Categories
Life Skills

The best time to go to a bar if…

…you want to learn how to make a drink.

Nate cocktail
Me and Nat Caravaggio. That’s a rum flip.

4PM on a Monday. Or whatever time the place opens.

Go alone.

Look at the menu and when the bartender comes over, let him know what you normally drink.

Tell him like this: “Well, I like rye and bourbon, so I’d normally order an old fashioned. But I’m really open to suggestions. What would you recommend?”

Take his recommendation.

Watch him make your drink. See what ingredients go into it. Look at the way he’s stirring it while barely moving his wrist.

Holy shit. You must have stirred that like 100 times. Should I stir my drink 100 times? (No.)

Or watch him shake it, if you ordered that type of drink.  How much ice did he put in? How long did he shake it?

Point at it.

What kind of thingy is that? That thing, the thing you’re using to strain it with. What’s it called? Can I get them on Amazon? (Yes.)

Don’t say any of that yet, though. Just think it. Make a mental note to ask him later. You don’t want to be weird.

When he sets the drink down in front of you, say thanks. It looks great.

Pick it up and smell it. Put your nose in it.

Take a drink.

How is it? Is it good? (Probably.)

It’s not busy so he’s just standing there looking at you, waiting on you to have another drink.

Take another sip.

Now’s your chance.

Can I ask you a couple questions? 

Ask them.

Then order another drink, his choice. Something he’s excited about or that he’s been working on.

Later, when you’ve got some new tricks to try, some bottles to buy, and a recipe in your pocket, ask for the check.

“There you go, man.”

The bar’s filling up now. He’s starting to get busy.

The bill is $22.00. Tip him $20 and leave.

After all, he was a nice guy.

And so are you.

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
Essay Life Skills

A Man At His Best: 5 Things I’ve Learned from David Granger’s Esquire

Last year, my friend Kyle was hit by a car while he was crossing the street on his way to work.

It was ass-crack early — six ayem — and the driver of the car had sped up to make it through a yellow light.

Kyle, like the optimistic idiot I’d known for 15 years, didn’t wait for the signal to flash before walking. He stepped off the sidewalk and into the road, apparently anticipating that the car would stop.

It didn’t.

The car hit him and sent him flying into the middle of the crosswalk.

That was a Thursday. Kyle died on Sunday. On Monday I typed this into Google: “How to give a eulogy – Esquire.”


I knew Esquire would have something real to say. Something that would help me think through this shit. Something that would help me cope and proceed with new perspective. Like a man.

I knew Esquire would be there for me in the same way that my dad, my brothers, my best friend Jason are there for me: With understanding. With wisdom. Always.

Me, Jason Lengstorf and Kyle in 2002.
Me, Jason, and Kyle in 2002.

I found an article by Tom Chiarella, How To Give a Eulogy, and printed it out.

On the flight to Colorado, I wrote down stories and memories of Kyle — that summer where we made fake IDs out of plastic cutting boards and a laser printer; the first time he took me to the gym and showed me how to lift weights; the way he’d sit in the driver’s seat of his shitty Toyota pickup and punch the roof of the car in time with the bass drum of the Deftones.

I got into Colorado late. The next morning, I gave the eulogy. It went about as well as a eulogy can go.

Later that night I split a pot brownie with my friend Mike and we walked the streets of Denver, talking, laughing, remembering.

We obeyed traffic signals and looked both ways before crossing the street.


I’ve read the magazine in bathtubs and in public parks, during thunderstorms and after sex. I’ve read it during lazy Sundays on the couch with a glass of bourbon and an hour to kill before dinner.

I’ve learned a lot from Esquire over the past eight years, since I first picked up an issue of the magazine. I’ve grown to trust and admire Editor David Granger and his stable of contributing editors and writers: Tom Chiarella, Mike Sager, Ross McCammon, Nick Sullivan, Stephen Marche, Richard Dorment, Chris Jones, Tom Junod, Scott Raab, AJ Jacobs, Cal Fussman, David Wondrich, John H. Richardson, Colby Buzzell.

Their stories taught me, inspired me, challenged me. They made me laugh and, yes, they made me weep.

The Things That Carried Him. The Falling Man. Every Raab interview, every What I’ve Learned, every Editor’s Note.

