Episode 355: J. Andrew McKee – How to Get Better at What You Do

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February 18, 2021

In a weekly email to Unleashed subscribers in the fall of 2019, I asked, “What you are doing this fall to get better at what you do?” Umbrex member J. Andrew McKee sent me the following extraordinary response, and I asked him to be a guest on the show to discuss.

To learn more about Andrew’s consulting practice (which we don’t discuss), visit: HeadlandStrategy.com.

Here is Andrew’s answer on what he is doing to get better at what he does:


  1. Resumed saxophone practice 2-4 times a week, with a goal to resume performing in a narrow (muse-inspired) set of genres by 2021.  I may also get a teacher if I can sustain through Q1 (9 months ongoing!)
  2. Hired a change coach with psychology and spiritual training to help me vision an inspiring growth trajectory for my consulting business while balancing writing and family priorities
  3. Teaching more private webinars and a university course (one 3-hour module) (me and my staff)
  4. Teaching more lunch and learns to our growing staff
  5. Doing Zoom hip hop dance classes with my daughters (Michael Peele!)
  6. Sending more emotionally vulnerable emails to my close guy friends about the ups and downs of life, and having more 1:1 phone calls where I stop beating around the bush
  7. Protecting occasional afternoons for 3-4 hour hikes with masks with longtime friends
  8. Calling my father more regularly (Q2 weeks)
  9. Resuming a meditation practice after I intentionally let it lapse on behalf of first protecting a full night of sleep, and now that our youngest child is out of diapers and I can manage 10-20 minutes per day.
  10. Planning to hire an HR consultant to help us build behaviors to learn new knowledge and skills into a broader sense of “performance review” than is typically done.  I would also like to align this with peer-encouraged deliberate practice.  We are also noodling on hiring an expert for certain skills (e.g., market research interviews), and having them work with us like a coach (pre- and post-game feedback).
  11. Added volunteer programs to mentor students at a historically black university, including mock interview practice, career advice, help with career connections, and so on.


  1. Writing literary fiction 2-3 hours per day
  2. Journaling daily about anything and everything (“Morning pages” in the spirit of Julia Cameron)
  3. No alcohol since 2013 (or other drugs)
  4. No caffeine since summer 2019 (except 1-2 cups decaf coffee or 1 cup of green tea)
  5. Intermitted fasting when I feel like it
  6. Protecting 7.5 to 8.0 hours of sleep per night, helped by reminders from my Oura Ring
  7. Protecting time for the family each day (AM and dinner time) and every weekend, including supporting them in music and sports
  8. Reading almost zero business books, which I find very low yield in general
  9. Reading widely and muse-inspired, drawing from a long list of books I’d love to read and reading them when I feel inspired, across nonfiction and fiction in a 1:1 mix
  10. Listening broadly to music that inspires and moves me