Ricky Williams: The Heisman Healer

Feb 12, 2020

Our interview of Ricky Williams for “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes, Spotify, and premier platforms everywhere. Ricky is a renaissance man and multi-faceted influencer. He is an elite professional athlete with a wide-ranging curiosity that has led him to study herbal medicine, Ayurveda and astrology. Ricky is currently the Chief Herbal Officer of Real Wellness, a CBD company based in Venice, California.

Ricky shared the following takeaways:

On Branding

Jon Pfeiffer: Each [NFL] player appears to have their own brand now. Was that part of the deal when you came into the NFL as well, that you were cognizant of your brand?

Ricky Williams: I think it's almost impossible, at least since the late '90s when I came out, to not be cognizant of your brand because every time you go out in public you're reminded that you have a brand. I think it's slightly different now with social media. I think people can take more control over their brand. I think even in the late '90s a large majority of our brand was dictated by our relationship and the way we were conveyed by the media. I mean something that frustrated me during my playing days, and I think I was one of the first players that started writing my own blog. This was, again, before social media, before players had really a voice or an outlet outside of media.

On being ahead of your time

Jon Pfeiffer: What's it like to be 20 years ahead of your time?

Ricky Williams: Well, it was tough when I was younger. I don't know what it is. Maybe it was the way I was raised, and I think a lot of it was I really loved church when I was a kid. I loved the stories of Jesus. I really took them to heart, and… I had a really strong inner connection to myself, God, or whatever you want to call it. And so I learned at a young age to trust myself. Even if the world didn't understand, I learned to trust that. I call it that crazy voice inside. I trusted it. It got me into a lot of trouble, but somehow I was able to keep trusting it.

I think when you are that far ahead of your time you have to learn to not care so much what other people think, and you have to learn to trust yourself, and you have to learn to weather the storm. Because if you're ahead of your time, people don't have the ability to see what you see or understand.

I learned to not blame other people for not being able to see and to realize this is a gift. And sometimes it feels like a curse or burden, but I've learned that I wouldn't have it any other way. And I think most importantly, and I think I've learned this most from my marriage and my relationship, is to surround myself with people that appreciate the fact that I tend to see things before they actually come. And then I feel supported, and also I have the pieces in place that I can actually do something with this information.

On being an Influencer

Ricky Williams: In my opinion, I think we need help. We need encouragement to be able to make that difficult journey to find our own unique path. I want to be an influencer where I influence people to be open to that possibility and to show them that once you start to live your unique path, life becomes so much more interesting.

On understanding the past

Jon Pfeiffer: I've heard that you talk about helping people recognize the energy in their lives, and that you can help them understand the past by seeing what was actually there as opposed to what you remember.

Ricky Williams: Exactly. That's a big one. I think one of the main problems or questions in science right now is how do we define what a fact is. And quantum physics is now showing that that's blurry now because just by observing an experiment you alter the experiment. My sense of what a chart can represent is a form of objectivity. An example is if something's going on in my life, and I feel baffled by it or I'm not sure what direction to go, I'll look at the chart and I'll look for symbols that identify to me that.

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A transcript of the episode follows:

Jon Pfeiffer:  I'm joined today Ricky Williams. Welcome to the podcast.

Ricky Williams:  Thank you.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You are a former football player.

Ricky Williams:  Yep.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Won the Heisman Trophy.

Ricky Williams:  In 1998.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And we'll come back to it. Played in the NFL for many years.

Ricky Williams:  I think I played 11 seasons.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then you did a complete pivot to you are now ... I've heard you describe yourself as a healer.

Ricky Williams:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jon Pfeiffer:  And you're an astrologer.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah. You know this pivot actually occurred in the middle of my playing career. It all started in 2004 when I retired for the first time.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I want to come back to that and do a deep dive, and just kind of do an overview. Then you formed a company called Real Wellness with your wife.

Ricky Williams:  Yep.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Okay. I've heard you said that we all have a path. You have to listen to the pings.

Ricky Williams:  Yep.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I want to take you through your path, because it's a fascinating path. As somebody who only knew the football side, and now knows a lot more about the other side, it's interesting. So you grew up in San Diego.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Father was a minister.

Ricky Williams:  Sure. My father was and my mother's mother and my father's mother, so yeah, I grew up in a family-

Jon Pfeiffer:  Family of ministers.

Ricky Williams:  Sure did.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Religion was a big part of your life through or at least until high school?

Ricky Williams:  Up through high school. I'd say I probably started to stop being so interested in religion and church about the same time that football became important.

Jon Pfeiffer:  When did you realize you were a good athlete?

Ricky Williams:  I realized I was a good athlete fairly early on, I think in kindergarten. My teacher, Ms. Schwartz, would make us run two laps around the field every morning.

Jon Pfeiffer:  To burn off kindergarten energy?

