It’s probably not news to you that the feeling of being overwhelmed in the world today is no joke. Sometimes it can feel like we have to take drastic steps and make sweeping changes in our lives to make things happen. In his new book, Day In, Day Out: The Power of Showing Up and Doing the Work, author Nick Dancer reminds us that it doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Sure, technology often makes it seem as if the world has picked up speed. But the truth of the matter is we’re still contending with the same internal issues that human beings have had to deal with for thousands of years. Things like distraction, pressure, frustration, and a lack of patience.
By sharing stories from his own experience as a husband, dad, and business owner, Nick helps readers find their way back to the basics and demonstrates how it’s the simple things done on a daily basis that lead to the path of greatness, both in work and in life.
Nikki Van Noy: Nick, let’s start today by talking a little bit about what led you to write the book Day In, Day Out?
Nick Dancer: It was never thought to be a book. I read a lot of books, so I like the idea of books, but what started for me was a weekly email I sent to my team at work and just a couple people in my life who wanted to see our business succeed, or were interested in more details than an Instagram post. They wanted to see the inner workings of a company.
So, based on the book Verne Harnish wrote called the Rockefeller Habits, I started what he calls a CEO one-pager. It is a weekly email I would send to my team, and it was the things that were going on in our business. Everything from really technical, like “This is the project we’re going to be working on this week, and this is the goal we think we should hit by the end of the week”, to, “Somebody has an anniversary in our company and we want to celebrate that, or we have an upcoming meeting.”
I’ve always added something else to that email, and that was the start of my writing. I would start to write about the things I saw, for example, something in a contractor we’re working with. I saw how they handled the situation, and I would write about what I liked about it or what I didn’t like about it. I was trying to help shape our culture based on the stories of other people.
If I saw how somebody did their marketing really well, I would talk about why I thought that was really good, or why these other people thought it was good. Same thing when something went bad. If I had a bad experience at a restaurant, I would share that experience with my team to help shape how we’re going to proceed as a business and why we believe what we believe. And so, that’s what started my writing.
After a couple of years of this, I realized I actually had a lot of writing and thought the idea of a book would be neat to capture these essays or capture these thoughts. One thing I noticed too is that the same things kept repeating. There were only so many things that were good or negative. Once I saw those trends start happening, I realized, “Wow! All this is pretty simple. It’s not as complex as I originally thought.”
Nikki Van Noy: What things were you seeing repeat?
Nick Dancer: Just that life or business isn’t as complex as it seems to be. So, take the idea of greatness. That sounds complex and it sounds intimidating. It’s like, “Well, I want to achieve greatness, or I want to do a great job with this.” It’s such a big word that’s thrown around and there’re a lot of people that tell us to work hard and give it your all.
It is a lot of simple things done over and over, and it wasn’t as complex or intimidating as it seems. It can be intimidating if I think about where I’m at now and where I need to be. But when I break it down into what I need to do each day, it’s really simple. If I make a .05% improvement per day, that’s actually a 20% gain in a year. When you do some basic math, that’s doubling every four years.
To think about taking a number like 100 and doubling it to 200 seems like a huge, intimidating goal. But when you think about it like, “Oh! I’ll achieve it in four years and I only had to do a .05% improvement each day to get there. It sounds doable and it’s actually an actionable step I can take.”
Nikki Van Noy: I like that. One thing that your book talks about is how we’ve gotten into this reliance on quick fixes, and hacks, and tricks, and that can get us in trouble. For long-term change, it’s better to simplify. So, can you talk to me about the difference between hacking something and simplifying it?
Nick Dancer: I don’t think hacks and trying to come up with quick fixes are new to our generation or our time period. Every generation has this. We all are looking for an easier or faster way, and a lot of that seeking can lead to improvements in things, and there’s a good part of that. There’s a good part that leads to thinking that the way I’m doing this isn’t working. Maybe there’s a better way to communicate. So, the idea of people looking for better and faster ways is the reason we email now instead of sending a horse with a letter. So, I’m glad someone was looking for an easier, better way.
