“Getting back to what you said about stockbrokers,” Bryan Ward says, glazing his Americano with cannabidiol, “I think a significant differentiation is that I don’t think my life necessarily sucked; I’ve actually been quite lucky in life. My attitude wasn’t necessarily ‘Fuck that, I’m never going to do that again.’”
On track for the American Dream, Bryan has spent the last third of his life navigating the alphabet soup of the American ‘way’—a C.I.S. degree from JMU; eight years at IBM; VP of Engineering for Altvia; CTO of WellHire. As an IT guy, he’s already lived a big life in a short time span. Sinking roots in Boulder, he’d lived the Colorado dream of a legit career, ideal salary and the siren song of the Rocky Mountains in his backyard.
An opportunity to relocate to London through his job at IBM was irresistible. He spent several years working. And working.
He did attract love, as successful men tend to do, and he started thinking about a family and missing home. Boulder wasn’t a good fit for his British sweetheart though; she soon returned to her own homeland. IBM had a change of heart as well, assigning Bryan to their commuter version of the American Dream: “Texas every week, hotels, Hertz and Applebee’s (not really) became a way of life. That’s when London called. Again,” he laughs. “Surely the grass is greener over there? I mean, it does rain all the time!”
So he left IBM, founded his own consultancy, Big Perm Limited, and hopped back across the pond to the UK, this time on his own terms. Five years later though, he still hadn’t found what he was looking for. Back to Boulder in the hopes of settling down. Again. Things finally began to take shape, new love of his life. New hopes and career opportunities. American Dream: stability.
And then… in a matter of moments… he lost it all.
“When things didn’t work out— that one-two combination— that was really the catalyst that drove me to make serious changes in my life.”
Losing first his job as a vice president, and then a girlfriend with whom he had hoped to begin a life and family, were traumatic events begging re-evaluation. He fell into a deep depression.
When some people a have mid-life crisis they go out and buy sport sport cars and sleep with younger women. Bryan, however, felt like killing himself.
“It was like the Universe was saying ‘You’re not listening.’ It’s not ‘me’ controlling everything,” he chuckles now. “Maybe it’s time to listen a little bit more than it is to talk.”
Looking at Bryan across the table, the seismic shifts that had rocked his world are no longer evident. Today, he presents as a winsome Millennial in shaggy russet curls and a ginger beard, all the more handsome for premature grays (perhaps the jobs and the women?) blue eyes are steady and warm. No longer in the corporate world, he’s still got an urban but rugged style: silver thread surfs the plaid of a blue farmer’s snap-button, c. 1982; casual dark jeans and blunnies complete the visage. Sitting in the back corner of Bonfire as the 5-Point crowds mill about, Bryan reclines, legs crossed, arms relaxed along the wainscot. He is at ease. He is content and living his life his way.
“It was about listening,” he continues, “making space. Why am I feeling that way, any feeling— say, if I have anxiety— run away, keep filling up my brain with staybusystaybusy. If anything was bothering me, just workworkworkworkwork. Or runrunrun. Or playplayplay, drinkdrinkdrink. The thing I really needed to learn was where those feelings were coming from. I had to listen and not be afraid of them and actually ‘hug’ them: ‘Oh, hey, Anxiety! You’re a part of me, too, you’ve got a place in here. What’s going on?’ Let’s just spend some time with this anxiety, right?”
“A lot of that came through meditation…not being afraid of [negative mind states]. This is just part of the story. Meditation has been great for helping me through this transition.” He pauses, reflectively, considering the whole of his current state. “If I really wanted to, I could probably just move back down to Denver, get a nice, well paying job as a VP of engineering somewhere, get back into the tech world, you know? Just collect my paycheck, get my ‘time off’ and go back to my old life.”
“First, I had to say ‘This isn’t working.’ It started off as a journey to fix myself, but as I’ve learned, it’s a journey. There is no ‘end.’ It’s not like, well if I do this, this and this, I’ll be fixed and can go back to the way that I was. No. I had to learn to embrace the struggle, not just try to control things to eliminate or avoid struggle. It’s changing the paradigms…it’s about visualizing what I want for my life. It’s about setting powerful intentions in the universe and helping those guide my actions in the present. And that’s the gist of what I’m trying to do in my current life up here.”
Parts of this new life here contrast with his life ‘back there.’ His days are busy but no longer is he working for a paycheck, working for ‘the man’ packing his days with meetings, managing a team, and then after-hours, work more— three to four additional hours of coding.
“The ‘Man’ wants his pound of flesh!” Bryan hoots. “It was the only time I could any find peace and quiet. I would come in on the weekends, when nobody else was there, because I was living in London and didn’t have any friends yet. I was living by myself and I didn’t have anything better to do because it was just raining all day,” he says drolly.
Bryan’s entre to our valley was through Roaring Fork Leadership (RFL), a nine-month leadership and personal development program. RFL speakers and seminars have informed how he operates today. Before, he felt if he weren’t leading by example, contributing code, even as a leader, his team might view him as worthless. It was one of many misguided notions he needed to unlearn. These days, Bryan is building a company he believes in, Sopris Health and Wellness, pursuing not The Dream, but Bryan’s Dream. He lights up and grins describing his new life.
