Paul is a COO & People Watcher
Paul Jan Zdunek, COO of Miller Kaplan, talks about people watching, understanding the psychology of people, and how that is applied to his career.
• Getting into people watching
• Being in tune with people
• Every person has a story
• GREY LEADERSHIP®
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Welcome to Episode 517 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. And 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.
And if you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the award-winning book on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. It was so kind of The Independent Press Awards to name it a Distinguished Favorite. And 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 writing such nice reviews on Amazon, and more importantly changing the cultures where they work because of it. And if you want me to read it to you, that’s right, this voice reading the book, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audiobooks. And 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 week is no different with my guest, Paul Jan Zdunek. He’s the COO of Miller Kaplan in Los Angeles and the author of Cowboys & Conductors: Conversations on Horseman-Humanship. And he’s with me here today. Paul, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Paul: Hey, John, great to be here. Thanks for having me.
John: Oh, man, this is gonna be so awesome. I’m super excited, but I have 17 rapid fire questions. Get to know Paul out of the gate here.
Paul: Hopefully, I won’t fail.
John: Right. This is gonna be the shortest episode ever. Like here we go. This is an easy one. Favorite color.
Paul: My favorite color is dark red and dark gold together. Kinda like the Italian red and golds. My whole house is fill with that.
John: Okay. All right. All right. That’s a little too close to USC for me, but we’ll keep going. How about a least favorite color?
Paul: Least favorite color is green.
John: Oh, okay. All right.
Paul: Especially like lime green, you know, like the pukey kind. Pukey green.
John: Right. Yeah, no, it’s a little too bright. How about you prefer more talk or text?
Paul: Talk for sure. Talk.
John: Yeah, just get it done. There we go. How about a favorite actor or an actress?
Paul: You know, I love Robin Williams and Tom Hanks ’cause they have such a wide range of skills. They’re funny. They’re serious. And actually, one week, I started binging Tom Hanks movies ’cause they were so awesome.
John: I mean, that could go forever. I mean, that’s like they’re season so many. It’s unbelievable. Yeah. But you’re right. They’re both so good. So good. How about a favorite animal? Any animal at all?
Paul: Favorite animal. That’s a new one. Oh, geez. You know, the dog is always the favorite. They’re always so sweet. They need you, you know, easy.
John: Yeah. No, dogs are awesome. Absolutely. How about a favorite movie of all time?
Paul: You know, my favorite movie— Well, two of them actually. One is Birdcage, which is hilarious. Again, Robin Williams. Right? Totally awesome. The other one is Parental Guidance with Bette Midler and— Oh, I forget the— It will come to me. But also movie about, you know, sort of the new generation, and how parents are giving gold stars to everybody, and how Bette Midler kind of deals with that as a grandparent. So, awesome movie. I keep watching that over and over again. Hilarious.
John: That sounds awesome. Very cool. Very cool. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Paul: Star Wars for sure ’cause of the John Williams score. It’s just so fantastic. Both of them though, there’s been so many remakes. I can’t keep up. I like the first versions of all of that, but they’ve kind of gone off the deep end with the different remakes and so forth.
John: You’re right. I mean, John Williams definitely puts it over the top. I mean, yeah, he’s amazing. How about puzzles? Sodoku, crossword, or jigsaw puzzle?
Paul: They all make me crazy. So, none.
John: None of the above. Perfect.
Paul: My wife does puzzles and I live through her.
John: Right. There you go. There you go. All right. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Paul: Definitely Mac just because, you know, used to spend so much time fixing or having bugs in the PC that it’s so nice to just like not worry about it. The firewall is done.
John: That’s hilarious. The propaganda that Apple has put out is still going strong. It’s awesome.
Paul: Exactly. Exactly.
John: It’s so awesome.
Paul: And it’s beautiful, and it’s beautiful.
John: They’re nice looking machines. That’s for sure. This is a good one. Toilet paper roll over or under?
Paul: You know, this is actually a serious issue with me. Over. Over. Under is impossible. It’s impossible. And you know what? Actually, my wife likes under and I like over, so we keep switching each other’s toilet papers.
