Most people will always have at least one teacher that has had an impact on who they became as an adult. Considered as modern world heroes, teachers and their classes are like a fellowship where the people of tomorrow are developed. Math Teacher, Nate Neven, gives his insights on education as someone who has experienced being on both sides of the classroom. He discusses the different responsibilities a teacher has towards their students, such as preparing them for what to expect in the world beyond school. He talks about how perception is a big factor in the ability of a person to learn. Nate also shares his thought process as an educator on why he’s teaching and the hopes he has for every student.
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Fellowship Ft. Nate Neven: Expectations Vs. Reality; Education Vs. Learning; Perspectives And Perceptions; And Setting Good Intentions
I had the chance to sponsor my first child named Braise, who lives in Rwanda. I am excited to see how God will work in my life and his through this relationship. One time, my church hosted a speaker from an organization that connected people with children in poverty. After seeing the work they were doing, I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of. I went online and decided to start sponsoring this little guy named Braise. We share the same birthday, which is a super cool connection that I wanted to make so that my support and letter writing would be more significant for both of us.
It’s way better to focus on someone else than yourself on your birthday, too. I’m paying $38 a month, which helps pay for Braise to go to school, see a doctor when he needs to, get proper nutrition and get the mentoring and tutoring he’ll need to be healthy as he grows up. This is all through a group called Compassion International and in looking them up, I learned that Compassion has been releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name since 1952. Through their holistic child development model, they blend physical, social, economic and spiritual care together to help children in poverty fully mature in every facet of life and transcend the often-generational cycle of poverty.
Through this work, they have become the world’s leading authority in holistic child development through sponsorship with more than 1.9 million children sponsored in their program. If you want to help a child be released from poverty, visit Compassion.com/UpandComers or simply text the word change to 83393. If you want to be the change that you wish to see in the world, I can’t think of a better place to start. We are a podcast about the process from the process, about the grind from the grind in the process of becoming. We impact that every week through interviews, fellowship episodes, which are peer-to-peer conversations, and shorter topical episodes.
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This is a fellowship episode, which is a peer-to-peer conversation. A little bit shorter and conversational. This fellowship episode was a blast. A good friend of mine, Nate Neven was on. Who is Nate? Nate was raised in Los Angeles and has been surrounded by a variety of educational beliefs his whole life. With being homeschooled, the discussion between the value of public, private or homeschool was ever-present and became a motivation for him to study education in college. After receiving his BA in Mathematics Education from California State University, Northridge, he continued at CSUN for his teaching credential. Nate is teaching middle school mathematics. Alongside education, his passions are human development, cognitive development, individual learning styles and building a caring learning environment.
Personally, he loves living in Los Angeles, a city filled with amazing international foods and numerous outdoor activities. Nate and I were both baristas for a while together and developed a new friendship. I have always enjoyed these conversations with Nate that we’ve had over the years because he’s a thinker. He loves diving into concepts and understanding what’s going on within the world, trying to make sense of it, and make a difference in a positive impact in change. In this fellowship episode, we’ll talk a lot about expectations versus reality, what he expected and hope for going into teaching and then the reality of what he experienced and where the differences between those two.
We’ll talk a lot about education as a whole versus learning and how to produce learning. We’ll talk a lot about perspectives and perceptions of the world and how we get those. We’ll talk a lot about setting good intentions and we’ll get to know some of the strategies that he used in his own life, which were helpful. For all the teachers out there, you’ll enjoy this episode as well as people who are wanting to be in education one day because he paints a good picture of some of the dilemmas that you face as a teacher and some of the tensions that you have to live within. I hope you enjoy this fun fellowship episode with Nate Neven.
Nate Neven, welcome to The Up & Comers show. I’m excited to dive in. It’s going to be a fun combo. When did we first meet? Do you remember our first time hanging out?Learning is all about perception. If you believe yourself to be a number’s person, math will come easy. Click To Tweet
The first time I met you was when I started working at the Steeple House. I had worked there for a couple of months and you were gone golfing, being a professional and all that jazz. I had known your name, seen you on Instagram and seen about you in our community. I’m like, “This guy is super popular. This guy has got to be rad. I don’t know if I can talk to him when I meet him. He’s almost a celebrity.” You got back from golfing and we worked our first shift together. I was disappointed in the expectation versus reality. I’m like, “This guy is chill. He’s not all stuck up like I thought he’d be.”
It’s a common theme. I feel like a lot of people think I’m stuck up and they don’t know me. That’s trying to tell me something. God is saying, “Thane, this is the common theme. What are you learning?” I had some favorite moments from the Steeple House Coffee in Roscoe Blvd in Sun Valley. We both were former baristas there. I have some favorite memories there and one of them would be closing the shop and jamming to some major hit dance parties. It’s fun because there are glass windows, so people would walk by, see some dancing going on and they were curious.
