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  • Writer's pictureShane Almgren

Reyn Guyer: Hasboro Toy Hall of Fame Inventor (Nerf, Twister)

Updated: Apr 29


Reyn Guyer is a serial entrepreneur in a variety of creative fields including toys and games, music publishing, education, and art. He is perhaps best known as the inventor of Nerf and Twister, and is a member of the Hasbro Toy & Game Inventor's Hall of Fame. Guyer also founded music publishing company Wrensong Music, which has had numerous #1 singles, won a Grammy and 2 CMA Song Of The Year awards. He is the creator of Winsor Learning, an educational program for remediating those with dyslexia; and he is also the author of the book Right Brain Red: 7 Ideas for Creative Success.



Episode Highlights

We're thrilled to present an engaging conversation with Ren Geyer, the ingenious brain behind the iconic games of Nerf and Twister. Geyer, an illustrious member of Hasbro's Toy and Game Inventors Hall of Fame, offers an insider’s view on the creative process that brought these beloved games to life. From concept through countless rejections, to final creation, his journey is a testament to perseverance and ingenuity.


Drawing from his early experiences in design, Geyer walks us through the evolution of Twister, from the idea of a game where people become players, all the way to its successful launch. The conversation doesn't stop there, Geyer also takes us on his exciting endeavor in shaping Nerf, which began as a caveman game with foam rocks. Discover the untold story behind Nerf's name and how it managed to secure its legendary status in the toy industry.

In this episode, we cover a lot of ground including:

  • Sketching techniques and doing graphic design before computers

  • How the Nerf ball “accidentally” got invented, and the origins of its name

  • How an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor helped save Twister from near-failure

  • The challenges of starting a Toy & Game company, and what makes a good creative team

  • Learning to not talk yourself out of creative ideas

  • How rule-breaking is a key component of the invention process

  • Aand SO much more!

But the episode goes beyond just toys and games. Geyer talks about what it truly means to be creative, the importance of teamwork, and the power of taking on new challenges. His words of wisdom will inspire budding inventors, while his other ventures, such as his music publishing company and the Windsor Learning Program, paint a picture of a man who is not afraid to explore new passions. Ending on a profound note, Geyer shares his thoughts on colonizing a new planet and the significance of gratitude. So buckle up for an inspiring journey into the world of creativity, innovation, and the sheer joy of play.


If you only have 5 minutes to listen, skip 31:56 to hear Reyn’s 3 magic words, and his rules for Creative Success.


