Nov. 24, 2020

11 : From Poverty to Google with Nicholas Whitaker (Part 1)

Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Castro podcast player badge
PocketCasts podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge
Overcast podcast player badge

“What are my values and what are my goals? Am I moving myself in that direction. If I'm not moving myself in that direction, what am I doing?” - Nicholas Whitaker

Welcome to the Mindful FIRE Podcast, where we explore living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond. I’m your host Adam Coelho and I’m glad you’re here. 

Today we talk to my friend, Nicholas Whitaker. Nicholas has an incredible story of going from living in poverty, with housing insecurity and just scraping by, to changing his mindset and his entire life to ultimately be working at Google for the last 10 years. 

For the past decade, Nicholas has leveraged the scale and resources of Google to support the journalism industry through high impact educational products, programs, and strategic partnerships, reaching more than half a million journalists worldwide.

Throughout his time at Google, Nicholas has also managed stress and anxiety through an active mindfulness practice, extensive study of emotional intelligence, resilience, and the impact of technology on well being as well as regular therapy. 

He spends a portion of his time facilitating mental health talks, meditations, host experts in the industry to talk about mindfulness and resilience, and facilitate team development experiences to help teams and colleagues manage stress, cultivate trust and psychological safety, and learn more mindful ways to communicate. I'm also coaching a limited number of clients outside of Google.

In this episode Nicholas and I dive into:

  • Nick’s philosophy on life: Figure out how I can have the most impact on the world around me, in a positive way.  How can I do that in a sustainable way. Is there some reality where I could be doing that full time? 
  • Why he’s inspired by the quote “Chance favors the prepared mind”
  • What is neuroplasticity and how does it shape our lives?
  • How he went from poverty to financial stability
  • How he used education as the first step to move forward
  • How he developed awareness of his inner critic 
  • How the words of his mentor inspired him to think bigger about his life
  • How do I make the most of the resources I do have in this moment and best set myself up for the future? 
  • What does Nick’s long term vision look like?
  • How he thinks about quality of life investments 
  • Advice to someone who feels stuck in his/her life
  • Advice to someone getting started with Mindfulness
  • Advice to someone on the path to financial independence

And so much more. I hope you enjoy Part 1 of my conversation with my friend Nicholas Whitaker. Remember to subscribe to be the first to know when Part 2 is available. 

Check out N


Adam Coelho:[00:00:00] Welcome to the mindful fire podcast where we explore living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond I'm your host, Adam quail. And I'm so glad you're here on today's episode. I'm joined by my friend, Nicholas Whitaker. For the past decade, Nicholas has leveraged the scale and resources of Google to support the journalism industry through high impact educational products, programs, and strategic partnerships reaching more than half a million journalists worldwide throughout his time at Google.

Nicholas has also managed stress and anxiety through an active mindfulness practice. Extensive study of emotional intelligence, resilience and the impact of technology on wellbeing, as well as regular therapy. He spends a portion of his time facilitating mental health talks, meditations hosts experts in the industry to talk about mindfulness and resilience and facilitates team development experiences to help teams and colleagues manage stress.

Cultivate trust and psychological safety and learn more mindful ways to communicate. He's also coaching a limited number of clients outside of Google through his coaching practice, which you can giving back in this way, not only helps Nick's colleagues, but also keeps him honest about his own process.

And it's a constant reminder of the power of these tools in this episode, Nick and I dive deep in exploring his life's journey from poverty to financial stability and working at Google. My conversation with Nick had so much goodness, in so much wisdom that I've decided to break it into two parts. On today's episode, we'll dive into the first part of my conversation with Nick in which we explore his backstory and how he moved from a position of poverty, to a position of financial stability, and ultimately getting a job at Google where he's been working for 10 years.

I, and I hope you'll join me in two weeks for part two of this conversation with Nick, in which we explore his thoughts on the financial independence, retire early movement and how he approaches fire with a modified approach. And we'll also dive into his mindfulness practice and how he infuses every aspect of his life with mindfulness.

I really enjoyed this episode with Nick and I learned so much, and I really hope that you enjoy it as well. Let's dive into today's episode.

Welcome to the mindful fire podcast, Nick. 

Nicholas Whitaker:[00:02:25] Hey, welcome. Thanks for 

Adam Coelho:[00:02:26] having me. It's great to have you here today, and I'd love to start by having you share with our audience where you come from and how you ended up doing what you're doing today. 

Nicholas Whitaker:[00:02:38] I come from Kentucky, I was actually born in Kentucky and then was raised in central Pennsylvania.

And I think those earliest kind of formative years are pretty STEM central. Part of my story. And I think if you think about the Appalachia Valley and just the type of people that kind of migrated from the South up into Pennsylvania, and in a lot of cases, it was blue collar workers. It was people chasing steelworkers, people, chasing coal jobs.

That was mostly my family. My family came up through Kentucky and into central Pennsylvania cause my dad decided he wanted to start his own business. And being in that central Pennsylvania region gave him amazing access to all the various different steel companies that were still around in the late nineties.

