Ryan Cleckner is a former special operations sniper and sniper instructor, firearms industry executive and attorney, and best-selling author of The Long Range Shooting Handbook.
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Xero – Ryan’s small business resource
48 Days to the Work You Love – Ryan’s Top Business Book
The Long Range Shooting Handbook – Ryan’s book
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1) Stop hunting customers — create them!
2) Look inside and figure out what is most important to you and base your decisions on that.
3) Take a step back and think about whether you’re still on the path you want to pursue.
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(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
[01:03] – Ryan left for the military when he was young and had a great experience
[01:19] – He didn’t know what he wanted to do but pursued law school
[01:55] – He realized he wasn’t happy so he took the entrepreneurial path
[02:38] – His expertise is in firearms, laws, and firearms use consulting
[03:24] – Share something we don’t know about your area of expertise that as Entrepreneurs, we probably should: “Create your own customers, don’t hunt them down”
[04:05] – Ryan started an online course to get people in the firearms industry
[05:15] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Ryan was in law school, frustrated, and didn’t know what to do. He tried working full-time in the trades association in the firearms industry at the same time he was a full-time law student — it didn’t work out. He left his job on Monday, and on Friday the biggest company in their industry tried to hire him. Ryan was offered a nice salary and a title, and so he took it
[07:25] – “Figure out what’s important and go after that”
[07:45] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: Ryan wanted to get back to teaching long range shooting. He realized he needed to grow more customers, so he thought about creating the most basic long range shooting book. He wrote it, put it out on Amazon, and ignored it for a year. One day his wife came to him and said she felt he was stressing himself out as an attorney when he could be sitting in a hammock with his kids. It turned out that his book had sold over 37,000 copies and was #1 in its category in Amazon for 2 years!
[09:15] – Sometimes people get busy in their lives and they just don’t take a step back
[09:57] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “I’m going towards safety… I’m organizing training and materials and tools for organization for safety”
[11:01] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “I was blaming my family for not being able to leave my stable job”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Don’t focus on why you missed, instead, focus on what it takes to hit”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “It’s painting myself in a corner”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Xero
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – 48 Days to the Work You Love – “Dan (the author) is able to state so clearly the questions you need to ask yourself”
RC: Man, I am lighting fires and taking initials because I don't have time to take full names.
JLD: Ryan is a former special operations sniper and sniper instructor. Fire Arms Industry executive and attorney, as well as a best-selling author of The Long-range Shooting Handbook. Ryan, take a minute. Fill in some gaps from that intro and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
RC: Yeah, will do. Well, I left for the military when I was young like most people do and had a wonderful, wonderful experience. Not to say that deploying was wonderful, but I'm lucky. I had some great schools and training with some great friends and came back. Went to school and didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I was aimless, and I thought, you know, the next best thing for me is to find another challenge, so I'm going to go to law school. And I know that you know that's like about.
And I had a similar first semester experience where I got my you-know-what handed to me. I was super prepared. I was super engaged, but I just wasn't ready to play that academic game and it was rough for me, but I stuck it out. I got my law degree, passed the bar and I’ve just been working in the fire arms industry ever since. I either worked for the trade association or I’ve been an officer in major manufacture companies.
And up until recently I thought, You know what? I’m unhappy. This is not for me. And I recently branched out and I’m a full-time entrepreneur and I’m loving it. And I have a family and two great kids, and I live out in Nashville, Tennessee.
JLD: That’s just a feel good story, Fire Nation. My question to you, listeners, is when you look in the mirror and just say enough is enough. Like this life. Goes by in a half of a breath. Let’s make the most of it now. Not tomorrow. Now.
Now, Ryan, you have acquired some areas of expertise, what would you say the specific area that you're an expert in right now if you have to break down one?
RC: Oh, that's tough. Fire arms, law, compliance, fire arms use. I definitely stick into the fire arms niche, obviously. But I do everything from still consult big clients and I have online courses in training for fire arms compliance to training people how to use and enjoy firearms safely.
JLD: Let me kind of glob onto the specific, yet at the same time, broad consulting niche there. Because, in fact, it will maybe help our listeners because consulting is a big thing, especially for entrepreneurs. Like, we consult other people. I consult others, others consult me, et cetera, et cetera. What’s something, Ryan, that you find that we as entrepreneurs don't typically seem to get about consulting that you’ve learned over the years?
RC: Great question, and my answer, it's going to sound simple, but let me explain it. It's create your own customers, don't hunt them down. So, what I mean by that is, I started in the firearms compliance consulting realm which you can image isn’t that big. There’s only a few players out there. And I saw them just duking it out and fighting each other for the same clients, the same customers in the limited pool.
Because for me to help someone with firearms compliance in dealing with the ATF and imports and exports, they’ve got to be already got to be a licensee. They’ve already got to be engaged in the business. So, I step back and I thought, You know what? Instead of trying to duke it out for the customers that are already there, I’m going to go make my own customers.
So, I started some online courses on my own. So, Rocket FFL is my way to get people into the firearms industry. So, I set up this machine to the side that literally pops out new customers and new clients every single day for me. And instead of me having to pay for them to come to me, they're actually paying me to learn. So, that's the biggest takeaway I can have is that stop hunting for customers and figure out what you can do to make your own because you’ll be good to go.