Ricky Williams:  I mean I think she just was really into fitness, and so we would start every morning, we'd go outside and run two laps. I remember the first couple of times I wasn't very excited about having to run around this big field a couple times. And then I think one day I just clicked that maybe I should try to be first and see how that feels. And so I ran as fast as I could and I smoked everyone in the group. It felt really good to be the fastest kid in class, and that was really the beginning of my athletic career.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You know what's interesting is a lot of times kindergarten athletes don't carry through. But obviously, the athletic ability carried through.

Ricky Williams:  Well, it carried through because it's something that I took pride in. It's something that became part of my identity. I took pride in being the fastest kid in the first grade and in the second grade and the third grade.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And through high school probably.

Ricky Williams:  You know and also I went to an elementary school that it was a magnet program for sports, and so we had an hour of physical education every day. We made a big deal about our field day, our junior Olympics. It was a big focus of the school I attended.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then ultimately you went to Texas to college. How did you, a kid from San Diego, how did you pick Texas.

Ricky Williams:  Well, I was recruited by pretty much every college in the country. I consider myself an adventurous person, and so although USC was attractive and even San Diego State was attractive, a big part of me wanted to explore and experience another place, another culture. With that in the back of my mind as I sought out looking for different universities, I went on recruiting trips. And in my mind I had an idea of what I wanted to get out of the college football experience.

I think number one on my list was I wanted to go to a big program where I would be able to display my talent for a lot of people. I wanted to go to a university that had a rich tradition. I wanted to be the missing piece of a really good team making it to the top. And I wanted to start as a freshman. I think most importantly I wanted the place to feel like family. And so as I went on my trips, I made a checklist. Texas marked off-

Jon Pfeiffer:  All the boxes?

Ricky Williams:  All the boxes, yep.

Jon Pfeiffer:  It obviously worked out.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah, it did. It did.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Did you win the Heisman as a junior or a senior?

Ricky Williams:  I won the Heisman as a senior. As a junior, I mean I had a good year. I led the nation in rushing and scoring but our team only won four games. And so when I came back for my senior year, I had my eye set on winning the Heisman Trophy.

Jon Pfeiffer:  At what point did the university tell you that they were going to make you a Heisman candidate?

Ricky Williams:  Well, it happened quite organically because of my junior season and because I was the best running back and the highest scorer in college football. As soon as I decided to come back for my senior year, I was automatically the Heisman front runner. As far as turning it into a campaign, it was Coach Mack Brown's first year. Our sport information director, the head media guy for Texas football, John Bianco, was one of my closest friends. I communicated to him how important it was for me to win the Heisman, and it was important for Coach Brown because it would be a good start to his first year at Texas.

Ricky Williams:  It all came together, and we all got on the same page. John said he'll do what he has to do and Coach Brown said he'll do what he has to do. And they said I have to do my job on the field and put up numbers.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You have to run.

Ricky Williams:  Exactly. Exactly.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I did a deep dive in Heisman campaigns. I was curious where it started. According to the internet, so take it with a grain of salt, it all started with Roger Staubach in 1963. Because they didn't really know how to do it, so they sent out pamphlets called Meet Roger Staubach to the sports media. And then it's just kind of taken a life of its own.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah

Jon Pfeiffer:  So as a winner, and you ultimately won ... Yes?

Ricky Williams:  Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Okay. As a winner, you get a vote in other potential candidates.

Ricky Williams:  Right.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How much of a campaign, as somebody who gets a vote, do you receive? How much do you notice?

Ricky Williams:  I don't think that they have the ability to really specifically go after specific voters. And so for me, it's just what reaches me from what I look at on ESPN, online, or what I hear on the television about who are the front runners for the Heisman Trophy.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I'm going to jump ahead just a second because I saw it is the NCAA voted in October to permit college athletes to benefit from the use of their name, image, and likeness. How much of a difference would that have made for you, as somebody that was the marquee player for a period of time?

Ricky Williams:  It would've made a huge difference. I mean the contrast was back then when players did have a big name that there was a lot of energy put towards protecting those players from getting in trouble, talking to agents, receiving any kind of benefit for it. So I think if things were the opposite, I mean financially I'm sure I would've benefited from it greatly. I don't know yet. I'm guessing that some players in college are mature enough to handle that, and I'm guessing majority of them aren't.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Well, 18-, 19-, 20-year-old boys, men, probably are not.

Ricky Williams:  Exactly. Exactly. It'd be the rare person that was mature enough to be able to handle that.

Jon Pfeiffer:  When you were named a finalist, did the university give you coaching on how to do media relations?

Ricky Williams:  They did not. A lot of media relations training is ... some universities will bring in someone to work with the team. Coach Mackovic, who came before Coach Brown, he brought a media woman in to work with the team and give us basic guidelines on how to handle the media. Especially if you're a star player in college, you're having to talk to the media at least a couple times a week, you learn the hard way. But most coaches realize that we're kids and we need some help. But specifically for the Heisman Trophy, there wasn't any extra training.

Jon Pfeiffer:  None. And then you were drafted.

Ricky Williams:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jon Pfeiffer:  A high draft pick. At what point did you get an agent?

