I wish I would have understood earlier that it is okay for METAL to be a men’s group. That it would be such a lifeline to so many, a true support group, where guys are allowed to be vulnerable and accountable while becoming better men together and that it would be supported by women!
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ken Rutkowski, founder and host of METAL International.
The founder and host of METAL International, Ken Rutkowski, is a thought leader, super-connector, and influencer across multiple industries. He has been a featured presenter, speaker, and moderator at tech/media conferences including Milken Institute, CES, NAB, CTIA, NATPE, Digital Hollywood, Internet World, LA Games Conference, XMediaLab, GadgetFest, and Future of Television Conference. He has also spoken at many of the most prestigious U.S. universities, including Loyola, Northwestern, Illinois, MIT, Stanford, UCLA, USC, and Berkeley.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Growing up in Chicago in the 70s, I wanted to be like Dick Clark, Howard Stern, Wolfman Jack, and Larry King, guys whose main talents revolved around the ability to have great conversations with the most interesting people on the planet. As a result, I decided to get into broadcasting and hosting. When I was a kid, I was very much into science and sci-fi and entrepreneurship. I had my first landscaping business when I was 16. Within a few months of my father giving me a lawnmower, I had a dozen other kids mowing lawns about the neighborhood.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“A professional is expensive, but an amateur is a fortune,” from my dad. Always hire the pro!
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
When I was a teenager, I read The Way of the Bull by Leo Buscaglia. This book taught me to have an open heart in approaching people and different cultures.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Before the pandemic, I hosted METAL primarily as a weekly event on Saturdays at venues around the Los Angeles area. Our events ranged from 150 to 500 attendees depending on who was speaking. On Sundays, we gathered for co-ed hikes at one of the countless scenic hiking trails in and around the city. The hike was billed as the longest-running hiking group in LA and was even featured in a write up by American Express. We’d gather for dinners during the week and in general, were a very close community-based organization.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Everything changed in March. About a week before the first lockdown happened in Los Angeles, I told our CEO, Will Henshall, who is also an amazing startup entrepreneur and award-winning musician and songwriter, that we could no longer gather in-person in any capacity. We had to figure out how we could continue to have events. We shifted to our first virtual event the next weekend and we brought on experiential marketing veteran Jennifer Sellers as our general manager. We relaunched METAL International as a Zoom virtual event in April, complete with breakout rooms to replicate the social aspect of our events. The result has been transformative.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
Going back to that Sunday Hike in March, Will and I spoke, knowing that, most likely, the following week, we would not be allowed to gather in person any longer. The idea to launch METAL as a virtual, interactive, and engaging experience happened that week. Since then, we’ve been shaping and improving the experience.
How are things going with this new initiative?
We’ve more than doubled our membership along with our weekly attendance. We may not be able to gather in-person any longer, but in addition to our main Saturday event, we now have METAL Connect, an interactive virtual network of workshops and meetings of daily guided workouts/mediation and business coaching from world-class leaders every day of the week for $100 a month.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Gary Meier was my idol on the radio in the 70s. I made a phone call to his producer when I had my own small radio show in Joliet, IL. I was blown away when he agreed to do my show with me. We’ve been friends ever since. He’s now a METAL member!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Dee Snyder came on as a speaker and said, “This is @#4%ing cool as hell.” Vint Cerf one of the fathers of the internet, regularly shows up as an attendee
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- That a simple breakfast formed around interesting people and events would turn into an international community with members like the father of video games, Nolan Bushnell, FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss, and world famous musician/producer, Akon.
- That if you can build the right type of audience, you can attract some of the best speakers in the world every week.
- I wish I would have understood earlier that it is okay for METAL to be a men’s group. That it would be such a lifeline to so many, a true support group, where guys are allowed to be vulnerable and accountable while becoming better men together and that it would be supported by women!
- I wish I knew earlier that I wouldn’t have to worry that men gathering together could be more than locker room talk and self-dealing.
- That one meeting a week would not be enough. Since the pandemic our membership was eager to have their own meetings every day focused on personal development, startup business mentoring, holistic health coaching, and more, all hosted by leaders in their respective fields
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Mental health is one of our main focuses. As a men’s group, every week we focus on men’s mental health, an issue that has gained attention over the past few years, specifically the rise in male suicide. Research shows that one of the best ways to counter this trend is through community, and that’s exactly what METAL is, a community where men can connect, support, and grow together. One of the core missions of METAL is to help our members become better men for their families, companies, and communities. We have found that this value has become even more critical during the pandemic.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would love to take the community we have and bring this to countries and people in the world who don’t have access that we do.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Christopher Nolan. He sees the world in such an interesting and nuanced way. What a powerful way of thinking!
How can our readers follow you online?
We are at https://www.metal.international
You can follow us on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/company/metal-international/
Ken on Twitter: @kenradio
If you are a man or you identify as a man and you are reading this and are interested come to one of our meetings- get a guest pass at METAL International
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!