I’ve read the magazine in bathtubs and in public parks, during thunderstorms and after sex. I’ve read it during lazy Sundays on the couch with a glass of bourbon and an hour to kill before dinner. The ink always smeared and got on my hands.

I just finished the May 2016 issue of Esquire, David Granger’s last as Editor in Chief after nearly 19 years. Some of his writers (but not all) are leaving with him.

It’s the end of an era.

In honor of him and all the writers that have entertained, educated, and challenged me over the past decade, I want to share a few things I’ve learned from Granger’s Esquire.

I hope you’ll indulge me.


Lesson 1: Be generous with your time.

Eight years ago or so I emailed writer Tom Chiarella and asked him how I could become a better writer. I didn’t know this at the time, but unsolicited emails asking broad questions rarely get answered.

Tom answered anyway. His advice: set deadlines, cancel appointments when the writing is going well, and get a good chair.

His response was great, but it was the fact that he responded at all that blew me away. Having an email from Tom Chiarella sitting in my inbox made me feel connected to something big, like I had a direct line to God. He was (is), in my opinion, one of the best in the world at what he does.

I’m so far from being the best at anything.

But I have an audience now and whenever I get an email from someone who needs some help or just wants to say how much my writing has impacted them, I respond. Because Tom would.

Lesson 2: Steal from the best.

Hunter S. Thompson knew how to steal.

When he was a young journalist, Thompson would sit down at his typewriter and copy great literature, like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

When Esquire writer Chris Jones agreed to do an interview with me a couple years ago, I knew I was going to steal, too.

After two hours on the phone, four hours of transcribing our interview, and another four hours pulling out the best snippets of conversation, I had my very own “What I Learned” interview, a style I stole from Esquire’s Cal Fussman, who removes his questions and leaves only his subject’s answers.

Thanks to Cal’s format and Chris’s answers, You Don’t Belong Here is one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever done.

Lesson 3: Buy simple, classic clothes that will last a long time.

In 2012, I moved from a small town in Montana to Portland, Oregon. Say what you will about hipsters — the flannel, the work boots, the beards — these people had style. Or at least more style than I did.

I remember coming home from the grocery store one day, after spending the better part of an hour watching beautiful people buy craft beer and artisan salami, and looking down at my two-sizes-too-big jeans and my too-long-and-billowy button down shirt.

I needed some new clothes.

I took some money out of my savings account, searched through the Esquire archives, and put together a list of essentials to build my wardrobe from scratch.

Call it what you want — a shopping spree, a waste of money. I call it an investment in myself.

The clothes made me feel confident. Capable. Like I could go anywhere in the world and be taken seriously.

I remember putting on the suit in the J. Crew changing room — my first ever suit, at age 27 — and thinking: Now that is one good-looking motherfucker.

Lesson 4: Choose a favorite drink. Learn how to make it.

The best birthday presents I’ve ever received in ascending order: an Orlando Magic Penny Hardaway jersey, skateboard lessons, and a one-on-one cocktail class at one of the best bars in the country.

That was four years ago.

I showed up to the bar at 3PM on a Saturday, an hour before it was set to open. I knocked on the door. The owner, Dan, let me in. “You’re young,” he said. “I thought you were going to be 50.”

The lights were off and sunlight poured through the windows. There was no music. I sat at the bar and Dan put a series of glasses in front of me: simple syrups, spirits (whiskey, rum, gin, but no vodka), lime juice, and lemon juice.

During the next hour, Dan showed me how to make three drinks: an old-fashioned, a whiskey sour, and a daiquiri.

 Bar
Not the bar where I got an education. But a bar nonetheless.

He taught me their history and showed me how to stir, shake, and strain. He gave me a list of the tools I’d need to make them at home. He got me drunk and then sent me out the door, stumbling and smiling.

I don’t remember the cab ride home, but I do remember what Dan taught me. Since then, I’ve made an old-fashioned nearly every night. I’m getting pretty good at it.

I can thank my girlfriend for the gift and Dan for teaching me. But I must thank Esquire first: I found the bar in the magazine.

Lesson 5: Take risks, respect your readers, and try new things.

Blogs are like magazines on a rack: they all try to get your attention and stand out. But in the end, most regress toward the average. They start to look and sound the same.

Granger’s Esquire always stood out. Not just the covers of the magazine — with their notes, arrows, and quotes — but the words inside.

