Aug. 3, 2021

39 : The Art of Self Improvement Through Deliberate Practice with Dan Arwady

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 so glad you're here.

I am so thrilled to bring you today’s episode with my good friend, Dan Arwady. Dan works at YouTube and heads up Partner Engineering for the YouTube Music Labels operations team. On the side, he's an engineering student, a drummer, a music producer, and an amateur woodworker, and when he's really doing life right he's a meditator and an avid reader too. But in reality, he's usually spending a bunch of quality time with his 1 year old son TJ, his wife Ang, and his dog Levi.

This conversation truly felt like 2 good friends catching up and talking about life and as a result we forgot to have Dan introduce himself until about 40 minutes into the conversation. Luckily we were recording the whole time and caught all of the gems he had to share. Editing was interesting to say the least and took me longer than usual but I am really proud of the resulting episode and it was an exercise in practicing my craft of podcasting, which we discuss in the episode.

In this conversation we dive into the many lessons Dan has learned in his pursuit to constantly learn and grow as a person and musician through deliberate practice. Dan is an incredibly talented musician, playing several instruments but with a focus on drums. We discuss how he approached getting better at drums through deliberate practice even when he didn’t have much time because of work and life. And he also shares how he continues to hone his skills as a drummer by working with expert coaches and now collaborating with friends to put his music out in the world. He just released his first solo track which you can check out on Spotify.

In the last 5 years Dan has also made a career switch from Sales to Engineering at Google, which I can tell you is extremely difficult and not something many people are able to pull off. Dan shares how he came to love engineering and how he went about learning this difficult skills, ultimately finding himself pursuing a second Bachelors of Engineering and Computer Science, all while working full time and starting a family.

Dan shares a ton of incredible wisdom throughout the episode and I throw in a few pieces of wisdom I’ve picked up over the years as well.

As you may have noticed, on recent episodes of the podcast I’ve talked a lot about “envisioning” which is all about using the power of your predicting and ever changing brain to create the life you’ve always dreamed of. If you were ever curious about my current vision, we go into it in detail. I won’t spoil it here, you’ll have to listen to the whole episode to hear the wild ideas floating around in my mind, many of which are already starting to come together in my life.

I hope you enjoy this episode and I would absolutely love to hear what you think. Drop me a DM on Instagram @themindfulfirepodcast and don’t forget to subscribe for new episodes every Tuesday!

Be well, my friends.

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🔥 Crafting a LIFE YOU LOVE starts with getting clear on the VISION of what you actually want.

🔥 Download my Free Envisioning Guide to get started right now!




Adam Coelho: 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 so glad you're here. On today's episode. I'm joined by my friend, Dan . Dan works at YouTube and heads up partner engineering for the YouTube music labels operations team. 

On the side he's an engineering student, a drummer, a music producer, and an amateur woodworker.  And when he's really doing life, right, he's a meditator and an avid reader too. But in reality, he's usually spending a bunch of quality time with his one-year-old son, TJ, who's a tornado of joy and mirth. 

Originally from Chicago. Dan now lives in the small surf town of Pacifica, California with TJ,  his wife, Angie, and their dog Levi who's also full of opinions.

I'm excited to have Dan join me on the show today because he's really a student of life and he's got some really great ideas around building skills and deliberate practice. And he's applied these [00:01:00] skills to teach himself to be a world-class musician and to pivot from a career in sales to a career in engineering and is actually applying those skills to his work at YouTube.

You can find the full show notes for today's episode, including links, resources, and books that we discussed  at 

   Let's jump into today's episode. 

 Welcome to the mindful fire podcast, Dan. I'm really glad to have you here. 

Dan Arwady: Thanks Adam. Thank you for having me. I'm really excited to be here. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah. And for the audience, just to give you a little background about how Dan and I know each other Dan and I used to work on the same team at Google and I met Dan when I was visiting some clients in Chicago, probably about five years ago.

Now I was fairly new to the team. It was my first trip over there. And Dan. [00:02:00] Introduced himself. And somehow we ended up going for a walk to just get to know each other and chat about work and life and all of that. And next thing you know, we're walking around for three hours in Chicago. We walked all the way to lake Michigan and ended up grabbing a beer over there and just really connected on life and have a similar way of thinking about some things.

And so it was  really cool and we've been pretty good friends ever since we don't get to hang out as often as I'd like, but it's really cool to have you here and to dive into some interesting topics with you today. 

Dan Arwady: Yeah, 

thanks, man. For having me.

 We were talking on the phone a couple of weeks ago.

I was thinking about that walk completely independently in this whole thing and no, it was such a great day. It was a great day at work. I remember the weather being beautiful and we were just hanging out.  For me, I love  a good walk and talk is that's exactly how I  to have conversations.

 I just said that it's  one of the most entertaining [00:03:00] things to me and it was so cool getting to know you that day.  I knew you were just an awesome person from that moment on.

So it was really cool that we got stay in touch and I think it's so cool you're doing this. And for the record We always ask Adam to come and do guided meditations and stuff for our teams. I think my wife reached out to him and he's done a bunch of these,  for other teams at Google and YouTube and things like that just cause he's the boss. 

So yeah, I think what you're doing is really cool. I feel like you're bringing a lot of value to everybody and when you're doing this stuff, so thanks for having me on. nice to be. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah, man, my pleasure. 

And it's funny to think that I led that session for Ang's team and that has grown into something.  I created it for her team but I've actually since been teaching that course with Paul,  Paul, my manager for those listening. We've been teaching it together for teams all across Google. Now we've probably done it  10 times already. And so it's pretty cool. It's  all about building resilience through mindfulness.

And so that really started with your wife's team. 

[00:04:00] Dan Arwady: Yeah. That's so cool. I'm glad that you could take that. And actually keep spreading that around. I remember her saying that people were, having trouble paying attention and all that stuff with other parts of the day.

And then, you came in and you gave that session and people were  reinvigorated and  sharing again. It was super helpful for them. So it's awesome that you  could take that in and keep going with it. I think you've always, really had a good gift for that. Taking meditation and mindfulness and all that stuff and  turning it, not into this  abstract concept.

Hey, anybody can do this, take these principles,  I'll walk you through it a few times and then it's not that hard,  you can access this whenever you want to get there. And I think that's cool. I think it's really, it's very impactful.

Adam Coelho: Yeah. appreciate that. And yeah that's the goal.  I think that with this podcast, especially right,  mindfulness, financial independence, both of them seem like they could be very complex and difficult, but when you really boil it down, they can also be super simple and make a huge impact in your life by just sticking to the basics.

And so I appreciate you saying then definitely [00:05:00] is the goal, and I'm realizing it as you say that. 

So thank you. 

What's alive for you, man. What's going on?

Dan Arwady: I have a lot of different things happening right now, which has been cool.  That's actually made my Headspace pretty divided. I was going to tell you, I've been doing your guided meditations. Nice, super good. The one about being that you put out, 

Adam Coelho:  just being, 

Dan Arwady: yeah, I've actually done that one twice a day, the last night. And I did it a couple of days before that. It's great man, really helpful.  At the end of the day, I feel  I've got so much going on. Trying to calm that down. That's a really good meditation for that. so, Well, awesome. 

Adam Coelho: I appreciate it, man.

There's something about  being intentional and saying, look right now, I'm going to just set everything to the side and I'm just going to be here and I'm just going to feel what's going on. I'm going to get carried away and I'm going to come back and that's it. That's all there is to do right now.

 I went to a retreat with John and Will Kabat-Zinn  right before Carter was born. And they have this phrase  just this [00:06:00] in-breath . All you got to focus on right now is this in breath? That's it. And then this out-breath and each one is unique.

 I find that so liberating.  You, don't got to worry about anything beyond this in breath. I can do that. 

