Episode 21: Becoming the Leader You Needed Early in Your Career feat. Tan Wells
Angela Alea speaks with Tan Wells, VP of Client Services at Freeman about career growth, family, and having a life in live events.
Nate Nicholson joins Angela Alea for a conversation about life on the road as a crew member, and how difficult it can be to balance family time with a career in live events. Nate shares his travel hacks with us and shows us how he's structured his life to maintain a successful career and a beautiful home life.
[00:00:30] Angela Alea: Welcome back to Corralling the Chaos. Everyone, for all of you road warriors out there working events today we're gonna be talking about work life balance.
[00:00:40] Angela Alea: Which is really hard for those of you who are raising families while traveling from gig to gig. And it's a hard balance cuz let's face it. I mean, I feel like these are the days where there's a lot of money to be made with everything coming back. Um, especially for those of you who know your way around a show, been doing it for very long time.
[00:00:57] Angela Alea: So I get the kind of pull of, hey, [00:01:00] This is my time, This is my chance to really kind of get ahead, um, because you're in high demand, but it means also trying to balance, um, your families, your kids, um, your social life, your friendships. Um, and it's really hard to balance that being on the road while being present in all of the other areas of your life.
[00:01:20] Angela Alea: And so my guest today is Nate Nicholson, who is the founder of Millstone Event Services, an event technology firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Nate has been in the industry for 18 years now, which makes him an absolute industry veteran. He travels the country helping conference producers and meeting planners define and align their technology.
[00:01:42] Angela Alea: With their overarching event goals, he has a husband to his wife of 16 years. And a father to wait for it. Six kids, all I'm sure who have lots of activities going on. So the demands of the event profession are obviously challenging for somebody like [00:02:00] Nate. yet despite the intense travel schedule and long hours on show site, somehow he and his wife are able to make it work.
[00:02:06] Angela Alea: Which is what we wanna dive in today. Cause I think there's a lot of people joining our industry, some people that have still been in it for many years, but quite honestly, still struggle with how do you balance raising a family, being present for them with the pull of being on the road. So welcome, welcome, Nate.
[00:02:22] Angela Alea: I'm so glad you're here. Thanks for joining us.
[00:02:23] Nate Nicholson: No, thanks for having me. I've been really looking forward to this conversion.
[00:02:29] Angela Alea: Excellent. I have too because I am not a road warrior, uh, traveling from gig to gig, but I too travel and I am a mom and a wife, and it's really hard. It's really hard to balance.
[00:02:43] Angela Alea: So, really looking forward to this, but the impetus for. Kind of talking about this subject was actually there. There's kind of two posts that you've done, Nate, that really kind of got me thinking about this. Um, the first one was, I think you were posting, you're headed to your [00:03:00] fifth event in the Fifth City.
[00:03:02] Angela Alea: Over five weeks and just kind of talking about kind of the balance of that. But then in one of your recent posts, you put a picture of you and your wife, which I loved, and you kind of gave her kudos for kind of being the rock at home and allowing you to do what you are able to do. But you had an opportunity to bring her with you.
[00:03:19] Angela Alea: And I wanna read this quote from your post, cuz I think it's. It's so relevant and it's such a great reminder. But you said to all of us, you said, it's so important to make sure that we make time for our family and make them our priority like we do our clients. Right? And that's the reality, right? We make our clients a priority.
[00:03:38] Angela Alea: But then you said your clients love you. For what you can do for them. But your family loves you for who you are and you can't get that mixed up. And that is so right because it's so easy to get that mixed up. So why do you think that is that so many people struggle with mixing up? You know, your family just loves you for who you are.
[00:03:58] Angela Alea: The good, the bad, the ugly. And your [00:04:00] client is hiring you for a utility purpose to go and do something for them. So why do so many of us get that mixed up? Including myself?
[00:04:08] Nate Nicholson: Yeah. You know it our industry. Is in a lot of ways, very unique. Um, there are, I, I can't think of another industry, maybe the military where you really give, uh, yourself to your job the way that event professionals do almost as a rule.
[00:04:30] Nate Nicholson: Um, For most of us, it's not just to let's clock in and do the thing and clock out for a lot, most of us. I think it really is a passion and so. It's really easy to, to take for granted the people at home. Um, we have a sense of the fragility of our relationships with our clients. You know, we're just one bad show away from losing them.
[00:04:58] Nate Nicholson: We're, we're one bad [00:05:00] recording one, you know, one, uh, just grumpy technician you. That from losing a client, a long term client. Um, but, uh, maybe we don't sense the fragility of our relationships with our loved ones the way we do with our clients. Um, we, we, it's really easy to take them for granted. They're always gonna be there.
[00:05:21] Nate Nicholson: They're at home. You know, it, it's okay if I ignore their phone call. They'll answer when I call later. Um, and. Over the long haul, we, we lose sight of those things. And, um, I mean, I can't tell you how many people I've met in our industry that are on their second or third marriage or are estranged from their kids, um, just because it's so easy to, to get our balance.