Esquire, May 2016
May 2016 issue.

Granger’s Esquire wasn’t filled with predictable celebrity interviews, ephemeral news stories, or vapid commentary on the state of the fashion industry. It was something deeper, more creative, more thoughtful.

Who else lets his writers try to buy a stranger’s dog for a thousand bucks? Or says: “The Olympics are coming. Go to Rio and figure out what to write about. Oh, and leave out the Olympics.

Go read the Exit Interview with Bill Murray and tell me it’s like any interview you’ve ever read.

That kind of risk-taking is inspiring and it takes a kind of pact between the writer and the reader to work. The writer says: Trust me, I’m going to make this worth reading. And the reader, hopefully, goes along for the ride.


I’ll let you in on something: I never know what I’m gonna do next with this blog. All I know is that I want it to stand out and I want it to connect with the right people.

Partly thanks to Esquire‘s influence, I’m always trying new things, pushing my boundaries, thinking of what could be fun and scary to try.

(I mean, hell, I once wrote about taking a shit in a trashcan.)

Last month I started the process of co-creating a book with my audience. We’re gonna write it together and give it away for free, something I’ve never seen done before. (Will it be worth reading? I have no idea. But I’m gonna try.)

And now here I am, writing a love letter to Granger’s Esquire in attempt, I guess, to say this: I’m really gonna miss it.

The interviews. The writing. The people. All of it.

In his last column in Esquire, Scott Raab wrote this: “The magazine means more to me than any teacher I’ve had because this magazine has taught me more — about America, about manhood, and about believing that every man’s work might matter to the world.”

I may not love the magazine the way Raab loves the magazine. But I will say this: When my friend died and I had to figure how to deal with it, I sought the company and advice of the people I trust most: my girlfriend of 8  years; Jason, my best friend of 15 years; my parents; my brothers.

And Esquire.

Categories
Essay General Life Skills Tactical

My 2016 Personal Retrospective (And 2017 Action Plan)

A one-hour exercise to help you celebrate your biggest wins, identify your biggest opportunities, and dominate the new year.

Nathan Anderson
Sometimes it’s nice to think about how small you are, and how everything you’re worried about right now probably doesn’t matter.

I spend most of my time planning for the future. With the help of my meditation practice, I’m getting better at living more in the present. But something I still find incredibly difficult is reflecting on the past.

I rarely celebrate achievements for more than a few minutes, and I almost never “look back” on projects or situations to identify what I learned. (And I certainly don’t use that information to guide my future decisions.)

This, as you can imagine, is a problem.

“Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Sometimes being “doomed to repeat” stuff can be a good thing. I think I did a lot of things right this year, and I’d like to continue to do them.

But I also did a lot of stuff wrong.

If we don’t learn from our past, we we won’t be able to identify our biggest opportunities to make life better. Which means we’ll likely suffer through the same situations and thought-patterns again and again.

So this year, I’m continuing with a new tradition I started last year: a personal retrospective.

(Read my 2015 retrospective here.)

What’s a retrospective?

A retrospective is when you look back on past events to identify what worked…and what didn’t work. A retrospective helps you celebrate your wins and identify your weaknesses. It helps you learn from the past and correct for the future.

How to do your own personal retrospective

To do a personal retrospective, you simply pick a particular project or time period and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s working? (“What did I do right? What am I proud of?”)
  • What’s not working? (“What could be improved? What are my biggest opportunities for growth?”)
  • How can I fix what’s not working for a better result? (“What specific things can I focus on next time?”)

Then you spend 15-30 minutes writing about each.

Nate’s 2016 Personal Retrospective

To give you an idea of how it’s done—and to encourage you to do the same—I want to share mine with you.

NGE 2
Talking with a Buddhist monk in Thailand; taking a selfie with friends; hanging out in a Slovenian gym; taking in a gorgeous mountain view.

QUESTION 1: WHAT’S WORKING? (“WHAT DID I DO RIGHT? WHAT AM I PROUD OF?”)

If I had to give 2016 a title, I’d call it “The year of gaining perspective.”

Big Win #1: I lived out of a suitcase for seven months and traveled to Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam, England, Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy. (And Canada, but who counts that?)