Listen


Read the Complete Transcript

Shane Hello, everyone! Welcome to the official Live2cre8 podcast, coming to you from Nashville, Tennessee. I am your host, Shane Almgren, and I am joined today from Gasparilla Island in Florida by toy and game inventor Reyn Guyer. Reyn is a serial entrepreneur in a variety of creative fields, including toys and games, music publishing, education and art. He is perhaps best known as the inventor of Nerf and Twister and is a member of the Hasbro Toy and Game Inventors Hall of Fame. Guyer also has founded music publishing company Wrensong Music of Nashville. He is also the creator of Winsor Learning, an educational program for remediating those with dyslexia, and he is the author of the book Right Brain Red: 7 Ideas for Creative Success. Reyn, thank you so much for joining me today. It is an honor to have you on the show. Reyn Guyer Well, it’s nice to be here, Shane. Shane Can you tell us: How does one break into the toy and game invention business in the first place, and what were you doing before that? Reyn Guyer Well, my father had started a design company. He had been a vice president and director of new product development for a paper company and, as such, had over 120 patents with his name on it when he left the paper company to start his own business with an eye toward trying to make packaging for large Fortune 500 companies and to make in-store displays for Fortune 500 companies. And so I was working in that company and had become a co-owner of that company, with my father in the business, and that's what my profession was at the time. We would design them and sell them to them. Shane Did you go to school for design, or was that something you just picked up from your dad? How did you get into designing? Reyn Guyer Well, when I got out of school, I had planned to be a writer, and he said, “Just come with me. I just started this company.” He said, “You know, let's see what happens.” And so I did. I joined him. He had been in business for about six months when I joined him, and he had already hired several very competent graphic artists to design the display materials. The company also did graphic design for large companies. What's an example? Well, we did all of the packaging for Land O'Lakes, for instance, and redesigned logos for people. We also did that. So we had the artists, who were kept busy doing things, and my father stuck me at a drawing board in the middle of these artists and I watched. I had taken some art classes, and I was, you know, a fledgling artist but not very competent, and I watched what their methods were. And back then, there were no computers, of course, back in late 1950s. So a lot of it was copying from magazine ads and catalogs, and a lot of the work was done by tracing, by putting tracing paper over it. And so you would start with that and a sketch. You’d develop the sketch that way. I saw what they were doing, and so I would take home some tracing paper, and I would find some ads or something like that, something visual, and I would start tracing over it just to see what came out of it. I discovered that, if you focused on making sure that the darks were accurate—the pieces of dark in the illustration or in the photograph were properly replicated or traced—you’d take the photo away from underneath the tracing paper, and, voila, you have something that looks pretty much like the photo that you just had underneath the tracing paper. And so I soon realized that, if you look—I soon began to be able to look around the room or look anywhere, and essentially, by making an accurate depiction of the dark portions, or the shadowed parts, you will come up with an accurate depiction of what you're looking at. And so I got pretty good at sketching, and I got pretty good at looking at what I saw and replicating it. I actually think, if I get time in this life, I'd like to write the book that tells that little secret and has people practice that with tracing paper. It is a shortcut to understanding visual art because it's a shortcut to learn how to sketch, but I haven't done it yet. I became a pretty good artist, and then, as I began to understand the business and saw how the in-store displays were designed and created, I got pretty good at that and then started to go out and begin to find some clients of my own, usually out of town in Chicago. Our business was in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and that's in Minnesota. And I would go to Chicago, and Cincinnati, and Milwaukee, and St. Louis, and so forth, and would find new clients. And that's what I was about doing. I really wasn't very excited. As I learned the business, I began to question whether or not it really was a good business model. We were making display materials for very prestigious companies back then. It was 3M, and Pillsbury, and Craft Foods, and so forth. We would make one for one year, and it worked, and we would have some success with it. But next year, they would look at us and say, “Well, what are you going to do for us this year?” And then there would be a competition, and we would either win or lose that competition against the competitors of ours. It just didn't seem like it had any staying power. We were always trying to reinvent the