Know Who YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE to Find What You Are Supposed to Do w/ Ryan Fan

Nov 26, 2021

Welcome to episode 23 of the Mindful & Driven podcast! It’s all about how to not lose sight of what really matters whilst chasing your dreams.

Episode 23’s guest is Ryan Fan. He is a special education teacher based in Baltimore. On top of this, he is an avid marathon runner, he is studying for a master’s degree and he is a well-known content-creator having published hundreds of articles in the last few years. Somehow he manages to juggle all of these at the same time and that is why he is a guest in today’s show to tell you how he manages his time.

I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation! I’d love it if you could subscribe, leave me a review and follow me on social channels. 

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Knowing who you are supposed to be (according to your own standards) allows you to gain confidence.
  • How to sort through advice to find things that work for you.
  • Life is a marathon.
  • How to manage your energy.
  • How to prioritize your different aspects in life.
  • Why trusting yourself helps you achieve your goals.
  • Why it’s important to picture yourself as someone who gets things done.
  • Why it’s important to have time to recover.
  • How to switch between priorities.


  • Introduction (0:00)
  • Idolising someone (1:28)
  • Trusting yourself and being your best-self (4:06)
  • The importance of conserving your energy and sacrifice (8:20)
  • Talking about balance and putting people that matter first (15:36)
  • Making the change and knowing where you are supposed to be (21:34 )


Intro Music:
“Himalayas” by Mona Wonderlick —
Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported — CC BY 3.0
Free download:




[00:00:00] Ryan: I think it’s just really important for everyone to find what works works for them. What helps them get by day-to-day rather than trying to idolize those aspects of others, just knowing you are where you’re supposed to be as like one mindset shift that has helped me a lot. Just having that baseline level of trusting yourself to be, you know, even when it doesn’t feel like you should have that trust is really, really important to me.

[00:00:26] Amardeep: Welcome to the Mindful and Driven Podcast, where we help you to not lose sight of what’s really important whilst chasing your dreams. Today’s guest is Ryan Fan. He is a special education teacher based in Baltimore. On top of this, he is an avid marathon runner, he is studying for a master’s degree and he is a well-known content-creator having published hundreds of articles in the last few years. Somehow he manages to juggle all of these at the same time and that is why he is a guest in today’s show to tell you how he manages his time. I hope you enjoy this video.

Welcome Ryan. Thanks for joining at 5:00 AM, your time.

[00:00:56] Ryan: Thank you. Yeah, it’s a great to be here.

[00:00:59] Amardeep: Ryan’s going to be going to school after this to teach, so very appreciative of you making the time for me.

[00:01:05] Ryan: It’s fun to be here. I’m looking forward to getting my morning off, started off the right way. So,

[00:01:10] Amardeep: So because you actually work with children, what’s great I think is that you work in multiple different areas. You probably see some advice, a lot that you disagree with because it doesn’t necessarily take into account all of the different backgrounds that people have. Can you tell me what are some common advice you disagree with?

[00:01:26] Ryan: Yeah. Some of the most common advice I disagree with and this comes across on all domains, is trying to idolize your heroes or trying to idolize the habits of your, your heroes because different things, I mean, different things obviously work for different people, but there’s also a sense that everyone is very flawed. Everyone has done things that they’re not the most proud of. On like a micro level, I sit in all these professional developments for teachers and then all these teacher groups where it’s just a lot of teachers hyping themselves up when you know that like, this is not what their day-to-day looks like. And like, reality is a lot messier than that. And the same goes for say, you’re, you really like Jeff Bezos for some reason or someone else? Like, you know, they’re obviously only going to present themselves in a certain ways. I think it’s just really important for everyone to find what works works for them. What helps them get by day to day, rather than trying to idolize those aspects of others.