Traveling like this taught me a few important things:

  • I have all that I need to be happy. It may sound trite, but it’s true. I have hot water, a comfortable place to sleep, enough food to eat, full functionality of all my limbs, a good group of friends, a family I love, and I don’t live below the poverty line. (Fun fact: If you’re single, live in the US, and make $50,000 gross per year, you’re in richest 1.3% of the world’s population.) Traveling is the ultimate perspective-giver.
  • Everyone is seeking connection and potential friends are everywhere. Wherever Richelle and I went, we had people to hang out with and new things to try. We made friends with a young group of entrepreneurs in Playa Del Carmen; we ate strange noodle desserts with the owner of a a coffee shop in Chiang Mai; I nearly got myself killed while riding on the back of a scooter in Vietnam (on my way to a karaoke bar no less); and we had one of the best meals of our lives at Hisa Franko in Slovenia, thanks to Luka and Matej.
  • If you’re creative, you can get (or stay) in shape anywhere. I lifted water jugs in Mèrida, did handstands on a rooftop in Bangkok, hiked in the Julian Alps, played frisbee in Danang, and hit up an old school gym in Croatia. (The guy behind the counter was named Goran, which means “mountain man” in Kurdish. He looked the part.)
  • Long-term travel isn’t for me. After seven months on the road, we were ready to come back to the States. We missed our families, our community, and our basic routines. We’ll continue to travel, of course, but we’ll likely do it for a few weeks at a time (at most) and turn it into a full-fledged vacation instead of a “workcation”.

Big Win #2: I maintained my key habits and adopted a couple new ones.

  • Old habits I stuck to 90+% of the time: Meditating in the morning for 20 minutes; doing a daily gratitude practice with Richelle; exercising a minimum of two times per week; doing undistracted creative work for at least four hours per day; taking weekends completely off.
  • New habits I adopted: Giving 5-10% of my income to charity; cutting my meat consumption in half.

Big Win #3: I did work I was proud of.

  • From January to November I sent an average of three newsletters per month. (I took the month of December 2016 off completely.)
  • I advised a handful of companies that are doing great work in the world.

What We've Learned

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

QUESTION #2: WHAT’S NOT  WORKING? (“WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED? WHAT ARE MY BIGGEST OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH?”)

Big Growth Opportunity #1: Continue to work on flexibility and mobility (for real this time).

Big Growth Opportunity #2: Spend at least 50% of my creative time on my own projects.

If you read my 2015 retrospective, you’ll notice that Number 1 is a carryover from last year.

Here’s what I said then:

I’ve paid lip-service to flexibility for the past couple of years, half-heartedly following a daily stretching routine. But honestly, I still tend to skip a good part of my warm-up and “forget” to stretch at least half the time.

Because of that, I often wake up tight and sore and often require a hot shower to “loosen up.”

Well, a full year has passed and I’m disappointed to report that not much has changed. Old habits die hard, apparently.

One potential reason for the fuck-up: I gave myself way too many (four) action steps last year. Here’s what I said I’d do at the beginning of last year:

Action step #1: Do my morning mobility and activation warm-up at least 80% of the time. That means I can only miss one day out of the week.

Action step #2: Follow a simple 5-minute mobility, stretching circuit before bed every night.

Action step #3: Set a timer for 60 minutes and do one stretch for one minute for every hour that I work at my computer.

Action step #4: Sit on the ground for at least 10 minutes and play with positions till they become more comfortable.

That’s WAY too much.

After watching thousands of people go through the habit-based coaching programs at Precision Nutrition, I know that most of us can only stick to one new habit at a time. (Sometimes you can get away with two, but it helps to have those habits in different domains—like one for personal and one for professional.)

So this year, even though I have a lot more to work on (trust me) I’m going to narrow my focus to these two things, plus reduce my action steps.

Both of these opportunities—increasing mobility and working on my own projects 50% of the time—will have a significant positive impact in my life. Probably more than any other habit I could adopt.

In other words, if everything else about my life stayed the same and only these two things changed, I’d consider 2017 a huge success.

QUESTION #3: HOW CAN I FIX WHAT’S NOT WORKING FOR A BETTER RESULT? (“WHAT SPECIFIC THINGS CAN I FOCUS ON NEXT TIME?”)

Action step #1: Set a timer for 20 minutes of stretching, breathing, and movement directly after I finish my morning meditation.

