Ralph Sutton of GAS Digital Network: “Spiritual”

Coming home to a clean apt with some food in the fridge and the laundry done — gives me a sense of peace with the universe that I cannot explain! I am a firm believer in making your bed first thing in the morning. It starts your day out with a sense of accomplishment. As a part […]

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Coming home to a clean apt with some food in the fridge and the laundry done — gives me a sense of peace with the universe that I cannot explain! I am a firm believer in making your bed first thing in the morning. It starts your day out with a sense of accomplishment.

As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ralph Sutton.

Ralph is the founder of the GAS Digital Network, co-host of the SDR Podcast and co-host of the Health & Wellness GoodSugar Podcast. His book, The 100% Guaranteed Guide To Weight Loss And Fitness, is emblematic of his common-sense, comedic take on life. He is a living example of the power of will and the ability to make positive change at any age.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I am a real New Yorker (born and raised) that was born in a different decade than my twin brother! I was born on New Year’s Eve 1969–1970 — I was born 11:58pm (in 1969) and my twin was born 4 minutes later in 1970. Growing up in Brooklyn provided many opportunities — at 13 I was a break-dancer and was in the movie, KRUSH GROOVE. Later, I was working with computers (in an illegal way) and was wanted by the FBI… until I got a lawyer. I became a nightclub promoter and ran some of the biggest nights in NYC clubs (Palladium, Limelight, Lamour) and then a strip club DJ.

After I had a syndicated radio show with 100 stations in the group, I found my way back into the food industry (I had gone to culinary school). As I launched my podcast and network (SDR Podcast / GAS Digital Network), I worked for Juice Press as they grew into the amazing company they are now. Now my network has 26 shows — the two I do are the SDR show (a rock podcast co-hosted by a comedian) and my Health & Wellness podcast is with Juice Press; founder and is called GOOD SUGAR.

It sounds a lot crazier than it was — it is tough to condense 51 years into two paragraphs.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I read something many years ago that stuck with me… most people change careers — on average — once every 7 years. It has stayed in my brain ever since. As a result I never got too discouraged if the path I was on was changing, and it always just seemed par for the course.

Hosting / Radio-wise for sure my inspiration was Howard Stern.

From a very early age I was told I had a voice for radio (and often a face). I always had one of these big deep voices, and I would say that — to this day — at least once a week someone will compliment me on my voice. In college I pursued the radio station — and went thru all the training until I realized I wouldn’t be able to pick the music I wanted so I actually never did a shift. It wasn’t until years later — while working in a strip club — that I meet a radio guy and re-started following that dream!

Business-wise 100% it was my father

My dad came from almost nothing. His parents were Syrian immigrants. 5 kids living in a 2 bedroom/1 bathroom home. He and his brother built a very successful real estate business, and I remember when I was in my teens I showed up to his office for a 1pm lunch, very proud that I showed up on time, and he told me — you’re late. My response was “It’s exactly 1PM!” and he said — how could we start at 1pm if you show up at 1pm. If you are 5 minutes early — you are on time. That was one of dozens of business tips I picked up from him over the years.

Health-wise it is my co-host on the Good Sugar podcast — Marcus.

Marcus is vegan for a million years and sober equally as long. He has always been an adrenaline junkie –sky diving, fighting, etc — but he has been equally passionate about health and taking care of his body. He built Juice Press into an empire. When we started the podcast together — he asked me a simple question. How happy are you? When I said about 50% — it became the mission of our show to get my numbers up to at least 75–80%.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I have to say — one of my biggest supporters along the way has always been my mother. The unconditional support and encouragement she’s given — has been incredible. The joke I used to make was that if I were on death row — my mom would brag to friends that I was the smartest guy on death row or at least find some way to spin it positively. She worked in entertainment herself as a talent booker for a comedy/music club in NYC in the 80s. I got to see some legendary talent before they were famous — from Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Joy Behar, Susie Essman, and so many more. She even managed Mario Cantone when I was a kid. So I think thru her is where I got my desire to work in the entertainment business.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I had to figure out a lot of stuff on my own. When I was building my podcast studio — I had no idea how to do it. I knew audio — because of my radio show, but had no idea how to release a podcast. After I taped about 10 shows, one of the guests called me up and asked me “Hey, when is that show I did 2 months ago with you coming out?” That was the day I decided I probably need to learn how to release a podcast. Then when I started to build my studios — I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but figured that there had to be a cheaper way to build a multi cam studio. This was about 6 years ago — and at the time, the industry standard was a tricaster which was — around $7000 I think… I found a PCI card online — that I was able to plug into my computer that accomplished the same thing for only $700. The funny thing was that it was only sold in Japan, and it came with only Japanese instructions. So I used to google image translation app to find out how to get it working. It took a long time but I saved A LOT of money. 😀