[00:02:24] Amardeep: One example of this I really love is that, a lot of people in the entrepreneurship space idolize Steve Jobs. To us, I think a lot of people idolize Steve Jobs and he has some really strange habits that people really shouldn’t copy. And one of these was that he used to eat carrots, only carrots for some time, because you’ve read it in a book that it would make him more creative and it would make him more creative because he basically became delusional, right? Like you’re supposed to have different food groups. That’s a healthy part of living. So somebody copying that would put themselves and their health at risk, just because they’re trying to idolize somebody. So while he was a visionary, why he was great in many things, it doesn’t mean he was great at everything. Even with people like at the very top of the, say the Nobel Peace Prize winners, even those people at the very, very top, they’re not perfect. So different people, if you read into people in different ways, they’ve got different quirks and different things that don’t quite add up because nobody is perfect. And you mentioned as well about even kind of TV characters that sometimes people idolize those. And they’re not real. Like you can’t base yourself off a person that’s not even real. Is there any people that you do follow? And although you don’t idolize them, you do think their advice is great and, or you’ve taken some habits from some of these people and it’s all about being selective, right? So you pick the habits that work for you, but don’t try to be the entire person.

[00:03:57] Ryan: Yep. Absolutely.

[00:03:58] Amardeep: Was there any habits that you do follow from some of your idols?

[00:04:02] Ryan: The, on the day-to-day, I think I’ve just learned to trust myself in the sense that I I’ll just tell this anecdote of when I was in undergrad there’s, I had a friend who was one of my roommates. He was in his senior year and he was just having a lot of trouble getting things done. He had this big 20 page paper due the next day that he hadn’t started. And he was just like, you know, what do I do? I’m sorry, this, I can’t get myself to start it. And I’m like, eh, like I don’t think you’re the kind of person that would let yourself not turn it in and not finish it. And he ended up finishing the thing, getting a B plus. It’s not perfect. Right. But in terms of a habit, it’s just like, I’ve learned to, just to trust myself a lot more in the sense that I’m doing my masters degree, things get done, and no matter how many times I’m like, oh my god, like, what am I doing? Like, you know, you know, I’m just laying around and being lazy, deadline comes around and I’m not the kind of person that will let myself not submit it. And in kind of my domain, just everything being punctual, everything on time, it has a lot of real world consequences, a lot of legal consequences. So it’s better if it’s imperfect and on time, than you putting it off and trying to be perfect. So just having that baseline level of trust in yourself to be, you know, even when it doesn’t feel like you should have that trust is really, really important to me.

[00:05:23] Amardeep: Yeah. And I think sometimes the shame of people thinking I’m not gonna be able to get it done since I’m on a spiral, which then makes it more likely they won’t get it done. Whereas if they’re just, if it’s kind of almost an arrogance, you need in some ways, right. I think I’ve got this too, and I’ve had it in the past where, I know that no matter what I’m going to get it done. And that kind of self-confidence just means that like, I work at a faster speed because I’m trusting myself. And sometimes people, if they’re doubting themselves too much, then that doubt takes up the time, which they could have used to get things done. Sometimes it’s, it’s just interesting, cause I think sometimes people kind of paralyze themselves and it is where affirmations, for example, come in. Do you do something like that just to get yourself in the right frame of mind? Or is it just, kind of a underlying feeling that you always keep with you?

[00:06:10] Ryan: So I’m a runner and I’ve, I’m doing a lot of marathons. I mean, I’m in like peak marathon training season right now. I’m trying to just keep up running like 70 miles a week, trying to get on like a 22, 23 mile long run, which I’ll need just for, you know, you need to do that just to get yourself ready to run 26 miles. One thing, one of my coaches told me one time is, just stop, that I had to stop, like just making these big, random surges in like middle of races. It’s hard to explain, but whenever there would be a big crowd, whenever people would cheer me on, you know, I’d all of a sudden start, start going harder, start sprinting, start trying to pass people around me. That really did take a toll on me, like later on in races and later on where I just couldn’t, you know, a lot of people when they see the finish line, they’re really good at finishing and I never was for that reason. So I just took, like, he told me there’s really intentionally maintain the same effort the whole time, you know, start out, slow don’t surge, and even if I was not in the place I thought I should have been at various points, I made sure not to give the sudden burst of effort that would really drain me later on. And I carry that with me through more than just running, you know, maybe a logical fallacy is not everything is a cross country race, not everything is a marathon, but those bursts of, those bursts of effort and like just trying too hard instead of just doing what you’ve been doing all the time and what you have been able to show yourself like for a given amount of time is counter productive.

