Damien is an Accountant & Pianist
Damien returns to the podcast from episode 114 to talk about teaching his kids how to play piano, having John on his podcast, and overcoming the fear of feeling vulnerable!
• Teaching piano to his kids
• Why there is a pressure for perfectionism
• Overcoming the fear of being vulnerable
• Never stop your hobbies
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Welcome to Episode 334 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited my book is out. You can order it on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for more. Thank you so much to everyone who has read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. It just takes this message from the podcast, and it’s so much deeper, a lot more research. I think that’s really cool, the feedback that I’m getting from people.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Damien Martin. He’s a tax partner in BKD Chicago office and the host of the Simply Tax Podcast, and now he’s with me here today. Damien, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Damien: No, thank you. It’s an honor to be here, especially after your new book. Congrats again on that.
John: Thank you so much, man. It’s been a blast having you along for the ride and being a guest on your podcast as well. It’s been cool. It’ll be fun to catch up here.
Damien: Absolutely, it will. Again, I guess I’d remiss if I didn’t say thanks for coming back on, on the Simply Tax Podcast, great conversation about the books, some insights. I know I just really enjoyed the conversation. I think I told you that. It was one of the most fun conversations I’ve had in a while. Yeah, that was great.
John: Well, I appreciate it. Well, now we can recreate the magic here on my show. I have some rapid-fire questions though, up-front, things I didn’t ask you the first time. Maybe I should have, now that I think about it, but…
Damien: We’ll see. Wait for the answers and then we’ll see.
John: Let’s see. Let’s see. Here we go. First one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Damien: Harry Potter.
John: Harry Potter, yeah.
Damien: Yeah, mostly because of the kids. I have kids who are just getting into Harry Potter, so maybe it’s a justified answer, perhaps.
John: No, totally, totally. How about a favorite TV show of all time?
Damien: That’s really tricky. You kind of stumped me here. What’s odd is, and the reason I say this is I used to watch a good amount of TV. I don’t watch it as much anymore. I’m kind of like, the all time, I don’t know. I’m kind of a live TV, news, sports kind of guy. If that counts then we’ll go there.
Damien: SportsCenter, there we go, landed on it. I was thinking… Yes, SportsCenter.
John: That counts as a TV show to me, man.
Damien: It does, yeah.
John: It totally counts. I could binge-watch that. That’s for sure. Here’s a tricky one, pizza, New York or Chicago deep dish.
Damien: I’m a Chicago guy, so, clearly Chicago.
John: Yeah, I won’t even ask you which one because then that’ll start real wars. How about, more oceans or mountains?
Damien: I’m an ocean kind of guy. I like the ocean.
John: Since my book’s out, are you more Kindle, real books or audible?
Damien: Audible, actually, and maybe it’s the podcast thing. I enjoy the real books, but the practical reality I came to a long time ago was I don’t read them as much, but I will listen to them. While I read your book in paper copy, which I enjoyed, I do tend to find myself on Audible more frequently.
John: Yeah, yeah. The audible version of mine will be out early part of next year, so that’ll be cool. How about, brownie or ice cream?
Damien: I will be honest that, lately, I probably have been passing on both, but historically, I’m more of an ice cream guy.
John: Ice cream. Okay, okay. Good for you. The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under?
Damien: I don’t know if it’s fair to say that I’m cool with either as long as there is one, I guess.
John: That’s actually the most —
Damien: Just one, not over or under, yeah.
John: As long as it’s within arm’s reach.
Damien: Exactly, then I’m happy. Make it simple here.
John: With the Travelogue, the bathrooms will be so big where it’s like, I can’t even reach. It’s like, who designed this? I’m a tall guy. I can’t reach this? This is crazy.
Damien: Think about a guy like me. I don’t quite have the stature here as you, so maybe happens a bit more frequently, perhaps. I don’t know. It’s just like, this doesn’t make any sense. I’m right there with you.
John: Priorities, people, priorities.
