Mike is a CEO & Baseball Fan & Woodworker
Mike Whitmire talks about the five components of his life including his passions for baseball and golfing as well as his home and work lives. He also talks about how a fellow employee inspired him to start woodworking and how he tries to engage other employees through humor!
• Growing up playing baseball
• His five components of life
• Getting into woodworking
• Humanizing the role of a CEO
• How strategy applies to account, golf, and baseball
• Why it is important to get your mind off work
• How FloQast encourages an open work environment
• Engaging employees through humor
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Welcome to Episode 279 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and,” those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know my book’s being published very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means everyone’s listening to the show and changing the cultures where they work because of it. And the book will really help to spread this message.
Please 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, Mike Whitmire. He’s the Co-founder and CEO of FloQast and the Author of the new book, the Controller’s Code: The Secret Formula to a Successful Career. Now, he’s with me here today. Mike, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Mike: Yeah. You’re welcome, John. Thanks so much for having me.
John: Yeah. This is going to be so much fun. But before we get into the meat of it, it’s get-to-know-Mike with 17 rapid-fire questions. So I hope you got your seat belt on. We’re ready. All right. I’ll start you with an easy one.
Mike: All right.
John: Favorite color?
Mike: Blue, like everyone else.
John: Yeah. Right. It is a pretty popular answer.
Mike: Statistically the most popular color.
John: Right. You start to question people that don’t like blue. You’re like, “Really?” Okay. Least favorite color?
Mike: Oh, man. Harder than you think. Maroon.
John: Maroon. Okay. All right. How about brownie or ice cream?
Mike: Ice cream.
John: Ice cream. Nice, didn’t even think about it. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Mike: This is a joke for my friends who are listening. Nicolas Cage.
John: There you go. Okay. How about more early bird or night owl?
Mike: Both? Call it an early bird.
John: Okay. No, both works too. Yeah. How about more pens or pencils?
Mike: Pens in life, pencils when I’m doing one of my hobbies, woodworking.
John: Oh yeah, because you can’t use a pen on that. Yeah. How about when it comes to puzzles, more Sudoku or crossword?
Mike: Sudoku. I’m terrible at crossword puzzles.
John: Right. Okay. Good to know. How about more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Mike: Neither. I don’t get it. Sorry. I’ll leave it at that.
John: That works. Okay. That’s because Nicolas Cage is in neither of those.
Mike: Exactly. Yeah. He’s doing high class in film stuff here. Yeah.
John: Right. How about when it comes to computers, more of a PC or a Mac?
Mike: PC, because I’m an accountant and love Microsoft Excel.
John: Right. There you go. Me too, man. How about while on your mouse, right click or left click?
Mike: Left click. Use the mouse as little as possible. You want to do hotkeys.
John: Oh, look at you, man. Okay. I see what’s going on. All right. How about a favorite cereal?
Mike: Golden Grahams.
John: Oh, yeah. There you go.
Mike: Yeah. I just went through a box on quarantine. And it’s very good.
John: Nice. There you go. All right. Going to your accountant background, balance sheet or income statement?
Mike: Balance Sheet, believe it or not. You have the balance sheet as an auditor, yeah.
John: There you go. More cats or dogs?
John: Dogs? Okay. We got four more. How about a favorite movie of all time?
Mike: Of all time? I’m a big Forrest Gump fan.
John: Oh, okay. That’s a great movie. How about a favorite number?
Mike: I’m going to go with eight. It’s special with my daughter and my wife. That relates to them. So I drop a lot of money on that one.
John: Oh, okay. How about more oceans or mountains?
Mike: Mountains. I don’t like going to the ocean.
John: Right, because that’s where sharks live.
Mike: No. That’s where there’s oil and radiation and plastic particles and I don’t understand. And it’s cold and you can die and there’re all enemy or, yeah, vicious predators out there. No, thank you.
John: There’s all the bad things.
John: Right. That’s true. And the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Mike: It’s a cross between my backyard which is all turfed with a putting green so I can hit balls in the back or my Autograph Clayton Kershaw Rookie Card, Bowman First Blue, which is my favorite baseball card.
John: Man, wow. Yeah, those are both awesome. That’s very cool, very cool, which dovetails perfectly with, I guess, one of your hobbies and passions being baseball. Obviously, with the Clayton Kershaw, I’m guessing Dodgers mostly.
