Realize your limits and strengths. I think everyone is wired to have an aptitude for something specific. The best thing is when your desires and skills are in alignment with each other. Which is not always the case. You could desire to be a professional basketball player, but if you’re 5’3, all the training in the world isn’t going to help. In the business world if you know you aren’t good in a certain area find someone who is and bring them into the mix! I HATE social media. I hate constantly streaming or “going live” My business partner for GaS Digital LOVES it. He’s brilliant at it. He’s a born marketing machine. I know this to be one of my many weaknesses so I leave that part of the business to him.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ralph Sutton.
Ralph Sutton is an American entrepreneur and Tv/Podcast host and is the founder of the GaS Digital Network, leading audio, and video podcast network. Sutton is also the creator and host of The SDR Show, started with renowned comedian Big Jay Oakerson. He has over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry and has hosted numerous concerts, TV shows, and podcasts including The Tour Bus, a nationally syndicated rock radio show (that was on 100+ radio stations in the US). He is also known for contributing his services to creating awareness about rock culture having interviewed a vast range of artists including Gene Simmons, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Brian Johnson — alongside mainstream icons like Mark Cuban, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, as well as cast members of SNL and many others. Sutton has been featured in several media outlets including Fox News, NY Post, Medium, Issue Wire, Yahoo, ED Times, All Things Comedy, Thrive Global, Entrepreneur, The Hype Magazine, Metal Insider, and more.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Born in Brooklyn and ran trendy nightclubs for a few years until I fell in love with rock music. I started booking a rock club in Staten Island which led to my doing the same some legendary clubs like Limelight, Lamour, and World Stage. Tried my hand at cooking school and ran a restaurant for 4 years. Eventually, I got a job doing overnights part-time at a small radio station in NJ — and in less than a year — had a nationally syndicated rock radio show that ended up growing to about 100 stations. I went on to host a bunch of music events and was on VH1 When I realized radio was dying — I started a podcast and subsequently a podcast network… and here we are.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
So much of the entertainment industry is fake it until you make it! When I first started on the radio, we couldn’t get any big rockstars to do my show. One day I found a bin of used CDs that contained interviews with a dozen huge rock stars. I bought them all, edited out the interviewer — then I just asked the questions to make it look as though they were on my show! We had Van Halen, Kiss, Ozzy, Guns N Roses! And no one was the wiser. So, my takeaway: fake it till ya make it!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Seven years ago we were doing things that are very commonplace now. This includes episodes behind a paywall without commercials, time-delayed episodes, etc. Now everyone seems to be doing it. The thing I think we are most known for is me letting the hosts do their show without really getting involved with their guest booking or what they say or do. I bring these shows on the network because I believe in them. Every now and then someone will email me upset over something a comic said or did since that’s the world we live in. One time I got an email sent to the owner of GaS Digital asking me to fire Ralph Sutton which made me laugh. I’m not sure I can even fire myself.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I guess it depends on which facet of my life we are focusing on. On radio, there was Lenny Bloch, the program director of WDHA. He just believed in me. After one meeting, he decided to take a chance and bring my radio show to the biggest rock station in NJ and give us 4 hours on a Saturday night (8p-12a). We ended up becoming #1 in the market, but he took a HUGE risk. He just went on gut instinct as I had 6 months of radio experience at most!
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
To quote Rocky: “Life’s not about how hard of a hit you can give. It’s about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward.” NOTHING came easy for me in this career path. Every time I felt my show was taking a few steps forward, it always took 2 of those back. I tell people all the time in podcasting: if you think you’re gonna make any money in the first year or two just quit now. You need to WANT to do this. There is no plan B. There’s a silly little story that jumps into my head. Years ago, I was on a show called “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy”. I found out I was chosen on a Friday and the following Monday they told me they decided to go with someone else. I was so pissed! I called back a few days later and said look I realize you are going with someone else, but I was so looking forward to getting the makeover — can you just tell me where they were going to take me so go there and pay for it myself? The producer was so surprised that she went back into the offices and fought for me to get on. Then it became the most-watched episode ever and my radio show went from being on 50 to 80 stations overnight! You’re often told that when you hear potentially good news you shouldn’t get too excited because if it doesn’t happen, you’ll feel really disappointed. Well, there’s a Russian proverb that says — you should get excited because if it doesn’t happen at least you had that time to be happy and you were going to be disappointed anyway. I try to live that way.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
I remember reading a quote that the difference between courage and fearless — is that courage means you know something is scary and do it anyway. In that way, I would liken it to resilience. That you know the path you are on is going to be difficult, but you don’t let that stop you. I hate putting time limits on things like when I hit 30 if I didn’t make it — that I am going to choose another path or whatever. Courage and resilience say — “I will stop when I want to stop, and nothing is going to change that.” The main difference I feel is courage happens in spurts and resilience is something that must persevere through time.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Honestly, my mom. She was a single mother raising twin boys and she wanted to make it in the entertainment industry. I can’t even imagine how difficult it was. She eventually helped the careers along of some major comedians like Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Joy Behar, Susie Essman, and even managed Mario Cantone for a few years.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
So, when I first started the network in my 2nd bedroom I was told by my media friends that there was no way to build a multi-camera HD studio without spending $50,000.00. At the time the main component that was used to switch cameras while streaming live started at around $15,000. Plus, there were the cameras, high-end cables, etc. I thought this simply cannot be. These guys are living in a time warp, and I bet I could find the answer somehow. Eventually, I found a card that you’d plug into a computer that would allow up to 4 cameras. The problem was it was from Japan, and when it arrived, all the instructions were in Japanese. I used Google- translate to eventually find the link to download all the drivers and get it up and running!. That card was only $600, and I eventually built the entire first studio for less than $5,000.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
I have so many — it’s hard to pick one, to be honest. There was a time I quit my job at VH1 because I was promised my own show on another network. That guy who offered me the position ended up owing so much people money that he disappeared. There’s also the time I got re-hired on TV with my show, but right before our first meeting the head of the network who hired me was fired and all his projects were canceled. There are a dozen other horror stories. But most recently I would say it was when Covid first started to get serious. We heard the Thursday before that come Monday no one was going to be allowed in any offices. I gathered up my staff and we had to figure out what shows needed mics, cameras, cables, laptops, etc. We were pulling equipment out of our studios and sent everything out to all the different shows on the network that weekend. Amazingly, come that Monday, not a single show missed an episode. So we had to weather the storm of the lockdowns, finally start to slowly open up again, and the heavens opened up a true storm that NYC had not seen in years. There was a damn lake in my studios. Raining from the ceilings and cascading in from the doorways — front and back! I saw it starting to happen on the cameras and ran over to the studios. My office manager and I were there lifting computers off the floor, shoving towels anywhere we could, wrapping things up in plastic, and calling every wet-vac water removal company on the east coast until we finally found someone about 24 hours later. Amazingly only one computer got damaged but only the power supply! But that was an INSANE 24 hours!
