Categories
General

There’s Always Money In the Banana Stand: 10 Short Sentences I Use To (Basically) Run My Entire Life

A couple weeks ago I was giving a talk about writing and entrepreneurship when a guy raised his hand and asked me, “But what if you’re too scared to start writing?”

Nate talk

I told him that he shouldn’t worry because the truth is that we’re all going to die anyway.

And once we’re dead, being worried about writing or anything else is kinda out of the question (since we’re dead).

So my advice to is to just keep everything in perspective because writing a blog post is really no big deal when you think about the fact that you could literally die at any time.

That pretty much ended the Q&A portion of my talk.

Of course, what I was trying to communicate was a sort-of value of mine: The worst case scenario is that I die…so I should just do this thing since it probably won’t kill me.

Unlike the self-help, rah-rah, life-coaching people on the internet, I don’t have a specific LIST of one-word values I try to follow. Stuff like “community”, “authenticity”, and “balance”. (Honestly, even writing those out feels stilted and unnatural.)
But while I don’t have a list of words, I do have phrases I’ve stolen from friends and strangers, plus a quote from Arrested Development. These things pop into my head (and out of my mouth) at random times throughout the day, and that’s pretty much how I live my life.
So what follows is a collection of the phrases that occur to me most and have had the biggest positive impact on my life.

Hopefully one or two will resonate with you.

SPEND MONEY TO REMOVE A NEGATIVE (INSTEAD OF ADDING A POSITIVE).

Source: Peter Adeney aka Mr. Money Mustache

Meaning: Once our essentials are taken care of, spending money to remove annoying things from our lives leads to more day-to-day satisfaction than adding new and novel things. So, getting a better mattress in order to sleep better will give us more lasting satisfaction than upgrading our iPhone.

In Practice: When we lived in Portland, we only needed one vehicle since public transportation and car-sharing services were cheap and easy. But after moving back home to Montana — a place where most things are far apart from each other and may or may not include bears — we realized how annoying it was to coordinate our individual schedules. So we got a second car (used) and our lives instantly improved.

AT WORK, FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS. AT HOME, FOCUS ON YOUR WEAKNESSES. 

Source: Phil Caravaggio

Meaning: Our goal at work is to a) get paid and b) make a positive impact in the world. To accomplish these goals, we’ll be better served by focusing on the stuff we’re really good at to the exclusion of most everything else. That way we can spend more hours doing the things that only we can do, the things that add the most amount of value to the most amount of people. But in our personal lives, when the goal is to become a better person and improve our relationships, we’ll be better served by focusing on the “hard stuff” — the psychological weaknesses that tend to cause so much internal and external conflict.

In Practice: On my best days, most of my “work time” is centered around writing, strategy / planning, and talking with people. These are highly valuable, highly lucrative activities that have a bigger impact on my happiness and my bank statements than, say, checking my email 42 times per day. But in my personal life, I can only become a better person by embracing the “shitty” parts of me, and actively working to change them. That usually means empathetic listening with my full attention, while resisting the urge to interrupt or “solve the problem”.

EVERYTHING SUCKS.

Source: Richelle DeVoe

Meaning: No matter what we’re doing, who we’re with, where we’re going, or what we’re hoping to accomplish, every single thing in life will suck at some point. So we might as well embrace the suck. That way we’re prepared for it when it comes, and will refuse to tell ourselves stories like, “I just need to do XYZ and then everything will be totally different!” XYZ might very well be different…but it will still suck.

In Practice: I experience this on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Recently it’s been around buying a house. First, I think, “Interest rates are still so low, and we’re just throwing money away by renting.” (Not true.) Then I think, “But if we buy a house, then we won’t be able to move and travel as freely. Plus, the money we put into the mortgage and maintenance could have gone into the stock market and made more money! WAAHHHH!” But here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter. Whether we rent or buy, it’s still gonna suck.

FOCUS ON THE 20% OF ACTIONS THAT WILL LEAD TO 80% OF THE RESULTS.

Source: Pareto’s Principle, most recently popularized by author Tim Ferriss

Meaning: Most things in life are not distributed evenly. Often, a relatively small number of inputs produce the most (or best) output. In other words, if we have a list of 10 goals we want to accomplish, two of those goals will likely turn out to be worth more than the other eight goals put together. We just need to figure out which two are worth our time and attention.

In Practice: In order to improve my self-defense skills, I recently started training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. (My dad is a Krav Maga instructor, as well.) You’d think the first thing we’d learn to do is how to punch a motherfucker in the face, or maybe do a triangle choke or something. But you’d be wrong. By applying the “80/20 rule” to self-defense, we can see that the very best way to avoid violence is to BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS AND WALK AWAY. That’s the magic “20%” that will likely produce the best benefits. (Of course, if a fight is unavoidable, then you should be fully prepared to defend yourself by using force. Like a triangle choke.)