wheel, and it was difficult. There was no residual opportunity there, so I kept looking for new ideas, new things that we could get ourselves into. At one point, I tried something called Pizza In the Round. Pizza was just coming on in the early ‘50s, and so also was the Radar Range, as it was then known, and there weren't very many of those around. They, of course, became known as microwaves. And so I tried to match those together and had an artist, actually a very prominent architect, design a building that looked like a Venetian building, wherein people could drive up at one end and place their order, drive around to the other side, and in about a minute, have the pizza they wanted. Fortunately, I found that my knowledge of the business of pizza and the purchasing thereof, of the ingredients, were really lacking, and I did pull back from that, fortunately before I got into deep. But those were the kinds of things I was looking for. Shane So you've got a creative bent, you've got the drive to do something, and what did you—I mean, because Twister? You didn't sit down and create Twister. It started out as, I think, it was called Pretzel. What was the concept, the initial concept? What did you first start working on? Reyn Guyer Well, I was trying to develop a product that could be a self-liquidating premium, which meant that if you send in the label from something and a dollar, you would get something. It isn't done much anymore, but it was rather popular back then. I was trying to do it for a shoe polish product for one of my clients, and I thought, well, let's see. It was kids’ shoe polish, and back then, moms polished their kids shoes. Believe it or not, that's an ancient art also. And so I was working at my desk, and all of a sudden, I had this idea. If you take the kids, put them on this mat, and you make some squares, and you have them go around on the mat. And I realized, whoops, wait a minute, this idea is bigger than that. There's something there because there's nothing on the market where a game is played by people. In other words, people are the players. Shane Yeah, usually it's a board game with little figurines marching around the board. Reyn Guyer And the board is on a tabletop. So I went out in the bullpen, where all of our artists were, and pulled out a great, big sheet of corrugated board, which we worked with often, and I drew one-foot squares, four going one way and six going another, and so there were 24 squares on it. And then I invited eight people and made teams of two out of the eight people. We had the yellow team, the green team, the blue team, and the red team. And each one of them were at a corner of the board, each team, and the object was for, in their turn, for one of those players to move forward to another square, and the first team that got to a square opposite them or kitty-corner from them would be the winner. Well, it didn't take more than seven or eight turns, and everybody was bunched up in the middle. We had eight artists and assistants of all types, and everybody from our offices joined in. Pretty soon, we were laughing so hard that it was obvious that the game—that it wasn't a game. But that was what sparked me because it was so funny and so much fun. I knew that there was something really intrinsically right about this. Over the next month or two, I developed a game that had squares on it and had four people on the board, two teams of two. It was a game of tic-tac-toe, basically. It's still a good game. It's a cute game. We have not been able to convince Hasbro to put it out, but it's kind of a game that older people would love to play because they don't have to play Twister and get down on their hands and knees but can still play a game where they bunch up. I called it King's Footsie. The players would put bands of either blue or red cloth around their feet, roman sandal style, and they would try to get four in a row, four colors in a row. And I took it to 3M, who then had a whole line of very sophisticated and excellent strategy games. They were tabletop games. They were friends of mine because they were one of our clients for whom we developed their in-store displays for the Scotch tape division. And they looked at it for a while, and, as I suspected they would, they turned it down because it really didn't fit the upscale market that they were shooting for. They thought it was wonderful, but it just didn't fit. And that was no surprise, so I put it on the shelf. So it was sitting on a shelf when a salesman who was trying to get the business of doing some printing for us, and he—his name was Chuck Foley—he saw the game sitting on the shelf of our purchasing agent and said, “What's that?” And the purchasing agent, Phil Schaber, said that is a game that Reyn invented. “Oh, really.” Chuck Foley said, “Well, I have worked for a game company in town at one time, and can I talk with Reyn?” And so he came in, and we chatted, and he convinced me that he had some knowledge of how the toy and game industry worked. And he said he had a friend, Neil Rabens, whom he could bring together. So I went to my father, and I said—you know, my dad had seen the fun we had had playing the game we took to 3M, the King's Footsie. And I said, “You know, I think this is a