Nate Bender

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Nate Bender, and I’m an account manager at PartnersCreative, a marketing firm here in Missoula.

What is one habit of yours that helps you be productive?

Exercise. I find I’m a better person and the world just makes more sense when I make time to be active. So I schedule exercise into my schedule just like I would any other important thing to help make sure it doesn’t get cut when life gets hectic.

What is your morning routine and how does it help you get the most out of your day?

Ideally, I get a run in before work, and that helps me start off the day feeling productive and motivated. On days that doesn’t happen, though, I like to get up early enough to have 45 minutes to an hour of quiet time before starting the work day. I leave my phone on airplane mode and purposefully avoid checking the news or other time-suck websites. Instead I like to read or work on a personal project (like researching an upcoming adventure project, or writing) while eating breakfast. I’m not a great morning person, but I find if I can feel productive from this initial chunk of the day I feel a lot better about myself as I start the workday.

But this doesn’t always happen. There are plenty of mornings where I sleep too late or things just go awry and there’s only enough time to wolf down some food before work. Nobody’s perfect.

In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?

Committing myself to training for difficult endurance activities in the mountains; ultramarathons, multi-day peak traverses, things like that. There’s an interplay between your day-to-day process and these ambitious physical challenges, because it’s one thing to set a goal, but another entirely to put in the everyday grind to actually put yourself in a position to accomplish that goal. I like the person I am when I’m on working towards these challenges, and there’s a host of positive benefits that come from this process that benefit many aspects of my life: eating well, exercising, meeting interesting people in the course of researching projects, and I get a sense of confidence that carries over into my “real” work.

When you feel unfocused, what do you do?

Take a walk. Even 10 minutes can work wonders.

What is one piece of software or a web service that you get immense value out of? How do you use it?

The whole Google ecosystem. There are definitely days when it feels like I’ve outsourced my brain to some combination of their email, calendar, contacts, maps, photos, drive, etc.

I use all of these services at work, and also in my personal life in getting ready for races, planning for mountain projects, and so forth.

What is the one book you recommend most often and why?

The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawken.

It explores business as it stands today from a systems perspective — with all its pros and cons. And then it makes an argument for how we as a society can re-structure business to be sustainable and restorative, by using the same historically effective societal and market forces that have made capitalism the world’s dominant form of enterprise.

That’s a pretty dry summary, but this book is anything but. I remember reading it in college, right as I was first taking classes on business sustainability, and it just completely rocked my world. It opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about the world, and gave me direction for where I wanted to take my career.

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

In and after college I made the mistake of reaching out to professionals for help or career advice but not being specific enough. I thought maybe someone would hand me the perfect opportunity on the basis of me being likable and just generally enthusiastic.

But people are busy, and high-achieving people are always working on the next project. If I could do it again I’d think more about what I could bring to the table (however small) and how I could help the person I’m asking for advice. If you can find an opportunity for a win-win, people will be much more likely to help.

What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?

Don’t know if it’s my favorite, but I’ve been thinking about this quote from Conrad Anker quite a bit lately:

“The art of suffering is a fine way to teach humility.”

I don’t feel I’m particularly talented at what I do, but I have found success in refusing to give up — in several areas of life. And my biggest role models in business and athletics are universally humble people, I think because they’ve all suffered and failed along the path to all their successes. You can’t have one without the other. Again I think it goes back to the interplay between your lofty dreams and the tactical, day-to-day grind of actually getting there. Sometimes the best things in life require a bit of suffering to get there.