Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Dad On A Roadtrip To Mount Rushmore

It is Thursday, and you know what that means!!! It is Throwback Thursday time again. TBT is the one day a week I relive some of my greatest moments in life…the times when I checked something off of my Bucket List.  Last time you learned about #2 – Ride in a Hot Air Balloon, and this week we talk about a road trip with the ol’ Big Dad.

59. See Mt. Rushmore – X (August 4, 2012, Keystone, SD)

Ryan Eller

The St. Louis Arch. The Statue of Liberty. The Golden Gate Bridge. Mount Rushmore. There are only a handful of American monuments that define who we are as a people. Monuments so bold that they literally change the landscape of American culture…sites so grand they must be seen in person to be understood. Mount Rushmore is on the “Mount Rushmore” of monuments. It is bold and daring, it was controversial during construction, and it defines the spirit of this young country.

Mount Rushmore is so monumental that we have “Mount Rushmore Lists.” The top four items in any category qualify for Mount Rushmore status…my trip to Mount Rushmore is on my Mount Rushmore of bucket list items for one very important reason: I went with my dad.

Simply put, my dad is my hero. We talk almost every single day about pretty much any topic. I inherited many of my favorite qualities from my father, and I hope to inherit some more of his traits as I get older. I hadn’t spent enough time with my father as I became a dad, moved to Tulsa, and he started a new career. I had promised him a road trip when he graduated from college, and since he had graduated with his master’s, I decided we needed to go on that long overdue trip.

There were some leadership traits my dad has always portrayed that were easily evident on this special road trip:

1. Be patient: My dad has always handled my immaturity, anger, and shortcomings with a thick layer of patience. Just like he was patient on me to arrange this trip, he has been patient with me to grow into the man I am toady.

2. Listen: I come from a family of huge talkers. When people marry into the family they all marvel about how we are just waiting to throw our two cents into any conversation. My dad loves to talk, but he consciously listens. He listened to me dream about my future on this trip, and it meant so much to me.

3. Be fair: We had some serious talks about our past and our future as a family in the car. My dad was fair in handling criticism, dishing out responsibilities, and encouraging us to move forward.

4. Be interested in what others are interested in: My dad has always become interested in the things his children are interested in. He became a runner because I liked to run. He read my sister’s dissertation because he knew it was important to her. If I start to eat healthy, my dad wants to support me. He traveled with me because he knows I enjoy travel.

5. Be kind: My dad is kind to me. He is kind to strangers. He is kind to workers. He is kind to everyone. I got to see it in action on this road trip. He greets the people who serve him, he strikes up conversations with those in line. I would watch people leave with a huge smile on their face after talking just a few minutes with my dad.

There are so many lessons I have learned from my dad over the years. The most important lesson I have learned is that my dad is a man of integrity and character. He lives his life the same at home and at work. The same around strangers as family. He is considerate, thoughtful, generous, positive, encouraging, and loving.

You’re my hero dad! I hope to be just like you when I grow up.


Be Committed…Like This Cat

There will come a time while chasing your dreams that you must commit to your passion. A time when you focus all of your efforts on your goal and pursue it with unwavering certainty, regardless of your outcome. Be committed to your cause, your goal, your dream and make it a reality, regardless of the outcome.

Greatest Speeches of All Time

Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking or of speaking in general. Surveys consistently rank speaking in front of a group as our number one fear. One of the ways to combat this fear is to watch videos of the best orators ever delivering their top speeches. Below I have gathered some of my favorite addresses for you to watch. If you want to become a great public speaker, or just want to start overcoming a fear…start watching your favorite speakers.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt – First Inaugural Address

Jimmy Valvano – 1993 ESPY Speech

Winston Churchill – We Shall Fight on the Beaches (AKA Never Give Up, Never Surrender)

Lou Gehrig –  Farewell to Baseball

John F. Kennedy – Inauguration Address

Ronald Reagan – Remarks at the Brandenberg Gate

Martin Luther King, Jr – I Have a Dream

Which one of these speeches is your favorite? Do you have a speech that inspires you? Let me know in the comments below.

Guest Post Friday – 25 Things To Do Before I Turn 25

It is guest post Friday! Each Friday we encourage you to submit a post for the ryaneller.com blog. This week’s post comes from Melissa Gutierrez. Melissa loves running errands with other people, lemon meringue pie, and the 4th of July. She is an awesome bucket lister who is striving to live a life of intention. You can follow her blog here and follow her on Twitter @mmgutzIf you would like to submit a guest post, click here


I’ve got seven short months to do a lot of little things.