But, when we think about things that can’t be hacked, like weight loss or building a great business, or building a great relationship with your wife, or husband, or kids, those things have yet to be hacked. The principles that play in those really important things in our life have been the same for the last 500 years.
If I want a great relationship with my kids, I have got to show up. I actually have to spend time with them. There are different research and studies that say time is important, presence is more important. I can’t be a great dad by logging in with my iPhone and chatting with them. That’s a tool I can use, especially if I’m on a business trip, to communicate with them. But it is not a good long-term strategy. It’s a nice quick fix solution, but I know that I actually have to be present with them to be a great dad. There are things that play that way in all of our lives. In the book, I just share what I’ve seen play out for other people in my life of what those principles are.
Being Your Whole Person
Nikki Van Noy: Talk to me a little bit about how you personally made that jump from sharing these observations in email to then perhaps applying some of the things that you were noticing in business, into your life, or how you started observing your own life and your personal roles in a different way once you started writing those emails.
Nick Dancer: I guess I just don’t think I have a personal or a professional side. I’m just who I am, and I just treat people as who they are. For example, we have the professional context of this interview and we’re talking to each other. But I would say that if we were going to talk to each other five times, I would probably start to find out if you are married, or in a relationship, or have kids, or what you like to do outside of this, or what other books you’ve written or worked on and those things that interest me.
Same thing with my team. I don’t want them to be someone else at work than they are at home. I want to act with people like I would if my six-year-old son was with me all day. Of course, there are certain situations where I might have to adjust what I say. But who I am as a person, I want that to be the same person.
If I have the excitement of hiring somebody in our company, I want to have it the same way as if my son was in the room. If I have to let someone go, I’d want to do it with grace in a way that my son would be able to see his dad in that tougher situation as well. I don’t think of myself in two different contexts. I believe I talk about that in the book, it seems like a lot of work to have to be a person at work and a person at home. I think that a more harmonious life is being your whole person.
Nikki Van Noy: I personally feel like I try and be authentic and true to myself all the time. However, I don’t know that I always try to act like my daughter was watching me. That to me is kind of the next level.
Nick Dancer: There are constructs around it, like me and my wife need private time where we do things we don’t want our kids to see. Recently, my boys have been teasing me when I kiss my wife like it’s so funny, but it also drives me to kiss her in front of them more and they’re like, “Eww! Dad loves Mom.” I’m like, “Yeah, I love her more than anybody else in the whole world. I’m going to love her forever and ever and ever.”
It might seem next level, but when we take off those masks, it’s not hard to be ourselves. So, during this interview, I might say something silly that I later regret. Of course, this might be edited, so that might not ever make it to the podcast. That’s the risk I’m willing to take because wearing a mask and pretending to be someone takes tremendous amounts of energy. I’m okay with where I’m at right now, I know I have systems and processes, and I’m still doing work in my life. I’m also proud of where I’m at right now, and even if that’s different from where someone else thinks I should be.
Nikki Van Noy: That has to be a great feeling. That sounds like freedom.
Nick Dancer: Yeah, it can sound like that, but sometimes I hurt people because my filter is broken. I might be too quick to judge sometimes, or maybe I speak up when I should be quiet. So, it comes with consequences. It’s just the path I’ve taken because when I was in my early 20s, I tried to be two different people. I realized I was wearing a mask on one side and it didn’t feel right for me. I wanted to do the work so that I didn’t have to do that anymore.
I tried to be someone I wasn’t. I tried to play the role where I pretended that I was doing the work, and I liked the idea of doing the work to be that person. But I kept falling short and I found myself always frustrated with myself.
Nikki Van Noy: How did these emails that you started sending play into that? Did they come after you sort of abandoned that one mask or were they part of that mask being cast off?
Nick Dancer: They were part of it. When I started writing, it was part of me doing my work to become the person I felt called to be. I think we can all feel that too. I don’t think that’s unique to me. I think when we’re still and quiet with ourselves, we can look at our current actions and see where we could be doing something different.
