How to Set Expectations for Your Job Search After Getting Laid Off

I recently saw a post from someone in my network that shocked me.

He’d been impacted by a recent layoff and despite trying everything possible to find a new job (applying, interviewing, networking, etc.) he’d been unable to land something new.

Frustrated by his lack of success, he was ready to give up.

The shocking part was that it had been 17 days since he’d started his search. 🤯

He’d expected that after 2.5 weeks he’d have landed the job of his dreams. I wanted to give this person a dose of reality. And a hug.

Years ago when I was laid off, I was similarly optimistic. I genuinely thought I’d be out of work for a few weeks and would quickly land something better. Weeks turned into months and I wondered what was wrong with me.

I took every rejection personally. My optimism had been completely disconnected from reality. I had no idea the average job search took five months. Resetting expectations was painful.

Optimism is good. But the reality is that finding a job will take longer than you expect. And it’s going to be an emotional journey. You’ll face uncertainty and self doubt. Your confidence may be shaken at times.

But your mindset will make all the difference. Mentally prepare yourself. Put in the work. Build relationships. Show up. Control what you can control. Hustle until you’ve achieved your goal. 👊👊

Here’s an article I wrote for Fast Company about how to manage getting laid off.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What have you done to successfully navigate a job search?

The False Belief Holding Us Back From Unleashing Our Potential

There’s a fascinating phenomenon I’ve discovered from coaching top performers.

This may make you uncomfortable. I feel a bit uncomfortable writing it. But give it a try.

The phenomenon I’ve found is that most of us place a cap on how much success we allow ourselves to enjoy. We believe that we’re entitled to a portion of success or happiness in our life but not much more. We put an upper bound on ourselves.

And once we hit that upper bound of success we do things that prevent us from achieving our full potential. We find ways to sabotage ourselves. We don’t go all out. We play safe.

We do this because there’s a nagging thought that lies deep within us: I am not enough. This thought is 100% subconscious and it’s 100% false.

What I’ve found working with top performers is that everyone has an inner genius. It may vary from person to person, but it’s there. We’ve all been given unique abilities and strengths. The divine is within us. We have the capacity for greatness.

Until we realize that we’re inherently enough we’ll never reach our true potential. Until we realize that we’re inherently enough we’ll never discover and maximize our inner genius.

I invite you to ponder this question: how much abundance am I willing to allow in my life?

You are enough. And the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can realize your full potential.

You are enough.

Don’t Focus on How to Play the Game, Focus on Which Game You’re Going to Play

A few years back I learned a lesson that hit me like a ton of bricks. And changed how I think about life.
I started my career in investment banking. It paid well and I enjoyed working on high profile stuff. It was fun being surrounded by talented people. But I really didn’t like the work. 
I was competent, but I wasn’t awesome. I wasn’t playing to my inherent strengths. I worked hard but wasn’t motivated to go above and beyond. I was in the wrong game. 

Years later I stumbled on this quote from Kwame Anthony Appiah that hit me hard: “In life, the challenge is not so much to figure out how best to play the game; the challenge is to figure out what game you’re playing.”
While in finance, most of my effort was spent on HOW I was playing the game (e.g. improving my financial modeling). But that wasn’t my problem. My real problem was that I was in the wrong game. And until I found the right game, my upside was limited. 
It took years, but ultimately I changed games. I made a career pivot that drastically altered the trajectory of my career. It was really hard at first and I had to take a few steps back.

But in this new game I was playing to my strengths and I was energized to go to work each day. That combo brought increased satisfaction and rapid growth. 

So how do you figure out the right game? First, you need to discover your inherent strengths. This can be hard to do early in career, but with with more experience you can look back over the types of work you’ve done and find the activities that come naturally to you and that energize you.
Don’t worry about how well you’re playing the game. That will come with time. Focus on playing the right game. Play YOUR game. Because that will make all the difference in the end.

Do Things That Don’t Scale

When I was at DoorDash, Tony Xu regularly taught a key lesson that was counterintuitive: Do things that don’t scale.

Want to know what challenges restaurants are facing? Pick up the phone and call a hundred of them.