JLD: Fire Nation, it's that whole red ocean blue strategy. Like, why do you want to swim where the ocean water’s red in the blood and there’s sharks and everybody’s just milling all around and you're screaming into the wind and nobody’s hearing you. Why don't you want to swim in that open, blue ocean where it’s just a new ballgame. Create your new ballgame.
So, Ryan, you’ve had a life of ups and downs. I mean, law school wasn't great for you, but you stuck it out. You know, you got into a lot of different areas, a lot of different niches, and, you know, you’ve had some ups and downs. But what’s the worst moment you’ve experienced on the entrepreneurial side in your entire journey thus far? Take us to that moment and tell us that story.
RC: So, first, I've been incredibly blessed. I’m actually nervous that something bad is going to happen. So, even my worst moment isn’t that bad. But I'm sitting there in law school. I mean, I think, JLD, the military gives you that perspective. When you deploy to other parts of the world, you realize how good we have it.
JLD: Yeah, so true.
RC: So, I'm sitting there in law school, you know, first world problems., being frustrated, not knowing what to do, my first year internship, and I start working for the trade association for the firearms industry. And I'm trying to be full-time law student, full-time working, that’s not working out for me and I realized, you know what? If I learn something from the military, I can apply with me now, it’s focus on what I can control and not let everything else distract me. So, I realized that the sooner I quit that job and the faster I got done with that degree, the sooner I would get what’s after that degree.
So, I ended up leaving that job on a Monday and that weeks’ Friday the biggest company in our industry came and tried to hire me. My first response was, I'm flattered. Thank you, but I'm not looking for a job. I got this school thing, let me do that. And then they threw something down on the table that made my eyes get big and it was a salary and a title. And that was the worst moment for me is I took that salary and that title and for years I was winning what I called the Linked In game. My resume looked great for my age, but I was stressed. I was on the road non-stop. I was away from my family, and chasing that pay check and the title… Man, I don't regret it, but that was my worst moment.
JLD: Winning the Linked In game. I can tell you Fire Nation, when you're looking back on your life and you're on your deathbed, and God forbid, but it's going to happen to all of us at some point. You don't want to be telling your great-grand kids hopefully you're at that points that you’ve won the Linked In game, or that you were winning the Linked In game. Like, that's not something that's going to make you, somebody’s that listening to Entrepreneur’s on Fire happy, Fire Nation. So, if you're winning the “Linked In Game”, whatever your version of that is, in your industry, your niche, you might be losing your life. So, just think about that.
So, Ryan, one sentence, what do you want to make sure our listeners get from your story?
RC: Figure out what's important and go after that. And for me, it was my family, and now I'm going after that. It's awesome.
JLD: Ryan, that's an Ah-ha moment. You’ve had lots of great ideas over the years, what's one of the greatest? Take us to the moment of that great idea. Walk us through how you turned it into a success. Tell us the story.
RC: So, much like the one thing you needed to know, which is how to grow your own customers, I wanted to get into – back into teaching the long-range shooting game to guys that really wanted to be the super top-notched long-range shooters; the military snipers, those guys. And I realized, in order for me to appeal to them, I've got to grow more customers that get into shooting in the first place.
So, instead of writing the advanced book, I'm going to write a basic, basic, basic Shooting for Dummies book. And I wrote it, and I threw it up on Amazon and I ignored it for over a year. And my Ah-ha moment was my wife, – she gets credit for this – she came to me and said, You’re stressing yourself out being an attorney. And for the past year, you could’ve been sitting in a hammock with your kids and made more money. But that book, accidentally, it's been number one in it's category at Amazon for two years straight. I’ve sold 37,000 copies and I didn't even pay attention to it.
So, the Ah-ha moment was my wife saying, What are you doing? And I asked myself the same thing, What am I doing? So, I quit my job. I focused only on books and more podcasts and more training courses and things like that. And within a month after quitting, I'm doing much better than I was as Mr. Fancy Attorney. It's been wonderful.
JLD: See Fire Nation, that's one of my biggest takeaways from this and from other things is we don't take a step back and look at things we already know. We don't take a step back and just breathe and just think and just say, Ha, like, what's going on in my life now? What is happening? Like, that's why we – you hear us talk about meditation. You talk about journaling. Because that's you actually taking a step back breathing and not just getting caught up in the world of life with the beeps and the boops and the bloops and the blips and whatever it might be that's just kind of keeping you, you know, at all times doing something that's never giving you time to think. So, think.
Ryan, rightfully so, you got a couple things going on that you're excited about, but what's the number one thing you are fired up about today?
RC: I'm actually taking a bit of a left turn. I’m going towards safety. I wake up – Actually, I wake up in the middle of the night excited about this. So, I can't even wait until the morning. I’m organizing training and materials and tools for organizations for safety. We're in a scary world now. And so I'm trying to get immediate safety response for churches and buildings and things like that. I’m in the middle – middle of starting and I still have months left. I'm trying to put together maydaysafety.com which is, hopefully, going to make the world a better place, and I'm just super stoked about it.