I’m not talking about career-wise. I’m talking about the daily choices we take. If I drink 5 cups of coffee in a day, at the end of the day, “That was way too many cups of coffee.” I love coffee. I have appreciation for it, but five is too many. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try for three.
That’s a silly, small example, but we still have many things in our life like that. The idea is we don’t have to fix it all at once. Being present with today and what you can do today is a lot more powerful than people think.
A Healthy Habit
Nikki Van Noy: What does that look like for you? Are you always observing yourself and what you’re doing and what that means in the long run and making minor adjustments, or is it a more subconscious thing?
Nick Dancer: I would say two years ago it was conscious through my day. It was like I was always thinking. What I’m learning to do now is be more present during the day and then have moments of reflection at the beginning of my day and at the end of my day. I can be with my day and then have those moments of reflection as part of a system or a habit to help myself make sure I’m staying on the path that I think I’ve been called to live.
Nikki Van Noy: Talk to me a little bit about what your life looked like before you did this when you were skipping some of the steps.
Nick Dancer: If you’ve ever seen a kid with lots of energy and all the adults say, “Man! I wish I had that energy.” That was me. I was lots of energy. I like adventure and excitement. I don’t like sitting still and listening to lectures. So school was never a strong suit for me.
I got an early work release program when I was, I think, a junior in high school. I got to leave school early to go to work, and I’ve always loved to work. I’ve always had jobs where I worked with friends. It is kind of like hanging out, kind of working, but I’ve always liked work. I’ve always liked physical type work that’s exhausting, and that’s the kind of business we’re in now. But with all that excitement and adventure, sometimes those adventures lead down paths that might not be the most productive. I would wake up in the morning and feel like, “That was probably not the best use of my gifts.” If you have enough strings of those piled together, you realize that maybe you could do something better with the energy inside of you. Maybe I could do something different with the gifts and abilities I’ve been given.
Nikki Van Noy: It’s interesting to hear you say that because you sound so chill and thoughtful.
Nick Dancer: Yeah. Not at all. I think when I see these 60-year-old guys with gray curly hair in coffee shops that look really smart and insightful, I’m like, “That’d be sweet to be one of those guys.”
Nikki Van Noy: Well, now you have a book, so you’re halfway there.
Nick Dancer: Yes. No, my team and my wife might disagree. I think that’s an initial thing people tell me right away, that they think I’m that way. But after being around me for a little bit, they are like, “Holy Crap!”
Nikki Van Noy: They realize they were wrong. So, another think you talk about is this idea that technology has changed our lives, but nothing has changed about the battle inside of us. That’s interesting to me. I’ve almost gotten into this mode without even consciously recognizing it. The technology has not somehow changed me, but that it’s changed the circumstances in my life in such a way that I can allow myself more excuses. When I feel frazzled or I’m not getting things done, I can blame it on technology, and the fact that there are too many things coming at me.
Nick Dancer: Yes. That’s a common thing. I think technology–let’s use our iPhone as an example. That’s a tool that is in our current life, and 100 years ago they had different tools. They had different distractions. A hundred years from now they’ll have different distractions as well. I think that the idea of escaping the work we should do, or boredom has always been around.
The principles at play that I’ve learned about from the reading I’ve done have been around a lot longer than I’ve been around, or my great, great, great grandparents. Some of the earliest writings we have are from B.C. China, and they were dealing with the same stuff. The Stoics were dealing with the same stuff in Rome. All the prophets that we learn or read about are dealing with the same stuff.
When we talk about distractions or checking Instagram too much, or checking email too much, that’s just a current problem we have. The principle at play of distraction or avoiding work has always been around.
The Human Condition
Nikki Van Noy: So, it’s not that iPhone. It’s being human.
Nick Dancer: Yes. It’s the human condition. I guess we all have it and we should be grateful to have it. You also have to have grace with yourself. It’s okay to check email too much or check Instagram too much. If you don’t want to do that anymore, then you can maybe try to work on that. But you don’t have to beat yourself up if you do it too much. It’s just bringing consciousness around it. It’s not like it’s 11:15 and you’re like, “Oh crap! I was just unconsciously on Instagram for the last 15 minutes.” That’s not good, because you don’t even remember opening it. You just remember you start scrolling and then you’re like, “Oh crap! Time went away, but where did it go?”
