Dan rocks his way to better business relationships
Dan Keith started playing the bass guitar after his 6th grade band teacher suggested he give it a try. Just 7 years later, he was in a band that went on tour, performing in a variety of venues across the United States and Canada. He would then go on to get his degree in nursing, become a CEO and a father, so his guitar sat in his closet until a few years ago when he realized how much he missed his passion for playing music.
In this episode, Dan and I talk about how much nursing transfers into music because both involve being on a team with others, doing work that others appreciate. As the CEO, he’s always looking for ways to create genuine connections with others in the office. He’s says, “People, in general, would love to talk about it if someone would just give them an ear.” Dan also encourages his staff to go for walks outside the office and creates opportunities for people to create stronger connections by spending time together in a more casual setting outside the office.
Dan Keith is the CEO of It Starts With Me Health in Missoula, Montana, and the co-founder of the Rock Stars of Health Summit.
He received his Bachelor of Science, Registered Nursing degree from Montana State University – Bozeman and later received his MBA from The University of Montana.
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Welcome to episode 146 of the Green Apple Podcast. This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who just like me is known for a hobby or an interest outside of work, making them stand out like a green apple in a stereotypically boring red apple world. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and as in my guest Dan Keith is a CEO and plays at a rock band and even toward when he was younger. It will be neat to hear how he stepped away from playing as he progressed in his career, but he’s back at it because it’s truly a passion.
I’ve got a quick favor to ask. If you like the show and are listening on iTunes, your favorite Android app, don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest Dan Keith. He’s the CEO of It Starts with Me Health in Missoula, Montana and the co-founder of the Rock Stars of Health Summit. Dan, I know you’re very busy. So thank you so much for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Dan: Good to talk to you, John.
John: Oh, man. I’m so excited to have you on. Try this last week, and I heard everybody liked it, so we’re going to go right into the 17 rapid fire questions right up front just to make sure, before I get on the plane and come play with your band and that I need to make sure we’d get along a little bit. Let me fire this thing up here and we’ll have a little bit of fun, get to know Dan a little bit more here. All right. I’ll start you out with an easy one. The first one, more jeans or khakis?
John: How about a toilet paper roll, over or under?
John: Over, yeah. You were very adamant about that one, I could tell. How about, do you have a favorite number?
John: No. All right, because they’re all listening. Are you more oceans or mountains?
John: Mountains, nice. How about a Star Wars or a Star Trek?
Dan: Star Trek.
John: Okay. All right. How about a favorite color?
John: Purple, nice. How about a least favorite color?
John: Mauve. How about a Sudoku or a crossword puzzle?
John: Okay, all right. How about when it comes to computers, more of a PC or a Mac?
Dan: PC, but it’s only because I’ve never really used a Mac. Everybody who uses Mac says they’re fantastic.
John: Right, but I don’t trust those people. When it comes to your mouse, right click or left click?
Dan: Right click.
John: All right. Do you have a favorite adult beverage?
Dan: I like margaritas.
John: Okay. Margarita, there you go. How about when you travel, more planes, trains or automobiles?
John: Okay. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Dan: Clint Eastwood.
John: Oh, solid, solid answer. Would you say you’re more early bird or night owl?
Dan: Early bird.
John: Early bird, there you go. We got three more. Do you have a favorite sports team?
Dan: The Miami Dolphins were always my favorite as a kid and I also like the Minnesota Vikings.
John: Okay. You’re all right. There’s two more, two more. Since you’re in the wellness world, people are getting their blood drawn. So it’s more finger stick or venipuncture?
Dan: A hundred percent, venipuncture.
John: Nice. It sounds fancier.
Dan: That’s right.
John: Yeah, the finger stick, it looks painful. It looks like it hurts. The last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Dan: I’ve got a 1973 Fender precision bass that I got from my parents for Christmas that I knew they couldn’t afford. I still had it. I have been playing ever since. It’s probably the best thing they could have ever bought, but they really had to stretch to do it.
