Richard Ryan and Mat Best in front of a Prius with a Vulcan on top. Photo courtesy of Richard Ryan/Instagram.
Richard Ryan is a modern Renaissance man. His interests touch upon everything from comedy and science to firearms and blowing things up. Since starting his own media ventures in 2005, Ryan has amassed 5 billion affiliated views and millions of subscribers across his different ventures, including his popular YouTube channel FullMag. He has worked with entities like Google, Paramount, Universal, and more. Ryan is one of the owners and co-founders of Black Rifle Coffee Company, and he also hosts BRCC’s Vets React video series.
So sit back, pour yourself a hot one, and enjoy the latest installment of 11 Questions & A Cup of Coffee.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
COD: How do you make your coffee?
RR: Oooh, that’s a really good question. It depends. I just started doing massive batches of cold brew because I’m kind of on the go all the time and really don’t drink a whole lot of hot coffee. It’s usually iced and I prefer cold brew, so I’ll take and ground down like 4 pounds of whole bean, put it in the cold brew to steep overnight, and I’ve got three and a half gallons ready to go for about a week, week and a half.
COD: How do you take your coffee?
RR: Depends on the time of the year but most of the time I’m drinking sugar with a splash of coffee.
COD: What’s the most bizarre or extreme place you’ve ever had or made a cup of coffee?
RR: Oh wow. Bizarre or extreme. I don’t know, I feel in our group nothing really seems too extreme. We’re just kinda like, okay, cool you’re filming on set and you got a couple thousand pounds of RDX and a few thousand feet of [detonation] cord —let’s make a cup of coffee here real quick on this huge pile of plastic. All right, cool, let’s take some photos real fast, but I don’t know if that’s that extreme or not. Maybe to the average person.
You know what’s funny for me, it’s not about those extreme moments […] because I feel like a lot of the stuff that we do is kind of outlier. For me, it’s those moments where you really, really appreciate that cup of coffee. It’s 3 degrees below zero or something like that, you’re soaking wet, you’re out in the middle of the woods. I remember a few instances where we were up on a mountain either filming or hunting, and those were some of the best cups of coffee ever. You really, really appreciate every ounce of heat coming from the cup and the taste and everything, it’s just epic. Or when it’s 105 degrees here in San Antonio and it’s early in the morning and I’ve got that super ice-cold cup of cold brew. There’s nothing better.
COD: What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done, physically, mentally, or both?
RR: I think mentally and physically, probably cutting carbs. Trying to do keto for two months. I don’t know, I don’t really see myself as the athlete, or like all of us we kinda had that mental frame of mind where we just endure whatever. But I don’t see myself as an exceptional athlete or intellectual or anything like that. I don’t know. I wish I had time to prep for these.
You know, I think, just school in general. Whenever you’re a kid, you’re “I can’t wait to be an adult so I can do whatever.” I think about that now, I hated taking tests. I hated studying and having to take one. Being forced to learn was excruciating to me. And being an adult now, an overgrown man child, it’s like I’ll do this because I’m a grown man: I’ll go eat a chocolate bar if I want to. It’s like I only learned the stuff that I genuinely get excited about. The irony of it […] actually, even in college, one of the main reasons where I was like, “This isn’t for me” was math. I hated it. I hated being forced to learn it. I remember the day I was sitting in class, and I was doing some type of formula, and I was like “This is not me.” I dropped out of college that day. […] The irony is you come full circle. Seven or eight years later, and I’m using all these formulas to figure out ballistics and ballistic formulas to track a frickin’ bullet at the same velocity as a depth core propagating at the target at the exact same time and figuring all the stuff out — and I was so excited to use the math and learn it there. It’s just the whole application of it. […] But I mean, I feel fortunate enough that’s one of those days that kind of stands out on the top of my head. Whenever you’re a kid, there’s a million and one days where you’re like, this is the worst day ever, you know I gotta do this test or whatever. Now I feel like life, in general, is you get older and you mature and you roll with the punches. […] Hopefully most people do. You learn to not sweat the small stuff, I guess you could say.
COD: What motivates you to do what you do?
RR: Prior psychological trauma? I don’t know. I feel like there’s always elements to your past that play into your behavior now, right? […] But for me, I feel like there’s a lot of surface-level things that drive people, but be it business, content, be it marketing, whatever. There’s so many, there’s so much competition now with the internet that I feel like really appreciating and enjoying what we do. It actually kind of drives us. It’s like the perpetual motion in the machine or the fuel to the fire. It’s that we genuinely enjoy the stuff.
Some people, getting up and going and jumping out of an airplane may be terrifying for them or like, wow, I get to do this. I was joking with one of my friends here a while back about this and he was like, “You’re constantly terrified about be it finances or this or that,” and I was like, “Yeah, honestly the reason for that is because I’ve gotten to a point over the last 10 to 15 years to be able to do stuff that I never thought that I’d be able to be paid to do or monetize that process. And it’s like I’m constantly waiting for someone to pull that rug out and say, ‘Wait you’re having fun and you’re actually making a living doing that? No no no no no, you can’t do that, you can’t do that, because you got to be in this, you got to be in the cubicle, you got to be in the 9 to 5, you got to hate what you do during the week so you enjoy the weekend, you can’t enjoy all of it.’” And I think the opportunities that all the new stuff and the experiences that are constantly coming to the table, I get to grow with those experiences, and that’s super invaluable and it keeps me humble and motivated to keep doing all this.