Want to know why NPS has slipped in Omaha? Well, start reaching out to customers in Nebraska.

Too often we seek to optimize when in reality we don’t even know what we’re optimizing for. This has obvious application to building startups, but it’s even truer in our relationships. 

It’s taken me too long to learn that I can’t *scale* my relationship with my kids. Going to dance concerts, attending baseball games, and reading books takes time. Last night, we sat at the dinner table for hours playing card games, laughing, arguing, and making memories.

Whether you’re growing a startup or growing a child, you can’t optimize everything.

Do things that don’t scale.

Service Creates Sanctuaries of Belonging

Too often I fall in the selfish camp, but I’ve found that the best way to forget my worries and struggles is to set them aside and find someone I can serve.

In the words of Neal Maxwell:

So often what people need is to be enveloped in the raiment of real response.

So often what people need is to be sheltered from the storms of life in the sanctuary of belonging. Such a service cannot be rendered by selfish people, however, because the response of the selfish will always be that there is no room in the inn. Chronic self-concern means that the “No Vacancy” sign is always posted.

Often the best “self care” is to forget ourselves and focus on serving someone else. This doesn’t need to be through a service project or a grand display of charity. It can simply be accomplished by finding someone who’s struggling and being a light to them. A smile. An act of kindness. A helping hand.

We can all become sanctuaries of belonging.

Oceanside Ironman 70.3 Recap: How I Blew Away My Personal Best

My journey to Oceanside starts with the St George Ironman 70.3 in May 2021. I had trained for months leading up to St George, but my taper couldn’t have been worse. Three weeks before the event I got sick, a job offer led to lack of sleep as I evaluated what that would mean for me and the family, and then I smashed my middle toe on vacation just days before the event. 

While I rebounded from the first two, my toe was in serious pain. X-rays showed it wasn’t broken, but the pain was so severe I couldn’t run on it. I could barely even walk. A few days of recovery and a lot of ibuprofen got me to the start line. My former goal of beating my brother was long gone. I simply wanted to finish. 

Race day came and things went better than expected. I had to stop several times to tape my toe. I noticed pain on the bike, but had virtually no toe issues on the run. I crossed the finish line in 6 hours and 35 minutes. I was pleased, but knew I could do better. 

I signed up for the Oceanside half Ironman (I use 70.3 and half Ironman interchangeably) in October 2021, six months before the event. My young brother, who I often compete with, signed up too, but with a baby on the way I knew he wouldn’t be at his best. My Oceanside training had less to do with beating him and more to do with beating myself. I wanted to get faster. 

I created a rigorous training plan that involved more volume than I’d done before. I also shifted my intensity, spending more time in zone 2 (which for me is a heart rate between 138 and 153). This was a massive shift. Historically, when I’d gone out for a run or ride, I’d push the intensity, letting my heart rate go near max capacity on a regular basis. 

While this felt good at the moment, I didn’t have ample time to recover and was often left with nagging injuries that hurt my ability to train. My research had shown that spending 80% or more of my training in zone 2 would allow me to train longer, which would lead to increased fitness and speed. In essence, my mantra became “go slower to go faster.” 

I stuck to the plan for months, making sacrifices in other parts of my life to make time for cycling, running, and swimming workouts. Some days I woke up really early to get in a long workout. Other days I exercised after the kids had gone to bed. Once or twice a week I did strength training, knowing that weights were needed. I strived to eat healthier. All these things added up, and as the months passed, it was clear I was getting faster. 

I had set the goal of 6:10, 25 minutes faster than my St George time. That was a stretch, but I wanted to push myself. If everything played out perfectly, I had a distant chance at breaking six hours. 

Race day came and my training was complete. Things were looking good. I hadn’t gotten sick right before. I hadn’t jammed my toe. I didn’t have any excuses. The time for performance had come. 

The 1.2 mile swim felt great. It was an ocean swim and after fighting through the breaks I found my stride. The transition to the bike was rocky and one of my water bottles bounced out of its cage but I didn’t slow to pick it up. I figured I could grab a water bottle at the first aid station. 

