Podcast

Episode: 355 |
J. Andrew McKee:
Personal Growth:
Episode
355

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

andrew-mckee-mckinsey-alum-san-francisco-ca

J. Andrew McKee

Personal Growth

Show Notes

 

In a weekly email to Unleashed subscribers in the fall of 2019, I asked, “What you are doing this fall to get better at what you do?” Umbrex member J. Andrew McKee sent me the following extraordinary response, and I asked him to be a guest on the show to discuss.

To learn more about Andrew’s consulting practice (which we don’t discuss), visit: HeadlandStrategy.com.

Here is Andrew’s answer on what he is doing to get better at what he does:

New:

  1. Resumed saxophone practice 2-4 times a week, with a goal to resume performing in a narrow (muse-inspired) set of genres by 2021.  I may also get a teacher if I can sustain through Q1 (9 months ongoing!)
  2. Hired a change coach with psychology and spiritual training to help me vision an inspiring growth trajectory for my consulting business while balancing writing and family priorities
  3. Teaching more private webinars and a university course (one 3-hour module) (me and my staff)
  4. Teaching more lunch and learns to our growing staff
  5. Doing Zoom hip hop dance classes with my daughters (Michael Peele!)
  6. Sending more emotionally vulnerable emails to my close guy friends about the ups and downs of life, and having more 1:1 phone calls where I stop beating around the bush
  7. Protecting occasional afternoons for 3-4 hour hikes with masks with longtime friends
  8. Calling my father more regularly (Q2 weeks)
  9. Resuming a meditation practice after I intentionally let it lapse on behalf of first protecting a full night of sleep, and now that our youngest child is out of diapers and I can manage 10-20 minutes per day.
  10. Planning to hire an HR consultant to help us build behaviors to learn new knowledge and skills into a broader sense of “performance review” than is typically done.  I would also like to align this with peer-encouraged deliberate practice.  We are also noodling on hiring an expert for certain skills (e.g., market research interviews), and having them work with us like a coach (pre- and post-game feedback).
  11. Added volunteer programs to mentor students at a historically black university, including mock interview practice, career advice, help with career connections, and so on.

 

Sustained:

  1. Writing literary fiction 2-3 hours per day
  2. Journaling daily about anything and everything (“Morning pages” in the spirit of Julia Cameron)
  3. No alcohol since 2013 (or other drugs)
  4. No caffeine since summer 2019 (except 1-2 cups decaf coffee or 1 cup of green tea)
  5. Intermitted fasting when I feel like it
  6. Protecting 7.5 to 8.0 hours of sleep per night, helped by reminders from my Oura Ring
  7. Protecting time for the family each day (AM and dinner time) and every weekend, including supporting them in music and sports
  8. Reading almost zero business books, which I find very low yield in general
  9. Reading widely and muse-inspired, drawing from a long list of books I’d love to read and reading them when I feel inspired, across nonfiction and fiction in a 1:1 mix
  10. Listening broadly to music that inspires and moves me

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed, the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host Will Bachman and I’m here today with Andrew McKee who’s an Umbrex member McKinsey alum. He runs a biotech growth strategy firm called headland strategy. But today, we’re not going to focus so much on on that we’re going to focus on a different topic. And I sent out an Andrew is also a listener of unleashed and I send out a weekly email to listeners in unleashed. And back in the fall, I included a question in that email of what are you doing to get better at what you do. And Andrew sent me this response, which kind of blew my mind. And I’m gonna actually put this response in the show notes, so you can check it out. And today we’re going to talk about some of the things that Andrew included in an email. So Andrew, I’ve been looking forward to this. Welcome to the show.

Andrew McKee 01:01
Thank you. Will, pleasure to be here honored to be invited, and I always really enjoy being part of the community. So thanks for having me.

Will Bachman 01:08
So I was blown away when I saw this list. And listeners, if you can read the show notes, you can check it out. Andrew is a busy man, let me just I’m just I’m not going to go in order. I’m going to skip around a little bit. But the idea behind this was a blog post from David parral called learn like an athlete. And also, Tyler Cowen had a post on how I practice at what I do. And I sent those out asking, you know, people who are on that list of what what do you do to get better, and you have big long lists. So number one on your you and you broke it out between new things that you’re doing new and sustained things ongoing. So I gotta ask you about number one on your sustained list was writing literary fiction for two to three hours a day. Tell me about that a little bit.