[00:07:39] Amardeep: The audience might not know this. Ryan is really fast. So watch your marathon time?

[00:07:44] Ryan: I ran 2:40 back in 2018, but I’m trying to go under that for the next one.

[00:07:49] Amardeep: Yeah, which I’ve never run a mile for myself. I’ve done a bunch of obstacle course races, but it’s nowhere in the same league and he’s had this dedicated training for years, right. That you’ve been able to build up to this.

[00:08:00] Ryan: Yeah.

[00:08:01] Amardeep: On top of everything else you do as well, which I found incredible.

[00:08:04] Ryan: Yeah. On and off, just trying to, trying to get better at it now, but that’s the, that’s the goal.

[00:08:11] Amardeep: Was there a time in the past when you struggled to balance everything together? And how did you fix that and realign yourself?

[00:08:17] Ryan: Plenty of times. And I would always, I mean, when I was younger, I’d always tried to just, you know, work harder, sleep less. I thought I always thought more was better in the sense that if I could, you know, get more studying done, get more, put more effort in, you know, try harder. It would all be better, and teaching isn’t like, I think teaching is a field where that’s not all, that’s definitely not the case. Like it’s not, it’s not a field where like the harder you try, the more you plan, the better it’s going to go. It’s better to be well rested than well-planned on any given day of the week, just because like, you need to have good, you need to have good instincts and those you develop over time. But those obviously erode if you’re not your best self on a given day, or you’re not, you’re not rested well, you’re not taking care of yourself. So that’s what I have taken into perspective as a teacher and that’s what I take introspective as a runner too, that it’s better to be well rested than well-prepared or well-planned.

[00:09:13] Amardeep: I think one of the other things as well that relates to this is, sometimes people expect their gut instincts to be there, like straight away, and it can take years for it to happen. And it’s having that compassion to yourself that you don’t need to be amazing at something when you first start. So in my previous job technology consulting, I’d say for the first two years I look back on it, I was rubbish. Like that’s just, but that was me learning. I needed to have that phase of not being good at something so that you could build this gut instinct, so you could be able to tell, okay, today I feel in a good position that I’ll be able to get a lot done, and today I don’t. And the same thing I guess with running where, you only come with over time where you’re able to tell, today is the day, which I’m feeling rested and I’m feeling well, but don’t try to speed up that process. Like let yourself learn, I think is quite important.

[00:10:01] Ryan: Yeah. And if anyone’s into running, there’s this one, one runner, and I guess like you could look at the way Mo Farah used to run as well, but, and he would often be at the back of the pack, you know, he got tripped up in an Olympic 10K I think once, and he still just like, he maintained his composure. He didn’t try to overcompensate right after, he just stuck with it, what he was doing, and then he kept, he trusted his finishing speed at the end, which was superior to his like, Kenyan and Ethiopian competitors. And I think a runner that even on the days that aren’t his best as similarly, very intelligent tactically and just really good at conserving his energy throughout the race is Jakob Ingebrigtsen from, from Norway. So he defeated, he just ran the Olympic record in the 1500 meters in like 3.28 and he’s 20 years old. So, and then he recently just ran 3000 meters, and he obviously just looked exhausted. He’s been, he’s been racing so much the past couple of weeks, he looked exhausted and he still won just based on his tactics. And he won’t necessarily like he’s, he’s very fit right now. He won’t take the lead until the very end, for the most part, knowing yourself, knowing when to, you know, when to conserve your energy and when it’s time to go, I think is really, really important in terms, just seeing it like a race.

[00:11:14] Amardeep: Did you hit like point say, obviously you’re doing the school, you’re doing writing, was there a point in that you had a breaking point, where you had to make changes to cope with what you were doing, because I’m not quite sure how you managed to fit everything in?

[00:11:26] Ryan: Yeah. There’s a lot of compromises I have to make, even if I’m not, I don’t have like a big revelation. I mean, I’ve had to write, [unintelligible], just because I’m also working on a master’s degree in regards to teaching. And then I think after big, big bouts of procrastination, I know that I need time to recover. I know I don’t, there are stuff that I don’t really want to look at it again until the next week or something like that. And it’s not a cycle most people want to get in, but it’s how I manage. And, you know, it’s the way I see like, this is what my body or my mind is telling myself to do in terms of just making, you know, keeping me sane, or keeping me going on a day-to-day basis. So those compromises I make might be more unintentional than anything, but I still do make them. It’s not like I can just do it all.