[00:05:52] Nate Nicholson: Out of w in this industry. Long hours, um, weird times. You know, [00:06:00] we're traveling all over the world, some of us. And so, um, if we don't keep our priorities straight, it's really easy to lose the things that are really and truly important in life.
[00:06:12] Angela Alea: Life. So, just curious, have you ever said like, or tell, I know you had, tell me about a time where you chose your family.
[00:06:22] Angela Alea: over a gig or over your career. Like, talk to us about those times and the process that goes into that, right? Because sometimes you can't be everything to everybody all the time. You kind of have to choose what, what ball you're gonna let drop. Um, and obviously you have six kids and been married for 16 years and are bringing your wife with you when you can.
[00:06:38] Angela Alea: So that's a testament to you having your priorities right. But tell us about, how do you say no to your career? So,
[00:06:46] Nate Nicholson: Yeah, I mean it's definitely a challenge and I can't say that I get it right all the time, but for instance, um, I had an opportunity, actually it would've been this week, to go and help with a show in Brazil.[00:07:00]
[00:07:00] Nate Nicholson: And it was a really interesting opportunity. Um, I. It, it was gonna be a challenge for me. It really would've been, uh, a stretch for me professionally. But, uh, just looking at things that the family had coming up, you know, I've got. Kids have a couple birthdays right now. My wife's birthday was earlier this month.
[00:07:24] Nate Nicholson: Um, just knowing that I was gonna be Yeah. Miss those. Yeah. I was gonna be coming off of a, uh, intense six weeks to go right into an out of country trip. Um, I just talking through those things with my wife and we both came to the conclusion that. We didn't need the work. Um, it wasn't gonna break our bank.
[00:07:43] Nate Nicholson: Our budget wasn't gonna suffer if I didn't go to Brazil. Um, and it just wasn't the, the right timing for, for us for that show. And so we came to the conclusion that we were gonna turn down that opportunity. Um, and so [00:08:00] I, I really, I think communication. and, uh, making sure that your partner, um, or spouse or whoever that is for you, um, they have buy.
[00:08:13] Nate Nicholson: and a say in the work that you take, um, if you're, uh, pulling the lone wolf kind of thing and expecting them to just tag along, it's not gonna work for very long. And there's gonna be bitterness and resentment that grows up. And, um, my wife and I have experienced that in the past. There was, there was a time where I wasn't as disciplined in, uh, protecting family time.
[00:08:37] Nate Nicholson: And it was, it was a tough time in our marriage and for our family. And, um, we definitely had some come to Jesus moments, you know, and had to, to rework those priorities. So, um, I'm not saying I've ever had this perfect, There's always things that I can work on personally and, uh, Sarah reminds me, uh, all the time, [00:09:00] but, uh, it's it just making sure that they have buy-in and you're communicating.
[00:09:05] Nate Nicholson: Um, Potential schedules and not just taking every gig that comes along, um, and recognizing those impacts that you have on your family. Uh, that goes a long, long way
[00:09:18] Angela Alea: there. There's so many things you, you just said there. First of all, I love that when you talk, you say, We made the decision for me to not go to Brazil.
[00:09:28] Angela Alea: We feel like we chose our priorities, right? It is, um, You're a team, you're, you're together. And I think that's so important because sometimes, you know, you spend your life chasing the mighty dollar and you wake up and there's nobody there to enjoy it with. . And I think to your point, right, you've come across a lot of people in our industry who, um, it's heartbreaking, right?
[00:09:51] Angela Alea: They've, they've lost sight of it. Um, maybe for good, maybe for bad, but I think that that's, um, that's so important and I think that, that you are a great [00:10:00] example for so many, and I love that you're like, Hey, I haven't always gotten it right. Um, and I feel the same way. There are times that. , you know, I have prioritized work over my family and vice versa.
[00:10:11] Angela Alea: And it depends on what's going on in the moment. And it, it's like you can't be everything to everybody all the time. And you have to choose and something's going to give. And so I read, I don't know if this book will be helpful to all of you, but it, it really changed things for me and my family dynamic and for my husband and I.
[00:10:27] Angela Alea: Um, but there's a book out there called Choosing to. And it's by Andy Stanley. And it's not what you think. It is not cheating on your spouse. Not, but you, at the end of the day, you're gonna cheat something, right? You chose to stay home with your family. So your client who asked you to go Brazil, to go to Brazil, they're the ones that got cheated, right?
[00:10:47] Angela Alea: They didn't get Nate Nicholson on their show. They got cheated out of that, but that's okay. And then there are other times that maybe your family gets cheated because you're gone on the road sometimes. Right? And so it's, it's that balance of choosing to [00:11:00] cheat. And then you also talked about, you know, taking things for granted that they're always gonna be there, right?
[00:11:06] Angela Alea: Like, Oh, it's my family, they called. It's totally fine. They can wait. I'll call back later. And there's some analogies in this book that talks about, you know, holding this rock, you know, And after a certain amount of time, The rock gets heavier and heavier and it's come, but hey, I'm so sorry I'm gonna miss dinner.
[00:11:22] Angela Alea: I know it's their birthday, but it's just this one thing. It's so important. You're like, Yep, I want to, Right. And your spouse and family, they love you. They want you to go do that, right? Because they're, they are all for you. And so they keep holding that rock. And after a period of time, you physically just can't continue to do that even though you want to.