John: Sweet. Wow. That’s really cool and it’s so great that you still have it and you’re still playing it. That’s awesome, man, very cool. What made you want to go into nursing to begin with?
Dan: I will be totally honest with you. People ask me that all the time. Usually, the answer they’re expecting is I wanted to help people and so on. But the real answer is, I was looking at all the careers. I actually played in a band for a couple of years before I started college. And that’s because I didn’t know what I wanted to do in college. But at that time, there was a lot of people getting laid off and I just thought, what is a job that I will always have that I’ll never have to worry about losing my job and I landed on nursing? At the time, there weren’t that many guys doing nursing.
Dan: As a matter of fact, at that time, if you were a male and you were going into nursing, the assumption was you were gay.
John: Right. In the early ’80s especially, yeah.
Dan: Initially, people would say, “What’s your major?” and I would say, “Nursing.” And they’d say, “No, seriously.”
John: Right. That’s crazy, yeah.
Dan: But the weird thing is, by the time I graduated which was in ’89, the thinking had really shifted.
John: You were a trendsetter man.
Dan: Well, you know, it’s funny, I always thought — I will say, you know what, even if I’m not that good of a nurse, they’ll always want me to you lifting stuff.
John: Right, exactly. There are some patients that need to be moved or rolled or whatever.
Dan; Anyway, that’s the truth thing. The interesting thing though is I’m actually very much a people person and that’s some of the best experiences I’ve had as people who — sometimes, it’s the littlest things you do for people. It makes their day.
John: Yeah, absolutely. That’s really cool, man, that’s really cool. And you alluded to it earlier just playing in a band, and I think that’s a really cool passion interest outside of work that you took on the road a little bit, which is neat.
Dan: Oh, yeah. That’s always been part of what I do.
John: How did that start? How did you get into that? Was it high school or —
Dan: It was a little earlier, actually, I think it was in sixth grade. There was a band teacher who was actually a bass player. He was a conductor and was with the school district and he just thought maybe I want to learn how to play the bass and it was — I don’t know how he knew that. It turned out that I picked it up fairly quickly. So I just continued to play and ended up in high school. I was into sports quite a bit, but finally my senior year, I just thought you know, I’m just going to play all these weekends. So I got pretty good, after high school, I was approached by some guys that traveled. And so we traveled around the Northwestern United States and up into Canada which was a great experience, and we played top 40 music.
John: That’s really cool, man. That’s awesome. Unfortunately, the bass players never get a lot of love. The attention, it’s like you need them. Without that, the music doesn’t right.
Dan: That’s very true. You know what’s funny is, when somebody says, “You play bass? Hey, play this song for me.” And you go, okay. It doesn’t come off very well.
John: Right. Actually, I played the trombone at Notre Dame in the marching band in a low brass. It’s like, “Oh, how did the victory march go?” Long, long, long.
Dan: That’s so true.
John: It doesn’t sound very hard. It’s harder than it looks. Oh, you only have four strings.
Dan: It’s like somebody is saying, “Hey, play that song on the tambourine.”
John: Right. Man, you are nailing it. That’s exactly it.
Dan: Well, you know, the funny thing too is, when I when I was younger, I really — and I didn’t really recognize it then but I was pretty anxious. And so I didn’t really want to be up front anyway, so it really worked out. I liked being sort of stand in the back and not having people pay a lot of attention to me. That actually worked out pretty good. I’ve grown out of that little bit, not entirely but a lot.
John: Right. Not entirely, but a lot. Absolutely. Is there one of the cooler, most rewarding things from when you were touring?
Dan: One of the best things that I actually got out of that wasn’t even really music related. It was more people related. I was traveling with these guys, nice guys, but they — I wasn’t much of a drinker. I didn’t do drugs. But one of the best things I learned from that was what I didn’t want. I looked at these guys and I was 18 and they were 29, 35, 45 I think, something like that.