01:56
Yeah. So thanks, Will. So first is I think there’s often a tension between my aspiration and reality when I have things like that. So I think the measured amount that I wrote per weekday in 2020, was about 90 minutes. So then that includes like getting horrifically sick and February, which was either COVID that was not confirmed an antibody testing or influenza, or more likely. Yeah. So how do I do that I part of is, I make a priority that there’s certain things I do want to do. And, and writing fiction is one of them. And I could probably fill the whole podcast talking about writing fiction. But suffice to say, I’ll try to give you the 32nd summary as I got into writing as a form of healing in the wake of a my mother’s death A long time ago, and then that sort of snowballed into discovering I like to just do writing. And then I took some extension classes, and just continued to snowball and affirmation I love to do writing kind of, regardless of the end product, or you know, any public reception of it, or whatever. And, and then eventually continue to snowball through getting some paid publications and stuff like that, into realizing that I wanted to do fiction. And that, because fiction is hard to monetize until you actually have the books done. And because I write in a very slow, bottoms up kind of way. I started work with a professional editor. And I realized that you know, I’ll do it part time, but I also have family responsibilities, and have other interests, which we’ll get to like science and medicine. So yeah, I kind of got into a rhythm. There’s a period about five years ago, where I took time off from my work and wrote 50% of my sort of working time, and then it got to a momentum where I could feel good about progress every day with writing with the two to three hours. So yeah, I would love to my goal for this year was to get to a solid. I believe it’s two and a half hours and maybe 450 minutes. So I don’t have to answer your question. I can talk more about specific tactics I use to like sustain momentum, but I’ll I’ll pause there.

Will Bachman 04:02
Yeah, sure. What What do you do it? I’d love to hear those techniques, certain time of the day or distraction free. How do you go about that? And what are you are you trying to? Are you kind of trying to work on a novel currently or? Or a series of short stories or?

04:19
Yeah, yeah, thanks. So the the original goal was uncertain. Other than that, I felt something very intuitive. In my heart, I would describe it and melded with a deep intellectual curiosity around writing and Franco’s scared. It took me about three years to overcome a lot of hangups I had about writing because I had taken a lot of really cool English Lit classes in like high school and college. I didn’t have any degree, I had a lot of like negative baggage around, wanting to do something that I didn’t have me. I would tell myself earlier. I don’t have any credible excuse to be doing this. Why am I doing this? So part of that was just doing it every day. And then thanks to my dear wife’s encouragement I, yeah, I think you to do things strip in a in a very functional way, I think it’s important to seek out positive influence wherever you can find it. So I had, in this case, loved ones. And then I had some close friends, including a friend. Since we mentioned McKinsey, like one of my best friends from that time was writing novels. In every night, he was a business analyst. And, you know, so I started to like, again, build up momentum where life was introducing me to people that had similar interests. And so it share ideas with them. Yes, so as far as, let me think so part of was getting that that intrinsic motivation clarified where In other words, I just did the writing, and had to just kind of throw away any expectations around goals, or whatever I want to be, you know, what kind of paid pieces is going to be. So went through a kind of like, multi year process of just doing it without any really, without any real goals for what it would do. Other than that, I was enjoying it. And that, because I’d often deal with emotional topics around my mother or a lot of human drama topics, I find it very interesting and very meaningful to do. So let’s see as far as specific tactics right now. So maybe about six years ago, it it, especially when I I started realizing, I guess we’ll get into this part of our theme of like, lifelong learning, I’d read some books describing deliberate practice that there’s a professor Anders Ericsson, widely popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, around things one can do to practice deliberate practice. I think that one of the books I read was called talent is overrated. And, you know, so part of the concept there is to have a lot of feedback, right, and ideally, through a teacher or coach. And so I in writing, just talking about writing, specifically, I, I went through phases of going to some free or relatively low cost writers workshops, I went to some extension classes with like, basically the most highly recommended English professor who taught them and she was fantastic. And then it just got to a point where, because, you know, a married have three young, young children, I’ve got a business, like I needed just, I was willing to pay, although it wasn’t easy to make the decision at first, but I ultimately decided to hire an editor to give me You know, every week to sometimes it’s every two or three weeks depends on how much you have to do, but to give me structured feedback. So that’s one, just interrupt me whenever I also do some things like I leave myself breadcrumbs. So

07:41
which means like, I often leave if I do a lot of dialogue, a lot of drama. So I’ll leave a dialogue hanging like someone asking like a character asking another character a question. And I’ll just stop. And so the next day, there’s just this sort of like a vector in the drama. So I just, I don’t have to worry about what I have to do is just like, Alright, I’d stopped, I’m working on whatever chapter and character one just adds character to a question. There needs to be an answer. And so I just sort of drop right in, and you don’t have to really think about it. So I do that. Also jump around a little bit to your question about the whole book idea only came about once, after I went through a very florid period of just crazy writing output, like roughly in a 2012 to 2015 period, with my editors, she was like a masterful teacher and retired teacher, as well as a very skillful editor. So I kind of just went all over the place in a very constructive creative way, like, characters, their backstories all these like scenes, again, with no real intention of where it would land in it. It was after that, like, multi year process, and realize, like, wow, I’d like pumped up something like a million words. And, of course, a lot of it was like, extremely draft, and, and, or, you know, but I realized, at some point, it just qualitatively was like, wow, there’s like a lot of stuff here, a lot of cool characters. And also, my editor thought so too, so I was like, let’s just roll with this. And I think, you know, now it’s become a bit more practical, like, I’m writing novels. And it feels like the novel for me right now is the right format. Because I, I write human dramas. And there’s a bit of a psychological element to them, that I hope to make accessible for readers not not dry, or, you know, academic or anything but, but deal with like people’s feelings and as they’re going through growth and change in their lives, how they process those, how they process difficulty, failure, death, you know, loss trauma, I deal with a lot of like heavy stuff. And a very mindful to the human condition to be mindful to human condition and how we all I think have potential to grow and change. So, all right,