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I became obsessed with freakonomics. Questioning things from different angles has been the backbone of my life. It was great to see such a mainstream take on it. I actually always ask my staff to question anything they’ve been taught and to try and look at things from unique angles. I have always wondered WHY we do something more than HOW we do something, and I think Freakonomics had a way of questioning things like if drug dealing is so lucrative, why do so many live with their parents — were just great questions to be asking.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I would say not necessarily a quote but a phrase that resonated with me forever is “Some people work to live, and some live to work” Now I believe this term was used to show how — American people overwork and European people focus more on their down time, but I took it to mean something different. So often you hear about people looking to find their passion in life. You hear phrases like — do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life… But I think that’s not 100% true. Some people never find their work-passion. That’s not a bad thing. Find your passion in your family, in your down time, in your hobbies, in your life. Sure — it’s great to love what you do. But it’s downright crazy to think everyone ends up doing that. Find what makes you happy of course. Although, that doesn’t have to 100% be related to your work. I know I am CRAZY lucky to love what I do and make money at it — but I know an equal amount of people who never found a work related passion — but made money — and then focused on the other aspects of life. Relationships, Health, and Money — are really the only 3 things in life when you think about it. Find the one that you care about the most and work from there.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Good Sugar Podcast was a launch pad for the Good Sugar brand — — the popup restaurant is exclusively focused not only on vegan food, but has absolutely no single use plastic. You can get a smoothie in a glass bottle and are charged for the bottle that is then refunded when you return it — or discounted off the next smoothie purchase. Everything is about decreasing the waste footprint. I don’t understand why single use plastic even exists anymore. We all know it’s awful. Why we don’t just all agree that we have 2 years to remove single use plastic from the universe is beyond me.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Emotional — I can tell you that first of all it gets easier to be in a happier place when you are doing things to help another aspect of your life (for me, it is my running). I think for everyone — to find the part of their life they are ready to delve into in order to make positive change and start from there is the best path. I have found that shedding nearly 45lbs has helped me tremendously in the emotional sense. But what’s really helped me get into a better place is I always pick good audio books for my run. This makes me feel like I am fixing both my mental and physical well-being at the same time. I made a deal with myself that I will never listen to a book unless I am running. So if it’s a book that I am really enjoying — it makes me look forward to the run. Plus — you get lost in the book. You forget you’ve been running for almost two hours! It’s been a great 1–2 punch for me.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

Spiritual — I made a deal with my co-host that I would mediate 3 minutes a day. Just 3 minutes. Turn off my phone, TV, etc — and just sit in silence. I haven’t missed a day in 5 months. The quote I love the most is that you won’t feel the difference of doing it. But you will feel the difference if you stop. And I can 100% see that. I make sure I do it first thing in the morning as part of my pre-run/pre-workout routine. I ask alexa to set a 3 minute timer, and I sit on the edge of my bed, and just zone out. I have since graduated to a 4 minute one every day — and think soon I will be so ambitious as to hit 5. Baby steps. Microchanges. That’s how you get to a better place.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

A big pandemic purchase for me was a peloton. My routine these days is M/W/F I workout with a trainer, and then do a peloton ride. T/T/S — I run a 3 mi / 6 mi / 9 mi run. And back that up with a yoga class from peloton. Again, I am a big boy. I am 6’5, currently 260lbs. So it’s been a slow process, and while I am 100% a beginner, I am seeing the benefits of it. It no longer hurts to put on socks! Baby steps! 😀

I have been shouting from the rooftops in praise of C25K. It’s a running app that stands for Couch to a 5k run. Now I didn’t start until Covid. I was 50. It was last April. I had gained A LOT of weight after my dad passed away (about 5 years ago) depression eating. Then Covid hit — and I started eating more out of boredom, and gyms closed to boot! So when I when I tipped the scale at 3 bills (I am 6’5), I decided it was time to figure something out, and I started C25K at my cousin’s suggestion — who’s an avid runner. Let me state — I always HATED running — and to be 6’5, and never run in your entire life until you are 50!? Plus — when I was a kid — I grew like 6–7 inches in a year, and my doctor told my mom — that my heart was not big enough yet to pump blood to my full body — so I was NEVER good at running. But I made a commitment — I WOULD NOT MISS A RUN. It started out pretty easy — quickly got more challenging… After 8 weeks rain or shine — I went to the 10k, then 15k. and now, a year later I am about to do my first half marathon at the end of the month! I ran thru the winter, I ran in pouring ran, I have only missed about 4 runs since I started.