The other favorite memory was McKayla’s birthday. We had a coworker and we had this great idea of buying her a cake and force-feeding her. We sang her a birthday song and at the climax of the song, we kindly shoved the cake in her face. That was a beautiful moment. I’ll never forget that one. Those are a lot of fun times, but I’ve been wanting to have you on because there are a lot of fun combos we get to have here about learning education, expectation versus reality and some of those things. Before we get into some of that, the one thing you did bring up is learning the teacher’s voice. Give me a snippet of Nate before he learns the teacher’s voice and then a snippet of Nate’s teacher voice.
Before the teacher’s voice was, “How’s it going?” I’m super excited and happy to be in the class.
What age is this?
It’s middle school, so seventh and eighth-graders. I’m in my twenties. I’m young. I look younger than I am. It was like, “This guy is teaching us? What the heck?” I’m pumped and excited. That enthusiasm caught their attention for a little bit, but at the end of the day, math ends up being boring and kids don’t want to learn. I had to develop the, “This is what we’re doing. In order for you to be successful, work on the math that we’re learning,” and drop that voice from all that enthusiasm to, “Let’s be real. Let’s understand what we’re doing. You’re a student and we’re trying to set you up for your future. We want you to know things. We want you to know science, English and math.” There’s probably an indirect practical way that you’re going to use this right now, but you could use it later in your life, especially if you want to become an engineer or something like that. More than that, the skill of sitting there, concentrating, working on what you’re doing, and the skill of learning something new as simple as that sounds. It almost sounds basic to take education to the process of learning something new. That’s what it comes down to being.
I love that topic because as we talked about a lot when I was writing my book, the whole concept of learning and education is different. Education is not learning. Learning can be a part of education, but by no means that it’s a guaranteed part of it. That took me forever. I didn’t learn that until college, honestly. One of the things I remember was talking a lot about education with you when we were working together a lot. You were in the final stages of getting your certification and degree in student teaching and getting ready to launch into your career. One of the things that we were passionate about is how do we make the system better. How do we improve? What are ways that we can pioneer things or think about things? There was a lot of excitement around it. I’d love to hear going into that experience on your first full year. What were some of your hopes and dreams? What were some of those things you were excited about? What transpired during the year and then post year? I’m excited to hear some of your perspectives on that.
School is great. Being in school is awesome. You’re paying for it, which sucks, but you’re learning and your mind is being shaped. You’re getting new ideas put into your head. You’re learning tactics like, “Here’s this topic, math.” Most people see it as boring. A lot of people see it as, “I’m not a math person,” which I’ve come to believe is a false perception.
A caveat on that, I wrote a blog post that’s all about that because, in my whole life, I was the opposite. I was a math/numbers guy and that was all I believed myself to be. That was my perception of myself and it kept me from exercising the right side of the brain, which is the creative outlet because I told myself, “I was a numbers guy.” To affirm what you’re saying, it’s a self-limiting belief.
We have to exercise our brains in both directions of logical and structure, even in the creative. Learning in school, the idea is to make a fun and interactive math lesson that’s creative, gets the kids’ attention, connects to something in their lives, and has value and meaning, which is such an important part. When we value something, that’s the motivation that we need. We start intrinsically desiring it and wanting to learn something. You want to do that in the classroom. I had to learn a lot of things like that from CSUN. It’s a super rad school and there are many tools that I learned there, many ways to make a math class practical and engaging. That was how my mind started shaping like, “How do I take boring symbols and numbers and make it creative?” Maybe it means, “We’re making graphs that represent real data that we’re dealing with.”
There are a lot of different ways that you can do it. You can take them outside and do a little physics experiment and then come back into the classroom and do all the math for it. You can blend stuff like that and make it a little science-y. The hard reality is once you’re in the classroom, if you have a simple equation like X plus two equals five and the kid doesn’t know how to solve that simple equation, it doesn’t matter how fun you want that lesson to be. You start realizing that there are so many fine details in mundane things that these kids struggle with. You want them to be creative and connect these ideas to the real world. In that way, it has that value and meaning, but they struggled to add, multiply and divide. If they can’t do those things, how are they going to solve it? I ended up addressing many of those issues. Plus, the fact that there are 30 of them in the classroom. Giving them all of the attention that you want to be able to help them definitely makes it hard. It ended up being more in the classroom management than you learn when it comes to lesson planning and making things.
In what you have learned through education, would you say that one of the biggest gaps was classroom management? A lot of that comes from experience. It’s hard to teach that in an educational environment like getting your degree. What would you say are the biggest gaps were from learning it in your own classroom and then applying it to the classroom as a teacher?
CSUN definitely taught us ways to deal with classroom management and their way was to come up with an engaging lesson plan. That’s a great thing. There are behavioral issues like the kid straight up doesn’t want to do anything, would rather it be on their phone and be listening to music or throwing stuff out the window. I had one kid and he wanted to walk on tables during class, so I ended up taking him out several times and saying, “You cannot do that. You need to be respectful.” It ends up being experience and how do I carry out an attitude and an aura of authority in the classroom. You can’t teach that. That’s something that you have to develop.