Dan Arwady:  That is a good technique too, because , so I was trying to watch the breath and do all that stuff last night. And even in between when I got to the peak of the in breath and when I got to the peak of the out-breath  once I really paid attention, I could start to feel that's where my brain would start to wander.

And once I started to notice that you had a really good line in there, you were   if you're going into story mode, just let that happen. That's part of the moment too. And I was like,, yeah, that is part of this moment right now. And it was just noticing that made me realize that my attention can get hijacked very quickly.

 It actually calmed me down just noticing.  That was really cool. I think  has a really well done guided meditation. I think a lot of people end up talking too much in a lot of those guided things,  constantly interrupting and you do a really good job of [00:07:00] setting somebody up and then giving them space.

So yeah, I've found a great, really helpful. 

Adam Coelho: That's great. And I'm glad to hear it and I appreciate  the feedback. For me, when I started meditating my mind was all over the place. And I was convinced I was doing it wrong, and that, that was something to avoid.

The thoughts and the story that was going in my head, but, really credit to will Kabat-Zinn and Jon Kabat-Zinn, I've really started to realize the self-compassion piece that just including it in awareness, right? All we're really practicing is awareness and attention.

And so this field of awareness can be large enough to include everything. And, resisting that thinking is happening is not really useful. And so just include it in awareness, see it, and then, make the choice to come back and start again. And then you'll get carried away over and over again.

And something that was also helpful is that is the practice, right? The practice is not having no thoughts. The practice is noticing where your attention is and [00:08:00] if it's not where you intended it to be bringing it back. So that  helped a lot. 

Dan Arwady: Yeah. I love that you go really deep into that topic too.

Adam Coelho:   Dan, I'd love to have you share with the audience a little bit about who you are and what you're up to in the world. 

Dan Arwady: Oh man. Okay. I struggle with the who you are questions. That's why the mindfulness stuff is so helpful. I live in Pacifica, California right now, which is a hip little surf town, I love living here.

Everyone's really chill. It's a very cool vibe. So anyways, we've been living here for about three years. married. I live here with my wife, Angela and my one-year-old son, TJ, and we have a second one on the way. So we got a little family thing going on.

And of course my dog Levi, very important.  So yeah we live here. I've Finally been working in the music business now for about four or five years now at Google. Started working on Google, play music and then moved over to YouTube music. And that's what I do currently. I'm in a operations engineering role there.

So I lead up  what's [00:09:00] called partner engineering, and we do a lot of tool building and  infrastructure work for the record labels the United States. So work with a lot of the indie record labels in particular, but build some stuff that's used also for the major labels to hear.

So a lot of my day to day is just working with the record labels and gathering requirements and then basically going back to my laptop and, whipping things up and doing that with a lot of other really capable and very smart people. It's a very cool job.  I work with really amazing people.

So I feel very lucky to have it. And so that's what I'm doing most of my days on the side I'm a musician. I have been since I was  12, I started taking lessons and just completely fell in the hall of music. And it's dictated so much of my life since then.  I still practice regularly.

I love it. I listened to music all the time with my son and  were playing together a lot with drums and stuff. He's getting into it, which is really cool to see. So I do a lot of stuff with music on the side. I'm a session drummer. I record a lot of drum tracks for [00:10:00] people. I'm collaborating with a few folks.

My brother's a great musician, for example.  In the process of doing a record together and a good friend of mine, Harry Griffin I'm working with a lot. He's actually another  guy who works at Google phenomenal musician. And so we're doing some stuff together, so that keeps me pretty busy.

And then on this side,  I also really love engineering. I fell in love with engineering late in life, so to speak it wasn't something I went to college for, but I started to really get into that. I love it very much. And that's been really feeding  the curiosity part of me, you were talking about really, getting into curiosity this year.

And so I'm actually back in school now getting a bachelor's in computer science and for engineering. So  these classes are so hard to, and they're taking up a lot of time . it's been hard to keep up. But there's this sort of  independent reward I'm getting from that.

And it's been really fun to do it too. It's gotten me through COVID in a lot of ways. Cause I feel very busy. I feel  I'm tired at the end of every day, but it feels like I'm tired in a good way.  Like it was a really fun day, I'm just worn out. And so yeah, that's what I'm all about and what [00:11:00] I'm up to right now.

And focusing my family and on those things. And that's been the way it's been for a few years now. 

Adam Coelho:  That's really cool. Sounds great.  One thing that always struck me about you is just how you approach learning new things.  When I was in Chicago, when we first met or perhaps another time, they had a little music room there and I remember you Harry and Doug all kind of jamming there. And I guess I was just sitting around listening which is great. Cause I did a good job at that. But yeah, it was just super cool.

And just seeing  how good you were at drumming.  But you were still improving constantly. And I remember you telling me how you actually hired a coach to teach you how to drum faster and better. And I don't know exactly what those terms are, for drumming. 

Dan Arwady:  First of all, thanks, man.

I appreciate you saying that. And drums are interesting for me because I quote, unquote, play a lot of instruments.  I can play the bass a little bit. I play some [00:12:00] guitar, I play piano. I'm  an okay singer, but  all those things really had this natural ceiling for me.  I got, okay, Adam, I got pretty good, but if I wanted to keep going further, I would have taken quite a bit of effort.

And I almost understand the theory of them a little bit more than  the performance aspect of it. Whereas with drums, I always felt oh man, if I just throw a few more hours against this there's there's more to dig there. You know what I mean?  I can find more there and that's just always been exciting to me.

 For my whole life, I love the drums. I just love them. It just makes me so happy,  when I'm playing them. And so the idea of Getting better at it just to get better at it. It's  completely joyful.  It's  exactly what I love to do. If I had a lot of spare time on my hands, I'd probably just sit around and do some lessons again and do, work on a books and try and make some  incremental progress.

But anyways, yeah, that's just always been my instrument. And I think, I don't think everybody has the same instrument,  my brother again, great musician. And he plays a little bit of [00:13:00] drum street. It's kind of like that where he he plays a lot of different things and he has that with the guitars and incredible guitarist.

And he just he's, he was great when he was 18, but  he's better now and he's better now than he was  three or four years. Oh, go. I think as you get older, you start to listen to things differently and you start to say, man, I just love the way that feels.

I love the way that sits in the pocket and it's not flashy. It's just perfect. It's  going from being a chef that has to use every crazy 21st century technique to make some  far out meal to being , I'm going to make you the best sandwich you've ever had. You've had a million sandwiches, but this sandwich is just going to kick ass.

And man I love  someone who can take something and it's a simple thing on its surface, but it's years and years of practice that turned it into this  beautiful marvelous thing. And that's  how I'm trying to approach music now.  What do I really love to listen to?

And why do I like to listen to it? I love a lot of Motown music and a lot of  stuff from Stax [00:14:00] records, like Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin recordings and things like that. And they're not hard tunes per se. If you were starting to play the piano or the drums or something like that,  a year or two into it, you should probably be able to  noodle around on those students.

They're not like classical compositions or anything like that, where they take years before you can even get there. But the reason they work so well is because they're beautifully simplistic and they're played perfectly with this gorgeous,  soul and collaboration between musicians.

And it almost feels like you're observing this moment in time,  and  everyone was at that exact moment. Everyone was right together and they were playing together in this studio and they were making music and it's like, you're lucky enough to just get to sit back and observe that. And. I love that stuff.

And so now when I try to play, I try to approach it from that point of view, like what's the simplest most beautiful way I could do this instead of what's the thing that everyone's going to think is the coolest on the internet or something like that. So it was a really long answer to that thought, but I think about this a lot. [00:15:00] I love music very much, 

Adam Coelho: Thanks for sharing that.   It's not just with the music, but with engineering, right?  It's a pretty daunting task to say. I don't want to do sales anymore. I want to get into engineering. And so I'd love to have you share how you think about the idea or the concept of practice and improvement.

