Coffee Date With Garrett Philbin

Coffee Date With Garrett Philbin

When I was on the road, I started this series so you could get to know some of the people I was spending time with. There was Anthony in Minneapolis, Carrie in Boulder, and I finally got to meet Ms. ONL at FinCon. But there was one person who I was texting with all along the way, and we didn’t actually meet until the tail end of both of our road trips – and that’s Garrett.

If you’ve read my last few posts, you have probably already gathered that Garrett is a fairly new friend, and that he has quickly become one of my best. I’m still not entirely sure how that happened, but hey, don’t fight the universe, right? And I think we both agree that we do have the universe (and the internet) to thank, because Garrett ended up going on a 7-week road trip at the exact same time I did and to many of the same states. We didn’t cross paths until we got to FinCon in San Diego, but we connected early on, stayed in touch and shared road trip experiences all throughout. (You can read more about his here and here.) And since returning from our individual trips, we’ve stayed connected and continued to build a pretty amazing friendship.

If we didn’t have enough travel stories to bond over, Garrett also works in the personal finance space – as a money coach, through his business Be Awesome Not Broke! I have witnessed some of the work he does with his clients, and am continually impressed by how smart, caring and passionate he is. (He also makes a killer spreadsheet.) And when I heard him say that he helps people “budget with their goals and values” on XYPN Radio, I thought… wow, have we met!? (We had.) So for this last interview of the year, I thought I should introduce you all to Garrett. Based on everything I’ve just shared, it probably won’t surprise you that we plan on partnering up and doing some pretty cool things together next year. I’ll let him take it from here. :)

Before we get started: you don’t actually drink coffee, do you? (This is already awkward lol.)

Ummm, yeaaa… you might have to retitle this series now. Am I cool enough for that to happen?! Don’t answer that. Actually, it’s not that I DON’T drink coffee… I do every couple of weeks. It’s more that I shouldn’t drink coffee. I have more than enough energy as is (as Cait can attest), and when I drink coffee I get a massive jolt of energy and kind of feel drunk at the same time. So pretty much coffee is like a Four Loko for me.

Ok, then talk to me about breakfast. What do you eat in the morning?

Now that I have everyone thinking I’m a weirdo, let’s only reinforce that :) I love to eat. Like, loooove to eat. I blame my hyper-fast metabolism. This means every morning I make myself three over-medium eggs, 1.5 slices of turkey bacon (the pan can only hold that much. I told you – weirdo), 1/4 of an avocado (yo, they’re expensive!) and a “green” smoothie that has spinach, cucumber, carrot, beets, tomato, blueberries, apple and anything else I want in there. It looks horrendous but actually tastes quite good and provides me with all of the vitamins.

Coffee Date With Garrett Philbin
A greenhouse with no greens. Zero of the vitamins live here.

Now that we’ve taken care of the serious stuff, what are you really excited about these days?

Possibility! Is that too cliche and broad? Whatever, I’m sticking to it. Over the past three years, I’ve gone from working at a corporate job I hated to running my own business, and it’s made me realize that I really can create whatever life I want*. Whatever impression I want to leave on the world and how I want to show up in it is all within my control. My mindset has changed from that of a victim (my job sucks, they don’t pay me enough, I have no options) to a creator, and with that comes a wonderful sense of possibility.

*Yes – I recognize the immense privilege I have to even be in the position to have made those decisions and give you a fairly flippant answer. But since this privilege isn’t going away, I can at least use it to build an awesome life that allows me to do as much good in the world as I can.

Why did you decide to launch Be Awesome Not Broke?

Early last year, one of the companies I co-founded had just run out of money and I was unhappy with the industries I was working in (music & advertising). I wanted to get back to the things I’d done in the past that had truly brought me happiness and meaning: teaching and mentoring. After college, I spent two years volunteering full-time at a high school for students from low-income families and troubled homes, and that work was so worthwhile and meaningful that I knew I had to get back to doing something that contained that essence.

What has been the toughest part of starting your business?

Balancing work and play. The idea is that you start your own business so it can enable you to live the life you want. But when you’re starting out and figuring out how to get clients, market yourself, price your services, network, overcome impostor syndrome, etc. it’s hard to only think of those things between 9am-6pm and not have your personal life be affected by any of that. However, if you work your butt off for 2-3 years and build a (financially) successful business but run yourself ragged and don’t spend time with friends/family and have no one to share that success with, are you actually successful? My answer would be no – which is hard to say considering I still focus too much on work and too little on play. It’s a constant battle, but the important thing is not that I’m getting it perfect all the time, but I’m asking the question.