Ricky Williams:  Well, so I was a minor league baseball player coming out of high school, and so I had an agent for baseball pretty early on. I think my sophomore year I hired an agent to help me with baseball stuff.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Did you use the same agent for football?

Ricky Williams:  I did initially, but we had a falling out. And then I hired another agent who lasted about a year, and then we had a falling out. And then I hired my third agent, which was Lee Steinberg, and we stuck together for several years.

Jon Pfeiffer:  As part of going into the NFL, because they have the press conferences afterwards and you're required to go, did they give you media training? Did the teams give you training?

Ricky Williams:  Well, again, the teams are mandated, and I think it actually comes through the players' association where each, you know before or during training camp or during OTAs, will have a couple of members from the players' association come and talk to the team and do a team media training. Again, it's just the basics of the right attitude and how to approach it and some pointers, but nothing intensive.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Each player appears to have their own brand now. Was that part of the deal when you came into the NFL as well, that you were cognizant of your brand?

Ricky Williams:  I think it's almost impossible, at least since the late '90s when I came out, to not be cognizant of your brand because every time you go out in public you're reminded that you have a brand. I think it's slightly different now with social media. I think people can take more control over their brand. I think even in the late '90s a large majority of our brand was dictated by our relationship and the way we were conveyed by the media. I mean something that frustrated me during my playing days, and I think I was one of the first players that started writing my own blog. This was, again, before social media, before players had really a voice or an outlet outside of media.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What was your blog called?

Ricky Williams:  It was called Run Ricky Run.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Do you still have it?

Ricky Williams:  No, no.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Is it still up?

Ricky Williams:  I don't think it's still up.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I didn't find it when I was doing my deep dive.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah, I mean it'd be hard to find it. I'm sure there's some ... People have made comments about how much they enjoy the blog. I think that can still be found online, but no. And for me, it was just realizing that I'm a unique person and that it's very difficult to ask members of the media who spend, at most, an hour with me a week to be able to convey who I am as a complex person. And so I took it on my own to share my point of view and my perspective with fans.

Jon Pfeiffer:  So you were on the early curve of this?

Ricky Williams:  I was, very much so. Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Just for those who are not familiar with your stats, you ran for over 10,000 yards in 11 years.

Ricky Williams:  Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Now, as a running back, describe the pounding that your body takes.

Ricky Williams:  Well, I think out of all the positions on the football field, running backs probably take the most pounding. And mainly because most positions ... It's a physical game, but it's usually one or two people on each play that you have to engage with. But as a running back, especially when I'm carrying the ball, the other 11 guys on the other side-

Jon Pfeiffer:  All trying to get you.

Ricky Williams:  ... are all trying to get me. And so a lot of times in the course of one play, I'll get hit two, three, sometimes four or five times.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How did you take care of your body? How did you recover from that?

Ricky Williams:  Well, I think in the beginning of my career ... You know football is quite obviously a young man's sport, and I think that's probably the main reason is our ability to recover seems to diminish as we age. And so when I was young, I think it's just genetics I was able to recover. But as I started to get older, I had to find more creative ways and effective ways to take care of myself. You know the typical way that athletes take care of themselves are taking pills to deal with the pain and, hopefully, using nutrition to keep themselves strong.

The pounding I took, I started to experiment with yoga, meditation, different alternative healing modalities. I was open to doing whatever I could to try to help myself recover and feel better.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Did yoga help?

Ricky Williams:  Oh, yoga helped immensely. I found yoga during my year off in 2004. And before I found yoga, I had really bad shoulders and ankles. After just several weeks of practicing yoga, for the majority of my ankle and shoulder problems resolved.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Do you continue to practice?

Ricky Williams:  I do. Yeah. I mean I find if I'm not doing some kind of yoga or tai chi or qigong that my body will start to hurt.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Kind of a change, but who was the most mindful teammate that you had throughout your NFL career?

Ricky Williams:  Well, I think there's different kinds of mindfulness. I mean as far as mindful of the game of football and they way they approached it-

Jon Pfeiffer:  Or just mindful ... Well, let's do that and then we'll go-

Ricky Williams:  Yeah, yeah. I would say probably Zack Thomas. Played linebacker with me in Miami. And if he's not already, he will be a Hall of Fame player. Just playing with him, he just always knew where the ball was and what was going on. He just was very mindful of the way he approached his craft.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What about mindful, just spiritual mindfulness?

Ricky Williams:  I don't know. I don't know. I don't feel like there ... that at least some of the teams that I've played with that there are very many players who were. I just think to a certain extent to be successful in the NFL, football kind of has to be your religion and there's not always a lot of time or space to cultivate any other types of mindfulness.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then it was 2004 that you took the year off. Tell me about the journey you went on during that year off.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah. I think the hardest part of the journey was shaking myself free from the NFL. And then once I did, I felt a huge sense of relief like I don't have the pressure to be this thing anymore. I can explore and be whatever I want to be. For me, that was ... it was exciting. One of the things that I've always wanted to do my whole life is to travel. And so realized that I had time and I had enough money to travel, and so I got on a plane. First place I went was I went to Samoa and I spent a couple days there. And then I went to Fiji, spent a couple days there. Then I hopped on over to Australia and spent a couple of months there.