How did you go about discovering what that is for you? A lot of times, it’s a process of trial and error of like, “Does this work?” What was your process like in what that or aura of authority is for you in managing the classroom?
There’s one thing that I wanted to do and I had it locked in. I’m like, “This is the one thing that I absolutely want to do in the classroom.” That’s to make sure that they knew I cared about them and make sure that they knew when they’re in my classroom, it doesn’t matter how boring the math is for the day. It doesn’t matter how hard anybody’s struggling. I care about them. I want to see them be successful in all areas of their life and be strong individuals. If they’ve got emotional things that they’re working through and they can’t pay attention to the class because they’ve got that in their head, I want to be there to support them.
Their school counselors have their role in the school, but as a teacher, if I can be there and let them know like, “In this classroom, you’re safe. You don’t have to worry about those things here.” Communicating that care that way, they had comfortability to almost give up their minds to me like, “I’m comfortable and I’m safe here. He cares for me. I can listen to him.” That definitely helps. Still now, I’m learning how do I communicate that care? The other thing that I had to learn was raising my voice, bringing it back down and being controlled with it because they’re eager to find out how to set the teacher off for sure. We know that because we did that.We are all created in God’s image. That alone is enough to love and care for other people. Click To Tweet
Being able to talk to them normally like I am teaching a class and then when they’re going off doing their thing, being able to bring that voice way up, way stern and saying, “No, we are not doing that,” and being firm with them. Also, switching back and making it clear like, “I’m not mad at you. I need to do that to get your attention. Hang tight with me. Be respectful. The class will end up being a whole lot better and then we can have fun.” I can make jokes and be lighthearted. Things are way better.
I love that because it applies in everything. Communicating that you care about someone is the number one way to have a loving relationship with anyone. That’s the thing that’s missing so much for all of us. When we have people that we have disagreements with or that we differ on opinions or beliefs, if we would all start with, “I care about you. I’m for you. I love you as a person,” you can’t lose. If we all start from that place, you’re going to have a great conversation. It could be a complete disagreement, but you’re going to have a great conversation.
That care does not depend on this conversation or this situation, but with adults, we have so much harder time with this because my theory is with children, there is no fear we have of them. They can’t harm us, for the most part. There’s way less fear associated with them than there is with other adults. When there’s fear, it inhibits our love, but perfect love casts out all fear. It’s funny when we started seeing this show up, even in inter-relational things in daily life as adults. It’s interesting how much we learn about life from children.
As a Christian, I believe we’re all created in God’s image and that is enough for me to say, “I care and I love this person.” I don’t care what their beliefs are. I care about them because they’re an image-bearer of God. There was a tangent, but it’s super sweet to think about, talk about and share. There’s a teacher that I work with, a Buddhist lady and she supports gays completely. She knows that I love her and I care about her, and she cares about me and she loves me, too. We had numerous conversations about religion. I got to share the gospel with her. She asked me, “What do you believe about gender?” I’m like, “I believe there’s male and female.” For a moment, she got a little upset that that’s what I believed, but then the conversation diffused and we started talking and sharing ideas. I told her, “I want to get to know your beliefs. Do you have a book?” She was like, “Yeah.” She bought me a Buddhist book and then gave it to me as a gift. She wrapped it up and wrote me a little card. I’m like, “That’s awesome.” I’m excited to read that and talk to her about it. That’s what being human is.
My favorite quote is, “An open mind is not an empty one.” That’s the thing. We can have an open mind and still have beliefs and convictions. At the end of the day, we all think we’re right. When we understand we’re not God, then we can have the humility to live like that.
Pair that with some discernment to think through what the other person is saying and supporting it with, “What does scripture say? What do I know to be true about God in this world?” Compare it to what the person believes.
What’s great about this is fitting to what I’m studying for the young adults’ group, Galatians 3. Galatians 3 is amazing because you see the apostle Paul give a rubric for the way we defend truth. It always starts with personal experience because that is something that no one can dispute. What God has done in and through you is something that no one can deny or discredit. He always starts with the experience and he makes it relatable to them. He told the Galatians, “Were you saved by the law or were you saved by the spirit?” He’s referring to the experience they had and then he backs it up with logic, rationale and scriptural evidence. That’s a great rubric for us like, “Here’s my life showing this. Here’s the experience I’ve had. Here’s what it’s producing and here’s where God says how it applies.” It’s such a great way to do it. I thought that was practical and pertinent. Anytime we have expectations with anything, life never matches up to our expectations. There’s this period of almost a loss of hope or jadedness. When was that moment for you when it was like, “This is different and overwhelming,” or, “This seems helpless or hopeless?” What was that moment like in the first year, if you had one?