The cycling course was beautiful and we spent a good chunk on Camp Pendleton, a marine base with rolling hills. 56 miles in total, the ride had a few steep climbs, but nothing too bad. A headwind made the final seven miles harder than expected but I was able to keep a strong pace throughout. 

After changing into my running shoes and taking a quick bathroom break, it was time for the 13.1 mile run. As expected, running off the bike left my legs feeling gelatinous but I knew from experience that feeling would go away. The course was mostly flat, with several steep inclines near the pier. A few miles into the run I was feeling great. My bike computer broke days before the race and I didn’t use my watch for the swim, so while I felt strong, I didn’t know how I was pacing. 

Everything was perfect until mile 8 when my right achilles and left hamstring tightened. I felt like I was one bad step from the race coming to an abrupt halt. My gradual run pace kept things at bay, but with five more miles I didn’t know how long I could keep it all together. 

One fun aspect of the run course was that the streets were lined with people cheering and music blaring. The environment was electric. 

And then with two miles left things got hard. Really hard. My hip started aching. The achilles tightness was consistent but the left hamstring pain was worsening. My longest training run was 10 miles and I was kicking myself for not training longer. 

As I passed mile marker 12 felt a rush of adrenaline hit me. One mile more and I’d be done. But every time my left foot struck the ground a shot of pain went through my hamstring. It literally felt like someone was punching me. I silently prayed that it wouldn’t give out. 

I didn’t have much in the tank, but as the finish neared, I gave it everything I had. The race announcer yelled my name and I pumped my fists as I crossed the finish line. A screen above my head displayed the final times of each triathlete. My run slowed to a walk and I turned my head 180 degrees to see the screen. 

Nothing yet.  

Then it flashed: Nathan Tanner – 5:55:23

You’re kidding me, I thought. 

A rush of emotion poured over me as I realized that I hadn’t just beaten my goal time, I had crushed it. My eyes filled with tears as it hit me that I had done something I didn’t think was possible. 

The tears continued and I started to lose my balance. Leaning against a fence, head buried in my elbows, I cried uncontrollably. I cried loudly. So much so that another athlete stopped to make sure I was okay. I thanked her for her concern and put my head back in my elbows. This was a full body release. I had left everything on that course and my body was releasing its last bit of energy through tears. 

Yes, I beat my brother by 15 minutes, but that wasn’t it. It was something more. I had set a big, hairy, audacious goal, I had trained harder than ever, and I blew the goal out of the water.

As I write this almost two months later, the emotion of the moment comes back to me. I’m not entirely sure what I experienced, but it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.

Many times it seems like things don’t go as hoped. The plans and goals and ambitions I have for myself fall short of expectations. But on that early April day in Oceanside, California, everything went my way.

And I’ll never forget it.

Daily Gratitude: Good Neighbors (Day 1,800)

In April 2017 I kicked off a gratitude challenge where I wrote a daily blog post for 30 days (more on my learnings here). When the challenge ended I decided to continue the habit but only occasionally share these gratitudes on my blog. 

What does it mean to me to be neighborly?

When we moved to a new house in California, my wife decided she was going to get to know our neighbors. She made a huge batch of cookies and we started making visits. Relationships were formed and over the four years we lived in that house we developed meaningful friendships. 

Next door lived a women and two of her adult children. After eating my wife’s cookies, they wanted to do something nice. So the next time they went to the movies, they brought us back a tub of popcorn. My kids made paintings to say thank you. They then bought toys for our kids. This cycle went on and on.

When we had new babies, they came over to welcome them and looked for ways to help with the transition (that baby is almost 6 now!). We didn’t live near family, so it was special feeling that kind of love.

Had it not been for my wife deciding we were going to be good neighbors, we would have missed out on these relationships and memories.

To me, being neighborly means serving others when they’re in need. But it also means letting others serve YOU. Everyone wants to feel useful and filled with purpose. Everyone wants a sense of connection.

What does being neighborly mean to you?

Why Neighbor Rejected an Unlimited Vacation Policy (And What We Did Instead)

Let’s talk vacation time.