The beautiful part about that was experiencing this different kind of freedom for the first time in my life, in my adult life for sure. And being able to interact and meet people from different walks of life, different cultures. It really served as a mirror for me. It was the first time in my life that I got a truer reflection of who I was outside of being defined as an athlete or a football player.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Because you'd gone straight through. High school to college, college to the NFL.

Ricky Williams:  Yep. Yep. Yep. Not a year off. We had off seasons, but most of the off seasons I was usually preparing for the seasons. Exactly. And so there wasn't much time for me to explore any parts of myself outside of being a football player.

Jon Pfeiffer:  At some point you started studying herbs.

Ricky Williams:  Yes. It's kind of interesting. The idea of synchronicity, you know that certain meaningful coincidences kept showing up in my life. The time it dawned on me that maybe football, maybe my time as a football player was coming to an end was elicited by a conversation I had with a concierge at my condo building about seasons changing. It was late May, early June, and we were talking about any upcoming parties. He said, "In Miami, the season ends after Memorial Day. People don't start coming back and having a good time until November or December."

It just dawned on me. Okay, I'd realize in nature seasons naturally change. And then I started thinking, "Is this, the season of football in my life, coming to an end?" The idea resonated. It was meaningful for me. And so I really kind of got enraptured by this idea of seasons changing. And so, I'm in Australia traveling and I meet a guy at the hostel I'm staying at and he gives me a book on Ayurveda. At the time, I had no idea what Ayurveda was.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What is it?

Ricky Williams:  Ayurveda is a medical science from India. Ayur means life and veda means study. And so an alternative healing modality from India. It's been around for arguably two to 5,000 years. It's more of a nature-based philosophy. The idea of in order for us to be healthy, we have to live in accord with the seasons. And that was the first chapter of this book. It caught my attention, and of course, I devoured the book.

Several months later when I came back to the States and realized that I needed to find some kind of skillset because I'd been a football player my whole life and now I wasn't. I was a civilian. I had to learn how to do something other than play football. And so when I thought, "Okay, what kind of training am I going to need?" I had to spend some time reflecting on okay now that I'm not a football player, who am I?

As I racked my memory, I kept being reminded of situations where I shared some information or advice with someone and somehow made them feel better. And so this idea of being a healer really resonated with me. And so I went online and I looked up are there any places in America to study Ayurveda. Of course, there's a place, Northern California, and the semester started in two weeks. So I drove up to North California, enrolled in school, and started studying Ayurveda.

Coming from being a football player and this alternative yoga healing world, it was kind of scary-

Jon Pfeiffer:  It's 180 degrees different.

Ricky Williams:  It's kind of scary and way outside my comfort zone, but something about it really spoke to who I was on the inside. It spoke to my heart. And so I sopped it up. I was in heaven. I was really enjoying interacting with a new perspective, a new world view. In India, all of the yogic sciences are based, essentially, on spirituality and on religion. And so I think engaging in that community and in that coursework really re-awakened my spiritual roots.

For me, I found a world view that was more inclusive than the Christian world view that I had out grown as a teenager. It connected me directly to the idea of becoming and training as a healer. And one of the major tools in the Ayurvedic system, also in the Chinese system, are the use of herbs. And so I dove in, and considering part of my exit from the NFL was because I used an herb that I wasn't supposed to use, I had a heightened personal interest in understanding plants, herbs, and how they interact with humans and our lives.

Jon Pfeiffer:  That was cannabis.

Ricky Williams:  That was cannabis, yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Just prediction time. I heard that Gronk, Rob Gronkowski, said that if the NFL allowed CBD, which I didn't realize they didn't allow CBD, he would consider a comeback.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Do you think they'll come a time when the NFL does allow CBD, does allow cannabis?

Ricky Williams:  I think the time for the NFL to allow CBD is right around the corner. I think cannabis, THC, I think that's going to come probably after federal legalization, but that's not ... There's a good chance that's not too far away either.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Right.

Ricky Williams:  I just think it's so much of what the NFL does I think is dependent on public opinion. I mean they say it's for player safety, but I think the argument that cannabis is bad for players is not as stable as it once was.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Well, even if you just take cannabis out of the picture and talk CBD, just the anti-inflammatory effects of it. You would think they'd want the athletes to use it.

Ricky Williams:  Well, to me when the conversation goes this direction, because I know about more herbs than just cannabis, and that's really the whole idea behind starting Real Wellness is my experience of getting in trouble for cannabis and learning about herbs. A funny story on my yogic Ayurvedic journey was I was in a car driving up the Himalayas with my yoga teacher. We were going to fast.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Who does it? Everybody.

Ricky Williams:  So we're driving up the Himalayas. I'm a total yogi now by this point. I'm looking out of the window and I just see growing wild fields of marijuana. Fields of cannabis just growing. It's one thing to grow up in a culture where you're told if you do this that your brain is going to turn into scrambled eggs. And it's another thing when you're in nature and you see this growing, this plant growing wild.

