3 Keys for When Your Dream Goes Differently Than You Planned, with Thane Marcus Ringler

3 Keys for When Your Dream Goes Differently Than You Planned, with Thane Marcus Ringler

3 Keys for When Your Dream Goes Differently Than You Planned, with Thane Marcus Ringler

Today my guest is Thane Marcus Ringler. Thane was a professional golfer but when a back injury forced him to make a change… he decided to come alongside leaders, entrepreneurs and professionals to help them apply the elite athlete mindset to everyday life.

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Thane’s new book is: From Here To There: A Quarter-Life Perspective on the Path to Mastery.

I know we’re wrapping up 2018 as you’re listening to this, and I know many of you are thinking about different ways to set yourself up for new levels of success in 2019.

We talk about going after big dreams, especially if you’re feeling like your dream’s taken some hits or maybe even hit a dead end.



Thane, welcome to DREAM THINK DO, brother.

Thanks for having me, Mitch. It’s going to be a fun time today, excited to see what comes of it.

No kidding. Me too. You were a professional golfer for four years or so. When did that hit you as a dream? Were you three years old and hitting golf balls?

Yeah. Well, I was three years old swinging a golf club. I don’t know how many balls I was hitting at that age. I didn’t know what I was doing exactly, but it was fun because dad was out there. Yeah, so it started at three or four, and really, the dream of it, of playing professionally, I would say, didn’t really take root for me until college. It was always a bigger dream for my dad. He obviously wanted me to play professionally, and that was a goal or at least an idea or thought and vision he had, but I was always a little too realistic or practical to let myself entertain that idea until it became much closer to reality. I withheld that as a dream because I didn’t want to be let down by not reaching it, right? In college, once I started getting closer and closer, I started getting a little more excited about it and seeing it as an actual possibility.

Can you remember a moment where you thought, “This could happen.” Maybe it was a game or a particular shot where you’re like, “Okay, maybe I can do this.”

I wouldn’t say there’s a specific moment, but I would say that my sophomore and junior year in college were really the times that it started sinking in more. I got a couple of wins under my belt and could see my scoring average in my game progress consistently and could see how I stacked up against others at a broader range, a broader pool of players. That was when I really started entertaining it and saying, “Okay. This could be a possibility.”, and then starting to figure out what that would look like. And then it wasn’t until between my junior and senior year was really when I wanted to make the decision. I wanted to decide if I would commit to doing it or not and that was because I really wanted to not waste time.

A lot of guys will graduate from college and then play the summer after as an amateur and then try to raise money that Fall for Q School. I wanted to jumpstart into it a little bit faster and just turn professional right after graduating. So, I. I really reached out to coaches, to friends, to family, to other people that knew me, knew my game and knew the field, other players who had played to get some background research and just try to get an objective view of is this really a good opportunity, is this something I’m capable of pursuing.

The feedback was, yes, it’s worth a shot, you have the skills, the toolset, go for it. So, my senior year I worked the whole school year on developing a business plan so that I would have the funds needed to launch right in, right after I graduated, which was a great learning process as well. My grandpa was a great influence in that.

I came up with this plan and then pitched it to individuals in my life and to people, I knew who might be interested or able to invest, and God blessed me with 10 to 11 sponsors to kick off my career.

That’s awesome! And you did that over your senior year.

Yeah. I incentivized myself because I knew it was a big task, I actually incentivized myself by finding a list of the best cafes in LA and I tried to hit as many as I could to write the business plan. I created the incentive and then every time I went to one of those cafes, it was business plan writing time, and so that’s when I really dove into it.

I like that a lot. I gotta say one of the other things that stands out to me about your story is there are a whole lot of people that I think they start to think about a dream. You reaching out and asking people that are experts in that field, whatever their perspective was – that takes guts. There are a whole lot of people that don’t really want to line their dream up against some of the harsh realities of the world or to ask for people’s opinion. It’s easier to either not do something like that and just keep yourself in the dark and then just hope, or bury it or whatever. I love the fact that you put yourself out there and researched in that way. That shows a lot of guts and intentionality, so that’s awesome.

Then, that also set you up for your senior year of doing all this so you weren’t waiting to get that started after you graduated. Wow. So, you graduate from college and how soon after that did you then launch your professional career as a golfer?

Pretty much right after. Really, turning professional is as simple as playing in a tournament and declaring your professional status. It’s honestly an open platform, so anyone can turn professional. Most people won’t because you can play in a lot better tournaments as an amateur than you can as a low-level professional. It really doesn’t make sense unless you’re serious about it.