I’ve definitely had those moments in life. I don’t think so much about working because growing up, I just worked and understood what work was. You’d go in the morning and it’s tiring. Sometimes it sucks and sometimes it’s fun, and you go home. I didn’t feel jaded by it, which was nice, but it’s the reality that I’m a teacher, that’s my job and I need to go home at some point. At the end of the day, it’s work. It’s my life in the sense of it’s how I make a living. It almost doesn’t matter as much as the people outside of work if it comes down to being with family, friends, and the Lord. Work glorifies the Lord and your diligence and your service pleases him. Even your work is about Him, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to go home and rest.
I feel like that’s hard for most teachers because there are endless things to do and you are such an integral part of the students’ lives and their development. It makes a massive impact.
It’s like being an account manager for 150 people.
That’s something that anyone in any work has. It’s like, “I can always work at something because there’s an endless list that’s always there to be done.” That’s why the Sabbath has been such a crucial practice for me and I’ve been blessed by it. How long in the first year did you discover, realize or become aware of that?
That probably would have been in the spring. You get tired and you seriously could work 24/7. A mentor told me, “You could technically work all the time, but you’ve got to limit yourself.” I remember sharing it with a family member and I’m like, “As a teacher, you can work 24/7.” He’s like, “I feel like if you’re a good employee and you work hard, anybody could work 24/7.” That’s when it settled in like, “All this business that I’m giving myself, a lot of it is as a teacher, but it’s not because of my career. It’s because of my own work-life balance and how much time I spend doing certain tasks.” The reality is I don’t have all the time in the world. I’ve got 24 hours in a day. How do I split that up with taking care of myself, my students, teaching, being with friends and being with family? Where do I want my life and career to be? Is my expectation that I’m going to work all the time and teach, and that’s it? The reality is I need to spend time with other people and I need to take care of myself.
Insecurity is the thing to be curious about, too, especially if people read this because we always have to ask ourselves, “How are we going to be most helpful?” Most of the time it’s not by doing everything in anything possible. It’s by doing the best things possible and then leaving the rest to be and get done when they need to get done. We’re going to be able to provide so much more benefit in our work if we have wise and strict boundaries for our work. Those limitations produce the freedom to create our best work and that’s God’s design. You have to have a structure within which to create.
I love that Andy Crouch book, Culture Making, and I’ve referenced it so much because it is one of the best in understanding that. One of the things I love talking about with you is education. What has helped in this first year of teaching in getting some practical experience? In your specific experience with the Sunday periods, with math, what have you found that facilitates the best learning? How do you help the children develop or improve their learning or how they learn?
Projects are such a rare thing in math. Putting together projects for them and giving them something, there are two aspects of it. It’s more engaged learning because they’re putting everything together, but then also they have to take ownership of it. It’s their project and product that they’re putting out for you. That’s such a reality that we all have to learn in the world like, “What are the products that we’re generating?” Those are many workforces. It has to do with what you’re putting out for a company if you’re designing. Giving the students a project to work on, even if the product is not the most realistic thing, it is realistic because they’re working on a project. It’s that practical skill of working with a group of people, working on a project, and putting something together.
On top of that, there’s this word we use a lot in a school called differentiation. How do you differentiate a lesson for students that are maybe falling a little bit behind the game? You want them to try and catch up for students that are ahead of the game. You’ve got all these different students in the classroom. How do you differentiate the lesson for all of them? When you give them a project, what they generate and give out to you ends up being where they’re at. You can grade, look and understand like, “I know where the student is at. They did what I asked them to do. It’s not the best work in the classroom, but that’s because I know this student, where they struggle, and what they’re falling behind. I can at least be a bridge to where they’re getting this done. It’s one step closer for them to be growing and being more successful.”We can have an open mind and still have beliefs and convictions. Click To Tweet
If I could create a project for every unit throughout the entire semester, it to replace tests, but you still need to give those because you have to evaluate like, “What have they retained?” When it comes to their grade and points in what they earn in the classroom, I’d love it to just be projects. That’s how we get paid. We do something, we put stuff together, and somebody pays us. It doesn’t matter how much of that information we retained when we did it. Once we’ve gotten paid and move forward, that’s it. It’s a good way to try, model and represent the real world, and engage them in learning.
I love the ownership piece. That’s something I’m huge on. Learning is not about retention, but it’s more the process of acquiring. Retention doesn’t matter anyway because of the internet and Google like, “Why do we need to retain anything?” Can we systematize what we’ve learned into a working model that produces better decisions, actions or results in the real world? A project seems like the best application of it. It’s simple, but it’s not easy to consistently do well. It’s not necessarily the norm. Would you say it’s more of an add-on that teachers can or can’t do? Is it encouraged by the system? What would you say with that in the education system?
