Will is a Marketer & Musician & Church Planter
Will Baker talks about his passions for playing guitar, his work as a church planter, and how he maintains a priority for these things in his life along with his career. He also talks about the importance of being a part of a community outside of work!
• Getting into guitar
• Music he enjoys playing and listening to
• His work as a church planter
• Starting a band and running a start up
• Keeping his passions a priority
• Having a community outside of work
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Welcome to Episode 387 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and 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 it 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.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want me to read it to you, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. It’s coming out on June 4th or maybe a couple of days sooner.
The book goes more in-depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture, and I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and then writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to 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 week is no different with my guest, Will Baker. He’s the Marketing and CPA Experience Director at BaCo Tech in the Dallas, Texas area. Now he’s with me here today. Will, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Will: Yeah, man. I’m excited.
John: This is going to be so much fun. I’ve got 17 rapid-fire questions to get to know Will on a new level here, so here we go. I’ll start you out with a pretty easy one. How about a favorite color?
Will: I’ll go with blue. Oh, gray, gray is probably my favorite color.
John: Gray. Okay.
Will: If my sister is listening, she would say that that’s not a color. It’s a shade.
John: No, that’s a color. That’s a color. We will fight her on this.
Will: That’s what I default to. If I’m picking out bed sheets or anything like that, I’d jump at gray.
John: There you go. Awesome. How about a least favorite color?
Will: Oh, yellow. I don’t like yellow.
John: Yeah, that’s like the opposite of gray. That’s very bright and vibrant. Yeah, yeah.
Will: I am thoroughly against yellow.
John: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yellow is more of a shade. No, I’m kidding.
Will: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It’s a shade.
John: Here’s a tricky one, pizza or hamburger.
Will: Pizza. It’s not even tricky. It’s easy. Pizza is the perfect food.
John: Pizza. Yeah, right? Your hands are clean. You eat it. It’s all right there. I like it. How about a favorite Disney character?
Will: Oh, that’s hard.
John: There’s a lot to choose from.
Will: Well, I immediately go into subcategories. When you’re asking me about Disney, I go, are you saying Disney Princess? Now we have the Marvel Universe and Star Wars in there as well. I would say I’ll just go with childhood, Buzz Lightyear.
John: Oh, yeah. There you go.
Will: Toy Story was coming out when I was the age of Andy, the protagonist and everything. Then Toy Story 3 came out when he was going to college, and it was the summer that I was going to college and so…
Will: All of that. I’ll go Buzz.
John: Buzz Lightyear, that’s an excellent answer. Excellent answer. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Will: I don’t have one?
John: No, that’s fair enough. Fair enough. That totally works. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
John: Sudoku, yeah, there you go. That’s how I do my tax returns actually.
Will: We can help with that.
John: Right. Exactly. Exactly. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Will: Night owl.
John: Night owl, okay. How about when it comes to books, audio version, e-book or real book?
Will: Real book.
John: Real book. Nice. How about a favorite number?
John: Is there a reason?
Will: It’s my birthday, one. Then growing up, it was three, but I like 24 because it contains three in a lot of different ways.
John: Okay. All right. I like it. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Will: Ooh, depends on the time of year. With us currently entering into summer and I’m cycling a lot more, I would say a nice IPA.
Will: Because I’ll ride 30, 40 miles every time I ride, and that’s just a quick way to get calories back. It kind of rests out the body. Or whiskey. It’s all good. I just don’t like vodka. Vodka is nasty.
John: Right. Okay, all right. Fair enough. Fair enough. Since you’re a marketing guy, I have to ask, digital or print marketing.
Will: I don’t know. I guess digital because it’s all that matters now, but I would never describe myself as the marketing guy. I’m not the person that is posting on LinkedIn that was like, I was at Chick-fil-A the other day and I realized the power of positive impact marketing.
John: You either know it works or it doesn’t.