[00:11:39] Angela Alea: Right? And that's where things begin to break down. So, um, it's just such an interesting dynamic that I think our industry is riddled. They're constantly being asked to choose to cheat cuz some things, our health gets cheated, right? Cause sometimes there's no time to work out it. It's almost impossible to eat healthy on the road, um, [00:12:00] consistently, right?
[00:12:00] Angela Alea: Friendships are cheated. Like there's so many things and I think it's just, um, I hope our industry can begin talking about it more. Cuz I think it's, there is a way if we are going. Want to recruit this next generation of talent to our industry, we're not gonna do it by saying, Yep, you're gonna have to give up your family and your health and, but hey, it's really cool you get to work on some cool gigs.
[00:12:23] Angela Alea: Like that's not the way we do it. Right? We have to create the balance for them. And I think the more examples we have of people like you, um, who, who. Admittedly say, Hey, I'm not perfect. I've made some mistakes, but me and my wife, we try to figure it out together. And I think that's, that's a great example, which is why I wanted to, to bring you on the show today.
[00:12:41] Angela Alea: So thank you for that. Thank you. Um, well, how often are you away from your family?
[00:12:47] Nate Nicholson: Oh, man. Um, it obviously varies with season, um, but this year, I think just like it has been for everybody that I've talked to has just been absolutely. Um, you know, historically, you know, I was gone a lot in [00:13:00] the spring and a lot in the fall doing the corporate event season.
[00:13:04] Nate Nicholson: Um, and I purposefully would, you know, slow down in the summer or, you know, over the holidays. I wouldn't take holiday parties. It's not really my forte, It's not, not something I'm particularly interested in. So I would just focus on family over those times. This year we didn't get the slowdown in the summer.
[00:13:22] Nate Nicholson: Um, I mean, it's been. It's been absolutely bonkers since February. Um, mm-hmm. , so I think I calculated it the other day. Uh, counting shows that I planned but didn't go to. I've had something like 48 events this year so far. Um, so, and I still have another half dozen at least. Um, so it's been a very, very busy year.
[00:13:50] Nate Nicholson: Um, and a lot of those are out of town. Um, I've prob, on average, I'm gone three to four days a week and, [00:14:00] It gets tiring. Um, and it def there are definitely challenges. Health has been a big focus for me this year. Um, I ended the, our pandemic slowed down and I with an extra 35 pounds and I needed to get rid of them.
[00:14:16] Nate Nicholson: I wasn't sleeping well. Um, and so I've really been focused on that and traveling as much as I have has definitely been a challenge, but it's not insur amount. And it, I did realize, and this goes back to that work life balance, when I'm unhealthy, I can't handle the travel the way that I, I do when I am. In better shape.
[00:14:42] Nate Nicholson: Um, I still have mm-hmm. , you know, another, I'd like to, I'm back to where I was pre pandemic, but I'd like to lose another 30 pounds and I'm working on that. Mm-hmm. . Um, my boys are getting older and I wanna be able to keep up with them when I am at home. Um, so we have to prioritize those things. [00:15:00] You know, eating has been a huge thing, you know, we've gotta do a better job as an industry when.
[00:15:08] Nate Nicholson: We're thinking about our crews of, um, we've, we we're, I will say we, we do a pretty good job of making sure they get their meal break. And they can, they can, you know, take those times. But especially when we're trying to feed 'em, I mean, can we stop with the pizzas and the, the greasy bags and let's get some healthy food?
[00:15:29] Nate Nicholson: Yeah. Let's show our crews that we are investing in them and we're, we care for them. Um, just because it's fast and easy for us doesn't mean that it's the right option for our crews. Those kinds of things are really important and we gotta, we've got to start taking care of our people in the industry. Um, yeah, and I, I appreciate what you were saying.
[00:15:51] Nate Nicholson: I think this, this topic is going to become more and more relevant as, um, as we kind of. Come out of this [00:16:00] crazy busy season and we all realize like, Hey, this wasn't worth it. Like, my bank account's fat, but so is my midsection. You know, my like I, my family is suffering. Yeah. And I can't, I can't do this schedule the way I was.
[00:16:17] Nate Nicholson: And I mean, yeah, people are getting choosy as it is, uh, of what gigs they take and, you know, We've gotta educate our clients and say, Look, it's just not reasonable to ask people to come in at 5:00 PM do a whole set, and then run a show the next day. We've got to stop. That kind of stuff. It's not healthy for us.
[00:16:37] Nate Nicholson: Yeah. It's not good for your budget when we hit all that double time the next day. Um mm-hmm. . And so yeah, we've got to, I think as an industry, Event professionals, and I'm talking the broader scope of event professionals, including meeting planners. Mm-hmm. , um, and producers. Mm-hmm. , we've got to really kind of focus on, uh, not just the, the [00:17:00] goals of the event itself, but the overarching sustainability of our events, um, on the people front as much as we do.