And the, in the United States. So that was where my stomping ground was for a really long time. And then, later on bounce around quite a bit, spent some time in Baltimore, spent some time in DC, 13 years in New York city. And then recently as of 2013, said goodbye to the East coast, moved out to the West coast.

Almost. I live here in Colorado now. It didn't quite make it all the way over as far as I was aiming to, but landed in a good spot. And I've been here ever since. And so in 

Adam Coelho:[00:03:43] hearing your story on other podcasts and just speaking with you, I understand that a huge part of your story is coming out of poverty and moving towards financial stability.

And so I love to hear a little bit about how that process was. And some of the challenges that came along the path along that journey. 

Nicholas Whitaker:[00:04:03] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. The, that question is really related to the first question is where did I come from? And where I came from was a region that I was very much trying to escape from as early as I could remember,  grew up in a community that it was pretty rural.

I didn't particularly have a lot of friends nearby. I didn't have a lot of like close ties community wise. And I had a pretty challenging childhood, I was. Growing up a, in a middle-class household, which was totally, sufficient, like I never wanted for much growing up other than, having my parents, both working, full-time running a business, essentially left me, raising myself to a large degree.

And.  Realized very early on that the culture of the area that I was living in and the opportunities that were available to me in the area that I was living in were quite limited. At that point, I didn't have a college degree, so I really didn't have an education of any kind. So for a young male, with no education in central Pennsylvania, you basically work on a farm.

You work in a warehouse distribution center. You work retail maybe you work at a restaurant or something along those lines, or you go into the military. And, I had been working at coffee shops in a few different places like that for a while. Growing up and, through a series of different events, found a way to leave.

Pennsylvania and basically moved to Baltimore. Essentially. I chased a girl there and I ended up in Baltimore, suddenly completely culture shock moving from, a place where I was living amongst cornfields to a city, a metropolitan city, and a very poor city, that was going through a lot of violence and a lot of, just social strife during that period of time.

And it just thrust me into this completely new and different world. There's also like an economic issues that came along with that. I didn't have a plan, was living with this woman and it didn't work out. So essentially I had to find my own path and through various different, small jobs, working at coffee shops managed to work my way up until a shift manager position there and then a training position there.

But it really wasn't enough to make ends meet. And I ended up living in my car for a better part of several months during a very harsh winter and then got lucky. And one of the women that I worked with at a coffee shop said, Oh, I have an apartment that I can rent you in the building that I live in for a couple hundred bucks, cause I just didn't have really enough money to. Get a proper place to live. And even if I didn't have a bank account, I didn't have a checking account at that point. Like I couldn't cash checks had to go to a check cashing place to do that. So I just didn't have the mechanisms that I needed to be a functioning member of society, really, know, in terms of like housing and things like that.

So I found myself in essentially this squat building that was condemned and it was a four unit. The back wall of the building was missing. And I was living in the top floor with power cords, going to the, my next door neighbor to get power. And I would use the bathroom downstairs of this woman who was renting.

This place out to me, which I come to find out that she neither was landlord, nor did she own the building or have any legitimate reason to be doing what she was doing. But sure enough, she's making a couple of hundred bucks off of me a month. But that was a huge upgrade for me because it was like at least three walls.

It wasn't a total safe place to live, but it was better than living in a car. And, that kind of was the beginning of a pretty dark period of time in my life where I spent many years basically just hopping from couch to couch or hopping from, Squatty basement apartment or unsustainable situation with people who are very generous with their time and their space, but it was housing insecurity.

And then it was job insecurity. And, that was a good 10 years of my life. It was just basically in survival mode. And, I was really driven towards action at that period in time, but it wasn't really thoughtful. It wasn't, Here's a goal that I'm moving myself towards. It was how do I find food?

How do I find money for housing this month? How do I, in a lot of cases, get enough money to supply my drug abuse that I was facilitating at the time. It wasn't thoughtful. It wasn't mindful. It wasn't like a planned out kind of a thing. It was straight up survival mode, when I think about.

How that stuff affects me now. And just how those lessons that I learned during that period of time. I went for the better part of two decades without having credit. It could not get credit cards anymore. I had destroyed my credit as a teenager, so everything was cash oriented and it was very much like this exercise of what is essential, like what are the very bare minimum things that I can get by with?

And is there other ways for me to organize my time and my attention and my resources to better my situation just slightly from what it was. Whether that's economically or housing wise or career wise, or what have you. And then it became a very long journey from there on out, when I made that decision that I was not happy with my current situation, I was actually quite scared by some of the examples of people around me, of what that meant, and that kind of put me on the path, but it took very long time to get to where I'm at now, from there.


Adam Coelho:[00:08:32] And I'd love to understand what were the realizations that you had where this isn't working. 

