I need to make a life change with Nick Smarrelli

Are you in a "gap" season of life? One of those seasons where everything you knew was flipped on its head—whether by your own doing or by forces outside of your control? Nick Smarrelli is in one of those self-imposed gaps right now. And in this conversation with Tiffany, he's coming to a surprising conclusion about minding that gap.

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Are you in a "gap" season of life? One of those seasons where everything you knew was flipped on its head—whether by your own doing or by forces outside of your control? Nick Smarrelli is in one of those self-imposed gaps right now. And in this conversation with Tiffany, he's coming to a surprising conclusion about minding that gap.

Nick is the former CEO of GadellNet, an IT Solutions & Support Consultancy with nearly 200 employees across the U.S. He recently made the decision to step down after his 12-year leadership tenure at the company. So, how does he spend his days now? Listen in to hear him process this recent change, share his insights on how he knew it was time to step away from his leadership position, and the lessons he's learned on prioritizing consistency over intensity as he's stepping into this new lifestyle.

Listen to Nick's podcast, Zero Excuses: https://gadellnet.com/thought-leadership/category/podcast/

For more from Tiffany, sign up for her newsletter.

Show theme by Brice Johnson

Tiffany Sauder: I am a small-town kid, born with a big-city spirit. I choose to play a lot of awesome roles in life. Mom, wife, entrepreneur, CEO, board member, investor, and mentor. 17 years ago I founded a marketing consultancy, and ever since my husband, JR and I have been building our careers and our family on the exact same timeline.

Yep. That means four kids, three businesses, and two career. All building towards one life we love. When I discovered I could purposefully embrace all of these in my life, it unlocked my world. And I want that for you too. I'm Tiffany Sauder and this is Scared Confident.

Nick Smarrelli is in a place in his professional journey where I would say he's like in the gap. He had this really intentional corporate career. And then had a gut feeling that he needed to go pursue entrepreneurship and has spent the last 10-plus years leaving a company that his name has really become synonymous with.

And in the last 18 months came to the realization that that's not his path forward. And so I asked him to come on. Nick and his wife Caitlin are good friends of my husband and i's, and I knew he was in the messy. Of not knowing where he's going yet, but knowing for sure that he needed to leave where he was.

And I asked him if he would share where he's at right now with my audience, because I think it's so easy to make sense of our lives and our journeys when it's in the rear view mirror. It's like, oh yeah, I did this and then I did this and I did this. And we talk about it in a way that's really neat and tidy.

And so this is Nick's middle. This is Nick's gap. This is Nick's pause. And I hope you hear as I did in this conversation, just the courage to stay present when you're in a place like this and to know that no matter where you're at in your life or how successful it seems that you've been, that sometimes there's.

A darkness as you're heading towards the next thing. So catch people up on what's going on, and then we'll dig

Nick Smarrelli: in from there. Yeah, so I look at my first 20 years, uh, I've, I've worked for two organizations, so I worked for a big organization called Ingersol Rand. , uh, in that job, I went from St. Louis to New York City, to China, to Charlotte, to Atlanta.

Um, I said yes to everything. Uh, that was a big part of, of that career. At the tail end of that one realized I had this opportunity and this just interest in entrepreneurship. So from there, in 2010, moved to be employee number four at an organization called GadellNet. Joined two friends of mine from college.

Uh, I sent them an email out of haste just another day. I was on the road, got stuck, I can't remember where I even got stuck on an airplane and said, I need to make a life transition. And so I sent them a note and I said, I don't care what it takes. I would like to buy in. From an equity perspective, I would like to invest in your organization.

I know nothing about technology, and this is a technology startup at the time, but I do have experience in operations, sales, and. So I knew I could contribute. Uh, they had had the organization. That was your first email? That was literally my email. What a grenade. Oh, it really is. It was huge . Think of especially 12 years later of just how significant a off the cuff emotional email changed.

Fundamentally, I would, I mean, arguably every part of my life, my wife has Wow. Again, we look at my marriage, I've been married for 12 years, and of those 12 years, 11 and a half has been me as a senior leader at GadellNet. Like I. Marital identity, my family identity, my kids have never known me as, as anything else, but the guy that was in charge of, you know, serving the company mm-hmm.

uh, in some capacity. So yeah. You, you look at like seemingly simple, very off the cuff things and just how big that was and how their response that day changed. Yeah. You know, for them they replied and said, absolutely, yes. . I mean, that knows. Yeah. That could've been a haha. Uh, you'd enjoy the day and move on Uhhuh and we would've never have had what we, we created for the last 12 years.

Like it's, it's

Tiffany Sauder: what were you looking back? What were you running towards? What do you think was attractive to you about this chaotic, small, unformed thing? Yeah. Which is really the antithesis of the environment you were in. Correct. In Ingersol Rand, I mean, they're massive global company.