I wanted to underscore what you just said because that’s something that I like to highlight a lot, especially for younger adults is the teachability aspect to it. That’s something that, honestly, I can’t say I consciously decided, I more fell into because of necessity. Coming out to college in California was a new experience. I was from Kansas and it was a whole new environment. I had a really great college coach, Jason Semelsberger. I knew that I didn’t know nearly enough about the sport and about competing and he knew way more than I did, so I had to become a sponge so that I could be the best I could be. It wasn’t necessarily conscious, it was just more by necessity.

I remember my coach making a comment in I think my sophomore year, saying that I’m one of the most teachable players he’s had. It really struck me because I had never been aware of that. It had become a natural trade just because that was what would produce the best results in my game. It was interesting that I kind of fell into that, but it is such a crucial aspect of development, being able to be taught by others who know more or have more experience than we do or even have different perspectives than we do.

Well, I think it’s a very humble thing to say that you fell into that. I appreciate that. I think that’s a nice perspective, but I think it takes a lot of intentionality and a lot of guts and a lot of humility to be open to that. You look at any field, the people that are the most successful over time and can sustain that success are the ones who are open to learning from others, and being humble enough to say, “I don’t know everything.” I think that’s huge.

You play and I’m guessing that as a professional golfer as you get started, I would imagine you get to play on some beautiful courses, but I’m also guessing that there’s some less than glamorous aspects of being an entry-level professional golfer. Did you enjoy it?

You know, it was a sweet experience. I enjoyed it for sure, but you are totally right that it is not glamorous, it is not sexy and it is a lot harder and a lot less fun than most people think.

On average, the guys that do make it, which is very few, it takes seven to 10 years of grinding to get there. At the end of the day, it’s a battle against yourself and your mind. Which, it’s an amazing arena for personal development, for mental discipline.

Right. Absolutely.

The results, your success and all the things that you do, everything falls squarely on your shoulder. You have to take full ownership for it because there are no referees, no coaches, no teammates, no one else to blame, not even the weather conditions because other people are playing in that too.

It leaves you with full responsibility and full ownership of what comes. It’s a really humbling sport and it’s also really refining sport because it teaches you a lot through failure.

Right. Exactly. What was the pivot like for you? Obviously, you were very intentional about your entry, and I’m sure kind of staying the course, continuing to learn the craft, all of those things. What was the process like of moving on from pro golf? What was that process like? I’m guessing you were as intentional about leaving that trajectory as you were about entering it. I don’t buy into that “Only losers quit” mentality. Winners quit all the time. It’s just them picking the right time and the right places to quit so they can focus on the things that they’re called to in that season. Talk to us a little bit about that decision for you.

Yeah, massive. No, you make some great points in that. Have you ever read the book The Dip by Seth Godin?

That’s one of my favorite books, especially on this subject. So good.

Yes. Yeah, he’s the man.

I ended up facing a systemic muscle strain in my back for the second half of my career as a professional and basically, it was a muscle strain that was golf specific and it happened in the middle of the season. It repeated about five different cycles over the next year and a half.


It was a constant ebb and flow of stopping, recovering, rehabbing, getting better, returning, competing and then digressing and starting all over with that cycle.

That was a really challenging period, a really stretching period. I learned a lot about my body and my job became how to solve the problem of my body. Which, it’s interesting to learn a lot about physiology, about optimizing and biohacking and all those things. Fascinating.

Through that time, I think God really just allowed some of my desires and some of the things I’m interested in to start shifting. Originally, the business plan I created was for three years of competing and then reevaluate after that point. That way it gives me enough time to really have an objective view of where I’m at, what my chances are and give me enough time to at least see progress and then reevaluate with my team, sponsors and everyone involved. Really, it kind of ended at that three and a half year time frame and it led to the reevaluation time. A big factor was still the body. I wasn’t sure if my body would ever get to a place where it could be pain-free for a long period of time and it was just a very big question mark. So, I spent probably two to three months of … I’m a Christian, so I was praying, seeking God, seeing what He wanted. I was seeking counsel, I was seeking coaches and I was just taking time and space away to get some perspective and then also meditating, journaling, all those things.

Really, the question was, who do I feel like I’ve been created, called and equipped to be. It became clear that I didn’t think that was in golf anymore. A big factor in that was, obviously, injury and then the shift in desires. I think what you highlighted earlier is really important, and that is the fear that we all face and the fear that I had to face in that process; which is the fear of failure and the irrational fear of failure that we very much want to avoid is the fear of dead ends, the fear of what if I hit a dead end. For me, that was my reality. I spent 20 plus years of my life pursuing this game of golf and to have that end in a dead end seemed terrifying and life-threatening.