Nicholas Whitaker:[00:08:38] Anymore. Yeah. Countless ones, I think there, there was a handful of ones that really stand out though. There, there was a period of time when I was working at a California pizza kitchen in Tyson's corner, Virginia, and I was essentially living in the basement of another house at the time.

Essentially, my roommate was the guy that would buy club drugs from and his girlfriend. And I just came into this housing opportunity with him for lack of a better term, and was living in this other room in this basement apartment of his. And I was having conversations with him pretty regularly.

And he was very deep in the scene. I It was like three, four days a week. He was at parties, all kinds of drugs on a regular basis.  More than one occasion, I would find things that I owned missing that he had sold to purchase drugs with, and then we would get into these brawling fights over that type of thing.

And, I had asked him at one point, when we were on our way to a club one night and I was like, so what's your plan? How much longer are you going to do this for. And he was like, what are you mean? This is it. This is the plan, and he was probably at that point 20 years older than me.

No, I was still in my early twenties and he was probably my age now. And that just scared me to death. That notion that this is it. It was fun and it was lighthearted and it was reckless, but it certainly wasn't a lifestyle strategy. And I think that was really the first moment of Oh, this is a dark road I'm on, and if I continue down this path, I'm going to end up dead or I'm going to end up in prison, and neither one of those things sounded particularly great. Do that. And then a handful of other kind of interactions that I've had with people in my sphere during that period in time, they were really trying to encourage me and saying look, you can do better than this. And frankly, it was an ex-girlfriend of mine.

We broke up very, in a very ugly fashion, mainly because of just my mental and instability in my socioeconomic status. At that time, she was. Rising star and I was basically holding her back. So that was a bit of a heartbreaking moment, just realizing that not only was I not doing anything good for myself, but I was also causing issues for other people.

And then shortly after that, a friend of mine was engaging me with some pretty, pretty good questions around  what is it you're really interested in? What drives you? What are you happy about? I hadn't really even thought about that before at that point in my life. What difference does it make?

What I'm happy doing? Like I'm just doing what I can. Get work to do. And through a few different series of events that basically led me going to undergrad, going back to school and this time paying my way through and deciding to go to film school. Because at that point it was like I like movies.

Like I'm going to be a filmmaker. Like that was about as far as I had thought it through and then found my way to New York city. And shortly after that got into school. And then it was again, just like little bits of the path along the way. No, but even at that point in my career and in my education, there was examples around me.

I had two friends of mine within a period of a few years, commit suicide. Both of them were just very heart connected people that really understood. I thought the way the world worked around them, And had a lot of potential and seeing both of them basically come to mental illness and not really having the support that they needed, I think really put a fire under my ass.

And it made me really think to myself, this time is valuable and I should make sure that I'm really using it to its full extent, because you just never know how long you have with people in your life. But also, it's just a tenuous situation out there for some people, so I just didn't want to be on that side of things.

And I wanted to make sure I was making choices that was helping to move me forward in life. It sounds like. 

Adam Coelho:[00:11:48] This, these realizations helped you change your mindset a little bit. Can you talk a little bit about how your mindset shifted? And after having those realizations that something needs needed to change in your life.

Nicholas Whitaker:[00:12:03] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think my mindset at the time before those realizations really started to sink in, and it was totally a mindset of escape and survival. It was like, let's get out of an emotionally and mentally abusive household. Let's get to get out of an abusive relationship. Let's get out of a neighborhood that's unsafe.

Let's, like just survive, and it, there wasn't really much more. Space within my cognitive ability at that point, other than just straight survival and that, I think we'll take you only so far, and if you're always just reactive to whatever the fire drill at hand is, that's all you're ever going to end up dealing with.

You can't really think long-term you can't plan for the future. And I think beyond that mindset, my mindset at the time was really one of self-doubt. One of self abuse, I had, did not have a particularly high view of myself in general. I just didn't think I was worth more than what I had at the moment.

So a lot of my behaviors at that time were just pure escapism and that's what led me to the rave scene. That's what led me to abusing substances. That's what led me to having really horrible relationships that I should probably shouldn't have been involved with. And, I think the mind shifts.

Change or the mindset shift was I think a combination of people being very supportive and trying to help me understand what my value was and encourage me to say look, you've got everything available to you. If you're just willing to make those decisions. And over a very long period of time of having that reinforced to me, starting to think, Oh, maybe I could do something a little bit more.

Maybe I could think about the things I'm interested in. And then once that light switch went on, it was very hard to turn that off. It was like why couldn't I go to New York? Why couldn't I go to school? I couldn't, I learn how to make films. Couldn't I start my own company. Why couldn't I say yes to a job at Google, and everything after that, it was just being aware of the opportunities that were around me and knowing how to say yes to them, or ask for help from people around me.

There's this there's a silly scene and the worst movie ever, it was under siege to Steven Seagal film. If you haven't watched it, it's not a, it's not a pandemic watch. So it don't bother, but there's this one scene in the movie and there's a quote, which I think has been like attributed to Louis pasture since then.

