Nate is a law student, baseball fanatic, husband, and father. When he’s not in the law building, he is usually chasing his son, working on Vöxtur, or watching The Office. He loves snowboarding, boating, and laughing with friends. He’s a first-generation college graduate and the oldest of 4 siblings. Here’s his story!
How are you currently spending your time?
Currently, I’m a law student at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. I’m currently finishing my third semester, which means I’m just about halfway done! I’m in a two-year accelerated program, and after spending a year as a law student, I’m grateful that I only have a year left!
I’m also a new dad, which is the most fun and fulfilling thing that I’ve ever done. My son, Miller, is 7-months old and just started crawling. I love to watch him learn and to show him things. It’s so fun to see him smile and laugh.
I also recently founded the Venture Capital & Private Equity Law Club at my Gonzaga Law School. We’re working on building a network within the community and opening doors for law students to enter the worlds of VC & PE. It’s been really fun to learn about these industries with other law students and to build something brand new, from the ground up! We’re one of the only VC & PE law school clubs in the country!
Outside of law school, I’m also working on Vöxtur. Vöxtur is a company I founded with my friend, Taylor, so that I could achieve some personal goals. I’ve always wanted to create something that people cared about, so to see people wearing clothing I designed, is pretty surreal. I also love having an excuse to connect with people I admire for our People of Growth interviews. It can be a lot of work, but talking with the extraordinary people that we interview makes it all worth it!
How did you come to be where you are now?
I spent the first 18 and a half years of my life in the same small town in Central Washington called Ephrata. It was there that I graduated at the top of my class, started dating my wife, and spent my summers playing (and watching) baseball. I also spent a fair amount of time working with my hands. Around age 7 I began helping my dad trim trees on the weekends, I also held an assortment of jobs including hay baler, theater concessions worker, forklift driver, Walmart worker, and more. After graduation, I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in West Texas and spent 6 weeks learning Spanish in Mexico City. I had to come home early from my mission due to a back injury, and shortly after returning home, I married my high school sweetheart, Bailey, who was in dental hygiene school in Arizona. I then moved there and attended ASU, earning 2 bachelor degrees (Finance and Management) in 3 years. While in Arizona, I also worked as a pizza delivery boy, pool technician, intern for Merrill Edge, tax preparer, and started a marketing company with a friend. That basically leads us to now.
What are your goals/hopes/plans for the future?
At this point, the only solid plan that I have is to finish law school. That’s what I’ll be doing for the next year. After that, the plan gets a little fuzzy.
My long-term dream is to start a small private equity firm. I want to build my own team, raise a small fund, and start purchasing dental practices. We’ll take inefficiently run practices, fix them up, and then sell or hold them. I’ll spend my time sourcing new deals, raising new funds, and training employees. I’m fascinated by business and am excited to utilize my different degrees in a unique way. The difficult part is getting from law school graduation to buying the first practice. I’ll probably work as a business-transactions attorney for a while so that I can save some money.
There are a lot of other things I’d like to explore as well, like real estate, consulting, and venture capital. Ultimately, my goal is to learn to quit trading time for money and start leveraging the time of others and my own capital.
Outside of career goals, My wife and I would like to buy a big house in the hills of eastern Washington and split our time between tubing on the lake, snowboarding on the mountain, and watching baseball in Seattle.
Did you ever have a make-or-break moment where you had to risk it all?
I did, and I failed miserably. When I started my first company, SuddenLead, I dreamed up this crackpot plan to 100x our company. Instead of using a typical sales approach of prospecting and closing each client individually, I decided to build what I called the “brand ambassador program.” I wanted to build a network of “brand ambassadors” that we would teach about our company so that they could teach others. Then, we would pay them a commission for each new client. We spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars developing the program. There was a video training program, an online portal, and a national ad campaign. We never saw a single dollar of revenue from it. It was a horrible, half-baked idea. I felt horrible about it. I had promised my co-founder that it was worth betting on, and it wasn’t. Eventually, we saw some success using a more traditional sales approach, but the biggest success was the lesson that I learned from the failure.
I always thought that I was smarter than everyone and that starting a successful business would be easy. I was so wrong. Starting a business is HARD. It’s a grind, and you have to be ready to fail for a long time. I wasn’t ready for that. I thought that SuddenLead would be successful within a year, and that was an impossible dream.
I also learned the importance of hard skills. With SuddenLead, I thought that soft skills were enough. After we closed up shop, I decided that my soft skills weren’t good enough and that I really wanted some hard skills to be able to build my next business around. That’s what lead me to law school. At the end of law school, I should have some real skills that I can use to start a more successful business.
What do you do to take care of yourself?
I’m a big advocate for therapy. I started seeing a therapist a few years ago, and it’s been a huge help for me. I think that we all have struggles and that talking to a professional can only help. I’ve begun to learn strategies to deal with anxiety and frustration. I’ve become a better man and husband, because of it.
I also believe in going to the gym frequently. For me, going to the gym is a way to get an “automatic win” for the day. When I go to the gym I feel better physically and mentally. It clears my head and helps me feel good about myself. I also think eating goes along with exercise. I’ve recently started being more intentional about the food that I eat, and it’s made a huge difference in my life. I’m healthier, more confident, and happier. Food doesn’t control me anymore, I control it!