“Each day is unique now. I still spend a lot of time in front of the computer, don’t get me wrong there. We’re still launching and there are still so many things we need to do to get the company more out into the mainstream. But one of the things I really like now about my ‘new life’ is that it’s not all just in front of a computer. Here I am sitting with you having coffee, walking Ginny [his incredibly chill Labrador retriever] in the middle of the day [along a river or up a mountain], and having conversations. Meeting people in this community. That’s not just important to my health and well being, it’s also important to the company. I’ve realized what strides can be made through conversations and relationships. And not just through ‘code’.”
Sopris Health and Wellness (SHW) procures cannabidiol from all-natural hemp, grown in Boulder County, Colorado, to produce CBD oil products. The farmers are his friends. Harvest is a process of intention.
“They’re growing it with love. They’re doing this for same reasons we are. They want to help people,” Bryan says.
SHW cannabidiol extraction is through an all natural (no chemicals) low temperature lipid-infusion process that allows for gathering the additional cannabinoids, terpenes, and vital botanical nutrients that have made hemp the powerhouse it is.
So that’s a lotta garbley goo for lay people. What does that really mean?
“You lose a lot of the benefits of the hemp plant when the faster, more efficient extraction processes are used,” Bryan explains. “It’s all about preserving the maximum amount of the original plant.”
By now, our conversation has brought us to Delaney. It’s a drizzly day walking laps at the dark park. All around us, the plant world explodes with palpable, fecund verdancy. The life force of new chartreuse leaves and grass, of luminous orchard blossoms against thick gray and lavender clouds, is on the magical side. Twitterpated, Ginny races through wet grass with a couple of scrappy rat dogs, kicking up soil, feeling alive. Discussing the value in honoring that very same life force, Bryan’s voice rises— this all means something to him.
“I’m a believer that plants have a design. You don’t take a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Use the whole plant because all the different components of the plant were designed to work in concert with one another. So if you just take one part of it,” he says, “and not the rest of it, you’re not going to have the effectiveness. You’re going against Nature’s design.”
Currently, SHW offers 10 mg and 25 mg gel caps of pure CBD oil. Gel caps deliver a regulated dose. SHW also offers dank, rich, dark green CBD oil in a dropper bottle for those who savor the floral aromas associated with the plant and wish to leverage CBD properties with the nutritional or energizing properties in coffee, tea, juicing and shakes.
Ever expanding, SHW recently released a camphor and arnica infused CBD salve developed in partnership with John Lee, owner of the Providence Apothecary in Glenwood Springs. As part of the SHW crew, John will develop CBD/botanical remedies that enhance the properties within each. This relationship excites former corporate techie Bryan, who has come to see that “it’s all about relationships.”
And leaning in, of course.
“There are a lot of ‘Oh, shit!’ moments. Starting a business is scary. I don’t have funding. I’m just bootstrapping it. It’s not like somebody wrote me a check. There’s a lot weighing on this for me and it can be scary. That fear can be terrifying. Well, let’s think about this a little bit. Where’s that fear coming from?” he says. “Let’s lean into it. Let’s have some fun with it instead of running away. Why are we running away, right? Well, we’re afraid of being made to look bad. Right? That’s understandable. Is it because of our egos? Our ego is saying ‘Beware! I’m getting exposed here and I don’t like it!’ Which is totally cool. I get it.”
He pauses. Reflects.
“I am putting my ego out here. This is who I am. I’m naked. My pants are down. This is it,” he says.
In looking at the high points, not just the challenges of SHW and choosing a different, less guaranteed life, Bryan shares a moment he experienced driving home from Grand Junction with a recent crate of the latest batch of cannabidiol. He got a call from a woman whose father was in hospice. As a family, they had turned to CBD to improve his quality of life in the final months of his life. He wanted to spend as much time with his family as he could before he went, because he sees the end coming.
The cousin of an RFL friend called in shock, saying “‘it’s like he came back to life,’ like that movie Cocoon,” Bryan shares. “She said it was one of the best days she’s had with him in recent memory. She just called to say how excited she was, how amazed she was. That conversation was just so invigorating for me because that’s really what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to improve people’s quality of life through all-natural ways. I’m thinking like, ‘Holy crap, we really helped this guy!’ This is what we’re trying to do with this company! When you get stories of really helping people, those are the highs of the job. We are positively impacting people’s’ lives. That for me is way better than an alert popping on my phone saying ‘Oh, we just made a sale.’ We have a great company, we have a great product. We have great intentions. We just need to get this out to the world. We need a megaphone. We need more people to hear this.”
Ginny has opened her stride, tearing it up with the canine posse. She’s living the life, too. As she frolics, Bryan and I discuss the ups, downs, complexities and strategies of launching a business within a new paradigm— he, an oil to amplify life. Me, a magazine to amplify community.
Part of the learning curve of life is shifting from what makes ‘me’ feel good…to ‘how can I make the world feel good?’ We’re both engaged in the GlenX Space, a coworking office in the Third Street Center. It’s a home away from home for freelancers, startups and remote workers seeking community and infusion. It’s a veritable garden of cross-pollination— regardless of the different professions, we all have something to offer one another and learn from one another. It’s rather groovy, especially on the ‘Oh, shit!’ days when the tenuousness of entrepreneurialism feels ungrounding.
It’s moving from the screen at home, in isolation and ‘with blinders,’ as Bryan put it, to real life in a professional work environment— in a way that works towards a meaningful life, with or with out the girl, the stability, the job title. Connection and community is where it’s at, yo.