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Nothing ever really came easy for me. I will say I did have the luxury of two involved parents. Though they divorced they were both in the picture and my dad made a pretty good living. I don’t want it to seem that my life was that rough, but nothing in my career path ever went along swimmingly. When I was a kid, I grew fast: over 6 inches in a year. I had legit growing pains. The strange thing was my outsides grew way faster than my insides and my heart wasn’t strong enough to pump blood to my entire body when I was about 14. I would get horrible pain on the side of my chest if I ran or did any real exercise. Regardless, I would always try and make it around the track in high school. Just one loop seemed impossible, but I never stopped trying. About a year into it I finally made it around. A quarter-mile is nothing, especially for a 15-year-old kid, but I was so happy the day I made it around.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
I believe all things come from setting good habits. Forcing yourself to build good habits requires repeating them every single day and remember it takes time to succeed. If it’s easy or feels good immediately it’s probably not good for you.
1 — Make your bed every morning. I can’t stress this enough. It starts your day with a sense of accomplishment. A checkmark off your to-do list. Nothing feels better!
2 — Make a TO-DO list every day. For years I would write it out on legal pads, but since moved to google keep. And have it go off as an alarm every day at 7 AM. Usually, in the evening I put them in the order that I feel I can get them done the next day, and then when it goes off, I start hitting as many of those checkmarks as I can every day.
3 — Realize your limits and strengths. I think everyone is wired to have an aptitude for something specific. The best thing is when your desires and skills are in alignment with each other. Which is not always the case. You could desire to be a professional basketball player, but if you’re 5’3, all the training in the world isn’t going to help. In the business world if you know you aren’t good in a certain area find someone who is and bring them into the mix! I HATE social media. I hate constantly streaming or “going live” My business partner for GaS Digital LOVES it. He’s brilliant at it. He’s a born marketing machine. I know this to be one of my many weaknesses so I leave that part of the business to him.
4 — If you are a single guy Hit on girls. Why? You’re gonna hear no A LOT. This 100% will help you get used to rejection and get used to bouncing back. Most importantly get used to the idea of shrugging it off, and moving forward.
5 –If you want to start fixing a habit, such as losing weight or becoming more productive, find someone you can be accountable to. It makes A HUGE difference. We are social creatures and need social interactions. I started a 2nd podcast called GoodSugar on health and wellness co-hosted with the founder of Juice Press. That show, along with using some of my own mediation and resilience this year, has helped me lose 70lbs so far with only 20 more to go to get back to a healthy weight. I had gained nearly 80 lbs. a few years back when my father passed and I used the pandemic to kickstart my healthy return to humanity. Having him and the show to own up to every week has been a life changer! Plus I share my runs on social media @iamralphsutton every time. It’s my mental connection to additional accountability! I feel like I HAVE to post my run or people will see I am slacking!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think the best idea ever would be no more anonymous posting. You get ONE Instagram/YouTube/Twitter/TikTok/Facebook account and they are all linked to you. End of story. That would eliminate many problems in the world. My second thought is that once a month we have a national unplugged day when no one is allowed on social media.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
The funny thing is I had the chance to interview two of my dream people: (Mark Cuban and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. If I could pick a 3rd just to have someone to sit and talk with? I would probably pick Ted Sarandos. He runs Netflix, and maybe I could talk him into finally giving me my food and music talk show that I have been wanted to do for 10 years. It seems too self-serving to just put it on my network.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow me everywhere @iamralphsutton. My network is GaS Digital which you can find at gasdigitalnetwork.com. I have two podcasts: The SDR Show which streams live every Wed and Sat at 9P at GaS Digital followed by everywhere you’d listen to a podcast and YouTube five days later. GoodSugar comes out everywhere every Monday anywhere you’d consume a podcast and on YouTube.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!