John: Oh, wow. Yeah.
Dan: I was able to just at some point at age 18 or 19 say, you know, I kind of stick on this trail with this group of people. That’s who I’m going to be. I can see what I’m going to be when I’m 45. So that was at the point where I thought, you know, I think it’s time I’ll just go to school. So that’s what I did.
John: Nice, man. That’s true. That’s absolutely true. But do you feel like, the music and playing — You still play now. Do you feel like that skill translates over to work at all?
Dan: I would say it’s almost the opposite. I would say it’s almost more than work sort of translates into that.
John: Oh, okay.
Dan: One of the biggest joys of playing is, when you’re playing with people that you really enjoy have a lot in common with. But what is just so cool is to be standing up there, playing and seeing the dance floor full of people and they’re having a good time. People that are out there just having a ball as it’s really hurting to see that. That’s one of the biggest things I get out of it actually.
John: Yeah. When you started nursing, was being in a band playing music, was it something that you talked about? Or was it something that was kind of like ah, this has nothing to do with nursing so I’m not going to bring it up.
Dan: I didn’t really bring it up too much. People knew. But then also, John, there was probably a period of 10 to 12 years when my kids were little where I didn’t do any of the music because it just wasn’t possible. I already worked too much, especially as a management and then, I just wanted to be a dad too. I didn’t know that. I didn’t I didn’t know I wanted to be a dad until I had kids and then it was just the coolest thing ever. I had to scale back a bit on playing.
John: Got it, yeah. I guess the thing that is always curious to me is why people are reluctant to share the things that they do outside of work, where if we’re hanging out at a bar, at a sports game or anywhere else. What else, what do you do? I’m in a band. I’m a nurse, but I’m also in the band and whatever. But then, when you step into the office or you step into the work setting and all of a sudden it’s — I only do one thing, and it’s just that. I’m always curious why it is that people are so reluctant to just be what they would be if we were in a different setting.
Dan: My situation might be a little different, just because of my position of the company as CEO. I think there’s a little bit, given that it’s a band and you’re playing in bars or at special events and so on. There’s probably a little bit of trepidation by staff to say, the last thing I want is the guys running the company, the CEO and what I do on Friday. I have too much to drink or if I — I don’t want him to see me kind of relaxing in a social setting so much. I think that’s part of it for me. But personally, the reason I don’t talk about it too much is I have never been much of a self-promoter. Sometimes, it’s just because the way I’m wired, it feels like I’m attention seeking.
John: Right, yeah. If people asked, then it’s like yeah. I mean that’s what happened to me. Someone was like, “Oh, what did you do this weekend?” “Oh, I drove to Kentucky and did comedy shows at the comedy caravan.” And they’re like, “Wait, you did what?” I was like, “Oh. Well, I mean you just asked me. I didn’t know I was supposed to not tell you.” But then other people are like, “Oh, nothing.” And then you find out that they’re a painter or they sculpt, whatever, they are in a band or something. You’re like, “What? Why did you not say anything?” It’s not drama. It’s not being drunk and disorderly. These are true passions and true interests that people have.
John: There’s a difference there between bringing your drama to work and telling everybody about the 18th that you’ve been on that month or whatever. No one cares. It’s what do you truly love?
Dan: Those are the people who do talk about it.
John: That’s true. That’s true. If we could just flip that and just get to be — yeah. Because I mean it’s always interesting to me why that is. Part of me also wonders if it’s because they’re just not as confident in it, because I mean it’s a hobby. So yeah, I’m a painter but I’m not very good. And then people are going to ask me, can I see your paintings and then I’m going to have to show them. But the thing is, yeah, you’re not supposed to be good at it because you have another job. It’s not what you do for a living.
Dan: I think a lot of those people do want to share it, but maybe secretly wish people would be more interested in what they have to say. One of the things we actually do here at our office is we try to do some things to get people to know each other a little bit better for that reason. There are people who just want to come to work and punch in and do their job and go home. That’s just fine. But there are other people who wish there was a little more attachment.