Nick Smarrelli: Yeah. And, and that was the most fascinating thing.

And I think there was. Linearity about working in an, in a corporate environment. I, you know, started off as a marketing specialist, moved to a marketing manager, then I moved to a sales director. I was lucky. I was actually the youngest, my like, claim to fame at Ingersol Rain. I was the youngest director in the company history, which I was really proud of.

So I was 26. Wow. Um, I ran a national team of sales individuals, which allowed me to have to move so much. Mm-hmm. , uh, but it was that linearity and that lack of. I don't know. I think, I think I wanted the chaos. I was excited for that and I was also excited to, to test the waters. I would say, like I look at the first 20 years of my career as marked by like intensity.

Like that was where I was at and I couldn't see this, you know, one-to-one of how hard I worked at Ersel Rand and producing a huge output. Mm-hmm. , and I knew in a small business environ. , the level of effort that I could put in and the output that I could create is so ex as was exponentially higher. And I saw that as a chance to do that.

And it didn't make any sense. The business was based in St. Louis. I was living in Indianapolis. I had a company car, a great six figure income. Um, I think I made $12,000 first year at Goodell net. I, uh, had to sell my car and I was there 48 of the 52 weeks of the year. fundamentally very different. Mm-hmm.

from staying at the Marriott where I was, you know, a diamond partner. I'm saying they were like a little Mr. Yes. Right. And um, and I was actually, the moment that really set me off on that day in the airplane was there was a bunch I was sitting in first class, cuz I just traveled all the time. Mm-hmm. . So I had all the status and there were a bunch of just, I don't know, 55, 6 year old individuals that were rolling at the time.

They had those like large roller bags that you could kind of, kind of put two or three days worth of clothes and your, and all your. , um, cause it was 2010 at the time you had files mm-hmm. and you had to carry around with you. And I just saw like sadness, uh, and I was like, this is the trajectory that I'm on.

I mean, I'm gonna be permanently on a plane. I just got married and I'm like, this is not the life that I want. So it was my chance to truly say, how would I create what I need? And entrepreneurship, I think more than anything else, gives you opportunity to say like, for better, for worse, uh, to create your fate and.

Tiffany Sauder: was there somewhere or somebody in your past that you had seen a window into small business because your dad or your family's not entrepreneurs, right? No. So how did you even know that? I mean, there's a lot of people at 30 ish that don't actually have the intuition to know that all the things, all the attributes you just described about small business, scrappy startup work hard.

Yeah. You know, disproportionate returns if you kinda hit . Yep. Um, but like really tough starting point. Did you? Know it. Yeah. I don't know. He didn't really see

Nick Smarrelli: it, right? Yeah, I didn't, and then I never grew up in it. I, I, I don't, my, my father, he was a professor and he worked his way up to president of a university at the tail end of his career, but everything was linear.

Yeah. My parents are very linear people's. Interesting. I, I don't know where it comes from. Uhhuh. . It's interesting observation. Yeah. No, I don't, I, and I wish, I wish I could put myself, you know, 12 years ago and think like, what am I modeling after? And I don't know if I was modeling after anything. I just.

what I was doing wasn't mm-hmm. what I needed at the time. Um, and I knew I had more energy to give. Energy has always been my thing. If you, again, anybody who spent more than three and a half minutes with me, like knows energy is the adjective you probably use to describe me. Mm-hmm. . So I had this just, you know, potential energy to do something and it just seemed like the coolest place to

Tiffany Sauder: put it.

Okay. So let's fast forward 12 years. Yeah. Which is like a couple, you know, a couple months ago, but the same intuition sort of starts screaming at you. Uh, you said I need to make a life change, was what you said to yourself in so many words the first time. Yep. And I think this phrase came back to the foreground for you, like frontal lobe.

This is happening. No question. So take us to there. Yeah. Cause that's not as long ago.

Nick Smarrelli: No, it isn't as long as ago. It's a lot more real. So, uh, the, I think I've known for a year or two that, that I was. Ready to make a change. And I think my body was whispering it like, I was

Tiffany Sauder: gonna say energy. You were tired.

I was tired in a way that Nick Mli is not tired.

Nick Smarrelli: And yeah, and, and I think that, Telling, being Nick MRE means that you power through things. Um, and I think my body was just whispering like, this isn't right. And at the time we were dead set in covid. Um, I had made some big promises to the organization about job security and what we were gonna do, and the world is in chaos.

And my job as a leader at the time was to provide stability and consistency. Um, so I wasn't allowed to have thoughts and feelings at the time I was on. Being the rock that my team needed me, me to be. And the reality was in the background, my brain was like, you need a break. , you cannot operate at this level for 12 straight years.