Mike: Yeah. Partly why I answered blue previously, huge Dodgers fan, born and raised in LA. Yeah, I’ve liked them since I was a kid. It’s been a rough couple few years here losing some World Series to a couple of cheating teams. So it’s been a tough ride.
John: Right. Yeah. I mean I’m a Cardinals fan. I went to high school in St. Louis. So I know we’ve got some pretty cool NLCS series.
Mike: Yeah. That’s a great fan base. Brilliant.
John: Yeah. But now the Dodgers, you traded for the Red Sox.
Mike: It could go down as one of the most interesting trades of all time because we traded for an MVP candidate for one year. That year might be canceled due to COVID-19. So we might not get any playing time out of him. He’s going to become a free agent. And we literally might have just handed the Red Sox players for nothing.
John: Meanwhile, they were thinking it’s like the Babe Ruth trade.
John: Oh, yeah. People thought it was a terrible trade for the Red Sox. And in the meantime, yeah, that’s going to — if we get zero playing time, it’s going to, by default, be a great deal for them.
John: Right. Hopefully, that isn’t the case because a year without baseball, man, that’d be — yeah, that’d be nuts.
Mike: That’d be really — yeah, really tough.
John: Yeah. Did you grow up playing baseball or was it mostly just going to Dodgers games or both?
Mike: I grew up playing baseball. I played through high school. I’m always the smallest kid on my team. I was young for my grade. I was pretty much always the smallest kid, so the guy who had to hustle the most and play the hardest and always give 110%, all that kind of stuff to be good on the field. I just love the sport. I’m super competitive. I can’t even tell you just like — yeah, I love baseball. There’s something about playing it and watching it that really, really appeals to me.
John: Yeah. What position did you play?
Mike: I’m left-handed, so I was pretty much relegated to outfield or pitcher. Yeah, I got a Greg Maddux. He was my idol on the pitching side. Then in terms of outfield and overall hustle, I’m a big Pete Rose fan. Charlie Hustle is a big one of mine. And then Tony Gwynn from a hitting perspective. I loved going opposite field as a lefty as well like Tony Gwynn.
John: Yeah. You had to find all the lefties to root for.
Mike: Exactly. Yeah.
John: Normally, it’d be Will Clark, but he played for that other team. So that’s hard to root for him.
Mike: The ‘90s Dodgers were not the best team to be rooting for and idolizing so I’m fine with that.
John: Right. Okay. All right. That’s awesome, man. So then, did you grow up going to a lot of Dodgers games then?
Mike: Yeah. We’d go to — maybe three or four year wasn’t totally obsessive, like season tickets or anything like that. But we’d get out there a few times a year. Yeah, that was a lot of fun and watching pretty much all the games on TV as well.
John: Oh, yeah.
Mike: Not even just Dodger games, like broadly baseball. I love just watching whatever baseball game. Like if Twins-Tigers is on and there’s a decent starter on the mound, I’ll just watch the game. And it’s like that kind of — that level of enjoyment for me.
John: Yeah. Were there any games that come to mind that were super exciting that you went to or ones that you recall?
Mike: Yeah. I’ll never forget when the Dodgers hit four home runs in a row to tie a game and then hit the — it was at the end of the 2006 season. Yeah, they went back to back to back to back to tie the game and then hit a walk off into 10th. It was one of the most unbelievable things I’ve seen. Then another would be Vin Scully’s last game. That was just a tribute and all the players tipping their cap to him and everything and what it then means to the team and the franchise. It’s like that’s a game I won’t forget.
John: Yeah. No, that’s awesome, man. Yeah, a walk-off home run is the craziest sporting thing ever because Cardinals-Astros NLCS, I was at when Jim Edmonds did that. It was like an extra innings. You don’t know the game. In football, either you’re going to make the field goal or you’re not. You know the game is going to be over. But in baseball, you’re eating nachos and then, “Ahh, it’s over.”
Mike: I think baseball is the only sport without a clock. I think that might be part of what appeals to me. Yeah, there’s no end to this. You just have to keep grinding. There’s no clock that there’s an end goal. It’s like, “Hey, if we come back, we can keep this thing going.” There’s really something to that. It can end at any moment once it’s tied in the ninth or whatever.