For me, it was important to have the personal experience of these things. And Real Wellness for me is about taking all that I've learned from my personal journeys and experiences about herbs in general and most specifically about cannabis and sharing that information in the form of products that people can actually use to help themselves feel better.

Jon Pfeiffer:  We refer to it, you just referred to it again, Real Wellness. That's a company that you formed with your wife.

Ricky Williams:  Yes. Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I've heard that she describes your position as the Chief Herbal Officer.

Ricky Williams:  The Chief Herbal Officer, yeah. Yeah. I'm the one that knows ... that has the most information about the herbs. My main role in the company is coming up with our formulas.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What kind of herbs do you offer? If a potential client came to you and said, "How does it work?"

Ricky Williams:  It's interesting. As an herbalist, we're trained in differential diagnosis. And what that means is, for instance, if you go to a Allopathic Western doctor and you said, "I have a headache." He'll prescribe you medicine for a headache. Right? And he has different drugs that he'll give you for a headache. If you come to an herbalist and you say, "I have a headache," our job is to understand okay, what's causing the headache? And so we do detective work to find out, okay, what's the underlying cause of the headache. And then with our knowledge of herbal medicines, we will prescribe an herbal formula that will help correct whatever is causing the headache.

Jon Pfeiffer:  The underlying...

Ricky Williams:  Yeah. It's easier with traditional medicinal model to say, to mass market certain things and say, "This is for headaches." But for us, as an herbalist, I might go to my formulas teacher and say, "What's a good formula for headaches?" She'll look at me and she'll like ... She'll suck her teeth and she'll say, "It depends on what's causing the headache." And so for me when I thought about, okay, how do I create herbal products that can deal with the masses? And then I thought about there's certain diseases, and when I say disease I mean lack of ease, there's certain diseases that are caused by modern culture by just the world that we live in now.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Anxiety.

Ricky Williams:  Exactly. Exactly. And so we have a formula for anxiety. Also, topicals, right? Everyone gets bumps and bruises. The action of the topical is to increase healthy blood flow to an area. So anytime there's stagnation, which comes with inflammation, the topical we can ... we know with the herbs in the topical that it's going to help someone deal with pain and bruising. We have an Optimize formula, which the way I looked at medicine and wellness coming from an athlete was yes, if I have a sprained ankle, I have to find a way to get it healthy. But ultimately, everything I do to prepare myself to play is about performance enhancement. And so our Optimize formula, it's a flexibility formula. And so the action of the herbs in the formula limits inflammation, it relaxes muscles, and it increases systemic blood flow. So if there's places where you're tight, taking this formula will help loosen those things up.

So someone who's an athlete, a yogi, a golfer, they're going to get instant benefit because they're going to feel better when they are performing yoga or playing golf. But the average person is going to benefit from this formula because tension. Right? We all have stress and tension that we-

Jon Pfeiffer:  From sitting, my neck is acting up...

Ricky Williams:  Exactly. That we hold in our body, and this formula can help release and relax some of that tension. And especially, for me, this is where the mindfulness comes in. This is something that I just currently have been thinking about, is the thought form that's created when people move to use our products in and of itself is a healing thought form. The idea that I'm taking something natural, something that comes from the earth to help myself deal with something that's going on with me. To me, just that idea is helping someone feel better.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Now does somebody have to come to you to get these products or can they get them off your website?

Ricky Williams:  They can get them off of our website.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Which is? The address is?

Ricky Williams:  Yeah, it's shoprw.life. When we first started off Real Wellness, we had two CBD products and we had five THC products. The THC products also had CBD, but because of the crazy regulations in the State of California, we decided better spending our energy creating products that we can get into the hands of a lot of people. And so we made a shift to only producing CBD formulas. But as soon as the regulations change or we find relationships in other states ... because we believe that the whole planet is healing.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You know and a shift that's a perfect segue to astrology.

Ricky Williams:  Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How did you discover astrology?

Ricky Williams:  The same vein. I was in Northern California studying Ayurveda. It's a yogic science, and so part of our classwork was a Swami, essentially a yogic monk from the ashram that was down the street, would come to our school and teach us a class twice a week. After the first class, I remember getting up after relaxation and going to the teacher and saying, "That was the most relaxed and clear headed I've been in my whole life. I need to find more of this." He said, "We have an ashram just 20 minutes down the road. You should come this weekend and take a class."

And so that next weekend I somehow garnered up the courage to go to this weird ashram place and experience it. Took the class in the morning. Again, I love the yoga class, and then I stayed for brunch. The head teacher, Somasita, came to me, and someone had told her that I was a professional football player. And so she walked up to me and she said, "Where's your Mars?" At the time, I had no idea what she was talking about.

Jon Pfeiffer:  My Mars, it's parked out back!