valid idea. It's a big idea, and it's a big chance. We're taking a big risk. But if we could get someone to come up to sell some games where the people are the players, we might be able to start a new division.” So he bought it. He said, “All right. I'll underwrite this division.” That would be Foley, Rabens, and myself, who would try to develop some games around the people-are-the-players idea. So he went to the bank, and he underwrote it for two years, and we started working on it. Over about a year and a half, we developed eight games where people are the players, and they ranged from young kids’ games to word games with alphabets and letters on the board. But in each instance, each one of the games went after a different demographic. One of our favorite—I guess our favorite was the one where we had, once again, 24. By this time, the squares that we had with the four different colors had turned into circles, and at one point, Foley said, “Well, let's put the colors—rather than having them dotted around with people standing on them, let's have them in a row.” So we tried that. It looked better. And then Rabens said, “Well, what if we have them put their hands and their feet on it?” And so we tried that. That seemed to work, and so the team was functioning very well. We had taken the essential idea, and there was a game that we were calling Pretzel, where you spun the spinner and said right hand green, left hand blue, et cetera. We took all eight of those games to Milton Bradley, to the head of the new product development and vice president of new product development was Mel Taft. And he said, “Okay, this is really a unique game, way out of our range.” Their best game at that point was The Game of Life. So they took the—and Mel said, “Well, let's start off with the Pretzel game.” And so they did. Mel convinced his management that this would be a unique idea, and they went along with it. And they found that there was a product out there that had Pretzel attached to it, so they came back with the name Twister, which, when I heard that, I was like, “Oh my god.” I was born and raised in the Midwest, and I know what it's like when the twisters come across the prairie, and it ain't no fun. And I thought Twister was a very dangerous name, but on we go—solid proof that it really doesn't make much difference what you call something. Once it is what it is, people simply attach the name to it and have no problem with it. And we later proved that with Nerf. So they decided to bring the game out. Everything was going along beautifully, and just before Christmas 1965, Mel Taft called me and said, “Reyn, I am very, very sorry. The retailers are not responding to this game. They think it's risqué. They think it's so different that nobody's going to understand it, and we're going to pull the game from the market. We're going to pull all of our spot ads. I'm very sorry, but it's over.” And this was a real crusher for us. Unbeknownst to anybody in the Bradley company, in May—May 3rd, exactly, of 1966, Mel Taft had known that the public relations company that they had used and were using had already been paid and already had gotten The Tonight Show people—who featured Johnny Carson—and got them to agree to put the game on The Tonight Show. Well, that night, Mel Taft and the PR person sat in the audience and watched as Eva Gabor enticed Johnny onto the mat, and it was all she wrote. The next morning, there were at least 50 people lined up at Abercrombie and Fitch, which is one of the few places where they still had games that hadn't been returned, and it turned everything around all of a sudden. Milton Bradley called and said, “We're going with it.” It became the game of the year in 1966 and ’67, and it's been going ever since. Shane So, after the massive success that you guys had with Twister, you created a company yourselves just to develop games and toys after that? Reyn Guyer I did. Chuck Foley and Neil Rabens had decided that they wanted to have their own company, and I tried to convince them to be a part of and run a division of ours. Unbeknownst to me, they had convinced the son of a car dealer in town to put some money into a company that they started outside of ours, so they moved on. They went their own way, and so we had no division for developing toys and games. I thought for quite a while about what I wanted to do, and I finally decided that I would rather be a toy game designer than an in-store display designer for the rest of my life. I don't know whether it would—I didn't know. I didn’t know a lot, as a matter of fact. It was a risky move. I made an arrangement with my father. The half of the business that I owned in the display business I would return to him plus half of the royalties of Twister, and I would take the royalties of Twister at that time. They were generous enough to allow me to do this, and I put together a team of five of us. I had bought a building in the eastern part of Minneapolis, and it was quite a large old warehouse. So I said, “I'll build an office for myself next door, and I'll share the bookkeeping of these two companies, the display company and [inaudible] company, and I’ll rent this space from you.” And so I put together a modest office: two or three rooms and a lot