John: Are you switching around?
Paul: That’s true. It’s a major issue for me. This is a major issue.
John: Amen, man. I’m with you on that one. For sure.
How about ice cream, in a cup or in a cone?
Paul: Cone for sure. Sugar cone, waffle cone. Waffle cone.
John: Ah, yeah, there you go.
Paul: If you go for it, you might as well go for it.
John: Yeah, you might as well go big.
Paul: Chocolate covered. Chocolate-covered waffle cones.
John: There we go. That seems to be one of the more popular. I’m a big fan of in the cup, but also with the cone. So then, yeah, you don’t lose any dripping around like yeah. Everybody wins on that one. This was a fun one somebody threw at me and I like bringing it back. Socks or shoes?
Paul: Oh, flip-flops and short socks. What are those? Like little ankle socks.
John: Oh, the little ankle socks with flip-flops. Okay.
Paul: No, no, no, no, no. One or the other.
John: Oh, one or the other. Okay. All right. Right. But flip-flops is probably the answer.
Paul: Yeah. The short socks are nice. Yeah. You know?
John: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. But yeah. Okay. All right. Oh, this is a fun one. What’s a typical breakfast?
Paul: You know, I don’t eat breakfast because it makes me tired. I get sleepy. So if I eat breakfast, I’m usually taking a nap at 10 a.m., so it’s not good.
John: Okay. Fair enough. Fair enough. There we go.
John: Coffee. Just straight coffee. All right.
Paul: That’s my preference. Yeah.
John: Okay. That works. How about a favorite number?
Paul: 7 because that’s my birthdate and it’s been lucky. I know it’s a favorite of a lot of people, but it’s always done me well.
John: It’s a good number. That’s for sure. We got three more. How about when it comes to books, audio version, e-Book, or real book?
Paul: Real. I like to feel it. I also like reading the real paper even though I have it on my phone. I like to be able to smell the ink on your hands.
John: Totally. I mean, it’s just, I guess, tradition. I don’t know. I’m just used to it more. I’m the same. Yeah, for sure. Two more. How about a favorite food?
Paul: Indian. I love Indian food.
John: Oh, okay.
Paul: Yeah. If I had to choose one forever and ever, it would be Indian for sure.
John: There you go. With some ice cream at the end.
Paul: Yeah, exactly.
John: Right. and then the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own. Like the house catches on fire, you go and grab or is there something cool or—
Paul: You know, it’s funny you ask it that way because I don’t have anything that I’m so tied to that I can’t do without, you know. Relationships, your mind, your mental, you know— my memory, I guess, is one favorite thing I own for now anyway.
John: Yeah. Right. Right. What’s left of it, right? No, no, that’s great. That’s an awesome answer. Absolutely. Your memory and your mind of course going along with that, so yeah. So let’s talk people watching, observing, what have you. Is this something that you got into recently or something you’ve been doing since you were younger?
Paul: Yeah. Ever since I was a kid— I grew up in Baltimore, so the inner city, and we had the famous white marble steps. We were on row homes where you can stretch your hands across and reach both walls and like you’re stacked next to each other. And it used to be the time where people actually sat on their steps or they called them in Baltimore stoops. They sat on their stoops. And I just go up and down the street when everyone was hanging out because we didn’t have air conditioning, we didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have Netflix. You know, like you actually went and talked to people, you know, sat outside and visited.
John: Was it uphill both ways on your street too?
Paul: I actually did live on a hill, so yeah. Yeah. Just like talk to people and figure out what made them tick. And that actually stuck with me the rest of my life. I mean, I love people watching. I’m to a point where I’m obsessed about it. Even going to a restaurant, my wife or whoever I’m with will be like “Hello! I’m over here.” And it’s like “Yeah, but do we know what’s going on behind us?”
John: Right? There’s like a whole sitcom happening.
Paul: Exactly. It’s fascinating.
John: That’s so cool. And I bet a lot of those people you still remember them because you do know what made them tick. You actually knew them as opposed to just “Hi, Ms. Johnson” or whatever.