Dan Arwady: Yeah. Okay. I would love to. So that was a big switch in my life, going from sales to engineering. And it wasn't something that  the outside world was just going to let me do very easily. I couldn't just go knock on the engineering door and be like,, Hey, I like engineering.

Can I please do this? And they're like,, well, no, you obviously can't. You don't have any of the requisite skills. You don't have a degree. You have no idea what you're doing. The stuff we're doing is very important. And you're going to screw this up. We're not going to just let you do that.

And I say all that, because there were a lot of people who did help me. There were a lot of people who, so I was passionate about it and really helped call me out in terms of building my skills. But in terms of, so the way [00:16:00] that I approached it, I think a lot of people get into engineering because they see dollar signs in their eyes and they're like,, oh, you're working out in California or New York or Chicago or wherever you're working.

And that's a very highly paid position at a given company, especially a company like, a tech company. So I want that because I want to make a lot of money. And honestly, if that's the reason you're doing it, it's probably a stupid reason because it's a really frustrating job.

It takes a lot of brain power and a lot of work to  sometimes do something very simple. A lot of ways, I feel a lot more drained  at the end of the day than I did when I was doing sales, because it can take a lot out of you, but as far as the approach to that  I think if you really fall in love with a lot of the cool aspects of it, which is no one really thinks of engineering is  a creative thing.

They think it's very left brain. Like, Oh, it's a very math, heavy thing to do. And in a lot of ways, it is you have to. He use a lot of logic. A lot of times there was a lot of math and counting and things like that. But the reason it was so cool to me and the reason it was worth the work was because [00:17:00] you get to build stuff, you get to create things, you get to take what's in your brain, you're envisioning, okay, well, this is what it would look like at the end.

And you get to break that down into these little component parts, and then you go start working on these little component parts. And before you know, it you've built this thing, that's an amazingly rewarding thing. , it feels similar to me to building a piece of music.

So the way I approached it was first I had that kind of epiphany. I started to code very  lightly. And I was like,, this is awesome. I love that part of it. And I know that I am scraping the very tip of the iceberg here. So I started to practice. I was like, , okay, I know what I can't do.

So I started to watch some YouTube videos. I asked for a little bit of a harder project to work, and I tried to work backwards and figure it out. And every time I got into trouble with that I would go and maybe ask a question here or there. A lot of times I am embarrassed to say this, but a lot of times I just went on stack overflow or YouTube.

And I just started to say, okay, what exactly is my question? And that's what I got [00:18:00] better and better at.  At first it was , I didn't even know a question ask. I was , it doesn't work, but I don't know why. But then I started to say, okay, but why doesn't it work? And once I got better at figuring out what question to ask, suddenly the internet was  wide open to me and I would just ask these questions and he would be , Hey, here's a 10 minute video of exactly what you're trying to do.

And you can see this concept. And I started to learn more concepts. And then I started to do  a 20% project at work, which really meant  I kept my normal job, but I went to an engineering team and I said, Hey, I like this at some point in my life. I don't know when, but I'd like to do this, do you guys have any  crappy throw away work that you don't want to do and is not important?

So that way when I screw it up, which I will.  Things don't break and other people are pissed off, right? Is there anything like that out there? And I got really lucky because this team was like,, totally, we got stuff like that. And this one guy in particular, Tim Ashley at work,  totally mentored me, helped me out with several projects.

And that's [00:19:00] how I started to learn how to do it at Google, which is a lot different even than learning outside of Google, because Google has a lot of its own very unique systems. And at the same time he was like,, look, you need a better academic,  understanding of what's going on under the hood.

And that's when I started to take classes, I was like,, I do need to start to understand the stuff better. And so I went back to school and dude going back to school is not that hard anymore. I went back to a community college here to take  calculus again , that was hard. I forgot how hard calculus is 10 years after.

You've seen calculus, but Once I brushed the rest off.  I realized that okay,  a class at a community college, even  an engineering class was  a couple hundred bucks. That's pretty attainable, and totally worth doing. And then I started to do on.

Then I actually found Oregon state university does an online bachelor's program in computer science for people who already have bachelor's degrees. So you don't have to do the electives and all that stuff. Again, I just started to  fall in love with learning about this stuff. And then I started to read about it and I got really into it.

And [00:20:00] then you start to see what other people are doing with it. And you start to appreciate the craft and like the art of it. And I remember feeling  that with music too. It was  when I started to play the drums, I'd listened to a song and be like,, wow,  that drummer, like suddenly it was , I could hear differently or something like that.

And this sort of had that same effect. I started to see stupid apps online and be like,, man, that's  really cool the way that they did that. So anyways long winded way of saying I kept getting deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. The hardest part was balancing that with the rest of my life.

I was doing that while working full time. Actually my dad passed away,  while that was happening, which was really hard. But in a lot of ways, school gave me a little bit of an escape.  I had to pay such strict attention. Cause it was so challenging.

The material was that I didn't really have time to focus on other things. And it was actually  a bit of a good coping mechanism. Like I said, it's been great for COVID. And I'm almost done now. I think I have four classes left and then I have. A bachelor's in engineering and computer science, and it's just been  one class at a time.

And  [00:21:00] doing more and more complicated stuff at work. And now I feel very comfortable doing a lot of these things. So it was a very slow process. And I think if you concentrate on how good you are at any given moment, it's it just, it's very deflating. You're  like, I have been working on this for three years and I still don't know how to do the simple thing, but that's not really the way to look at it.

 What's the best way to eat an elephant one bite at a time. And if you just really say, well, , I don't have to be a great engineer tomorrow. I just have to show.  I just have to keep doing this. And at some point I'm going to get better.

If you just trust that you're going to get better. That's true of anything in life.  You don't have to lose weight in a month, you just have to keep going to the gym and show up.  Anything that you find in life where you're like,, okay, this is a really long, hard struggle, and it's going to take awhile to show outcomes, quit focusing on outcomes.

Just do one thing over and over again. And it's  compound interest. It'll eventually just work out. Suddenly one day, it'll be like,, oh, this doesn't feel so hard anymore. [00:22:00] And  you'll swim past that Breakwater and I'm really glad I did it. It's been  one of the best things I've done in my life.


Adam Coelho: Very cool. Yeah.  Talk a little bit more about how you think about.  Letting go of the outcome and just focusing on practice. 

Dan Arwady: Yeah. You got to love practice. I think it's very anxiety inducing to look at an outcome and say, I should've been an engineer by now, or I should be making this much money by now or anything  that.

And I'm not, I think there's a lot of failure feelings that  come along with that. If you can take those and put those on a shelf and just say, man, I just really love spending this 20 minutes learning about this topic. If you start to actually mean that like, if you really find something where it's like,  I got 20 minutes to kill, I'm going to watch a YouTube video on how they did this particular thing.

And. That's when things really start to unlock. And to be clear, I don't feel like that about everything. There's a lot of stuff that I don't care that deeply about. So I think I innately [00:23:00] found something in engineering or in drumming or whatever, where it was giving me that  dopamine hit  just, by learning more about it.

And if you find those things in life, pay attention,  hold onto those things, even if they're just hobbies or whatever. Because if you fall in love with practicing anything, everything else just works out.  Everything else is easy. There's actually a happiness response there.

So I stopped measuring myself against the other great engineers. I knew I stopped.  Caring that this kid who's 18 years old could totally beat me in a hackathon,  figure this problem out in five minutes when it took me  three days. You can get super deflated like that.

And I see that happen with people, with music all the time. They , they're like,, cool. I could play a song. And then they go and look up somebody on YouTube. And they're like,, oh my God, this guy is  light years better than me. And he's half my age. What am I even doing here? And when you start to say, look, that's not the point.