Damien: That’s right. We’ve got to be practical. I understand the aesthetic. Let’s work on the practical here.
John: Exactly. The CPA in both of us is excited about the practical.
Damien: Exactly, exactly.
John: Yeah. So, Episode 114, we talked jazz piano. You’re really good, and it’s awesome. It’s just so awesome. Are you still able to play and practice in the last couple years since we chatted?
Damien: I am, but I’m going to be completely honest, and I think even our conversation that you and I had on the Simply Tax Podcast even gave me the mental permission to almost share it, just to say that I haven’t done as much with it as I would probably like in the last couple of years, being completely honest with that. Like you said, sometimes you end up doing other things. I still have, so I guess maybe where I again maybe hold myself more accountable and think, oh, I’m not doing what I want, is I’m not performing externally like I used to. Right?
Damien: I still do use it for stress-relief and to play at home. So, it’s a yes, but I guess I would look at it as like, oh, I don’t even know if I would want to come on these Follow-Up Fridays. Am I worthy of this? I’m not really doing it like I used to. That’s not cool. But like I said, our conversation earlier kind of gave me that, well, yeah, but that’s maybe not the point. I still have an “and” and it still is an “and”.
John: Yeah, and you enjoy it. Even if it’s just noodling around for 20 minutes on the piano at home, it’s not performing for an audience or what have you, it’s still a piece of you that you’re not cutting off altogether. Even a little bit at a time still counts.
Damien: Absolutely. No, I agree. I think that’s the thing, again, giving myself the permission to be okay with that, even when there were periods of time where I didn’t do that as much. What’s also been cool, and I’m talking other kids’ story here. I guess I’m always cognizant of mentioning the kids stories because I can remember, especially early on, I worked with somebody that was like, I feel like all we ever did was talk about the kids. I’m like, I don’t have a kid. I can’t really relate to this.
John: Kids are awesome.
Damien: They are, and it totally changes your way of thinking. It’s like this whole pandemic experience. I almost can’t go back to my way of thought there. I almost can’t go back to my mind of thought before kids. It happens throughout, constantly. I guess there are two things here. One is that I’m a big phase of life guy. I always say that. It’s almost like my saying, I feel like maybe I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s okay, phase of life-wise, you can back off on the accelerator a little bit.
What’s been kind of cool though, with the kids, is I’ve been able to take the piano and actually sit down and start to teach them how to play. They just turned six. Again, I think they’re awesome, but it is a little bit of a different skill set to teach six-year-olds how to play the piano and make it interesting. That’s also been a challenge, and it’s got me playing a lot more, and just demonstrating to them. So, that’s been cool. I have a little captive audience there too, to the extent I can keep them sitting next to me when I start playing.
Damien: It’s been kind of cool. It’s taken on a different shape, for sure, but it’s kept me going. It’s also, I find, it’s driven me even a little bit further to revisit things I haven’t thought about for years, which has been a very, very cool and rewarding experience.
John: Yeah. No, that’s awesome to hear. Because it’s still a piece of you, it’s just manifesting itself in a different way, and it’s even more rewarding when you’re able to pass it along to others, let alone your children, then it’s cool. They could start to see the magic and feel some of the same feelings of why you’re so passionate about it as well. That’s got to be awesome.
Damien: Yeah. Actually, it was a recent episode of your podcast, What’s Your “And”? podcast, 331, I think it was, with Greg, and he was talking about how he taught, I think it was someone in his neighborhood, how to play the drums and how that kind of came back full circle. Again, I think, it is. It doesn’t have to be a kid. Maybe this is my segue over to the non-kid side of it. That feeling and the ability to take something like that, that is a part of you, and then be able to at least light that fire in somebody else or get them down that road; that’s a really, really rewarding feeling. It transcends even just the benefits of playing the piano, I guess, I’ll say.
John: That is awesome. Yeah, Greg Tirico and his drum set.