What has been the best part? :)

The personal growth. I have become a more compassionate, supportive human to friends, family and strangers as a result of starting my own business. It has forced me to confront my contradictions, take responsibility and ownership of my life, and shown me that what I get out is a direct result of the compassion and energy I put into my life and business.

Coffee Date With Garrett Philbin

How do you measure success?

If you would have asked me this a few months ago, I would have said it’s based on how successful my clients are. But now I’d say that success means balance. Balance between busting my butt at work yet also being able to step away and enjoy the life that my business was created to support. If I am burning the candle at both ends and stressed and constantly out of balance, then I’m not able to best serve my clients or serve as an example for what is possible. It’s like the analogy of having to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. I have to make sure my life is one of balance and fun and love, otherwise I can’t be a model and help others find that life for themselves.

What is your relationship with social media right now? How do you use it?

Ummm fairly non-existent? Actually that’s not a question… it’s fairly non-existent. I think there are two reasons for that. 1) I have a deep-seated fear about coming across as a sleazy sales scumbag and 2) until recently I hadn’t defined my ideal client, so I felt inauthentic whenever I got on social media because I didn’t know who I was supposed to be talking to. Social media has always felt like an obligation rather than an opportunity, but I’m realizing it doesn’t have to be hard. If I don’t love Instagram or Twitter, I don’t have to use them.

I’m naturally gregarious and feel super comfortable being seen and heard, so podcasts and video are becoming my new go-tos. Now that I know who my ideal tribe is (people going through a quarter-life crisis and asking themselves “so what the heck do I do next with my money and my life?!”) I can speak to them with authenticity and honesty – because I’ve been there before. I feel much more free and genuine, so my communication isn’t me being selly – it’s me simply having a conversation with and giving guidance to my audience.

Let’s shift directions. Who was one of your best friends growing up?

I honestly didn’t have a “best friend” until my junior year of high school. It wasn’t until I was 16 or 17 that I started feeling confident in my own skin. Until that point, I was just floating around as this kid without any real friends, trying to find where I belonged. I haven’t really thought about it until now, but because I was never comfortable with myself until later, I never allowed myself to be open or vulnerable enough to actually have a close friend. Because I didn’t like and wasn’t confident with who I was, I didn’t feel anyone else would like who I was either. Only when I started to believe I was “worthy” of real friendship did I actually find it.

What were your favourite hobbies as a kid?

Singing has always been a big part of my life and played a large part in me becoming comfortable in my own skin. I also loved to play soccer, hike, climb rocks and trees like a mountain goat – pretty much anything that kept me active. At least that was true in my pre-teen years. If we’re talking about junior high and high school, I would say my favorite hobby (and my family would confirm) was being a sulky, Debbie Downer :)

What is one of your favourite hobbies now?

Having intimate, open and “deep” conversations with people who don’t often have them.

If you could have an unlimited supply of anything, what would it be?

Oh dear god, the possibilities. And we all know how much I love possibility ;)

If I want to make your readers judge me I would say an unlimited supply of compassion. If I wanted you all to roll your eyes I would say that an unlimited amount of anything is bad because it’s only by having a limited amount of something that we actually gain appreciation for it. But if I’m really being honest, I’d want an unlimited supply of tacos. Carne Asada or Barbacoa will do.

When was the last time you tried something new?

The day after the election here in the states, I went to Union Square (a main square in NYC) and stood there with a sign that said “Free Ears – You Talk, I’ll Listen”. That was the first time I’d put myself in a position like that. It was a little weird at first standing alone, not having gone there with anyone else, waiting to see if people wanted to talk. But after the initial awkwardness, I felt at peace and had several great conversations that helped me feel more connected to humanity, which was just what I needed.

What has been one of your most memorable vacations?

This road trip I did this summer! You know, the one where I followed in your footsteps around the US for about 7 weeks :) Although it wasn’t technically a “vacation” since I did work throughout, I’m going to count it anyway, so deal! It was memorable because I reconnected with nature, caught up with old friends, was alone with and learned so much about myself… all things I am so grateful I was able to do. Much better than lying on a beach somewhere.

Coffee Date With Garrett Philbin

If you could magically gain one new quality or ability, what would it be?