Um, and then throw in pandemic economic crisis. And I ignored those probably for too long. Um, and it really came to a head probably the latter part of last year where I knew versus kind of vaguely understood where I. , something had to change. Mm-hmm. . And the good thing about that is I'm a big, big fan of chess.

Like my son and I play chess. Um, everything I do as a leader, I'm always trying to. predict and to give myself options, do I have an off ramp in some capacity? So I'd already started to get my master's two years before. Cause I knew at some point I wanted to teach mm-hmm. . So I wanted that chess piece to, to be going on.

Um, we'd already started the process of, of building up an executive team to move somebody to a president role. Mm-hmm. . So we'd already started these things. I'd already figured out, okay, if, if there was an economic downturn, what would we do as an organization and would we have to look at investors? to to provide stability and knowledge and maturity to the organization.

So we'd already had those conversations. So all of a sudden it was this confluence of my brain knowing I needed to make a shift that the intensity that I chose through my career needed to shift this, I'll call it perfect, but it really wasn't confluence of things that allowed us as an organization and me personally, to make a change that felt arguably the most selfish.

and scary thing that I've had to do as a leader. Cause at the end of the day, you know, you log onto LinkedIn, log onto to everything else. It's serving others, it's taking care of others. Mm-hmm. and, yes, don't get me wrong, wording, accolades, you know, growing an organization for the last few years, you know, in some capacity, making decent money.

Um, well you

Tiffany Sauder: guys were like, I mean, I think this is, you were in 5,009 times, correct? Of 12. Yes. I mean, just to like, give a quantitative measure of speed, like that's, . We were five or six years and I broke at that. Yeah. Like that's, that's 50% more like it's real. It's, it's just

Nick Smarrelli: so much. It's, it's real. Um, and that, that level of consistency and then also trying to do that.

We tried to be best places to work. We wanted to also do this, like we had to be a B Corp. Cause we wanted to make sure we're always giving backs. Doing things without intensity is not my thing. Like it's, if we're gonna go, we're gonna do all the best. If I'm gonna join an organization, I'm gonna be part of the board.

If I'm gonna, if I'm gonna say I'm gonna travel, I'm gonna go to a thousand different countries. Mm-hmm. like that is what I'm going to do. If I'm gonna grow, we're gonna grow the fastest of everybody in the city Who

Tiffany Sauder: said it first? I'll say who and to whom Maybe. This like realization where your body's kind of whispering to you at some point the words had to come out of somebody's mouth.

Yep. Did Caitlin say to you, Caitlin's, his wife, for those of you who don't know them, um, did you say it to you? Did you say it to her? Did you say it to the mirror? Did you say, you know what I mean? Like how did it come out first? Do you

Nick Smarrelli: remember? Gosh, you know what? It's, it's so weird. So, um, I wrote it at one point.

Mm. And I wrote it a year before, so I. always try to be the guy that journals like, I feel like that sounds, I have 13, I think I have 13, maybe 14 journals with like nine pages filled up. And then I quit . Uh, so I remember last year being like, okay, this is hard, so I'm gonna start journaling again. So like, I opened up my old journals and I found like comments and like if we were watching a movie, you'd read these journal entries and be like, oh man, he's either gonna go nuts soon or he's going to have to make a significant.

I didn't read it that way until that day, and I'm like, oh man, I've been, I've been trying to tell myself this for a little while. So I think I wrote it out first, and then I mentioned to Caitlin and talked through what that meant. She never said it to me. I think she wanted me to figure it out on my own.

Um, and then I shared it with my partners and said, Hey, this is kind of where I'm at. How far off am I and what does this mean? Mm-hmm. , um, again, part. My job has always been, how is this gonna be perceived by others? And then the other thing is, how is this going to affect the thing that I have invested so much into mm-hmm.

So getting their take on the whole thing and really saying it out loud is, this is real. Um, but it never got easier. It never got easier to tell each part of my executive team. I mean, obviously they had to go through stages of grief, of, of processing that, telling the organization, man, I, I, I had written out that thing a thousand times.

Mm-hmm. , I mean, you, you, you read the. , you think the words have like dulled in some capacity because you've looked at it so many times and then you say it out loud and Man, I was a mess. , did you cry? I did. Yeah, I did and I didn't think I was going to. I thought like I had spent so much time on making sure I understood it, what it was, and I used so much my rational brain of like all the things that had to happen to make sure that I truly believed what I was saying, which is the organization is going to be better off.

You are in a better. Because of this transition, and I believe that I still do. Mm-hmm. . Um, but man, you say the words in front of the people and you see the faces of people that, you know, you said, come alongside me for so long. And then you're saying, Hey, I'm going to be making a shift, but I promise it's gonna get better.