Ricky Williams:  I just looked at her and I said, "I don't know what you're talking about." She looked and she said, "Where's your Mars?" I said, "I don't know." And then she said, "Well, after you're done eating, come to my house. I want to talk to you about something." And so her house was at the top of the hill in the ashram, and so I walked up to her house after I ate. She asked me if I knew what time I was born. Part of my personal story is I have a twin sister, and so the time we were born is something that's a big part. I've always known that.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You've known that story. Yeah.

Ricky Williams:  Exactly. And so I told her what time I was born. She put the information into her computer. And then we had a three hour conversation. I don't remember the details of the conversation. I just remember how I felt after the conversation. And the way I felt is this woman, from Vietnam who I've never met before, who has no idea about me or where I come from, seems to see me more clearly than anyone I've ever been around.

Jon Pfeiffer:  So she wasn't a Saints fan?

Ricky Williams:  She wasn't a Saints fan. I don't think she even knew what the Saints were. After that conversation-

Jon Pfeiffer:  I heard an interview--just to sort of digress...

Ricky Williams:  No, it's okay.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I heard an interview where they talked about you were in the NFL and you then went on to win the Heisman. No, no, no.

Ricky Williams:  Doesn't work like that.

Jon Pfeiffer:  But, no, I mean it's just a different world.

Ricky Williams:  It's a completely different world. And just that she had this tool, looking at the chart, that could help her see me clearly. And at the time I was really lost and really wanting to see myself and understand myself more clearly, and so I started studying astrology with her. That was about almost 16 years ago.

Jon Pfeiffer:  This is, again, 2004?

Ricky Williams:  2004.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Now you played after that.

Ricky Williams:  Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How many years did you play after that?

Ricky Williams:  I played another six years. I think I played another six years.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Having started down the path with the healing and the astrology, how does that mesh with playing football?

Ricky Williams:  What a great question. What I noticed is at first it didn't mesh. It didn't mesh very well.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Did you tell your teammates? Because I know the culture, the football culture.

Ricky Williams:  My teammates already knew I was a little bit different. And I think after spending a year off doing a bunch of crazy stuff, as I started to tell the story, they were fascinated by it.

Jon Pfeiffer:  It's like, well, of course, that's what you did.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah, yeah. It was cool. It became a place that I could bond with my teammates because I had such an interesting experience that I could share with them. And it seemed like every year I did a better job integrating the two different worlds. It just took time. I was really integrating two different parts of myself.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then at some point you decided to retire.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah. And so I played several more years. I became a free agent and I was picked up by the Ravens. I played one year for the Ravens. After that year, I felt like I could've kept playing but I just felt like my other interests outside of football were more interesting than my interest in continuing to play football. And so I decided to retire again.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How was that phone call? Did you call the team or did you call your agent?

Ricky Williams:  I called Coach Harbaugh. I called my team first. It was interesting. I don't know if you've come across this part of the story, but it was after we lost... My last year was with the Ravens. We lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game on a missed field goal, chip shot. Very, very easily could've been playing in my first Super Bowl. But we didn't.

My feeling after that was I was excited. I had a good season. It was the furthest in the playoffs I'd ever went. I was feeling good. I remember I had a conversation with Bill Parcells, who the president of the Dolphins when I was there. I was sharing with him how excited I was about the upcoming season. What he said to me was, "You can contribute in a lot of other ways. Don't be so hung up on being a football player."

And him saying that really got me thinking. I had a dream a couple nights later where I saw myself doing something completely different. And so I knew that Coach Harbaugh would appreciate that. And so I called him up and I told him the story. And he wished me the best of luck.

Jon Pfeiffer:  They have a pretty good team this year.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah. The funny thing is at the time I retired, of course all my friends, people close to me tried to talk me out of it, but I knew in my heart that the Ravens would win the Super Bowl the next year, and I was still okay with retiring. And of course, they did win the Super Bowl the next year.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I want to take you back to the astrology because it's fascinating. I told you before we started I didn't know much about it until I started to prepare for this interview. And now it's just an interesting topic. It's a real interesting topic. So you do readings.

Ricky Williams:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jon Pfeiffer:  I heard one of the first rules that you have is no judgment.

Ricky Williams:  [Laughter] Well, yeah. That's a rule I try to enforce on a daily basis in my life. Because to me, if you start judging things, I think you get lost. For maybe, when I talk about astrology, I talk about the zodiac or the chart as a circle, and the circle as a symbol of wholeness. And in wholeness, everything has a place. A lot of what I do is helping people understand themselves and understand what place or part the different drives or instincts that they have, what part they all play in the whole of their life.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I've heard that you talk about helping people recognize the energy in their lives, and that you can help them understand the past by seeing what was actually there as opposed to what you remember.

Ricky Williams:  Exactly. That's a big one. I think one of the main problems or questions in science right now is how do we define what a fact is. And quantum physics is now showing that that's blurry now because just by observing an experiment you alter the experiment. My sense of what a chart can represent is a form of objectivity. An example is if something's going on in my life, and I feel baffled by it or I'm not sure what direction to go, I'll look at the chart and I'll look for symbols that identify to me that, for instance, talked about the planet Mars. Right? When Somasita asked where my Mars was.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Yeah, where is your Mars?