The system is encouraging it. I’m in a cool spot as being a young brand-new teacher because I’m in this huge transition phase for the system. I was taught to try and come up with these projects and with engaging activities, but there are still many old school teachers out there by the nature of, they’re not done with their careers and that’s it. No hard feelings to them. I know as students, we like to blame our teachers like, “It’s all old school. Give me something more creative.” They’re all complaining, but it’s like, “They became a teacher 30 years ago. They were trained so much different than I’m being trained now.” The whole system is in this ginormous shift.
I don’t know how many years it’s going to take. I’d love for it to change in a flash, but we all know that change doesn’t happen in a flash. That’s the movement of the system. In science and history class, it’s super clear that projects are a big part of it. I feel like for years, projects have been a big part of them. Even English, there are some projects in there. Math and English are making a move towards that, even things like PE. Everything is becoming more focused on putting something together.
If you had a wish list of reforms to be made, what would be at the top of that? Maybe 1 or 2 that would be at the top of that list.
The beating drum of all teachers, smaller classrooms. That makes things easier.
In your opinion, what’s the ideal amount or size?
The best learning environment is one-to-one.
Is there any way to facilitate that practically?
Not in a public school. Practically, 1 to 20 sounds like a good ratio. I’ve had some good, engaging, fun, and productive classrooms when it’s been 1 to 20. It’s easy to manage. You could put them into groups, maybe 4 people in 5 groups or 5 people in 4 groups. Addressing those four groups is a whole lot easier than all twenty. You can set one student to be the project manager of that group and it gets things organized. That ratio is easy to organize and keep structured. That’s the key. For a number of students, that’s easy to organize. There have been classrooms at 1 to 40 and more. At that point, they know that they outnumber you.
Going back to your question about the reforms, that’s what any teacher would say class size, but then more projects would be cool. It would be rad. If this could happen, it’d be ideal. We have this period called homeroom at the start of the day. It’s an hour for these kids to be doing homework, be asking me questions or be reading and getting ahead with what they have to do. Schools put this out because they know kids go home and they don’t have an academic home, especially where I teach. I teach in an area that has kids from a wealthy part of town and kids from a poor part of town. The kids from the wealthy part go home and their parents are beating the drum of like, “Is your homework done?” On the poor part of town, the parents are just happy that their kids are home.
They have this homeroom to get things done and it’s good and helpful, but honestly, it’d be cool if it was at the end of the day, longer than an hour, and extended beyond the classroom. Sometimes, kids need to go see another teacher. They need to go to the library. If kids had two hours at the end of the day, let’s say after lunch 1:00 to 3:00, and the rest of the school day, they’re managing their life. They’re organizing their homework, making sure they know what all the teachers are expecting them to do for the evening, catching up with things, going to the library, and learning to administer their own lives.
Having the teachers come alongside that process, the kids could still have a teacher that they report back to before the bell rings as a way to keep track of everyone. There are systematic and structural things that need to be put in place with an idea like this. If the kids check out at 1 PM, we check out later in the day, no matter what your career is. I heard some people talk about how they all the more scatterbrained and organized tasks about organizing their day or getting ready for the next day, they put at the end of the day. I love it because you’re most focused to work in the morning. If we took that principle and applied it at school, maybe even made classes a shorter length, the kids might benefit from it.
What are your thoughts on summer break? I’ve heard other people talk about shorter class days with a few more breaks inserted without a summer break because sometimes, it’s hard for kids to shift on and off like that. What are your thoughts on that as a teacher?
I love it because you get all summer off. I get to go to different countries and I get to help out with my church. It’s awesome. That’s something I’m asking myself, “Is it helpful? Is it realistic?” No, many careers work every day of the year. Maybe they get Thanksgiving and Christmas off. They accumulate time off and every 1 or 2 years, maybe they get two weeks off to be with their family. I went from being a student to being a teacher, so I’ve always had summers off and that’s super rad. I love it. That’s one of the things that are in my head, “Should more careers have a schedule like teachers in schools do where they take longer breaks throughout the year? Should teachers be like most careers?” The other thing I’ve heard a lot about is the later start times and later end times. The afternoon is when all the trouble happens because there’s nothing to do. One of the last elections, there was a ballot and I needed to follow up on it because I don’t know how it went. They were seeing if people want school to start later.
Sleep is a big part, too. Sleep is important in anyone’s development, especially children. Getting them up early for class is counterproductive because it’s not helping their overall wellness anyways. We are in a wellness epidemic of all that. What I love about you’re talking about though is that it’s thinking about, “How can we get children ready for life so they’re best equipped for life?” It starts at a young age. Education isn’t just about learning things, it’s about being a better human.