Like, that's hard. The

Tiffany Sauder: truth is, as leaders, when we say that we don't know for. , we are doing everything that we know about. Mm-hmm. to make the outcome be what it needs to be. But the truth that we know Yes. Is that we don't know for sure. And that is like, uh, it's like, I think sometimes it's just like tightrope.

Yeah. Where like your emotion is like, I want to promise you. Yes. I can't promise you. But I'm doing everything I know

Nick Smarrelli: to do. And, and we talked a lot about that in, in the, the thing of saying, Hey, we've, we've made these decisions on behalf of this, these are our contingencies on behalf of that. And then the fear of just how are people going to react?

And at the time I decided there was only two possible options. One, uh, kinda yawning and boredom. See ya, you know, we, yeah. We didn't like you anyway. Mm-hmm. . Um, and then the other option was sheer chaos of like, you are the company we cannot live without. None of those things happened. Sure. There's some people that probably went each direction by the end of the day it, it was perfectly in the middle.

But man, that fear of like, what's gonna happen next? How are people gonna take it? Like, you just, you can't predict that either. Mm-hmm. , um, cuz it is so real and emotional and we've made it real and emotional on purpose within the organization. We made it about people. And so having the person at the top of the organization say, Hey, believe in me, and that this is a good thing.

It's hyper personal at that. , especially when he is crying in front of the , the company as well. I

Tiffany Sauder: think it makes you human. I mean, I think that makes what makes you lovable as a leader and real to be followed and all those kinds of things. I mean, it's part of it. Yeah. What, what do you hope your legacy is at GadellNet?

I think about this way, if you're walking through a restaurant and there's a group of people that have worked for you for a long time that don't know you're walking by. Yeah. And you overhear them talking about like Nick's legacy, oh Jesus, what do you. they're talking about.

Nick Smarrelli: Oh, man. So I'm gonna kind of answer the question just with a, like a quick story about something that I just overheard people doing, and it didn't necessarily involve Nick Sm, but I, with any luck, I, I feel like I created the foundation of that are, we have individuals in the organization to kind of call coordination.

So you call in and kind make sure you get to the right person during the Thanksgiving holiday. Most people are off. So those individuals are working, they still need to be there. Cause unfortunately we're the lowest common denominator. If any clients are working on any day, we've gotta be around. And they're like, we're not gonna be busy.

What could we do? And they started making phone calls to both individuals within Gaela and outside the organization just to check in them on Thanksgiving. And they found a list and they called people. And I'm like, that is my legacy. Like that behavior is there because. in theory, all those individuals are hired During my tenure, we built a culture of people and taking care of each other and being thoughtful about the whole person versus just what does this mean as as a worker or what does this mean as a client that's calling in?

And so I would say that would be the biggest thing is this like idea of, of seeing the humanity in others and having people like just do these things organically. And I would say the second thing is, , this culture of learning and a growth mindset, a personal value of mine is this idea of like, curiosity is like, I just think everything is interesting.

I try to mimic my children who, like, especially our youngest right now, who just, who she's three, like the world is the greatest place in the world. Every ramp to it, like mm-hmm. , an airplane is a ramp to sprint down and scream. We, you know, like mm-hmm. . That's the attitude I wanna have about life. And I hope that the company is still like that, that we're investing in training and having kind of the boring stuff, but like there's a genuine curiosity about each other and knowledge and seeing growth even, I mean, growth of the organization.

Sure. But growth of each other. Uh, I hope people are talking about like, I learned a lot. Um, I can can't, I know we're never gonna be the place that says like, that was the best place I've ever worked for every single person. So I know that that can't be the perfect legacy, but I would. If you do not come out of the organization and say like, I've learned a lot, then I've failed.

And that's a, that's a miss on my, my legacy. Awesome.

Tiffany Sauder: So we're at a place where the thing that you've spent the most percentage of your waking hours on is really in a day, like there is a ramp, but in a day for the purposes of my dramatic story, and your dramatic life. Yep. Of course. It's gone. and you have to replace it with something.

Yeah. Like where are you at in the process? Like where, when was the last day

Nick Smarrelli: and where are we? Yeah, so, so I, I made the announcement in July. Uh, we had to backfill a few other rules to make my transition happen, but my, I would say last, like truly working day was about three weeks ago we had a holiday party, so 21 days.

So we are not, yeah, we're not too far off of it. Yeah. So

Tiffany Sauder: we've taken this thing off of your plate and now you're being asked to rebuild your time and. rebuild this version of Nicks Morere. Yeah. So what's the process been like and what's fear saying to you also in this kind of

Nick Smarrelli: stage? Oh yeah. It, it's, it's so interesting.

I, I feel like, and I'm glad we're meeting today cause the last few days have actually had, I would say a bit more of that. Whoa, what did I do? Um, so I'm a professor at Baller and I have kind of a light teaching opportunity there, and I'll continue to do that. I've been offered roles to run companies, which is exciting and equal parts flattering, but not.