Paul: Yeah. It’s people watching, but also understanding people. Right? So it is that deeper thing. And I think that had my life been a little different, I might have gone into sociology or psychology. But you know, I guess to your point also with your book and the and, it’s like maybe I don’t wanna do that as a career. Maybe I just like to do it on my own as a hobby so that it’s more fun and I don’t have to make money at it. I can just enjoy it.
John: Right. ‘Cause that is the thing. Trust me. I mean, when you make the leap to it’s your profession, it’s less enjoyable. I mean, you still enjoy it, but there’s some pressure now because you gotta pay the mortgage and all that stuff. And that’s awesome though. I mean, from when you were a kid and then growing up. I mean, now you’re in LA, which is— I mean that’s people watching heaven right there.
Paul: People watching Mecca.
John: Right. Right.
Paul: And yeah, I mean, ever since I was a kid, like you said, but then I also studied conducting and I was a conductor for about 10 years. And that people watching it, it’s not just people watching, but it’s really locking into who needs you, what their body language is, what they’re saying. You know? So really having that nuance of sound, of tone, of stature, of whatever and really locking into what people need at any given moment. I had to do that as a profession, you know, as sort of as part of the profession. And then as a consultant, a business consultant, do the same thing. You gotta come in and figure out what’s what, like who’s telling the lies, who’s telling the truth, who’s kind of making in between. And I still use it today as COO just to manage the team and manage individuals rather than say “Well, everyone’s the same. So, you know, this is how I’m gonna do it.”
And it’s, again, something that I did as a kid that I never thought about, but I use every day. And actually, you made me dig deeper and really realize how obsessed I am and how much I actually do it. I probably should see somebody about it, but—
John: Just see yourself. Right? No, I mean, I appreciate that, but yeah. But also then you not only understood how obsessed you are with it, but also how much you use it in your career as well because that’s the thing with the and. You know, it’s just something we do ’cause we enjoy it and then what takes someone to point out like or ask “Well, how does this play into your corporate career?” And it’s like “I didn’t think it— Oh, wait, it does actually. That’s pretty neat.” It’s just a cool little thing to step back and just realize that you’re not doing it because it enhances your career. It’s just a cool byproduct. And yeah, I could imagine. I mean, I was in the band all the way through college. And yeah, I mean, the conductor could see everything I was doing. Completely goofing around. I was a trombone player. So, of course, I was goofing around. It came with the instrument. I had to, but they could always tell. And it’s like “Ah, no matter how high I lifted my music stand, it’s like damn it.”
Paul: They knew you were reading magazines back there and not paying attention.
John: Right. They knew something like ” John, what are you doing? And I’m like “Ah, man! Like come on.” That’s so cool. And so, I guess do you have any like cooler, rewarding stories from, I guess, maybe growing up or some of the characters that you’ve met along your career or along your life from observing?
Paul: What I’ve taken away is that every person has got a story. Right? And that’s what makes it so fantastic. I think sometimes we think, well, you know, only really important people, or only celebrities, or only this or that are important or interesting. And this is actually kind of what drives me crazy about pop culture, right, because we all fixate on those one or two celebrities or the one who’s in the news now like Johnny Depp. It’s like there’s so many more interesting people in the world. And we often sort of dismiss like the person who checks you in at the hotel or whoever, but everyone’s got a story and everyone’s got sort of dysfunctional something or other that’s interesting. Right?
John: Yeah. I mean, good or bad, either way, it’s interesting.
Paul: Yeah. And so, I think if you have that kind of sense, then you’re not always looking for something. You’re luxuriating in the people that you’re meeting all the time.
John: Yeah. They’re all around us. And I mean, especially at work. I mean, you know, just asking simply what’s your and or what lights you up when you’re not at work. I mean, it’s amazing when I work with companies and speak at events. All of a sudden, it’s like I had no idea that all of this was around me and I’ve worked here for eight years. And you’re like “Well, get on it then.”