For most startups, “Unlimited PTO” is the default. I put that in quotes because we all know it isn’t ACTUALLY unlimited. You’d be fired if you worked one week and took off the other 51.  

As an HR leader at some of the top Silicon Valley companies, I’ve found that managers AND employees struggle with the ambiguity of an unlimited policy. In an effort to clarify, additional rules and guidelines are created. This increases frustration (wait, you said it was unlimited?) and employee resentment.  

Moreover, hourly employees usually don’t fit in the unlimited policy so there’s a separate one created for them. Not cool.  

Additionally, I found that employees who have an unlimited policy end up taking FEWER vacation days. There’s no baseline on what’s appropriate so they err on the side of not taking too many.  

For these and other reasons, we do NOT have an unlimited policy at Neighbor. What do we do instead?

Every employee, regardless of seniority, gets 20 PTO (paid time off) days per year. On January 1, everyone at Neighbor is given 20 days and it’s up to YOU to use them how you wish. Go on vacation, stay home to take care of yourself or a loved one, take a personal day. Use them how you wish! There’s no second guessing on what’s appropriate. No concerns around abusing the policy.

Here’s your PTO. Take it. Recharge. Enjoy.

The Single Most Important Career Decision I’ve Made

At a recent lunch with friends, the question came up: what’s the most important decision you’ve made in your career? 

After thinking about it for a few minutes, my mind went back to spring 2006. I was a sophomore in college, unsure what I wanted to do with my career. One night I attended an investment banking club event and learned of a professor who’d be taking students to Wall Street a few weeks later. After a few days of internal debate, I went for it. I felt pulled to go. 

During that trip my eyes were opened to career paths I didn’t know existed. I met interesting, talented people who’d go on to become mentors. Walking the streets of New York, surrounded by skyscrapers, I felt alive. An energy pulsed through me. Those few days in New York made me feel like I could do anything I wanted to. 

The saddest thing is, I almost didn’t go. I had to pay my own way and between flights and hotel it was going to cost me $500. That was a TON of money for me. Also, at the time I held a “just study hard, get good grades, and everything will work out” mindset that limited my perspective. How could I justify the financial cost and time away from school? 

That trip led to a relationship that turned into an unpaid internship which turned into a paid internship which turned into a full time job (which later turned into the largest bankruptcy in US history and a spot in the unemployment line but that’s a story for another day 🤷😂). 

That Wall Street trip was a small but critical step in becoming the person I wanted to be. While I ultimately left the finance world entirely, deciding to go to New York changed how I viewed myself. It changed the trajectory of my career. And I almost missed out on it for a few hundred bucks.  

Invest in yourself. Put yourself out there. Experiment. Don’t let school get in the way of your education. 

Invest in yourself. Explore. Dream. Even if you fail, you haven’t actually failed because you’ll learn more about yourself and grow through the process. 

Invest in yourself.

No, You Don’t Have to Be Miserable. Here’s How to Make 2022 Your Year.

Scrolling through my socials last week, I stumbled on the following tweet: 

Typically I’d keep scrolling, but for some reason it kinda bugged me and I felt compelled to respond. So I retweeted and added this gif. 

The author came at me, calling me braggy, and a friend of mine dm’d me saying that my response was “literally violence”. 

I’m going to be candid–2021 was an incredible year for me. Even as I type that, I feel a tad guilty. Somehow with COVID and everything else that’s gone on, we’ve been conditioned to think that we’re supposed to be unhappy. We’re supposed to be depressed and downhearted. And if things ARE going well for us, well, we better just keep that to ourselves because everyone else is suffering miserably.

Well, I think that’s garbage. Empathy for the suffering is one thing, and we should all strive to have more of that. But being miserable because we’re “supposed to be” is a whole different thing. And that was the sentiment I got from the above tweet.

But let me take a step back to a time where I was suffering, when things were looking bleak. Let’s rewind to the end of 2019. My family and I had just moved to Walnut Creek into a rental home that fit our family of six. Prior to that, we had lived in a three bedroom home that was 1,100 square feet. (Note: technically it was a two bedroom because one room didn’t have a closet.) Three of our kids shared a not-so-large room. The best part was that you could vacuum the entire house while keeping the vacuum cord plugged into a single outlet. We were happy but as the kids started getting bigger, our home felt a little tight. 