[00:17:08] Nate Nicholson: Uh, our green initiatives, you know, it's not just about what the bamboo forks and paper straws. We've gotta make sure that our people can be sustained through that too. So it's something that I've, I've found a passion for recently. And, um, when I have opportunity to speak into the lives of those that are younger than me and they're getting into the industry, it's definitely something that.
[00:17:32] Nate Nicholson: I wanna make sure this next generation of technicians is really focused on, cuz it's so easy to just get wrapped up and the, and the show must go on mantra that we've all grown up with and. Let everything else go to the side, to our own detriment and to the detriment of those that we love and love us.
[00:17:54] Angela Alea: So you make a great point, right? It's not just a matter of educating the text, right, Of knowing where to draw the line and [00:18:00] how to balance and how to stay healthy and how to keep their families in tech. But it's also the clients, right? That's a great point. They, the clients need to see the people showing up.
[00:18:14] Angela Alea: I'm, start that sentence over, but you make a great point that our clients also need to understand these are human beings showing up with their own skill set, their own perspectives, their own families. These are not just line items on a quote, right. That says this many people are gonna show up and do X.
[00:18:33] Angela Alea: These are human beings. Yep. And, um, and, and they're all different. We're all different. And so I think, yeah, both educating the, the, the. What to expect and how to create boundaries and set priorities, but it's also pushing the clients to see it as something bigger, to your point, yeah, throwing it doesn't cost that much more or to have a little bit more intention on ordering a healthy meal versus just throwing a pizza in front of somebody.
[00:18:57] Angela Alea: Those, those things go a long [00:19:00] way because I can't even imagine. Right. It's like, Pizza again. Okay, here we go. Right. Versus like, that might be their only chance to have a healthy meal. So that's so important that we've gotta educate both. Um, really, really a good perspective. What are the range, what are the age ranges for your
[00:19:15] Nate Nicholson: kids?
[00:19:17] Nate Nicholson: My oldest is 12 and, uh, she's also the only girl. And then the boys are, uh, 10, 8, 6. Three. And, uh, the baby will be one in December, so 10 months, so Oh, yeah. All the way from, goodness, the littlest one to the, to the almost teenager at this point.
[00:19:39] Angela Alea: How I'm tired just hearing that. Just imagining, I mean, your sweet wife.
[00:19:44] Angela Alea: That's awesome. Yeah. Um, that's gonna be super, I know it already is super fun, but I can only imagine. Me, me and my husband, we have two kids and they're 14 and 16 now, so one of them's driving. But even just in the younger years when we're taking one to lacrosse, another one to TaeKwonDo another one to school [00:20:00] play, you know, it's, it's divide and conquer.
[00:20:02] Angela Alea: Um, but you guys are outnumbered and so I can only imagine. The schedule and the, the priority conflicts and, and doing all that, which I just think it makes it that much more, um, commendable how you all come together to, to raise your family and, and have a career in this industry. I just think it's fantastic.
[00:20:20] Angela Alea: So when, for others out there that are listening who are starting a family, um, in this industry, what are some pieces of advice you would give them?
[00:20:30] Nate Nicholson: Call back to that, that communication piece. But I think that even starts with sitting down and coming to an agreement on this is how our family is going to operate.
[00:20:47] Nate Nicholson: This is how we as partners are going to work together. Um, I, you know, I, I was joking with a friend. I was like, I, I've. I wanna come to this conversation with more than just Mary, an amazing [00:21:00] person, , because I, you know, I feel a lot of this credit goes to my wife. Like, um, if she wasn't who she is and as dedicated as she is, this wouldn't be.
[00:21:11] Nate Nicholson: Nearly the same conversation. Um, but I think that is mm-hmm a function of the two of us being on the same path and having the same goals in mind. Um, and that being aligned in that my work. is just a portion and it's a large portion of how we're going to achieve our larger goals as a family. Um, and because there's something bigger than just the next event, um, it makes that next event easier.
[00:21:44] Nate Nicholson: Uh, to, to take or to deny because it either does or doesn't fit that larger vision that we have as a family. Um, and that definitely takes some time. That's not something that Sarah and I, um, Nailed down year [00:22:00] one as a married couple. You know, it was, it was something that we've refined and we continue to define as we, as we, we move through life.
[00:22:11] Nate Nicholson: Um, and we give ourselves room to, to change our minds and to adjust our goals, but, We, what we striving for is always being in alignment on what we're trying to achieve. Um, and so we work together in that. For me, it's going out and earning money and building a business for her. Her portion of that is staying home and serving, homeschooling our kids and serving them and teaching them and raising them so that they can then join that larger vision with us.
[00:22:47] Nate Nicholson: And that I know that that particular, uh, setup doesn't work for everybody. Your, your partner may need to work. Um, but it, that doesn't really matter. It's having that communication and that [00:23:00] shared vision that you're working toward. Um, but then just to get really, really practical, you know, uh, staying in constant communication.
[00:23:10] Nate Nicholson: A shared calendar for my wife and I is huge. So anything I put on my calendar for work, she can see it. So, and anything she puts on our family calendar and they're color coordinated, so like if I'm looking at a job, I can, I can look for the orange thing on my calendar, be like, you know what? I can't. I am, I am committed to be at this appoint with my kid, or we have this birthday, uh, or we have this other family function.