John: Right. Yeah. I mean at any moment, yeah, there’s just, “Oh, I guess it’s over now. I wasn’t even ready.”
Mike: Then the way they hit home runs and score runs today, it’s like you can be down seven runs and you’re still in it, like the game is not a problem. Yeah.
John: Exactly. No, that’s fantastic, man. That’s super cool. Then I love your philosophy, too, on having other passions and how you categorize the hobbies that you have. So if you can break that down briefly for everyone.
Mike: I do think it’s like an accounting checklist type approach to this whole thing. I have a theory that there’re five components of life that you should excel in to be happy. One is having a happy life at home with your families. Second is your work, enjoying your work. I love my job. Being an entrepreneur and starting FloQast, it’s one of my favorite things in life.
Then when you move outside of that into hobbies, I want one that is competitive. I want one that is creative. Then I want one that just applies to one of my biggest passions in life. In terms of competitive, I love golf. I love golf because I can compete against other people. I can compete against myself. And I’ll be able to do it when I’m older. I love woodworking. That’s a newer one. It’s actually inspired by one of our employees at FloQast, so I’ve picked that up. I’m always into building things, but this is more like of the Fine Woodworking mode. So yeah, building some pretty nice stuff now, which is a lot of fun.
Then I love collecting baseball cards. I collect a certain type of Dodger card. Yeah, they’re not cheap like that Clayton Kershaw card I told you about earlier. It’s not a cheap card, which is why it’s my favorite possession. But that’s something you just like — that reminds me of childhood. Opening up a pack of cards is a lot of fun. Looking on eBay, finding your favorite Dodgers is a good time. So it’s relaxing and brings you back, throws you back, makes you remember times when there was a lot less stress in your life. Carefree, it’s great.
John: Yeah, right. Exactly. In the woodworking, I think that’s awesome how you were inspired by a FloQast employee. How did that go down?
Mike: First of all, his name is James Richmond. He was our Art Director and now into a more broad, creative role. I just saw him one day walking through the office with a cutting board that looked really nice. I was like, “Hey, what’s that about?” He told me he was into woodworking and stuff and started showing me a couple of projects. I just started asking him some questions. From there, what happens is you start to slowly accumulate tools.
I have a garage. It’s like, “Oh, I need a miter saw.” Then, man, you really got to get a table saw if you want to do it, so I get a table saw. Then you get a drill press and then a belt sander. All of a sudden, I have a garage full of equipment. Then it’s like you start to get into different types of wood, right? So now, it’s like, “All right. I want to use this wood, this hardwood with this. This matches well with this, these types of joints and whatnot.” You start high level and then every day I’d come in and have — or maybe once a week have a more detailed discussion with him about what he’s doing. But we went to quarantine. I built the desk I’m working on right now. I built myself a little trashcan, a little pine trashcan for —
John: Oh, nice. Yeah, look at that. Look at that dovetail work, man. That’s impressive. Yeah, you get the router out and there you go.
Mike: Yeah. Router’s another tool I got into the list. I was totally inspired with him and just talking more about stuff. And now, I’ll be working on something in the garage. I’ll shoot him in Slack with a picture of it and then, “Hey, got any thoughts,” kind of thing. He’ll show me the stuff he’s working on. He is light years better. His stuff is so bad ass, so it’s like always — and then the other thing that gets me is it’s weird but there’s also a competitive part of me that kicks in. I like to build stuff that’s as good as James. And it’s good because that’s a very high bar. I have a lot of work to do. So this actually checked off. I get to be creative. And then my just natural competitive juices start to kick in. Yeah, that’s a weird thing I have going on.
John: I completely here you. I took Wood Shop in high school. Yeah. It was the second half of drafting. So that’s how I know some of the words. I remember because I cut something a quarter inch too short or whatever and the shop teacher’s like, “Well just go in the back and find the board stretcher.” And I was like, “That sounds weird.” But I still went back there and he’s just like, “You’re an idiot. There’s no board stretcher. Cut a new board and cut it right.” So that’s when you learn to measure twice, cut once technique.
Mike: Yeah. Because there are no instructions, you’re constantly cutting things the wrong way and going back and try to figure out how to fix crappy messed stuff. So there’s like a problem solving component to it as well. Yeah.
