Change Your Environment – Change Your Destiny

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Rating: 9.8/10 (5 votes cast)

Ryan Webb has an intense yet calm, commanding presence and in some ways reminds me of a young Will Smith. His story is one of resolute courage in face of overwhelming odds as he grew up in one of America’s most dangerous cities, the notorious Detroit, Michigan.

His dad left when Ryan was one and his mother took him to church faithfully and worked hard at any job she could; from pre-school teacher to stock-room employee. Because of her low pay, they were granted public housing and lived in eight homes in 21 years.

One of Ryan’s earliest memories of those days is of playing basketball in the basement when his mum was doing the laundry. He recalls that this led him to playing for his first team the Barton Bears when he was only 10. Fortunately most of his friends were from playing basket ball and church but of course some were from the neighbourhood as well.

Growing up in Detroit is a challenge for any young person though, because the endemic violence and poverty pollutes the mind and the ability to see any way out. Ryan experienced this violence first hand at the age of 13 when his 7th Grade friend was shot dead. He and his friends learned that “You always have to pay attention to your surroundings, and almost be paranoid to survive.”

Detroit is the 3rd most violent city in America and seven out of ten murders go unsolved. Young people living there have a greater chance of going to prison than graduating from High School and there are over 95,000 abandoned homes and 85,000 abandoned businesses.

Ten basketball teams later, Ryan was offered a scholarship at Tiffin University Ohio. He worked really hard at his studies despite working at one point, seven part-time jobs. Being removed from his normal environment, Ryan managed some real achievements: he managed to get an Internship at a Fortune 50 Company. After this, Ryan managed to complete his two Bachelor degrees from Tiffin; one in Business Administration and the other in Criminal Justice but not before being whisked away to live for a while in a completely different world – Kensington one of London’s most affluent areas.

Ryan attributes his success to perseverance and that it was because he managed to maintain an optimistic perspective that his fortunes really changed for the better. He believes that there is no way to explain some things and felt that there was someone looking over his shoulder helping him. His faith in God has certainly sustained him but he was also influenced by Earl Nightingale’s thoughts on Conformity and chose to be one of the 5% who are prepared to change their environment.

“Continue to do the things you’ve never done – it gives you courage to continue. That’s the only way you can do the things you’ve dreamed off. Doing different things, gives you different results.” Ryan certainly lived up to his beliefs. He sold most of everything he had to fly to the other side of the world and experience other countries such as Greece, Italy, Thailand and India.

I met Ryan when he was studying International Business in Emerging Markets at Edinburgh University but he is now off to study Social Anthropology at Oxford University (World Ranking = 2), to gain understanding in how society works and how he can best help others – because he wants to change the world. He wants to shed light for others and to give something back. Because his bad experiences have given him invaluable lessons, he believes that if you start off at the top, then it is hard to see how it really is – someone needs to bridge the gap and Ryan sees himself as a bridge builder.

Unfortunately knee problems mean Ryan probably won’t be playing basket ball at Oxford but he might try rowing, now that’s something really different…


Change Your Environment - Change Your Destiny, 9.8 out of 10 based on 5 ratings Perseverance, Connections, Hope, Hard Work, CouragehelloArraytags

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