Step for me, to me, as I look at, I'm gonna say the next 20 years, but it may not be as long as that is this idea of investing in others. Just allowing myself to say I've gained 20 years of wisdom, made 20 years of mistakes, uh, and to in some capacity, give that back to others. So looking at startups, looking at other organizations and trying to say, how do I thoughtfully add to my life?

More opportunities to give back. . And the weird thing about that, I talked about that linearity, even within ELE, that there was a linearity, there was you add new clients, you add new staff, you add new clients, you add new staff, you come to a pandemic. Then you, you pivot a tiny bit, but you are still kind of in this like march now I have, let's say 40 hours a week to fill and I've got a few hours teaching and I've got a few hours doing these other things.

But every week now I have to fill up my day and like. Experiences for myself that hopefully are value aligned, but I don't know what that looks like anymore, and it's weirdly exhausting for the last few days as I kind of look ahead and I'm like, man, is this really what I signed up for? Is, you know, chasing new opportunities.

I'm doing the coolest things, like I'm really working with some really cool companies and people doing fun things, but I've gotta chase those down in a way that I sort of miss somewhat. The predictability of. even at the chaos, but the predictability of Monday morning, I kind of know what I'm getting myself into.

I was afraid that by not being a leader, um, I would lose that identity part of me that I am a ceo or that being a huge part. And it really, that has not been an issue. Um, I think for me it's, I fear irrelevance and I fear not having experiences that challenge me. And so making sure that I'm picking those opportunities well has been an important part of my journey.

But, I don't know, finding ways to, to fill my day and being responsible for that. It's probably been busier than I've ever had. Like I, my friends joke that I have like seven jobs now instead of one. So, um, being busy has never been the issue, but am I being busy with the right things? , it just reshuffling everything.

Like I figured out how to be a CEO ish and I don't know how to do this well. And that for me is intimidating. Mm-hmm. especially coming on December, cuz you get, now you've get this like reset of the year. Mm-hmm. . And so yeah, I can deal with a little bit of chaos until the end of the year, but then, oh man, I've got a whole year to fill next year.

How do I do that well and am I picking the right things? And I don't have the answer to that right now. And I feel like I'm. Just weird, nebulous, floaty zone of just grasping onto things and seeing how they turn out, which is equal parts fun and exhausting. Cuz I don't know, does this make the most sense and, and what am I committing to?

Uh, so still learning that part. I know I've kind of a core like thesis, which is again, this idea of investing in others. This idea of seeing myself as bigger than, Work and a little bit of family. This like renewed focus now on just learning and knowledge and how am I spending my time doing more around learning.

I've kind of rekindled this focus around faith and reading and sharing stories with people and going out to lunch with people in a way that I've never had even the brain capacity to do. Mm-hmm. , I'm serving on two additional boards in the community, so like I, I have a thesis for how this is going to work.

Mm-hmm. , some days when I go for a long. , there's a beautiful simplicity to hopping on the moan and running straight. Mm-hmm. , I just, I can put a music on, I can put a podcast on, and I have to think I'm still doing the work, but I don't have to think. Mm-hmm. , sometimes you go on a trail and you do a mile trail here, and then you decide if you go left or right.

And then I do a mile here and I have to decide if I go left or right. And then I just, do, I backtrack, do I do this trail? Do I do all this other trail? And there's an exhaustion, there's an unknown in that type of things. And it's tire more tiring. It's a known thing within running. It is nice to do a looped course versus these other ones, and I feel like I'm still trying to adjust to that ill linearity of my current career choices.

Well, I think it takes a lot

Tiffany Sauder: of courage to even export right now because I think it's so easy as like achievers and people who are like watching our stories from afar. Yeah. To be like, oh, in the rear view mirror, things make perfect sense. Of course. But when you're in them, there's this sense. Wandering.

Mm-hmm. that is very unsettling, I think probably to everyone, but I think in particular people who are wired in a way that it is about forward progress. It is about impact, it is about goals, it is about measuring, variants is about like all of those things. And so the discomfort of like, I don't know what to do now.

Mm-hmm. , um, and does that make me wrong?

Nick Smarrelli: Yeah. I think wandering is such a good word. Like I feel like that is such a wonderful like description of where I'm at right now. And that's, I don't think it's completely aimless. Like I'm wandering searching for things. Yeah. In a very pragmatic and thoughtful way.

But it's still wondering, and I've never wondered before

Tiffany Sauder: other thing I experience in this scared, confident project because it isn't totally connected to Element three. You know, it's not really connected to share your genius. It's not really connected to my family's, so I don't really. A collaborator in the same way that like when you have an executive team and everybody's working on the same projects and like, you know what I mean?