Damien: Yeah, yeah.
John: Why do you think it is that we’re so hard on ourselves like that? Why is it that it needs someone like me to almost come along and just be like, no, no, it’s still awesome? We always aim for straight A’s and pass the CPA exam with all 100s, the first time, or whatever. Everything’s got to be perfect and blown out to the max. It’s like, sometimes, like that old adage of good’s better than perfect, type of a thing. It’s just weird. Why do you think that is?
Damien: I think — and maybe it also depends on kind of your industry, so I’ll speak to mine — I think there definitely is a drive, all the people you find yourself surrounded by, tended to have the same sort of thing. You’re always trying to put the best image of yourself, almost like the social media phenomenon, where it’s like, you have to have this really great, perfect picture. I don’t know if I can exactly nail it down. I know there is some deep-seated psychological thing there. I’m fairly certain, but I’m not going to go down that road. I’m a tax guy. I can’t do all the psychology stuff here.
Certainly there is just this need to be able to always look like you’ve got it all pulled together. I have absolutely found, and it does, it takes maybe somebody to nudge you a little bit, like you coming along. That’s why I think your message is so fantastic and your book is so fantastic because it does, it gives you the permission to do that, or the nudge to do that and say, “Yeah, you know, you’re right.” Because I find, especially myself, and I’ll speak to my own personal experience, I am my hardest critic, by far, and I think that’s what it is.
I think there’s also some element of — again, it depends on your industry probably and the group that you work with — there is some sort of an element of, everything is this way and you’re trying to fit into whatever that everything is this way is, if that makes sense. This drive to try to almost conform is there, but all of the times, again, and I’m repeating myself because I have said this before, that, all the times I’ve done it, it’s just been rewarding. It’s deepened the relationship, and it’s helped, in more ways than one.
John: You’re right. It’s almost like we don’t want to share it for fear of being ridiculed or made fun of, or we’re in seventh grade again, type of a thing, of, did you hear Damien’s piano? It’s terrible? Why does he even say that he does it because no one wants to hear it? Or that painting is ugly. Why would someone share — I think the phrase that’s really powerful is just, I enjoy.
In your case, you’re great. You don’t have to sweat it. If somebody’s just noodling on the piano and just playing some Mary had a little lamb, once in a while, sweet. That’s still fun. I enjoy playing the piano. Am I good at it? Kind of. It doesn’t matter though because I enjoy it. I’m not doing it for your approval or your permission or your judgment, type of a thing. I think that that helps take a lot of weight off of the alphas that are out there, like us, and typically in the white collar nerd professions that we swim in, for the most part.
Damien: I think that there’s some element of — it’s almost like a weakness or something, to say, or you’re almost opening up the door, like you said. You get stuck in the seventh grade mentality. You were there, right? Seventh grade boys are, they can be —
Damien: They’re rough, right?
Damien: I will tell you, not once — brutal is the better word for it.
John: Yeah, absolutely.
Damien: Not once have I ever been ridiculed. I’m sure somebody has said something or whatever. Everybody has their opinion. Again, I’m not doing it for them. I think, once you get over that, in some element of your life, and I think that’s maybe where the performance and music has really helped me, you’re able to do that in other areas of your life. Whether it be hosting a podcast or doing a presentation or whatever it is, there’s always going to be somebody that thinks something. Not that I don’t care, because I do take the feedback, and I want to always improve, so it’s not I don’t care. I’ll stop myself from saying that. I don’t let it kind of seep in or I try not to, but there is something like a protectionist thing that you create the shell that like, I can’t show this to you because you’re going to find the thing that’s wrong with it, when really, I’m the only one that’s doing it. Maybe it almost gets a little bit, I want to say exaggerated, or it grows a bit on you even, where something like — my case, I used to play so much more and then you do — and I’ve heard this from a number of people. I had a mentor that once told me, said, “You can’t ever stop because you’re going to lose it, and you’re going to really regret it later if you do that.” Not doing it every day, you’re not as sharp as you used to be, right?