The fear of dead end that I came to realize in this process, is just that it’s irrational because the fear of dead-end never means that you have to start over from the beginning. I think that’s a really important thing to understand. We never have to start from the beginning again. We can take a few steps back from that dead-end trajectory, a new path and start pursuing that from where we already are. I think that is really freeing for people. If we can be faithful to pursue whatever it is that we’re committed to right now and do it to the best of our abilities and leave no stone unturned and try to be as successful as possible in that path, that’s huge. Whether or not we achieve that path, that work, that effort, the equipping of that will prepare us for the next path and we’ll be able to move in that direction even better. It just comes down then to how can I be faithful in what I’m committed to today. It makes it a lot easier.  

Oh, I think that’s really freeing and I think that’s so true no matter what age you are. ‘Cause I think that fear of the dead end, I really like that phrase. You’re so right, some people are so set in what they do, they’re so afraid to make that change because, “What if I hit a dead end?”, or “What if I really contemplate that I may be coming up against a dead end?”, and that can just completely lock people up. I love that, the freedom of being able to say, “All right, let’s look at this from a slightly different perspective.”

There’s a great quote that I love by, I think, Eric Schmidt, and he said that “Resistance to change is in proportion to the speed and the size of the change, not to whether it’s favorable or unfavorable.” He’s just highlighting the fact that we all have resistance to change, especially the bigger and the faster that change comes, we’re going to have greater resistance. That doesn’t mean it’s good or bad.

Knowing these things really helps us embrace those uncomfortable, hard feelings in the moment and just understand that we all face that. You’re not alone in that, it’s not something that’s only you’re experiencing, it’s a human thing. That doesn’t mean it’s good or bad, we get to lean into that then and grow through that.

I like that a lot. I want to dive into that a little bit more. I know a lot of DREAM THINK DO-ers have been working towards dreams, but I’m guessing you just hit a button for a number of people. I just talked with a DREAM THINK DO-er recently and they were literally saying, “I feel like I’m in a dead end position.” They’re very successful and probably to the outside world, people would be shocked that they were having these feelings, but they’re like, “I’ve hit the highest level that I probably can attain within the organization I’m in. The organization’s not growing.” You could just see them lining up all of these challenges he was facing and I think you just named it.

Obviously, you had to make a pivot. What are some of the things that you recommend for that person that’s either feeling the fear or feeling the dead end itself?

Yeah. It’s good. I think, first of all, just recognizing you’re not alone. That’s really important, it’s a human experience. What I like to do with people that I work with – we really have to get clear about the vision of where you want to head. That takes an evaluation of yourself and your current skill sets, what your experience, what your knowledge is. If you can get clear about who you are and where you want to go, then it just comes down to deciding how to get there and then executing on that.

I think just simplifying things in this time of confusion and discomfort. If we can simplify on what’s important and clarify where we’re heading, that’s really what will help us in those moments, and usually, it takes having someone else help us do that. The two things that we can’t do on our own, usually, is objectivity and accountability. Those are two things that are really hard to get. Now, if you’re a very disciplined person and you utilize your networks and your communities and your people that are close to you, you can, but it’s still really helpful to have someone walk alongside with you in that process.

Yep. I love it. I couldn’t agree more.

Getting that clarity on the vision, that takes guts too. It takes guts to slow down and say, “Okay, what do I want and is that what I’m currently experiencing?”

What are some things that you recommend to help people get more clarity on that vision, on that call?

Yeah, totally. I think what you said is really important, you have to actually stop moving and just evaluate. Life is so busy and we think that busyness is what achievement is and it’s not the case. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re actually accomplishing or moving anywhere in the trajectory that you want to accomplish. So much of our hyper-achievement culture just praises movement versus real gains. Stop moving and just be. Reflect and sit in that place, understanding yourself, then having other people help you understand yourself, speak into you. Then, figure out your “why,” that’s really the biggest thing, we hear this a lot. What’s your “why?” What’s your purpose? What are you trying to accomplish and why are you trying to accomplish it? If you can have that overarching or underlying why, that foundational why for what you do, then that can provide the motivation regardless of how difficult or challenging those obstacles are.

Then, it’s just simply about picking a path and committing to it. At the end of the day, the only way you know whether or not it’s what you’re called to be or called to do or what your gifted or talented at, or what you’re equipped for is by doing it. We could talk about it all day, but until you actually do it, you don’t know. I think Whitney Wolfe Herd who, I can’t remember what she founded, but she said, “The most expensive currency in the world is experience,” and that’s so true.