of room to play in. And we designed a large room where all five of us faced each other with our drawing boards so that the communication amongst us would be open and run freely. I also developed a quiet room so that we could have meetings and could play board games that we would develop. And so that's what I did, and I called it Winsor Concepts. Shane During one of these sessions, you guys came up with—if I'm not mistaken, you guys were working on a caveman game that had foam rocks that you threw. Reyn Guyer That's right. That’s correct. Shane And tell us what that turned into. Reyn Guyer Well, you know, there was a period of about a year and a quarter where we really hadn't come up with much, and one day, one of our designers said, “Well.” He was working on an idea that the people are the players, and it was kids that would step on pieces of flat plastic or paper that looked like rocks. They would walk around on these rocks, and then they would also have some money or a script, which they would put under the rocks, essentially to hide the money and stash it away so nobody knew where it was. If somebody else came along and tried to steal that money from underneath the rock, each of us had a couple of black foam rocks that were rough-hewn, hacked out of black foam that was used for padding back then, and we could throw those rocks at each other to stop that person from stealing the money. It was a terrible game. It would never work. But the ethic that I encourage in the business was that never—doesn't make any difference what we're doing or what we're testing, just go through with it. In other words, do it. Don't talk about it. Don't talk yourself out of it. And so we were doing it, and the hope always was for me that, okay, maybe something else will come out of it. Well, in that day, on that day, something else did come out of it because all of a sudden we started throwing these black rocks at each other, and the laughter and fun that followed made us all realize, “Wait a minute, there's something here that's much bigger than these little rocks.” And we all went to our design tables, and we found different durometers or different weights of polyester and polyether foam rocks, and we cut them out with scissors first. I still have one in a small imitation mahogany box, and I use it occasionally to show people. But we all cut them out of foam and then discovered that there already was a technology or methodology for cutting foam with hot wire. So we determined that if you take a hot wire and you take a straight wire and then make a big round circle—half-round circle—and then continue the wire on and then heat the wire up and then twist the wire, out comes a ball. And so we did, and we made several balls of different weights and durometers, and then we felt like, well, nobody's going to just buy a ball. So we went about inventing a whole line of games and toys that use the ball as the essential ingredient and foam as the essential ingredient and took it to Milton Bradley—took all these games to Milton Bradley—our friend Mel Taft. And Mel and his team said, “No, it's not going to work. We are a game company, and we're not going to get into toys.” So that was very disappointing, but we turned around then and took it to Parker Brothers. And a gentleman by the name of Henry Simmons was the head of product development at that time, and Henry convinced his group to come out with not a bunch of games with foam in it or made from foam. He decided that he would put one of these foam balls in a very square box and put them on the market just as a single ball in a box. We thought that was crazy until, all of a sudden, they began to sell a few million of them, and they proved this wrong once again. And, of course, from then on, they began to realize that we really had something. We had shown them something, a whole new technology that they couldn't work with, and they came back and said, “Okay, Reyn, will you sign a contract that says that we have the exclusive use of everything you develop in foam, and we will pay you for everything we have that's foam.” At that point, I wasn't sure, because Parker Brothers was a game company, not a toy company, and this was a good shot in the dark for them as much as it was for us. So I finally decided, you know what? They're good marketers. They know how to market product. I'm not going to start spreading this around the industry. Let's let them go with it, and I'm very happy. In the long run, I was very happy that I did that, and they have gone quite a distance with the Nerf line. Shane Yeah, that product had a small bit of longevity, I'd say. Reyn Guyer They're doing pretty well. Shane So there's a popular theory that Nerf is an acronym for non-expanding recreational foam. Can you confirm or deny that? Reyn Guyer I will deny that. The name came from someone—there was someone in the advertising or public relations or some part of the design or some group that was assisting Parker Brothers, and one of the guys said, “Well, let's call it—let's name it for what they call the foam that they pad the roll bars of Jeeps as they are going through the tundra in California,” and they were always called Nerf Bars. So that stuck. So they called it Nerf, and that's where it came from. Shane You said in an interview with CNBC that a lot of the ideas that you work with break a rule. What did you mean by that, and how does that apply to, for example, Twister and Nerf? Reyn Guyer Well, I can give you a very short synopsis, I think, of some of the points that I make in my book, Right Brain Red, and I think you'll understand where I'm going with this when I finish. In the book, I say that everybody, as far as I'm concerned, is creative. So do not exclude anybody from a creative opportunity, but it is so rare that one person will be the sole creator of an idea. Quite frankly, I've never met one. So what I think and I know works and has worked for me is teams of people. There are teams of two, three, four, or five people. Each one of those has advantages and disadvantages, but more than five? It just doesn’t work. You have a committee, and committees have no luck doing anything. Well, in my book, I quoted the end of a poem I wrote about commit. It's called “Committed Committee.” But once you've got a team together or you've joined a team, then the other thing I say in the book is use, wherever possible, and start every sentence with the three magic words: What happens if? They are absolute magic, and people say, “Well, why not use just what if?” What if, as far as I'm concerned, starts children's nursery rhymes or children's stories. What if there was a land where such and such happens? But what happens if? What happens if we launch in June? Okay? Well, that takes into consideration what happens before we launch. It takes into consideration what happens when we launch, during the launch, and what happens and will be the results after the launch. So it requires reviewing all aspects of, instead of asking the question, “Well, what if we?” So three magic words, as far as I'm concerned, are: What happens if? Shane I love that. That’s brilliant. Reyn Guyer Once a team arrives at an idea that they think may have some merit, the first thing that they need to do is stop talking. Do not allow themselves to get into: Well, why isn't it going to work? In my book, I show a couple of examples of instances where we left a lot of ideas on the table by talking ourselves out of it. The first thing you do when you think you have an idea as a team is make one. Go to whatever your bench is, or your drawing board, or whatever it is, but don't just draw it. Don't make a sketch. Make one. It doesn't make any difference how crude or rough it is, but, essentially, it means do something. Don't sit around and try to figure out why it will or won't work. Oftentimes, and most of the time, when you are doing something, making something, the idea that you thought was going to work, you find that there are flaws in it. But you also find, often, that something else works. In other words, you start up one road, and pretty soon there are branches. Or, let's say, you go up the center of the tree. Watch out for those branches that may really bear a lot of fruit, because oftentimes that's what happens. And it is by doing that leads you to that new and unusual idea. And if that idea that you've been led to is any good, you will usually find that it breaks a rule. I've been fortunate enough to have several products that have broken rules very successfully. Let's say Twister, which we've been talking about. Twister is very simple. Back then and even now, there is some thought that people really shouldn't be allowed to get in that close proximity to the other person in a social setting if they're not dancing. And the other one, the Nerf, we were talking briefly about that. The rule that's broken there is no throwing balls in the house. I have a new dice game called Rally Roll, and the dice, actually, in Rally Roll are not configured like regular dice; they are cubes, but they have different graphics on them. And it’s amazing. People have no problem saying, “Oh, well, okay.” The graphics are different, but it makes for an extremely exciting game where every player is involved in the other player's action.” And by changing the graphics on the dice, we're definitely breaking a rule. So it often happens. Breaking a rule works. Shane At this point in your career, you've probably made enough to retire and go live on a tropical private island, but you still keep creating. You still keep inventing. You're still doing sculptures and artwork. What is it that compels you to keep finding new creative outlets? Reyn Guyer Well, that, too, is a part of my book that kind of closes it up, and I do. I have been fortunate enough to find a small tropical island, Gaspirilla Island, in Florida, and that happens to be our home. Shane Oh, so I got that right. Reyn Guyer That was good. I'm glad you did that. That’s funny. You knew that. You knew that. Shane I knew you—I thought you were in Florida, but, yeah, I didn't know you had your own tropical island. What’s the name of it? Reyn Guyer Well, Gaspirilla Island. It's in between Fort Myers and Sarasota. So, yes, you asked me what keeps me going. It's the rush that keeps me going. When you come on to an idea that you really think could work and would be fun for the world to have, I find that I am drawn to that idea because there's a rush that comes with it. There's an excitement that every time I go to working on that product or that idea, I'm encouraged. I am lifted. There is a rush—is the way I describe it—that goes with it, and I'm fortunate enough to be able to keep on seeking the rush, I guess. Shane You've got a number of grandkids and even a couple of great grandkids. Reyn Guyer Yep. Shane When you see all the technology and the way kids are buried in their phones and their tablets these days, how does that make you reminisce for the old days, and how do you treat your grandkids differently? When they come to your house, what can they expect to be doing over there? Reyn Guyer Well, we play some of the games, sometimes, that we've developed, and they're not—I mean, the kids are oftentimes on games on their cell phones or their pads or whatever, and that's fine. Some of them, especially the teenagers, are glued to their telephones. But when we get together as a group, we will so oftentimes—we'll be testing some of the new ideas that I have and we have, and I don't think—I'm not one that thinks that the new generations lack any drive or any creativity or have lost any essential interest in making the world a better place. I really think that we have a great bunch of kids coming along in our nation and in the world. Shane What advice would you have for either kids growing up or for anyone out there who wanted to be an inventor, who thought of themselves as one—maybe not necessarily in the toy or the game industry—just inventors in general? Reyn Guyer Well, it’s the seven things that I point to in my book, some of which I pointed to earlier, such as form a team and use the three magic words. And believe in your creativity. Believe that you are creative. Even we are moving toward something new. For instance, we are in the process of developing a new product that will be a—not a podcast, but it will be on YouTube. It’ll be a channel based on some of the writings that Jeff Harrington and I have done for kids, called Curly Lasagna, and I am taking the part of the grandfather, America's grandfather. We’re fairly far down the line on this, and we'll be introducing it within the next four or five months. Shane And Curly Lasagna, that's a series of—its stories and songs for kids? Reyn Guyer Yep. It's one that Jeff Harrington and I—I wrote the stories and songs, and Jeff put music to them 25 years ago. All of a sudden, we realized, “Wait a minute.” For some reason, those are more valuable now. They were a little ahead of themselves at that time, but they seem to fit this generation of kids very well. So we're using that as part of our website, as it were. Not a website. It’s not really a website. It's a YouTube site. We're reaching into new things as we speak. Shane Where do you get your new ideas from? What is your biggest source of inspiration? Reyn Guyer I think ideas are in the air. I think ideas are all around us. I do know—and I really believe this—that the ideas that come to me and that I'm made aware of, I have an obligation if they are seemingly unique. And these are my gifts, in whatever way they have arrived in my consciousness and in my possession, as it were. I have a responsibility to make them real, to bring them to the world. If I simply sat back and said, “Oh, wouldn't that be a good idea? Wouldn't that be fun?” I would not be honoring that gift that I have been given. So, in part, that's what keeps me going. I really believe that that's something. That's a gift that I've been given. I better do something good and right by it. Shane Oh, you certainly have done that, sir. Reyn Guyer Oh, it's still fun. Shane Other than just your natural creativity, what else is there that you're really passionate about? Reyn Guyer Well, I think one of the gifts that I have is my dyslexia, and I didn't know I was dyslexic till we found out that our oldest daughter—when she was 15, and we were still reading her texts to her—we took her and had her tested at the University of Minnesota, and they said she's dyslexic. What does that mean? And when they told us what dyslexia was, Mary and I looked at each other and said, “Well, that's what we are. That’s what we do. That’s how we think.” And then we discovered that every one of our children is dyslexic, and they were remediated by a lady by the name of Arlene Sonday, who came to me after they were all kind of grown enough and out of college and doing good things in the world, and she said, “What do I do to—I've been working with people one-on-one all my life. Is there a way we can perpetuate this with more people?” And so I put together a team of Arlene and my daughter Cindy. Cindy has the patience and the ability to see how to connect things. Her dyslexia is an enormous help to her. And we built—they built—the Sonday system, which is the core of our now very successful reading remediation program that we have in most of the states in the United States. Shane And that is the Winsor Learning Program? Reyn Guyer That's the Winsor Learning Program, and you can see that if you just—winsorlearning.com. Shane And I would be remiss—there's one other highly creative endeavor that you've got, and that is you've got a music publishing company here in Nashville. Reyn Guyer We do. My daughter Ree and I started that in 1985. It grew out of songs