PAY YOURSELF FIRST.

Source: Every financial guru ever.

Meaning: Before we pay our bills or spend any money whatsoever, we should set aside a specific chunk for our future-selves. That way we won’t be stuck eating beanie weenies and cereal three meals a day when we’re 64.

In Practice: Richelle and I save a minimum of 20% of our combined gross income every month. We put this money into IRAs that are invested in low-cost index funds. It’s all about as sexy as Warren Buffet, which is to say: not very sexy. But it works.

MAKE THE RIGHT THING THE EASY THING. 

Source: Jason Lengstorf

Meaning: When we’re trying to change a behavior, it’s important to remember that 1) change is hard, 2) willpower may be a finite resource, and 3) most of us are relatively lazy. By making the right thing the easy thing, we’re giving ourselves the opportunity to succeed without needing to use a heroic amount of effort or willpower.

In Practice: To avoid getting sucked into the vortex that is my smartphone, I use “Nuclear Mode.” To make sure I go to the gym consistently, I have a coach who writes my programs. To make sure I invest a minimum of 20% of my income and don’t spend it all on bourbon and $18 hamburgers, I set up automatic bank transfers. And to make sure I don’t eat my bodyweight in pudding every evening, I buy smaller jars. Then I eat two anyway.

“WHAT’S HERE NOW IF THERE’S NO PROBLEM TO SOLVE?”

Source: Loch Kelly

Meaning: Most of us feel as if we have a little problem-solver person living inside of our heads whose job is to constantly (and frantically) look for problems to solve. Every single thing in our lives is a potential problem that needs solving. “It’s too quiet in here. Now it’s too loud. I’m too hot. Now I’m too cold. This is boring, I should do something different.” It’s exhausting. But it’s possible to “lose” this problem-solver identity for short periods of time, and the resulting experience feels incredibly natural and peaceful. The goal, as Loch explains it, isn’t to deny the normal difficult situations in your life, but to escape the prison of the problem-solver identity — even if only for a moment.

In Practice: I ask myself “What’s here now if there’s no problem to solve?” throughout the day whenever I remember. Here’s a video to get you started.

THE WORST CASE SCENARIO IS THAT I DIE. AND THEN IT DOESN’T MATTER. 

Source: Me.

Meaning: I mentioned this at the beginning of the article. The reality is this: I’m going to die, and I don’t know when. (Also, you are going to die and you don’t know when.) That is the worst-case scenario, and it immediately puts everything else into perspective.

In Practice: Whenever I’m feeling nervous — especially when I’m trying something new for the first time — I tell myself that the worst-case scenario is that I die and then it doesn’t matter what happens. Dead people don’t care about the outcomes of things. For instance, the chances of me dying while giving a talk on stage are relatively low. So I might as well get over myself, be willing to feel the butterflies, and just give the damn talk. And maybe scare a few people in the process.

THERE’S ALWAYS MONEY IN THE BANANA STAND.

Source: Arrested Development

Meaning: You’ll have to watch the TV show or read this quick excerpt to get the full story behind the “the banana stand.”

In Practice: For Richelle and I, “There’s always money in the banana stand” has become a mantra we say aloud whenever we’re struggling to decide what project or job to work on next. To us, it means that no matter what happens, there’s always a way to make enough money to pay our bills and live a good, simple life. (At least, that’s the hypothesis.)

HAVE SPIRIT OF GENEROSITY.

Source: John Berardi

Meaning: When we’re dealing with other human beings, it can be easy to be wary and confrontational. But while psychopaths may be unloving, most people are just trying to get by. They probably aren’t trying to screw up our entire day for no reason.

In Practice: It doesn’t always work, but I try to approach every encounter with another person with the assumption that a) they’re kind, b) they’re generous, c) they’re smart, and d) they want to work together to solve a problem or create something valuable.

And if they don’t? Triangle choke.
Categories
General

Monk mode

We whip in and out of traffic and careen around corners, zooming past small cars and stray dogs, scooters and street vendors. The bright smell of Thai chili mixed with sweat, jungle, and exhaust fills my nose.

I breathe it all in.

I’m alone in the back of a songthaew, a red truck taxi with a covered bed and long seats wrapped in green vinyl. I paid the driver 30 baht (.93 cents) to take me the three miles from the airport into town. We’re making good time.

We pass a small store where a group of young monks in orange robes drink Coca-Cola from glass bottles. The walls of the old city of Chiang Mai come into view, tall bricks surrounded by a moat of murky water. People walk over footbridges and play human Frogger to cross the street. My driver whizzes by them without a glance.