It just takes doing it. The other thing with that is, I think the thing that we all struggle with is commitment. It’s clarifying and simplifying down to what we’re committed to and then it’s being committed for a long enough time to really evaluate the fruit of it, not just for a week, not just for a month, but maybe a year, maybe two years. Then you can see, is this really worthy of what I’m trying to do or is this really what I’m gifted to do and you can have a much more objective analysis to that point.

Absolutely. It’s taking that longer view to see. ‘Cause I know for me, in my prior life, I was in the pharmaceutical world, I was in pharmaceutical sales, but it had become a bad fit job. I had to start that new thing on the side and I wanted to coach, I wanted to speak.

To your point, I wasn’t sure if I was good at it. I thought I might be, but I also knew there was a whole business component to it that I’d never done anything like before. I had to practice, I had to experiment and I had, in my case, I couldn’t just throw caution to the wind and quit, I had to do it alongside something else that was bringing an income. Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely.

Yeah. I think the quote that I love repeating a lot, a Bill Gates quote that says, “People always overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years.” I think it’s just important to recognize that we can accomplish a lot if we have consistent progress over a long period of time. It’s a beautiful challenge. I think the cool thing about our stories is that they’re a little different and they show the two different sides of executing and that one is you have something else going, you have to provide for a family and then you’re starting this on the side and building it with that going on. Mine was much more of a pivot and just go all in, both have pros and cons.

Mine might be a little faster, but I’m so over-leveraged at this point that it’s a very risky place to be and you have to live with that. It’s not to say that one’s better than the other, it just depends on what situation or circumstance you’re in.

For sure. Absolutely. I love it.

Especially this time of year, year-end, it just kind of begs the question. Everybody’s busy, but it seems like some people are a little bit more open to saying, “You know what? I want to do some things. I want to set myself up for success for next year.” What are some of those things, especially from an athlete’s perspective? I’m sure you even mentioned you’re always analyzing your game, especially with the back challenges too, I’m sure, being able to say, “How do I make these tweaks? How do I do that over time?” What are some of those specific strategies you suggest or maybe are applying yourself to be able to make next year the best year yet?

Totally. Totally. Like we talked about, the vision is huge, but once you have that vision down, it’s about setting into some rhythms. I think it’s such a blessing to have a calendar year because it gives us a reset. It’s a time to really evaluate the last year and look forward to the next year and those resets are really important. We’ve got a lot of them programmed into our lives. Yearly resets, we’ve got monthly resets, we’ve got weekly, we’ve got daily, it’s already programmed in. I like following that in a lot of ways and mirroring those rhythms, even with our goals and our visions.

For me, at night I look at the calendar, I look at what’s ahead, I get mentally ready to execute well on what the tasks are for the next day. Weekly, I like to evaluate the bigger vision priorities for the week ahead, saying, “Okay, here’s my big vision that I’m striving for.” What are the things that really move the ball and move the needle in that category? How I program and prioritize those into the week ahead. Even monthly, I think monthly’s really great for an even bigger picture. Maybe it’s a time of just reflecting on what went good, what went bad.

I’m not as good right now in life, to be honest, with the monthly rhythms but I think that those can be really useful too. I am super excited for this year and one of the things I do is, my sister actually was the one to help me start this was, a word of the year. I think a word of the year is a lot more palatable than just a New Year’s resolution or multiple resolutions because it’s just one word. The cool thing about that is it’s simple, it’s easy to hang on to, you can remember it well. But it also is broad so it can apply in a lot of different ways and you can see it kind of morph throughout the year. That’s one of my favorite things to do.

This last year, the word of the year was “Build.” It was really interesting, even now in reflecting on it, starting out it was an exciting word, I was stoked for it, it was novel. I’m like, “I’m gonna build something.”, and I’m working on building. Three to four months in, you get closer to halfway through and you’re like, “Okay. I’m building.”, and you’re like, “Oh, yeah. This is a word of the year, not just three or four months.”-

It takes a long time, and it’s a lot of work, and you don’t necessarily see the results right away. It’s interesting to see how my experience even out of that word throughout the year, it became more real.

Right. Exactly. I’m sure kind of like a number of things, and it probably is really exciting in the beginning, maybe gets less sexy in the middle like, “Oh, this just got real ’cause building means work.” I love it.

I really like that strategy. I’ve got some friends that do that too. How do you land on the word? I’m sure people are thinking, “Oh, yeah. That’s a great idea.” It’s easier to remember than a phrase or 62 different New Year’s resolutions, which usually are done within a week. How do you land on, how did you land on “Build” for 2018?

Usually, I’m thinking throughout the weeks leading up to the holidays and being home with family, because we do it as a family. We get to share and talk about it, which is really cool intentional time with your loved ones, so I’d recommend that. Obviously, our probability of being committed to something is so much higher when we verbalize it, either written or orally. We need to do that, we need to talk about it, we need to proclaim it, and we need to own it if we’re actually going to see it through.