You’re hitting on all the catchphrases that we have in education even. One of the big ones is, “Are we making our kids college and career ready?” Whether they want to jump into a career or whether they want to go to college. Also, at the school I teach at, our phrase has been, “We want to make good human beings. We want to make human beings that care about themselves, about the people around them and the world that they live in.”It is easier for us, as human beings, to be destructive than it is to be instructive, constructive, and creative. Click To Tweet
Things like personal responsibility and taking ownership, and even your idea with the homeroom of it like, “Let’s create a space where children get to practice a small amount of structured time management. How do they make decisions for themselves within the open space with a few guidelines and some of the hold their hand?” That’s such a great application to life. It’d be cool to see more of that incorporated where they’re understanding the consequences of actions or what things lead to what, so they can better make informed decisions in all aspects of their life.
I’m realizing that the idea of giving people the time to learn self-management is countercultural. I say that and I’m like, “That’s a great idea.” I’m sure if we tell that to anybody, they’d be like, “That’s a great idea,” but think about it. As a kid, you go through this whole process and maybe some families do a better job of helping their children, but culturally in school, they don’t have to learn that. They’re learning what their teacher tells them to do. They go through high school like that and the same things in college. If you go into the military, the military takes care of you. You don’t have to learn to manage things and that’s harmful. You see college graduates that are like, “I have a degree in math. I have a degree in business,” but they still haven’t learned to organize their lives, to be their own administrator and structure what they’ve got going on. The same with people popping out of the military or many different places in the world.
When it’s given to you, it’s never as beneficial as you deciding, determining, setting it for yourself and then falling through that because it takes more discipline to do it yourself versus having someone else do it for you.
There’s more reward.
It’s great on both ends, if you can be conscious of it, but as kids, you aren’t going to be conscious of it. They need to have some space where they get to practice with that. The other aspect of it is with the breakdown of a family unit, there are fewer parents at home on average that are helping the children do this. Education almost becomes one of the primary means of child development.
That would be something that we have to have that vision of, “What’s the expectation and what’s the reality?”
Creating different cultures and norms is hard and anything as big as an education system. It’s such a behemoth at this point. That’s like daunting to even think. It’s easy to talk about and share ideas.
In doing it, there are many kids at school and they are destructive. They’re chaotic. I was helping my mom move and she needed me to destroy some things because she was throwing it away. She had this old rocking chair and she’s like, “Nate, can you break it down, so it can fit into a trashcan?” I smashed it in ten seconds. It was fun and easy, but then I realized, “It probably took someone hours, if not days, to build that.” It is so much easier for us as human beings to be destructive than it is to be instructive, constructive and creative.
I remember a quote from Andy Crouch’s book, “The only thing you can do with Rome in a day is to burn it down.” It’s easy to destroy things. Another quote that I love is from Shannon Hurley on one of the episodes, “You can only take people as far as you’ve come yourself.” It’s true and it’s something that I think about a lot. It’s one of the things that motivates me to continue pursuing the disciplines or the learnings so that I can better steward what my roles and responsibilities are in providing help for people. In your journey over the last couple of years, it’s been fun to see you take ownership of a lot of those things. Now, you’re calling the kids to take ownership. We’ve talked about your perspective on life, what you feed your mind, and how we monitor what we’re allowing in their mind and the thoughts. What has that journey been like for you?
It has been a journey.
If you want something a little more specific or concrete, I’d love to know about maybe the top few or most beneficial practices or perspectives that have been game-changers for you in that process.
Some context is probably helpful. All my friends and family know that my parents broke up when I was little. Growing up, I thought that it was a unique thing. I thought that it was something that somehow the world was against me and people were scheming against me. I was the only child in the whole world that had a family like that, but now, I see it every day in the classroom. My mindset has shifted from thinking, “I was the only person that had a background like this,” to “I’ll be surprised when I meet a student who doesn’t have a background like that.”
It’s prevalent. My mind has been opened on that reality, which has been helpful for humility and selfishness. As a kid, it’s easy to think, “I’m the only one like this.” With that context, it was easy to have negative thoughts, to think the world was against me, and to believe and feel that I was alone, no one was for me, I had no help, and I didn’t belong anywhere. I thought I was the only one that experienced those things. Lo and behold, lots of people experience them. That’s a unique way that I experienced it. You can talk to almost anyone and they’ll experience the same thing that I experienced just in a different way.
Growing up, there’s a bunch of negative thoughts and negative feelings. They would loop with each other. One negative emotion would lead to negative thoughts, which would lead to more negative emotions and more negative thoughts. It would spiral and it would go on and on. The big pivotal thing, “Was God putting His spirit in me?” He’s putting his light in my life and realizing, “There is a Creator who wants me to live out His righteousness and know the life that can be found in Him.” He wants me to know that it’s stinking bad that He sent His only Son to die for all of my bad things, sin, and wrongdoing and then rose again and said, “I know you suck, but I want to offer this life to you. Follow me.” That’s the key main thing. That’s the linchpin. Anything else that flowed in my life would not have happened had that not happened.