1. Visit Washington, D.C. This west coast girl has never been to the city in which her grandparents first met. My friend Chloe lives there right now—better get free lodging ‘fore she leaves.

2. Visit Chicago. Since two terminals of O’Hare don’t count. My friend Katie lives there right now—free lodging, also.

3. New York. Also never been.

4. Start learning a non-romance language. You might say this is for doing missions or cultural work or something, but really, it’s just my paranoia that China is about to take over the world (not unlike the reason I drive stick shift: in case I ever get kidnapped by a person in a manual).

5. Keep my plants alive. Instead of adopting a dog, I recently bought six plants. If I can get one of them to survive winter I will be a proud and happy flora-mother.

6. Run a marathon. I am signed up for one in February and three weeks into training, I’m not super thrilled about it. Running isn’t hard, per say, it just takes a lot of time.

7. Make my T-shirt quilt. An avid sports/clubs kid all my life, I have ten trillion cotton T-shirts. I give away a lot of a regular basis but I want to turn the special-er ones into a keepsake blanket that I sew myself.

8. Be more involved with volunteerism at work. My company works with Ronald McDonald House Charities, and I love the idea of doing service alongside the random people I work with.

9. Read War and Peace. Max Perkins, who was Hemingway and Fitzgerald’s editor, read this book over and over and over and over again, and gave it as a present to everyone he knew. I’ve been 150 pages in for five months now—bring on the other 1350.

10. Read Systematic Theology. I had to buy this when I went to Biola and somehow escaped reading it. In the vein of “systematic” I would like to read it cover-to-cover; and in the vein of “theology” I would like to do so as an intellectual devotional pursuit of God.

11. Memorize a short story. Lately I have been on this kick where I think, “If the power went out and my books all burned up, what would I actually know?” So I’m big on recapturing the art of oral tradition. I have selected David Foster Wallace’s “Incarnations of Burned Children” as the first to commit to my mind-banks.

12. Memorize a book of the Bible. In the same vein as the above—I have a bunch of token verses memorized but they’re all out context. I’m thinking James, or one of the Minor Prophets.

13. Finish 25 Picasso dogs. It’s a story for another day, but I’m obsessed with these dog creatures Picasso painted in his Las Meninas series, and I have like seventy or eighty of them drafted out, and only four complete to date.

14. Establish a habit of cooking for others. This will be harder now that I don’t have roommates, but hopefully it means I can be intentional about inviting people into my place, or delivering food to people who need it.

15. Not get married. Having subconsciously and unsuccessfully tried to turn boyfriends into husbands for the past eight years, I now free myself from the oft-restricting view of young men as future spouses (or “spice” as is more fun to say) rather than present human beings.

16. Draw a portrait. I did well in Figure Studies in college and I would like to draw someone again; be in that awkward, still, uncomfortable and intimate space a while and give them something beautiful as a result.

17. Balance cash flow. Make a noticeable dent in my college debt and build a small hill of savings in addition to paying bills and things on time.

18. Go to Magic Mountain. The Magic Mountain Chevron is my favorite place to get gas and go pee on I-5, but I’ve never actually been to the park. It is worth noting that Magic Mountain actually opened on my birthday in 1971.

19. Hike Mt. Diablo. Lived 30 minutes from this mountain my whole life and never hiked the whole thing bottom to top—time to change that.

20. Publish one short story in print. I have one published online but I would like something I can hold, feel, give to my grandparents for their coffee table.

21. Have a column. I.e., write for someone officially on a regular basis.

22. Begin a serious collaboration project. Ideally in art/writing/design work.

23. Walk every block of the Sacramento grid. Moved here in May and have pipe dreams of traversing every street from 1st to 40th, A to X—the good, the bad, and the ugly of it.

24. Give a good speech. I gave three speeches this year I wish I could re-do. They weren’t terrible, but they weren’t great. And people deserve great. I want to learn to honor people better when I talk out loud.

25. Do 25 major random acts of kindness and catalog them. For her 20th birthday, my friend Jaclyn did 20 random acts of kindness (in one day—bad ass!). I will be happy if I can do 25 in six months. I wonder if I will be like a cop at the end of the month—speeding around forcing kindness on people in the weeks before my birthday. We’ll see. I’ll let you know.