Will: Well, yeah. It’s just marketing is, it’s silly. It’s a job we made up for jobs.
John: Right? Amen, man. Amen. Well, at least you know, so that’s even better. How about, oh, here’s a good one, how about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Will: I, forever, would have said Star Wars, but the latest batches of movie — I’m still going to say Star Wars, though I do have an opinion that Star Wars is maybe not as good as we say it is because if you look at the lion’s share of all the movies they’ve made now, more of them are bad than good.
John: I agree with you totally on that. Yeah, it’s unfortunate.
Will: I like the Ark and the environment better than Star Trek.
John: Yeah. Right. Agreed. How about your computer, more PC or Mac?
Will: I’m a Mac guy. I am typical marketing, visual arts, young millennial, post-hipster Mac guy.
John: There you go. All right, how about a favorite ice cream flavor?
John: Oh, okay. If gray was a flavor, you would pick gray, but vanilla was there.
Will: Vanilla is scientifically one of the most complicated flavors and so I am very proud of it. Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla is like… Vanilla is my favorite, man. It’s like the same argument that I had about pizza. When people are like, what’s your favorite pizza? I’m like, pepperoni pizza. If I’m going to go to a place and they’re like, I make great ice cream, or I make great pepperoni pizza; and you make crappy pepperoni or vanilla. If you can’t get the standards right, then I’m not going to trust you to do the tricked up stuff.
John: Right. Right. I love it. I love that logic, man. I like that. How about rain or snow?
Will: Ooh, forever, I would have said snow, but being in Dallas over this last February, I have a bad taste of snow in my mouth right now, so I’m going to say rain.
John: Right. Okay. I’ve got two more. Two more. How about a favorite animal, any animal at all?
John: Dogs. Okay.
Will: Yet again, kind of the vanilla ice cream of animals but…
John: I’m catching onto you, man. I’m catching on.
Will: I’m pretty low-key, dude. I met my wife at the dog park, and we have a big black Lab-Great Pyrenees mix.
Will: Yeah, I’m into dogs. Dogs rock.
John: That works. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Will: That’s a really good question. I love things so much. I would say probably my guitar. It’s the first — what do you grab, if your house is on fire, what do you grab? My guitar. It’s like a Christian church guy. Everyone’s like, you wouldn’t say Bible? It’s like, I can buy another Bible.
John: Right. Right.
Will: Those are less expensive than my guitar.
John: Exactly. That’s awesome, man. I love it. What kind of guitar is it?
Will: It’s a Guild. I don’t know the exact type. I like the story of how I found it. Guitarists are very, especially when you have your favorite, they all have fun — if they have their favorite guitar, they have fun stories about how they found it. So, found it in this old shop in East Dallas and it was under a pile of other guitars. I had kind of idolized this type of guitar for a while, and they were just hard to find. Guild’s a very unique brand and its story and what’s happened with it. So, when I saw they had it, I was like, I want that. That’s what I want right there.
John: Very cool, which leads perfectly into your “and” of music. So, did you get started when you were younger, playing instruments? Or how did the music bug get you?
Will: I had two cousins that I thought were the coolest people in the world. My favorite cousin was a drummer. I went up to my parents one year, and I was like, I want a drum kit for Christmas. My parents were like, pick something quieter. My second favorite cousin played guitar, so I was like, then I’ll take a guitar. I was like 11? I got a guitar for Christmas and have been playing ever since.
John: That’s awesome. Do they know that they’re your first and second favorite cousins?
Will: No, probably not.
Will: I’m the youngest. They’re on my mom’s side, and I’m the youngest on my mom’s side by –the next closest to me is my sister who’s four years older.
John: Oh, okay, so they’re a lot older.
Will: Yeah. My mom is the youngest of four, and I’m the youngest of her kids. They were like, 16, 17 years old, 20 when I was 10. I was like, these guys are… Well, now as an adult and they’re adults, I’m like, these are just regular dudes like me, but then they were like gods among men. I was like, oh, my gosh.