There were some things that I also realized are crucial. One of them is that we shape our perception and perspective of the world. We have a view of the world. I don’t know what it is for each individual. That view, the way that you look at the world is something that you’ve built. It’s based off of what you’ve reinforced your mind and your beliefs with, what’s being put into your head, and how you’re choosing to interpret the different circumstances around you. I interpreted my circumstances like the whole world was against me. Now, as an adult, I’m like, “There’s no way the world will be against me.” Some person in China is talking to some person in Canada and then talking to my friends here saying things like, “How are we going to scheme against Nate?” It’s such a joke.
We built that perception of the world. Paul Washer was speaking in the church at Grace Com and one of the things that he said was, “Revelation leads to faith, which leads to joy, which leads to obedience in our lives.” That revelation was informing our minds with what God has revealed to us through scripture. That shapes our faith and our faith are the things that we believe what’s in our head. That changes the joy that we have, our emotions, and that is what influences our obedience in the day-to-day actions in our life. That’s not like, “Here are the rules and follow the rules,” but that’s, “Christ is good, awesome and righteous. You can start living those things out. You can start loving people. You can start having that positive perspective.” Something that I had to learn was that we do shape our perspective and our worldview. The way we interpret the things around us is something that we’ve built and no one else has influenced that.Revelation leads to faith, which leads to joy and which leads to obedience. Click To Tweet
In the previous episode, I talked about that thing of how our beliefs are formed. It’s this process that Joe Dispenza breaks down in his book, You Are The Placebo that goes, “When we string together thoughts, feelings and actions, it forms into our attitudes,” which over time, you string enough attitudes together. It turns into our belief and when you connect enough beliefs together, it forms and fills our perception of the world, ourselves, and others. Understanding that process is helpful so that we know how to change the beliefs, closed-minded views or opinions we have about whatever it may be. The key linchpin that he brings out that is helpful is, “In order to make those changes, we have to attach emotion because emotion is what allows us to believe the change that we want to see.” When we attach that over enough time, we can start seeing the fruit of that, but it takes commitment fueled by emotion that then creates the impetus for the change, which is true in many ways. If you want to know more, definitely go back and check that episode out. I love that breakdown.
I had the opportunity to practically live out and think through those things that you’re mentioning. In 2015, I wanted to break loops and habits of negative thoughts, depressing thoughts, and a pattern of depression. What I noticed was that I liked thinking, being analytical, and being pensive, but everything I would dwell on and process in my head was more or less something negative. It was about my parents being divorced. It was about maybe I made a friend upset or maybe I wasn’t successful in school or at work. I would latch on to many negative things and let those dwell in my head. I decided, “Let’s flip this switch. Instead of being pensive about hurtful things, let me be pensive about joyful things.”
I came up with this little phrase, joyously pensive. I stuck that into my head and put it everywhere in front of me in different notes. I wrote it down in different places. The entire month of January that year, that’s what I dwelt on. The easiest thing to connect to was the gospel. It was like, “I know what God has done. Let me dwell on that and let me think about that.” That led to, “Let me dwell on the good relationships that God’s put in my life. Let me dwell on the good work that God’s given me to do.” I live in California and there are many good things here to look at and say, “This is good.” I’m not going to worship it and not going to value it more than the Lord, but it’s great where He’s put us.
That phrase definitely helped me start breaking those patterns of negative and hurtful thought. It led to that entire year. I came up with a new phrase, always two words I’d paired together. Sometimes, I’d try to pair words that at least to me, they didn’t make sense to put together because I wanted to stretch my mind. I wanted to come up with a new idea that my mind hadn’t thought of. I bet lots of people have already thought of these things, but I hadn’t thought of it. I’m like, “Let’s do something new for me and something that I feel like it’s going to challenge myself.” For the first month, joyously pensive, that was a challenge. As simple as that sounds, it was a challenge to think about the positive things in this world.
My sister, Court Roberts, got me started on word of the year as a great way to hold an intention or a word or a theme for the entire year like a resolution. To do it for the month and to do a two-word phrase is super powerful and I always loved hearing what you were thinking through processing when you started this. Did you have any favorites other than joyously pensive that stuck out from the period of doing that?
That one’s definitely the most favorite because it ignited. One that hit home was holistically earnest. That one went deep because most of us have the desire to be earnest. I want to be earnest 100% of the time, but the idea of holistically earnest is looking at my life, its completion and fullness, and saying, “Am I attempting to be earnest in every little area? Are there things that the decisions I make are with myself in mind in my benefit?” I may disguise things so that I can reward and benefit from it, and not other people. I need to think about what is best for everyone and I need to be completely straightforward and honest with where I’m at. I’m letting that earnestness take over every aspect of my life and it was an easy one to almost say, “I’m good. I can do that. I’m an honest guy.” To dwell on that and ask, “What’s my motive here? Am I trying to be truthful and honest in even the smallest little details?” That was another fun one.