Sleep is also important. Sleep and I have an on-again, off-again relationship. I really believe in the importance of sleep, but I also am not a great sleeper. I’m a night owl, so that means I often don’t get to bed until 1 or 2 a.m. I also tend to feel bad about sleeping in, because I hate “burning daylight,” as my dad would say. The compromise that I’ve struck with myself is that I’m okay with sleeping in a bit, or catching a quick nap every once in a while, as long as I’m being productive when I stay up late. I think sleep can be a really individual thing, and I’m trying to find what works for me. Eventually, I won’t be a student and my schedule will change. I’ll have to adjust to waking up early again, but that’s okay. I think as long as I remember that sleep is an important part of my health, I’ll be able to find the right balance for myself.
How do you think about overcoming obstacles?
Since starting law school, my perspective on obstacles has shifted a bit. During undergrad, school never really felt overwhelming. There were times when I had to focus a bit more, but I almost always felt in control. Law school is different. It can become all-consuming if you let it. I’m fortunate to be an accelerated student, so my first semester of law school was a summer semester where I took 14 credits in 10 weeks. It was like drinking water out of a fire hose. However, at the end of the 10 weeks, I was okay! And, I had gotten pretty darn good at drinking out of a fire hose! The next 16-week semester felt like a breeze in comparison to the intense, 10-week semester that I’d just finished. However, when I looked around, I saw a lot of the regular first-year students scrambling and becoming overwhelmed.
That crazy 10-week semester taught me so much about overcoming challenges. That semester, the challenges and obstacles just kept coming. Every single day it was a new class with new topics and new reading assignments. There was so much that I could worry about, to the point that it easily could have consumed me. Instead, I took each class one day at a time. I could only prepare for one class at a time, so that’s what I did. Whenever I had time to study or prepare for class, I would look at which class was next, and make sure I was prepared for it. If I’d already prepared for that one, I moved to the next one. That way, I always knew how to be productive, and it took out a lot of the decision paralysis that came with deciding “how to study.”
I also tried to set time aside for non-school related things. I basically gave myself a workday. I worked until 6 pm and then I came home and tried to be a good husband. If I had more homework, I would finish it later, but setting aside some time to just be a person was really important.
Now, it’s almost been a year since I started that first summer semester, and I’m about to start another one. A lot has changed since then, but I’m still taking things one step at a time. I have a lot of hopes and plans for the future, but I believe that the way that I get there is by knocking out the tasks standing right in front of me. So when I get overwhelmed, and I often do, I look at my to-do list and make sure that it is very clear what I should be working on next. It helps me to trust the process and trust in myself that I have things under control. As I’ve allowed this mindset to bleed into the other aspects of my life, it’s provided me with a sense of peace. I know that I can only do one thing at a time, so when it’s time to worry, I should only worry about the obstacle in front of me. I have to put my effort into it, overcome it, and move onto the next one.
If you have nothing on your schedule or an unexpected quiet moment, how do you choose to use your time?
I don’t. Free time is usually hell for me. I usually try to work on some sort of project or read a book.
What does growth mean to you?
Growth is about incremental improvement. It’s the daily struggle and drive to get better and better. For me, the need to grow is compulsive. I actually have a kind of unhealthy relationship with growth and so it’s something I have to work on. I’m not a big believer in goals from the traditional standpoint. I prefer to focus on the inputs (what I can control) instead of the outputs. I have milestones that I’m working towards, but not a lot of goals. Over the next few years, I hope to develop a better, more sustainable, relationship with growth.
What piece of advice or request do you have for our readers before you leave?
“What’s your MAO?” Your MAO, Minimum Acceptable Outcome, is the lowest outcome that you are willing to accept. You have a MAO about everything that you do. In your relationships, your career, your trips to the grocery store, you have a minimum acceptable outcome. It’s usually the first place that is comfortable for you. If you look around, that’s *usually* why you see people settle for unhappy circumstances. When people reach their MAO, they get comfortable and settle. I don’t believe that you’re going to get any more than the least that you ask for. You should keep that in mind because your results in life have a lot to do with your MAO. There’s a lot more to it, but the main point is: make sure you know your MAO, so that you’re okay with your life’s outcome.
Is there a book, podcast, movie, etc. that has been particularly impactful on your journey?
I really enjoy reading, so there are a lot of books that I could talk about, but I’ll just pick one: Atomic Habits by James Clear. It reshaped my framework on goals and habits. Now, I try not to set goals, or at least place too much importance on them. I also have changed my focus to building good habits. I’m going to be reading it again, soon, and you should too. On the podcast front, The Tim Ferriss Show has been pretty eye-opening for me. I’ve loved listening to Tim’s interviews with extraordinary people, and have learned a ton from them. Honestly, I’m a huge believer in the value of podcasts. It gives you access to the minds of experts for free. For example, my view on sleep changed completely after I listened to Dr. Matthew Walker’s interview with Joe Rogan. Find some topics you’re interested in, figure out who the experts are, and listen to their interviews.
What’s one thing you haven’t done yet, but will do before you die?
I have a few. I want to go to Iceland and make a movie about it. I’ve been fascinated with Iceland ever since I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty when I was 16 years old. Now, my company’s name is an Icelandic word, so it seems fitting that I should go there. Plus, I’ve always wanted to make an “adventure movie,” so why not make it when I go to the coolest place on earth. I’m hoping to go with my brothers in a few years after I finish law school.
I also want to watch the Seattle Mariners win a World Series. This one is out of my control, but if the Mariners are in the World Series, you better believe that I’ll be there.