John: Is there one or two things that you guys do specifically that somebody listening would be like oh maybe that would work here?
Dan: Well, we do some simple things like — our staff is really good about we actually have an office in — it’s like a park like setting in Montana here. We have people ask each other, “Hey, do you want to go for a walk?” They’ll go try to just get up and take a break.
John: But it’s getting out of the office. It seems to be the common thread there. How much do you think it’s on the organization as a whole to create that culture in make it happen versus how much is it on the individual to be the source of change?
Dan: I feel strange even answering it this way, but I do think a lot of it is on the organization. You can be a fantastically outgoing person in coming to an organization and try to be very outgoing. If the culture has been a little more oppressive and strict, I think that gets beaten out of people fairly quickly or they don’t stick around. I think if somebody that does want an individual who really wants to move that stuff forward could come into an organization that is fairly open and have happy people then it all works.
John: It makes it a little easier for the person to jump in.
Dan: I think it’s very hard for an individual come in an organization and then culturally change it because that culture has to do with so many things.
John: Yeah, I mean — because I’ve worked at a couple of places in my corporate days. I remember one time, there was a manager of a different department. So he interacted with a sort of but he had no clue of the work that I did every day. One time we were in a meeting and he just says, “Well, why don’t you just go tell jokes for a living? That’s all you want to do anyway.” I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” That has absolutely nothing to do with the output that I’m doing every day here. I’m doing my job really, really well. I don’t understand why me having an interest outside of work even is a discussion right now.
I didn’t talk to you about what you had for dinner last night because I don’t care. It’s just — yeah, it’s crazy how sometimes people judge us the other way as well. But for the most part, I found that people are genuinely interested. I’m sure, when you bring up your music or where I’m playing that here or I was in a band — toward, I’m sure people are like wait, what? There is some follow up questions there. I find that people are usually genuinely interested in in what people are passionate about.
Dan: Absolutely, they are. People in general, love to talk about it if someone will just give them an ear.
John: Right, yeah. That’s the secret right there.
Dan: But I didn’t answer your question. I do think that the individual needs to do it, but the work culture can squash it on her feet if that’s not in line with that.
John: Yeah, cool, man. Well, do you have any words of encouragement for anybody listening that maybe is on the fence of — I play good bass guitar, but it has nothing to do with my job. If somebody asks what I did this weekend, I never tell them, anything like that.
Dan: I think it’s almost a kin to when people say, “Hey, John. How are you doing?” And we have this rapid fire automatic response. “Good, we’re fine.” It’s always interesting to me. It’s a little experiment I do sometimes with people where they’ll say, “Hey, how are you doing?” when they’re walking. And I won’t say anything and just stop and see if they keep walking.
John: Right, because you’re not genuinely interested in whatever I have to say. I guess the big takeaway is, to ask people and listen and lend them that ear so then they can share that and then watch the magic that unfolds. Pretty cool. Well, thank you so much, Dan, for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Dan: Yeah, thank you very much, John. This is a lot of fun.
John: Wow. That was so much fun. I loved how Dan said, “People in general would love to talk about it if someone would just give them an ear.” And it’s absolutely true. Whenever I speak, I always ask the audience to share with the person next to them what their outside of work interest is and there’s always a buzz in the air as people are energized by this. Just take a few minutes to be genuinely interested in the people around you and you’ll be amazed at what you hear what you find. A bunch of people just like Dan and all the other guests who had been on this show, because they aren’t the outliers. They’re the norm.
If you like to see some pictures of Dan performing at a concert or maybe a link to the Rock Stars of Health Summit, connect with him on social media, go to greenapplepodcast.com. And while you’re on that page, please click that big green button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture that I’m doing for the book I’m releasing later this year. Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends, so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, which is to go out and be a green apple.