[00:12:14] Amardeep: I guess this brings up a point in something that me and Ryan talked about a week or so ago is Ryan was asking me about UX and how to get a mentor, because he wants to get into that. And then I asked him like, have you got enough time for this? Because it already is, like I said, it’s quite stretched. He’s got lots of things going on. But the UX side is a new shiny thing, which he could, he enjoys, but it’s hard to make that decision of what to pursue, because if he made time for doing the UX stuff, but what, if you, what would you kind of sacrifice for that? If you were trying to say, spend a few hours a week doing design and doing these other kind of things. Do you have in your mind what you cut back on?

[00:12:53] Ryan: Yeah, I mean, I think I would write a little less, you know, I think the world, I mean, my writing page has been a lot more, you know, it’s been, you know, I have bursts where motivation does come and the ideas come and like, we all have that feeling sometimes where it feels like it just comes naturally, and it’s like, it’s like silk. And unfortunately I’ve had that much less and less as I’ve gotten a lot more burden per se and personally, and professionally, I think that’s where it is. And I think like what you were saying about just being rubbish at when you’re a beginner, that’s completely how I feel. Just like trying to delve into it. The way I got into it as my teacher’s union asked me to be an editor. I’m like, oh, okay. I’ve experienced editing, like, oh, I would love to be, I would love to edit this newsletter. And they’re like, oh, we mean layout, like you know. All right, I’ll still try and do it. And it’s actually gone pretty well, but I definitely want to refine my skills a bit there.

[00:13:44] Amardeep: Hi everyone. I hope you’re enjoying the episode so far. I want to take a quick break to ask you to check in with yourself. There’s many people struggling with balance and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s tips that my guests might share can hopefully help you along the way, but if you already feel overwhelmed or burnt out, it’s probably best that you ask somebody for help too. For some, this might be a friend or family member, while others might feel like they have nobody they can talk to. If you’re one of these people, check out the link in the show notes, it’s for United for Global Mental Health. They’ve got health plans all across the world, with people willing to listen on the other side. It’s important to let somebody know how you’re feeling. Now, back to the show.

At the moment, what have you got going on? So you’ve got the masters, you’ve got the running, you’ve got teaching, you’re doing a little bit of writing, a little bit of design, and you’ve had some recent good news as well, I believe.

[00:14:30] Ryan: Yeah. So recently I got in, you know, I got engaged, so that was, it’s hard to believe it was a month ago, but it was a month ago and you know, it’s not like you just get engaged and everything is good until the wedding, like there’s come like a significant amount of planning. And I’m trying to not buy into the gender norms that, oh, the woman does all the planning, but we’ve been, we’ve been going to visit venues that are an hour or two away. And that does take up significant time as well. And it can be a bit draining too, cause I’m not sure what I’m looking for and, you know. It’s complicated, but trying to make space for that part of my life too, and, you know, I don’t compromise on my friends or my relationship at all either, so that’s something that has kept me pretty grounded as well.

[00:15:19] Amardeep: I guess something which I could look for advice from you, so what’s happening to me at the moment is everything I was doing on the side before, on top of the job, which during the pandemic, when social app was kind of on pause and now that things opened up again, I’m framing myself back into my social life, and I’ve got events on almost every day or every other day. And for me, I guess it’s still getting used to it again, but I’m trying to prioritize that, and when I’m prioritizing that, it means that sometimes I need to do the things that I do for my work and for my businesses gets pushed out and is trying to find the right balance between those two different areas. So do you, at the moment, do you think you always prioritize your social life and everything else needs to work around that? Or do you sometimes have to cut back and say, no, I’ve got to save for my master’s or no, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to run. How do you think of saying no to these kind of events or do find ways to just manage it.

