Today we’d like to introduce you to Josh Ritcher.
Josh, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I moved out to LA 15 years ago not knowing a soul in town. I moved out here to be an Art Director in the industry and made a nice career for myself in the Art Department. I’ve worked on shows like Deadwood, Key & Peele, Workaholics, the New Twin Peaks and I’ve been the standing Art Director on Shark Tank for over 7 years, on the show for all 10 years. Plus numerous pilots, first seasons and the like. Entertainment has been good to me and I’ve always had a good time designing and building some crazy sets and props over the years.
About a year and a half into my journey here in Hollywood my problem-solving brain set its sights on how ragtag coordinating the entire crew was. This was even before Dropbox, Google docs and the other 3rd party programs entertainment tries and hacks together to keep a production on track. Still today it’s a piecemeal of apps and software stitching together hundreds of people on a runaway train. So back then in 2004, I dreamt up a utopian software that would organize us all on set. I approached a good friend of mine about actually building this out.
You see, I had always been a problem solver and had not taken action on some good ideas in the past and kicked myself later when they were invented. Production software had to be a winner, and I wasn’t about to pass on another idea. So in 2005, my partner and I formed Cinecore. We were a startup back when startups weren’t cool. Cinecore would have a rollercoaster of a ride over the next 13 years with some epic highs and life-threatening lows. I’ll share with you how it would take me down eventually.
In 2006 we lost out on a patent and 30k because the USPTO changed their ruling on software after we filed. We picked ourselves up and began looking for funding in 2006-2008. Not a good time to be looking for funding, especially as a business to business software. All the rage was consumer apps at the time. We hit up every investor from NorCal to San Diego, none of the traditional investors were into or understood the entertainment sector. So we switched our plan and went after entertainment people with money. At the time none of them knew anything about tech, so they declined.
We startled this strange world of entertainment and tech that no one understood. True trailblazers, we were two dudes trying to modernize the way an entire industry ran while educating the market. We would go to bat monthly, pitch after pitch trying to get anyone to see what we saw, a digital future for production. We hit up everybody; I even went as far to leave one sheet in Ashton Kutcher’s trailer while I was working with him on a show.
Surely I would have immediately been fired had I been caught that day. We were forced to start our software the American way… credit cards. I applied for 15 credit cards all in the same day so that the inquiries wouldn’t show until the next day. We got approved for 82k overnight! We had a company lined up to program the software, and they said it would take 6 months and 62k to finish. They were managing an overseas team to keep the costs down.
After an ultra-painful and sleepless year and a half, the company folded taking me for 100,000. They ended up being a big Ponzi Scheme, and a bunch of other people got caught too. I was the angriest I’ve ever been on that last call with them. I blacked out and don’t remember what I said. I was now on the hook for almost 100k. Again, we had nothing to show for our money spent, and I was now having to pay the minimums on the cards.
We found an overseas company to develop the software for us for pretty cheap and ended up managing them ourselves. So my partner and I started paying out of pocket with our TV jobs, this continued for 3 years. I would wake up at 4-5am to make it to my call times, work my 13 hours with lunch, get home around 8:45 pm, scarf some food and sit with the China developers on Skype and tell them what we wanted the software to do. Get to bed by sometimes 1-2 am and do it all again the next day. I did this for almost 3 years to finish our software.
The stress had continued to rise and the credit card debt kept mounting. We were paying the minimums with other cards trying to buy ourselves enough time to get the software up and running. The second worst day of my life was when we couldn’t pay the cards anymore, and I was forced to watch the slow and excruciating annihilation of my perfect credit score. Cue the creditor calls… These people are brutal on the phone if you happen to get fooled by a local number.
Sadly in early 2013, we just couldn’t afford the China developers anymore and were deciding what to do with our unfinished software. Do we close the doors and just give up after all that we had accomplished through sheer will and fight? On a fluke, I was shooting an Amazon pilot called Betas at the time in the ROC building in Santa Monica. This was a co-working space filled with actual tech companies. This would be the first time I had been near other tech companies.
You see we were from entertainment, none of our friends knew what we were building or how hard it was. We had no one to share the pains of developing overseas with or the headaches of nightly bug tests. Suddenly I was surrounded by people like us, other startups! They all knew what we had gone through and commended us for our boundless fights. As great as it was to commiserate, we were still out of money and I was desperate for a way out. I caught wind of an event that was happening at ROC one evening and decided to crash it. I worked all day on set shooting, took a half-ass shower in the bathroom, changed and waltzed in.
To my surprise, the panel of speakers were entertainment people. Talking about innovation in the industry, I stayed till the bitter end and stood in line to talk to Ethan Applan of Warner Bros. I pretty much threw my laptop in Ethan’s face and started a demo before he could say anything. It turns out Ethan was on the board of a new Accelerator Warner was trying called Media Camp. Ethan also happened to come from production and saw the value immediately. He urged us to apply to Media Camp, which was closing its applications that week.