Will Bachman 09:52
let’s go on to another one. So this is number 11. On your new list, so something that you added, which is added volunteer programs to mentor students at a historically black university, including mock interview, practice career advice, help with Career Connections, and so on. Tell me about number 11.

Andrew McKee 10:11
Yeah, so the quick backdrop, there’s, well, maybe it won’t be quick. But one of my foundational probably top three mentors, was an African American gentleman who’s who’s passed on now. Paul, Jeffrey is the head of the Jazz Studies Program at Duke University where I went to college in medical school. And was just the sort of a mentor in all things life and someone that I spent a tremendous amount of time with, like, like, often worked harder on music, which I didn’t ever have a minor or even a major in it. And Duke worked harder on that, then my, like, pre medical and laboratory and almost sort of, like other side of my life, like, it’s been like super late nights at his house, like two or three in the morning working on Big Band arrangements with like, 20 parts or like, practice, you know, getting tutored by him as a saxophonist, which, which is my, my and his instrument. Yeah, so I think that which kind of awakened me a lot to a lot of things that this is in the south, and yeah, so for me, it hit a tipping point with with George Floyd and so many other people murdered in this country. And you know, I’ve been a student of a lot of books in history for for a long time, it just kind of reached a point where I wanted to do something a little bit more. And I had even at headland as we’ve been trying to hire more, and we continue to hire employees, trying to get, you know, people from certain minority backgrounds. And I found that, like, it just didn’t know is really succeed. So it was like to reach reach out more directly from a hiring and building relationships perspective. And part was just out of a desire to give back more to realizing that there are many people that are not as fortunate as I am, don’t have connections or people to call up when they have a problem or when to change a job, or may not know what options are available. When we talk about career planning or, and then there’s also a lot of practical stuff, like how to prepare for interviews, how to know the things that like I did in research, when I, for instance, got the job in McKinsey, already a long time ago that a lot of these students don’t have that kind of awareness of what what they could do to, to present themselves in the best way. So that’s it’s both a bit of it’s like, we want to hire people. So that which I think is a good intention. And, and also to, to give back and we also donated a fair amount of money to a few foundations last year, we’ll continue to So yeah, that’s, that’s just trying to add more meaning to what we do. As a business. And yeah, at least in our relatively small sphere of influence.

Will Bachman 13:07
And very specifically, can you tell us about you know, which college you’re you’re working with? And how, how practically did it set up today match you with a student or, you know, you know, several students are, you know, sort of how did that practicalities work?

Andrew McKee 13:24
Yeah, thank you. Yeah. So happy. So, North Carolina Central, which is also based in Durham, North Carolina, and right had a lot of good personal connections because as a as a performing musician. And as an aside, I used to be a full time professional musician. So I used to rehearse with and employ a lot of musicians who were students or alums from,

Will Bachman 13:48
wait a minute used to be a professional musician.

Andrew McKee 13:51
Yeah. And I think I can proudly say that I still am because I’ve rehabilitated my in one of COVID 2020 things that rehabilitated my saxophone, armature and wind and stuff. So yeah, I’m still am but

Will Bachman 14:06
yeah, that’s amazing. So was that like, after college before you went to McKinsey, or tell me about? Tell me about that?

