21 May 2015

Musings of a Wildcat

From time to time, Nate makes his way down to the good old Alma Mater, the University of Arizona. Last weekend was one of those times. It was graduation day, nonetheless. It is strange to be on the other side of the coin. Watching the future of America emerging from Main Gate is a scary thought when you hear phrases such as “he totally kicked his ass”coming out of the mouths of those in caps and gowns.

IMG_20131116_112419Not too long ago, Nate was one of these spirited individuals without care in the world except the details of last night’s party. While ass-kicking was not a part of his usual activities, there was something special about that season. All too quickly, life starts and many of the rituals that make college one of the most enjoyable and healthy seasons come to a halt.

For Nate, many of these adult transitions were subconscious. They were completely normal based on his now current circumstances.  His life looked like those of many people around him. He must be doing something right. Not necessarily.

It wasn’t until life began to feel broken, purposeless, and frankly, miserable, that he consciously began to analyze what was missing. He found that many of the lifestyle choices inherent in the college life are absolutely crucial to a vibrant life. The fact that they are compartmentalized and reserved for those glorious  five years is completely absurd.

While there may not be parties seven nights a week as reality sets in, there are still plenty of ways to re-integrate this lifestyle into adulthood.

IMG_20150320_071525Musing Number One - Happier people drive less: Without a car for much of the time in college, Nate was forced to walk, bike, or use the bus. By design, his life was limited to a small geographic area. He was in the best shape of his life and had more energy. Nate has found that cars come with far more costs than insurance and gas. Although driving may reduce travel time, the absence of a regular workout reduces energy, productivity and creativity, resulting in a net loss. By being intentional about geographic proximity to work, friends, church, and family, it is suddenly possible, even in Phoenix, to say no to the automobile more often.

Musing Number Two – Happier people have community: College is the epitome of social engagement. During college it was rare to eat dinner alone. Whether it was a deep conversation over quesadillas at CafĂ© Sonora or a group cram session that takes up more tables than is socially acceptable at the Grill during peak hours, fellowship was built in, easy, and frequent. There is less time to be sad or bored or lonely when these methods for engagement are available. Everybody hung out in everybody else's’ dorm room, and nobody cared how messy it was. Community simply happened. Working in a small office and living alone, Nate has to be extremely intentional about this musing.  Luckily church has been a great catalyst, and is one reason why the Christian model of life is so fulfilling.

Note: This musing dovetails nicely with Number One. By living in a small area, it is likely to see the same people repeatedly and build relationships. Once solidified, it is convenient and accessible to have dinner with them for no reason at all. It isn’t as easy to meet people while driving around in a two ton metal box of solidarity.

Musing Number Three – Happier people take risks: In college, almost everything is a new experience. Therefore, there is an inherent amount of risk just to survive on a day to day basis. Trying new things and taking risks becomes a normal mode of operation that isn’t so scary after all.  People go new places, try new activities, meet new people, eat new foods, all without batting an eye. Once graduation sets in, so do adult routines which can be rather mundane. Are the obvious mundane routines such as jobs only supporting more mundane “stuff “ that in turn restrict time and resources to create new experiences?  In college, there was no room and no money for “stuff”, but there was an abundance of an even greater commodity: time. By living a minimal life, there are far fewer obligations required to support the mundane, resulting in more space to live a riskier life.  The only difference in adult life may be the lack of a massive hangover.

15 May 2015

Honing A New Craft

As Nate continues his journey through Phoenix he finds rest and rejuvenation  in the most arbitrary of venues. The most recent – the backyard of his dear childhood neighbors. Real conversation was had – emotional, intellectual, and recreational. There was space to relax, and ponder, and articulate questions never before verbalized. The take away is, again, the reinforcement that more does not equal more.

This is why minimal living is so important to the journey in life. Minimalism is not simply the idea of purging your belongings. It is the idea that your belongings do not control your time, attention and resources. Without space in the calendar, and most definitely without space in the mind to engage, these relational dynamics would simply not be possible. Those who say they can truly be “present” while simultaneously poised with a Bluetooth headset and  playing Candy Crush are a mysterious bunch.

Last week, a career idea sparked. What if Nate could use his design and communication skills to help others embrace a minimal lifestyle so they can be rich in ways they have only dreamed about, ways that do not involve money, but time and relationships.  Whether or not this idea is really a “thing” is irrelevant. If Nate has experienced something so rich, how can he NOT share it with the world. Perhaps this is a consultant service. Perhaps this is a furniture assembly service. Perhaps this is a life coach. Perhaps it is a maid service. Perhaps it is a little bit of each. The concept is simple: use the available tools to facilitate a life where one thinks more deeply about less.

The next step is to continue to study, life, observe, and document these life choices as a tools. Simultaneously, the fruitful life should also experienced and documented so others may take notice and say, “he has something I want”. That is not to say that one has to do exactly what Nate does in the newfound free time. Quite contrary. The idea is that time and energy are present to embrace that which one is truly passionate about, amplifying our unique yet complementary God given talents and dreams. Then at night, one can truly rest, not consumed by appointments, finances, and “stuff”.

