone to take it from there. You know the rest of the way is a super smart way to do things so I congratulate you,
Chris Ruden 49:19
I appreciate that it’s definitely tough and anyone who’s willing to write a book I believe everyone has a message, you know, a lot of people think they, their messages and important, and I used to think the same way, I was like well, I just, I was born this way this is just who I am, I had no other decision. But I’ll tell you this, everyone listening right now has the exact same story as me, the exact same like to a tee, the exact same story, and I’ll tell you what it is. You went through some crap, you got over some crap and there’s some more crap coming. Everyone has that same story. Okay. Without a doubt. Now, the message of perspective you pull from that is yours alone. No one has that. That is what you need to be giving to the world and one in some way shape or form, whether it’s one person or millions, it to me is selfish to not share your perspective on life. Because that perspective might help one other person, and that one other person you might help could be the next Steve Jobs or anyone who’s prominent in society. Maybe someone needs your perspective. Maybe you need to hear your own perspective and realize it needs changing. You can’t realize that until you start figuring out the story and taking a step back and saying, is this worth reading is this worth living is the way I’m building my story worth living right now, or do I want to change it, you have the pen, and you’re the main actor, except you’re not acting you’re living, so it’s a decision.
Mike Malatesta 50:46
Everybody’s got the story it’s the message he take from it. I was really cool 100% Yeah. So let so this may be my last question, maybe not. But this, you described yourself as a good speaker great speaker, and you said, I know that because I’m always working on and investing in it, and I’m wondering, because people see great presence, great speakers like you and they go oh, the guy was born with, you know, this ability and maybe we’re, but I’m wondering what else you’ve done to take what was sort of, maybe your great innate ability to speak and connect with people and take it to a level where you could go in front of these corporations and go all over the world, Uganda, wherever, and talk to people and and impact them.
Chris Ruden 51:37
There’s, There’s definitely a balance like I am probably the worst singer and writer in the world, and draw like artists, like if you asked me to sing or draw, you’d be like your god awful, please don’t ever do that again. Could I invest a lot of money into trying to become better absolutely one I don’t have a passion, and it’s not a natural skill I have something I’m willing to invest my time with speaking. I’ve always been kind of charismatic but in the beginning for the wrong reason was fake charisma me through the pain of feeling bad for myself, but fake confidence fake happiness now, when I was able to transfer that charisma into a positive, who I am not who I’m running from. I was I, I kind of like, you know, when I talk people listen when I enter a room, people kind of pay attention to me, you know, how can I use this to my advantage to deliver. You know you can’t sell an MPC. I can’t change a life if they’re not listening to me. Now I technically can’t even change their life, I have to put them in a position to change their own lives, they have to do that, you know, so I was like, How do I become a better speaker, I started watching a bunch of YouTube videos, Tony Robbins I don’t watch this stuff really because he’s a little different for me but he said one thing that really stuck with me and he said the biggest resource we have is being resourceful, and I was like, okay, so it’s not about, I don’t have the money I don’t have the time, it’s What can I get. We know the problems we know the problems we talked about them every day, what is the potential solution for you, whether you go to a library to use the free internet or, you know, whatever access you have but there are books that people are throwing away or not reading or free PDFs you know, what can I do to become a better speaker I started watching really good speakers and speaking competitions I was like why are they good, and I watch other people I’m like, why does this talk, make me want to go to sleep. What’s, what’s the difference. And then I joined Toastmasters to learn about some of the specifics, you know, I did that for about a year and then I started building my talks and giving talks, you can’t be a great speaker without practicing speaking, If you’re not willing to suck in the beginning, you’re never going to be good. That’s just the truth. So I did my first talk, and it was kind of by accident, after I did my talk, I had a few people come up to me and said you should do this for a living. And that was all I needed to just take off with and taking so seriously. For the first year I really struggled. I did as many talks as I could for free. I didn’t charge what I was worth which I that’s going back out, change, but I established myself as the go to speaker in my industry, and from there just built and built and built and it got to the point where you can make a very good living with helping people solve their own problems.