Andrew McKee 14:14
Yeah, sure. So I grew up playing the saxophone, also piano, playing saxophone. And when I got to Duke, it was kind of a surprise that Paul Jeffrey was there. And frankly, he was running, running the jazz program like a conservatory program in the sense of like a, it was super intense. It was like, it had the first rehearsal and like, half the students would just like bail and just never show up again. It was like so intense. And yeah, so and I had always loved music, and it was just a just right place right time. The exact kind of teaching I needed. He set an extremely high bar was also as far as you know, being a young man and is probably Of course, loved Ulema My dear father and grandfathers, I think though I still like needing even more male mentors, you know, and, and he was a phenomenal individual like, and to see someone in their 70s when I first met him playing with, you know, playing in or performing their art form, with a youthful intensity and kind of a wild intensity of like a 20 something year old person was like, just blew my mind. I was like, wow, like, I want to get, like similar what he’s got, I mean, it’s like, and it’s, you just didn’t see that a lot of the way I grew up, as far as I can generalize a bit. But as far as older men and an art, I just didn’t see that a whole lot other than my, my uncle and a few other people. So yeah, so I was basically building this side thing of playing music, practice and play something like 30 to 40 hours a week, even during like during college, I kind of went through slightly, I would not recommend this like a slightly crazy period, where I think in adjusting to the all the trauma with my mother ship cancer and had a protracted illness before she died. I think I channeled that into a functional way of like, working too hard. So instead of maybe dealing with the emotional difficulty, or, you know, one of my regrets is not having taken even I did take time off from school, and I was with her a lot and with her when she passed, but I might have even there are a lot of other things I could have done even more to have. But instead I channeled that into music. And it’s like doing all this biomedical engineering research on top of my coursework, and I was sleeping like, you know, often four to five hours a night, which is not healthy. And, yeah, so anyway, yeah, I was playing music and it got to a point where my skills were like, good enough to play to get into the like the local scene in Raleigh Durham. And yeah, and then it’s hard to answer your question quickly, but I was performing a lot and had the privilege to like be like an invited guest on the stage of some really phenomenal saxophonist like Branford Marsalis and Lou Donaldson, and others that were in the Raleigh Durham area are coming into town from New York City or elsewhere. And it just got to be a point, you know, I was an MD PhD student feeling and I was in the lab, working on the PhD part of that dual degree program and feeling like, it just wasn’t the career path for me. And in the meantime, as practicing a lot of music, I was doing cool gigs. I was getting into composing music. And so yeah, and I just got burned out, unlike all the MD PhD stuff. So I took a leave of absence and made a go at playing professionally full time. So and I found that I actually really liked it. I love like, I love leading bands, I love composing. I loved also from the business side creating an opportunity for like, someone to hire us like cuz, you know, a number of musicians are like, man don’t do that full time, it’s going to be such a drag there, no gigs. But I found if you find like the right kind of event planners and restaurant owners and create a vision with them, then it was actually you could get you could create gigs. And we found I created like a lot of recurring gigs. Anyway, so that was really fun. At some point, it kind of played itself through. And I realized that there were other things I needed to balance. And so that was a struggle for me. Like, I couldn’t want to really turn my back on all the medical and science stuff, even if I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, just for a number of reasons. So anyway, that’s Yeah, so that was and then the other brief musical summaries that when our children were young,

18:41
I got back into music, or when our first child was young. So the 2010 era. For me, I got back into performing played in a bear Bay Area hip hop group called to get back, which was a lot of fun. And the musicians and rappers and singers were excellent. And we played some cool gigs, like at Yoshis in San Francisco. And yeah, and then we had two great rap artists, Debbie Diggs and Rafael Casal, who were the frontman. dahveed he made it, he was like his gig before he did Hamilton. So that was like, fun. And then I went into hibernation, and it’s just for about 10 years. So I’m excited to get back into very modest, you know, my, I want to perform and but just pretty selectively with musicians I love to play with, and not very frequently and just locally, you know, I’m a family man, and I don’t want to do the whole touring thing, but, man, it’s been great. I mean, I could talk all day about that too. But I got to the point where I was like dreaming about music in the past few years and like in Technicolor, like hearing the sounds and you know, you get to a point of playing where it’s like, I don’t have perfect pitch, but like it here, like a dream and I’d be improvising solos. And they’re like, pitch correct. You know and like everything was like super vivid, right? I have like, Paul, Jeffrey, in my dreams, giving me encouragement not just about music, but about life. I mean, such a great guy. So yeah, so I felt like at some point, I had to get back into it again, I it’s very modest, like I played two to three hours a week total. And I do some like muscle training on the off days to keep my my chops in shape.

Will Bachman 20:22
So that’s a saxophone. Okay, so so that’s extraordinary. So that’s how you got connected to North Carolina, North Carolina State University. And then how did you get couldn’t get a central central? I’m sorry? And then how did you get connected to the mentoring program? And how does that work? Did you get like paired up one on one? Or? Like, tell me a little bit about

Andrew McKee 20:42
that? Oh, yeah, great. Yeah. So it is in it’s a work in progress. So I’ve been fortunate to like let’s see, I cold called the the head of career development I think I forget what the office is called wonderful women there at NC Central and, and just cold call them and said, We’d like to do something to collaborate and how about so it’s still a work in progress, what we’re gonna officially do like, and whether it’ll be you know, what we’ll do this semester, but I’ve attended some career panels with students in this stem degrees, and, and some, like career fair type things. And then we’re still working progress. But we’re some of the ideas we’re considering our mock interview prep. So it’s going to be around, like career coaching. And, yeah, and then in the process reconnected with a high school classmate, who’s who also now works for us part time is our HR person at headland. And she has expertise in, in helping with, like diversity and inclusiveness training, and also helping, you know, people who may need additional amount of coaching, career advice. So yeah, so work in progress. But I’m excited about where that’s going. And, yeah,

Will Bachman 22:03
let’s go to number two on the new list. So you hired a change coach with psychology and spiritual training, to help me vision and inspiring growth trajectory for my consulting business while balancing writing and family priorities. So tell me a little bit about that.