How to get this idea going is still in the works. After reading enough Acuff, this is the prime time for Nate to work out all the bugs and hone the craft – when nobody notices. He probably should not even be writing this blog for the world to see… but who really reads this thing anyway? This is just another step in the journey – practicing the documentation. This is why Nate needs to write. This is why Nate needs to take pictures. This is why the spark that ignited Phoenix Uncovered cannot be extinguished.

05 May 2015

Life with Keys

IMG_7423As Nate has moved from place to place, to yet another place, and possibly seven more places over the last nine years, he has learned the importance of making things you do every day, multiple times a day, stress free.

It can be something as simple as keying all the locks on your house to the same key. He never knew what a difference it would make until he did it, had it, then lost it. Life with keys can feel overwhelming. There is a key to the entrance of the building, a key to the top lock, another key for the bottom. Then there is the ever so important key to the city from the mayor. That one is definitely a keeper. By the time all is said and done, overwhelming masses of metal overtake pockets and purses across the country.

Yes, it takes a little bit of cash and time to have a locksmith come out execute this task. If one goes the DIY route, there goes half a Saturday. This is an example though, of a little thing that gets put off day after day. It seems like no big deal, or is it?

Think of the time spent flipping through four pounds of keys to get into the house with an arm full of groceries, only to have the bag break and liquid Tide running down the stairs. Recall that moment of frustration and pain when those coffees catch up and bladder “control” is marginal at best. The train to relief is derailed yet again when the wrong key is jammed in the hole. It only looks ever so slightly different than the right key, but there is no time to compare key teeth patterns when explosion is imminent.

Imagine a life without a wrong key. Imagine a life where this routine sequence just works, every time, every day, with minimal mental exertion. Imagine how full the mental energy bank will be if it isn’t spent on trite sequences involving keys, junk drawers, or medicine cabinets. Whatever the analogous mass of metal may be, take the time and set it right, today. As the little obstacles in life begin to lift, the mind frees to think about family, dreams, and stuff that matters. One situation like rearranging the keys might not seem significant, but twenty similar situations quickly add up to a life of eating dinner at 9:00 PM, exhausted, with nothing of value accomplished. Start little, start anywhere, just start*.

*Nate has been inspired by reading a lot of Jon Acuff and Joshua Becker. Both are great resources to living a better life, and come highly recommended. 

03 May 2015


Chandler 125No, despite what the lack of activity suggests, Nate has not gotten lost in a vortex to another dimension. 

He did, however, geek out in downtown Chandler, Arizona for a solid hour with his camera, testing each and every setting. His love of exploring new places through the lens of photography had been forgotten in the midst of the previous years’ chaos. He also seems to have forgotten, ashamedly all too quickly, that the best evenings are often those which are unplanned.

While Phoenix has been an exciting place to explore, Nate has also realized he knows very little about many of the adjacent cities, each writing their own story. Yesterday’s quest for a truck took him a round-about way to downtown Chandler. He decided to park for a while at the new Peixoto Coffee. At this quaint spot, it is clear that the employees are living out many of Jon Acuff’s principles. They have found their passion and share it with the community. They focus on their craft intensely to create a richer coffee experience than you would find in any Starbucks across the country. If only Nate would care about anything as much as they care about coffee. It’s time for Nate to re-evaluate the bigger picture and determine if today’s steps are leading toward his passions.

Chandler 138The recent lack of writing indicates something is severely off course.

Yes, community has started to occupy his time. That is good. What about the other 50 hours a week? There has been nothing to report because his perspective has shifted away from that which he is passionate to that which is deemed necessary. Necessary by whose standards? Society? Others? His own false perceptions?

The light and texture found in the architecture of Chandler City Hall caused a spark . All of a sudden, it was okay, even necessary, to stop and observe, appreciate, study, and wonder. It was okay to spend enough time and energy on ONE thing, and execute it well. It was appropriate to intimately understand how one camera setting can effect the end product, and how they all work together. It was worthy of awe to stop and study something long enough to decipher what is the true essence to be captured.

Chandler 067The lessoned learned – it is going to take 150 attempts to get 3 really good pictures, if you are lucky. It is unrealistic to expect perfection to be handed to you as would a drive through order at Taco Bell. Good art takes the most precious commodity: time.

Each new opportunity and commitment punctures a small hole in his energy cup and withdraws from your time bank. When there are one or two, the pace of natural refill matches that at which it drains and allows time for rest. Once there are five, seven, or seventeen holes, suddenly that balance  cannot be sustained.

To quote Jon Acuff yet again, it is good to be reminded that “rest is not a by-product of your success: it is a by-product of your humanity”.

It is time to slow down, say no to things that don’t matter, and begin to live again.