Getting to Know A4A: Richard Lawrence

Today, our Getting to Know A4A series focuses on Richard Lawrence, agile trainer and coach and co-owner of Agile For All.

Richard Lawrence TeachingWhere are you from?

I grew up in Orange County, CA. Now that I’ve lived in Denver for a third of my life, that’s beginning to feel more like my hometown, though.

Outside of my work, I’m surprisingly good at…

Replicating food and drink recipes. We’ll find a cocktail or meal we like in a restaurant, and I’ll figure out how to replicate it at home. (This helps me rationalize craft cocktail prices—I’m buying both the initial experience and a new idea to make at home whenever I want.)

Favorite restaurant?

I get to eat at so many good restaurants in my travels that it’s hard to narrow it down to one. I tend to like small, local places. For example, there’s a little Italian place on East 53rd in New York called La Gioconda that provides a stellar experience every time we visit.

At the top of the mountain in Winter Park with my wife and one of my three boys

At the top of the mountain in Winter Park with my wife and one of my three boys

If I’m not with a client, I’m…

Mountain biking with my family. We try to spend as much of the summer as we can biking in Winter Park, CO, and the rest of the year we ride on Front Range area trails (when it’s not snowing) and practice our skills at Valmont Bike Park in Boulder.

If I could sit down for drinks with anyone, alive or dead, it’d be…

G.K. Chesterton. He was so articulate about so many things. I often read his perspective on something and find it’s both surprising and common sense at the same time.

And his productivity as a writer was astounding. I struggle to get a blog post out in a month. He wrote over a hundred books and four thousand essays.

Where would you take them?

I’d let him choose. I think that would be part of the experience.

The best part about my city is…

There are so many things I love about Denver. Probably the best part is the culture of being outside and active and the great, sunny weather that makes it possible.

What’s your best travel tool or tip?

Relax. There’s so much about travel that’s stressful simply because people choose to be stressed, not because it’s inherently stressful. Plan enough time so you can go from one place to another without rushing. Let other people go first—you’ll often get there at the same time without having to shuffle along with the crowd. And when (not if) things go wrong, take a deep breath, think about the great story you’ll have to tell later, and make new plans. I’ve had some great experiences, for example, being stuck in a city for an extra day because a flight was canceled and I choose to make the most of it.

Favorite learning hack?

First, find the structure of the thing you want to learn.

If it’s a concept I’m trying to learn from a book, I’ll look at the table of contents and skim the book to understand the big picture. Then, I’ll dive into details and try to find ways to work with parts of the concept independently and then integrated with others. Finally, I’ll figure out how I would teach it to someone else and let that force me to fill in gaps.

If it’s a skill, whether in music, sports, cooking, or whatever, I’ll find a way to break it down so I can drill individual parts of the skill and then reassemble them.

Advice to your 25 year old self?

Connection is as important as competency. At 25, I was good at my work and lousy at connecting with other people, which often limited my impact and sometimes missed the point altogether. I’m still working on this, but I wish I’d consciously started sooner.

I wish I had the ability to…

Strike up a (non-awkward) conversation with anybody. This is something I’m working on, but it’s still very uncomfortable.

If I had to choose a totally different career, it’d probably be…

Something in food and wine, probably still teaching, though.

Book you’ve gifted the most?

How to Cook Without a Book. So many people only know how to follow recipes, if they cook at all. Understanding how cooking works makes it more fun and gives you unlimited meal options. I know I’m not going to get a non-cook to read a hardcore cooking science book, so I give them this book as a super-practical, indirect way into food science.

Go-to movie quote?

There are so many—at least 50% of my family’s communication is movie or book quotes—but I get a lot of mileage out of:

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Favorite thing about your work?

Seeing how improving someone’s work can transform their whole life. Work takes so much of our time and is so core to our identity. Being able to have an impact there can make such a difference.

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