COD: What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about you or the work that you do?
RR: It’s funny because a lot of people ask, what do you do? I don’t understand, how do you make a living, because okay so you’re in movies or you’re a coffee guy or you’re a marketer or you’re hosting. What is it that you do? All of it. It’s a weird point in time where there are people who can be specialists in their industries but to really pay dividends down the road, I think it behooves the average person to understand all aspects of business and industries. Stuff like that, where it’s like you have a fundamental understanding of what works on social media but how do [you] monetize that, and then once you figure out how to monetize that, how do you develop a product that’s gonna resonate with that demographic. So it’s full spectrum, like the entertainment industry side of it, just programming and verticals, like basic optimization of content. It’s so funny one day I could be editing, another I could be on a show, you know we could be working on a movie, there’s a million and one things. And honestly, time management is the biggest struggle in trying to figure out what would provide the most value to myself and my partners.
COD: How do you define success?
RR: Very subjective, very subjective. You know, like, there’s outward facing. A lot of people bench that off of financial independence and freedom. I feel like most of us achieve that when we stop questioning how we’re going to pay the cellphone bill at the end of the month or the light bill, whatever it is. When you go out to eat and you’re focused on enjoying something, a meal that you’re gonna eat, not necessarily the price. That’s not to say that you go out and go crazy with some exclusive caviar, something like that. Mortgage an average person’s house, but if you go out to a dinner and you spend a hundred bucks or something like that on a meal on a date, whatever it is, and you’re not focused on that, you’re focused on the conversation with a person, that relationship — I think that’s where the meat and potatoes in life come in, where it’s about those moments, the moments that you get to spend with the people that you care about. I feel like that is where a lot of us are. It could be meaningful.
I hate to take quotes from other people that I can’t attribute it to, but it’s meaningful work and meaningful relationships. I mean the rest is kind of like financial success, whatever that typical people measure success off of is that number, but I think it comes once you find meaningful work and meaningful relationships to kind of exploit. Algorithms to live by, so it’s like where you — in your younger days, you’re in an experimentation point of your life, and then you transition into the exploitation point in your life, so if you go to a restaurant or something like that you’re just experimenting [with] all the different random ones. I know I’m just fucking rambling now, but when you get older you’re like, I want to go there because I know that’s the meal I’m gonna get. So for me, it’s like having those meaningful relationships because I’ve done the social butterfly thing early on. I want to spend time with the ones I care about. Maybe meet new people along the way and maybe make a difference and enjoy the work that we do.
COD: Mountain view or ocean view?
RR: Can I get both? Can I get like a mountain overlooking the ocean? Because I mean I love that, I love that. You get the Pacific Northwest, you get some of those big mountains facing the ocean and everything. Even when I was in Los Angeles, I’d go out to Big Bear and we had this one ridge line where I’d film a lot. And you could see Santa Monica from it, and there were good things, and I like that. That’s kind of the best of both worlds where you get up in the mountains, you get that breath of fresh air, you get the conifers, and you just smell all the pine and everything up there and you can still see the ocean, and go down there and take a nap by the beach or whatever. I love it, I love it, I’m not partial to one, I like them both.
COD: If you could have any superpower what would it be?
RR: That’s a tough one. I feel like I would struggle between time travel and immortality because being mortal gives you a sense of meaning and purpose that immortality can’t really provide. Time travel is interesting because you could potentially find solutions to problems going back and forth and experiencing different points in time. Yeah, I think time travel would be dope.
COD: What are your hobbies outside of what you’re known for?
RR: I’m really weird because so many people know me for so many different areas in life. Some people, for example, know me from the comedy world and it skews more of a female demographic, from when I did sketch comedy and standup and everything, and then they found out that I had these channels where I did firearms and explosives and jumped out of airplanes and they were like, “what?!” It’s a huge contrast as far as demographics are concerned. Yeah, I think a lot of people, especially people that know me, would be like, “Yeah, that makes sense he does that.”
I love aerospace a lot, but then again I post that on social all the time. I’m a big science geek for sure. I’m trying to think. What would something, all these questions I would love to think about and come up with something clever. Or something that’s like — I’m pretty boring.
I actually think that’s it. Most people see the stuff that I’ve done, and they think, “Dude’s just blowing stuff up and filming epic things” and doing this or doing that and hanging out with so-and-so, and honestly, I am so boring. So boring. I love just chilling at home in the AC, just chilling.
COD: On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you in your ability to survive a post-apocalyptic world, 1 being you’re dead on day one, 10 being you’re the ruler of the new world order?
RR: I would say a seven or an eight because I don’t want that responsibility of being a ruler of a new world. I don’t want that, but I think everybody, at least in our inner group, is just, “Come on zombie apocalypse, come on.” We’ve got so much stuff just lined up between explosives and firearms. We’re just itching for a zombie apocalypse. So, well over a five, but I wouldn’t want to rule anything.
Marty Skovlund Jr. is the founding editor of Coffee or Die Magazine. As a journalist, Marty has covered the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota, embedded with American special operation forces in Afghanistan, and broken stories about the first females to make it through infantry training and Ranger selection. He has also published two books, appeared as a co-host on History Channel’s JFK Declassified, and produced multiple award-winning independent films.
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