Coach Profiles: Introducing Nathaniel Toppelberg

Coach Profiles: Introducing Nathaniel Toppelberg

Coach Profiles: Introducing Nathaniel Toppelberg 1020 1000 Theo Wolf

At The Spike Lab we work tirelessly to build a team of world-class coaches. This is part of a series of blogs introducing them to you.

Nathaniel has been coaching students professionally since 2010. His specialty is to guide his students to discover the untapped potential within themselves. At the age of 18, he launched his first business, a college admissions consultancy. As an undergrad at Yale, he helped launch Gakko, a startup initially based in Japan which raised over $5 million in seed capital. Most recently, he co-founded Beson Education, an elite education consultancy serving Chinese families. Nathaniel currently resides in Boston, where he loves to cycle and practice yoga. He is fluent in Spanish and English.

1) Why did you become a coach with The Spike Lab?

I love coaching my students to discover their true purpose and inspiring them to surpass their own expectations. All of my students teach me something about the bigger world we belong to, and I love sharing with them the secrets and marvels I have discovered as well. Serving as a coach at The Spike Lab is a natural evolution of my near-decade of work coaching students, and, as someone who is driven by a deep sense of purpose, I feel at home with The Spike Lab and our mission to create purpose-driven innovators for life.

The work we do at The Spike Lab is not easy work, not for our students and not for our coaches. To understand their true motivations and to continually take action towards their greatest ambitions – to build an impressive Spike – requires limitless curiosity, sharp focus, and great energy from them and their coach. This is hard work and I cherish it because it will benefit students for a lifetime. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than to be serving students who want to earn their success. It’s both a privilege for me to serve our world in this capacity and a pleasure to collaborate with the incredible families who come to us.

2) What is your proudest professional achievement?

After I graduated from Yale, I wanted to explore new worlds with challenges unlike any of the ones I had tackled previously. I started to build relationships with educational consulting agencies in China and distinguished myself by focusing on developing strong and deep relationships with my students.

After a few years, I saw an opportunity to lead a new education venture funded by investors from Beijing. I pitched them on my vision and they made me an offer to join them as one of three co-founders of the company. This was my third startup and my most ambitious entrepreneurial venture.

The experience was intense and tested all of my capacities. I coached students and trained our other coaches; designed and wrote the curriculum for a 4-year personal coaching program; directed all U.S. business operations; and learned a ton about how to bridge across American and Chinese cultures.

Nevertheless, my relationship with the investors ultimately failed and I lost my stake in the company. This was the greatest business loss I had experienced. It taught me profound humility and it showed me I had overestimated my capacities, while also motivating me to expand my capacities even further. By learning to accept this loss, I discovered dignity and poise. Recovering drove me to build the sturdiest base of resiliency and perseverance I have stood upon. Today, this experience informs how I guide my students to take brave but careful risks, and to remind them to recognize the seeds of success that lie hidden within each failure.

3) If you could give one piece of advice to your high school self, what would it be?

Slow down and sleep more. I have always been deeply driven and curious about life, but in high school I could have benefitted from having more guidance on channeling my energy more healthfully. I wanted to get to the bottom of every math proof and to the top of my athletic performance. I excelled academically but was very sleep deprived and kept pushing my limits. I was on the diving team my senior year, and I remember practicing backflips off the diving board when I was dizzy from having slept 2 hours the night before. I managed it, but my balance could have been better. Today, I encourage my students to push their limits while maintaining a wise balance in their activities. I maintain a serious yoga and meditation practice of my own (and am even a certified instructor). So it’s very important that my students thrive in terms of their wellbeing as well as their accomplishments.

4) How did you choose Yale for college?

I was drawn to Yale for its mystery, culture, and focus on teaching undergraduates. I have always cared deeply about excellence in education, demanding it of myself as a coach and of my teachers. Sometimes there is a trade-off between school size and educational quality – larger universities may offer less personalized attention to students. But Yale seemed to offer the right combination of educational quality and size for me, and I was excited by the diversity of the students I found when I visited. I remember the night that finalized my decision; I started the night at a friend’s apartment for a small gathering, meandered to a wine and cheese party hosted by the French literary magazine, stopped (briefly) by a loud frat party, and ended the night walking across the campus having a fascinating conversation with new friends. The diversity of social scenes and interesting people made it clear to me that I would have plenty of space to grow, explore and have worthwhile adventures while at Yale.