22:20
Yeah, thank you. So Rick was a great coach from time to time. And, yes, I just felt, again, intuitively that I wanted to think about the right balance. And so I felt like some kind of cut to the core of like, what are my true priorities? Because, I mean, it’s fun to have, like, all these interests, like I do, but it also can get like you can get stretched too thin, right? You can sometimes just have no buffer. So if one of the various things I’m juggling goes awry, it’s like that tumbles into everything else, right, there’s like not much spare time. So yeah, she’s excellent. Coach, how do you recommend her share her name later? The last time I worked with her was when it was during the Great Recession where I was, actually, I worked with her first when I was thinking about quitting my job at Genentech. And that was bring up a lot of uncertainty about what my priorities were, how it would make money, etc, etc. And so she was foundational for that. And then, yeah, so I’ve been working with her off and on to explore and clarify the vision for heaven, because, and that’s also, I’d say, still a work in progress. Because we haven’t necessarily seen models of what kind of firm we want to build. That being said, we’re not like, it’s not like revolution, like we’re, you know, many aspects of how we’re structured as a firms like a consulting firm, is not too out of the ordinary. But we wanted it from a sort of values and the kinds of services we provide, and the kind of growth trajectory wanted to like, think all that through thoughtfully so I felt like I needed. Again, I’m kind of a doer, if it’s not obvious, and it’s nice to have, I’m practicing as I continue to get older, like getting advice, from skillful people. And so that’s, I work with the coach from time to time, not consistently, I like to kind of do it in a sort of spot way. Like if I got a major thing I’m sorting through. I’ll work with someone for like three to six months, just like that. And then similarly, we’ve started to hire like occasional advisors to head on Strategy Group that have experienced like extensive experience in healthcare or, and or have built professional services firms like headland, you know, themselves and so they can just give you a lot of words of wisdom. So it’s part of that broader theme of seeking advice more often than I have in the past.

Will Bachman 24:59
Number three, on Your sustained list is no alcohol since 2013, or other drugs, tell me about your decision to stop drinking alcohol.

Andrew McKee 25:10
Sure. So a few parts one was in the wake of my mom’s death, and then a breakup with a girlfriend, there’s a lot of sadness going on. And I, you know, admit that, you know, self medicated with drinking, I didn’t become an alcoholic or anything, but it’s just, you know, a lot of fear and all that. So, there’s like a lot of negative association with that time period and want to move on from that. Second was I got into meditation about 13 years ago, also in response to like dealing with the, you know, my mother when she passed away did not pass away peacefully and and it was not only the trauma of her death at the time, and she basically suffered from like oxygen hunger a sort of like a suffocation like, situation. But even before that, there’s just a lot of difficulties in my family around her like extended family around her illness. And because she was quite a quite an amazing woman and sort of like the glue of the family. And as she got sicker, a lot of like, skeletons in the closet, so to speak, came out between other family members. And it’s like a ton of, you know, a lot of animosity and negative emotions going down. So. So I got into meditation. And that, you know, over over the time I’ve been into it, I start to become more aware of things as you do as one does when I build that kind of practice. And I start to realize that when I drink beer, which I generally preferred, although I also like red wine, that it would be great for like the first Gulp or two, and then the diminishing returns were like, really became really obvious to me after I sort of studied it for a few months, which is like, especially with like, certain kinds of foods, spicy food, etc, it’d be great to drink a glass of beer, excuse me to have a gulp or to have beer. And then after that, I was just like, you know, that I’ll get more forgetful than I already am. And I’m slightly absent minded at baseline, right? And then, and then, of course, if you ever get drunk, then you have all these really undesirable, obvious side effects everyone knows about. So yeah, just felt like that. So it’s kind of a second reason, just studying how I felt. The third was like, I mean, I have a tendency to be too serious, because it’s kind of like, if I can be relaxed, then I don’t need like a drink of alcohol to relax me, or it’s kind of like a little challenge. Like, maybe I can try over some arbitrary period of time, can I just relax and laugh with without having a drink first. So that’s like a third one. And I found that I mostly can, although it’s still working progress. And then the fourth was, I think, just from like, the, the nutritional side of things like just, you know, and I can’t remember if beer labels now share how much sugar it was just like the crazy amount of like, empty carbs, every bottle of beer or wine or whatever. So I just felt like that was just, you know, I want to stay fit as I get older. And that just seemed like, silly, too. And then the fifth, which was not a reason at the time, but now with a lot of evidence behind it. Now that I’ve read some books around the clinical evidence around healthy sleep is it pretty much alcohol, caffeine are two of the like, worst things you can drink to disrupt your sleep. And I read a book called why we sleep by Matthew Walker highly recommend it. It’s just a great readable summary of all the latest evidence, which I did not learn in medical school just kind of came out after I finished med school. Just fantastic. Excuse me fantastically interesting studies, about you know, a lot of controlled studies, with people going to sleep labs where they, they drink alcohol, of certain amounts, or get a blood out blood alcohol level of a certain amount, and then they go to sleep and the control group doesn’t do that. You know, it’s really interesting stuff. So yeah, there’s like the five reasons why I’ve stopped drinking. And I miss occasionally Miss, like a really bold glass of serraj from time to time, you know? Yeah, I’m half Hungarian. There seems to be like this. You know, just robust desire. I occasionally have like a really heavy hitting glass of red wine. But, you know, I just kind of noticed that feeling and let it go. And I do drink some non alcoholic beer from time to time. So technically, I get a little bit of alcohol in those but yeah, anyway, that’s, that’s my thing with alcohol.