It's you  you're trying to improve. And  if you just stop and say, yeah, I just want to be a little bit [00:24:00] better than Dan yesterday. I want to be a little bit more educated than Dan last year. That doesn't seem so scary anymore. You can do that. All you have to do is break it into really bite sized chunks.

And so I guess the short answer to that is. Find happiness and practice, and that becomes a little bit of a habit. And then you start to realize when you don't do it, you start to be like,, man, I feel like I'm missing something from today. Oh, it's cause I didn't sit and,  practice or do anything, with my goals today and go find 15 minutes, 15 minutes is not that hard to find.

And don't be afraid of only spending five to 15 minutes on something. I think people get a lot of failure out of that too. They're like,, I'm going to put an hour in every day and then they don't. And that's because putting an hour in everyday is very difficult. Even with the best of intentions.  You're probably taking that hour away from your spouse or from your kid or even from your work or from yourself or whatever five minutes is cool.

Put in five minutes a day, it's so much better to just make a habit than it is [00:25:00] to,  say that you did this marathon for a long time. 

I read a really cool Jerry Seinfeld trick where he had a calendar and he said, I'm going to write something every day and it doesn't have to be anything. It could fit on a post-it note.

But if I do that, I'm going to have a big wall calendar on my wall. And if I do that in a day, I'm going to put a big X through that day. And if I don't, then I'm not going to put that big X there, mind you, this is there's no app. There's no nothing. It's just a fricking wall calendar with a sharp.

Okay. And he said, and then all I had to do is just not break the chain. He's like, I just didn't break the chain. And so what made that work for him? He made goal very achievable. It was , write a joke on a post-it note, that takes 10 minutes, especially if you're Jerry Seinfeld, you could probably  whip that up very quickly and not all the jokes are going to be good.

They're not all going to be usable. But just write it and if you do it, go put your X on the wall. And that's a very visual reminder of Hey, I said I was going to do something and I made it really small and easy for myself to do it. And then I didn't do it. I'm going to go do [00:26:00] that right now. And I thought that was just one of the coolest productivity tracks.

And I started to do that  with practicing. It worked really well for me so yeah, make it small, make it achievable and just keep doing it. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah. That's great advice, and it's actually something that came up in another episode. I think it's episode 14 with Morgan Bricca who I've had on the podcast three times.

 She's a professional mural artist. And so obviously has put a lot of thought into practicing as well. She shared something which is basically the same idea. It's  the habits that you want to be embodying and just checkboxes.

It's nothing fancy. And  you just put a check, if you did the thing that you said you wanted to do, that you thought would support you in, ultimately for her, it ladders up into how she wants to feel.   For me, I had my meditation affirmations, movement.

And it doesn't have to be that big of a deal. It doesn't have to be an hour long. It's did I do it?   She has the one that I took that is called [00:27:00] daily greens.  Did I eat something that's a vegetable or a salad?

And if I did, I get a check and then, each night when you go and you do these checks, then you see how I haven't moved in a few days  is that important to me? And if it is then tomorrow, maybe I'll do it so I can get my check.  And so I thought that was pretty cool.


Dan Arwady:  I think it's so cool. First of all, you can do that with anything. I was just going to say that it doesn't have to be  engineering or music.  You could do that with a salad.  I'm gonna eat a salad every day, put an X, if I do that, you can do that with saving.

And everyone's always oh, you should be putting it aside, X percent of your income, blah, blah, blah. That's achievable for some people and not for others, but you could take a buck out of your wallet and put it in a drawer every day. And I think making it so small that it's almost impossible not to achieve it.

If you just care about it and then reminding yourself that you didn't do it. That's where the mindfulness part comes in. That's where the I'm not just floating around in a stream, getting bounced around by all these external stimuli. I have no control over what's going on. That's  the [00:28:00] check mark brings you to the president says, Hey, I made a promise to myself.

Did I do this or not?  And how hard is it to really go do that right now? And that's, I think why the system works, it has to be really achievable and it has to be very simple. And the other thing I read about with this too, is that then some people start to beat themselves up when they don't get the checkmark, because every so often you don't and that's completely fine.

It's not important. Whether you got a check mark on June, It's not going to matter. What's important is whether or not by June 8th, you got another check. So  you fell off the horse. Everybody does, and that's completely cool. Don't beat yourself up, but tomorrow's another day. Just do it tomorrow.

And if you don't do it tomorrow, do it the next day, but don't stop doing it for four months, then there's something different going on. And I think that's a really good way to,  to turn small things into habits and habits are really what, where you end up getting outcomes.

Anyway, it's from really small work over a [00:29:00] really long period of time,  so yeah, I love that she's using that system too. I think that's really cool. I also love that it's on paper,  we both work in.  And so it feels  there should be a tech answer to everything, but should there 

Adam Coelho: necessarily.

Dan Arwady: Yeah, I think it's cool to just be able to do that. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah. It's been great. Honestly,  I've fallen off the wagon with it a little bit, but when I had it next to where I brushed my teeth also known as  the sink  when I put it there, it's just I go there, I plug in my phone and then I check, check.

It's one of those things that, as you said, you don't have to get a check every day and. It's not that big of a deal that I didn't keep doing this.

I can just start again. Just like when you're meditating your mind wanders, you can start again, you don't meditate one day or for a week. You can always just start again. And that is something that's been really challenging for me to remember, and also really liberating when I actually do remember it, because,  I tend to make things into a much bigger deal than they need to be.

 Like I want to start a podcast. [00:30:00] Okay. I have no idea about podcasting, nothing, zero. Then I was like, oh, does it need to be a blog and a podcast? What should it be called?  It's like a million things. And then at some point my friend was like, I think you're, over-complicating this.

And I'm like, yeah, I am. And so then I was like, okay, I'm just going to invite someone to the party. So I asked someone, a friendly that was going to say yes, and then I did it.  I  had it recorded.

And then a friend I met at Google through meditation. He was like, wait a second. You're telling me you already have it recorded and you haven't put it out.  Just put it out,  just get it out there. And I did. And that one action was the thing that created all of this momentum.

And sure. I have  a long way to go. Just taking step after step, just little by little has really helped and resulted in a good amount of progress.  I have a podcast, I've had, 2000 plus downloads, maybe 2200 downloads since I launched the podcast and that feels pretty good, and people have told me that [00:31:00] it is really helpful for them, so that's been 

Dan Arwady: great.

 It's so cool. That's exactly the thing I was talking about before, because dude, all you did, you just jumped into the pool and that's the hardest part about swimming, right?

It's ah, I've got to jump into this cold swimming pool and it's but you did. And you did that. And now it's I don't know what it is to be a podcaster or a blogger or have a great podcast, but I can go make one more episode. And once the cost of making one more episode goes down.

 Before you know it, dude, you're going to have a hundred episodes and you're going to listen to episode a hundred and into your back, man.  That feels a lot better than episode number one, dead. But it's not because you sat and practiced or something at least not deliberately, you just kept the habit.

You kept doing it over and over again. You didn't give up. And  you started to develop the craft. think it's the coolest thing.  Everybody always says, I want to start a podcast, but you actually started a podcast and that's the difference.  You actually ended up going and [00:32:00] doing it. And I think that's very admirable.

It's really neat. , 

Adam Coelho: I appreciate it, dude.  

 Let's talk a little bit more about  this topic of deliberate practice 

Dan Arwady:  The practice thing is cool because I actually, I love practicing,  just the act of practicing to me is very sensible thing to do. If I had a lot of free time, I would love to just be ,  sitting,  outside with a practice pad  for drums and just  just doing some exercises or doing yoga or doing anything that's kinda repetitive, but gets you into that zone.

 That's very much where my happy place is. And I'm realizing that about meditation to that.  The more I do it, the more  I'm triggering that same feeling that I get when I'm doing those other sort of practice exercises.