John: Getting some wood putty and just filling in.
Mike: Actually, I did it on this trashcan I just showed you. I jacked up a cut. I put it on the wrong side. I was like, “Oh, man, what am I going to do?” So I had to route out part of it and then do that weird box thing, but it ended up looking good. I had to hack it away.
John: That’s awesome. I think it’s so cool that the conversation came up at work. It was James carrying this cutting board that he had made. So clearly, he’s okay with bringing that to work. Then you, asking him about it, I think that really speaks volumes because that’s not everywhere where people would show that interest in someone else.
Mike: I got a couple of good stories. James brings his stuff into the office because our kitchen is really nice and has really good lighting. So he’ll take pictures of it in our kitchen and post it on his gallery type website. So he sells his stuff. He’s that good. One of my favorite stories is he built a coffee table and he brought it in. And he just had it in their area. He was on the product team. He brought it in and product team just used it. My co-founder, Chris, goes over. He had just bought a new house. He was like, “Hey, James, I was interested in hiring you to build a table for me. Would you do that?” He’s like, “Yeah, totally. I can do that.” Chris is my co-founder’s name. He’s like, “Actually, how much for that table?” He just bought the coffee table that he had brought into the office.
John: That’s awesome.
Mike: Well, yeah. We support the passion to the point where we pay the guy for some of his stuff.
John: Right. Yeah. I mean it’s like, “I don’t have time to wait for you to build a new one. I just want that one.”
Mike: Not very much like Chris, but something more I would do. But yeah, it was cool to hear.
John: Right. Yeah. Does it create a different kind of relationship when you’re talking about those passions and then celebrating them?
Mike: Oh, totally. When you move beyond work to something else, you learn something about someone on a personal level. It’s like, “Oh, what do you do when you go home at night now?” I know that James has a kid. He’s taking care of his baby and then retires to the woodshop and starts working on stuff. Then he and I have more to talk about at work, just a natural conversation. Now, I actually have a reason other than work to proactively seek him out for something.
It’s really interesting because we’re 150 employees now. So there’s that weird dynamic where I’m the CEO and people really look up to me just because of the title. That’s all it takes. So it’s like I think there’s something about me asking someone else advice and them being the expert on it. That breaks it down and puts us more on a subconscious peer-to-peer level. And James has been with us forever. He shouldn’t feel that way, but I think just employees naturally feel that way. So it’s been really good. I’m like, “Hey, how do we do this? I don’t know how to do any of it.” So he’s the expert in it. Yeah, it’s changed the dynamic for sure.
John: That’s a huge point because it is hard to remember that when we were 22 and coming out of school, “The CEO? What?” That’s like a superhero, some infallible, perfect person that knows everything. So that’s cool to humanize you. Now, you’re just Mike. You’re Mike that doesn’t know anything about wood.
Mike: A lot of CEOs are dumb. So it’s interesting.
John: I couldn’t agree with you more.
Mike: I know. I find it fascinating to have, like just blanket appreciation for someone based on a title. It’s fascinating. It should be a little bit more earned than that. We just do stuff around FloQast to try to humanize the executives and make it a little bit less like that, to flatten the triangle or pyramid, whatever you want to call it, if that’s the right term.
John: Yeah. I mean because it’s not like you’re really smart, you know what you’re doing in certain things. But then there are other areas that you don’t and other people do. And it’s cool that as a team, you’re like, “Look, we do have some blind spots and places that we need to ask for advice. And other people might have good ideas too. It’s not just only me.” That goes far. That’s pretty cool. In all your career, have you opened up and shared these hobbies and passions or is it something that was later on or have you always been that way?
Mike: Well, baseball and golf, they just naturally come up a lot. And baseball is tough because there’re so few fans these days that you really do — and the people who are fans are pretty hardcore fans. There are many casual baseball fans you can really talk about it. So yeah, when I find someone who’s into baseball and can talk on my level, that’s a really big relationship builder. And then you really get to know people like that. So that just naturally occurs.