We had applied to so many accelerators prior and I almost didn’t submit. I eventually did with two days to spare and we were one of five companies to be accepted to Warner’s inaugural startup class of 2013. This was the high point of my life at the time… we were literally almost dead and now we found ourselves in the 16th-floor executive boardroom of Warner signing contracts. I remember sitting there and thinking, I moved here 10 years ago with nothing but a car full of clothes and a dream, now here I was signing contracts with one of the largest studios in the world. It didn’t get any better than that moment. We would work very hard over the next 3 months with warner and their people, we learned a ton and they were all so fantastic.
After Media Camp, we would see another uptick. The show Workaholics had been beta testing our software, and a few of the execs would come on board as investors. This gave us enough to fire up another overseas team, build out an app and revise the software a bit. We were racing the clock and the end of the funds. We ended up running short again and not being able to complete an Android app. We tried to push out the MVP (minimum viable product) and sell to productions. Many liked the idea but without the Android app, we were out of luck. We would fight to find more funding for the next 4 years again.
Let’s chat a moment about the emotional toll all this had taken on me. I was working harder than ever on set trying to pay for all this, fighting to save a failing relationship of 8 years and depression and anxiety had become commonplace in my life. Routinely I would not be able to leave the couch for a week at a time. I didn’t know why this was happening. I had studied success for over a decade and had spent thousands on success seminars.
How could someone with all this knowledge not be able to motivate to even get off the couch? What I didn’t realize was that all this shame of being a failure, all that pressure I had put on myself to succeed and all those sleepless nights worrying about how I was going to pay back the debt, had crushed me inside. I was so riddled with failure and exhaustion I literally couldn’t sleep for weeks at a time.
At this point, I was drinking to ease my mind, get fragmented sleep and to numb all the pain. I wasn’t aware I was doing it, but it was the only thing that would create silence in my head from the torrent of shame and depression. During all this, I was able to keep up my work sort of. I thought I was fooling everyone and maybe I was but it took all my energy just to get through a day, and I couldn’t wait to retreat home and fold inward again. It was rough making it through each and every day.
Till that fateful day, I thought I had it under control-ish until I didn’t. It was August of 2016, I hadn’t slept much the night before again and had taken a few shots to help me sleep and quiet my brain. I don’t remember the time that I did, but it was pretty close to when I had to get up for work. Because when I met my co department led in the parking structure, she commented that I stunk of alcohol.
We were supposed to meet with many of the producers that day, and she was nervous about my condition. She told me to go home and sleep it off. This started a new cascade of self-bashing. Now I had finally crossed a threshold; I had screwed up my work. I was an important figure on Shark Tank at the time and they all counted on me. The fact that I had messed up my work hit me pretty hard, and I used this as further ammunition to beat myself up.
My mind was even more full now of shame and negative self-talk. The mental pain I was causing myself was visceral, it was so strong that I would curl up when I thought of how I was messing up. I pulled myself together the next morning and rolled into the parking structure with a similar greeting again. I could see the deep fear on my co lead’s face this time, but I couldn’t face the show’s producers. I was out of fight, totally beaten down and utterly broken.
My emotional struggles I had fought so had to hide were now on my sleeve, for all to see. I was taught when I was a kid that you don’t show anyone your true feelings. You are supposed to work hard, slap on a smile and just internalize everything. This day was the day it all came out. Years and years of deep financial struggle, no sleep, tons and tons of pressure to succeed and deep feelings of shame and self-pressure.
It all came to a head at this moment and I couldn’t face the world anymore. She told me that she would have to replace me on the show if I couldn’t do it. She was a good enough friend to see the fight I was going through and urged me to take some time out and get myself right. I was crushed to hear these words. I was usually able to outperform those around me and would never accept failure. The fighter in me kept saying no, just give me one more day and I can pull it together. She could tell I was out of fight even before I could.
When she went into work again alone and left me in the parking garage a failure again, I just couldn’t take it mentally. I had never failed this big and in my mind, it was the final straw. I had let someone down deeply and truly screwed up in life. I was a screw-up, I had failed at life. Broke, deeply in debt and now unable to work the depression took over. I walked to the edge of the parking garage and looked down 60 feet below. All I had ever really wanted was silence in my head from all the pressures, that’s what kept me from sleeping was my racing mind trying to figure out a way out of this all. My thoughts were so negative and so crammed together that I just wanted it to stop.
Looking down, I thought of a way I could make it all stop. I would stop being a failure, I would stop being a burden (I thought) to my family, I would stop being a failure to our investors, this would stop the financial pressures and dept., and this was the answer to everything. Just jump… it was a pretty shocking idea to come up with, even for me. I was usually such a go-getter and positive outwardly all the time. Taking my own life isn’t something I fantasied about ever. But the thoughts of a still mind, a quiet mind, free from all that pressure, was really appealing.