Damien: It’s a skill. You’ve got to practice. You’ve got to maintain it. So, I think there is an element of that too, of when you had a level of something at a certain point and then it slides back from that, you start to, I found myself in particular, really shying away from it because I just — I almost didn’t want to even admit that, oh, yeah, I can play the piano, I think, for that reason because then someone’s going to want to compare it to what I used to be or something.
Damien: Like you said, it’s just not the point.
John: That’s so true though because I’m the same way. When I’m now switching to a lot of these virtual events, I bring a lot of that TV background and the comedy background to it, and so if I get involved, there’s going to be some production value now. There’s going to be intro music. There’s going to be different camera angles. It’s going to be a TV show. I’m going to bring a 10. If it’s not going to be a 10 then I’m like, oh, because I know what it can be, but sometimes that seven and a half is amazing to everyone else.
I’m also my harshest critic and very similar, where it’s, well, why even do it if it’s going to be half good? But sometimes our half good is really great for others. It’s just, give it your best shot. If it’s something that you enjoy doing, then it’s great, and keep doing it. I love how your mentor said that, just don’t ever stop because then it’ll go extinct. That’s what I found from people is, you just stop doing it all together. Then you forget, and then decades later, you’re like, oh, yeah, I used to like to play the piano, I think. It’s scary.
Damien: It is scary. I’ve seen it to an extent. That’s that extreme because it’s dusting it off at times. Especially with with the kids, because that’s really — I found like another outlet for it, like I said, and it’s keeping me doing it more regularly because I want to keep them going and progressing and teaching them. That is so true and is just more of a reason to tell yourself, I have to keep that “and”. Whatever it is, whether it’s the piano or whatever the skill is or the passion is, you’ve got to keep it going because you need it. You need it for yourself and something to be proud of, at least for yourself, even if not for other people.
John: Yeah, I love that, man. I love that. This has been so fun catching up, man. This is really great. It’s so encouraging to hear so many great nuggets in here for everybody to go listen again because Damien’s dropping some knowledge bombs here. It’s really cool, and it’s firsthand experience. It’s just being vulnerable and just sharing. Hey, this is what happened. So, a lot of people listening that are — you’re not alone. I’m very similar, and I think they are too, so I appreciate it, man.
It’s only fair that before we wrap this up though, that I turn the tables since I rudely peppered you with questions. It’s the Damien Martin podcast, Simply Tax version whatever. You host your own show, so I don’t need to coach you through it. Thanks for having me on. Whatever questions you got for me, fire away.
Damien: Well, thanks for being on today, John. It’s great to have you, some really esteemed guest here. I really would like to ask you, and I’ve heard you talk a little bit about it at times, but that first time that you really went out there and did the comedian thing and the comedy thing, and you kind of held yourself out there, what’s the insight there that maybe you would share?
John: Okay, yeah. It was the Funny Bone in St. Louis. It was in Westport Plaza, I think is the name of it, St. Louis Funny Bone. It was open mic night. I went the week before to watch because I was like, I’m going to do this. I went and watched and then I was like, okay, I’m not going to be the worst person that’s ever done comedy, so we’re good. Then I put my name on the list. I went back the next week. My parents came. I had quite a few high school friends that came. They were going to say my name, so I was going to go up. People are like, well, were you nervous? You’re nervous when you write your name down. That’s where the nerves happen, because after that, it’s all going to happen. So, you think it through, steps before walking onto the stage.
It was so funny though because the night before, I went over to my parents’ house for dinner, and my mom, they’re like, you know, it’s not just you up there. I mean, it is just you up there. It’s not your friends. You’re not able to play with other people’s comments and be witty like that. I said, “Well, no, I’m well aware. I’ve researched this.” Then I brought out a legal pad of paper where I’d written down a bunch of joke concepts. So I just ran through all the joke ideas. Now, in my parents’ defense, I didn’t do the punch lines to a lot of them, but they laughed at none of them. The only response my dad said, “We didn’t raise you that way,” to one of my jokes, and my mom said, “You can’t say that.” Those were the only two reactions I got to probably 40 ideas that I had.
