29 Oct

4 ideas that changed my life

Every so often you come across an idea that can change your life. It could be a passing comment, something you read in a book, or a moment of inspiration, but if you act on it, big changes are possible.

Without much introduction, here are four ideas that changed my life.

1. You don’t have to pay for travel.

I took more flights in the last month than the first 18 years of my life. And I didn’t even travel that much last month. Growing up plane travel was always expensive, exciting, and elusive.

So when Chris Guillebeau told me that flights could be free, I was blown away. It quite literally changed my life. Since then I’ve flown to over 30 countries and spent very little doing it.

The method is fairly straightforward—though you should be warned, it’s easy to obsess over. I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading and learning about it. With that warning out of the way, let me introduce you to travel hacking.

Travel hacking is the art of using credit cards to accumulate airline points you can redeem for free flights. The simplest example is that if you want to fly to Hawaii for free from the East Coast of the US you could pick up a the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card which will give you 50,000 points when you reach the minimum spend.

Transfer these Chase points to United (they transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio) and you have enough to fly to Hawaii for free. Saving you as much as $500-1,000! Want to go to Europe instead? That’s just 60,000 miles instead of 45,000.

Exceed expectations

Credit card companies and their airline partners expect you to get a card, meet the spend, use the bonus, and then slowly accumulate miles from there. Travel hackers go to the extreme and rotate through cards often holding 10-20 at a time to get as many sign up bonuses as they can. This is how they’ll collect hundreds of thousands of miles and tens of thousands of dollars in free flights.

I’ve booked a dozen free flights to Thailand to visit family, flown to Europe in first class, taken the entire family to Hawaii, and a lot more!

Now because the business spends so much money on credit cards I don’t churn through them, but over the years I’ve had over a dozen credit cards (well managed and tracked in a spreadsheet).

Start travel hacking

To get a good introduction to travel hacking take this free course from my brother-in-law Philip: Learn Travel Hacking. Then let me know where you go on your first free flight!

2. It’s not too late to start.

I wish I played sports in school.

By the time I was in college I didn’t enjoy playing sports because I wasn’t coordinated and just looked foolish. I eventually started playing casual games of ultimate frisbee and that gave me some okay hand eye coordination. Combine that with being able to run and being over 6 feet tall and I wasn’t half bad.

Then the invitation came to play soccer.

No thanks.

If I was that uncoordinated with my hands, doing anything with my feet would be a disaster. At 24 years old I didn’t want to start playing with friends who had played their entire lives.

Then a couple friends persisted. “No, seriously. You should try it.”

So I did. And I was right, it was a disaster. But I had fun!

Then I joined a team and kept playing. That was almost four years ago. Right now I play an average of four games a week and even moved closer to the indoor soccer facility!

I’m still not that good, but I have a lot of fun and can see consistent progress. I’m so glad I started playing soccer even years after I thought it was far too late to learn sports.

My mom started a brand new career in nursing in her 50s. Another friend picked up computer programming around the same age. It’s not too late. Just start.

3. Consistent effort wins.

When you do start, be consistent.

Years ago I wanted to start a blog. After six months of sporadic posts technically I had achieved my goal. But I should have been more specific. What I actually wanted was a successful blog. You know, with consistent growth.

I only started to see growth when I started writing consistently. Consistent inputs equal consistent outputs.

Huh. Surprising.

When I wanted to write a book I completely failed. Until I started writing 1,000 words a day. By showing up every day I made quick progress on the book. 90 days later I had a finished draft. 180 days in and I had written another book. 650 days in and I had a successful blog, several books, an established audience, and was earning a full time living from my writing.

It wasn’t a spark of inspiration or anything special that helped me build that. Just consistent effort over time.

Advice is easy to give

That advice is easy to give, but hard to follow. Even as I write this I’m trying to regain my consistent writing habit that has been lost for years. So if you struggle, know that I do too. I’m even wearing my Create Every Day shirt to give myself more motivation!

Whatever your goal is, the best way to get there is with consistent effort.

4. Anyone can build their own audience.

I used to want to be a famous blogger.

All the people I looked up to online had an almost mythical status. They were more than just talented creators, they were famous. Or at least internet famous.

Then I became one and realized it’s not a crazy process. Anyone can build an audience. Most just aren’t willing to.

The formula is pretty straightforward.

  1. Learn something.
  2. Teach it to other people.
  3. Repeat.

For the best results keep it focused on a specific topic so you can work to attract one audience. Then after a period of consistent output you need to add in promotion by finding people to tell about your work.