Oohhhh, good one. Honestly, it would be the ability to approach every interaction with gratitude and compassion. Here’s why. Fear, insecurity, greed, anger – none of these things can exist in the same space as gratitude and compassion. You may have heard this said before, but our happiness isn’t dependent on what happens to us in life, it’s about how we react to what happens to us. Therefore, if I’m always able to respond with gratitude and compassion, I will never be jealous, resentful, a douche, etc. And that, my friends, would be a pretty awesome way to live life.

Are you reading any good books right now (or have any old faves you want to share)?

Can I say Harry Potter and still have people take me seriously? No? Okay, then. Here are a few others:

  1. The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist is a great book on changing your mindset around money from one of scarcity to one of abundance.
  2. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is just an incredible book. It’s about his experience as a holocaust survivor, and how no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, there is the opportunity to find meaning in our lives.
  3. And lastly, Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer. He has a great sense of humor, it’s an entertaining story (he goes from a nobody to competing in the U.S. Memory Championships) and provides some really interesting insight into mnemonics (the study of memory) without being boring and dry.

What movies or TV shows could you watch again and again, without getting sick of them?

I actually rarely watch TV or movies, so this list is going to be short and outdated. That being said, I could watch Ice Age (the original) over and over and over… and I have. Same goes for Shrek. Yes, I am a child.

As for TV shows, I loved Scrubs, Chuck and Suits. OH! And Stranger Things… so good!

Tell me some of your favourite things to do, places to go, and restaurants to eat at in Brooklyn!

Honestly, one of my favorite (that’s how we spell it here in ‘Murica!) things to do is to ride my bike everywhere. When I only took the subway, I never got a sense for where things were in relation to each other – I simply went underground and then came up at my destination. Now I have this picture of Brooklyn as a whole borough, I know the character of many of the neighborhoods and how they flow from one into another.

In terms of places to go: I absolutely love Prospect Park, visiting hipster Bushwick for its art and the industrial feel of it all, getting my 90s hip-hop dance on at Franklin Park bar, and spending an afternoon at Brooklyn Bridge Park for the views of the water, sand volleyball and picnic time.

For the restaurants, I’m going to rep my neighborhood. Everyone needs to go to Barboncino (seriously, the best pizza you will ever have), Puerto Viejo has some killer Dominican food, and check out Covenhoven if you want wine/beer, delicious grilled cheese and board games to boot!

Coffee Date With Garrett Philbin

What’s one of the best decisions you’ve made for yourself, so far this year?

Going on a two-month, 10 state road trip over the summer. That experience has done more to change my perspective about what is possible, both from a life and business perspective, than any other thing I’ve done in a long while. It also helped clarify what is truly important and deserves my attention, as well as what isn’t, and that I can be okay with letting things slide off my plate and be a happier person for it.

If you woke up tomorrow and had no plans and no work to do, how would you spend your day?

I AM SO BAD AT THIS GAME! I would get up and eat (duh), then bike over to the park where I would spend a few hours reading under a tree. After that, I’d head over to grab street tacos with a friend, pick up picnic supplies, and then head on over to a different park where we’d have wonderful conversation, delicious snacks and probably get unnecessarily sunburnt as we hang into the evening. Aaaaand scene.

  • “Free Ears” Love it! Sometimes all we need to do is stop talking and listen.
    It sounds like you had an amazing trip and I suspect it’s just the first of many. Happy holidays!

    • Yeah, that’s been one of the big things I’ve been trying to put into practice, the importance of listening over talking. I still run into the knee-jerk reaction of trying to problem solve immediately when someone is sharing, but am working to get better at it.
      Happy Holidays to you too!

  • I can see how you two hit it off so quickly. Who doesn’t want to be friends with Garrett after reading this interview?? Garrett, I love your answer to the best part of starting your business: “It has forced me to confront my contradictions, take responsibility and ownership of my life, and shown me that what I get out is a direct result of the compassion and energy I put into my life and business.” I’ve been trying to express this in words for quite some time now and you do it beautifully here.

    • “Who doesn’t want to be friends with Garrett after reading this interview??”…that is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said! Dammit Carly, you’re making me blush :)

      A friend recently told me that “being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 personal growth experience” and that’s the essence I was trying to capture. As an entrepreneur yourself I can see why that resonated…the struggle is real.

    • You can’t imagine how big our smiles/laughs were from reading that suggestion, Nicci! Fun things to come in 2017 :)

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