Dr. Ralph Carson - Nutritionist and Physiologist

It may sound like I am repeating myself, but I have to rely on three things my dad taught me: 1.) It is often who you know and not what you know; 2.) When you are good at what you do, you never have to tell people how great you are — they will praise you; and 3.) The best referrals are your patients.

Dr. Ralph Carson is a nationally recognized clinical nutritionist, exercise physiologist, and board member of American Addiction Centers. Dr. Carson is a frequently requested speaker on a variety of nutritional topics for medical groups, pharmaceutical companies, universities, athletic training camps, and corporations. He has a successful clinical practice and has been a faculty member at the University of Alabama at Huntsville for more than 20 years.

Dr. Carson is also a nutritional adviser for numerous university athletic departments, including the University of Tennessee’s national basketball champions, The Lady Volunteers. Dr. Carson received his Bachelor of Science from Duke University, his Bachelor of Health Science in pathology from the Duke University School of Medicine, and his doctorate in nutrition from Auburn University.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

To begin, no day is typical because I am so often on the road. But if I can control my life, then it most often looks like this:
• Wake about 5:20 a.m. to get to the gym before 6 a.m. and do aerobics, weight training, and a progressive routine of resistance.
• I arrive home and do 20 minutes of meditation and prayer. I then start my breakfast while reading USA Today.
• I take a moment to review the scientific websites that are sent to me daily — Medscape, Medline, and Science Daily — and then I prepare any trainings, presentations, or PowerPoints that I need to complete, or I work on writing my books.
• I complete any professional contacts by phone or e-mail, then I eat my lunch.
• Throughout the day, I continue working on projects. If I have a talk to give, I will practice it.
• I have an evening dinner with my wife. Usually, we either go out to eat or she prepares a very healthy meal.
• At the end of the day, I watch television programs with my wife, videos from The Great Courses, or I read journals.
• This routine is interspersed with yoga classes (two nights a week for an hour a class) and either having the grandchildren over or going to one of their violin classes, sporting events, or school presentations. We have seven grandchildren, so it is always busy!

However, I travel most days of the week, giving lectures, performing site visits at the treatment center to see patients and train staff, and attending meetings.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I suspect I am stimulated by the copious reading I do in my professional field. The creative ideas come together either when I am doing boring and monotonous exercise or while I am meditating. I believe I have a great deal of insight from my ability to integrate or “chunk” ideas together from the numerous disciplines in which I have engaged during my years of various academic endeavors (such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, psychology, neuroscience, etc.).

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Explaining human behavior using the brain as an atlas is a really exciting idea to me. Through understanding the brain, mankind will be able to explain our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and we will ultimately be able to change the way we think.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I make positive connections with people and then stay in touch with them and avoid burning bridges (as it does not pay to have enemies). The greatest amount of beneficial learning comes from listening to others and gaining from their experiences. This involves expressing an authentic interest in what they have to say. Also, I keep a very organized file of topics and notes, and I continuously add to this file.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

My worst job was as a pathologist, which is basically the science of discovering what causes disease. If one understands a disease, then he has an increased likelihood of curing it. No other practice prepares you to understand the disease process because through pathology all diseases become visual.

I say it is the worst because I often felt like I was Jeffrey Dahmer with a salary and a license — performing autopsies is as grotesque and unappealing as one could imagine.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Earlier in my career, I would have given several different answers. However, in retrospect, I would not change a thing.

I am so frequently asked by others how they can prepare themselves for such a career. I have to admit that as complicated a journey as it has been, I couldn’t achieve and do what I do if I had followed a different path.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

It may sound like I am repeating myself, but I have to rely on three things my dad taught me: 1.) It is often who you know and not what you know; 2.) When you are good at what you do, you never have to tell people how great you are — they will praise you; and 3.) The best referrals are your patients.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Early on, I started my practice by seeing my doctor’s family for free. As a result, they sent me more patients than I could handle because I did right by them and proved my abilities. I would always donate 15 percent to 20 percent of my time in practice to those who could not afford my services. I would negotiate with individuals by thinking about how I could be helpful to them, rather than solely concentrating on why they should purchase my services or products.

I make it a point to remember people’s names, families, hometowns, etc. I would treat people the same way, whether they were homeless or extremely wealthy.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I started out practicing preventive medicine, and no one was interested in paying money to prevent disease. Then, I realized people would come for weight loss.

So I offered weight loss as a means to get people to eat healthfully and exercise more. That triggered my success in weight management and eating disorders, for which I still believe I am ultimately helping people prevent disease.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A Christmas tree service that would purchase a live tree and then deliver and decorate that tree. The same company could possibly put up outside Christmas lights because so many people don’t have the ability to put up those decorations on their own.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? On what, and why?

I purchased several lessons from The Great Courses for only $100. These audio CDs occupy my mind while I run. I get a review of important scientific topics that I would have had to read numerous books to obtain, and the material is presented in an easy-to-follow format from leading professors at prominent universities.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I have not found one particular item in the software or service arena that I like. I think there is a big mistake to call something “computer-friendly” when you ask a professional for help and they can only fix it by the same trial and error that you have attempted. I hate Microsoft Office because they keep changing it after you have finally gotten used to the previous Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 9, etc.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

Authentic Happiness” by Martin Seligman because it addresses what most of us are looking for in life, especially the recovery population, and that is to be happy. This book outlines and provides a plan to achieve that state of mind.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

First and foremost is Albert Einstein, not because he was a brilliant mind but because of his ability to communicate complex concepts so others who were not as gifted could understand and apply that knowledge. Also, Jon Kabat-Zinn because he makes sense of how to apply mindfulness and meditation to our daily lives to change how we think and behave. Finally, Theodore Roosevelt exemplified what leadership was and brought America to the pinnacle of international prominence.

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