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah, caught in the endless scroll.
Nick Dancer: Sometimes that’s fun. My boys and I do that with YouTube. That’s something we do together. We watch guys do crazy flips on dirt bikes and then we watch people swim with sharks. But we sit down and plan. So, we can mindlessly browse without guilt that we did it because that was part of the plan.
Nikki Van Noy: I like the idea of allocating specific time for that.
Nick Dancer: Yeah, because you’re going to do it either way.
Nikki Van Noy: It’s very true. So, with all of the stories that you thought about in the process of putting this book together, what story to you is the most impactful and that you are most excited to share with readers?
Nick Dancer: I don’t know if it’s most, but the one that keeps coming to my mind is a story I have with a guy named Brad and a guy named Dinky, and I made up both of their names. I’ve never met him. I just thought Brad sounded like a big, strong name, and Dinky–well, Dinky didn’t sound strong.
My wife and I were at the local YMCA. We did some polished concrete floors for them and we were getting pictures. So, these two friends, they probably look like they are in their early 20s and were working out together. Brad looked like a guy who hangs out in gyms, and Dinky looked like it is his first time there. They look like friends. Brad, the way he’s doing his front lunges are really focused, really intentional. He’s starting with his back up against the wall. He’s dropping his knee till it touches, and he raises back up. It’s smooth, strong, solid form. It’s textbook how to do front lunges.
Then when he gets halfway across the room, Dinky starts up. Dinky kind of starts with his back up against the wall, but then kind of scoots his feet a couple of feet and then drops his knee kind of, and then raises back up, and he’s kind of falling over. It’s this sloppy look. I watched him go down and back, and it’s the same thing.
People might be quick to say, “Well, maybe Dinky, it’s his first time there. He’s not as strong as Brad.” But the thing is, he didn’t put in the attention and care, and he was focused on something else, or he might’ve been focusing on how much it hurts, rather than doing the work in front of him. If it’s your first-time front lunging, you can just use your body weight. It’s better to do your body weight and do it well than to try to match Brad’s weight or do something sloppy.
I think there are so many things in life we’re Dinky-ing around with when maybe we should just figure out how to do them like Brad or drop them. That principle at play sums up a lot of this book. What we’re going to do, we’re going to do, and we’re going to learn how to do it well. We’re going to practice and we’re going to put attention and care towards it. In my example, a small business is the thing I help build, and that I’m the proudest of. But it’s anything you want to work towards. There are key principles in how to work towards that goal.
Nikki Van Noy: The word that kept coming to mind for me as you were talking is really patience. It’s as simple as that.
Nick Dancer: Yeah. I’ve heard it said that if you pray for patience, God will give you plenty of opportunities to practice it. We all want patience. None of us want to practice patience.
Nikki Van Noy: So true. It would be nice if it could just be bestowed upon us. That would be so much easier.
Nick Dancer: Yeah. Every day we get that opportunity. It’s just sometimes we forget that to be a patient person, we have to practice it. We all see it in other people. It’s like goodness and gentleness and kindness are like patience. That’s a pretty solid place to be.
Nikki Van Noy: I would say that I don’t just have an opportunity to learn patience every day. I have several opportunities to learn every day, most of which I bypass.
Nick Dancer: Yes.
Nikki Van Noy: And then think how nice it would be to have more patience.
Nick Dancer: Yeah, we have so much to do. We all have a lot to do, and there are these pressures that we have to perform and certain duties. And sometimes it’s letting go of some of those things. That’s really tough to do.
