My Entrepreneurial Whisperer
I own a dog, which means I spend hours every week in all types of weather at the community Dog Beach. There I meet (and hand my business cards to) lots of interesting people, like Dr. Nate Drees. Nate is a recently minted chiropractor whose dog Nash boxes, chases, and wrestles my dog Noble until he’s reduced to a sandy, exhausted Sheepadoodle throw rug. I consider Nate my entrepreneurial “whisperer” because, despite our generational differences, he always helps me feel less curmudgeonly and more motivated. I tell him he’s destined to entrepreneurial greatness. To prove my point to you, my small but influential group of followers, this week I feature some of Nate’s wisdom in this edited-for-length interview.
[Nate, since I recently launched a business that helps people keep their application and programming skills up-to-date, let’s start with the topic of learning. What is something you wish you had learned before college?]
I wish I had been more aware of how to learn how to learn. You know, to understand the ways that were best at helping me observe, learn and apply new skills. For example, in grad school I eventually realized that listening to lectures wasn’t my style—I had to reinvent how I studied. I'd draw pictures, watch videos, and spent less time trying to grasp what the professors were saying and more time studying the textbook. Being aware of how I learn has made me a much more efficient learner and enables me to apply principles more quickly.
[What about when you were in college? What would have been helpful to learn before you started your career?]
The importance of having specific aspirations and the patience to follow them. There’s nothing more discouraging than joining the “real world” without a clear vision for your life. So, I wandered for a while before landing on a set of aspirations that felt right to me. Then, I had to learn that when you have aspirations, you have to be patient. It's normal, after working hard, not to see the fruits of your labor immediately. Instead of being impatient, I take my time and prioritize the actions I can take to improve my chances to reach my goals. Time is the most valuable commodity you have, so make it work for you.
[What do you do to help yourself grow professionally and personally?]
To develop in the chiropractic field, I have to read--about new treatments, new techniques. But I will review my old textbooks to ensure that I retain the fundamentals, like biology, anatomy, and physiology. I attend tons of hands-on seminars to learn technical skills and to talk shop with other clinicians. I'm also not afraid to practice and try something new to me, understanding that I'm not perfect. My boss always says, "it’s a practice, not a perfect." That has resonated with me as I continue to grow, learn new technical skills, and figure out how to apply these skills to improve my patient outcomes.
On the personal front, reading is also an important activity. I particularly like books about how to accomplish goals, how to build and support good relationships, and how to communicate better with others. I read these kinds of books because I really value relationships (family, friendships, work relationships, patient-doctor relationships). I want to constantly give back to those that give to me every day.
[That’s a lot of reading—and a lot of work. How do you manage your time?]
Balancing work and life is an important work-in-progress for me. The nice thing about my job is that I love it (especially the physicality of it), so I'm willing to put in the time and effort to improve. The downside (and my girlfriend and friends would agree) is that I can pretty easily get infatuated with my work and work too much. I'd work 80 hours a week if my body would let me, but obviously that isn't healthy. In order to grow as a whole person, I need the benefits of being in and contributing to the relationships that I value.
[Who are some of the people you admire?]
Foremost, I admire my parents. They've been together for 40 years and have made a life for me that I can only hope to provide for someone else someday. I commend them for being able to communicate and adapt all these years, while raising and launching us kids, and still having the capacity to dedicate time towards themselves and each other.
I admire my brother for his persevering spirit and ability to focus on his aspirations and drive for success in the face of the tough circumstances he has had to overcome.
My boss, Dr. Tony Breitbach, has helped me define specific goals, something that I found challenging when I started my career. I admire how he drives a very positive culture, encourages civic engagement, and understands the value of a solid high-five when you complete a task.
[Finally, what would you say to your future self if you could?]
Life is short, so don't fret the little things. Try to tolerate the highs and lows of life—like surfing. Avoid the trough at the bottom of the wave and the crest at the top, and carve a path through the middle if you can.
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