And it's a very good state of mind for me. I feel very calm. I feel  the world can just wash over me.  I can just take it as it comes. It's definitely, where my best self lies. 

I think most of my life  it's been this struggle of having a lot to do and  wanting to  really go and maybe achieve something or try to go and accomplish something or learn [00:33:00] something, or really try to work hard and do that stuff.

And that sort of pulls counter to the thing I was just talking about, which is, it's okay to hone a craft over a very long time or, hone yourself over a very long period of time and just do the same thing. And don't worry about progress. 

Progress really doesn't matter. It's much more  progress is almost an effect, and it's a nice thing that happens from generating really good habits. And so that's always been a dichotomy in my life because, on one side,  I want to be going and doing all the time, and another side  I'm happiest when I'm just sitting and being, and so that's always been a bit of a balancing act for me.

Do you know what I'm saying with that? Does that ever cross your mind too? 

Adam Coelho: Absolutely. It resonates a.

What you were talking about is spot on,  there's so much striving in the world and I don't know if it's  people like us, but certainly people that work at Google are striving constantly, but I feel like everyone is doing that to some degree.

And. [00:34:00] It's just this focus outcomes that I think is really detrimental to actually going where you want to go. Because if you feeling  you're not where you should be, then you have a sense of lack, a sense of scarcity, and then you're acting from that place. As opposed to  operating from a grateful place, or just  a curiosity.

And so for me, I've really been trying to cultivate a mindset of curiosity, of practice and of ease this year. Those are the things that I, tell myself in my affirmation practice that I do  when I actually do it. And  that makes a huge difference. It's a totally different feeling.

 I think about that all the time, honestly,  that's so important and so easy to forget, especially when you're trying to do things and learn things. 

Dan Arwady: Yeah, no, I know it's cause it's not  the way that things are really set up.

No, one's giving you pats on the back for that. It's much more set up for outcomes and for the things [00:35:00] we were just talking about. 


Yeah. And  I actually really love the financial independence part of that because I feel , okay, so for the audience, I live now  basically in Silicon valley, that's where I work.

I've lived here for about four or five years now. And I'm from Chicago originally, as Adam mentioned, I'm born and raised in that area. And so moving out here, there's a real difference in, people's goals and the way that they look at their lives and things like that. Silicon valley is very competitive.

 I feel  there's a lot of focus on how much money people make or what position they are at a company, or whether they're achieving these life goals and all this kind of stuff. Some of that's  healthy. I don't think people are malicious or bad or anything like that.

  There's a lot of people out here that just view the world that way oh, okay. I'm going to go out and give it my best shot. And then, it means to give it my best shot. But  to bring that back to my original point. It's cool that instead of talking about how you can get your next billion users or make your next billion dollars or whatever, I feel  that's where the talk always comes [00:36:00] from out here.

It's oh, how do I go from basically, okay. To completely rich overnight, by the way I want to do that in my thirties. I don't want to be rich in my sixties. I need to be rich  now,  tomorrow. And sure. If that's really what you want to do, I'm totally cool with that. If that's really how you want to orchestrate your life.

 There's a stress factor that comes with not having enough money. And I've been there in  various parts of my life, not just personally, some stuff with my family too. And there's a very real stress response that comes from that and quelling that and achieving financial independence.

So you don't have that anymore. There's a freedom to that. And it doesn't actually take a lot of money to get there. You can do that with a day job. You can do that in a lot of different ways. But I like that it's not like, Hey, here's how to get rich. It's like, Hey, here's how to make this not such a big deal in your life anymore.

So you can focus on things that, in my opinion really do matter being present with your family or, learning new things or bettering yourself for bettering your health. [00:37:00] And it's a cool approach. And it's neat that you combine that with mindfulness. I think because I do think there are really.

Adam Coelho: Yeah, absolutely. I think Silicon valley is  America on steroids with regards to striving and chasing money and chasing status and whatever, and again, it's not a bad thing necessarily, but it is exhausting.. 

I think the question that financial independence really points at is what is enough, right?

What is enough to lead a life that is sustainable, comfortable, meaningful?

And honestly, I'll be completely honest.  I struggle with what is enough, right? Because I'm very fortunate. Both of us are very fortunate to work for great company, make great income have all the basics covered.

But, what is enough, and how do you recognize that when you have it in a world, that's constantly saying that more indifferent is better. 

Dan Arwady: Well, and that's the thing that links [00:38:00] this to mindfulness, because if you let other people define what enough is, then you'll always be on that treadmill.

Because it's another people's best interests always make you feel  you don't have enough. That's where all of advertising comes from. Whereas if you sit and ask yourself hard questions okay, when would I be good? When would I be able to stop? What would be enough for me to, maybe change the direction of my life? Is money stopping me from changing the direction of my life?

Those are really scary questions. It's a lot easier to just wake up and go to work the next day than it is to sit and say, Am I doing this because I want to, or am I doing this because I have to? And that's where the mindfulness thing comes in. I think that's where if you stop and you quiet your mind a bit and you start to observe  where your thoughts tend to go.

That's something, I was saying  before,  I've been doing Adam's guided meditations. And I think they're amazing. And I started to notice,  when my mind wanders, there [00:39:00] tends to be a theme and some of it's recency , oh, this is something that came up today at work. Or this is something that came up in one of my classes or whatever.

And some of it is very deep seated.  I tend to go back to certain  hard parts of my life or stuff like that. And I think just noticing that and saying, that's cool, let your mind go there and realizing that's a theme, it gives you a place to start focusing. You start to realize what actually affecting you, or bothering you or giving you a lot of anxiety or anything like that.

 I know,  in certain times in my life, I think some of that was around financial independence. So that makes a lot of sense where you stop you quiet your mind, you start to realize what exactly about money is stressing you out.

There's probably  a fear component there.  And maybe there's a, self doubt or self achievement kind of component. Like,, oh, I thought by the time I was this age, I would have this much saved up or be able to do these things. And I can't.

And so I'm [00:40:00] a failure or something like that. And you start to realize that you get to define that. You get to say, Hey, This is my life, and these are my thresholds. If I want to stay right about here, that's completely fine as long as I'm paying for myself and giving myself and my family, the life that we want.

So anyways, yeah, I do think they're very linked. I think it's very thoughtfully linked in this podcast and it's not a get rich quick kind of thing. It's how do you alleviate the stress that comes from financial stuff? 

Adam Coelho: Yeah, absolutely. It's certainly not get rich quick.

It's been described as get rich slowly. 

It's all about  awareness and choice. I think those are the concepts that relieve link mindfulness and financial independence, because without awareness, you don't know how much money you have, how much money you're spending, how much money your life costs.

And even  where you want to go. Getting to the mindfulness and the just self-awareness really what do I want my life to look ? Have you stopped and thought about that?  And again,  what is [00:41:00] enough? You were describing it in money terms, but  back to what we were talking about before and what we'll get into more, this idea of striving, right?

It's not just about getting rich. It's not about having enough money. It's also about did I do enough today? Am I far enough in my career? Do I have enough friends in good relationships?  Am I enough? Do I feel content with who I am and how I'm living?  

 In my mind, I've felt it like,, oh if only this then I'll be happy and mindfulness really allows you to turn down the volume on everything else so that you can start to see the themes that come up over and over again.  

Right now,  I am absolutely caught up in this idea of building a casita in my backyard with a skate park.

I want to build a thousand square foot skate park slash office slash meditation thing. And my wife is like, you are out of your freaking mind. You are not building that in my backyard. It's ridiculous. But I literally can't stop [00:42:00] thinking about it.  It's bad. 