JLD: Value bombs are being dropped, Fire Nation. Ryan’s dropping them. And guess what? There’re more coming in the lightening round when we get back from thanking our sponsors.
Ryan, are you ready to rock the lightening rounds?
RC: Born ready. Let’s go.
JLD: What was holding you back from becoming and entrepreneur?
RC: Here’s some tough honesty. I was blaming my family. I was blaming them for the reason I couldn’t leave the stable job. When really when I stopped and I was honest with myself, they're the reason in needed to quit.
JLD: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
RC: Ooh, this one’s from the military. This is, Don't focus on what you missed, instead focus on what it takes to hit. Now, what I mean by that is from like the sniper training aspect of it. If you're taking a shot at the target and your bullet impacts a foot to the left of the target, it is not time to sit there and dwell on why it went to the left and worry what could have been wrong, what you did wrong. What's potentially causing that. You know what it's time to do? Aim a foot further to the right and hit the target.
That has helped me so much in life is saying, it's not to say don't focus on what went wrong, or don't try and correct it. I’m not saying that. I'm saying don't dwell on that because that bullet is already down range and you're never bringing it back. You might as well focus on what it takes to hit the next one, and I think you’ll be more successful.
JLD: Yeah, and I want to take a kind of a little bit of a different angle here, too, and you being more of an expert in this area than I am, although I was a tanker and we had to deal with a lot of long range firing. Sometimes when you're a foot to the left, Fire Nation, that doesn’t mean you shift a foot to the right. That means you're shifting a millimeter to the right. Because over the time, you know, over the distance of that bullet or over the distance of what you're doing, you know, that's all the shift you need.
So, it might be this microscopic little tweek, little twist that actually gets you right on target. Not this big jump, this big leap, this big switch. Just that little, tiny thing. So, just always be identifying that. So, is that making any sense, Ryan?
JLD: What is a personal habit that contributes to your success?
RC: Ah, it's a bad habit. It's painting myself in the corner. I have a morning routine. I do all the things I'm supposed to do. But what I've noticed that works best for me is I make a bold commitment, a bold promise to myself or somebody else and I paint myself in the corner and I see it through and it gets done. So, maybe it's a bad habit, but it works for me.
JLD: Take me through your morning routine.
RC: Morning routine. I'm trying to meditate. I'm going to honest with you. It's hard for me. My brain races non-stop. I spend some time exercising, at least 30 minutes. I have my morning coffee. I check emails and then I get away from the computer for as long as it takes for me to figure out what's going on with the rest of my day.
JLD: Recommend one internet resource.
RC: Whoo. This one might not be very sexy, but Zero. The accounting software. I changed over from QuickBooks and I…
JLD: Oh, night and day.
RC: Oh, my. So I use – There’s a service called Bookscaping, which is these folks that help you – When you're beginning entrepreneurs, especially when it's coming to books and it's coming to iTune sales and Amazon sales and things like that, that is the best outsourcing I’ve done and the best piece of software above Scrivener for writing for me, which is still a great tool. Above Omnifocus, which is also a great tool. Man, switching to those guys and Zero has just made my life so much easier.
JLD: When you made the comment Zero might not be sexy, but you know what's even less sexy than that, Fire Nation? It's not knowing your finances. It's not making, making money. It's not actually having control of your financial life. That’s really not sexy. Recommend one book, Ryan, to join the Long-range Shooting handbook, and share why.
RC: 48 Days To The Work You Love, by Dan Miller. I accidentally moved next to him, in my neighborhood.
JLD: And a lot of people, by the way. I mean, you live, like, around, you said Dan Miller, but there’s Aaron Walker, there’s Jeff Goins, there’s Michael Hyatt. You guys got a little crew down there.
RC: I know. I did it accidentally. I didn't plan on it. I met him when he came over to my house and said, Welcome to the neighborhood. The reason why you need to read that book is even if you are already being an entrepreneur, Dan is able to put so clearly the questions that you need to ask yourself to figure out what need to do. At the end of the first chapter is when I actually stood up and looked at my wife and said, That’s it. Life’s too short. This is what we're doing.
JLD: Life is too short. Well, next time you see Dan, make sure you tell him I said hello. He’s been both a near and far mentor for me over the years. Just such a great guy.
And Ryan, let’s end today on fire, brother, with you giving us a parting piece of guidance, sharing the best way that we can connect with you and then we’ll say good-bye.
RC: I appreciate that. You could learn more about me at ryancleckner.com. And your best guess on how to spell that, Google will figure out and bring you to me. If you want to check out and see the book, I’d love the support. It's for sale anywhere books are sold. But if you want to see the courses I put together to help build my own customer base, check out rocketffl.com. And I’d love the support of the maydaysafety.com if you're trying to see what's going on in there in the future, I’d appreciate it.
JLD: Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with and you’ve been hanging out with RC and JLD today. So, keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com. Just type Ryan in the search bar and his show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. Because these are the best show notes in the biz. Time-stamps, links galore. And Ryan, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that brother, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
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