I make a juice every Sunday evening. It’s celery, ginger, lemon, apple. It’s enough to have a shot every morning with my supplements. Ginger also acts as an appetite suppressor and makes it a bit easier to go on those runs without anything to eat — first thing in the morning.

Lastly — don’t dwell on setbacks — whatever happened, happened, move forward.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

There are studies that show — the more food in your house, the hungrier you get. Strange right? So, I try to basically just keep a couple of days’ worth of food in my apt at all times.

We all know the basics. If I put a kale salad and a bacon cheeseburger in front of you. We all know what the healthier meal is. Knowing and doing are two very different things though.

I do think everyone is wired differently and some look at food solely as fuel, and others — like me — get such a joy out of food that I’ve dreamt about a steak that I had once in 2012! The biggest issue for me and I think MOST people is that mind-food connection. Something great happens??! Let’s go celebrate with food. Something bad happens? I can feel better with food.

Trying to unlink that is no easy task. For me — the best thing to do is just limit it. You’re gonna have a 12 oz steak? Go with 8 oz instead. You double fisting your beer tonight? Have one instead. You are doing zero pushups right now? Do one a day. Eventually these changes will become habits if you stick it out long enough, and I think — like with so many other aspects of life — we try to jump in the deep end and go all in. I am gonna be raw vegan starting today! Well — I got news for ya — that won’t last. If you start incrementally moving towards where you want to be — that’s the best way to set yourself up for success. There’s always a step further you can take it. Trust me.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Have you had people claim to be in optimum emotional states of wellness?!? I call shenanigans! It goes back to what I was saying in the previous question. Sure! We all love lists and anagrams and cute quick fixes. It makes life so neat and pretty. But life gets in the way. Things happen, and that raw vegan snack you thought you packed is sitting on the kitchen counter, and now your only option is not eat or have the burger. It all takes time.

If anyone is promising you quick fixes to your emotional well-being, you’d have the same luck waking up tomorrow with six-pack abs. Don’t look for quick answers. Look for small manageable changes that you can stick to, you’re 100% going to be happier when you stick with something long term, and it becomes part of your life.

For me — and my emotional wellness path — it’s sticking to the routine of running/listening to audio books, as well as that quick meditation. I feel like no matter what the day throws at me, I always have a sense of accomplishment because of that… I run or workout first thing in the morning. I get it done. Then even if I slip or make a mistake or whatever happens — I can feel happy that I at least did that. It does wonders for your mental state.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

I am a big advocate to fake it till you make it. Plus there is substantial evidence that your brain wants to see patterns in the world. You ever notice that when you got a new car — how all of a sudden you see that car EVERYWHERE? That car didn’t suddenly get purchased by dozens of people living around you. Your brain just likes to make sense out of the universe. If you surround yourself with positive imagery, you’d be amazed how much more often you see it in the universe. So don’t be afraid to smile at yourself in the mirror, you’ll be the first person to start that pattern on your brain!

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

What I can say — is that you should do things to improve your surroundings. I think your home should be your oasis. You should feel SUPER comfortable at your home. That may mean different things to different people. To me — it means a good comfortable bed.

Coming home to a clean apt with some food in the fridge and the laundry done — gives me a sense of peace with the universe that I cannot explain! I am a firm believer in making your bed first thing in the morning. It starts your day out with a sense of accomplishment.

I also re-write my to-do list every morning. BY HAND (because I am old). I put it in a logical order to which I feel I can 100% knock off a few of them immediately, and again — those mini feelings of accomplishment go a long way to feeling better!

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

My co-host has spoken a lot about this. I am a true city-boy. Born and raised — and have never been camping in my life. Having said that — I have never met anyone that didn’t find the sound of the ocean soothing… or didn’t love the smell of super clean air and trees. One of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life was traveling the fjords of Norway on a small boat and just being surrounded by nature, water, quiet. It was nuts. I didn’t realize air could smell that good. Obviously we as a species have only been living in communities/cities for a very short time considering how long we’ve been on the planet, and who knows what will happen to us with this huge disconnect from nature. I do know that disconnecting from the internet can be amazingly therapeutic as well.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Remove ALL SINGLE USE PLASTIC from the world. Let’s give everyone 2 years — tell them in 2023 it’s happening. Figure out your plans now.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

The first two people I would have said would be Neil Degrasse Tyson and Mark Cuban — thankfully I got to have them both on my podcast, The SDR Show. Sitting for an hour and asking every question I ever wanted to ask was truly a life changing experience.

Nowadays — I think I’d like to sit with the two authors of Freakonomics: Steven Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I am everywhere @iamralphsutton. My network @gasdigital, and my two podcasts are @thesdrshow and @goodsugar.life I am a firm believer in social symmetry.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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