Rationale: I’m already meditating in the morning, so I might as well use that to my advantage. By linking this new practice (stretching) to my old practice (meditating), I’m more likely to stick to it. And the fact that I’m already wearing sweat pants and sitting on the floor helps.

Also, for someone who loves routines, I hate following rigid programs. That’s why I’m purposefully keeping the stretching and movement portion of this action step vague. My only goal is to set a timer for 20 minutes and do some kind of movement for the entire duration. If I can do that, I’ll consider it a win.

Nate Green Morning Workout Routine
I figure I can crawl, stretch, and do some other bodyweight exercises for 20 minutes and feel pretty good about it.

Action step #2: Immediately fire 1-2 companies I’m currently working with in order to free up 50% of my work schedule. 

Rationale: The way my schedule is structured right now, I’m spending 90% of my time on other people’s projects. This has been fun and lucrative, but it’s not allowing me time to work on stuff that matters to me: writing blog posts and books, creating new projects, and working with personal coaching clients.

I’ll likely take a significant financial hit in the short-term, but that’s no big deal. Best case scenario: I use that free time to create things that help people and earn money directly. Worst-case scenario: I try it for a year and pick up another corporate client or two in 2018 if needed.

Write your own Personal Retrospective

So that’s mine. Now it’s your turn.

It’ll take you roughly an hour, but it could be the most important thing you do this year. After all, 2017 is already here.

What are you the most proud of? Where are your biggest growth opportunities?

And the biggest question: What are you going to do about them?

-Nate

Categories
Life Skills Tactical

Nate Green’s 2015 Retrospective (And 2016 Action Plan)

A one-hour exercise to help you celebrate your biggest wins, identify your biggest opportunities, and prepare to dominate the upcoming year.

Greg Rakozy

I spend most of my time planning for the future. With the help of my meditation practice, I’m getting better at living more in the present. But something I still find incredibly difficult is reflecting on the past.

I rarely celebrate achievements for more than a few minutes, and I almost never “look back” on projects or situations to identify what I learned. (And I certainly don’t use that information to guide my future decisions.)

This, as you can imagine, is a problem.

“Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Sometimes being “doomed to repeat” stuff can be a good thing. I think I did a lot of things right this year, and I’d like to continue to do them.

But I also did a lot of stuff wrong.

If we don’t learn from our past, we we won’t be able to identify our biggest opportunities to make life better. Which means we’ll likely suffer through the same situations and thought-patterns again and again.

So this year, I’m beginning a new tradition I hope to repeat every year: A Personal Retrospective.

What’s a retrospective?

A retrospective is when you look back on past events to identify what worked…and what didn’t work. A retrospective helps you celebrate your wins and identify your weaknesses. It helps you learn from the past and correct for the future.

I was first introduced to this framework by Phil Caravaggio, the CEO of Precision Nutrition. Because of him, PN does a retrospective at the end of every single project.

We’ve found it invaluable for the business, and I expect to get similar results with my Personal Retrospective.

How to do your own Personal Retrospective

To do a Personal Retrospective, you simply pick a particular project or time period and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s working? (“What did I do right? What am I proud of?”)
  • What’s not working? (“What could be improved? What are my biggest opportunities for growth?”)
  • How can I fix what’s not working for a better result? (“What specific things can I focus on next time?”)

Then you spend 15-30 minutes writing about each.

Nate’s 2015 Personal Retrospective

To give you an idea of how it’s done—and to encourage you to do the same—I want to share mine with you.

If I had to give 2015 a title, I’d call it “The year of getting out of my comfort zone, seeing the ‘The Big Picture’, and refocusing.”

Big Win #1: I did more public speaking and repeatedly faced my irrational fear of talking in front of large groups.

I gave four talks this year, and each one taught me something profound.

  1. The Toastmasters “Ice Breaker” speech: Everyone feels at least a little nervous getting in front of a crowd of strangers and talking. Speaking at Toastmasters helped me boost my confidence and practice my speeches in a very low-risk arena where I didn’t know anyone.
  2. The 3-hour focus and productivity workshop: Small groups are where I thrive. I felt engaged and enjoyed the ability to switch gears and tailor my material to the needs of the group. I felt like I made a genuine impact on each person.
  3. The fitness conference: I don’t feel as natural on stage, but I know it’s a skill that can be refined with more practice. My slides were on point, people laughed at my stories, and a few later told me how much it helped them. That’s all I can ask for.
  4. The eulogy: This was incredibly difficult. My good friend Kyle Hibler died this year at the age of 31 when he was hit by a car while walking to work. His death reminded me of how suddenly life can go away. Unlike my other talks, I didn’t feel an ounce of nervousness while giving Kyle’s eulogy. There was simply no room for it.
Me, Jason, and Kyle in 2002.