I have an example in the book about when we stopped doing Thanksgiving with our family, and it’s not like we don’t like our family. My wife and I moved to a city about an hour from our hometown, and in our business, we work the day after Thanksgiving. So, once we started having kids and realized how much work it was to load up kids to travel for the day, it’s more exhausting than a day of work. We made the decision that on Thanksgiving we’re going to stay at home. We’re going to make a meal, hang out, watch movies, and that day completely changed for us. Instead of being a burden in the middle of the week where, “We have to travel here. Then we have got to get to my family, then your family, then back home.” It’s a 12-hour day with four hours on the road, and we just decided, “What if we just woke up late? Sat inside and drink coffee. Put on a movie for the boys and just made a meal together?” That’s not a popular choice with your family.
So, anyone wanting to try that, your mom is not going to tell you that’s a good idea. But people respect that even if they don’t like it. Maybe someone else will try that and realize it serves them. We try not to be selfish with those decisions. We want to make decisions where we can serve ourselves, but in the capacity that we’re serving ourselves, we’re actually helping others too.
For example, we celebrate Christmas. So, I might be happier to see you at Christmas, because I didn’t see you a month earlier on Thanksgiving. I’m going to be more of myself because we took a couple more days off on Christmas to be with everyone. It’s just making choices. That’s a small, personal example. We all have those kinds of choices. Socially, it’s never going to be popular. No one’s ever going to pat you on the back and say, “Good job.” But when you try it, you will see if it works for you. That’s what we did. We tried it one time a couple of years ago and we’re like, “Wow! This is different. Let’s try it again next year.”
If for some reason that changes a couple of years down the road, our boys are older, they want to see their cousins, maybe we will go back and change it. The decision I make today doesn’t have to be my forever decision.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah. That strikes me as a difference in what you’re talking about versus the culture of hacks and self-development we’re living in, where it seems like everything has to have this air of permanency to it. I like that it sounds like you are checking in and evaluating where you are at any moment in time and seeing how you can adjust from there in little ways.
Nick Dancer: Yeah, it’s hard for me to put that into words, but when you say those words, I’m like, “Yeah, that makes sense.” I’m not retreating to a cabin once a year to do it. That might work for some people and maybe that’s a good practice for someone to be in. I haven’t done that personally. It’s hard for me to do big things. So, if I want to retreat somewhere for a whole day and do that, it’s hard for me to accomplish big things. I have to break it down into small daily habits or weekly habits, and that’s where the book Day In, Day Out came from. Big things intimidate me. So, I have to break it down into manageable, actionable steps. Spending eight hours doing reflection, I’m probably not going to be great at that. Spending five minutes each night, that’s my sweet spot. That’s where I perform the best work.
Nikki Van Noy: Let’s give listeners an idea of what those small, .5% changes can look like over time.
Nick Dancer: I could talk about our business. We get a lot of compliments on how well-run our shop is, how organized it is, how it seems like we have a really strong team. All those things are true, but we didn’t try to do any of that all at once. Just like if you’ve ever heard any story of a business starting in a garage with credit card debt and then building it, that was the story of our business. Except in a lot of those stories they usually get one big client and all of a sudden, it’s like the windfall moment that changes their life and their business. Except it wasn’t that way for us. It was just a little bit at a time.
Right now, in our business, we do a lot of commercial, general contractor and architecturally driven work. That’s not how the business started, even though we like to be around this type of projects, it started with doing private residential work. We just didn’t have the capacity to do those big jobs. We couldn’t pay the insurance to be able to do these types of projects or the capacity or the equipment. So, we just started with what we had and then continued to make improvements. We trusted we would get where we needed to be through that, from zero dollars in revenue to $1 million in revenue. I never wanted to take that step in one year. That’s just too big of a change in too short a period of time.
So, we’ve grown on an average growth rate over the last 10 years. We’ve grown about 20% per year. That’s allowed us to learn. It allows us to grow, make mistakes, but also recover from those mistakes. Because when you do something so fast, you don’t have time to recover from those mistakes.
For example, setting up for this podcast interview. I waited for today to set it up. I set up my microphone on my desk at 2:00 and I did a test on it. I didn’t like how I was sitting or standing or positioning. So, I moved it to the side of my desk, and then I did some more tests, and I didn’t like how that was. So, I made another minor adjustment. Now by the time we had this interview, it’s in a different spot. I went a little bit at a time, tested it, saw how it worked, and then made the adjustment.