John: That’s fantastic. So, you literally started with guitar.
Will: Yeah, I started with guitar. You can see a little — I have a piano behind me.
Will: I do not know how to play piano. I try and learn and all of that. I took a piano class in college. This is an old upright from the ‘30s or something that my wife got for me for Christmas one year. I can fiddle around on it now, but basically everything I learned on piano is for guitar. Being a pianist makes you a better guitarist.
Will: It’s all guitar. One of my favorite things about working from home is, many things, but the ability to have one guitar next to me.
John: Yeah, it’s just right there.
Will: If I’m writing something, I very much process by playing. Can drive a lot of people crazy because I can carry on a conversation and fiddle and play and think, and it’s very distracting to other people.
John: Right, but that’s for them to get over. Right?
Will: Yeah. I wouldn’t say I’m obsessive about it, and there are millions of better players than me, but it’s probably one of my favorite things. If I could set aside everything that money wasn’t an object, I would open a guitar shop in Dallas and just sell vintage and guitars and that kind of stuff.
Will: Then die one day. That will be life.
John: Right? Yeah, that’s exactly it because that’s what lights you up, and it sounds like it’s a good release, as well, for, one, when you’re working. You’re able to come back with a clearer mind or some good ideas because you don’t just sit there and stare at the computer screen the whole time. Actually take a step back and noodle around on the guitar a little bit.
John: Because so many people, they think, well, if I put in more time and if I just only work, then it will make me better at my job. I feel like that’s not necessarily the case.
Will: Yeah, I care about my job. I want to do a good job at my job. As we’re in a tech startup, and so there’s a lot of care that goes into that. There’s a lot of care that I have for that job, but I don’t aspire to be — I don’t want to write the marketing books or anything like that. I don’t aspire to be a cut above, as bad as that may sound. My profession is, far and away, not my priority at all.
John: Well, it’s a part of who you are, and the other parts come along with it.
John: It’s not just one thing. They’re all right there along with it, which is great because it’s easy to slip into that working mode. That’s your identity. That’s who you are. That’s your priority. That’s — because that’s what pays the bills at the end of the day.
Will: Yeah, and for myself, it facilitates the things that I am passionate about. I would not be able to do the things that I’m passionate about, if not for the job that I have, so there is an understanding that I have to do that very well. I have to strive to get better and improve and learn more and all of that, but it is not — we were talking about it at my church the other week, the notion of work-life balance in and of itself is twisted in that it’s prioritizing work still. It’s still putting work first to life.
I very much try to keep things at, I don’t know, appropriate boundaries and that kind of stuff, I guess. That doesn’t just go to, when I’m not at work, I’m not at work. That, to me, goes into mental priority too. This is not going to be the thing that defines me at the end of the day.
John: Yeah, and I love that, how even in work-life balance — I mean, alphabetically, it doesn’t even make sense. The W is clearly last, but it comes first. It’s so annoying.
John: For sure. Back to the guitar, do you have a type of music that you like to play more than others? Or is there something that’s your go-to?
Will: I would say, so, I sing and I write too, and so things in the singer-songwriter genre and your indie, whatever that means now. As I’ve gotten older, the taste has expanded and favorite artists have changed. Really, for myself, what I love is — a lot of the music that I like in formative years of high school, college that was really popular in my friend group was the folksy, stomp and holler, Lumineers that kind of stuff.
John: Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah.
Will: All of that is not very challenging, musically speaking. It’s very straightforward, and now pop music is kind of like that. I am drawn to singer-songwriters that are really proficient at guitar that are doing things that I like, and that is both a really cool song, as a whole, but what you’re doing on the guitar is something that I can’t do. I would like to try and figure out how you’re doing that and singing, how you’re writing like that.
John: Nice. Yeah, like a John Mayer, sort of, or…
Will: Sure. Yeah. I love John Mayer. My wife describes it as pretentious sometimes and so I listen to deeper music.