It's like everybody has context for the initiative. So you can like export and somebody can say, start there like, oh, that's so helpful. Thank you. So obvious. Yeah. The, the self-directedness really being able to steer myself and have context for where I'm going, but also be present is a, I have found, Mental triangle to be really tiring in seasons.

Absolutely. And you start to get kind of confused. Yeah. So I don't know if you're experiencing that, but I suspect you may, where it's like I go to two day offsite for element three. Yeah. And we all export and diverge, and then we create themes, and then we vote and we choose together. You know what I mean?

There's a certain sense of security and confidence that comes from saying like, Most of the people in the room think we should do this, then we should do that. Yeah. Now I have confidence versus when you're kind of roaming about by yourself, trying to figure this out. Am I good at this? Could somebody give you some feedback?

You know, it's like weird. It's very

Nick Smarrelli: weird. Yeah, it totally is weird. And it again, all the things that, again, you look like dopamine hits that I got before, like you lose in the same way. Um, and again, I do miss the collaboration. I miss the executive team. I miss having. that space. And every once in a while when they need something for good night, I get like this just little, like, just happy hi.

Of like, I know that they asked me a question, I gave a an answer Sha like I, there's, there's a sense of peace that I get there versus where I'm at right now, which is like kind of figuring out what I'm doing. Mm-hmm. . Um, but I miss, I miss the community of that. I like to self-directed and it's a journey I'm forcing myself to stay in.

Mm-hmm. for at least a little bit of who am I saying what success is versus like relying so much on. what the award said or what the people said, or what my team is saying or what, you know, what our clients need versus like, okay, you've set out what your values are as a person. Are you aligning to those values and forcing myself to be comfortable with me reporting to me.

Mm-hmm. , if that makes any sense. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. , I feel like in some case, yes, I was at a CEO job, but I reported to 200 people in that organization. Yeah. I reported to 400 clients. Like those are the people that made decisions on whether I was doing a good job. Now I. . Truly my own little boss, ch choosing to say, what's my performance review on my family?

What's my performance review on my community impact? What's my performance and review on helping others who are going through a really hard journey of their own as a ceo? And I'm the only person that really has given me that feedback is myself. Really? Yeah. And I'm like the hardest grader in the world, so like,

That is weird. And I kind of miss this sometimes, the simplicity of like the business world, right? Totally. You got a, you had a good month, must be doing something right, , you know?

Tiffany Sauder: No, totally. So I think there's not a conclusion. I think that's the point of this conversation, but what I hope people listening understand is that when you find yourself kind of in the trees, that doesn't mean you're doing it wrong.

It is part of transition. And we talk about our lives in perfect clarity, I think when we reflect on them. Mm-hmm. , but the journey. when we're writing it in real life is very much, there's phases where it's very foggy for sure. Oh, no question. So I wanna go one more place before we close up here. You have a podcast called Zero Excuses.

Mm-hmm. . I would say energy is definitely a like brand essence of Nick Smarrelli. But I would also say this extreme endurance, zero excuses Yeah. Is also a big part of who you are. So I wanna lay, I wanna like kind of put that on the board and then I also. To kind of beside that put up on the board some of the things that you've talked about of your journey.

Like you didn't use the word burnout, but like, I hit a wall, I crashed. Correct. The Zero excuses. Nick didn't know how to rest well. Yes. And then you and I also had a phone call maybe four, six weeks ago where we talked about this idea of getting to a place where our lives are sustainable. Yeah, we have. So how are you beginning to maybe begin the process of concile.

this is who you are. Yep. You're an extreme entity.

Nick Smarrelli: Yes. For better or for worse,

Tiffany Sauder: that crashes through warning signs of rest is important. Correct. And getting to this, you know, working towards this nirvana of life, being in a place where it's sustainable, that doesn't mean that it's all easy. Yeah. But that it's like I can swallow the pill most days.

Mm-hmm. , how, how are you sorting through that?

Nick Smarrelli: I'm actually trying to reconcile a few of those things, so I'm gonna, gonna tackle Yeah, you put those all at once, what you say? Yeah. I look at zero excuses, Nick. And do I say especially like, you know, my departure download, like did I fail or did I, am I running away from something?

And it, and, and the reality is, is no. Um, and it took me a while to get there cuz I was fearful of, this is so much of a part of me. Um, I look at kind of life is this idea of building, again, you said sustainability and I think that's a perfect word, this idea of consistency over intensity. And I think intensity has its place and I am so thrill.

I lived a life of intensity because it got me to a place where I am today. I feel like I have so many lessons from a coaching perspective of like how to build the right mindset and how to share that, and how to get through some of those hard things. I've done it really well and had the right mindset and I saw that mindset fall off and I know what works and what doesn't.