[00:23:37] Nate Nicholson: And you know, and we've. Made a system that works for us that even if we don't have a chance to talk on the phone or in person, um, I can see based on the calendar, if we have something that is a non-negotiable, like I have to be available or it's a, Hey, I'd be nicer if you were there, but we understand you've gotta go make money [00:24:00] kind of thing.
[00:24:01] Nate Nicholson: Um, and having that communication beforehand so you know what those things are is huge. Um, and then it's, the little stuff is be available. You know, it doesn't, Oh, I think it used to be on show site if I saw somebody with a phone in their hands. It would really get all my nerves like, No, you need focus on the work.
[00:24:20] Nate Nicholson: But these days like mm-hmm. , Hey, I think we're all okay. You know, pull out a, if you've got a text message and need to answer real quick, shoot a quick note. That's fine. I think unless you're in a safety situation where you're up in a, in a steal somewhere, we're pulling out, your phone could kill someone, you know?
[00:24:37] Nate Nicholson: I think it's okay. May, if you gotta say, Hey, I can't take a call, but let me just say, Hey, I'm thinking about you. I love you. Let me call you back in 20 minutes when I'm on break. You know, have that constant communication just so you know that. So they know that they're still, that your priority and that.
[00:24:59] Nate Nicholson: You know, they [00:25:00] know you're serving your client. They know, I mean, my wife will often call me and I'll be in the middle of calling a show and I'll have to click off and just say, Hey, I can't, I can't take this call right now. But the moment I've got a break, the calls are over. We're listening to the keynote.
[00:25:13] Nate Nicholson: I pull out that phone and just say, Hey, I'm still in the middle of the show. We're running late. I'll call you in a little bit. You know, just so she knows, Hey, he, he's not just ignoring me. He is actually. Um, preoccupied right now, so that, that goes a long way. Yeah. To reducing that stress for the
[00:25:30] Angela Alea: family.
[00:25:30] Angela Alea: Yeah. So you're still staying connected, even though it may be virtually, right? Like, I love the idea of the calendar, right? So it's not, I wonder what they're doing right now. I wonder what the kids are up to, or I wonder what dad's doing. You know, like everyone knows everything, um, even though you're not sitting right next to them.
[00:25:48] Angela Alea: Right. Having that, and same with constant communication that. You don't have that distance between you and you're intentional about the conversation too.
[00:25:58] Nate Nicholson: Yeah, I mean, and we have such [00:26:00] amazing technology now that we didn't even have 10 years ago. You know, I can, I can pull out my phone on show site and FaceTime my kids, you know, um, my kids are on Facebook Messenger so I can open up the Messenger app and, and use their, their video.
[00:26:16] Nate Nicholson: With my kids just to say, Hey, how you doing? How's your day going? Did you get your math done? You know? Um, yeah. And have those brief conversations where, you know, you can stay present even though you're not physically in the same state or even the same country, you know? Um, we have those tools and we should utilize them.
[00:26:36] Nate Nicholson: And it's, it's simple stuff like that, that goes a really long way to maintaining those family bonds. Yeah. You know, and then when you're home, be present. Um, make sure if you don't have the quantity of time, it may at least make sure it's quality time, um, you know, find something to do with your family that.
[00:26:58] Nate Nicholson: You wouldn't other, you [00:27:00] know, something that's more than just sitting at home and watching tv.
[00:27:03] Angela Alea: Are, are there certain things you all do as a family to make up for the time when you're on your road? So like, when dad's home, we know we're gonna get to do this together. Like, are there certain intentional things that you all do?
[00:27:13] Nate Nicholson: You see, that's one of the, one of the big reasons we, we, we chose homeschooling early on for more religious. You know, reasons originally, but I think one of the side benefits and things that keeps us doing it, even though we now have the means to, to send them to a private school, for instance, um, is that just the flexibility that our homeschooling, uh, gives us.
[00:27:37] Nate Nicholson: So I might be on a four week run and then be home for a week and a half, and we don't have to ask anybody if we wanna stop school for a week and take off and go camping or something of the nature, we can just do it. Yeah. It's, you know, Huge blessing. No, no. Homeschooling doesn't work for everybody and that's fine.
[00:27:55] Nate Nicholson: But taking those intentional times of getting away, um, you know, I [00:28:00] do jujitsu with the, with my kids and so, you know, when I'm home I'll go to class with them and, uh, or we'll do classes together. And so that's a big thing that we do, um, for us. Uh, Sunday mornings, um, are Sacra saying so. I do everything I can not to be working on a Sunday.
[00:28:23] Nate Nicholson: Um, so we have that time as a family together. So it just, those kinds of things, and I've mentioned it a couple times, there are non-negotiables that you have to define for yourself and for your family. Um, and you can just say, Hey, look, I'm just, you know, if you, if you work local, you say, Hey, I'm not gonna work on Sundays.