Will Bachman 29:39
And, and you cut out caffeine as well. So more recently in 2019.

29:46
That’s right. It was more recent. had one of our headland had a wonderful former intern, who she and her husband were really into, like, living healthily in all sorts of ways and They both have scientific background and they got me into checking on an aura ring, which I highly recommend and help you think a lot more about my sleep because I would tend to like, work too late and not get enough sleep. But also got me to into some of this latest thinking about caffeine kind of referred to.

Will Bachman 30:23
And what’s the aura? I’m sorry?

Andrew McKee 30:24
Oh, yeah, aura ring Oh, you are a it’s a, it’s a wearable ring that includes has like a step tracker. But its main kind of claim to fame is that they use I think it’s like finger movement plus infrared sensors. That sense the blood flow in your in the ring in the finger, you wear it on that then they use to calculate a lot about the stages of sleep. And so you get a feedback every morning, whether you had light, deep or REM stage of sleep, where they got enough sleep kind of becomes a bit of a personal sleep coach, because they’ll tell you how much you got and try to give you some feedback. Like maybe you should exercise more today or, or they’ll be like, Oh, you worked. You worked out a lot yesterday. So you should take it easy today. You know, they’ll give you a lot of cool reminders. So I’m a big fan of that. And, and not like name drop too much. But a friend and former also former McKinsey colleague, Peter atea. He has this podcast that drive which I liked when I had the time to listen to it. And he he also got the aura ring. And so yeah, I checked it out two years ago and really liked it. So caffeine was basically I had a few friends who were like weaning themselves off caffeine, even, you know, avowed coffee lovers were doing this. And so that was one thing that had basically coworkers encouraging me to try to do no caffeine. And then I also when I was going to go to a Zen center for some time to meditate and do some, like kind of like manual labor, basically, although that maybe I shouldn’t describe like that. But like, I voluntarily want to do a lot of like, kind of construction, fix that kind of stuff, and outside digging ditches and stuff like that. And then it’s it’s this cool nearby center where if they have a work week, it’s called once a year. And if you do that, then they you can stay and partake in meals and join any meditation sessions. So I did that for a few days when my wife and kids were on a trip that I was going to join them later. And I was a little worried that they wouldn’t have caught this turned out to be an irrational concern. But I was a little worried that they wouldn’t have coffee or green tea. It turned out I probably could have just asked right or right or the reality, but the reality was they actually had like almost every kind of morning beverage you could imagine. But maybe it was like had this anterograde or like anticipatory fear that I’d have a coffee headache, which I don’t like the feeling of. So I weaned myself off, I think by like, half a cup a day until it was down to zero. And yeah, I have to say, I don’t know if I really notice any difference because I wasn’t a heavy coffee drinker. But I always had like one to two cups in the morning only. And a lot of the latest science at a high level suggests you should never have coffee in the afternoon or later because it might depend a little bit but most people, almost everyone like process, it processes it out of their system and sort of like a seven to 10 hour timescale or something like that. Don’t quote me on the exact pharmacology there, but um, yeah, so it’s I drink decaf coffee, or like one cup of green tea. So there’s a bit of caffeine. But yeah, so I guess the other thing is occasionally, like not right now with COVID. But we’d often go to Japan, because of my wife and her family are there and in business, we have customers in Japan. And yeah, it’s a real drag to like go to hop time zones and have to like deal with some caffeine headache or like, or jack yourself up on all this caffeine. And then yeah, it’s just like a nightmare when you when you start doing multi timezone traveling to have to deal with a caffeine factor. So I’m like, glad to be done with it. But I still do like to the taste of decaf coffee. But you know, yeah, I kind of like actually not having to like sweat the whole. Like, if I forget to have a cup of coffee, I will get a headache. And I don’t have to like deal with all this fancy coffees and stuff like that. I mean, not that, you know, a lot of them tastes great, but I just kind of simplify my life a bit. So number five on your new list is doing zoom, zoom hip hop class, dance classes with my daughters, and that was back in September.