I came to a final decision that yes, this was the way to stop all the awful things in my life and to free those around me of all my troubles. I then backed up into the garage to get a running start. I wondered who would find me below, would it be the groundskeepers, how traumatizing it would be? Even with a hoard of tears streaming down my face, my mind was shockingly clear. I thought of my family and how awful this would be, but I also thought that they wouldn’t have to worry about me anymore.
I crouched down in a runner’s position to start my sprint… I couldn’t. I walked to the edge to look down again, then backed up for another attempt… crouched again and I couldn’t. I don’t know if it was self-preservation or just that I didn’t have the balls, but even that was a failure… I crawled back into my car, cried for a while and finally drove home. Word spread throughout my family that day. My mom would fly out and in the coming days take me to rehab for alcohol treatment. I had finally broken and lost it all.
At the treatment center, I was quickly diagnosed with Bi-Polar. I guess it’s so common for Bi-Polar to abuse substances to try and self-regulate that it’s one of the first things they look for. Knowing very little about BP, I was super skeptical at first but I would learn that it’s not some crazy mood swings but quite the opposite, it’s what made me great. In life, I could charge at any goal, work harder and longer than anyone I knew and crush anything I put my mind to. It was the edge and the turbo charge that I always knew I had over others. But it ends up that this edge was bad and would explain my lows I would have after months of charging or being “manic” as they say.
So I was left to question what was me at my best and what do I do with this new and socially negative label? But the best part of taking this time out to myself was that I woke up. I woke up to the fact that I had all these negative spinning thoughts and had put all this pressure on myself. And most importantly, I could have control over this negativity. I had allowed my brain to run unchecked and believed that I was my thoughts. This is not true at all and I would prove this after leaving treatment.
Being the ultimate problem solver, I studied neuroscience and learned how I could rewire my own brain for happiness and success. The very thing that I had spent thousands on seminars and self-help that didn’t work, I now had under my control. I used myself as a lab rat and ran three months of mental experiments on myself. I would repeat positive things over and over in my head, ultimately over time triggering the brain’s autopilot. I would learn the brain does take over and that your thoughts actually do change the way you perceive the world. After three months I was living another life.
My transformation was so sudden and massive my friends were asking me what the hell I had done? The chronic depression was subsiding and the anxiety too. I had achieved my goals and had reprogrammed my own brain for happiness. I can’t stress how not small this change was. I would go on to study neuroscience for the next two years, write a book about my story and launch a speaking and coaching career in this field.
We all can and absolutely have the power to change our own lives and it’s my mission to share my story, wake others up to their power and help as many people around the world as I can. This isn’t hard we just haven’t been taught how we can rewire our own brains yet. So, in the end, my crash was so horrific, but I’m so grateful for it now. It woke me up to my brain and the wonderful power we all have to change our own existence and life.
Before I was asleep at the wheel and just reacting to the world as it hit me, now I am in ultimate control of my thoughts and reactions, thus changing my perceptions and in turn, my world. I like to say that we are like cruise ships in the ocean. “Life” or the winds and waves will push us around and knock us, of course. Most of us stand on the bow of our ship yelling at the wind and the waves and blaming them for us not getting to our goals.
We also have an autopilot (the subconscious) that is trying to keep us from sinking ourselves but it’s not always in alignment with our goals. So, we have to get off the bow, get up into the control room, learn what the buttons and knobs do (the brain) and then we can course correct little by little as the conditions change around us. I also teach how to identify your subconscious and how we can turn it off helping us get to our goals better. This is why my book is called “Ship For Brains.”
As my coaching business builds I’m still Art Directing Shark Tank and working in TV part-time. There is a free version of my book you can download if you want the full story and how you too can rewire your brain. joshritcher.com/book.
Please tell us about Yourmentalbest.com.
I teach people about the amazing power we all didn’t know we have. The power to rewire our own brains for happiness and success. Beat depression, anxiety and take back your control in life. Sustainable happiness can be yours and it’s a lot easier than you think.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Haha… well, I have no regrets and my crash had to happen. So I wouldn’t want to change a thing. It was painful, yes, but I also found my passion to help inspire others and to wake everyone up to our own power. I can’t imagine another life and another path I would rather be on.
We only have this moment and I’m so grateful every day for all that I have. I’m still paying back my business debts to the failed company and I’m in no way whole yet, but living life with the least I’ve ever had I’m ironically the happiest. The things I fought so hard for and put all those pressures to achieve in life ended up meaning the least to me.
I’m grateful to wake up, still have fight left in me and to be here today. I almost didn’t live to see this day and it was my own thoughts that brought me down. Imagine how many others there are out there fighting their own battles in their heads and how many we lose each year to depression.
I’m living my life now, fully transparent and totally vulnerable to help them. I do understand the suffering and I also know it can change. We alone have that power and I plan on sharing that with the world. So hey everyone… this is me.
- Website: yourmentalbest.com
- Phone: 310 210-8846
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @joshritcher
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yourmentalbest
- Other: https://joshritcher.com/podcast/