Want to build an audience of designers? Put out a video on design every week for two years. It will happen. Your first videos will be terrible. But they’ll get better. An audience of five people will grow to five hundred.

Everyone who wants to do this and fails gets hung up in two areas:

  1. They are sporadic.
  2. Their time horizon is far too short.

Sticking to a set cadence is crucial. Once you do that set your expectations correctly. This will be hard. It will take far longer than you think it should.

My friend Sean McCabe says you should show up every day for two years. Do that and you can’t lose.



Those four ideas had a huge impact on me. So much so that I even created a company to help 20,000 other creators execute on their own audiences. Travel gave me new perspectives and new friends who impacted my thinking and writing. That spread to an audience, from which I built a business.

What ideas have changed your life?

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14 Responses to “4 ideas that changed my life”

  1. I love the idea of showing up everyday for 2 years. One more thing I could add up to that is “whatever it takes”. Like you said “3. Consistent effort wins.”. It looks easy, but it’s very very hard to be consistent, in two years. So imagine your final goal, and do whatever it takes, to get your goal.

  2. On a retreat two years ago, I heard you and some of the other guys talking about travel hacking. I knew nothing about it and was honestly a bit skeptical. The name sounded… sketchy.

    Then I discovered it was literally as simple as running the expense purchases I was already making through a card to earn points.

    Two months later, with the sign up bonuses of two cards and making some strategic purchases we already wanted to make in one month, I earned the Southwest Companion Pass (where one person you designate flies free with you on every flight you take). This lasts until the end of the following calendar year.

    After some research, I learned to line things up just right to where I was able to earn this in January of 2017, which meant it lasted nearly two full years. Sadly, I’m coming up on the end of my Companion Pass at the end of this year, but it’s been nice having Laci fly free wherever I go—so thanks for that! =)

    I played a number of organized sports growing up (soccer, basketball, baseball), but pretty much stopped after high school. I really miss a lot of things about them. Actually, ultimate frisbee was one I played casually too!

    Your simple encouragement to pick it back up, and reminder that it’s never too late, is great! Thanks for that.

    Consistency is hard at first. Mostly because we just want the end result without the process.

    But if you can let go of the end result you want for a moment, and just put your head down, build the habit of doing the work, and trust the process, you’ll end up in a very different place before you know it. James says this better than anyone with his “1% better every day” concept.

    I’ve started thinking about who I’ll be in 10 years if I do something consistently (instead of what I can get out of something in the immediate future). Conversely, I’ve been thinking about who I’ll be in 10 years if I DON’T do some of the things I know I should do.

    These really are life-changing ideas. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hey Sean! So just curious – is the companion pass a one time deal or can you earn it again?

      • Nathan Barry says:

        Yes! Love that example of travel hacking. The companion pass is such a good deal. Most of those cards could be repeated, so Laci could get it and name you as the companion.

        Ultimately frisbee is great. You should pick it up again!

        I like the 10 year idea. Do the work, trust the process. I’m trying to rebuild a few habits right now and it’s so hard to not jump straight to the result!

        @marshall: You can get it repeatedly. Credit cards are the hack to shortcut them and most you can get every two years or so (there is some nuance to the rules, but that’s a general rule).

      • @Marshall: You can earn the Companion Pass any time, but it’s insanely hard to do “normally”. You have to get 110,000 points to quality ($1 = 1 point). So yeah, spend a hundred grand, and you’re good to go!

        But it gets harder: you have to get those 110,000 qualifying points *in a calendar year*! Once the year rolls over, you start at zero again.

        Except—and this is the clever part—signup bonuses give you a massive amount of points. For instance, certain cards at the time I got them gave a 50,000-point signup bonus (you have to spend $3,000 in the first month to qualify for the sign-up bonus—so that’s $6,000 total for two cards). I got one card for business, one for personal. I spent $3,000 on each card in the first month ($6,000 total), which unlocked the two 50,000-point signup bonuses.

        Instantly, I had 100,000 points. But the money spent to unlock the sign-up bonus also generates points. So that takes you to 106,000. Then you need only to spend another $4,000 to get the Companion Pass. If you put business expenses on the card (assuming the business spends a decent amount) that $4,000 comes fast.

        I applied in November 2016, got approved, and started using the cards at the beginning of January 2017 (again, important, because the qualifying points MUST be earned in the same calendar year). That’s how I qualified for the Companion Pass by February (which lasts until the end of the following calendar year).