Dan Arwady: You know what though?   It wouldn't be ridiculous if that's what everybody did, and that's the funny thing is, it's really not that ridiculous.  You own the land  and you can totally go and turn that into something . Those are activities that you enjoy and you're going to hang out with Carter and do that kind of stuff.

 You could argue, there's a lot of value there.  

Adam Coelho: I co-own the land  and there's a constituent that.  Isn't fully unfortunate. 

Dan Arwady: That's going to be some politicking 

Adam Coelho: That's for sure. But anyways, again  I've been thinking about it so much.

It's out of control. 

Dan Arwady: Wait, sorry, man.  Can we talk about that for a second? Where's it coming from? Where did that originate? I love that. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah. So honestly, it's been  a dream of mine for  my whole life, honestly not necessarily this specific incarnation, but so  I used to be very into inline skating,  aggressive, inline skating.

 I would do tricks and I would grind and I would flip and I would spin and all this stuff and I was super into it when I was a kid.  When we were kids  skateboarding and [00:43:00] skating and biking, we're all  the rage, 

Dan Arwady: Yeah. 

Adam Coelho: I was into it and I actually went to this camp called camp Woodward, and it's  the premier action sports facility in the world.

It's amazing. Actually owned by  a company that owns a bunch of snowboarding mountains and things like that now. Putting it out there that I'm going to be getting in touch with them and creating a mindfulness program for them. So I'm putting that out there as well. This is all swirling in my head.

But long story short,  I would go there and it was always my dream to make my own camp Woodward mostly because I wanted to design my own skate park.   Tony Hawk's pro skater had  a way where you could design your own skate park in the game, back in  PlayStation two days.

And I was like,, this is the best. So long story short, I always wanted to design it. My own camp Woodward. And that's  where the entrepreneurial spark came from for me to  eventually do that. And so it's all tied up, and then so now,  I love mindfulness and I  want to lead workshops and [00:44:00] retreats and all of this.

And so it's all coming together. My other related dream is to design and build my own house because I wanted to be an architect, actually, when I was in high school, I took drafting and I got very interested in it and I. Wanted to be an architect.

And then I actually started college as an architecture major, and then very quickly realized this is so hard and I don't necessarily want to do this full time for a career. And thank God that I did make that decision.

It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make because it was my dream. But so again, striving, it was always like,, okay I'll get rich. And then I will become an architect and design and build my own house. And so that was always there.

And so I constantly visualize what I want that house to look . like. And the crazy thing is,  I'm all about envisioning. I've been talking about it a lot on the podcast recently, I'm going to be creating a workshop about it. I'm feeling very called to create a workshop about envisioning.

And I told you, I could talk about this all day. We can teach fascinating. 

 [00:45:00] So I have this visual in my head of what the,  the great room is,  I'll skip all the details. But the wild thing is that I essentially envisioned that house. And then this house is that house.

Dan Arwady: Wow. 

Adam Coelho: This house that we bought in November after moving to New Jersey is so similar.  It has this sunroom that has, a peak roof and some beams across and then windows and sliding glass doors on all sides that go out to a deck. And it's  better than I even imagined, but I didn't even have to build it.

I just walked in,  I bought it and walked in. It's 


So the other thing is I've gotten back into skating. 

Dan Arwady: So  is it hard to  pick it back up? Is it like riding a bike where you could just  getting right back at it or more 

Adam Coelho: or less? Honestly, I haven't done it in like 15 years. At least. And so I was thinking about it for a long time. I listened to this. Talk with this woman, Kelly McGonigal.  She's a Stanford professor, . I heard her on the [00:46:00] 10% happier podcast and she was talking about, if you want to exercise,  do something you'll actually have fun with.

And she's like a great way to figure that out is, think about what you had fun doing as a kid that was exercise. And I was like,, huh, I used to love skating.  Maybe I can get back into skating. And then I'm like,, I don't know. I could hurt myself.  I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on  Skates, obviously I've escalated now that I want to build a skate park in the backyard.

Dan Arwady: I love that.

Adam Coelho: Exactly. It's escalated, so basically when I was like, all right, I'm ready to do it. I'm going to get the skates. I'm  looking at it. And then Google was , like, how would you like $500 of wellbeing money?

And I'm like,, all right, I'm buying the skates today. And so I got the top of the line skates, the best ones, and they're  $330 come on.  Not that much money. And yeah, just went out to the skate park.

 I got back out there and started doing it and absolutely tore the ass of my pants the other day. And I'm  the oldest person there for sure. But there are a lot of people that are getting back into it, and Instagram is  film. [00:47:00] Like there's this guy called back to blading and he basically is just  a 35 years, man, like me just  skating again. It's hilarious. But it's been super fun. I'm like padded up, like crazy dude.

I got the risk guards. I got the ass guards. I got the knee pads. I got the elbow pads. I got the helmet. 

Dan Arwady: Yeah. It seems  at least a helmet.  

Adam Coelho: I'm feeling like we're off the rails, which is fine. I'm loving it.

All right.


So it will happen at some point, somehow I might have to buy a different  piece of land but, you know, we'll see, 

 Dan Arwady: Be creative about it. Yeah.

Adam Coelho: It'll happen.  This is the last thing I'll say.  Also I don't want to pay for it. I want someone else to pay for it. Yeah, of course. 

Dan Arwady: Yeah. If I wouldn't shoot, of course. 

Adam Coelho: So have sponsors. I'm going to get in touch with Woodward.

There's this company that builds ramp kits. I think there's a lot of opportunity. Maybe making it like a  YouTube show. There's, all those  house building shows like tiny house building and various things. I feel like there could be a show where people.

 Build their  dream man-cave or she shed or [00:48:00] whatever, you know? and  mine just happens to have a skate park in it. Other people might have a trampoline in it or whatever. 

Dan Arwady: Yeah. If you've got the ambition to basically record and produce that while it's happening, I guarantee you people would watch that on YouTube.

It's exactly like what you said. There's a huge community of people who love that stuff. And I feel   this is the cool part about living in 2021. It's not nearly as unattainable. Like You had to probably be  super rich to be able to do something like that back in the nineties or something.

 But  now not so much, there's a lot of like, Hey, here's the skills you need to build this thing, go watch a few videos. There's way more entry level tools and classes and all that stuff. And there actually is this  community around all that  DIY stuff.  I do a little bit of woodworking and I see it all over the place.

People just love sharing that knowledge for free. And it's really inspiring. Dude, yeah. If you had the wherewithal to  record that while it was happening and I feel  there's a total angle there. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah.  That's just percolating, right? I don't know how  this going to happen or what it's gonna look like or any of [00:49:00] that, but it's going to happen.

  It may not be in the backyard, but it's going to happen somehow.

Dan Arwady: Yeah. That's really cool, man. Man, I completely get where you're coming from on everything you just said.  You're a very creative person. That's obvious, and I think there's this,   sort of  innate desire to , to make and build and shape and create.

And I can completely understand that.

 I mean dude in a way, I did the same thing. When I was in high school, I wanted to be  a session drummer and which is basically  a drummer for hire. You can just walk into a studio, you laid down tracks.

 That was  what I wanted to do with my life. And then at the same time,  I started to get into recording because. I realized that if I wanted to be a session drummer, I needed to start practicing making good recordings.

So that's different than practicing, just being a good drummer. There's different techniques you use to come out good on a record then, in a live performance. So  the next step then is I got to go and start recording. But  going to a studio was expensive and impossible basically.

 I could do it here and there. [00:50:00] Maybe the cheapest one was  40 bucks an hour back then.  I could maybe afford to do it once if me and my friends  split it, for four, six hours. But it wasn't something I could  practice every day. And I was practicing every day and I was like, , man, if I could just start recording here, then I could hear myself and then I could get better at that.

Anyways,  life went on. I poked around at being a sound engineer in college. I took a lot of classes and I still love it.  I do many, many days in a year.  I like to sit in the studio. It's like really a good happy place for me. 