Essentially, it was chance favors the prepared mind. And I remember this stuck with me, and of course it comes from and seeing this with all maybe so I want to stick with it and I'm watching this and I'm like, wow, that's a really profound statement. What does that actually mean?

And for some reason, it just stuck in my mind for years. And I think with what I took away from that was, Cannes or the universe favors people who are prepared to receive the opportunities that are put in front of them. And, if you're not working on that preparation of your mind, if you're not getting your mindset right.

Making sure what your emotions are doing, making sure what the narratives that are you're telling yourself are and how those affect you. Having a board of directors, of people around you to help you make decisions and help you bolster yourself when you're feeling down, without that you're not prepared for opportunity and you won't see them when they present themselves and they'll pass you by.

And I think that, to me, it was like probably the biggest mind shift change was like being open to possibility and being able to say yes to things. Even though I had this narrative in my head that says, who are you? Who do you think you are trying to do these things? Of course you're going to fail.

Yeah. That's 

Adam Coelho:[00:15:09] really interesting. What is that? That chance favors the prepared mind. Yeah. Yeah, that's huge. Like that kind of reminds me of what we talk about in search inside yourself, right? The predicting brain and the idea that everything we think feel, and pay attention to changes our brain and form and function and makes the things that we practice more often, even the thoughts and beliefs kind of shape how we take in the world.

And so if we practice positive thinking and we practice being ready for opportunity, we start to recognize more opportunity out in the world. The way I jokingly think about it. Like whenever you get a new car, suddenly everyone has that car. Or when my wife was pregnant, suddenly there are pregnant women everywhere.

It's not that there are more pregnant women or everyone has my car. It's just that I'm more ready to see it. I'm interested to hear how. Things started to move forward for you. On the other podcast. I remember you talking about taking one step at a time and just moving forward little by little, but then I think a mentor of yours helped you think a little bit more broadly and look a little bit further into the future.

And so I'd love to hear first how the step-by-step helped you move things forward. And then. How that broader perspective really enabled that mindset shift. 

Nicholas Whitaker:[00:16:31] Yeah. Adam,  the step-by-step thing is something that still serves me today, despite, all of the success that I've had and all the grateful opportunities that I've been blessed with.

There's still this narrative in the back of my head overwhelm, as soon as I try to attack and tackle another big project, it feels too big. There's that voice that comes back and says, who do you think you are? This isn't going to work. You need to, to stick with what's safe.

You need to keep your feet where they are, and I have to combat that a lot. But I think what I'm able to now work through is I'm able to do a few different strategies, which is break those big problems down into their smallest constituents bits.  The size that I can actually manage or feel are manageable.

And that goes for just about any decision, any tasks that I'm trying to achieve. And then beyond that, I think it's also having strategies to think about. There are two to respond to that narrative, recognizing that narrative exists and that voice, maybe isn't my voice. That might be something that I've learned along the way, and then just inherited, or it could be an epigenetic thing.

There's a whole history in my family of people. Basically being stuck, in, in the situations that they are my father and my mother, or maybe an exception of that, like they stepped out and decided to try something on their own and try to submit to try something new. And I think that planted a seed in my head that Oh, there's an entrepreneurial opportunity here.

I can do more with my life if I choose to. But. Having the right tools available are critical. And all the tools that I have now are the ones that I learned the hard way all along the way. So  the just, taking things a bit at a time when you're in poverty, I think is a necessity.

The equation becomes really simple. I have enough money for rent this month. I have enough money for food this month. And that's it, I know. And then it's okay, if I'm going to save up for something, what is the next thing that I need, that's going to most improve my life or my experience, and then in my case it was get an education, it was like, what I really need to do is I need to get some schooling, cause I'm not going to be able to increase my income. In such a way that allows me to increase my standard of living to a place where I'd like to be without that education.

So then it became  geez you know who I think I am to go to undergrad again. I failed the first time I went through it. Who's going to pay for it. How is this going to all, what's going to work. Somebody was just like, just fill out the application just to send it in, start there.

And then once I did that, then the snowball occurred, it was like, okay, now I'm dealing with student financial aid. Okay. There's those steps I have to get done. And then I'm in school. And then it's okay, now I'm taking classes while working. Full-time like, how does that work?

And, it's just piecing it together. And to your point, I think that there was a confluence of things that occurred. I had a mentor at the time that I had basically started a business in the early two thousands. A roommate of mine has given me this amazing opportunity. And it was essentially like, Hey, you like film.

My mom is working in this hospital. They need a training video done. Is this something that you could do? And I had the identity audacity to say, yes, I didn't have a camera. I didn't have editing skills at the time. But I had this like complete irreverence for the impossible, so it was like, okay, sure, let me do it.

And that gave me enough money to rent a camera from a friend of mine, and to quickly learn how to cut a video over a long weekend. My girlfriend at the time was like EMAC, computer. And got me on my way. And then arc of getting a new business, starting it out, having a handful of clients. I met this gentleman, this guy rich, who had been in the advertising industry for decades.