John: Oh, sure. People that people haven’t heard of.
Will: Exactly. Dos is probably my favorite band right now. By probably I mean is.
Will: It could be my third “and”. What’s your “and”?
John: Okay, is listening to Dos. There you go. That’s awesome.
Will: Yeah, I’ve got a freaking tattoo of the Dos album. They’re my favorite. There’s another band called Bahamas. Both of them are really what I’m into right now, and then a guy named Christian Lee Hutson. All of them are different, stylistically. Dos is more like folk, but now it’s more so just rock. Bahamas is more — Bahamas is weird. They do a bunch of different stuff. It’s not experimental weird. It’s just like, this album is really folksy, and this one is kind of rock, and this one is R&B, kind of. They mix it up. Christian Lee Hutson is just an acoustic guitar and a dude. They all do stuff really cool, stylistically, with the guitar that when I am listening to it, I not only want to learn how to play it, but I want to learn how to write it. Okay, why is it that you’re crafting the song this way? How are the mental synapses scaling that…
John: Yeah, yeah. What’s the structure to it?
John: Yeah, exactly. I would do the same thing in comedy. You can break down a joke. You can break down a movie. You can break down a sitcom script. It’s like, okay, there’s going to be a cliffhanger in two minutes. Boom, there it is. Okay, commercial break, and we’re back. That’s cool because it’s challenging you. I like that. That’s awesome.
Will: You know who Mike Birbiglia is?
John: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Will: He has one called Working It Out. It’s him and other comedians. It’s fascinating hearing how they break down the structure of a joke.
John: There’s a lot of work to it, and the music as well. We don’t always appreciate the finished product as much as how much work it took to get there with that, which is cool and which is another one of your “ands” of church planting. That’s also something that’s not an easy, overnight, just open the doors and then here we are, type of thing. How did you get started with that?
Will: Music and church were always very closely intertwined. I mentioned the cousins.
John: Oh, yeah.
Will: One of my cousins who was one of the musicians was in a band. When I started playing music, I was super, oh, my gosh, he’s in a band. One day, his life just went off the rails for a little bit, and my parents were both like, okay, if you’re going to play music, you’re going to play with some structure. So, I started playing in church bands when I was probably 13. Pretty quickly after that, I started actually leading and singing, and ended up leading all the way through college, and was more so just because I’m a musician, and I’m good at this, and it’s fun because it kind of is a performative outlet, in a way.
John: Oh, yeah.
Will: Pretty soon after, as I was getting ready to graduate and looking at jobs, a couple of opportunities came for me to work at some churches as an intern or part-time, so I started doing that.
John: I love it because it kind of combines three or four aspects of who you are. There’s the guitar, clearly. There’s the Christianity. There’s the marketing aspect of things. There’s the startup mentality that you have. You’re not walking into an established church and just like, here are the keys, don’t wreck it. It’s, no, no, we’ve got to start from the scratch, from the beginning and build our way up. The same as what you guys have done with BaCo Tech, which is cool. It’s just interesting to see — do you feel like those skills from outside of work apply at BaCo Tech?
Will: Absolutely. It’s funny that you talk about that because, so, for the listeners of this, my job, my dad is my boss. He’s always been a small business owner. When I talked to him, like, I want to plant a church, he was like, that totally makes sense. He’s like, that’s just the small business of church. That makes sense. You want to start your own thing.
John: It’s really uncanny how much your at-work Will mirrors the outside-of-work Will, and how those skills are so interchangeable, and that mindset is so in line in both parts, which is awesome because that’s the ultimate.
Will: Yeah, it’s definitely been — I made the comment to somebody the other day where I was like, I think that once BaCo Tech is established, I’m done with startup.
John: Right. Right.
Will: I am currently working for two startups.
John: That’s a lot.
Will: Yeah, it’s startup life, and I work with my dad.