[00:16:13] Ryan: Yeah. I can’t give a very definitive answer. I think it’s a bit nuanced at the moment. And one example is last Saturday, I went to go see a concert with my fiance. I thought it would be like a concert, like two hours. You see the band. You’re out, but it ended up being six hours of a music festival. Six different bands. I still needed to run. I still needed you all these stuff. And I, like, I found myself getting like a little agitated at myself for not knowing, not asking the right questions, but then I had to really keep it in the perspective of like being here with my fiance and she’s really into music. So being here with her at this music festival was more important than me getting in 70 miles a week of running. I really had to just like, have a, have a moment there where I’m like, okay, like if I need to figure out, like, my relationship is more important than all of these, all of these things that I’m trying to do, that was kind of like something I realized the other day. And I’m hoping like, you know, every day is different. You try to, you do try to make that balance and try to put the people first.

[00:17:12] Amardeep: For you, so obviously you’re doing masters at the moment, and then you’re gonna, can you just clarify as well for people who aren’t aware, what exactly is your master’s in? Related to education, but it’s specialized if I remember.

[00:17:21] Ryan: Yes. It’s just a master’s of education and you specialize in the part of education you’re in. So I teach special ed. So most of my classes are, or some of my classes are related to special education.

[00:17:32] Amardeep: Once that’s masters is over, and I guess once your wedding planning is over, what’s the kind of ideal lifestyle you’re looking towards? Is it going to be you cut back from some things or is it going to be, you’re trying to maintain what you have now, but just sort of a better balance. What’s the kind of ideal lifestyle?

[00:17:48] Ryan: I would seek a better balance. I think I’ve been able to state and in some ways like having additional puzzles, whatever you call it, or just a school, a graduate degree in addition to teaching takes, takes my mind off the actual teaching in general, which I think is a much, much needed other things to look forward to other things, to focus on because, when I was my, when I first started teaching it, it really consumed me for, you know, like my whole life. And because, you know, because that’s the kind of what you kind of see as a new teacher, you you’re like, I need, this is how I’m going to make a difference. Like I need to put, you know, sacrifice everything for my students, for my kids.

And that is a line that’s kind of sold to recruit teachers as well. So I really had to put it into perspective. This isn’t my life. This is just my job. And I’m not doing a service if I’m constantly like burned out, you know? So I think I’ll try to maintain it and I’ll try and maintain it just to keep my, you know, just so I don’t have one thing to look forward to everyday, you know?

[00:18:49] Amardeep: Is there anything else you’d want to pursue, so you’ve got, would it be school like teaching and writing would be your major and running a guest. So you’d have these kind of three main pillars alongside your social life, or would there be once you’re masters is over and you’ve got a bit more time, something else you wanted to try and expand on?

[00:19:06] Ryan: Yeah. So after the masters is over, I’m actually tomorrow, the application’s open, but I have everything in place to apply, apply for law school. So the way I would do it is have it spread out over more time than people traditionally do it, but it would be like an evening program. I would take less credits. I’ll try to spread out with the summers. And the reason for that is that people think, have this idea of special ed that most of the time, you’re just working with kids and you’re working on kids who really need it too, like students with disabilities, but it has become at least try not to get too technical here, but at least in America it’s become very, very legalistic protecting, you have to protect the school from lawsuits. Make sure there aren’t violations of federal law, you know, that unfortunately has consumed a big part of the field and in the classroom, you’re making, you’re making a lot of change, but it’s such, it’s on like such a small level that sometimes you, I, at least for the future, for me, I wanted to do it on a more, you know, I don’t know what’s the right word, systemic level.

[00:20:05] Amardeep: How would that work for your law degree? How would you make the change that you want to make?

[00:20:08] Ryan: Yeah. So there’s like different hierarchies within the world of special education. They’re the people who do the oversight. There’s the teachers. We have something called IE teachers or SETA teachers and try to, and hold meetings for the kids. Again, it’s become a bit legalistic in America. There’s a lot of different hierarchies to the job and there’s people who represent the students and there’s people who represent the schools. You know, I’ve, I’ve seen how overburdened teachers can be just, you know, having, having to do all this administrative paperwork that isn’t the most fun. But wanting to focus on teaching, which they really can’t do as much as they want to. So, you know, everyone has a different skill set and like, I’m good at the paperwork. I’m good at following like guidelines of this law called [unintelligible]. So it’s complicated, but that is what something I’m really, really passionate about and something I feel like I can make more changes on a bigger level.