Big Win #2: I did work I was proud of.

  • I wrote a half-dozen newsletters, a couple blog posts, and an 8-part series on relationships. (It starts with the most embarrassing story I’ve ever published and ends with a little redemption and hope.)

  • I coached a few guys online and helped them get out of their rut, find a new direction with their business, and bring more balance back to their lives. This was incredibly rewarding work, and I’m thinking about doing more personal coaching in 2016.

“Working with Nate is like sitting in a coffee shop talking to a good friend, but instead of chatting about what you did last Friday night, you’re plotting a plan for domination.” Eric W, a guy I worked with this year.

  • And at Precision Nutrition, I contributed to some big, influential projects that will go on to help thousands of people. I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve done there.

Big Win #3: I took steps toward gaining even more freedom and autonomy. Plus, I set the stage to do even more personally meaningful work in 2016.

Richelle and I stayed debt free, contributed a good chunk of money to our “freedom fund”, and put most of our stuff in storage before setting off to travel.

We left Portland, spent two months back home in Montana, then traveled to Merida and Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where we’re currently enjoying the beach. From here, we’re heading to Southeast Asia, then on to Europe. Or wherever.

Agave fields in Mexico.

I also made a few difficult yet calculated decisions that I believe will allow me to do even more personally-meaningful work in 2016. But more on that later.

Question #2: What’s not  working? (“What could be improved? What are my biggest opportunities for growth?”)

Big Growth Opportunity #1: Continue to work on communication skills, especially reacting emotionally during charged conversations.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m very candid. That means I say what I think and share my feelings—oftentimes without thinking critically about what I’m about to say. Since I tend to hash out ideas verbally, I actually “think” while talking.

Because of my gregariousness, I can sometimes come off as brash and emotionally-reactive, which understandably makes some people uncomfortable.

“Venting” on an idea may help me formulate my thoughts, but it’s not necessarily an effective way to communicate all the time.

While I’ve trained myself to notice it either while I’m doing it or shortly after the interaction is over, I have yet to discover how to notice the urge to “vent” before it happens.

Big Growth Opportunity #2: Continue to work on flexibility and mobility.

When I don’t have a chair, I find it very hard to sit still for longer than a minute or two. (If you want to make me miserable just ask me to sit on the floor.)

I’ve paid lip-service to flexibility for the past couple of years, half-heartedly following a daily stretching routine. But honestly, I still tend to skip a good part of my warm-up and “forget” to stretch at least half the time.

Because of that, I often wake up tight and sore and often require a hot shower to “loosen up.”

Question #3: How can I fix what’s not working for a better result? (“What specific things can I focus on next time?”)

If I had to “80/20” the stuff I should work on — the stuff that will help me suffer less and become more effective in 2016 — my biggest opportunities are fixing my communication skills and becoming more flexible. (While maintaining my already-established good habits, of course).

I’ll likely talk to people and move my body around for the rest of my life—so it makes sense for me to focus on these weaker areas.

“In your professional life, it’s better to focus on your strengths. But in your personal life, it’s better to improve your weaknesses.” Phil Caravaggio

Below is how I plan on tackling them right off the bat, though I’m sure my specific action steps will change and transform throughout the year.

How I plan to become a better communicator.

Action step #1: Read the book Crucial Conversations, take notes, then perform an 80/20 analysis on my notes to identify the top 1-2 habits I should work on first.

Action step #2: In the meantime, I’m going to work on not interrupting people during conversations. When I notice the urge to speak, I will take a breath, continue to listen, and try to hear exactly what is being said before asking a question or beginning to talk.

How I plan to increase my flexibility.

I’ll do the following in PN-style fashion: pick one thing and focus on it completely for 2-4 weeks before moving on to the next action step.