Ricky Williams:  My Mars is in Aires, which is interesting. So Mars, in a chart, points to someone's aggressivity, their drive. Right? Quite obviously, we watch TV and we see violence and it's a negative. But there's certain places where we can go and find violence and it's considered a positive thing: in war, in athletics, in sports-

Jon Pfeiffer:  Football.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah, in football. Realizing that in life we're going to face stressful situations that are going to require us to stick up for ourselves. And sometimes in the process other people are going to get hurt. This is a drive. This is an issue that we all ... a universal, Carl Jung called it an archetype, a universal energy that we all have to figure out and engage with in our lives. And so I realized if I'm in a situation where I'm feeling victimized, then I look to Mars and I see. Okay, Mars is being triggered by something. So it's telling me that this is a process that I need to work on, is that I need to find a way to assert myself and defend what's important to me. If I try to turn down this challenge, negativity will befall me.

You know I have a perfect example. A perfect example. So, 2007: 2007 I get reinstated to come back to the NFL. I get reinstated right before the 10th week of the season. And so I practice that whole week. I'm with the Dolphins and we're playing the Steelers on Monday Night Football. I'm already thinking I've only practiced a week where everyone else on the field has been here 10 weeks plus six weeks of training camp. So I'm far behind. As we're flying into Pittsburgh, it's pouring down rain. Okay?

We get there. The next day we go to the football field and there's about two inches of water sitting on top of the field. I go out there for warmups and no one can warmup because the field is so bad.

Jon Pfeiffer:  It's wet.

Ricky Williams:  And I'm telling myself, "I probably should not be playing in this game. It doesn't seem like it's a good idea," but my whole thing in my life is to be tough and always try to fight through. And so I had this inner struggle. Part of me was saying, "Go tell the coach that you're not going to play because it's not safe for you to play out there." But part of me said, "No, I have to be tough." And so I chickened out.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Who was the coach at the time?

Ricky Williams:  It was Cam Cameron. He was only there for a year. There was more stress because they hadn't won a ... They were 0-9 at this point. And so they were hoping that I would help them win. And so I chickened out. I wasn't able to go up to him and say, "I'm not going to play." First play of the second quarter I get hit. The ball goes on the ground and I'm pushing myself up to get the ball and someone jumps on my back and I tear my peck. Okay? Tear my peck right off and I'm done for the whole season.

And you'll see this constantly in client's lives. Whatever they come up in a Mars situation, an energy where they have to display some kind of courage, whether that's inner courage or outer courage, and they succeed, right, there's usually the spoils of war. But if they chicken out and they don't, then the fearest Mars energy comes at them from a different way that's out of their control. And in my example, tearing my peck. I looked at my chart. There Mars was right on top of my moon in the area of profession in the sign of Cancer. Interesting coincidence, Cancer rules the chest. And so I had an example to stick up for myself, take care of myself at work. I didn't and I got hurt.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Got hurt. And then I also heard a term I had not heard before until I studied this with you, for this interview, about south nodes.

Ricky Williams:  Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  The chart within the chart.

Ricky Williams:  The chart within the chart.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And that it helps us learn what we're here to resolve.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You were a warrior before.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Tell me about that.

Ricky Williams:  All right. So the south node has a symbol that represents unresolved stuff that we're here to work on. More practically how it manifests is a set of assumptions that we make about life that tend to lead us in a certain path, lead us on a certain path. And so for me, my south node is in Aires. Aires is the sign of the warrior. And the planet Mars, which I just talked about, is right next to my south node. So the indication is that I lived a life where bravery was what my life was all about. To go deeper into my south node story, some circumstances that were larger than me kind of took over and the sense that I was left with is that I failed in my ability to protect the people that were important to me. Okay?

There's a common theme for indigenous cultures, that at some point in their history the guns came and the shields and the spears didn't quite hold up. In a positive sense, the north node can point to gifts. Right? If someone has really embraced the idea of being a warrior, they're going to have success in life in anything that requires them to be tough and to be a warrior. Early in my life, kindergarten right, I realized that I-

Jon Pfeiffer:  You could be the fastest kid.

Ricky Williams:  I could be the fastest kid. Right. This was fed in me quite early in my life, and it propelled me to that moment. It propelled me all the way to that moment that I realized maybe it's time for me to stop being a warrior. Right? Maybe there's something else here to develop. That's when my path made a 180 turn and I moved from the warrior and I started my path towards becoming a healer.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Healer.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Now's as good a time to ask as any. What's it like to be 20 years ahead of your time?

Ricky Williams:  Well, it was tough when I was younger. I don't know what it is. Maybe it was the way I was raised, and I think a lot of it was I really loved church when I was a kid. I loved the stories of Jesus. I really took them to heart, and this idea of ... I mean I was all in. The foundation of my life, I had a really strong inner connection to myself, God, or whatever you want to call it. And so I learned at a young age to trust myself. Even if the world didn't understand, I learned to trust that. I call it that crazy voice inside. I trusted it. It got me into a lot of trouble, but somehow I was able to keep trusting it.