And he was basically retired and doing passion projects. And, I had worked with him a, on a particular government contract that I was working on at the time for state government. And, he basically took me aside at one point and he was telling me like, look, you're thinking small, you're limiting yourself by the way that you're thinking and the way that you're approaching things.

You need to think bigger, you need to think longer term and you need to create space in your life, which allows you to do that.  those words from a trusted friend, from somebody that I really looked up to as a mentor, I think was really what was the kick in the pants that I needed to pull all this stuff together and really start thinking strategically not just, what's going to get me through the next month or two, or get me through school, but what do I want to be doing in terms of contributing to the world?

How do I want to give back. How do I want to see the world become a better place? And then from there it became less about just the day-to-day, how do I survive? And it became more about what are my values, what are my goals? Am I moving myself in that direction? And then that from there becomes the decision tree.

If I'm not taking action in that direction, then what am I doing? And I became very, I think, passionate and very rigid in some ways around my use of time and my use of attention. And I'm, am I moving in a direction of better clarity, better understanding of how the world works around me and setting myself my future self up for success.

And I think both of those now play in quite a bit to my success today, cause I do still think about it in terms of what's the smallest component, but also does this apply to like where I'm going to be when I'm 70, and that kind of ties into the whole retirement thing before, when you're in poverty, you're not thinking about retirement.

You're thinking about how long your body is going to survive the abuse you're putting into it with the menial jobs that you're working. Because that's what you're able to leverage. It's like your body and your time is all you really have in terms of investment. And then as you start to get a little bit more money, a little bit more spaciousness in your time and your attention, then you can start thinking a little bit longer term.

And that's where I've been for like the last 10, 15 years. Just thinking, how do I make up for that lost time? But that's a trap too. So be careful there, but also how do I make the most of the resources I have in this moment? To set myself up most for success in the future. And if retirement is the goal fine, but more, more specifically it's sustainability, long-term sustainability.

So many any 

Adam Coelho:[00:21:58] questions, so many questions that pop into my head, fire away. Yeah. So looking at that long-term view right from where you stand now, what is that long-term vision that you have for your life? 

Nicholas Whitaker:[00:22:11] Yeah, that's a great question, Adam. Where I'm standing right now, I'm standing from a place of a lot of privilege.

So I just want to make sure I call that out first and foremost, I lo the whole narrative of self-made man, pulling yourself up from the boot strings like that doesn't exist. As far as I'm concerned, I had the help of so many people around me. So many women in particular, just were gracious enough to give me their attention and time and try to encourage me to move forward.

In my life and do better for myself. From where I'm standing at right now, I have a really great opportunity working at Google and I've been doing that for a while now and married, I've got a home, which is a modest home that I'm able to afford. And my plan for the next, say 30 years of my life is to try to figure out like, first of all, how do I have the most impact.

On the world around me in a positive way. And that's usually the first guiding principle. And from there it's how do I do that in a sustainable way? And then from there it's, is there some reality where I could be doing that full time? And I don't really look at retirement as I'm going to go spend all my time, camping, traveling around the country, or I don't know whatever people do when they retire.

Although that sounds lovely. It's more can I focus a hundred percent or 120% of my attention on things that are charitable, and the things are really aimed at helping community and helping other people. That to me is like really what I'm aiming for, but in order to be able to get there and have the level of impact that I want, I need to be really thoughtful about where I'm putting my money and where I'm putting my time.

And at this point, if you adhere to the idea of losing time and investment, anytime is a good time to start investing. But let's say, if I was to look at my perspective of like my teens into my twenties is lost investment time. I feel like I have a little bit of catching up to do in order to be able to quote unquote retire by the time I'm at retirement age, let alone, and also support my wife through retirement as well.

So that's the matrix that I'm looking at. The next 30 years of my life through is can I get to a place where I'm allowing my money to work for me as efficiently as possible? Am I making sure that the things I'm spending money on or time or attention on our investments to give me more time or attention or funds in the future.

And am I doing that in a way that's hopefully not harmful to the folks around me, cause I think I've done plenty of that in my life already of just harming or being thoughtless about my impact on others. So that's my framework. That's what, all decisions go through. As I'm thinking about the next, say, 30 years of my life.

But there's also an adaptability there too. And that's why call what I'm doing and more of a modified fire approach. There are still things that I have made decisions on that are more around quality of life investments, which would include the way that we live our lifestyle. Like we moved to Colorado specifically to be closer to nature.

And here we are, and there's a cost association with that, but. Or career association with that in some cases, too, but all of those decisions  are for a greater good, it's for having a high quality of life, that's reasonable and it's respectful and potentially humble in this period of time of life, but also thinking about the next 30 years and seeing how long we can stretch that runway out.

Adam Coelho:[00:25:09] So let's switch gears into what I call the mindful fire. Final four. Yeah. And so the first question is what advice would you give to someone who feels stuck 

Nicholas Whitaker:[00:25:19] in their life? We all feel stuck in our lives at some point or another. I think it's a very normal and human thing. So the first part of my advice would be to just understand that this is not a unique thing.