I think a lot of people think that they’re going to miss out if they don’t go all in on something. There’s this missed opportunity, “I have to say yes by 5:00 tonight or I’ll miss the opportunity.” But if you take out your emotional response to those things, none of that stuff really matters. The deadlines that you think are real are not as real as you think.
Having good friends around you is good too because when my friends call me with a problem they might have in their business, I have no emotional connection to it. So, some of the things that they think are really a big deal because they’ve emotionally gotten involved in it, I can let them know it’s not a big deal. They do the same thing for me when I can get emotionally attracted to an idea or a thought, or a big change I have to make. Most of the time, the advice or the information is to let it sit for a little bit, and everything loses its power with a night of sleep. Things that make us really anxious, after a night of sleep, seemed to not be as bad.
I think just allowing time and space for things, and I think anybody that tries it out and trusts that process will know. I think everyone has seen it play out in their life in some capacity too. I think most people have tried an exercise, or weight reduction, or muscle gain program at some point in their life. I bet they’ve also seen results from that too. It’s that same process when we’ve worked the system that was given to us, we’ve seen those results. We can take that same approach to all things, all kinds of things in our life.
Nikki Van Noy: Is there one area of life that you find the most challenging to apply this idea of simplicity to?
Nick Dancer: Maybe not simplicity, but I really want to be a great husband to my wife. And relationships are always changing. We dated in high school. So that was the style of our relationship. We dated when the business started, and she was in college. So that was the style of our relationship. We had children. That was the style of our relationship. We’re becoming different people, and we are madly in love with each other and we continue to be, yet we’re completely different people than we were 15 years ago. There are similarities, but there’re differences too. That might be the most challenging, but it’s also the most rewarding.
The only permanent thing in my life, the only thing I signed up for life for is my marriage with my wife. The business could come and go. My kids are going too. I have a role to play for a certain amount of years, and they’ll kind of be on their own and I’ll have a different role with them, but the relationship with my wife is probably the most important one to me–the one that continually changes and the one I want to put the work in to succeed.
A Thriving Business
Nikki Van Noy: Can you go ahead and explain your business to me in a few sentences?
Nick Dancer: The name of the business is called Dancer Concrete Design, and we’re a local installer of polished concrete floors and epoxy floor coatings. So, if you’ve ever been in a hip coffee shop, they probably have polished concrete floors, or a university locker room, or a commercial kitchen. They have epoxy floors. We’re the people that install those systems. We don’t pour traditional concrete. We come in as part of a finished package and put toppings, or epoxies, or polishing treatments on existing concrete floors.
We work in new construction and remodel construction, and we’re based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We work throughout the region, and then we do some private client work for clients a little bit further away that like how we think and how we design things.
Nikki Van Noy: That is so cool. Those floors are one of those things I always notice, and I am delighted every time I see them. They totally transform spaces.
Nick Dancer: They do. They’re newer in nature. Epoxies have been around for a while, but polishing is what I consider still in its infancy stage. We’ve seen the mass-market appeal with grocery stores and whole warehouse type installations. But some of the fun or the most exciting, or the most rewarding kind of work is when we get into a 100-year-old building and we’re able to use the concrete that’s there for a structural purpose and use it in a way that it’s performing as the finished floor. Just like using reclaimed lumber or exposed brick, polished concrete floors have gained a lot of popularity and a lot of interest.
Nikki Van Noy: Oh, that’s so cool. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it incorporated into an old space before.
Nick Dancer: In our town, they’re taking an old GE factory from the early 1900s, and they’re turning it into mixed-use spaces. So, those kinds of projects are so neat, because the concrete’s already there. It’s hidden underneath old floor coverings. Some of the ways they made concrete back then, the aggregate that’s part of isn’t even around anymore. So, you’re seeing different colors and shapes of stone that you can’t get anymore because those quarries aren’t around. So, it’s neat and it’s a one-of-a-kind floor.