A mile later, we pass through a gate and turn onto a narrow, uneven street flanked by an ornate Buddhist temple. My suitcase rolls back and forth over the grooves of the truck-bed and I squeeze it between my knees to keep it from falling out.

We round another corner and slow, slow, slow….stop. The heaviness of the air immediately catches up with us. Sweating and smiling I step out of the truck, say khob khun kop to the driver, and step into my new home for the next few months.

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Friends and family ask: Out of all the places in the world you could live, why pick Thailand? Simple. I’m becoming a monk.

Soon I’ll shave my head, don orange robes, renounce all material possessions and wander into the forest where I’ll live amongst the…nah, I’m just bullshitting you.

I’m not becoming a monk. But I am in a laidback version of “monk mode.” Which basically means I’m living alone, simply yet comfortably, and not doing much of anything beyond the basics. (And for the month of October I decided to play with a few rules, including no dating or sex, no alcohol, no spending money on non-essentials, and no new friendships beyond small talk. Fun!)

The past week has been rewarding and necessary, mostly because it comes as a sharp contrast to how my life was the month leading up to my arrival in Thailand. After putting a few boxes and my car into a storage unit in Montana, I went on my “farewell tour”, traveling to four different cities in four weeks. I spent time with dozens of friends and family members, went on a handful of dates, stayed out way too late, and spent too much money on eating out, AirBnB’s, and airfare.

I loved it all.

But I’m also really, really, REALLY loving being alone right now.

It reminds me of a quote from a book I’m reading, On the Path to Enlightenment, by Matthieu Ricard.

“Hermits don’t withdraw from the world because they feel rejected, can’t find anything better to do, or because they are unable to assume their responsibilities. They are not running away from the world. They distance themselves from it to put it in perspective and better understand how it functions.”

This deliberate narrowing of focus and stripping away of distractions has been liberating. Turns out I don’t need much to live well. Turns out I can sit for an hour or two in a room alone, not doing anything, and feel pretty damn good about it. (I already knew this from my 10-day silent meditation retreat, but it’s a nice reminder.) This may be naiveté—something I’m definitely prone to—but I feel like I’m tapping into a way of functioning in the world that’s becoming lost to the ever-increasing-speeding-up of modern life.

For example, here’s a typical day for me right now. Try not to yawn as you read it.

  • Wake up without an alarm clock
  • Make coffee and sit and stare into space
  • Meditate for 20-30 minutes
  • Check text messages and connect with a few people
  • Turn phone off, shower, and stretch
  • Walk to co-working space
  • Work for 4-5 hours, without distraction
  • Walk to lunch
  • Take a nap or read
  • Go to the gym or get a massage or sit and stare into space
  • Walk to dinner
  • Read
  • Go to bed

I’m incredibly lucky to have a schedule like this. It’s only been a week, of course. I may hate this schedule soon. (I’ll let you know.) But for now: ahhhhhhhh…….

Of course, despite my reading material, I’m far from an actual hermit. As I write this, I’m sitting in a beautiful, air-conditioned co-working space drinking Ethiopian coffee. I’m collaborating with the amazing team at Precision Nutrition and building a new working relationship with Men’s Health magazine.

I’m not cut off from civilization. I’m cut off from the craziness of civilization, at least for a short time.

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Does this mean I’m going to live in Thailand forever, read every esoteric book on Buddhist philosophy, and never go on another date or have a glass of bourbon again? Hell no.

But right now, I’m enjoying myself. Right now I’m trying to do work that helps others while trying to not let that work define me or my worth.

And listen: the food here ain’t bad either.

IMG_20181004_123510 4.38.41 PM

Categories
General

Food Rules: An Incomplete List of Opinions (29 To Be Exact) on Eating and Drinking Out