This is, I think, part of being human, it's we probably have a sense of where we're trying to get to. So there's a little bit of a expectation there, a little bit of grasping there's a little bit of reckoning with where you're at. You're at, in the moment, in a lot of cases, people will look at where they're at in the moment and they feel under resource or under supported, or they feel like the conditions that they're living in are not ideal.

So there's a little, again, a little bit of desire and grasping in that. Possibly a whole lot of our version in that as well. So the advice that I typically give to people is like to do a bit of an assessment. What is it that you feel stuck about? Exactly. What are the conditions that are present, that are causing you to feel stuck?

And it's not Oh, I'm in a dead end job or, Oh, I live in a town, a lot of opportunities. That's not what I'm talking about. It's what are the stories that you're telling yourself that prevent you from saying. Maybe working in restaurants and like going into clubs every night. Isn't the best choice for me.

Maybe going and getting an education would be a better option. Are you telling yourself stories that's preventing yourself from being able to see that possibility? And then from there, I think it's  what is the timeline that you're looking at? If you feel stuck in this moment, are you thinking about this in terms of a 30 year plan?

Because if you are, I'd be really hard pressed to find somebody that would still feel stuck because you're really talking about incremental gains over long periods of time. And then from there, I think the advice I would give to somebody is like seek support through others, your perspective, your view.

Is probably skewed. There's probably a good chance that the lens that you're looking at life through, if you feel stuck is not a lens that's going to help you get unstuck. The tools that you have that you're putting into practice are probably not the tools that are going to get you moving forward.

So seek help either through a coach. Or a therapist or pick up a book at a library and the Wiccan section, like whatever works for you, wherever you can be met, start there and really, I think take a hard look at yourself and in the circumstances that are in your life. And are you truly stock or is the mindset that you're approaching life through keeping you fixed in a particular state of being?


Adam Coelho:[00:27:32] I think that's really helpful advice. Thanks for sharing that. Yeah. Thanks. The second question is what advice would you give to someone getting started with mindfulness 

Nicholas Whitaker:[00:27:41] and meditation? Yeah, there's a few things there to take it slow. I talked to so many people and I say, I'm not good at meditating.

I don't have time. And I'm like can you just take a deep breath with me?

Congratulations. You've just meditated, like that, literally like to break it down into the smallest possible increments you can. And if maybe just one or two breaths before a stressful event, potentially stressful then is like, where you can start there from there. I think it's don't be so caught up in what it's supposed to look like and what it's supposed to be.

So many times I used to sit down on my cushion or sit down in a chair. And I'd sit and try to meditate, which first of all, you're already sailing, cause if you're trying to meditate, you're already missing the point. And I would be sitting there meditating and be like racing, thoughts, racing heart could not possibly focus on the next breath.

And I'd beat myself up over and say, screw it. I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna finish this set. It's not good. And I'd walk away from it. And what I try to encourage people to do is instead of having this expectation of what this experience is supposed to be like, and quite frankly, this is like life advice that I would give to anybody.

Let alone just meditate, but just life advice, stop holding on so hard to what you think it's supposed to be like, spend more of your attention and time being clear with what it is. So as you're sitting, noticing yourself, reading, noticing yourself, getting distracted, noticing that voice, it's punishing yourself saying like, why are you being so stupid about this?

Why can't you just focus on this next breath? Like greet, greet that voice. And thank you. Thank you for your help. I don't need that right now, and set them aside, put them next to you, let them meditate with you and then just keep breathing. I'll keep working through it. I think that's another big component.

And then from there, I'd say find community, so many of us are. And especially nowadays we're recording as a middle of a pandemic. There's this siloing effect that occurs. Do we feel like there's meditative practice and experience as a solo act? It's not at least not. In my opinion, it is a gift to the world.

You are giving your guests of attention and time and focusing on your inner machinations to make sure that when you do show up in the world, you're showing up in the best way possible. I think building community or finding community to be a part of, even if it's just one person, even if it's like something that's a small group of resume, find those communities because you will find that there's accountability.

There's communion. There's mutual support there. And it was when I really started building community and talking with people like yourself, making sure that I'm surrounding myself with people that think along these lines, That's when I felt a little bit more accountability, not just for myself, but also how am I showing up for the people around?

And I think that can be a real strong motivator for folks. If you sit down and you're like, I just don't have 10 minutes to meditate for myself today. It's  what about for your daughter? What about for your partner? And do you have time to do it for them? Yeah. Maybe you can use that as an anchor, as a place to start until you can really get over that hump and get more into a regular practice.

And then I think that'll be the last thing I would just leave people with is try to build it into not just a task that is done, but really think about it as a way of being, and I think that the more you integrate those into everything that you do, the more that you'll find, it's not so much a checkbox that.