And so I think when you are that far ahead of your time you have to learn to not care so much what other people think, and you have to learn to trust yourself, and you have to learn to weather the storm. Because if you're ahead of your time, people don't have the ability to see what you see or understand.

Jon Pfeiffer:  To understand.

Ricky Williams:  And so I think I learned to not blame other people for not being able to see and to realize this is a gift. And sometimes it feels like a curse or burden, but I've learned that I wouldn't have it any other way. And I think most importantly, and I think I've learned this most from my marriage and my relationship, is to surround myself with people that appreciate the fact that I tend to see things before they actually come. And then I feel supported, and also I have the pieces in place that I can actually do something with this information.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You've been described by your wife as a communicator, and that you're very articulate, which is obvious.

Ricky Williams:  Right.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And your favorite social media platform, because of that, is Twitter.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How did you gravitate to Twitter?

Ricky Williams:  It was a funny story. So Twitter, and this was ... I was still playing when I got on Twitter, so this was probably 2009. I remember people talking about it and I finally got an account. Just the idea, it reminded me of Run Ricky Run and the blog where I get direct communication with my audience. But this time I was more individuated. I had more interesting unique ideas. It was very nerve-racking to put my ideas out and share them with the world.

I remember I would tweet something and then I'd have to put it away for like 24 hours before I could come back and read the comments. And slowly it gave me a way to become a more open communicator. And to realize the power that celebrities have because of social media is that if we do have any interesting ideas, we have a way to get those ideas out into the world.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And people want to hear them.

Ricky Williams:  And people want to hear them. Yeah, and people want to hear them.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Do you consider yourself to be an influencer? Not in the vapid-

Ricky Williams:  No, I am. I know that I am. And even if I didn't consider myself to be, I know I still would be. I don't know if I'm the kind of influencer that I want to be yet, but I definitely know that I'm an influencer.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What kind do you want to be?

Ricky Williams:  Maybe this is just the way I see it from my eyes, but I feel like because my rise to fame was in one area that's so different from-

Jon Pfeiffer:  What you're doing now.

Ricky Williams:  ... what I'm doing now that it requires people in their minds, if they're going to follow me, that they have to follow me. And a lot of people in astrological and spiritual circles typically aren't as interested in football as football fans are.

Jon Pfeiffer:  As a general rule.

Ricky Williams:  Exactly. As a general rule, and so it's this weird place where yes, I have fame but sometimes it helps me and sometimes it kind of gets in the way. And so I think I'd like to be an influencer for the story of, that specific story. And I think to some extent we all experience this. Right? And this comes back to what you said in the beginning of the interview is that I have this belief that we're born and we have a specific unique path that we're supposed to eventually find in our lives. But as soon as we're born, our parents, our culture, our community start saying, "No, no, no. This is the path you're supposed to go down." And because they offer love and food and they change our diapers, we say, "Okay. We'll go down your path."

And then as we hit our teenage years and our abstract mind starts to develop, we can start to question and find our way to our own individual unique path. I think my whole life, culture, everyone around me growing up told me, "Be a football player. That's the way to make it." And I did that. But in the midst of being a football player, at the height of my career, I got wind of my own unique path and I realize that it's very different from this path that I'm on. And I think to a certain extent everyone faces that dilemma of this is the path I thought I was supposed to be on, but my unique path is somewhere else.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Completely different.

Ricky Williams:  It might be far. It might be close. But it's not this. I think we all come to those times. In my opinion, I think we need help. We need encouragement to be able to make that difficult journey to find our own unique path. I want to be an influencer where I influence people to be open to that possibility and to show them that once you start to live your unique path, life becomes so much more interesting.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Yeah. What's ahead for the company?

Ricky Williams:  Well, right now we're in talks to be purchased. Because we realize we have ... We spent the past two years proving our concept, and now we're ready to scale and to get this product to as many people's hands as possible. So, we're looking for strategic partners. And so we have a big expansion right on the horizon. And I think what is in store for us is when I decided on the name Real Wellness, the main idea was I truly believe from my own experience that there's a true healing power in altered states. Indigenous cultures across the board believe that true healing only occurs in an altered state. Einstein is famous for saying that, "A problem can't be solved in the same state of consciousness that created the problem." I think the materialistic bent of our world focuses ... has us, I think, focused too much on materialism. I think we need to balance that with some connection to something greater. And something about cannabis, specifically THC, kind of lowers our ego's defenses and allows us some more energy and more information, more experiences to come in.

Jon Pfeiffer:  If somebody wanted to follow you on social media, where can they follow you?

Ricky Williams:  I do have a lively Instagram, but Linnea helps a lot with that. She's masterful in taking the astrological language and making it relevant for people. So on Instagram it's @williams. And then on Twitter it's @Rickthelaureate. And then I have a website. Mainly, people go on the website to book readings, but also to learn more about my background. That's rickywilliams.life.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

Ricky Williams:  Yeah. Thank you.


The Creative Influencer is a bi-weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California.  Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them.

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