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  1. There’s no shame in snagging the 5:30pm reservation at a popular restaurant.
  2. There’s also no shame in having a second dinner at 8:30pm at a cheaper place where it’s easier to get a table.
  3. Street food in other countries: Look for a long line of locals and order what they order. (Yes, even that weird thing with eyes.)
  4. Your guest gets the seat against the wall that looks out over the entire restaurant. Unless you don’t like them that much, in which case they can stare at the wall.
  5. Question: “How would you like that prepared?” Answer: “Whatever the chef recommends.”
  6. If you’re dining alone, sit at the bar. Keep your phone off. Talk with people.
  7. Get the housemade hot sauce.
  8. If you’re in a new city and find a good restaurant, ask the staff where they eat or take their friends from out of town. Sometimes you’ll get one recommendation. Other times you’ll get an entire list of places written down on a napkin. This is culinary gold.
  9. Don’t lose the napkin.
  10. For a great date night, order one course at a time. Get drinks and appetizers. Eat and talk. Get small plates. Eat and talk. Get the main course. Eat and talk. Get dessert and after-dinner drinks. Eat and talk. The whole thing will take 2-3 hours. It’s worth it.
  11. Don’t order a cocktail in a place that isn’t known for cocktails. You’ll just be disappointed. Instead, get a beer or a high-proof bourbon on the rocks.
  12. But first, make sure to ask if they have big ice cubes. If they don’t, order your whiskey neat. Or get a beer.
  13. Skip the housemade chocolate-tobacco-guava-rosemary bitters.
  14. Not drinking? Tonic water or soda with lime.
  15. Question: “Should we get a bunch of food for the table and share?” Answer: “Yes.”
  16. Take the wine recommendation.
  17. When looking for a good coffee shop, pull up photos on Google or Yelp and look at their milk drinks. If their lattes have a leaf, rosetta, or heart pattern, you’ve likely found the right kind of hipster place that takes their coffee (perhaps too) seriously. Which means they have good coffee.
  18. Go for a walk after dinner. It helps the food settle.
  19. Have sex before dinner. It’s the rare person who feels like fucking after eating a ridiculous amount of cheese.
  20. Minimum 20% tip. 25%+ if they really knock your socks off.
  21. Nonna: “Where’s your wine? Water is for washing cars and for bathing. Never toast with water.” You: “Yes, Nonna.”
  22. If the place isn’t busy, it’s totally acceptable to ask the waitstaff to bring you whatever food they think you should have. Give them a dollar amount. $30 bucks per person. $100 per person. They may not be interested. But most love sharing their favorite dishes.
  23. But if it’s busy, order off the damn menu.
  24. Same thing in cocktail bars. Order off the menu unless it’s slow or you’ve built up a good rapport with the bartender.
  25. Signs you’ve succeeded: The meal is amazing. Your guests are happy. You’re slightly intoxicated from all the butter and booze.
  26. Signs you’ve really succeeded: The chef comes out to meet you. You’re invited to join in on the staff drink. You get asked, “Are you in the industry?” You have sex after dinner, despite the ridiculous amount of cheese.
  27. Question: “Sparkling or still?” Answer: “Sparkling.”
  28. Enjoy your food but don’t get too snobby. A good meal is more than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t matter how much it costs or where the ingredients come from. The best burger I’ve had recently was with my Dad and brother at a Red Robin in Billings, Montana.
  29. Don’t fill up on bread.
Bon appétit!
Categories
General

Major Workout Moments from Age 7 to 32

ONE

Location: School gymnasium in rural Texas. Karate tournament. 7 years old.
Workout: Forgetting my kata (training exercises), freaking out, and inventing a new one on the spot with random kicks and punches.
Quote: “Judges, my name is Nathan Green. My style is Tae Kwon Do. My kata is called…ketchup.” 
Verdict: Participant trophies are stupid.


TWO

Location: Downtowner Gym. Whitefish, Montana. 15 years old.
Workout: Getting pinned under a bar weighing 135 pounds while bench pressing.
Quote: “UHHGGG…PULL IT UP, PULL IT UP, PULL IT UP, PULL IT UP!”
Verdict: Kyle is not a good spotter.


THREE

Location: Elementary school playground. Whitefish, Montana. 18 years old.
Workout: Monkey-bar pull-ups and sledgehammer swings against a big tire.
Quote: “Son, you can’t bring a sledgehammer to an elementary school.” 
Verdict: The middle-school playground is better anyway.


FOUR

Location: DeFranco’s gym. New Jersey. 23 years old.
Workout: Running the gauntlet of Combine tests (225-pound bench press, 40 yard dash, vertical jump) with NFL players and NFL hopefuls.
Quote: “Yo, look at homeboy’s shirt. What the fuck kind of color is that? Salmon?”
Verdict: The same guys who give you shit when you walk in the door are the same guys you slap hands with when you walk out.


FIVE

Location: Anaconda Wilderness. Montana. 28 years old.
Workout: Hiking multiple mountains with a 70-pound pack, trying to keep up with Richelle’s 60-year-old dad.
Quote: “Look at that view.”
Verdict: Humans were meant to be outside in fresh air. Also, Charlie is killing me.


SIX

Location: The sidewalk in front of Chris’s house. Portland, OR. 32 years old.
Workout: Swinging 100-year-old Indian clubs and drinking hard cider.
Quote: “I’m not usually a big cider fan, but damn this is good. What’s the ABV?”
Verdict: There’s a rich history of physical fitness culture just waiting for you to explore—and it usually contains fun things to play with. Also: 7.8%.