Tech it's more of this flowing way of moving through life, where you find opportunities to practice it and everything that you do from conversations and the food you eat and the way that you walk to everything. I think that's great 

Adam Coelho:[00:31:02] advice. Yeah. A lot of great advice actually the greatest hits, I'm bad at this,  just to start small, right?

Yeah. I think, you know what I often tell people is start super small. And if you think you can meditate for 10 minutes, meditate for five minutes every day, it's not about how long you meditate for, it's just about doing it. And so whatever amount of meditation you'll do. Do that. And then also just like the idea of just starting again, right?

Just like when we are meditating and our minds wander and we bring it back, it's the same thing with the practice, right? If you fall off the wagon, for whatever reason, you can simply start again, just in the next moment, decide I'm going to take a few mindful breaths or one mindful breath. And so that I find super helpful for me.

And yeah, just of course the idea is to bring this into your life and this all applies to life in general. 

Nicholas Whitaker:[00:31:53] Right? One thing I might just also share with folks too, is there's this idea. I think of inner resources that we tend to understate the inner resources that we have, or faculty or ability to do a thing is often quite a bit greater than when we actually believe that it is.

And this is most clearly demonstrated to me when I took my first. 50 day meditation challenge. There's no way I'm going to be get through this though. So there's just no way. And it's essentially, it was an app based thing, every day you spend 10, 15, 20 minutes doing this meditation and after 50 days you look back and you're like, amazing, and I'm like on day 20 or something like this.

And it was a struggle. There's days that I would mess, like the first 20 days of that car course took me three months to get through, and there's all the narratives we were just talking about this morning. There's one moment. I'm actually went to go visit my family.  And talk about a good opportunity to put that in my mind is all this in practice.

I wouldn't do a visit to the folks and. Fell right back into those old habits of childhood and like the old wounds and old childhood dynamics just popped up. And I'm like suddenly 15, again, hanging out with my parents. And I went back to the hotel room. I'm like, okay, like I just need to sit down and take a few minutes and restart the app.

Yeah, dive dove into it. And then for whatever reason, I can't remember if it was like the audio cutout or if it just pause, but basically it was like this 20 minute meditation then an hour went by and no one rung a bell to pull me out of it, and I sat down and I realized I was like, I just meditated for an hour by accident.

And it felt like it was two minutes. And it made me realize, I was like, Oh, I actually have the capacity to do a lot more of this at a stretch than I think that I am able to. And after that, like the whole rest of the course, it's so much easier to do. Because I just knew, I was like, Oh, I've done this before.

I'm capable of it. So I think part of that too, is just test yourself a little bit and see what your true boundaries are. I think he might be really surprised about what types of resources you have to put towards these types of things. 

Adam Coelho:[00:33:41] Awesome advice. So question number three, is what advice would you give someone on their path to financial independence?

Nicholas Whitaker:[00:33:49] Yeah. I That's the same question, really? The, this idea of path to financial independence,  I'm in a very privileged place in my life where I don't have to worry about groceries anymore. That used to be like the benchmark for me is can I go out and eat at a restaurant with my girlfriend and my wife and not have to worry about if I have enough money?

To pay for rent. That's changed now quite a bit. Now it's more can afford groceries, cause I don't really go out to eat anymore. That's just not part of our strategy because the amount of money that we spend on going out, it would have to be a bang up experience. I'll pay money for experiences.

I won't necessarily pay money for, we have somebody to cook some food for me. I'd rather do that myself. In terms of thinking about your path towards financial independence I'd say pay a lot of attention to what you think independence means to you. Like for me, I have flexibility with my finances in such a way that I'm able to put a huge chunk of my money towards retirement.

So again, I'm thinking about that future neck, that future. Relationship with my wife, but what type of lifestyle we want to have, and I've got a crystal clear vision of what that looks like to me, what does it feel like? Where am I at? What are the activities that I'm doing? And I've practiced this regularly, just thinking about it.

And then from there I'm able to think about, okay what are the steps that I need to take in order to get there and get it down on paper? I think a lot of people get really squishy when it comes to money. They're like, Oh, I'm not good with math. I'm not good with finances. It just freaks me out to think about like my bank balance and stuff.

Can I challenge you on that? I would say let's actually get this down on a spreadsheet, and I have, for my purposes started with a weekly budget. It was just like, how much money am I spending a week? Same thing with the time thing and the attention thing. Let's take a look at all the different outputs and inputs.

Where's this going? I was like, okay, I can call out. A couple of hundred dollars in subscriptions that I don't need and, entertainment that I'm spending money on. I can stop going out to eat. I can do these other things instead. And doing that process I think is really a helpful place to start.

And then from there, is essentially. Figuring out what are the non-negotiables in terms of money for you? For me I need a house, I need a roof over my head. I need, access to nature. I need to be able to eat healthy food, so those are the kind of the big important potents for me that then I make other decisions by, so I might skip a vacation here and there.