What things do you want to do before your next birthday? Should I add anything to the list?

How To Empty Out Your Email Inbox Every Single Day

We have an email epidemic on our hands. Well, not necessarily on our hands, but in our hands. We can access our email 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. According to Social Clinic, we send 144 billion (that is billion with a “B”) emails each and every single day.


Picture via socialclinic.com


I personally feel as if I only get 1-2 million emails a day. If you are like me, you can get overwhelmed by checking your emails. There is even a diagnosed disorder called Email Addiction Impulsive Compulsive Disorder in which people can’t help themselves from checking their email several hundred times a day.

I used to be part of that crowd, and I feel as if I have found the light:

I know get to the bottom of my email inbox folder every single day, and more importantly only check it a few times per day. 

If you want to be a person who Lives Your List and lives a life of intention and purpose, than you need to be as productive as possible…including email. Here are the 5 things I have found successful on my journey to email freedom.

1. Get a Gmail account and link your other email accounts: Gmail is the Cadillac of email providers. It is quick, seamless, and integrates into almost all applications. It has nearly unlimited (15 gigs) of space, and you can add your other email accounts to Gmail. I understand some people have work accounts that will not allow them to use Gmail as their email provider. If that is the case, than just skip this step and apply all of the other ones.

2. Get rid of all spam: If you find yourself deleting certain emails more than you read them, they fall into the spam category. Bought something from WalMart.com and now they send you emails every few days? Create a filter and send it straight to the trash. Every single time I get an email from a random address I immediately create a filter. Spend an hour creating filters and deleting emails. Gmail is very good about deleting actual spam so that you almost never get any.

3. Check your email first thing in the morning: I know many people actually do this, but check your email at the beginning of the day. Open every single one. It will help you create your to-do list for the day and give you an idea of what needs to be accomplished. Before I do any other work, I will respond to all of the necessary emails, delete and filter unnecessary ones, and send emails to important clients.

4. Don’t put off reading emails: In the past, I would see an email from a client that I knew contained important information or one that needed an action step completed. I wouldn’t even open these emails because I knew they required special attention. These emails would start to pile up and then I would get overwhelmed with the amount of things I needed to accomplish. I now will open these emails, get a quick overview, and then add the next action step to my to-do list. This allows me to complete the action at the appropriate time.

5. Don’t use email for social media: I know people who get notifications from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. in their email accounts. You already get these notifications on your phone, the actual site, and now in your email. It seems redundant because it is redundant. Create filters for these emails or send them to an entirely different account (that’s what I do).

These tips have helped me out tremendously. I hope these will help you as well. What tips do you have to empty your emails every day?

You Don’t Have to Be Rich To Live Your List

I try everyday to Live My List. I want to wake up every day trying to live a life of intention. I hope to accomplish all of my dreams, goals, and ambitions while following my purpose. I want to become the person I am destined to become, to be a man of character who focuses on strengthening the bonds with my friends and family. I want to do and dream and love.

Most people look at someone who follows the Live Your List philosophy and assumes it takes a ton of money to travel the world and follow your dreams. That I need buckets of money to live a life of intention. Well, those people couldn’t be more wrong.

Living Your List is all about being intentional. Waking up in the morning and focusing on ways to improve yourself, your actions, and your relationships. 

Take the extra time to go for a jog. Put down the phone to hang out with your children. Spend your free time writing that book you’ve always said you would write. Go out of your way to visit the interesting things in your city.

Once you start viewing your life as an opportunity to live fully, you can start living fully.

Guest Post Friday – Journeying

It is Guest Post Friday, and today’s post comes from Ethan Bryan, a man who holds the record for “Most Diving Catches in One Minute.” You can check out his blog here, his books here, and follow him on Twitter @ethan_bryanIf you would like to submit a guest post, click here

Yogi Berra offered this gem of wisdom for those walking on life’s journey:

When you come to a fork in the road—take it.

Robert Frost composed a brilliant poem on choosing between two paths:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

            Somewhere ages and ages hence:

            Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

            I took the one less traveled by,

            And that has made all the difference.

Musician Rich Mullins sang these inspired words:

Well, sometimes my life

Just don’t make sense at all

            When the mountains look so big

            And my faith just seems so small.