Nikki Van Noy: I’ve never talked to anyone who has this job before. You’re the first person, which is so cool. I’ve talked to people who have most jobs at this point.
So that job in and of itself, correct me if I’m wrong, but it strikes me as something where your artistic mind would have to be going. Then you have to be thinking linearly too to an extent, and also it seems like it would require a lot of patience. I mean, first of all, is that accurate or am I making up a story about your job that’s not true?
Nick Dancer: That’s true. I never thought of the patience aspect until you just said it. But, yes, what we do, our polishing machines look like a push lawnmower, and when you mow your yard, you mow it once and then it’s a kind of satisfaction right away, and then you mow it next week. Our polishing machines, we go over the same surface over and over and over again. Most people and customers, they’re like, “What are you guys doing? It doesn’t look like you’re doing anything.” Then there’s that monumental shift at a certain point in the process where it all comes together. So, you trust that it’s going to come together.
Nikki Van Noy: The correlation between that and what you’re talking about in the book is really interesting to me.
Nick Dancer: I have never put the two together. A lot of people in our trades are very contractor driven. My wife is a designer by degree and an artist. So, she has a tremendous influence on my ability. I definitely had a contractor type, get it done type feel and didn’t know how important it was to create beautiful spaces or how important the aesthetics are in a space. It might seem woo-woo, but how energy flows through a space or how important it is to our capacity to produce, or the feelings we elicit by being in different spaces. We’ve all felt it if you pay attention to it. We can walk in a place and be like, “Ah! This just doesn’t feel right,” and we’ve all walked in places and we’re like, “Wow! This is nice. This is clean. It’s simple.” We have the capacity innately in us. One neat thing is we can all start listening to it.
We all have this creativity inside of us. Listen to it and let it out. If you know what that feels like, you can go home and actually make your home feel like that. If you have a desk, you can make your desk feel like that. You might not be able to change the whole design of your building or your company, but you have control of your desk. If nothing else in your house, maybe there’s a bathroom. Maybe you have control there. So, you can start with things as simple as that.
Nikki Van Noy: I agree with you that energy is a very palpable thing and it matters a lot. You start to absorb it and it impacts you after a while. So, taking control of that energy is important.
Nick Dancer: Yeah. And the thing is we don’t have to completely understand it to experience it, and we don’t have to have a specific and tactile reason. We don’t have to defend our answer. We can feel it, and it can feel right for us, and that’s enough. That’s okay.
Stop Digging Holes
Nikki Van Noy: Let’s turn our attention toward listeners who are not in this place of simplicity and basics, and everything just kind of feels like it’s swirling around. What would your best advice to then be for starting to make a little shift that leads them back to this idea of just showing up?
Nick Dancer: I don’t want to give anyone advice. I can only share what’s worked for me. There are too many people I pay in my life to help me with advice. One of the things I had to do was I had these big ideas, these big dreams, these big things I wanted to do. I want to do this. I want to do that. I’ve done it all, from your mission, vision, affirmations, any kind of self-development work out there, I feel like I’ve probably done it or tried it. Even the crazy woo-woo stuff. It’s all been tried.
What worked for me was actually to stop doing certain things. Before, I tried to just do more. So, if my life feels like a whirlwind like there’s too much going on, instead of adding one more thing I need to do, stop doing something sometimes can be the biggest impact. So, we dream about building this mountain to stand on, but maybe we just need to stop digging holes. There’s a chapter in the book called stop digging holes, and that’s what it talks about. Just stop doing some of the things that are driving you crazy. For everybody, that’s going to be a little bit different. But just stop doing something.
Nikki Van Noy: All right, Nick. Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you want to make sure to get in here?
Nick Dancer: In our city, I think every city, real estate is in a good spot right now where lots of homes are being sold. We’ve heard stories of putting a house on the market and it is sold in 24 hours and getting over asking price. All kinds of crazy stuff.