[00:21:06] Amardeep: Yeah. Sounds awesome. So hopefully that works out for you and hopefully your applications go well.

[00:21:10] Ryan: Yeah. I hope so too.

[00:21:12] Amardeep: For the people listening right now. What some mindset shifts that you think they could make that would make a positive difference to their lives?

[00:21:19] Ryan: I think that, and this might sound really cliche, but one shift I made was that, you know, where I am is exactly where I’m supposed to be. And like, you know, where you are is exactly where you’re supposed to be. And I, I tell myself that a lot, just because I’m con, you know, if you constantly have this voice in you that it’s like you should be doing this, or you should, you should be doing a lot more, or you should be making this change with your life, you should be like pursuing this career, you know, it’s not that it’s not even just about happiness, but it’s just not very effective. Right. And I found it’s not really effective because you’re trying to force things that aren’t natural. You’re fine, you know, in the classroom, I will try to force strategy, you know, I would try to be like all these other teachers that were better than me when I was my first year. I shouldn’t have been trying to be them because you know, I have my own style, I have my own way dealing with students and just having relationships with students. So just knowing you are where you’re supposed to be as like one mindset shift that has helped me a lot.

[00:22:15] Amardeep: I think it is something which a lot of people feel isn’t it where they’re always looking up with, I need to be like this person, I need to be like that person. What you said, you can forge your own way, so you can be doing the same job as them in a different style, but they might be really good at doing it in their way. And you’re really good at doing in your way. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be the same as them, because we would have our own individual personalities. And like you said, you mentioned earlier that you’re already good at the paperwork. So you can use that to help the children in need in a way that some other people couldn’t, but then there’s other people might be able to talk to people in the classroom better than you could. So it’s usually in your kind of skills and something you enjoy in a way it’s making a difference rather than trying to force yourself to do something that you don’t enjoy just because you think that’s, what’s going to help or what you’ve seen other people do.

It’s been a pleasure to have you Ryan, where can the listeners hear more from you?

[00:23:08] Ryan: Yeah, probably the biggest place is my blog on Medium. That’s probably the only big public social media presence I keep. I’m bad, something I’m really bad at that, you know, as I’ve been going out, going out the UX scores on Google is updating my LinkedIn, so not a good place to contact me there, but on Medium is best.

[00:23:28] Amardeep: I guess you have the same struggle as me in a way where, there are so many different social media platforms and you try to have a presence in all of them, which is just very difficult to manage. So it’s good you’ve got that clear message of Medium is the place to contact me.

[00:23:39] Ryan: Yeah. So I’ve tried.

[00:23:43] Amardeep: Would I be right in thinking that’s

[00:23:45] Ryan: That is me. Yep.

[00:23:47] Amardeep: Yep. So I’ll put a link in the show notes as well.

[00:23:50] Ryan: Thanks a lot Amardeep.

[00:23:51] Amardeep: The final thing to finish up on is, what’s one small thing that’s brought you joy recently?

[00:23:55] Ryan: So I put getting to engage initially, but so, but that’s a big thing, so I think I choose that.

[00:24:01] Amardeep: That’s kind of a little big thing. Yeah?. I’ll show you a film saying, what’s it to be a big thing?

[00:24:06] Ryan: Yeah. Yeah. So a smaller thing that has brought me joy recently, I think is just like a big, you know, seeing the students again and being in person, you know, like not having to stare at a screen for 12 hours a day anymore, it’s pretty nice in its own. Right. And it’s easier on the eyes. The small thing that’s made a big difference.

[00:24:32] Amardeep: If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, I’d love it If you could leave me a five star review, it really helps get the message out further. Wherever you’re listening, it would be awesome If you could subscribe and share in your social media channels. If you want to see more of my work and advice, you can find all of the links in the show notes.

Thank you again for listening and I hope you have a lovely day.

Reach Your Goals Without Burning Out

Get my free Anti-burnout Toolkit and weekly tips to help you balance your work and life.