As like all my audit team, I had a couple of guys who like baseball, so I talk to them a lot. When I moved over to my last job, Cornerstone, there were zero baseball fans. So I didn’t get to talk baseball at all at work and nobody golfed on that team either. Now that I think about it, nobody golfed at EY either. So it’s really like when I got to FloQast, I started golfing with some of the people I work with. And we had baseball fan.
Most startups, we hired a bunch of dudes early on. That was how it worked out. So there’s some baseball talk then. But yeah, I guess in summary, not a ton because they’re niche-interest. And if you’re not into baseball, you don’t want to hear me drone on about baseball for more than one minute.
John: Right. Somebody’s like, “Yeah. I think maybe I heard they won. I’m not sure. I can’t talk to you.”
Mike: Yeah. But if you’re into it, you’re into it and I’ll talk about on-base percentage from this guy in 2004 and how he was overdrafted at Fantasy Leagues. It’s just like, yeah, there’s a whole another kind of level to it.
John: Oh, so you take it to the Fantasy level too?
Mike: Yeah. I’m the Commissioner of the League. And we go deep in the rosters. There’s decent money. There’s a trophy that gets sent around every year. This has been going on since college. So we’re creeping up on 12 years with the same set of guys in the league. It’s very intense and the rosters are big, which means you have to know the third tier of players, which is why there’s just this disturbing level of knowledge that comes with it, stuff that doesn’t matter at all.
John: Right. But for the people that does, it totally does.
Mike: Yeah. Just the fact that Jeff Ludlow hit a home run for the Indians last year and he was a Fantasy pickup for a week is like it will not do me any good. It was important for making a run in the Fantasy standings.
John: Totally. I mean that’s bragging rights. I mean that’s pretty huge. That’s pretty huge. Do you feel like these hobbies and interests give you a skill that you bring to work at all? I mean it obviously makes you relatable to people. But do you feel like there’s anything else that comes with it?
Mike: Well, believe it or not, both of them, baseball and — all three of them actually require a ton of thinking and strategy. Then the one that’s really interesting to me is woodworking. Since there are no instructions, it requires a ton of vision. You’re just making this stuff up. You have an idea of what the end goal looks like. But then I found it fascinating how you get there. And I learned a bunch of that stuff on YouTube. You’re just watching YouTube videos and the cutting board and then they work backwards. You’re like, “Whoa.” That’s fascinating how a cutting board is built. It’s super interesting. Yeah. So you have to have this idea that works backwards. All of a sudden, you’re just there with a big piece of wood trying to figure out the starting point for turning this into a cutting board. So there’s a vision involved.
Then baseball, Fantasy Baseball and golf, tons of strategy. There’s just so much like — once you get decent at golf, it becomes a really strategic sport. You’re not just trying to hit a fairway or hit a green or anything like that. It becomes more strategic than that. Similar in Fantasy Baseball, so many things to consider. Then as you get to know the people in your league really well, you get a sense of how they play. All of a sudden, it’s just like you’re four layers deep on some strategic thing trying to figure out like, “Should I trade with this guy? No, he likes his team and his player. He’ll overpay for them. He needs his stat and blah, blah, blah.” It’s just like — yeah, it’s mentally draining but a lot of fun.
Then just like it’s important to get your mind off of work. I think if you’re all work all the time, you get super stressed out and you’re not at your best and not at your best at work. Like I was saying earlier, I like to golf alone a lot. And I end up thinking about FloQast and business all the time while I’m golfing. That’s where some of my best ideas come. It’s when actually when I’m alone. It’s like a bunch of stupid ideas come up when I’m alone, but some good ones come up as well, so it’s like my time —
John: But they’re ideas. You have to have the stupid ones to get the good ones.
Mike: Yeah. Totally. And you can’t — if you’re in meetings all day or whaling away on a spreadsheet or sending emails or whatever, you just don’t have enough alone time for those to come to mind. I found that what happen is when I don’t have these, I just spend all night thinking about FloQast. I need my thought time for FloQast. So that’s either going to happen while I’m doing another hobby or happen while I’m trying to sleep. I’d rather get some sleep and do some stuff I like. I think that’s actually what’s in the best interest for the business. That’s why.
John: Right, and your family and all the other five parts of your components of life. That’s exactly it. And it’s so interesting how these hobbies and passions, at first, you do them just because, but then there are benefits to them and to each person that has interests outside of work. It’s cool that you find those out from some of the people that are around you. Is there anything that FloQast does specifically to encourage this sharing, I mean, of hobbies and passions or at least just like you were saying, the executive team seems to be pretty open?
