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Mindful Leadership with Presidential Candidate – Tim Ryan

Tim Ryan is a relentless advocate for working families in Ohio’s 13th District. He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 and was sworn in on January 3, 2003. Successfully reelected seven times, he is now serving in his eighth term. Congressman Ryan currently serves as a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee which controls the expenditure of money by the federal government. He is the author of A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit and The Real Food Revolution: Healthy Eating, Green Groceries, and the Return of the American Family Farm.

How do you become a more mindful leader? Whether you’re a student, parent or entrepreneur, how do you lead yourself and how do you lead others for a place of mindful connection and development?

Representative Tim Ryan recently announced his run for president and has a long history representing working-class families in Ohio. What you might not know about Tim is that in addition to his service as a Congressman, Tim is an advocate for mindfulness, meditation, and health and is the author of two books on mindfulness and healthy food.

Mindfulness and leadership are two of the most important words today. We’re living through fractured, disrupted times and calm thoughtful leaders will be essential in guiding communities back toward connectedness, imagination, and change. Unless we learn to reconnect with each other and work together, we will remain unable to solve the many problems facing us.

In this conversation, we discuss how mindfulness impacts our brains, and how adverse experiences impact the minds of younger generations coming up through our schools. We speak about how mindfulness has given the best leaders the strength to lead and maintain calm through challenging times and find the imagination to lead the country out of a challenge and towards change. Lastly, we talk about why social connectedness is so important in today’s fractured society and why the world needs you to take all the self-work you’ve been doing and start passing it on to your community.

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"Change starts with that basic reminder that we’re connected—harmony in our relationships makes everything go better."

Tim Ryan

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  • People don’t talk about mindfulness, food, and meditation in politics, but is starting to happen more and more.
  • Secretary of VA brought up how yoga is helping veterans heal: mindfulness help vets stay connected and avoid isolation
  • Rep Ryan’s book mentioned: Mindful Nation.
  • In schools now: helpful mindfulness programs, breathing programs, David Lynch Foundation quiet time meditation program.
  • So much trauma for kids today: adverse childhood experiences—the more of these experiences you have, the more your cognitive function diminishes.
  • Imagine a kid living in a family experiencing domestic violence: the brain doesn’t look much different to that of a vet coming back from combat with PTSD.
  • Over 50% of kids going to public schools live in poverty.
  • In fight or flight: can’t access your prefrontal cortex, executive functions like working memory, ability to focus and mobilize your attention span, decision making.
  • These programs in schools teach them personal techniques on how to deescalate themselves and get themselves out of fight or flight so they can learn.


  • Mindfulness doesn’t come up in politics much.
  • Bill of posttraumatic growth—opportunity to heal the trauma and grow from the pain.
  • Has recently established wellness program in the House of Representatives—health, mindfulness & wellness lessons for everyone who works on Capitol Hill.


  • Meditation benefits: takes the edge off, takes you a little bit deeper.
  • Playing football experienced flow, but through meditation, you can get yourself into that state.
  • Helpful in negotiating high-emotion sport of politics with personal attacks etc., making decisions outside of a fight or flight state.
  • Good leaders over the ages had the calmness, centredness, holding the space while the anxiety was around them. The leader has to be the one holding the space: mindfulness is essential to holding that center.


  • Book & documentary on Bobby Kennedy, the keyword that stood out was—we have to have the imagination to solve these problems.
  • We know the problems, know how to fix them, but how can we have more imagination to dig in and truly solve them?
  • Think differently, get out of the thinking that says ‘this is the way it’s always been done’.
  • Knowledge is what is, but imagination is what things could be and without imagination, people perish.
  • Magic of the United States is courage: once you have a dream, then it’s about having the courage to make it a reality, the country was built on the concept of we don’t have to be locked on the power of a king.


  • Economy: agrarian > industrial > technological > artificial intelligence. Now is time to recreate government that hasn’t kept up with the technological and wisdom—technology has surpassed our wisdom.
  • Change starts with the heart: people are suffering because of the government not keeping up with technology. Suicide in farmers, teens, first responders, veterans (20 a day): we need empathy and compassion.
  • With great power comes great responsibility.


  • We are a species that is here today because of cooperation and collaboration.
  • Why we’re not succeeding today is because we’re fractured and divided—we’re social creatures and if the social relationship is fractured, it doesn’t feel good and creates stress, at the deepest level it’s an issue of survival.
  • It starts with that basic reminder that we’re connected, harmony in these relationships makes everything go better.
  • Lincoln during the Civil War: if this country is going to die, it’s going to die by suicide.
  • Most of the problems we’re creating ourselves or we’ve failed to move with changes in the world, keep, grown and deepen the wisdom, be on par with the technology.
  • We’re drowning in information but we’re starving for the wisdom that can make a difference.
  • Over-reliance on data points: thinking that the next conference or book is going to make it all click when it’s the wisdom that will help.
  • You need the information, but you also need the inspiration to act on it.
  • Implementation: not just reading about it, but doing something with it.
  • Four steps: information, inspiration, implementation, and integration.
  • The lives we lead and the lessons we teach those around us.


  • Dep. Tim Ryan would like to be remembered as “a guy who tried—not even succeeded, but the guy who tried”.
  • How do we get people to see themselves connected to the country?
  • Earlier generations were seared to each other through awful events of World War, Depression: they had some civic component to their lives outside of jobs and family e.g. rotary club, church, union.
  • The world needs people who meditate engaged in the community—not just on your cushion and working out in your own world. That’s the person our political system needs, whether this is on a school board, working for the government, etc.
  • Teddy Roosevelt: a man in the arena, blood sweat tears, erred greatly, you tried—we need you in the game, on the field.
  • Your community is the community we need to have an honest conversation without fighting, we need people who have a desire to help and do good.
  • Take all the work you’ve done on yourself and bring that into the world outside of your usual work and family circles.
  • If we don’t have our government systems (education, healthcare agricultural, etc) reinforcing the growth that people like you already know about and work on every single day, it’s not going to sustain itself.
  • To have these people inside the system transforming the system is how we’re going to get out of this mess.
  • Giving feels good—difficult times could diminish you, but they can also develop you.
  • Now is not the time to get bitter, it’s the time to get better.


  • Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us both on social media (@jimkwik & @RepTimRyan), and share your greatest “aha!” moment from this episode with us!



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