Mike Malatesta 54:25
And maybe you needed that free time speaking. Yeah, I mean maybe you needed that to actually validate your work like you convinced yourself over time like okay yeah I’m worth this whereas if you go out right away, it could be like, Wow, am I worth this I don’t know.
Chris Ruden 54:40
I honestly did not. I was on the other spectrum of it but I’ll never forget the first time I was offered money for a talk, I planned on doing it for free just because I didn’t know I didn’t make the decision to commit to that. And they said, so what’s your honorarium and I’m talking and I’m googling what honorary.
Mike Malatesta 54:58
Am I getting a medal or what,
Chris Ruden 54:59
yeah. Okay, so just like talking about a club googling it’s like okay, what the last speaker do, though I got 3000 I’m like, Yeah, that’ll do like okay cool and I’m like, white lines. And from that moment I was like I started really looking into I’m like, wow, this is people get paid for this, and I have my own roadblocks like am I worth this money, but seeing the reviews that people booking me again and again and I’m like, my worth, is knowing that I put in effort to give whoever hires me value to show me the problems they have and I’ll do my best to help them in any way I can with what I know. And it’s, it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. I love what I’m doing great.
Mike Malatesta 55:48
I’m glad you mentioned Toastmasters I too was in Toastmasters for about two days, and that’s exactly what I was going to say you know you. If you want to be come a better speaker, it’s easy. You just have to do some work and Toastmasters is a great place to start because, you know what everybody that goes there, pretty much sucks as a speaker when you first show. Yeah, absolutely, just the way it is but then they help, and the Toastmaster system helps each other, and by the time you’re in it for a year you come out and you go, wow, I can actually deliver a talk. Yeah, and like you say people actually say they like. Now maybe that would be nice or not, It doesn’t matter
Chris Ruden 56:26
if it doesn’t matter. Right, it’s an error at the end of the day, if you believe in what you’re doing, you know, I’ve done talks where, you know, I’ve seen a few people and they weren’t ready for the message that’s okay, but at the same time people were like You changed my life, right, you have a decision on who to listen to, and I’m going to argue that you shouldn’t listen to either one of them. You should listen to yourself in knowing. Are you proud of the work you put in and the way you deliver it. If not, what can you do better next time. If so, don’t let it go to your head and keep going.
Mike Malatesta 56:58
Chris, this has been a fantastic conversation I’ve had so this has been so good to have you on. I know you can find Chris written r u d e n calm. His book, the upper hand. You can find anywhere as Amazon, of course you can get it proper maybe you can get it on your website Chris anyplace else you want people to connect with you.
Chris Ruden 57:18
Feel free to you guys can message me anytime, whether it’s on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or just email Chris at Chris rude, calm, I’m always available for a conversation and yeah, just feel free to reach out.
Mike Malatesta 57:30
All right, well thank you so much and thanks for sharing your wonderful story and thanks for the impact you’re having on so many people and thanks for taking your hand out of your pocket.
Chris Ruden 57:39
Yeah, absolutely. Well thank you for doing what you do because you don’t realize what you’re doing, puts people in a position to change. You could have been the perspective I needed 17 years ago plus So, thank you.
The recording has stopped.
Mike Malatesta 57:53
All right, well thanks. I hope it went okay for you. Yeah, that was great. Thank you. Thank you. I know you’ve been on a lot of podcasts so I you know I don’t know I
Chris Ruden 58:02
every time though, like every time I’m into it because I love the I love knowing what it’s doing, it’s that one person who might be listening and needs it like it that is what drives me and I’m always in it because it’s just, it’s what we need to do. No, it’s what people need. And I just I do think about what I just said, 17 years ago, maybe I would have heard something like this and made a decision sooner, right, so.
Chris Ruden 58:25
What you’re doing is awesome, man.
Mike Malatesta 58:26
Thank you. And you as well. I appreciate it and I’ll let you know when this comes out and all and I really do thank you. It’s been a pleasure to meet you and I thank you for making the time,
Chris Ruden 58:35
sent to you as well man and if I can do anything to help whether you’re, give me some content to share and I’ll lead people back to your site or wherever you want to go, just let me know.
Mike Malatesta 58:42
Okay, we’ll do. Thanks, man. Thanks Chris. See you.