[00:28:44] Nate Nicholson: Or I'm not gonna work Sunday mornings or every, you know, every Monday we're gonna do this, you know, whatever that is. Or, I'm never gonna work on a birthday , you know? And so, you know, maybe it's a little more flexible. I'm always gonna have a weekend [00:29:00] around a birthday. We're gonna spend, you know, whatever that is.
[00:29:03] Nate Nicholson: You define that for you and your family, and then you stick to it. You make sure it's a non-negotiable because it's really easy when it's a, a, Hey, I wanna do this. to just push that to the side cuz hey, look, I can make 1500 bucks this weekend. Um, but in the grand scheme of things yeah. Is it, is it really worth your relationship with your kid?
[00:29:26] Nate Nicholson: Is that really what your kid's relationship is worth? Right. Is is $1,500 enough Yeah. To justify disappointing the family. Right. Is
[00:29:34] Angela Alea: there a price?
[00:29:35] Nate Nicholson: Right. Yeah. So yeah. Great. And I, I really hope for most of us, There's not a price tag on that, you know? Um, that our, yeah, if we really value our family relationships that we're willing to make those sacrifices, uh, financially and, and professionally, you know, there are, there have been opportunities that I've had to, [00:30:00] to go.
[00:30:01] Nate Nicholson: Lucrative full-time jobs elsewhere in the country. But because this is where we've decided to build our home base, that just wasn't a good option for us as a family. And those things are defined by the conversations that my wife and I have had. And now that my kids are starting to get older, uh, they start to get some input in that as well.
[00:30:22] Nate Nicholson: Um, they're not leading the family, but you know, my daughter will come and say, Hey, daddy, you've been gone too. I'll take that and say, Hey, look, I'm just, I'm not gonna take another out of town trip for a while. Um, I'm gonna stay home and make sure I, I manage, manage that and invest in her. Um, you know, my boys will say, Hey, can we go to work with you dad?
[00:30:46] Nate Nicholson: And I'll find something that they can come do, just going down to the warehouse and helping me, you know, unpack cable or, you know, test a projector to Spartan. Yeah, exactly. Um, [00:31:00] yeah, they gotta know how to over under quick, you know, . So .
[00:31:04] Angela Alea: Exactly. The next generation right here. Yeah. That's great. Well, I love that you talk about the non-negotiables and that you're not letting your career happen to you.
[00:31:15] Angela Alea: You're not letting your marriage and family kind of land where it land. Right. And I'm hearing the non-negotiables I'm hearing. , you're very intentional with your time. You have your, you know, a set, um, of priorities, uh, rules of engagement, if you will. Yeah. You, you just kind of know what they are, rather than if something comes up and it's a Sunday, there's no kind of decision like, Well, do I take it?
[00:31:41] Angela Alea: Do I not? It's a non-negotiable. You have those clearly defined, so it makes the filter in which you make decisions pretty clear, gives you a lot of clarity versus do I, don't, I and your kids always know. , great. He's gonna be here on birthdays the weekend before. Sunday mornings are all like it. It helps them with the structure too.
[00:31:59] Angela Alea: So I think that's [00:32:00] great. And I think that's great words of advice for everybody to come up with. What, and, and it doesn't have to be the same for everybody and every family is different. The rules of engagement are different. But rather than being reactive and letting things happen to you, you decide what you want your life and work life balance to be.
[00:32:16] Angela Alea: And I think that's a huge takeaway for, for all of us. So I think that's great. I wanna shift gears for a minute before we wrap up. Okay. Tell me about, So me and my friend, uh, me and my best friend Abby, we both travel. Quite a bit. And, um, we're actually working on a book called Guilt Trips of Traveling Moms, because you know, it, it dads, Yes, I know the travel moms travel to it.
[00:32:39] Angela Alea: It's just, and even as dads, right? Like there's guilt that comes with being away from your family. Like something really great happens. You're not there in the moment, right? So with that comes a lot of guilt, but I think there's a lot of. That come from it too, um, by having that experience and being able to be intentional with setting some of those roles of engagement.
[00:32:58] Angela Alea: But we often laughed about, we laugh [00:33:00] about what we call our reentry. And so meaning you're on the road, you're gone for, you know, for you several weeks at a time, and then you come home and it's kind of like, I'm reentering, right? And so my husband used to laugh and say, Well that's really great that you come in and all of a sudden you wanna sit down and do the homework, or you know, have the certain, But like we've been operating just fine for while you're gone.
[00:33:24] Angela Alea: And then you come in, right? It kind of like. Can destabilize things. And so he and I just came to, um, a resolution years ago where I'm like, Hey, here's what I need to for my reentry. And then he tells me what he needs. So for me personally, it's, I wanna walk in and in my kitchen. The counters are, there's nothing on it.
[00:33:44] Angela Alea: There's always a candle lit. . And there's always food like that, just like that speaks love to me. So lit. I came in last night, same thing. Kitchen counters clean. There's always a candle lit and there's something that I can eat. So reentry for each family is different. Right. And [00:34:00] then the kids and my husband, they have certain things that they want from me and reentry, right?