I got an internship at a studio starting to realize people that felt, you know, pretty miserable.

It was a lot of binge drinking and this  me and my  20, so I wasn't  a stranger binge drinking, but these are like people in their forties, and they're like fifties and it was , they just they do a session and then they go get loaded.

 It was  depressing a little bit, Like they had families and it was just  real screwed up. 

The studio was incredible. I just wanted to live and sleep in this recording studio. That was the coolest place on earth, but it was , like, Man. [00:51:00] I don't know if I really want to do this for a living.

  I've seen a lot of red flags, and a lot of that actually came down to money. People were really competitive cause they were trying to get these sessions and like basically get by. Maybe not living paycheck to paycheck, but close. So there's a lot of stress around it. It was very competitive. There wasn't this collaboration like,, Hey, let me come hang out in your studio. And we can do this together. It was , back off my client, that mentality.   It was much more hostile than I originally thought it was going to be.

I always thought of music is this beautiful collaborative thing. And the way it relates to your story is as I was like,, okay, maybe this isn't the right thing to do but I really love recording and I love playing and I want to hold on to that somehow. 

And  the room I'm sitting at right now,  we eventually got this house.

It took a long time, but here we are, we have a house now. And there was all this empty space in it when we bought it. And we were going to put a window in there and turn it into a bedroom. And for one reason or another, we couldn't put a window in there. 

And it was , like, what if this was the studio?   [00:52:00] It's actually perfect for a studio. You don't want windows. You want the solid room. So this ended up being in the studio. First that's where I'm doing this, but I try not to  even do real work in here.

I come in here to be creative. It's like a go into a different part of my brain and it's the best.  I walk in here and this is where I start to pick up a guitar and  goof around. I'm not a good guitar player or  a very good pianist or anything  that. But I feel like I could just come in here and start to make stuff.

And it's a great feeling having my drums in here.  I flip a few switches, I can start to just,  lay something down and that's actually turned into a really good tool with COVID because I couldn't go anywhere. I couldn't go and play with people. There was nothing else that I could have used to do that, but I can relate to that.

I took a really roundabout way to get to making this studio.  My wife and I both, I mean, she was completely on board and helping me out with it the whole time. She loves it in here too. But it doesn't have to be this  straight narrow path.  [00:53:00] I'm going to go be an architect, I'm going to go make my dream house.

And then I'm going to, go and build this thing and blah, blah, blah. That's the obvious path. And sometimes that works out, but I love that you held onto that. And ,you bring that back around because life is a weird path. It's just not a straight line. 

I think the fact that you're still thinking about it so hard is very telling. I think it's deep seated and it's really cool. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah it is interesting. That's an amazing story. I appreciate you sharing that because it's envisioning, right?

You had this idea that you wanted to have a studio, or you wanted to be in the studio and, build that skill of, recording music. And speaking again about outcomes you didn't say it's got to look exactly like this and it's got to be in this timeframe and all of that, you just had the belief that it was going to happen somehow some way and just put it out there.

And then, because it's, in your mind, you start to notice when opportunities present themselves to make that a reality. [00:54:00] And it just starts to fall into place.

 I feel often that maybe I'm pulling together, disparate things that maybe aren't even related  financial independence and mindfulness.

 I think they are related. But  now I'm like,, how does rollerblading fit in?

It's it doesn't, it does. 

Dan Arwady: If I had to define  what a creative person was, it's not, oh, you output creative things. It's that you take disparate things and you put them together, things that aren't obvious you hook them up in a way that when people look at it, they're , oh, I guess that is kinda obvious.

That's really cool.  Bare bones. I think that's what creativity is.  I think you're a very creative person and I think mindfulness actually unlocks a lot of that creativity, it's hard to be creative  when your mind's just going,  so many directions at the same time.

Yeah, that's 

Adam Coelho: true. 

That's so cool. That major studio happen. And also before I forget, I have several friends that are  sound engineers for Dolby in SF. Some of our best friends from San [00:55:00] Francisco that we would hang out with all the time, just absolute lunatics. And so would love to introduce you sometime when COVID is all over.

Dan Arwady:  But dude, I would love that, man. I'm a huge fan of Dolby. They're incredible what they do there.

It'd be cool just to hang out and rap. 

Adam Coelho: Absolutely. Yeah. So wanted to get that in there before we move on. . 

All right. So let's switch gears now into what I call the mindful fire final four. 

 And the first question is is there any advice that you'd give to people who maybe are a little bit overwhelmed by it? Starting something. In specifically, you mentioned breaking it down into small chunks, but how do you do that?  Let's talk about a specific example.

Dan Arwady: Yeah. Okay. I actually love this topic because I think everybody always says, oh, you work for Google. So it's easy for you to go do stuff on the side or something like that. First of all, not necessarily true. It's a very demanding job, but let's say it was true. Okay. And in a lot of ways, it is.  I feel very fortunate for the circumstances now, but my first job out of [00:56:00] college, I was working at this ad agency and they were like really on my ass and all this kind of stuff, but I knew I really wanted to practice. I wanted to get better at drums.

And so what I ended up doing was, okay, where's my one point in the day to practice.. And it was during lunch. And I was like, what's the minimal amount of stuff that I need to make progress at all.  So I grabbed a practice pad and  a couple of sticks and I left him in my drawer at the office. And at lunchtime I would sneak out and go and sit outside where I wasn't bothering anyone. I would go to this parking garage and that's where I would go and do that.

And I would do that every day and it was lunchtime. And I got 20 minutes to do that because I still had eat some lunch too. So I'd eat a sandwich on the way to the parking garage. I'd put the practice pad down and I'd sit in the parking garage and I'd do my rudiments or do whatever it is I was trying to practice.

And then I'd go back  and keep working. And the reason I'm telling that story is because If I had thought of, oh, I want to be a better drummer. Where am I going to find [00:57:00] three hours to sit at a drum set to do that? I basically would have never been able to do it, but when I talk about breaking things down to very small things find the very smallest thing you could possibly do.

That's going to give you a little bit of progress and I'm when I say small, I mean that in terms of time, so what could you do for 10 minutes? That's going to take you just a little bit further and this could be for anything. Okay. It could be for something like music or engineering, it could be for your health.

So what's the thing you could do in 10 minutes. That's going to make you just a little bit healthier, right? Maybe that's honestly just going for a walk.   I know a lot of people are very slammed and very overwhelmed and they want to better themselves. Find the one time in your day when maybe you can take five or 10 minutes and go walk your lap and then come back inside, do that once a day.

And before, you know, it you'll start to feel a little bit better and maybe that'll turn into a jog and maybe then you'll start to keep jogging, pants and stuff at work. And you [00:58:00] can throw 15 minutes at it or something like that. I think the idea is break it down into very small pieces.

With engineering, I had a list of YouTube videos. So even if I had five minutes when I was waiting in line somewhere, I wouldn't be like, oh, what's going on Instagram? Or  I'm gonna open my news. I would just Nope, open that. You already put this together, hit play and just watch it, that  putting a lot of pre-work into it so that when you have the time you don't waste 30 seconds of that time, you can just execute. And that takes some prep from the night before, from the week before or whatever. Like you have to have your, maybe you have to have your exercise clothes at work. So that when you have that brief moment of time that you can actually go take a walk, everything's ready to go and you can just go do it.

For me, it was having that drumming practice pad at work. And so I have 20 minutes, I'm eating my sandwich, I'm away out there and I'm just grabbing this thing and I'm just executing. I'm not even thinking about it.  If you could just put yourself in a good spot to go and execute when you have a [00:59:00] little bit of time, those improvements end up being pretty massive if you do them for awhile.

So I think that's the best advice I could give is break it down into very small chunks and make it achievable and put yourself in a good position to. 