Mike: Yeah. Like on Slack, people will share stuff they’re into. We have a channel where people just post random stuff on there. Oftentimes, it includes their interests. There’s a bunch of funny random stuff that goes up on that channel. When I was referring to executives, not so much sharing passions or hobbies. They can do that one-on-one. But just a small thing I like to do is just like in front of the company when I’m giving all-hands meetings and everything. I’ll poke fun at my co-founders or some of the other executives, like little jabs at them, which I think humanizes people. It’s kind of a baseball thing also, just ripping on each other in good spirit razzing each other.
Our CRO, we recently promoted him. My co-founder, Chris, just – and I don’t even know why it’s funny but he just started calling him the “chief” because he’s our Chief Revenue Officer now. But there’s something so hilarious about that. So now that’s spread across the team and he has a nickname, which humanizes our CRO, which makes him more approachable, which just overall builds the dynamic. So little things like that, I’ll take jabs at my co-founders. I’ll make fun of them in all-hands. It’s a little thing people don’t notice, but it’s subconsciously impacts everyone’s thinking about the executive team. And it’s been good.
John: That’s fantastic, man. And that is something where it’s not all serious all the time and using all the biggest words you possibly know and talking down to everyone. It’s, “No, we’re just regular people that are hanging out and trying to do the best we can. We’re here for a long time so we’re going to make up nicknames and that’s how it’s going to be.”
Mike: Yeah. It’s true. I feel like if I tried to fake that, if I’m not being myself, that’s just so easy to see through. People can cut through that stuff if I’m, yeah, out there trying to be a business stoic version of myself. Forget that. Let me just be myself and it’s more engaging.
John: Yeah, totally more engaging. That’s super cool, man. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that thinks that they have a hobby or a passion that has nothing to do with their career?
Mike: I mean I’d say like, “Go for it. It’s really important to have something other than work and Netflix that you do.” A lot of people fall into a really unhealthy pattern of going to work, coming home, maybe eating dinner and then plopping down on the couch and not doing much until work the next day. It can be easy to fall into that trap. But if you’re able to find something that you’re passionate about, it’s more mentally rewarding for you. But it has to be something you’re genuinely passionate about.
This is actually very timely. I’ve been having this conversation with my sister because she has zero hobbies. And now that she’s quarantined — I brought this up six months ago like, “Why don’t you have any hobbies?” She’s like, “I don’t know. I like working out and stuff.” Now that she’s quarantined, she’s banging her head against the wall and she messages me like, “Oh, I wish I had some hobbies that it’s like…” You can start to think of stuff, but it has to be something you’re genuinely interested in.
My advice would be try different things. I do this a lot. I’ve rotated around. I tried painting. I tried blogging. I tried — there’re just different things that I tried. You ultimately land on one where you’re like, “Oh, I want to go do that.” It has to be a genuine want instead of like, “Oh, I need a hobby. Let me figure out what I can do.” It’s like what genuinely drives you and makes you want to get off the couch and go to the garage and do some woodworking.
John: Yeah, what lights you up. Yeah. I mean, yeah, that’s for sure. That’s awesome, man. That’s such great advice. I love how you compartmentalize different ones so then, “Yeah, it’s something I can do when I’m older too,” type of a thing.
Mike: Yeah. Long term thinking is important as well. We’re all going to get old and can’t play basketball forever.
John: Speak for yourself, man. I’m invincible. No, I’m just kidding.
Mike: We’re getting close with some of these medical advancements here.
John: Right. Yeah. No, that’s true. That’s very true. Yeah. Before I wrap this up though, it’s only fair that I allow you to rapid-fire question me and let you be the host of the podcast now.
Mike: How did you get into podcasting?