[00:34:05] Angela Alea: They, they want me to be present to your point, right? I've been gone. It's not enough to say I'm, I'm tired, I just wanna take a shower and go to bed. Like I know that when I'm driving. , I gotta pull it together. Doesn't matter how tired I am, how exhausted I need to be sitting down, having conversations immediately, re-engaging it, can't wait till the next day.
[00:34:23] Angela Alea: Right. So it's just, you know, every family has their own dynamic about what that coming back together looks like. Whether you're gone for a night, six nights, 30 nights. And so talk to us a little bit about what re-enter. Looks like for your family. I can only imagine with six kids the excitement they have when you walk through the door.
[00:34:41] Angela Alea: Yeah. And Sarah probably being exhausted from homeschool. And so talk to us about what reentry for you all looks like.
[00:34:47] Nate Nicholson: I have a very similar, uh, story. Um, I really started getting on the road heavily in, uh, 2016. Um, so it's been about six years. [00:35:00] You know, obviously we had a little bit of a pause there, but.
[00:35:04] Nate Nicholson: That's where the travel went from two or three times a year to. Two or three times a month or more. And uh, early on we realized that like I would come in and the whole house would just fall apart. Like she, my wife would have everything on lockdown. I'd walk in the house would be immaculate. The kids would've been, had the perfect schedule all week, and then I'd come and everything would just go to chaos.
[00:35:32] Nate Nicholson: You know, corral, we had to corral the chaos. I threw that in there, . Um, the, and so we really came down to like, how do I come back in and not just completely destroy everything that my wife has been working towards? And it really came down to, you know, um, I had to allow them and, uh, come into their schedule, not drag them onto mine.
[00:35:57] Nate Nicholson: Um, mm. A [00:36:00] lot of that was, you know, I couldn't just come down, throw all my stuff down and. There would be that moment of, Hey, let's play. Let's get that excitement. Dad's home, let's reunite. Um, but we had to, we learned, we quickly had to get back into, Hey, we're in the middle of routine. We're just gonna, we're gonna finish.
[00:36:18] Nate Nicholson: If I came in during school, hey, we're gonna finish school and dad's gonna go take a shower and get his laundry done, or, you know, mm-hmm. Hey, we're about to sit down for dinner. So I would help finish up dinner and we'd all sit down and we realized as, as, as long as I came in and I inserted. Into the schedule and came alongside that versus dragging everybody into my world.
[00:36:39] Nate Nicholson: Um, we, we kept that ship on course a little bit better. Um, it's not to say it's always perfect. There's definitely days where my wife is like, Take this child. They are driving me nuts. Yeah. You know? Um, and there's some of that too, you know, But, you know, we, we've, I think we've figured a lot of that out of, you know, I [00:37:00] can't come in and just throw everybody off.
[00:37:02] Nate Nicholson: Uh, demand, everybody pay attention. To me. It's, I've, you know, it really is a, uh, we have to determine who's, who's running that portion of our life. And for us, that's Sarah, the home life. It, she's the, the captain of that ship, um, for lack of a better term, like the, the house runs because she. Managing it and she's managing it well.
[00:37:27] Nate Nicholson: And if I come in and I try to take over, that's not my world. Like, I don't know. Intimately, all the kids' schedules. I, I mean, we try to do laundry and I'm like, who's, who wears this? I don't know. Like they're all the same sizes. Like, no, they're not. That one's like, you know, anyway, you know, So I, I just, I come in and I help, but I try not to, to push.
[00:37:48] Nate Nicholson: And there's, you know, there's some things you just need, uh, you know, the dad's hand sometimes, you know. And some things need mama's touch it. It, having that worked out [00:38:00] on the front end goes a long way. Um, for me it's uh, I don't necessarily have a routine. Um, my routine's actually in the hotel room. It keeps my, my sanity, like the house I just kind of fall in where Sarah is, you know, But it's the hotel room, making the hotel room more like home.
[00:38:21] Nate Nicholson: That helps me keep my sanity when I get to back to the house. Um, so I get, uh, on the borderline OCD at the hotel . Um,
[00:38:30] Angela Alea: so what does that look like? What does that mean when you say you bring your home to the hotel? What does that mean? Uh,
[00:38:34] Nate Nicholson: You know, I'll set up the bathroom with the toiletries just the right way, the way the towel on the counter and everything's in order.
[00:38:41] Nate Nicholson: And it literally looks like, uh, you remember that show, uh, Monk with Tony Shalu from back in the day, and he's super ocd. My hotel room looks like that, like everything is in exactly the right place. I figure out where to put things. My devices get plugged in on the desk area just the right [00:39:00] way. Everything comes out of the suitcase and into drawers.
[00:39:03] Nate Nicholson: Um, yeah, you know, I, I, I bring my own alarm clock cuz I don't wanna sit there and take the time to figure out the one that's in the, in the, uh, yeah, in the hotel room. And I, I've tried to be disciplined here lately, not to pick up a device the first moment I wake up. And so I try not to use my cell phone or my iPad as an alarm if I can help it.
[00:39:26] Nate Nicholson: Um, that gives me time to, to wake up and not have. Hundreds of notifications staring me in the face at the moment. My eyes open. Yeah. Um, so that kind of stuff is just, you know, lay out all the, all the clothing, the luggage gets used as a hamper. So I don't have clothes all over the floor. I still make my own bed at the hotel room, just so that I have that sense of normalcy.