        The thing about the sign-up bonuses is you only get them when you sign up for a new card. And before you think you can just cancel your card and apply for another to earn more sign-up bonus points, they’re already wise to your tricks: there’s a 24-month mandatory waiting period between canceling your cards and signing up for new ones.

        All that to say: yes, you can earn the Companion Pass again any time you want—but you’re going to have to spend $110,000 in a calendar year to get it. Also, unless you plan to somehow spend that much in a single month, the best case scenario is one in which you’ll likely earn those 110,000 qualifying points towards the end of the year if you ever do.

        Since the Companion Pass lasts until the end of the following calendar year, if you spent $9k/mo, you’d earn it by December and have the Companion Pass for only 13 months.

        The scenario in which I earned it by the end of January, thus getting the Companion Pass for 23 total months, is pretty much only possible with signup bonuses—which is something you could only ever get once (save for going through the hassle of canceling and renewing your card, which introduces an additional mandatory 2-year delay).

  3. We use CC so much in our life. But I think these rules applied to American citizens only – it really doesn’t apply to outside. I’ve read Chris’s book and we don’t have that access to multiple cards. In addition, they all charge an ‘around’ $200 admin fee unless you are using their card continuously throughout the year, then it can be waived.

    • Nathan Barry says:

      Very true. US citizens have far more access. A few friends internationally have cards that give points, but not on the level that a US citizen can do it. If you have business spending you can still collect points though!

  4. Robert Leachman says:

    If you Google “visualization is the key to success” you’ll see some fairly bold claims… but the central message is true.

    When I learned part of what holds us back is not being able to visualize the goal it changed my life, some. Even now I have a hard time visualizing myself as successful as I could be if I digested and embraced the content of this excellent post.

    Thanks for it!

  5. Awesome post Nathan! Thanks for sharing. I look forward to trying some of these travel hacks in the coming year.

  6. Ric Nunez says:

    I’m glad you are back writing. I really like your previous post. I just started Pat Flynn’s podcast training so it was great to get more ideas.

    I remember when you mentioned travel hacking and Philip for the first time. I learned some cool things in his newsletter.

    I miss playing soccer. It has been almost ten years. I may need to find a local indoor club, but cool will be some futsal.

    In your last point, the most difficult part is starting or in my case changing direction. I have been working on the same thing for years and now I decided to switch niche, to create a new course. It has been more difficult picking a niche that I thought it would be. Any tips?

    Finally, I totally stole Sean’s comment divider. So much easier to visualize it.

  7. Thanks Nathan. Already am doing #1 but working on #2, #3, and #4.

  8. This is gold, Thank you, Nathan.

  9. Great article! I think one quote that has definitely changed my life is “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

    I started a blog a few months ago, and I would post consistently in the beginning, but I lost motivation to continue after a while. However, coming across this quote inspired me to keep pushing and striving towards my goals; after all, they won’t become a reality unless I start consistently putting in the work.

  10. Simple and true. Thanks for sharing Nathan.

    Nathan, I think it was 4 years ago I met you briefly when I was wrestling with what business I wanted to start. You told me basically to authentically teach what I know. I’m an addict who has found healing and I became a psychotherapist…so 3 years ago a buddy and I launched an anonymous social platform where people actually are honest and track share their deepest struggles with small groups of friends hey meet on our platform. Then last year we expanded to offer an online counseling marketplace so people could connect to professional support. 320,000 people have used this platform to help them grow and it is the privilege of my life to show up every day to do this work. It’s also been a wild ride.

    So the ideas that have changed my life (since you asked for them in your email):

    —Courageus conversations unlock healing and open possibilities for growth. I’m talking neurologically. Sharing the thing you are most ashamed of with safe people is necessary for deep healing to begin.
    —Isolation limits growth. There are others out there that are also struggling but who, like you, wish they had someone committed to changing who they could talk to. AKA: you’re not alone.
    —Building something you are proud of (a skill set, body of work, business) should be measured in years but created every day. Of course having short term goals and metrics are important. But they are just indicators of heading in a direction. Sometimes you need years to see the horizon lines of growth clearly, but that consistent growth has a compounding effect!
    —The Create Every Day t-shirt does give you creative superpowers.

    Shameless plug: you get that t-shirt for free when you use Nathan’s company, convertkit, and complete their onboarding tasks. Simple but so cool!

    I’ve also been struggling recently to show up consistently to write. Thanks for the reminders and the encouragement. I’ll check back in two years and let you know how things are going!

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