Obviously getting my degree, I have the science behind that. Um, but this idea. Consistency is the theme for me for the next indefinitely. That's, that's one thing. Again, going back to like, I have a thesis of what my life is like is small things every day instead of operating ATS red line all the time. And I, I think, you know, for me, I look ahead and I say I don't have it all figured out, but.

I'm gonna use an example of travel, um, because of both my jobs and just my personality, I've been to, I dunno, it's like 65 countries, right? Um, and then when I go to those countries, I see all the famous things at each of those countries. I would say, you know, my family and I had a wonderful opportunity to go to France past year, um, and we spent a week there.

And we saw a few of the sites, but we spent six hours in a cafe playing cards with my kids. Like, do I wanna still continue to do cool badass things? Yes. Am I still gonna run a hundred mile races? Yes. Am I still gonna be hopefully the, you know, whatever phase or whatever job I'm doing, am I still gonna be hopefully elite at those?

Yes. But I'm gonna do it consistently. Um, I don't need to run around Paris to see every single tourist things, but I would still like to go to Paris and I would still like to spend. quality time in a consistent manner that says I'm not gonna burn out myself or my family in, in two days, and then have five days of recovering.

Mm-hmm. from that. Mm-hmm. , and I'll use that as a metaphor for hopefully, the way I see for the next bits of my life is I still wanna do it all and I still wanna be, I'll call it zero excuses, Nick. Right. But I'm gonna do it with consistency in mind. Mm. and what that means. Again, if you kind of graph, like you look at, like I'm capable of let's say 30 energy units on each part of my life.

I did, you know, operate at 60 energy units for work, which left me with 20 for the kids and 10 for faith, and five for learning new things is no, I'm gonna have each of those buckets and they're gonna operate at 30 each. I would like to live at 30. I don't wanna go. Gross. That's not, that's not who I am, but I'm gonna create maxes for each of those to say you're redlining in one.

What consistent pursuits can that be? And building habits every day that I can truly manage both mentally and physically in order to consistently add up to cool and big awesome things. Small little Legos. Stacked out onto each other, still builds a big building, but I don't have to build that building in three days.

I can build it over a course of year. So spreading out those things in a, in a bigger way, um, is the, again, my theme for the next few years. Yeah, I

Tiffany Sauder: think that's a really powerful word. Picture, the words that came to mind for me when you started talking, and I think we got to the same place actually, was, I think if zero excuses used to be the container your life fit in.

Mm-hmm. , now it's an ingredient. Oh, it's great. Yeah. Um, which is what I think also what you were saying. Yeah. Just in a different way. It's like, it's an ingredient of who I am, but it is not the defining container No. That all things must sort of pass through. Correct. To make their way into your life and existence, which it's a real, like, settled maturity about being able to have that perspective on.

Nick Smarrelli: and again, I'll use this as a, you know, an advocate for, again, I, I see a therapist that helps me through. I don't have to be Ironman at every single freaking thing I do, and that does not have to be my personal or public perception is I have to be good at that. And so I'm, I know what I want and I'm still working through some of that.

And I think also allowing myself to say, can I be a coach and a consult? Speaking to those things. Well, I'm still working through some of those on my own and I think the answer, I think it makes me a better one. Mm-hmm. Um, because of that as well. Mm-hmm. I've already made si like substantial changes to what that looks like and I've seen it play out.

Tiffany Sauder: People are used to the caricature, let's call it, of Nick Uhhuh , you know, and so it's like, oh, Nick will probably do that. Nick will do that. Oh, that's such a nick thing. Versus being like, no, it's like moderate Nick now. Yeah. I'm being a little No, no, it so true. But it's so true. No, the rubber band's not gonna stretch that far.

Because I've chosen for it not to like it. They'll be the, I think this like weird thing where you almost have to retrain even the social reactions in ways too. Does that make sense what I'm saying? Yeah. But it's also like when

Nick Smarrelli: I walk in, it's just still who also who you are. A few people I'd made the comment and it's like true friends of mine, you know, maybe comment, I can't wait for the next big thing you're gonna do.

And I kind of give this like kind of half-assed response of Yeah. And the reality. I'm like, I don't know if I wanna do that next big thing yet. And maybe, I don't know. . But being comfortable with that is really intimidating for me of just, or I walk into a room and again, when I walk into a room now and it's, everyone's like the a hundred mile race guy, or you're doing this guy and now I have to like reframe like what I even talk about.

Cuz most of the time, like I can talk about those big things and I could use that as a distraction from, I don't know anything else. And now I could be the. Ran it an appropriately long race guy, Uhhuh, , uh, you know, or a guy that was yeah, with his kids for the last two days and thus didn't do the big thing.

Uhhuh . And nobody else saw that. And that's not as fun or cool in sitting at a cocktail hour. And I've gotta be okay with, you know, how was the last few days? And I almost feel like now I'm like, I'm doing these big consulting arrangements and I'm like, no, actually, you know what? My kids were sick and I got to spend time with them in a way that I've never been able to do.