[00:39:51] Nate Nicholson: And then it makes coming back into the house because I'm, I didn't live like a slob at the hotel. because somebody else is gonna clean up. You [00:40:00]
[00:40:00] Angela Alea: have consistent, Yeah, consistent habits, whether you're on the road or at home. That, that's a good, great point. That
[00:40:06] Nate Nicholson: was the thing for us when I first started traveling, like, Hey, I got a room service.
[00:40:10] Nate Nicholson: People are gonna come through and like I don't have to make the bed and you know, I can just talk all my clothes in a corner and like, it's fine. Like my stuff can be spread out all over the place, but then I would. Travel became my normal life. I would carry that into the home and it would just drive my wife crazy and set a terrible example for my kids.
[00:40:32] Nate Nicholson: So I realized that having those disciplines that carry with you through travel and the home life, um, Go a long way to making that a smoother transition. Um, I'm learning that with food as well. Like if I eat well on the road, I'm more apt to eat well at home and vice versa. Mm-hmm. ,
[00:40:52] Angela Alea: Yeah. Yeah, just kind of merging both worlds into one.
[00:40:55] Angela Alea: I think that's, I think that's great. I think there's so many great nuggets here. for all of [00:41:00] us, cuz I know anyone who travels. I don't care who you are or how long you've been doing it. You've got days when things work right and things are as anticipated. And then there are days when it's just kinda like traveling is hard.
[00:41:13] Angela Alea: Being away from your family is hard. and the predictability of it there, there is none. And so I think these are all really great things that our industry can pull from. But before we wrap up, I'm gonna ask you the same question I ask everybody is, when you think about what's ahead for our industry, what do you hope for it?
[00:41:34] Nate Nicholson: I mean, I think we've touched on this already, but I really do hope that we as an industry are more vocal about what we. To our clients. I think it was a recent podcast you guys had where you were talking with the, uh, um, about the, the fact that we've been really good about staying quiet and behind the scenes.
[00:41:58] Nate Nicholson: Mm-hmm. , we, [00:42:00] we really, we really need to be a little bit more forward with people, um, in our clientele and just say, Look, this is not, um, this is not a sustainable process. This is. Not how we should be operating as, as a group. No other business or industry operates this way. Um, and we need to make sure that we are, we are treating our people with the, the dignity that they deserve, um, and giving them the tools they need.
[00:42:32] Nate Nicholson: So I really do hope that we see a more cohesive understanding as an industry of how these roles work. How decisions on even just programming affect people, not just our attendees, but also the people behind the scenes as well and I'm [00:43:00] hearing these conversations more and more and I find that to be really encouraging that it's starting to become forefront as we all have just kind of.
[00:43:11] Nate Nicholson: I mean, it's been two years of just complete, just brutal beating over the head. We, we got completely shut down and then we came back and it's just been absolutely bonkers. And I think we're, we are like, we have to find somewhere in the middle. Like, we don't wanna be completely, we can't be shut down anymore, but we can't run, uh, we can't run at, you know, in the red.
[00:43:36] Nate Nicholson: As long as we have. And so, yeah, it's not sustainable. It's not. Um, so our, I think those sustainability conversations broadening to include sustainability for our people just as much as, uh, the environment, um, are, are gonna be key. And I hope, and I, I, I'm hopeful to that we have that change on the horizon.
[00:43:59] Nate Nicholson: It's, [00:44:00] the conversations are happening, I think as, as we're able to take a breath, hopefully over the, the holiday season, um, and start having those conversations. Uh, we just have to be forward with it. We have to be bold enough to have those conversations with the clients that matter and that are making those decisions.
[00:44:20] Angela Alea: I think those are great, great takeaways and. It takes courage to have the tough conversations. Right. And I think our, I think the clients are well intended, right? They, they don't know as long. We teach our clients how to teach, how to treat us. Mm-hmm. and as long as we keep saying yes and just pushing the envelope and taking things for granted, they don't know.
[00:44:39] Angela Alea: They don't know what's happening. And so it is up to us to have the courage. Yeah. And the boldness to your point, to educate the client because I do believe when people know better, they do better. And it's up to us to, to help them to know what is best. And so I think those are all great points. I cannot thank you enough for joining us today.
[00:44:58] Angela Alea: I think this is such a relevant topic. [00:45:00] I don't think we're done with it. Um, but I appreciate, you know, all that you brought to it. It, my takeaways from this are a couple of things. Intentionality. You gotta be intentional about what you want your career and family to be. Um, knowing how to prioritize, being okay with saying no and, and not being everything to everybody all the time.
[00:45:21] Angela Alea: Um, and setting up rules of engagement and, and having that communication piece with, with your family so you can still be connected even though you're not connected physically, you can still be connected in other ways. So I think those are all great takeaways. Thank you for joining us. Thank you all for listening in.
[00:45:39] Angela Alea: If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe and if you have any questions or comments, or feedback, we would love to hear from you at email@example.com
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