I freaked out, drove over to my friend’s house. We hung out. We mapped out what it was going to be the next day or the next evening, go onstage, and I had a little index card that I had cut to fit in the palm of my hand with my set list. I still have it actually, to this day. Then went up, my parents videotaped it, camcorder. We’re going back to 2000. We were so amateur that we didn’t know that you put it on a tripod. So, my mom’s holding the video camera, laughing, shaking the camera. I could hear my parents laughing. I’m like, where was this last night when we did a dry run?
It was cool. The first time actually went really, really well, especially given it’s your first time. It was quite a thrill to have just a roomful of strangers laugh when you say words. It’s a crazy thing. It’s got to be similar when you play the piano that people sing along, or they clap afterwards. It’s just a cool feeling to bring some joy into people’s lives that you might never talk to ever again, type of thing.
Damien: Yeah. No, absolutely. There’s probably a common ground there between making people laugh and listening to music, trading this element of joy, bringing an element of joy is definitely, yeah, that feeling is fantastic and definitely keeps you coming back for more. No wonder you kept going, and I’m glad for it because you’re obviously good at what you do. You’re a funny guy.
John: I appreciate it.
Damien: Yeah. Well, thanks for being on the show. I guess one last question.
Damien: I forgot you here. I’ll ask you one more. How about the podcast, what was the experience there, the first time you went down the road of, I’m going to do a podcast? I know it’s taking a different angles from there, but we’re going with a theme here, John.
John: This is hilarious. No, totally, strip it down, man. I don’t listen to podcasts. I never have. I don’t consume podcasts. I know that there are people that do listen to 20 or more. So, I didn’t know what podcasts were out there. I actually Googled top business podcasts because I was like, well, I’m going to do this show where I’m interviewing people where they talk about their outside of work thing, so let’s see what’s out there. What’s the “competition,” even though it’s not competition, but just what’s out there. So I listened to probably two or three episodes of the top 10 business podcasts that are out there, this was going back five years ago or more, and just wrote down, well, I really like this, or, man, I hate that, or this is what I like about this, and how can I make it my own? What do I want it to be? After being like, okay, this is what’s out there, all right; you just jump in, and you just start. You just have an idea of a plan.
If you listen to Episode One with Nancy McClelland, the dancing accountant, and then you listen to a more recent episode; clearly, it’s changed. It’s tightened up. The concept is still the same, but your skills get better over time. You really hone in. You can only read so many books or listen to other podcasts or whatever, before you just have to just jump in and do it. I think that that’s with a lot of things is you can study as much as you want, but you have to actually, at some point, the rubber meets the road and you have to do it. That’s where the real learning happens. So, yeah, that’s how it all started, was just me wanting to share people’s stories, wanting people to hear that you’re not alone. There are other people out there who also have hobbies and passions, just like you, and I don’t know, let’s see where it goes, type of a thing.
Damien: That’s so great. Because I do get that question a lot and I guess that’s why maybe I’m both of those. Getting the ball rolling, I think, is the hardest part for a lot of people. There’s a lot of people that say, “I want to do a podcast. How do I do it?” I will share my two cents, and I will say, “This is just my two cents of how it happened for me.” Now I’ve got your two cents as well. We can say, hey.
John: We almost got a nickel.
Damien: Yeah, there we go. Man, it’s really going up here. We’re riding up. I love it.
John: That’s awesome, man. Well, thank you so much, Damien, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? So cool to have you back.
Damien: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you, and we’ll see you around.
John: Everybody, if you want to see some pictures of Damien in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Also, check out Simply Tax Podcast, the link will be there too, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. Don’t forget about the book. It makes a super great holiday gift.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this podcast 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.