In Hawaii, they say, “If you cross someone’s property on the way to the beach, be the first to smile and wave!” This is great advice on so many levels. It shows that you are willing to take the first step to give the other person permission to take the second. And that’s how defense barriers come down and friendly relationships follow.

In our increasing digital world we find ourselves vying for attention in a sea of overly simplified sound bites. We have a tendency to become minimalist as a form of efficiency. “Just keep it to business,” seems to be the order of the day. And it’s corollary, “Put your best foot forward,” seems to make sure that our image is ‘photo-shopped’ to perfection.

We feel compelled to give the idealized impression of the person we think our customer, vendor, or employee wants to see and hear. And in this “officialization” process, something can get lost, something important – our humanity!

It seems ironic today, with the big trend toward transparency, credibility, and authenticity, that many of us have found ourselves clothed in pretentions that inadvertently create barriers to the very trust we seek in business.

This is the problem that UC Irvine Communications Expert, Ryan Foland, and award-winning Digital Marketer, Leonard Kim tackle in their new book, Ditch the Act, Reveal the Surprising Power of the Real You For Greater Success. This message comes at a great time when even the tech schools are beginning to realize the power of soft skills in business success.

We caught up with Ryan Foland in his Irvine offices to get a better understanding of what we can expect from Ditch the Act.

M&B: Ryan, what is the core message you and Leonard are conveying here?

Ryan: We wanted to demonstrate how exposing your imperfections and even failures can endear you to your customers. By letting down your guard, you actually invite compassion, understanding and support.

M&B: But don’t your customers expect a level of professionalism from you to give them confidence in your performance?

Ryan: If your goal is to build a loyal customer, or even an advocate, they need to trust you first. That trust is based in relatability; basically, how much of themselves can they see in you? Sure, you must deliver a professional service or product, but what makes them loyal is identification with your human vulnerabilities.

M&B: So are you saying we don’t have to pretend anymore?

Ryan: When you take off the mask and ditch the act you open the door for trust, the fundamental ingredient in loyalty. If you feel like you are pretending to be you, that should be a red flag. When you share something about yourself, like a personal challenge or past failure, you become more real, relatable, and deserving of support. By lowering your guard and feeling comfortable in your own skin, you can transform transactional relationships into “friends-actional” bonds. This results in people reaching out to you in droves and supporting you to take on even bigger challenges than you ever thought possible.

M&B: Can you briefly summarize the process you recommend to ditch the act?

Ryan: We have actually identified 8 steps to help take off the mask, increase authenticity, and build a loyal following. The book also includes interactive worksheets to help the reader uncover who they really are.

Step 1:  Understand that positioning is an art form. So position yourself as a real human. Craft your unique bio in a way that documents your whole story and not just your highlight reel. Include not only your good moments, but also the bad ones, highlighting your personal experience as the foundation for your expertise.

Step 2: Discover what makes you unique and identify the problem you are best suited to solve. Then learn how to share your stories with a targeted audience who needs your help.

Step 3: Overcome your fear and start sharing. Create stories and insights based on your Exposure Résumé and begin to weave them into your content. Start at lower levels of exposure and work your way up to sharing the skeletons in your closet.

Step 4: Focus on form, not force. Speak your truth and uncover how your stories reveal your values, ethics, goals, visions, passion, and desires. Start putting yourself out there and get comfortable with the content you create.

Step 5: Extract key content pieces and turn them into video scripts, and get in front of the camera, then hit the record button. Make videos, videos that show your personality and expertise, then embed them into content you’ve already published.

Step 6: Be consistent with content creation and learn how to nourish streams of content to stay top of mind.

Step 7: Keep it social, and foster camaraderie in new relationships both online and offline. Engagement sparks engagement, so don’t be afraid to start interacting with new people.

Step 8: Stack your successes by using small wins to gain bigger wins. Like writing a guest blog to help you land a low tier podcast interview, which might lead to a non-paid speaking gig, which might lead to a higher tier podcast, which might lead to being featured in a trade publication. Start small, but start!

Like the Hawaiian beachgoer, being the first to wave and smile, you can break down the barriers that separate you and your business from the friends-actional, family-like trust that builds true customer loyalty.

Look for the book’s bright orange cover on the shelves at your local Barnes & Noble, on Amazon, and find out more about how to Ditch the Act at


Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact