As the Director of Guest Relations and Programming at Rancho La Puerta, Barry Shingle is known for his expertise and passion. His quick wit and easy demeanor set the tone for his leadership style.
Since joining Rancho La Puerta in 1999, he has been instrumental in shaping the guest experience.
Beyond his professional endeavors, Barry cherishes his role as a father to his daughter. In his personal life, he prioritizes staying active and engaging with people, further fueling his love for fostering connections and creating memorable experiences.
Where were you raised?
I was born in Pennsylvania. When I was seven or eight, my parents moved to New Mexico, and I grew up all over the state; Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Farmington. I went to undergrad at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Then I moved to Seattle for three years and then to Missoula, Montana, for grad school. I received my undergrad in Exercise Science, and my grad degree is in Broadcast Journalism.
Did you work in broadcasting?
Briefly, but I didn’t like it. The news is very negative. And if it bleeds, it leads, and that was a killer for me. I love that I learned to write and be a little more objective.
How long have you worked at Rancho La Puerta?
In September, full time, it’ll be 23 years.
How did you land here?
I was living in Seattle, going through a divorce, and disillusioned about my life. At the time I was the fitness director for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Seattle and one of my personal training clients told me about The Ranch. I called up then Fitness Director, Phyllis Pilgrim, and she said to come for a week as a guest instructor. It was beautiful and amazing. I loved it. But I was going through a divorce, fighting for custody, and moving to Missoula for my graduate degree. During my second year of grad school, I had so many papers and could get away for long periods. So, I started coming as a guest instructor and working on my papers for two to three weeks at a time.
When you come out of school in Broadcast Journalism, you start in the smallest markets and do the five to 10 o’clock news. You must come in, pull your own copy, write it up, put it on the teleprompter, and do it all. At the time, Monica Lewinsky was all over the news, and I didn’t think that had to lead. I got disillusioned. It was like nothing good was ever happening when I worked in the news.
I lost residential custody of my daughter when she was six. I was talking to Phyllis, and she said why don’t you just come for a year. So, I came for a year and taught. I had no management responsibilities. I went to every Ranch workshop, took care of myself, and made myself healthy.
At that point, Morgan, my daughter, would come for spring, summer, and Christmas breaks. In my third year, Deborah, The Ranch co-founder, saw my resume and saw that I had owned my own fitness club at one time and was the fitness director at three big clubs. She offered me the Fitness Director position. I said yes, but my daughter was about to come live with me for a time.
Deborah said she’d allow her to live with me here at The Ranch. About a year or two after that, they decided that they needed someone on property to manage the U.S. staff, fitness, Holistic Health, Special Programs, and Spas. Currently, I also indirectly oversee housekeeping, reservations, and the concierge. However, they report directly to Guest Services Manager Charlene Jarrett, who reports to me.
How does wellness play into your philosophy of management?
I believe in kindness first and foremost and listening for sure. A good manager is a good cheerleader. My job is to support my team and bring up the strengths of the people I work with. And to listen to them and be the liaison between what they’re doing and what the guests perceive or want.
I’m a support person. You’re only as strong as your weakest link. And a good manager surrounds him or herself with people who know more than they do about the different areas. I’m also a big-picture person; empathy and fairness are my strongest qualities.
How do you take care of yourself and unwind?
My self-care routine is to get up at 4:30 or 5:00 every morning and do deep breathing exercises. I meditate for 10 minutes, listen to something positive, and then I spend an hour in the gym to do my work out every morning. By 7:00, I’m done. When I start the day taking care of myself, I’m ready for whatever I have to do for the rest of the day. No matter what happens, I know I’m taking care of myself.
As a manager for one of the best destination spas in the world, how do you handle guests who come to you with different expectations from what their experience might be?
It’s just being honest and transparent with them; usually, that’s what they want. Most of them just want someone in management to hear what they have to say and understand where they’re coming from. And when I explain to them, they usually understand why something is the way it is. And there are like 150 different opinions of what the daily schedule should look like every week. I explain to them over my 22 years of experience at The Ranch that what they see on the program is what works the best for most people most of the time. It’s not to say that we’re not going to change, or we don’t vary.
Sometimes, people arrive here and are going through major life changes or the acute stages of something. There’s probably nothing I will do to make them feel better. That’s a very small number, though.
And what about with staff?
Staff is a constant. It’s impossible to make everyone happy and to be completely fair at the same time. The most important thing when working with the staff is to be consistent. I explain to them why I’m making a particular decision, and then I listen. Listening is 95% of it.
You have such a light touch in the areas you manage and navigate. You are fun and funny and are very likable. What’s your secret?
Humor is spiritual. And I read something the other day that laughter is an orgasm for the soul. I’ve gotten better because I’ve been meditating and focusing on life’s positive qualities. It’s easy to slip into the negative. It’s a decision I make every day. I wake up to that choice.
It’s a choice, and it’s a choice of how you want to respond to every situation that comes your way. I read this recently. If you are looking for something to make you unhappy, you will always find it. If you’re looking for something that will make you happy, you will always find it, so why would you look for anything else.
Joy is a way of being. Things that make me unhappy can come along, but I can still feel joy in my heart. A belief is something you tell yourself over and over again. If you believe you’re joyful and happy, you’ll manifest that.
We say that gratitude and unhappiness cannot coexist simultaneously in your mind. Deborah says this, and I believe it too, that you can look at everything that happens in life as a miracle or nothing at all. So, I focus on this miracle of life.
What are your favorite places at The Ranch?
I love the Bazar Del Sol because guests love to visit and socialize there. It’s the kind of space where people can do all they want, then in the late afternoon, sit down and have a glass of wine, look at the beautiful view, and have positive discussions. I like that. Oak Tree Pavilion is another of my favorites because it’s so relaxing in there. We have concerts, sound healing, meditation, my talk, and more. Alex’s Oak Tree is a great spot to go up, sit, and reflect; you can see the whole Ranch from there.
What is Rancho La Puerta?
It’s hard to define until someone’s been here, but Rancho La Puerta is a feeling. It’s a feeling of faith that everything will work out. And like Deborah says, if you do the right thing, everything works out for you.
We provide a space to quiet your mind, and you listen to your heart or your essence. The Ranch always wants what’s best for you, and it’ll tell you. And you’ll know it’s right because you’ll feel good when you make that decision. You know it’s wrong because you feel uncomfortable or unhappy when you make the wrong decision.
There’s something about this place, the energy, and the guests that we attract, the staff that we attract, and the mountain setting that opens so many doors for so many people, no matter why they’ve come. They find a way to focus and feel better here. It’s a very healing and evolutionary place for people. I love that.
What are some of your do not miss activities you recommend to first-time or return guests?
Hiking, for sure. Every guest should go on a walk or hike in the morning. Take at least one trip to the organic garden for either a cooking class or the Breakfast hike. I always encourage people to try at least one thing they’ve never done before.
Any closing thoughts?
Maya Angelou said, I’m going to paraphrase, people will forget what you say, people will forget what you do, but people will never forget how you make them feel. And that’s the magic of The Ranch. People go away feeling good. When I ask the guests to describe The Ranch, they say, you can’t describe it simply as this or that. It’s a feeling you get when you’re here, and people don’t get it until they come here. Everyone gets it. It’s all of it, and it’s good for the soul.
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