John: Right. What’s the hardest way to do this? I’ll do that.
Will: Let’s take a stressful environment and add gas.
John: Right. Right. Pretty much. Is music or even the church startup something that you talk about at work, or you talked about even at your last job as well?
Will: Yeah, for sure. Obviously, the old place I worked, it being in ministry and working with churches so much —
John: Oh, yeah, of course.
Will: There was a lot of conversation there. People were very curious about that. Also, everything that I, not everything, but a lot of what I believe about church is because of the environment that I worked in, at that company, and me realizing, I don’t want to be a part of these things that are going on in the church world. I want to go more simple.
When it came to this new job with BaCo, I was — as I was looking for a job, one of the things that I would tell people that I was talking to was, this church is not my breadwinner. It’s not what’s supporting, but it is my priority. This is where I feel like my life has been led. The responsibilities that I have, I won’t take this job if I have to give up the other things because it is what, to me, is the most important thing. I don’t think that’s just a “righteous or holy call.” I think that’s a thing in life. Everyone has things in their life that should be more important than work. If work is going to start infringing on those, then lines need to be drawn because work is not the most important thing, period.
John: No, you’re exactly right. It’s just we make it that because it pays the bills.
Will: Yeah. Therefore, there has to be gravity given to it. There has to be legitimacy. Now I’m married. My relationship with my wife is far more important than my relationship with work, and it’s more important than my church. One day we’re going to have a family, and that will be something else. There are always things in your life that should be more important than work
John: Maybe there are some times where work is a priority for a short period because we have a big project, we’ve got to hammer this out, whatever, but not at the expense of, look, if I do this, my wife’s going to leave me. I’m going to lose everything.
Will: My health.
John: No, no, that’s where lines are drawn, absolutely, and health and mental health and all those things. I agree with you totally. Do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that maybe have a hobby outside of work, but they feel like no one’s going to care, or it has nothing to do with my job?
Will: Encouragement is hard. I would say life is so much more than a job. We have, as a society, have conflated busyness to be a badge of honor.
John: Oh, totally. Totally. I love saying, why? Why?
Will: Yeah. I trapped myself in that, even with the church, because there’s part of this church that is like other job, so there’s a very real reality where I work six days a week, and I’m busy. Not conflating busyness to success, and who gives a rip if somebody thinks — if you’re “and” is pottery and nobody is interested in pottery, who cares? Go find people that like pottery. There are people out there. Because that’s the other thing is that work doesn’t have to be your life. Also, your friends don’t have to be your co-workers.
Maybe this will be my encouragement. If you’re having trouble separating work and life, and you don’t have community outside work, that’s a good place to start. Get involved with other people. If your “and” is music, go find some people to play music with. If you’re “and” is church and you’re in the East Dallas area, come to Lakewood Fellowship.
John: There you go. That’s the marketing guy right there. Yeah, you try to say you’re not, but I see.
Will: There it is, the salesman.
John: There’s no yellow anywhere inside the sanctuary. We’re perfect.
Will: There’s no yellow. It’s all vanilla ice cream.
John: Even on Easter, it’s orange sun.
Will: Yes, that’s exactly right, muted colors even on Easter.
John: Right. That’s awesome.
Will: I think surrounding yourself with people that care about your “and”. If your coworkers don’t care about it, okay, your coworkers don’t have to be your friends. There’s a funny Onion article that the headline was coworker accidentally becomes real life friend.
Will: There are times that that happens, but you need to surround yourself with people that care about things that you care about.
John: Right, and more times than not, the people you work with probably do. It’s just you’re not sharing it, so they never get the opportunity to show that they care.
Will: Yeah, and sometimes that’s hard. We’re a small company. Everyone knows everybody. One of the people I work with is my dad. It’s not like he doesn’t know what’s going on.
John: Right. Yeah.