SEVEN

Location: Any gym, any Saturday. With friends.
Workout: Whatever sounds like fun.
Quote: “That’s three rounds! Two more to go! Look alive!”
Verdict: Beer always tastes better after lifting heavy stuff.


CONCLUSION

The human body is a goddamn miracle. Use it or lose it.

Nate clubs

Categories
General

How I Make Money

“Do you sell advertising?”
No.

“Do you do sponsored blog posts?”
No.

“Do you take donations?”
No.

“Do you do affiliate marketing?” 
Sometimes I include an Amazon link to a book I enjoy, but I usually forget. Other than that: No.

“So…how do you make money?”
I make money the same way Winston Wolfe makes money:

I solve problems.

Wolf The Wolf.

At least once per week, someone asks me how to make money online. Should they design an app? Write a book? Create a course?

I tell them they’re asking the wrong question. The question they should be asking is this:

“What problem can I solve that people are excited to pay me for?”

Here in 2017, starting a business is simple. All the gatekeepers have been removed. Instead of praying to the network gods to get on TV, you can start your own YouTube channel. Instead of trying to get airtime on the radio, you can start your own podcast. Instead of waiting on a Big Publisher, you can write, market, and sell your own book.

Accounting software, email delivery services, collaborative software, payment processing…all of it is relatively inexpensive and instantly accessible. You can be up and running in an hour or less.

Yep, starting a business is easier than ever. But staying in business…well, that’s another story.

5 Thoughts On Making Money

#1 – SOLVE A PROBLEM

Every successful business or product solves a problem (real or perceived) that people are motivated to exchange money for. Just think of the last few purchases you made. Here are mine:

Thing I bought: Notebook.
Problem it solved: I need a place to outline my articles.

Thing I bought: Dog food.
Problem it solved: If I don’t feed my dog it will die.

Thing I bought: Tickets to see Blade Runner 2049.
Problem it solved: I’m bored and I haven’t seen my friends in a while.

Stop thinking, “What can I sell?”. Start thinking, “What problem can I solve?” 

In my business, I solve two problems for two different kinds of people:

  • Consulting. I help a small number of top-tier fitness and health companies reach the right people, create better products, and make more money.
  • Coaching. I help busy guys actually do all the stuff they say they want to do: get in great shape despite a busy schedule, start and grow a business, become more effective with their time, and find more balance in their life.

#2 – DON’T FOLLOW YOUR PASSION. INSTEAD, BUILD RARE AND VALUABLE SKILLS

“Follow your passion” is bad advice for two main reasons:
  1. Most of us don’t have a career-relevant passion. Have fun trying to turn your love for football or for eating ice cream into a steady income.
  2. “Passion” is only a small part of what makes work fulfilling. Let’s say you do get a job involving football. Maybe it’s managing the social media account for the New England Patriots. Congrats, you’re now (kinda, sorta) doing something involving your love of football. But what if you’re paid shit money? What if you have a controlling boss? What if you have to wake up at 3AM to respond to douchebags who leave anonymous Facebook comments? Will you still love your job?

In his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, author Cal Newport makes a strong case for why following your passion is a terrible idea. Because the traits that define great work (autonomy, creativity, impact, recognition) are rare and valuable, Newport argues that you need to have rare and valuable skills to offer in return. 

“Nobody offers you a fulfilling job,” he writes. “You have to earn it.”

So stop thinking, “What am I passionate about?” and start thinking, “What rare and valuable skills do I already have — or can I start building right now?”

#3 – REPEAT AFTER ME: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “PASSIVE INCOME”

Whenever someone says they want to “write a book and then just sit back and make passive income” I want to slap the holy hell out of them.

There. Is. No. Such. Thing. As. Passive. Income.

If you do your job right, you’ll spend countless hours researching, creating, testing, tweaking, and spreading your message. Sure, if you create a book or an online course and put together a well-oiled automatic sells system you can “earn money while you sleep”. But getting to that point takes months (if not years) of hard work — and more than a few sleepless nights.

#4 – SELL SERVICES BEFORE PRODUCTS

In the fitness industry, a service could be a coaching program, while a product could be a 12-week workout plan. Always sell services before products. Do this for two reasons:

  • You can charge a premium price for a service, which means you need fewer clients to make a living wage. When I owned my personal training studio I charged $300-$600 per month. If I got 10 clients to sign up for a year-long contract, I was suddenly making a living. But if I started by writing a book that sold for $20 — and if I kept all of it as profit, which would never happen — I’d have to sell 3,000+ just to make the same amount of money.
  • You can learn lessons that will inform your product if you decide to create one later. Because I’ve been in the fitness industry for so long, I can tell which workout programs have never been tested with real people.”Oh, you want them to do 10 sets of 10 reps of eight different exercises four times per week? Good luck with that.”By starting with a service, you’ll learn the ins and outs of what working with people really means. You’ll learn their motivators, idiosyncrasies, and pains. You’ll learn how to help them make progress despite everything that’s going on in their life.