I spend a couple of weeks leading up to it to really think on it. Utilizing the subconscious is so important and there’s a lot of books on it. One’s called Strangers To Ourselves, it’s an amazing book on, basically, over 95% of our lives are run by the subconscious and it’s kind of depressing but it’s also empowering if you utilize it. Yeah. I like to utilize the subconscious in leading up to it and then usually I’ll have two or three that come to mind and I’ll sit on those for a day or two. Really, it comes down, again, to what’s the vision, what’s the trajectory, what do I project that’s gonna happen this next year?

I like that a lot. I like you doing it as a family too. Do you then check in with each other throughout the year?

Yeah, yeah. It’s fun to hear about the last year and hear them break it down from this last year and how it played out and what changed about it throughout the year. Usually, we talk about it maybe like the first three or four months when we’re around each other when it comes up. I think everyone in my family, at least, is holding on to them and thinking about them throughout the year. It’s been really cool.

I love that. I’m thinking about it for myself. That’s something I want to do as a family activity. You mentioned prayer being really important for you. I would imagine that’s a great kind of prayer exercise too. I know for me that’s huge, so to be able to say that could be a great kind of prayer target over the next month. I like that idea a lot. That’s a million dollar idea. Awesome.

All right. Thane, your book From Here to There: A Quarter-Life Perspective on the Path to Mastery is available on your site which is thanemarcus.com, as well as Amazon, that type of thing. I love it. Gang, go grab it. Whether you’re at the quarter-life or half or wherever you’re at, you’re gonna be able to benefit from this wisdom. Thane, one last question for you. For that person listening and feeling either the fear of the dead end or they’re smacked up against it. What’s one last pearl of wisdom that you might offer them to push through and keep going?

I’ll offer two. Just because I love that place, it’s hard. I think the first one is just to know that you’re not defined by what you do. In my worldview, it’s a biblical worldview of Christianity, it views humans as two things: that we were created in the image of God, which means we’re all of inherent value and worth and that two, we’re all sinners, which means no one is better than the rest. Because of that, our identity as humans can’t be taken away from us, no matter what you do and if your identity as a human can be just that and what you do be on top of that, then it doesn’t necessarily matter as much what you do. That allows you the freedom to pivot into a new path and own that because it doesn’t define you. I think that’s important, the identity piece.

The other is that learning is the journey. Learning is the journey of life that we’re all on and, really, a dead end just means you get to learn more than probably someone else. James Clear is a great author on habits and whatnot, he says, “You’ll learn more from the process of success than achieving the results of success.”


Just embracing that the journey that we’re on in life is all about learning and that you’ll learn a lot more from failures and that will prepare you and equip you for the next thing. The two mindsets are mantras that I love to encourage people with: if we can just take ownership for our lives and our decisions and our actions individually and if we can never settle for less than we’re capable of then it’s going to be amazing to see what you accomplish individually and what we accomplish societally.

That’s gold, brother. I love it. I am looking forward to having you back to DREAM THINK DO. We could’ve kept going with another two hours on this conversation. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Again, go check him out, thanemarcus.com, you’ll be glad you did.

Thank you for being a dream-think-doer, brother.

Thanks, Mitch. Appreciate it.

All right. DREAM THINK DO-er, what’d you think? I loved Thane. I loved his story, love what he’s doing, love so much the wisdom that was coming out of him as well. This is what I’m gonna share with a number of specific people I think would really resonate, especially with having to pivot, having a dream go differently than you thought and how do you make something good out of that. I think Thane’s nailing that and I think the world’s going to hear from him a whole lot more.

What stood out to you? I know for me, I mean I love the fear of the dead end, I loved that, talking about the importance of ownership, talking about priming, I think that’s huge. We’re gonna be talking about that more in next week episode as well, it’s gonna be fascinating. I think one of the things that I’m going to try this year, specifically, is the idea of the word of the year. I love having it be a family activity, kind of think through, pray through what that word might be for you for the year. I think it could be really valuable an incredible conversation. So, that’s something I’m going to do.

What are you going to do? Leave a comment below and let me know.  I love hearing from YOU!

  • Rose Simmens
    Posted at 08:58h, 06 December Reply

    I have doing the word of the year off and on for the past few years. This year my word is Simplify.

    • Mitch Matthews
      Posted at 10:56h, 06 December Reply

      Rose – Love it! How did you go about deciding on your word? We’re going to try it this year as a family… and we’re all thinking through it and we’ll decide on 12.31. But wanted to hear how you’ve landed on your word! 🙂

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