I recently emailed Steven Pressfield, the genius behind the books The War of Art and Turning Pro, once again asking for his advice in the middle of this mission-quest-journey-adventure-thing we call life.[1]  And Pressfield replied,

            I cannot be in the advice business.  Who can?

            Look into your own heart, that’s the best anyone can say.

            All my best,


*    *    *    *

 “Tell me your dream job and you could win an autographed copy of Jon Acuff’s newest book, START.

I replied, “My dream job is to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals.”  The dream, I know, is absurd, ridiculous, childish.  I’ve held onto that dream for more than 36 years.  I’m now approaching 40 years old; currently, there is only one person on the entire 40-man roster for the Royals who is older than I am, and only by six months at that.  My dream job entry, somehow, was chosen, and I won an autographed copy of START.  I was delighted to crack it open and sit with it.  Upon receipt, I posted on Twitter:

Just won a copy of Jon Acuff’s new START book, though I highly doubt it will help me to get any closer to the dream job I professed to win it.

And I was right.  There is absolutely nothing in this book that will help me play baseball for the Kansas City Royals.  But since the Royals haven’t called and my fastball can’t crack 80 and I don’t know if I’ll ever be stronger than “warning-track power,” I write stories and try to find ways to bring hope into the world through words.

Five years ago, when I least expected it, an idea bombarded my brain, something like a whisper to the deepest part of my being.  I felt like I was “supposed” to write a book—a thought that had never previously crossed my mind.  As I was trying to make sense of this random, raw intuition, a couple of friends pulled me aside to talk to me, as opposed to talking with me.  They sat me down and with serious tones accused me of trying to use stories to draw attention to myself.  They wanted to define me and tell me what I could not do, who I could not be.

For the rest of your life, people will try to tell you which stories you need to live.  They might take one glance at your “lucky fin” and say, “You think you can do these things but you just can’t, Nemo.”  But there is nothing more important than you being the beautiful, amazing, curious, creative, irreplaceable you.  There is nothing this world needs more than you knowing who you are and living out your story.

Thankfully, the same night as that horrible conversation, I read the amazing words of Steven Pressfield.  Toward the end of his masterpiece, The War of Art, Pressfield writes, “Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor.  It’s a gift to the world and every being in it.  Don’t cheat us of your contribution.  Give us what you’ve got.”

Today, I write my words and share my stories because they are the only ones I know.  I am not in a position to say if my stories are “good” or even “right;” my experience on this beautiful ball of dirt is but one of seven billion.  But, as I write my words, I feel that I am being “me,” that I am being true to the dreams whispered into me.

And as I read START, that’s exactly what I heard Acuff saying.  Acuff challenges all people to have the courage and the gall to chase their whispers and audacious dreams, and then do the hard work necessary to be who God whispered them into being.

Every day on this journey of life I am faced with the choice of settling for the ever-evolving-yet-unattainable American Dream or chasing after the whispers within.

And every day I take a breath and write a few hundred or thousand words, and trust that the One Who whispered into the deepest part of me is with me every step of the way.

[1] Shout out to Lord of the Rings and Peregrin Took.

We are what we repeatedly do.


According to the StrengthsQuest assessment, I am a Maximizer. I’m not one who has the patience to work with things, organizations, or people who need to be brought up from the bottom. I don’t excel in bringing things from below average to average.

I am always empowered when I can work with a person or an idea that is already good and making it great. This is why my job is perfect for me. I work and facilitate with great people. People who are changing the world through acts of greatness. However, I have started to realize that greatness is not what the people in my life want.

They want something more than greatness, something more than the status quo. I understand completely, because I feel the same way. I first thought perfection was what I desired, but that’s a poor plan. Perfection is unattainable, so if I strive for perfection I will fail every single time.

I have decided I am looking for excellence in my life. If the quote from Aristotle is true, then excellence is not an act but a habit. It is something we work on every single day. It is a lifetime of commitment towards living an inspired life. It is waking up early to wake hard, hustling towards our dreams, and being intentional with our relationships.

If excellence is a habit, then greatness is an act. We can achieve greatness innately or even on accident. Making a 97% on a test: greatness. Making a 97% in a class: excellence. Giving a one-time large donation: greatness. Giving consistently over a lifetime: excellence.

If excellence truly is habitual, then we need to start creating healthy habits. Start gaining control of the small things in your life. Be intentional to show up on time, listen to others, and spend time with people who matter. Do all of the little things right, and excellence can be eventually achieved.