The vacation for us might just be like, grab some firewood and head up to the mountains and not these days because of the fires, but head to a camping spot, with some food in the cooler that you cook yourself and spend a couple days out in nature. You're talking about things that are important.

That's what a great vacation to me. And then from there, I think it's understand, this is not just a destination that you're trying to get to. It's again, it's a way of, it's a lifestyle. It's a way of being, so you're not necessarily Oh, my goal is to be, Yogi on the top of the mountain meditating for three months at a stretch, or my goal is to be retired at 35 and have $3 million in the bank,  and be able to spend the rest of my life, like doing whatever.

It's not that for me, it's more like, how am I putting this into practice now in this moment, am I thinking about this as a longterm lifestyle choice and retirement? Isn't really the goal for me. It's sustainability, it's I want to be a hundred and still be able to live the lifestyle that I'm living now.

Based off of the money, that's generating more revenue for me, more income, whatever it might be, so having that long-term vision and understanding that it's a way it's past and that, that path and that journey on the path is more important component versus like the end goal, I think, is something I really want to reinforce to people because I think again, you'll find a million different reasons not to get to that point.

And it's Oh, it's once coronavirus has down here, let's see, election is done. Everything will be fine. It will be miserable the whole way up until then. It's same with financial independence. It's Oh, I don't have $2 million in the bank. And I'm still having to work the stupid job, like that's a terrible approach.

That's going to prevent you from getting to where you need to go because your mindset isn't right. But if you're approaching it from, this is just how I live. These are the values that I live myself by. You'll find that your. Your level of quality of life is quite a bit higher, the entire process along the way.

And then at some point in 20, 30 years, you're like, Oh yeah, I actually have enough money. I don't have to work anymore. I can actually just let my work, my money work for me and spend my time doing charitable things or whatever it might be. Yeah. 

Adam Coelho:[00:37:59] I think that's awesome advice and something that I need to remind myself again and again, And the final question is how can people find you online and connect with what 

Nicholas Whitaker:[00:38:09] you're doing?

Yeah, appreciate it. Nicholas Whitaker with one T search for me online. It's pretty easy to find me I'm all over the place, but I have my own website and links to my LinkedIn and my Instagram channel. There are two other podcasts and eventually this podcast will be on there as well.

There's also a prerecorded Instagram TV meditations that I've put up, which are temporarily where I'm housing. Those. And there's this massive backlog of content on Instagram that I've been posting over the last 10 years or so. So that was another thing was like putting into practice and speaking my value.

Others was really the thing. I think that helped me reinforce a lot of these things. So if you go back through my Instagram channel, you'll find my entire philosophy is written down there, plus all like the, how tos are written there. And then as for Mary, there's contact information, a way to reach out to me directly to say you might have questions, or if they're interested in learning a little bit more about my coaching work or the coaching work that I do with teams there's information there for them as well.

Awesome. We'll 

Adam Coelho:[00:39:06] link that up in the show notes and people can check that out. Nick, thanks so much for being here today. It's been awesome. Chatting with you. I feel like I learned so much in this conversation, so thank you for joining me on the mindful fire podcast. 

Nicholas Whitaker:[00:39:18] Thanks so much, Adam, I'm really grateful for the opportunity and best of luck to you be.


Adam Coelho:[00:39:22] Thanks so much for joining me on today's episode of the mindful fire podcast. As a reminder, this is just part one of my conversation with Nick and we'll be releasing part two in which we discuss his approach to financial independence and mindfulness in two weeks on the mindful fire podcast. If you got value from this episode, Please make sure to hit subscribe.

This just lets the providers know you're getting value from the episodes and you want to be here. When we produce additional content. As a reminder, as part of the mindful fire podcast, each week on Tuesday, I release an inspiring interview or a guided meditation. That'll help you explore the ideas of mindfulness and financial independence retire early.

And so I invite you to subscribe wherever you're listening to this. And if you'd like to join our email list, You can do Thanks again. And I'll catch you next time on the mindful fire pod. Yeah.


Nicholas WhitakerProfile Photo

Nicholas Whitaker

Coach, Googler, Meditator

For the past decade, I've leveraged the scale and resources of Google to support users through high impact educational products, programs, and strategic partnerships, reaching more than half a million journalists worldwide. More recently, I've turned my attention inward to support Googlers with impactful educational and career and personal development programs.

Before joining Google, I produced media for news, commercial, entertainment, and advocacy groups, and taught video production and communication theory at several top universities and colleges in New York City.

Overall, I’m a personable and well-traveled professional who’s passionate about solving problems, strengthening businesses, and finding ways to continuously improve myself, my team, and our partner’s/client’s experiences.

From deeply understanding my clients needs, to coaching people on finding balance and building resilience through practical, evidence-based strategies, I apply a mindfulness based approach to everything that I do.

Whether I’m improving learning programs at Google, coaching individual clients, or speaking at events on the intersection of technology, mental health and mindfulness, my joy as a professional comes from building relationships and ensuring people have access to the resources they need to succeed.