The Difficult Things

I do difficult things to prove to myself I’m capable of more than I think.

I became fluent in a second language to connect with another part of the world, and prove I could do something unique.

I’m learning my third language to prove to myself that my mind is not stale.

I wake up between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. every morning to push my body more than I think possible to prove I can be more than I already am.

I push myself because it’s hard. I test myself because through failure I progress. I do the difficult things because I want to live.

On Disappointment & Freedom

When people say they’re disappointed in you, it’s because you’re not acting according to their expectations of you.

In most cases, these people’s opinions simply don’t matter. Live your life the way you choose to live it. I was trapped by my parent’s expectations and dogma for 30 years before I came to my rescue.

I knew as a teenager that what I wanted was different than what they wanted, but any time I stepped out of line, they put me in my place with that “disappointed in you” routine. I was disappointed in me too, but for opposing reasons. I hated not having the courage to be different—to be me. And I lived that way through college and into the first 10 years of my marriage.

It hurt to be me, and until the pain caused by betraying myself outweighed the pain and disappointment I would cause my parents by living true to myself, I remained trapped.

When I finally had the strength to break free from their expectations, I found myself and I found my happiness. Their disappointment in me hit an all-time low and remains there, but for the first time in my life, I’ve been able to look in the mirror and not feel shame and disappointment for living someone else’s life.

And for me, that freedom has been worth all the disappointment in the world.


One of the best parts about where I live is the drive home. My house is at the base of the Rocky Mountains, and they tower above me as I head home. I’ve always lived near the mountains, and they hold a lot of memories for me.

Today as I drove home, I remembered my Grandpa. He was both stern and gentle. He didn’t tolerate time wasting or goofing around when it was time to work. There are a lot of folks like that in farm country.

Despite his stern nature, he allowed us all to make mistakes—sometimes really expensive ones: broken tractors and machinery, bent pipes, and crashed motorbikes to name a few. He brushed these off like they were nothing and taught us how to fix them all. He was patient, and viewed mistakes as a natural part of life.

Around him I felt safe, and I knew that no matter what happened, he’d have my back.

Although my grandpa has passed away, his influence lives on. As I raise my own children, I’m often put in situations where I turn angry or even want to micro-manage their actions and projects. As I reflect on how my Grandpa would handle these moments, I realize that the best action is to step back and let my kids make their own mistakes. Along with those mistakes, they will find that just like my Grandpa, I too will be there to support them, no matter what.

Who Am I?

“Who am I?”

“Who. Am. I?”

I ask myself this question far too often, and not often enough. Depending on my mood or the events leading up to my self-reflection, the answer changes.

When I’m feeling lost, helpless, and disconnected, I respond with, “I don’t know.”

I yell my name during moments of triumph and achievement. “I am Nolan Speaks!” In these moments, I know who I am, and there’s no stopping me.

This morning, I’m lost. I don’t know who I am. I know what I have to do, but my creator is stuck and feels like overeating and binge-watching Netflix. My consumer agrees. Those two bastards have been in cahoots since August.

Now I sit here thinking of ways to feel better, but I recognize that all my ideas are simply avoidance tactics, elaborate as some may be. It’s experience that tells me there’s only one way forward and out of this funk:


Not all the things, just some of them, starting with easy victories that help me regain my confidence. I need to start easy and gain traction over the coming weeks.

Experience also tells me that I habitually take on too much at once, and then retreat when it all comes crashing down, but not this time. I recognize where I went wrong. I learn from the past, I look forward to the future; I can figure this out. I can do this. I will do this.

I am Nolan Speaks! I know who I am.