Big dreamers need to do the small things. Work hard. Persevere. Keep your word, and do it every single day.

Brinner with Eller Project

I have a new list. I know this sounds crazy to those of you who consistently read my blog. I am making a list of the people who have impacted me the most in my life. The goal of creating this list is to show some gratitude to these influencers by taking them to brinner (breakfast for dinner).

Picture via pollitacalprof on tumblr.com

Picture via pollitacalprof on tumblr.com

I am going to interview them over a solid plate of pancakes, bacon, waffles, or biscuits and gravy. I am going to tell them how much they mean to me. I am going to ask them for advice for my future. Some of these people I know well, and some I have never met. Some know they influenced me, and some have no idea. Some I will cook for, and some I will buy. Some are close to home, and some are in different continents.

Either way, I want to have brinner with them and document the journey. Below you will find my list of influencers:

Early Life

  1. Richard Eller
  2. Suzie Eller
  3. Melissa Hall
  4. Leslie Dacus
  5. Jim Eller
  6. Sandra Eller
  7. Steven Rose
  8. Eric Smith
  9. Brandon Nickell
  10. Kristen Schell Fenska
  11. Darrin Ballard
  12. Raffi Balesteros

The Formative Years (College & Beyond)

  1. Kristin Eller
  2. Rickey Peaker
  3. Jerrod Murr
  4. Ryan Fenska
  5. Dr. Dana Eversole
  6. Dr. Amy Aldridge Sanford
  7. Emily Konieczny
  8. Tracie Sexson
  9. Diane Walker
  10. Matt Eaton
  11. Loyd Collins
  12. Wayne King

The Famous

  1. Dave Ramsey
  2. Mark Collard
  3. John Maxwell
  4. Jack Canfield
  5. Jon Acuff
  6. Nate Folan
  7. Karl Rohnke
  8. Dr. Arnold Mitchem
  9. Tom Peters
  10. Marcus Buckingham
  11. Craig Groeschel
  12. David Allen

If you have connections with one of these people and want to help me out, I would appreciate it! If you are not on this list and you would like to have brinner with me, and are willing to provide it, I am willing to travel.

Guest Post Friday – An Autumn Bucket List

It is guest post Friday! Each Friday we encourage you to submit a post for the ryaneller.com blog. This week’s post comes from my good friend Stephanie Bolen. She is an awesome bucket lister who is striving to live a life of intention. You can follow her blog here and on Twitter @stephB_4themoon. If you would like to submit a guest post, click here

I hope those of you with summer bucket lists got to complete them before vacation time ended and the new school year began. However, a new season is now starting! The season of Autumn (or Fall). A time of scarves, piles of leaves, and pumpkin flavored everything. A time for Halloween, fall breaks, and Thanksgiving. A time for a whole new bucket list!

fall bucket list

Picture via mahlifebelikeoohahh on tumblr.com

Have you created your autumn bucket list yet? Well, I’ve decided to help you get started. 🙂 I’ve been searching and gathering all the autumn bucket list items on the internet. Here are a few that I’ve gathered:

  1. Fall photo shoot
  2. Pick apples at an orchard
  3. Go on a hayride
  4. Bonfire and s’mores
  5. Make a homemade apple pie
  6. Go to a pumpkin patch
  7. Carve a pumpkin
  8. Go to an actual haunted house (spend the night if you’re up for it)
  9. Go to a fun haunted house
  10. Throw a Halloween party
  11. Scary movie marathon
  12. Make/eat caramel apples
  13. Go to a football game
  14. Drink apple cider/fancy coffee drink (probably pumpkin flavored)
  15. Jump in a leaf pile
  16. Collect as many different types leaves as you can find
  17. Tail gate before a football game
  18. Bob for apples
  19. Make a Halloween costume
  20. Find your way through a corn maze
  21. Camp in the backyard
  22. Go trick or treating
  23. Learn to knit and knit a scarf
  24. Tell scary stories around a campfire
  25. Donate food to a food bank

After making this bucket list, I realized that the most important food or drink for the fall season is anything involving pumpkins or apples. lol

I hope this helps you create your own autumn bucket list. Make sure you don’t just create one though; you also need to live it. Live it and enjoy this wonderful season!

What items will you add to your autumn bucket list? Are there more fall bucket list items you can think of? What are they?