John: How did I get into podcasting? What’s interesting is I don’t really listen to podcasts. I never did. I started just researching, “Do professionals have hobbies and passions outside of work?” Because I did stand-up comedy on the side when I worked at PwC and through my career. I was just like, “Do other people have something or am I the oddball here?” In talking to people, I come to find out we’re normal. The people that have passions and interests outside of work are by far the norm. I’ve done my own research on it. It’s like 92% of professionals have something they do. Yet we don’t even know what people around us like to do. So that’s why I just started the podcast, because I was like, “I think people need to share their stories so then other people can hear it and be like, ‘Oh, I’m normal, too,’ and that not talking about your hobbies and passions is weird.” That’s the weird part — or not having something. It’s like, “Whoa, whoa.” Because I always felt guilty or, “Am I not as dedicated to my career because I have something else I also like?”
Mike: Yeah. I wish people brought it up more proactively. I always find that it’s mildly disappointing when you’re like, “Yeah, I found out my assistant, for example, is into fire throwing.” And it’s like, “Whoa. Okay. That’s super interesting.”
John: “How’s that not on your resume? Let’s lead with that.”
Mike: Yeah. Another follow-up question for you, how would you — I’ll take a step back. I know a lot of accountants. That’s my background. There’s a certain style of humor that I’ve noticed comes from that world. I’m curious how you would define your comedic style.
John: I guess it’s clean observational humor. It’s that Seinfeld kind of — it’s like the Dilbert office, kind of, but just to life. Basically, when you’re a comedian, you have a different lens that you look at the world through. So it’s bringing other people in to see what I’m seeing, just things that I think are ridiculous. Like crock-pots, why are we using crock pots? Like oatmeal in six hours, it’s like, “Wow.” Like, “Who would use a microwave and do it in two minutes when it could take a quarter of a day?” and just things like that that you just look at the world through a different lens.
And it happens all the time where you see things that you’re the only one. You’re looking around. You’re like, “Anybody else? Is anyone else seeing how ridiculous this is right now? Just me? Okay.” Then you have to paint that picture from stage for people. That’s the hard part. But I would say it’s just clean observational humor, just kind of, I don’t know, slightly nerdy just so it diffuses the tension in the room. I don’t want to be the smart — I mean kind of Conan where he’s obviously wicked smart but he dorks it up some.
Mike: Yeah. I found that’s a fascinating thing. Comedians are incredibly smart. You need to be able to process a lot of different things and put that into like joke form. All the comedians, they seem to be like very, very smart people.
John: Yeah. Well, I’m sorry to bring the curve down but somebody had to.
Mike: I’m not telling all of them. Some were really dumb. But it also is a thing where it might be a low IQ but a very high EQ.
John: Yeah. I know. It’s true. And especially, you have the joke that you want to tell, but in that room in that moment, how to craft it in a way. I mean it’s different every time, which is why I get nervous when my keynotes now are videoed. Then they want to put it out on the web. And it’s like, “Well, maybe I did something because I knew that audience would go for it.” Virtually, maybe they wouldn’t, but I couldn’t tell because you weren’t in the room, type of thing. So, yeah, it is a hard thing.
Mike: I try to bring humor into my all-hands meetings and when I speak on the road at accounting conferences as well because the bar is so low.
John: Low, yeah.
Mike: There’s no bar and I like filling out the room especially at a conference because if it’s an 8 a.m. one, it’s like, “All right. Everyone’s hung over here. So I need to make a couple of wisecracks about that and then talk about how coffee is making for you, blah, blah, blah.” And it’s just like I’d found it is way more engaging for people if you just drop a little bit of humor because they came from some presentation where there are a bunch of PowerPoint slides where they read off the entire thing. I’m going to come and just talk the whole time and try to entertain you. That’s my goal. I’ll leave the presentation. I don’t want you to be informed. I want you to have been entertained, which makes no sense at an educational conference, but that is my goal.
John: That’s the number one thing that I talk to people when they’re speaking. It’s, “How do you want them to feel?” Because if you think about that, the learning will happen. But if it’s, “What do I want them to know,” then they’re going to know nothing. So it’s, “How do I want them to feel? I want them to feel engaged and entertained and alive and happy.” Then they’re going to learn on accident. You’re doing it right, man. So kudos, kudos.
John: Oh, for sure. This has been so much fun, Mike. Thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This is awesome.
Mike: Yeah. Thanks, John. I appreciate it.
John: Totally. Everyone, if you want to see some pictures of Mike in action or connect with him on social media or get the link to his new book, the Controller’s Code, go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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, that who you are is so much more than what you do.