    In short, you’ll learn what works…and what doesn’t. I mean, would you want to work with a business coach who never ran their own business?

#5 – ALWAYS TRY TO 10X THEIR INVESTMENT IN YOU

If someone pays me $30,000 for a project, I want my work to directly result in $300,000 of new business for them. If someone buys a $20 book, I want them to get at least $200 worth of value out of it. It doesn’t matter what the price is. What matters is how much value I can deliver.

The beautiful thing is once you can reliably solve someone’s problem and 10X their investment, getting new work is never difficult. You just show them your track record and smile.

Because at some point your experience and your connections will speak for themselves.


Here are a few great business-related resources to check out:

80000hours.org
So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
Creative Class by Paul Jarvis and Kaleigh Moore
Zero To Launch by Ramit Sethi

Categories
General

Making stuff is hard work.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote Good Will Hunting when they were in their twenties.

I remember watching the movie back in 2000 and thinking about how crazy it was that these two guys turned an idea into an Oscar-winning movie. How the hell did they do that?

Watching Good Will Hunting made me want to make things. I quickly realized, however, that making things is hard work.

How you like them apples?
How you like them apples?

We all get to enjoy the fruits of other people’s labor: the movies, music, gadgets, and books that define our culture and make us think and feel.

But we rarely get a behind-the-scenes look into how those things were created. And without that inside look into the process, many of us are left feeling that making things is either easy or insanely difficult.

The truth is that it’s both.

That’s why I loved a recent podcast with former Grantland guru Bill Simmons and writer/actor Aziz Ansari. They were talking about Aziz’s new Netflix show Master of None, which I consider a masterclass in humor, drama, creativity, and social commentary.

The part of the interview that hit home for me was when Bill and Aziz talked about the writing process.

Aziz Ansari: “If I’m writing I have to leave my phone at home and go to a cafe where I don’t know the WiFi password. Because what happens when I’m writing is I’ll hit a point where I don’t know where to go. In those moments I’ll think, “Maybe I’ll check my email or check the New York Times real quick and then I’ll go back to [the writing].”

But when I don’t have my phone or the internet, I hit that moment and I’m forced to stay in it. And when you stay in it, you can come out. You’ll end up with an idea. But that idea is gone when you take a break to see what texts you’ve got.”

Master

When I hear stuff like this, I’m reminded of what it takes to do good work. Sure, it requires at least a modicum of talent and skill. But those are table stakes. There are millions of people out there with talent and skill who’ll never finish creating the thing they started. (And many, many more who will never even start.)

To do good work—whether you’re writing code, editing a screenplay, running a gym, or managing a team—requires that you treat the work with respect. It requires that you sit your ass down, remove all distractions, dive in, and push through the moments where you feel stuck or hopeless.

It’s taken me over a decade to figure out that the work will never create itself. That in order for it to exist I must first breathe life into it.

It’s worth it.

-Nate

PS – Thanks to my little brother Austin for recommending the Simmons/Ansari interview to me. Also, if you want to dive deeper into how I plan my schedule and eliminate distraction, check out these two articles:

Categories
General Life Skills

The Burden of Ambition (And The Importance of Looking Behind You)

We love to set big goals and get shit done. But is our ambition making us feel unsatisfied?


As ambitious Type-A people, we feel that if we’re not finding new ways to grow, learn, or challenge ourselves then we must be moving backward. (And there’s nothing an ambitious person hates more than failing to make progress.)

Ambition has its perks, of course. It allows us to learn new skills and create new things. But I believe it can also be a burden. Left unchecked, our ambition can cause us to put too much focus on where we’re going and not enough focus on where we are now or where we’ve been.

And you don’t need to be a Buddhist monk or new-agey mindfulness expert to know that always looking toward a future, far-off goal—and failing to live in the present—is a recipe for unhappiness.

Focusing on the future is like chasing the horizon.

We step outside our doors and take a look faaaarrr in front of us, our eyes following the earth until it turns to sky. From our vantage point, the horizon seems like a fixed point, some place we can physically get to if only we start walking.

content_andrew-loewen-4000
Credit: Andrew Loewen

So we start walking.

But instead of getting closer, the horizon keeps moving farther and farther away. We walk and we walk, but we never seem to reach it. After a day of walking (or a month, or a lifetime) we realize we haven’t gotten any closer.

That’s because the horizon moves as we move.

This is when ambitious people start to feel demoralized. We didn’t capture the horizon. We didn’t reach our Big Goal. And from the looks of it, we may never reach it.

What a miserable failure, we think. Why do I suck so much at life?