Will Bachman 34:52
Is that is that still going are still going?

Andrew McKee 34:55
Yeah. So there’s so many challenging things is we all know Right now with COVID, one of the few silver linings has been for many folks to, to found some, some positives are discovering things we never knew we liked or rediscovering old hobbies or talents or passions that have fallen by the wayside in life. Yeah, so it’s my oldest daughter. one of her favorite things is like hip hop dancing. And, and then I’ve always loved dancing. And, yeah, it just became a cool father daughter bonding thing where we, um, I guess I’ll give a shout out to Mike Peale, who has this, this YouTube channel hip hop fit, which we, which we almost exclusively do, sometimes his workouts about too intense for, you know, our skill level, but he’s just super positive. It’s challenging. And usually, the grooves and the moves are like, we just totally dig them. So it’s like, yeah, so so we’ve sustained that, I’d say we even put up a chart on a refrigerator of like, our kids, you know, three kids and what their passions are sort of interest areas are. And I even put like, a little, like, I, I don’t think anyone really cares other than me, but it’s nice for me to have it up there. remind myself in case I get really caught up with work or whatever, then like, Oh, yeah, I’m gonna dance hip hop with my oldest daughter. And yeah, so it’s almost 80% of time we do it Monday nights. And it’s, it’s quite enjoyable. And I again, I feel like, that’s a kind of wax off topic too much. But I feel like, especially for people who maybe listen to podcasts, like a lot of like, so called office work, or white collar work, it’s like, there’s a lot that’s missing in work, right, there’s a lot of physicality and creativity that’s missing. And so I felt like, for a long time, I needed to dance in some way, shape, or form. And even if I didn’t care, you know, I mean, I can, I can keep time quite well, but I can’t profess to be a highly skilled dancer. But it was just fun, you know, to just move to the rhythm, and to get that sort of more non mental, very physical energy into the day. So yeah, we look forward to that.

Will Bachman 37:14
So number eight, on your new list is calling my father more regularly. And I’ll interject here, which is, last year, I started something with my dad, pre COVID, where we did a series of interviews, and basically interviewed him the same as I would a podcast guest. And we did it kind of by period of his life. So we did like a call on elementary school. And then next week, we did middle school, high school, college, his couple years in the Army, and then grad school, and then moving to Connecticut, and, you know, different aspects of being a dad, and so forth. And so we did about 10 or 12 of those. And it was, well, it was so awesome. As opposed. I mean, it’s great to just catch up in general. But it was a really nice, I found to have to do that kind of structured thing. Because, you know, just calling up and saying hello, you know, maybe you have something to say like, what’s new, whatever. Have you been to the doctor lately? How are you doing? And you know, did you shovel the snow or something, but it was really nice to kind of go through that go through his life. And even though I’ve known him my whole life, heard stories that I just never heard before. When we when we did that, I’d love to hear about how you’ve been calling your dad and the kinds of and you know, what you’ve been doing to make that more regular and, and how that experience has been?

Andrew McKee 38:38
Mm hmm. Yeah. Thank you. Well, it’s great to hear about your own father. Yes. So it’s still a bit haphazard, but I found a few things I do outside the house. Like, for whatever reason, mail forwarding wasn’t like, it’s never been reliable. So I need to go to our office periodically, in which is in San Francisco, like the main office and get the mail. And so talk with him. I think, also, we just heard a lot of complaints from our kids. Like, if I talk too much about so called grown up topics, I mean, we always try to be mindful of like, you know, what we saved for the kids, but to just talk about COVID or like business stuff in a way that I can talk openly with him in and not have the kids around. So it’s been nice to have that privacy. I have been, I was actually very inspired by your having done that with your dad. I’ve been thinking about doing something similar. And I’ve done some oral history interviews with other family members, like my Hungarian relatives, for instance, and my, my dad’s dad did like six or seven hours of interviews with him similar to what you’re describing, like different parts of his life. Yes, I would like to do it with my dad. And I’m hoping that I’ll get either. I mean, he just got immunized to COVID. So maybe we’ll be able to see him soon. lives on the east coast. And or you know, as our youngest kid is four and you know, the kids are getting to a point where I could, like carve out a bit more time on a weekend to do that. But yeah, I always have loved interviewing people, and would very much love to do that. But I have not have not taken at that level. But I think with your inspiration, combined with my, my, my, my own passions, I think I’ll, I’ll do that fairly soon.