My wife and I lived in an apartment. We had one-year-old and we found out we are having a second child. We had an 800 square-foot apartment, and it wasn’t a nice apartment. It was like, “Hey, we’ll move in here during college because it’s the cheapest place in the city.” Then when you graduate college and make your money, that’s when you buy your nice house.
The only problem is we were not making money and we were having a second kid in the small crappy apartment. So, we started looking for houses, and we just looked for every house on the market, any house within our price range that was available to us. We didn’t have any direction for where we were going to buy.
We’re driving north one day to look at a house. Then south the next day to look at a house, then east, then west, and we just spent so much time looking for a house. Anytime there’s a for sale sign, we’re turning around to check it out. But what about if you’re shopping for a new home and you have some idea of the ZIP code you want to live in? If that’s your one thing, “We want to live here because I was raised here, or there’re these kinds of people in this neighborhood, or I like the shop that’s there.” How much less time it would take to find that right place or how much less energy would it take?
We would go through these moments where my wife and I were very busy looking for the right house. We might spend all day Saturday driving all across the town to look at six houses. It felt like we were accomplishing something because we’re busy all day. But what if we said that we want to live in the 07 ZIP code and on that Saturday, we only looked at two houses and it took us two hours? Part of us feels like it should take more time and energy like we had to put everything into it.
Sometimes if you have direction, and you have fewer distractions in your life, and you know what you’re aiming at, you don’t have to run around like crazy. You don’t have to say yes to every new opportunity. You don’t have to drive across town to do everything. You can just sit still the rest of the time, and I don’t think a lot of us are used to that. I don’t think that’s natural to us. I think that’s something you have to learn and be okay with, like, “Hey, there are only two houses in our ZIP code available. So, we spend two hours looking. Now we’re going to do something else for six hours, or we’re going to read, or we’re going to clean.”
I see power in that, and I’ve switched from when we looked at the house to now. That’s still a process because we want to brag to each other about how busy we are. People ask, “Yeah, how is your life?” “Oh, pretty good. I’m working towards a couple of things and chilling out the rest of the time.”
People want you to be busy. They want to be overwhelmed. I don’t know why that is. I’m not trying to figure that out, but I’m just trying to do what’s right for me so I can do my best for the other people around me.
Nikki Van Noy: It is strange too because you’re right about the busy thing. Then we all turn around and complain about it too. Busyness is a strange thing in our culture right now.
Nick Dancer: It is, and my life is not in some zen state where I’m never frustrated or I’m not doing stuff. But my day does have some kind of structure. I work quite a few hours, but that’s a path I took in the business, and what I think is needed in our current business state to get the results we want, and how I want to serve my team. Then I go home, and I give my all to my family. So, with three young boys, by the time we cook dinner and do some kind of activity and get baths going, it’s an all-night process. I’m active, but it’s also the path I chose. I guess when you feel like you made the choice rather than being it forced upon you–it feels a heck of a lot better.
Nikki Van Noy: Yes. I think you hit upon a really important point there, which is a lot of us get so busy that we forget that it’s not something that’s been imposed on us and there are actual choices behind it.
Nick Dancer: Yeah, and it’s also okay to just have stuff that sucks. In business, every once in a while, we’re going to have a project that’s not profitable or goes bad, but that’s a normal part of the business. I might go home tonight with the intention that we’re going to have an awesome dinner and the kids are going be great, and then go to bed. I might end up having somebody run around the house naked, refusing to put on PJs and go to bed. That’s okay. Is that normal for the age of children and my current circumstances? Yes.
In the book there is a chapter, I think it’s called love the sludge or love the suck, and part of our process to make beautiful floors involves grinding concrete, which either creates a lot of dust or a lot of sludge. The sludge is just a mixture of water and cement paste, and it’s a dirty, messy job, and there’s no way around it. There’s no way to make beautiful floors without getting really messy. Rather than trying to avoid that, it’s just okay to let it be what it is and have fun with it as much as you can, and just realize it is part of the process.
Nikki Van Noy: That’s a great metaphor, especially for parenthood. There’s a lot of sludge.
Nick Dancer: Yeah, that sludge gets everywhere, and it’s smelly.