Adam Coelho: Absolutely. Yeah. It's really about building it in. Tying it to something that you're already doing. You're already eating lunch.

It sounded like it was at the same time every day, but either way you got to eat lunch. So yeah, the more you can build it in, I think it's really important to actually stick to it, 

Dan Arwady: No with reading too. I love to read. And a lot of the times people always say that I love to read, but I never have any time to read a book.

 I would just take a book with me to lunch, this is after I was during this practice, bad thing, but a lot of times I'd do that. If I had to study something, I'd be like, no, just take your book with you and  leave your phone the desk. Take your book with you and you're not going to have anything else to do, except read that book.

And that's a hack, right? Like you're saying,  I'm not a good enough human that if I have all this distraction, I'm just going to block it out and do the right thing. So don't put yourself in that position, just put yourself in a [01:00:00] position where I'm bored. What can I do open that book that's right next to you.

Cause you have nothing else to do. So I try to do that a lot of stuff, think that's a really good way to, to build in better habits in your life. And I try to be aware of when I'm not doing that. And that's where I think mindfulness stuff really comes in, by the way. I'm not perfect at any of this.

I'm not trying to preach from the Hilltop, but when I've done it, that's the stuff that's really worked. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah, absolutely. 

All right. The second question is what piece of advice would you give to someone early on their path to financial independence?

 Dan Arwady: I think that actually you can do a lot with a little, when I think about financial independence, I think about when I really didn't have a lot of money and I really didn't even have much of  a safety net with my family or anything like that. And so I had to be pretty careful and I think I would say avoid credit card.

Almost entirely. I know that's maybe controversial to say, cause some people are like that's maybe a good time to start building credit. And there's [01:01:00] probably arguments to be made for both ways. I got into a decent amount of credit card debt that I had to pay down and it was mostly just because I needed to go and eat or groceries or whatever.

And I understand that sometimes that's unavoidable and that's okay too. But if you can live on cash, I think it's a decent way to be very mindful of your spending. And actually when I say live on cash, I mean pull cash out of an ATM and spend it as cash. Cause , it hurts a lot more when you're doing that.

And so you don't necessarily buy stuff you don't need or anything like that. It feels different than a digital transaction. Learn how to.  I think that's a really easy thing that people don't do. When I was a graduate assistant. I was making like 12 grand a year and my rent was like 550 bucks a month.

And so I had $500 a month basically to spend. But I was living in champagne, Illinois, where things were pretty cheap and, you could get by on that. And one of the best things that I learned how to do is make a decent sandwich, make a good salad.  You don't have to buy [01:02:00] cheap food.

You just have to buy ingredients. And actually ingredients are pretty cheap. If you don't buy things pre prepared, you save yourself a lot of money. Cause you can make things go very far. And so learn how to cook. It. Doesn't have to be like Gordon Ramsey learned how to cook, but learn how to make a salad.

Cause those are really good for you. Learn how to make a sandwich, learn how to.  Some pasta learn how to make proteins, like how to make a birder or chicken, like in a basic frying pan. And you'll save yourself a crazy amount of money. And it's a lot better for your health typically.

If you do it right. So I think that, and finally I'd say if you can, at all, try to save a very small amount because you'll get addicted to. Growth that you'll start to see in an account or even in a cookie jar or whatever. And it'll start to feel like an achievement. And honestly, if you can make it a visual thing, like you start to actually see dollar bills, like wadding up in a cookie jar.

I think that's actually pretty motivating in and of itself. Doesn't have to be a lot of money. And I think people get really hooked on what [01:03:00] percentage of their income they're supposed to be saving and all that stuff, take a few bucks in a day, like out of your wallet and put it somewhere else. And if you really need that money, go grab it.

 Then don't hate yourself for doing it, but you'll start to do that. And then it'll start to feel good when you're doing it and you'll perpetuate it. And pretty soon it will be like a few hundred bucks in a paycheck or, a few thousand bucks from like a yearly bonus or whatever.

And then that'll really start to make a difference. So that would be the advice I would. 

Adam Coelho: Excellent. The third question is what piece of advice would you give to someone getting started with meditation and or mindfulness? 

 Dan Arwady: I would say start with a guided meditation. I think the thing that's stops people from doing it is they don't really know whether or not they're meditating when they're meditating.

I've said this before to you. I love your guided meditations. They're short. Like you can do this in 10 minutes. It doesn't have to be like, I sat in the woods for an hour and found God you can sit in a chair for 10 minutes. I used to meditate on the train, going back and forth.

And I just had headphones in and I got my guided meditation out and it made the train ride go by a lot [01:04:00] faster. I was on the L in Chicago, like jammed in like a sardine, but did it just have to be by yourself and like holding onto a pole and you can actually meditate that way.

So I would start with a guided meditation and then once you've gotten to like your 10th or 20th time, try doing it for 10 minutes by yourself in a room and see how that goes. And I actually really liked singing bowls too. So sometimes people, I think who are very kinetic, almost like you want something in your hands or something like that.

There's a lot of cool meditation aids for people like that too. So that'd be the advice I'd say, start with the guided one and keep it short and you'll just start to really like

Adam Coelho:  Awesome. Thanks for sharing that. And yeah, of course you can find my guided meditations wherever you're listening to this on your podcast player or at mindful 

And the last question, Dan is where can people connect with you online and find out more about your music and what you're working on?

Dan Arwady: Yeah. I should take a page out of your playbook and probably get better. I have many songs that are [01:05:00] sitting on hard drives and not out there, which is a little bit of a shortcoming of mine, but I just put something out that I am pretty proud of. I think essentially Spotify artists link there's not a lot on Spotify right now, but there's some of the stuff I've done with Harry on there.

There's a news tune. I just put out that I did myself Harry and I are coming out with an EAP pretty soon, so that's going to be on there. So yeah, follow me on Spotify and you'll start to see stuff up here as I get over that. So that's probably the best way to do it. And career kind of stuff or anything else I'm on LinkedIn that's something I keep up to date and check.

So hit me up after that. 

Adam Coelho: Sounds great. Yeah. I'll link those in the show notes, but if you want to go directly to Dan's page on Spotify you can go to mindful, and that will point you directly to Spotify. 

And also I love the new song, man. That was super cool.

And I want to listen to the stuff you've done with Harry as well.  

Dan Arwady: Into a lot, man. I appreciate it. 

Adam Coelho: All right. Hi. Thank you so much, Dan, for joining me on the podcast today, it's been a pleasure to connect with you [01:06:00] and we really covered a lot of interesting ground today. So thanks for being 

Dan Arwady: here.

Yeah. Thank you for having me. This was a lot of fun. I appreciate it.

Adam Coelho: Thanks so much for joining me on today's episode of the mindful fire podcast. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Dan Arwady.  If you got value from today's episode, I invite you to please hit subscribe wherever you're listening to this, this just lets the platforms know you're getting value from the episodes and you want to be here when I produce additional content.

And if you want to check out Dan's music and listen to his first solo release on Spotify, you can do so at

 And as a reminder, you can find the full show notes for today's episode, including links, resources, and books that we discussed at 

Thanks again, and I'll catch you next time on the mindful fire podcast.


Dan ArwadyProfile Photo

Dan Arwady

Head of Partner Engineering @ Youtube

Dan works at YouTube and heads up Partner Engineering for the YouTube Music Labels operations team. On the side, he's an engineering student, a drummer, a music producer, and an amateur woodworker, and when he's really doing life right he's a meditator and an avid reader too. But in reality, he's usually spending a bunch of quality time with his 1 year old son TJ, who is a tornado of joy and mirth.

Originally from Chicago, Dan now lives in the small surf town of Pacifica, CA with TJ, his wife Ang, and his dog Levi (who is also full of opinions).