It speaks to the integrity piece like, “Are you who you say you are? Are you committed to being the person you say you are?” We all are human, so we all suck at that to some degree, but we can all hold a high line of integrity and we’re going to benefit a lot. I work with individuals on coaching. In coaching, can you maintain integrity? We’re going to make some commitments here and then I’m going to help you try to maintain those commitments. That’s integrity. You commit to doing something and you don’t do it, that’s the lack of integrity. Let’s have a conversation about that. It opens up a lot of fun questions that we get to dive into. We all are easy on ourselves because that’s the easier path. Negativity is the easier path and that’s going to be our default. If we don’t choose a path, we’re going to choose a negative path. That’s why intention is huge. I love those two-word phrases because it helps you have an intention that helps you pick the harder path, which is the path of most resistance and the best path to take.
That ties in with another one of the phrases, conducive perception. I studied engineering a little bit before I switched to teaching so I heard conducive. I think of electricity and water and it takes the path of least resistance. I think of perception and you probably know as someone analytical, there’s a whole lot to observe in the world. There’s a whole lot to think about and dwell on. With that phrase, conducive perception, I had to ask myself, “What am I noticing in the world around me and what’s the benefit of noticing it?” Does it mean noticing and observing analytical about this idea or thought? Does it help other people? Is it conducive to my life and other people’s lives or is it wasteful?
Having that intentionality with your mind and saying, “Here’s something I saw and was thinking about.” It connects to my life or somebody else and saying, “Because it connects with other people, here are the sets of actions that I’m going to start doing because of what I’ve observed.” Working at the café, if someone comes in and they always order a vanilla latte, we can anticipate that. We take that perception and say, “I’m going to get the drink going.” Maybe he changes it up but if he doesn’t, it’s almost done and he gets his drink faster. It’s having things like that in our life where we’re making those observations with the intent of, “I want to make people’s lives easier, make things flow better and allow things to be conducive.”
Anybody reading would benefit from incorporating that more. I want to know what you hope to accomplish in the next few years, a five-year outlook on what you’re trying to do.
When you were coaching me for a season, you asked me and I said, “I want to be a school administrator.” I still want to do that, but reality has settled in and my goal is a lot more philosophical, vague, and principal-based, not practical. In a few years, I want to love people. I want to be the person that the Lord uses to show His love in other people’s lives and I want people to feel that. I want to encourage people to be that type of person. I’m convinced that if we focus on the love that Christ has already set as an example, we want to live that out and present it to other people’s lives. It doesn’t matter what we’re going to do, life’s going to be more enjoyable.
Love better is a good goal. What book or books had the biggest impact on you, aside from the Bible?
There are two that come to mind. There’s this one book that I haven’t read in a long time by Christian Overman and it was titled, Assumptions that Affect Our Lives. He takes our current worldview as Americans in the 20th and 21st century. He traces cultural things back to the Greeks to Hebrews or Israelites. He takes our beliefs in a single God or multiple gods and helps you see how much of our current worldview gets traced back to those two cultures. The way that he does it is logical and perceptive. In the process of making those observations, you become more logical and perceptive of your own worldview. You can start saying, “I do this because of this certain worldview.” That book was rad. The other book is a classic. It’s Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. That book is phenomenal. I read it as a believer. I know some people have read it and that’s what the Lord used to make them into a believer and change their life. It helps you think through what you believe and it’s another big worldview book. That one is rad. I can list off a lot of other CS Lewis books.
If you could give a TED Talk, what would it be on and why?
How the tone of voice and body language affects your communication.
The tone of voice, I’ve been thinking about that a lot more as I’m working on speaking, storytelling and even recording my audiobook. It has such an effect on the way it’s received and communicated. It’s amazing. It’s fascinating and it’d be a great one.Flip the switch. Instead of being pensive about hurtful things, be pensive in joyful things. Click To Tweet
People say it’s 80% of communication or something like that.
If you can send a morning text reminder to every Up & Comer out there, what would you say and why? That’s a text they get every morning when they wake up.
I’d say, “Wake up, get up and do things that are going to be worth it.” Sometimes, we look at our day and lives, and for some reason, we don’t believe it’s going to be worth it. We have all these fears. We talk about self-limiting fears all the time. In the morning, that’s where they are most abundant. We believe in many self-limiting things and we don’t think it’s going to be worth it and there’s going to be that value. I know it’s hard for me and I’ve heard it from other people. The day is going to be worth it.
That’s close to home. One time, I woke up in the morning and I knew it. I primed myself at night because a 4:50, the alarm clock is early. I knew that I wasn’t going to the gym like we all do when we wake up. I laid there for a second and was like, “No, Thane. You’re not lying here. You’re getting up because it’s worth it. You don’t feel like it right now because you never feel like it but you’re going to.” That’s it. It worked. It doesn’t matter who you are. You still have to do this. That’s a good word. Thanks for coming on. This has been a blast.
Thanks for having me.
Where is a good place for people to connect or reach out if they have questions and want to continue the conversation?
Thanks again. For the audience, we hope you have an up and coming week.
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