Will: There are varying degrees. In this age of increasingly remote work, that’s going to become even more important because there are so many people that, outlets of community where, I go to the office, and this is where I get my personal connection. Now you’re working from home. The only time you’re connecting with is — no offense, I’m having a warm time with you over this Zoomish call, but it’s not the same. You need to go, and you need to connect with people. No one, at least people my age, no one prepared us for how much harder it is to make friends as an adult.
John: Right? No, it totally is.
Will: I’m getting more and more into cycling now, and I can’t find people to cycle with. My dad’s a cyclist, but we live in two different parts of the city. It’s hard to find time, unless we leave from work. Now it’s like, do I have neighbors that ride bikes? Because I’ll ride with you.
John: Do I even know who my neighbors are anymore?
Will: Yeah, and then you’re going to be like — then you don’t want to be a weirdo. It’s far easier to date as an adult, in my opinion, than it is to make friends.
John: Hey, will you ride your bike with me?
Will: Would you like to go on a 30-mile bike ride with me? Oh, you don’t ride that far? Okay, never mind, we can just go less.
John: Right. I don’t really like you for that long of a time. That’s going to be weird. Such great advice, man. I love that. If your total social network is work only then start outside, start to expand that. As hard as it is, just do it. I love it, man.
It’s only fair though, at the beginning of the episode, I very rudely peppered you with questions, so it’s only fair that I turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Will Baker podcast. So, Mike Birbiglia, take that. Thanks for having me on. I’m all yours. Whatever you got, fire away.
Will: I’ll steal a question from him.
Will: What is the smell that you distinctly remember?
John: Oh, a smell that I distinctly remember. Okay, my grandfather would smoke a pipe. That tobacco, I’m not even exactly sure what tobacco it was, but the can had a Hawaii look, I don’t know, but the pipe tobacco that he would smoke. Yeah, I vividly remember that, for sure. Does that count?
Will: Yeah, that counts. That’s one. Let’s see. Well, what about you, pizza or hamburgers.
John: I lived in New York City, so, pizza, hands down. Even bad pizza, it’s still pizza. Your McDonald’s hamburger is just not the same as like a really good bacon cheeseburger with the barbecue and loaded up and all that. So, pizza as well.
Will: There’s less parity in it.
Will: Since you were a New Yorker at one point, then let’s go a little deeper in the subject for our last question. What is the best style of pizza? You’re talking Neapolitan, New York style, obviously not Chicago.
Will: What’s your go-to style?
John: Somebody referred to Chicago as it’s not even pizza. It’s like a casserole, I think is what somebody referred to it as, because it’s so deep.
Will: Its ratios are all off.
John: It is. It is. There’s a lot to it. That’s for sure. Yeah, I think New York style. There’s a place just across the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn called Juliana’s, which is probably the best pizza right there. It’s that coal oven that’s been grandfathered in, so they can’t come in and take it away.
John: The pizza’s in there for like seven minutes, maybe. It’s just perfect. It’s just so hot and just gets to it, and then loaded up with all of the meats. Also maybe a couple of vegetables if you accidentally spill some on there, but all of the meats. There’s a place here in Colorado actually called Beau Jo’s, on the way up to the mountains. That’s pretty awesome because the crust there, the way they do the outside, it gets a little bit fluffier, almost like the deep dish, that deep but fluffy. At the end, they have bottles of honey. When you eat all the insides, then you have the crust, and then you put honey on it.
John: It’s really light. It’s almost like a croissant, kinda. It’s the only place I’ve seen do that. That’s a fun place too.
Will: There’s a place that I’m actually going to dinner tonight. There’s a place in Dallas called Cane Rosso, and they do a hot honey pizza that is so good.
Will: So, so good. It’s awesome.
John: Very cool, man. Well, this has been so much fun having you be a part of What’s Your “And”? I appreciate it, Will.
Will: Yeah, of course. Hey, appreciate it. This was fun.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Will in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to 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, and don’t forget to check out the book.
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.