I’m quiet, but not weak.

I move in ways different than most people, but never backward.

My disposition is reserved, sometimes nonchalant, but I promise I have the biggest heart.

I’m Ryan Riley, and this is my Crystal Stair.

As a kid, I had the opportunity to explore and when you’re little, the world is huge.  Just the act of getting in the car and going somewhere is magical when you’re small.  When your parents allow you to explore you acquire a certain level of independence, and from ages 10 to 13 it makes you quite prideful & appreciative later in life.  I was given the freedom to hang out with friends and granted the ability to get into trouble and learn from my mistakes early.  It sounds small, but these adventures allowed me to see what the world was actually like; it taught me how to maneuver.  I learned a lot about people: how to read, how to connect, how to talk, how to hurt, and how to love.

During those years I may have seemed misguided in some ways, but in other ways, I was able to transcend beyond my age.  

I allowed life to be my most influential teacher. You learn early on that everyone is not to be trusted, but life will never lie to you.  I realized that life is constantly preparing me for the next chapter.  I can’t imagine I’d view life through the ever-changing lens I now possess if my parents didn’t allow me to explore the world around us all.  They certainly planted a golden seed.

And as soon as I left home, I saw the fruit of my parents’ labor immediately begin to grow.  It bloomed most when I was 6,600 miles from home at my second Air Force base in South Korea, and it blooms again as I write from my third Air Force base in Okinawa, Japan. 

My parents were as disciplinary as they were lenient, which consequently taught me to have a strict self-discipline and a certain level of discernment that allowed me to operate comfortably in any setting.  Fortunately, the United States Air Force is such an institution where discipline is strongly encouraged and instilled, which made it an ideal start for my journey into adulthood.  They encourage out of the box thinking and constantly ask of us to sharpen the way we think and view the world through a more critical lens.

On Learning About Myself

When asked what success meant to me, I immediately thought of a mountain. This mountain represents success as a whole. It’s intimidating surely.  You look up and see so many other people miles ahead which can make simply getting started the hardest part.  You doubt whether or not you have what it takes to climb as high as you can see the highest person climbing.  When you’re ready, you begin to climb, and that’s when you notice something remarkable.  You gain a new tool to help you climb that next mile with every obstacle you overcome.  You look over and see others along the mountain, using their own tools.  Slowly but surely you begin collecting more and more tools that help you climb…but you never make it to the top…

You see, success is fluid like that; you never really make it to the top, you just keep climbing and keep collecting tools that help you get further up the mountain.  Remember that the tools you’re using to climb may not be the same as those around you; you must climb that mountain your OWN way.

It’s important to realize that everyone has their own role to play in life. It’s up to you to recognize the potential you’re born with and what role you’re meant to play. Not everyone is meant to climb to the tops of the never-ending mountain of success and that’s okay…just don’t stop climbing.