Will Bachman 40:27
Number six on your new list was sending more emotionally vulnerable emails to my close guy friends about the ups and downs in life and having more one on one phone calls, or I stopped beating around the bush, talk to me about talk to me about just like having guy friends and being more emotionally open with them. It’s something that I think a lot of us maybe don’t do as much of and and feel the need for but tell me about your experience doing

Andrew McKee 40:54
that? Sure. Yeah. Thanks. Well, I’ll start with a general comment, because I’ve read a number of books and taking some courses on on psychology, including men and women. really fascinating statistic that, across cultures from some very large studies, men and women have no difference in the ability to discern or detect emotions that can show like photographs that people different facial expressions, and so forth. So in other words, regardless of whatever conditioning the men have, as boys and adults, they still have that a sensibility for emotions at our core. And, yeah, so with that sort of blanket comment. I think in other words, I think a lot of why men don’t connect is more from habit, and or whatever examples they’re working off of, rather than something sort of genetic or hardwired. Yeah. So I guess we are with just so much stress right now, right with Coronavirus. And then regardless of political affiliation, like there’s just a lot of stress in the national news in the US local news, all sorts of bad things we have, you know, for sure, we didn’t have anybody our immediate family, but we had some, like extended family members die from COVID. And the kids have been really stressed with like remote school. As opposed to being in person. And, yeah, there’s just a ton of stress, I don’t know, that part was just a practical thing. That if I was being a busy person, it’s like, if I have an hour to catch up with some close friends, I would feel bad if you know, I had something weighing on me that I want to, like, share and unpack with a kind friend. And I didn’t tell them, you know, I just feel like, disingenuous to myself and disingenuous to my friends if I didn’t say that. The second is I’ve sadly known a number of people, men and women, but I think of the men I know who have committed suicide, who have been, by all outward measures successful in every element of, of what our so called a vague American Dream defines a successful like status, money, blah, blah, blah. And then they kill themselves. And and it just reminds me that and then in a less severe note there like people that you know, I guess it troubles me when people are having difficulties in their lives, and they can’t talk to anybody about it, or don’t think they can. And so I, I want to try to, even though it’s uncomfortable, to share that more with friends, I guess also the candidate that I have been fortunate to have a few close guy friends that I’ve known for a long time since college, and we bonded over music, as well as other shared interests. And I consider them to be like, really close brothers, like almost like blood relatives. You know, we didn’t bond into by drinking lots of alcohol or anything like that, which I think is a sort of false way to bond. I think we, we built a sort of multi dimensional multi layered friendships, where I could trust these guys with my life. And I would have already built up a habit of talking pretty openly about pretty much everything in life. So but it was just a reminder that even with those close friends, sometimes we can just beat around the bush and talk about practical matters. And then our hour is gone. And we go back to our lives and yeah, it’s just a realization I had, it’s like, I gotta, I have to be intentional. It’s okay. I think chatter and chit chat has its place, right? That’s one way people warm up. When we’re having conversations with one another. I realize that kind of not to be too directed about it, but I want to, you know, if if something’s really bothering me, I want to make sure I get it off my chest in that call. And and then I and I think roughly have like, six or seven guy friends who have kept in touch with over the years, I have learned by the way, that’s the thing guys often do is like, they don’t keep, they often associate their friendship. So they only keep in touch with like, well, but that’s that’s like the hockey team friend why I’m not playing hockey with him that I don’t really talk with him. And that’s like, I don’t mean to sound dismissive of that. That’s apparently from what I’ve read a very common behavior that men have. And so I try to pretty intentionally use I’ve keep reaching out to friends that I knew from previous jobs, previous musical or Sports Association, you know, because and I think, again, speaking in generalities, but women on average, from what I’ve read in various studies do that a lot better. They can, on average, much better. Building lifelong friendships. So, yeah, I don’t know if that answers your question. But that’s, that’s what was going on for me there. Yeah, it

Will Bachman 45:51
does answer it, Andrew. And I think that’s a great kind of placed too close of a reminder to us to reach out and phone a friend. And just check in with people. Now during COVID, but always it’s you know, just to kind of, and not just wait till the hockey game, right, or, or the sports event or the thing that you typically do with that person, but just check in with people. And it has been extraordinary conversation, listeners. You can find the full list in the show notes. And I’ll also include a link to Andrews website for his firm, so you can check out a little bit more professionally, what what his firm is doing. Andrew, I can’t thank you enough. This was really an extraordinary conversation. Thanks so much for being on the show.

Andrew McKee 46:42
Thank you so much. Well, it’s a pleasure. Yeah, thanks again.

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