We moved to Walnut Creek in December of 2019 and things were looking up. I had a shorter commute, the kids were going to be in great schools, and eventually, if we kept saving diligently, we’d be able to buy our first home. Walnut Creek is where we planned to raise our family. We had moved a lot during our 12+ years of marriage and we wanted to put down deep roots. 

Well, as the great Mike Tyson said, we all have a plan until we get punched in the mouth. And 2020 certainly punched us in the mouth. A few months after the move, COVID hit and lockdowns began. Having just relocated we had very few friends in Walnut Creek and the wonderful schools we’d been so excited about closed their doors. School moved online. Hello Zoom. 

Day one wasn’t so bad. My wife set up an obstacle course for the kids, and while the girls quickly lost interest, our son decided to do it 100 times. This kept him busy for about two hours. 

I turned one of the bedrooms into a home office. While I worked, my wife made sure our 4th grader and 2nd grader stayed on task while doing preschool for a third kid and taking care of our fourth, an 18 month old. 

Each day was a grind. We hoped this temporary situation would quickly pass, but days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. The life we dreamed of had evaporated. There were silver linings along the way, but overall it was really, really hard. Some in our family struggled more than others. 

I’m sure many were impacted far more than we were, but that provides little solace when your family is spiraling. During Summer 2020 we kicked around the idea of moving but we still had a year left on our lease and we thought life would normalize soon enough. In October, it became clear there was no end in sight. Local schools signaled that remote school may continue well into the 2021-2022 school year. We hit a new low. I noticed a change in my wife and I knew we had to do something. 

In a matter of days we made the decision to move to Southern Utah, largely so our kids could go to school in person. When the December move date came, I felt sad. The life we thought we’d live was coming to an end. But I mostly felt pride. I had felt like a victim for much of the year. Circumstances were running our lives. We had no control. But in that decision to move, we took back control. As silly as this sounds, I felt like a hero. We were taking our lives back. 

In contrast, 2021 has been remarkable. The kids have loved their new school. They’ve made friends. They play sports, do gymnastics, act in plays, and do all the things that kids should be doing. They walk to school and play with friends in the street. 

There have been other highlights beyond the move. I took a VP of People role at a startup where I work with incredible people. I did an Ironman 70.3 with my brothers, ran my first marathon, and played a lot of pickleball. I watched my children gain confidence as they learned new skills and tackled problems. I spent quality time with friends and loved ones. 

It was by no stretch an easy year, and things are far from perfect, but they’re a whole lot better than in 2020. Leaving California was tough, but it was the right decision. We could have stayed but we didn’t. We took control of our lives. We were in a bad situation and we decided to make a change. We acted. 

Over the last few months I’ve reflected on this quote from Russell Nelson:

The pandemic has demonstrated how quickly life can change, at times from circumstances beyond our control. However, there are many things we can control. We set our own priorities and determine how we use our energy, time, and means. We decide how we will treat each other. We choose those to whom we will turn for truth and guidance.

2021 has been one of the best years of my life. But maybe it was an awful year for you. Maybe you’re happy to put it all behind you. But what are you going to do in 2022 to make it better? How can you control your circumstances? What do you need to do to take charge? 

I don’t want to be callous or flippant. You may have gone through a trial in 2021 that puts my 2020 to shame. You may have lost a loved one. Or lost your job. Or lost your purpose. But as you look ahead to the new year I invite you to ponder this question: Is it possible 2022 could be the best year of my life? 

As COVID concerns grow and other challenges only seem to increase, it’s easy to tell ourselves that things are bad and will only get worse. Maybe. But I challenge you to reconsider. Many of us are miserable. We don’t have to be. To quote Nelson again, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”

As you enter the new year, I wish peace, joy, and happiness for you and your family. The world needs people who are striving to grow and improve and thrive. The world needs people who choose to act rather than being acted upon. The world needs you. Make 2022 your year.