But if we were to take a moment to look around and maybe enjoy where we’re at, we’d likely see that from where we’re standing, things actually look pretty good. And if we were to turn around and look back behind us, well, we’d see how far we’ve actually come.

“Holy shit, I started way back there. And now I’m here.”

By all means we should continue to chase our goals. We should thank our weird biological wiring and embrace our ambition and the positive consequences that come with it. But we should also realize that our Big Goal, whatever it is, is never a fixed point. Just like the horizon, it moves as we move. We’ll never truly get there.

That’s why it’s important to pause every now and then to look around, take in the sights, see what’s happening right here, right now.

And maybe even look behind us, to see the real progress we’ve made.

-Nate

(Thanks to Phil Caravaggio for introducing me to the concept of “chasing the horizon.” And thanks to you for reading.)

Categories
General Health and Fitness

“How Do I Get My Workout Habit Back?”

Here’s an email I received last week:

Workout habit

I’m no Dear Abby, but I do like to try and help people when they ask. I told Joe I had some ideas for him, but that I preferred to share them publicly, just in case it could help someone else in a similar situation.

Joe was cool with it. I’m cool with it. I figure you’re cool with it too.

Here we go.


Joe! Thanks for the question, man.

After thinking about this, the following is what came to mind based on my own experience. Feel free to take it or leave it.

1. ACCEPT AND EMBRACE “THE FUNK”.

You write, “I was doing well and now I’m in a funk.” I think it’s important to understand that no matter what part of life we’re focusing on, we’re gonna randomly and consistently oscillate between “well” and “funk.”

It happens on both a micro and macro level.

MACRO: My life is amazing and everything is easy and rewarding…………..I hate my life and wish a comet would hit Earth and kill everyone.

MICRO: It’s gonna feel so good to meditate, I can’t wait to sit down and do nothing for a full 20 minutes…………..Screw meditation.

This fluctuation is normal and shouldn’t surprise us. That’s why the first thing I encourage you to do is simply to accept and prepare for the funk. Some days are gonna feel easy. Other’s are gonna be a motherfucker.

And on those days, I’ve found that making a short list of habits reminds me of the minimum I need to do to stay on track—and maybe even turn things around.

2. START WITH ONE SMALL ACTION—TODAY.

If you’re not currently working out at all, what’s one small thing you can do today to start? Don’t think too hard here. Instead, it’s important to pick something and do it, just so you can build momentum. (Also, if it’s been a while since you’ve exercised, you may have forgotten how good the serotonin boost can feel, even after just 5 minutes of moving.)

A few ideas:

Sure, it’s small. But it’s better than nothing (which is what you’re currently doing).

PRI Yoga, with Craig and Margaret
Anti-Yoga, with Craig and Margaret

3. ASK YOURSELF “WHY?”

It may be that you’re not working out consistently simply because you don’t have a good reason to work out consistently. In other words, your goals aren’t in line with your values.

When I worked with Precision Nutrition, we gave every client an exercise called “The 5 Why’s.” (See below.) It’s a simple way to give your goals some teeth.

I suggest you ask yourself the question, “Why do I want to get back in the habit of working out?” and follow the process to see what you come up with.

PN why

4. GIVE YOURSELF A NEW CHALLENGE.

When I was burned out on the gym and feeling unmotivated, one thing that helped get me out of it was coming up with a new physical challenge or skill I wanted to learn.

I wanted to stay in shape but I was tired of going into the gym and doing traditional strength training stuff the way I had been for the past decade. A new challenge was a good way to break the monotony and rekindle my passion for training.

A few challenge ideas:

  • Train for a one-time future event (like a Spartan race)
  • If you’ve been lifting weights for years, try adding gymnastic-based movements like working with rings and parallette bars or practicing handstands.
  • Pick up a dormant skill or game, like skateboarding, basketball, rock-climbing, ultimate frisbee, or any other active thing you used to do.

FINAL THOUGHT

In my experience, the same principles apply whether you’re trying to start a new habit or get an old habit back: start small, get clear on why it’s important to you, find new ways to have fun and challenge yourself, and embrace the fact that some days will be better than others.

And remember: This is all a work in progress.

-Nate

Categories
General

“Ars longa, vita brevis.” (Art is long; life is short)

I’m not much for jewelry—usually all I wear is a watch—but I recently added a bracelet to my wrist.

It’s a piece of black cord with a small grey skull, held together with a fisherman’s knot. My skull bracelet isn’t particularly stylish, but it does serve a purpose:

It reminds me that I’m going to die.

Maybe after I finish writing this I’ll walk home and get hit by a car like my friend Kyle. Or maybe I’ll die of a heart attack at age 48. Or maybe I’ll just die in my sleep when I’m 102.