Action step #1: Do my morning mobility and activation warm-up at least 80% of the time. That means I can only miss one day out of the week.

Action step #2: Follow a simple 5-minute mobility, stretching circuit before bed every night.

Action step #3: Set a timer for 60 minutes and do one stretch for one minute for every hour that I work at my computer.

Action step #4: Sit on the ground for at least 10 minutes and play with positions till they become more comfortable.

Write your own Personal Retrospective

So that’s mine. Now it’s your turn.

It’ll take you roughly an hour, but it could be the most important thing you do this year. After all, 2015 is almost over and  the new year will be here in a week.

What are you the most proud of? Where are your biggest growth opportunities?

And the biggest question: What are you going to do about them?

-Nate

PS – Here are a couple random things I think you’ll enjoy:

What I read to become a better public speaker:

A video of my friend Kyle sticking his head in a toilet after losing a bet. The guy was hilarious and would do anything for a laugh.

And finally, I’m going to be doing a LOT more projects, writing, and personal coaching in 2016. I’m very excited about this—and I hope you are, too.

Thanks, as always, for reading,

-Nate

Categories
Life Skills

We think we need more

More skills before starting a business. More clothes to reinvent our wardrobes.  More Twitter followers. More money.  More attention from the world.

But do me a favor: before you get more food from the grocery store,  go take a look in your fridge.

What’s in there?

Half an avocado that’s turning brown? A couple eggs? An apple?

That’s your dinner.

With a little love and attention, the stuff you were going to trash tomorrow can be a nourishing meal now.

You didn’t need more. You had enough already.

This isn’t about kids starving in Africa or food waste or whatever else.

It’s about recognizing what you have and putting that to good use before trying to get more.

It’s about learning to be resourceful and creative. Because those are qualities that extend far beyond making an omelet.

Those are life skills.

So here’s some advice for you that’s really advice for me:

When you feel the need for more, stop and do an inventory of what you have already.

Maybe it’s enough.

 

Categories
Life Skills

Ode to Shower Beer

One man’s love note to the humble shower beer.

shower beer

Oh, Shower Beer.

You are the almighty relaxer.

You are the ultimate creativity enhancer…for I am writing this after having you, Shower Beer.

You inspire me.

You, who are so cold when the water is so hot.

You, who have been waiting in the fridge for me all day, patiently, like a good friend.

Others have tried to reenact your experience — with coconut water, or wine coolers, or some kind of juice, perhaps — but their efforts are feeble and preposterous.

For only you, Shower Beer, are bestowed the bubbly bragging rights of “Best Shower Beverage.”

Your counterpart, Bathtub Whiskey, is nice, of course.

Elegant, regal, a fine sipper…but not an option, sadly, for I live in a small house with no tub and must reserve it for hotel visits and excursions home where I must first remove hair from the drain and wipe it clean with paper towels before settling into the water and being transported.

But you, Shower Beer? You are simple.

A throwback, perhaps, to my younger days.

Back then, you were a thing of novelty. To be enjoyed while on trips with friends, usually the morning after a late night of doing stupid teenager-type things.

But now, Shower Beer, I treasure you.

For you are the great reset button.

The end of launch-day ritual.

The “I’ve had a bad day and need to unwind” exhale.

The “I’ve had a good day and need to celebrate” exclamation.

You are many things, Shower Beer.

Naturally, you come in different containers and are comprised of different ingredients: Glass bottles. Cans. Stouts. IPAs. 40 ounces of malt liquor.

But I’ve always preferred you in your most humble form, the simple light ale in a can.

For in that simple design you are refreshing and not heavy and decidedly less dangerous than glass.

Because what if I should drop you, Shower Beer?

Oh what a catastrophe that would be. Can you imagine?

But I mustn’t think such deathly thoughts.

Because there you are, half-full (for I am an optimist) and cold and sitting on the little shelf next to my girlfriend’s shampoo and conditioner.

And I shall savor you and stand in this shower until not only you are finished but until my skin turns wrinkly and kinda burny due to my dry skin.

And when I’m down to your last sip, I will take a deep breath and feel the hot water on my head and close my eyes and know that yes, life is amazing.

And then I will set your empty vessel back onto the shelf (where I will inevitably forget you until the next morning), and I shall step out of that steamy portal, and I will towel off and think:

Did I wash my hair?

I don’t remember.