that I was writing in Minnesota. She heard some of my songs, some of the songs of friends of mine who were writing in Minnesota, and said, “I'll take those and see what I can do.” We ended up in—she and I ended up down in Nashville without even knowing what we were doing. We sold a couple of the songs and found out that what we were doing was being a publishing company and representing writers. And so we bought a house on Music Row, and we've been there since 1987. And it's been a wonderful journey. My daughter Ree has gone on to build that into one of the—certainly one of the most successful independent publishing companies in Nashville. Shane Yeah, you guys have a number of number one singles, and I know you've got a Grammy and two CMA Song of the Year awards. Reyn Guyer That is true. Yep. And fun. Shane Well, let that be a lesson to you, kids, that there's no such thing as spreading yourself too thin. If you want to do four things, go do four things. Reyn Guyer Well, I think that comes through in my book. It's like I don't make a point of it, but it's—as I was writing, I became aware of the fact that, okay, I must have learned in early opportunities that: Don't be afraid to go ahead and take the chance, especially when—well, at any time. Go ahead and take the risk. If you lose, you lose. If you make it, all the better. And you know, 95% of the ideas that all songwriters have and all idea developers have don't work, but that doesn't keep them from doing it. It just means that, all right, that one didn't work, but let's see what else will work. Shane Yeah, I love that advice there. Well, Reyn, that brings us to the final segment of our interview. I will run through these questions very quickly. So, first one: If your job only paid the bills and not a penny more, would you still continue to do it? Reyn Guyer Yes. Shane What talent or skill do you not have that you wish you did? Reyn Guyer What skill do I wish I had that I don't have? I've always felt that I could do almost anything. It's a matter of choosing what to do. Shane I'll accept that answer. Fill in the blank. I am a success if I _____. Reyn Guyer Keep trying. Keep making one. Shane And I am a failure if I _____. Reyn Guyer Don't keep making one. Shane Fair enough. What's the single best piece of advice that you followed to get where you are today? Reyn Guyer It is don't be afraid of risk. Shane What is a piece of well-intentioned advice that you're glad you ignored to get where you are today? Reyn Guyer Oh, oh, that's very clear to me. I had a friend who told me, “Stop trying to dabble in a lot of different things.” Shane What character trait do you like best about yourself? Reyn Guyer My sense of humor. Shane What character trait do you like least about yourself? Reyn Guyer My getting too serious. Shane Fill in the blank. I believe every child should have the opportunity to _____. Reyn Guyer Believe they're creative. Shane If you could suggest one piece of self-improvement that everyone on earth would adopt, what would it be? Reyn Guyer To keep smiling. Keep laughing. Shane Here's a fun one. If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Reyn Guyer It would be to tell everybody that we don't have to destroy each other in order to make our beliefs real. Shane If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be? My wife. Shane That's beautiful, Reyn. All right, a hospitable nearby planet has been discovered, and you have been recruited to help colonize it. You may take any three personal items with you that you wish. What are they? Reyn Guyer [Laughs] I have no idea. My tennis shoes and my golf clubs. My art equipment. Shane All right. Final question: You have just won a lifetime achievement award, and we want to hear your acceptance speech. There won't be any music to cue you or rush you off the stage, so you can say all of the “thank yous” that you need. And if there's any personal cause that you feel really strongly about that you want to champion, this is your soapbox. So let her rip. Reyn Guyer It would be how lucky I've been to have been born in 1935, when we were coming out of the Depression. There weren't very many of us, so I had an opportunity to go to a school that I wouldn't even think of applying to nowadays. And getting an education like that and then being able to go forward in the economic and opportune system of give and take that we've lived in in our lives has been absolutely amazing and probably unprecedented in the history of man. Shane Well, you are officially off the hot seat, Reyn. That's all I've got for you, sir. Reyn Guyer Okay, Shane. Well, good luck to you. Shane Thank you, sir. It was a pleasure having you here today. Reyn Guyer Talk to you soon. Shane Have a good one. Take care. Reyn Guyer Mm-hmm. Bye. Shane Once again, that was toy and game Inventor, author, and entrepreneur Reyn Geyer. You can read the complete stories behind several of the products and companies he's brought to the world at his website, reyngeyer.com. That's R-E-Y-N-G-U-Y-E-R.com. I'd like to thank everyone for joining me today. You are listening to the Live2cre8 podcast, and this is Shane Almgren reminding you to dream big, be inspired, and live creatively.






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