Tiffany Sauder: this will be my last stop and then we can close. Um, My husband and I have been become good friends with Nick and Caitlin for lots of reasons. But one of them is also that Caitlin has a big job and you guys have really fought through this two career, home thing. Yeah. So what has the journey that you've been on been like for Caitlin, but what's the process been like for her in your words?

Because you have not, you guys don't speak for one another. Yeah. But what, in your words, what has the process

Nick Smarrelli: been like for you? I think it's been, I think it's been interesting. Um, When you're with somebody who is evaluating their time, their values, their priorities, their career, their everything, and they're going through that process, I feel like in some capacity it forced Caitlin to kind of go through a similar exercise when she probably didn't need it in the time that I decided I needed it.

Right. Um, and so much of. , our thing was me hustling through my previous job and then leaving and then hustling through this. Like she's only known me as like hustle work, Nick. And I think it just, it's reevaluated our relationship in a much bigger way. Anybody I've talked to who has said like, Hey, I'm thinking about changing careers, or I'm a leader and I'm thinking about maybe following the same.

bring your spouse into it because whatever psychological trauma and healing that you're going through, you're taking them along with that crazy ride too and forcing them to reevaluate. Cuz we just gotten used to Interesting. Yeah. To both of us doing that at the same time. And when, you know, hippie husband now is like, Hey, I'm gonna be, you know, reading this book and journaling.

Um, and she's like, you know, I've got a presentation tomorrow. I'm gonna work till 2:00 AM. And I'm just sitting there like doing my like, you know, zen moment,

Tiffany Sauder: pursuing my

Nick Smarrelli: intellectual pursuit. Yeah, correct. But we're before, like both of us were up at 2:00 AM until 2:00 AM trying to get something big done.

You know, that forces her to be like, what am I doing? Um, in a way that is probably unfair to her. It's been a, not a challenge, it's been an opportunity, but it's shifted our conversations and you would think, you know, it would be, well, I have no more time. I can take the kids, I can do these other things.

But you know, as, especially as a mom, You know who works. Like now I'm the guy that's at the, you know, the kids' lunch or whatever, and she makes the time for it, of course. And she's amazing at that. I don't know how she does it, but I now have the flexibility for that. Or the kids are off of school and I'm like, Hey, I'll take 'em for most of the day and we'll go to the science museum.

also, now she has guilt that she didn't feel before because before I was at work and she was at work mm-hmm. , uh, and we just had a babysitter and that was our life. Mm-hmm. , um, so, or like she's missing out or whatever. Yeah. Mm-hmm. , it's, it's much, it's much more visceral and real and emotional when your husband is the one and the dad is the one who's spending the time with the kids.

I would say Yeah. Getting, getting her buy-in on the whole thing, and a lot of it has felt like a very, like, internal introspective journey. And so I would say I, I failed and sometimes just sharing where my head was at because. , I thought it was my journey and you forget that your journey, especially as a dad and a spouse, like takes them along with

Tiffany Sauder: you.

Oh, I so appreciate you sharing that so transparently. That was such a different answer than I was expecting. Oh really? Okay. It's really cool that, I mean, I can see exactly what you're saying. All of those little vignettes that you just walked through, I never would've pictured, but you're right. It, you would react so differently.

Yeah. Um, on those days. So thanks for sharing that. Okay. This is the actual closeout. We're in the season of Christmas holiday. , what are you thankful for right now?

Nick Smarrelli: Oh, man. Um, I am thankful for the people and experiences of my life that have allowed me to accelerate the maturity that I needed to make. What I would say is the hardest life decision I've made over the last 12 months, I'm thankful for, I would say just like this community, I'll call my family as part of that community is.

People came into my life, I would say what I thought kind of accidentally in the last two or three years, that stepped up in a way that was just huge for me. Like just all these people came about when I didn't need them yet. Mm. And yet when I needed it, I had this community that just really shined in a way that like made it possible.

Um, cuz I look at the last year and just think of all I had to do. Um, and I didn't do it alone and I. I don't have this brains, they don't like to have done it by myself. Like I, I needed so many people and everybody just shared, uh, in a real way to me in a time when I knew I didn't need it. Somehow I collected it and asked more out of people than I probably gave back this year.

Um, and I'm thankful for people who would, you know, who did that and that was amazing. Thanks Nick.

Tiffany Sauder: Thank you for joining me on another episode of Scared Confident. Until next time, keep telling fear you will not decide what happens in my life. I will. If you wanna get the inside scoop, sign up for my newsletter.

We decided to make content for you instead of social media algorithms. The link is waiting for you in show notes or you can head over to tiffany souder.com. Thanks for listening.

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