I’m not saying I know how it’ll happen. I’m saying I know that it will happen.


Knowing I’m going to die doesn’t make me sad; instead, it gives me energy, makes me feel lighter. Any burden the world has put on me (or I’ve put on myself) is immediately lifted when I remember my death.

Everything suddenly looks just a little bit better: colors look brighter; people look friendlier; risks look less risky.

That last one is important.

Not a week goes by where I don’t get an email from someone who’s nervous about taking a risk. Usually it’s starting a business, but sometimes it’s breaking up with someone, or switching careers, or quitting their job, or starting a blog, or writing a book.

I often write back and ask questions. I try to give them things to consider.

“Why do you want to do this? How can you test the idea first? What’s the best/worst case scenario?”

Sometimes they write back to let me know they pulled the trigger. Or they write back to let me know they thought about it, but ultimately decided against it.

Both types of notes feel good to read.

But when I don’t hear back, I assume the worst. I assume they never asked themselves the questions. I assume they talked themselves out of it. I assume that this huge, amazing thing they wanted to do—this thing they just wrote 1,000 words about and sent to a stranger—is never going to happen.

When I don’t hear back, I want to email them and remind them that they’re going to die, too.


Still, I get it. Taking risks is scary.

Early in my career, I’d get so nervous before interviews that I’d often cancel them minutes before they were supposed to happen.

People thought I was a giant asshole. Really, I was terrified.

I’ve gotten better with time. I still get nervous when I get up on stage to talk, I still get nervous for interviews, and I still get nervous when I sit down to write something I know thousands of people will read.

But if I’m lucky, at some point, I look at my wrist to check the time. I see the skull staring at me, I see the seconds ticking away, and I remember that I’m going to die.

Might as well give it a shot and see what happens.

Categories
General

What We’ve Learned: A New Book By Nate Green’s Readers

A couple months ago I sent an email to my readers and asked if they’d help me write a book. Here’s what happened.

What We've Learned

Click here (or the image above) to download the book for free.

Here are two things I know for sure:

It feels good to create things. It feels good to help people.

Bonus points if the thing you create helps people; when those two things meet, it’s like magic. (It’s also, occasionally, a business.)

But creating things — especially good things — is difficult. It takes time, focus, and courage. Maybe even a little masochism.

Helping people is easier, and there are a million ways to do it: You can hold the door open for the guy whose arms are full of groceries; you can help an old woman across the street (that’s still a thing, right?); you can share your life experience and hope that someone will read it and find it applicable to their own life.

That last one — sharing life experience — is my favorite.

I’ve had a blog for a little over 10 years now, and thousands of people have found their way to my little corner of the internet to read what I have to say.

I hear from lots of my readers.

Some write to tell me I’ve changed their life. Others write to tell me to go straight to hell. I like getting both kinds of messages. They remind me that not everyone will love what you do — but some will. (Those are the ones who matter.)

But as rewarding as creating things that help people can be, most of us don’t do it often enough. Maybe we don’t have an outlet (though, honestly, that argument doesn’t mean shit now that anyone can start a blog or a Youtube channel). Maybe we don’t have an idea.

Or maybe we’re just waiting for someone else to ask for our help before we give it.

A couple months ago I sent out an email to my readers and asked Them to help me write a book.

I told them I needed their help to create something new. I posted some questions on my blog — questions about relationships, work, self-confidence, and more — and I invited them to answer those questions.

Hundreds of people answered. Thousands more people, like Charlie here, decided to wait and read what other people had to say.

“Thank you for this valuable project. I left most of the questions blank because they are issues I struggle with. I look forward to reading other people’s responses.” – Charlie

At the beginning, I had this grand idea of creating a huge book full of stories, advice, strategies, and photos. As you’ll see, that quickly fell apart. (I’ve learned it’s always better to start with a grand vision and scale down from there.)

What we created instead is much more manageable. And because of its size, much more readable.

With a nod to Esquire’s “What I Learned” interview series — a format where the interviewer’s questions are removed and only the subject’s answers remains — this is a collection of quotes, artwork (from my good friend Jason Lengstorf), and general good advice from some random people who read my blog.

So, just who are these people?

I can tell you that most of them (90%) are male, and most (75%) are between the ages of 25-35 (My blog started as a fitness blog for guys; so this makes sense.)

There are, however, some outliers: A 53-year-old woman; a 61-year old guy; one dude named Ryan Andrews; another dude named Andrew Ryan. (Seriously.)

But really, these are just people.

People who have lives, families, responsibilities, hopes, dreams, and fears. People who helped me create this thing in order to help other people. Like you.

Here’s what they’ve learned.

What We've Learned

Click here (or the image above) to download the book for free.