Paul: Yeah. And even, you know, at work as well as in interviews before they even come to your job. I mean, it’s funny. I was actually in a day of interviews today interviewing for some positions and he asked the regular questions. And at the end, I asked him a few fun questions like, you know, “Okay. So, outside of work, like what do you do for fun? Like what is your driver?” And all of a sudden, they’re almost like surprised. Like they relaxed. They’re surprised that I’m asking them about something personal that they actually enjoy, and it changes the dynamic right away. And then I also ask if they like hamburgers and how they build their favorite hamburger, you know.
John: Right. ‘Cause I’m 100% judging you for that.
Paul: Exactly. You’re gonna get this job based on what you put on that hamburger. But you know, it’s to see if they’re curious, creative, but yeah, the sort of the fun thing. Unfortunately, we don’t talk about that. Like we don’t talk about what we do in our personal life. I guess part of that is all the HR lawyers telling us we can’t ask this, we can’t ask that. Like we’ve gotten to such a point like we don’t wanna say anything ’cause we don’t wanna be taken to court over something we ask, which is unfortunate.
John: Yeah. But I love that during the interview ’cause cause then it’s, you know, I’m gonna be around this person more waking hours than my family. So I’d like to know who you are. And also, if you’re all work all the time, that’s a pretty big red flag because you’re gonna burn out and you’re not a real human. You’re not being honest with yourself. You’re not being honest with me. And yeah, I just don’t think this is gonna work, you know, type of thing.
Paul: Or if their favorite thing is throwing rocks at squirrels, that’s probably a red flag too.
John: Or there’s that. Yeah. There’s also that, or something illegal or taboo, or Skippy, but I love that you ask that, you know, because it matters. I mean, people have expertise that they get from their and that “Oh, that’s good to know. I’ll remember that.” You know, things like that. And that’s cool ’cause you’re hiring the whole person, not just the work part.
Paul: Yeah. I mean, you spend most of your life at work and so with the people that you’re working with. It’s almost like a best friend or a family. Well, maybe not family ’cause not every family wants to hang around each other all the time. But yeah, it is about the whole human being. And you know, people are what make businesses successful, not businesses, not the widgets that they sell, but it’s the people who are involved and their commitment to each other, their excitement of working together.
And yeah, I mean, I think culture is everything and it does come from within like who are you and then who are you in comparison to others who are working with you.
John: Collective. Yeah. No, I love that so much. So much. And I mean, that’s partially with Cowboys & Conductors.
John: I mean, you know, humanship, which I love that phrase. And if you wanna describe it to everybody listening.
Paul: Yeah. Well, the book is about how my colleague, co-author, Dustin, who’s a true American cowboy horse whisperer— how he works with horses because horses don’t say “Hey, I need some food”, or “Hey, I need this”, or “Hey, I need that.” You have to understand. You have to feel the nuance. You have to feel the body language. And you also have to be centered and present as well so that you can have that sort of unspoken dialogue going on. And that’s horsemanship, you know, to be able to do things with a horse without beating them, whipping them. And humanship is the same thing. You know, being present with each other, really trying to meet people where they are, understand the nuances of what makes them tick.
Not only like you said from professional, but the personal, the drivers, and locking into that and then understanding how you can let them sort of move about and move freely, but also empower them and really truly lock into their energy. But to do that, you have to be centered, and you have to have your own grounded energy and your own grounded framework. And that’s what the book is about. I mean, it’s really more about how do we live, and work, and operate in this world of gray. And so, you know, you can’t just kind of flail around and you can’t just sort of say “Well, this is the path. I’m going that way. To hell with everything else.”
John: Yeah. Not everything is black and white. Most things are gray like you said.
Paul: Exactly. Most things are gray, but you have to have some kind of framework, some kind of foundation. And then that’s what we have talked about in the book, which is gray leadership. You know, this gray leadership and there are ways that you can set a foundation just like you would a house. Right? You can build awesome 2 or 3 stories on top of this foundation, but the foundation is weak or the foundation crumbles, then it doesn’t matter how awesomely built the other floors are. And it’s the same thing with this gray leadership. Like if you can set a foundation and set a framework, then you can pile on anything on top of it, anything good or bad, and react in the moment, you know. And so, it’s that really just kind of being in the moment with people or with horses in Dustin’s case and locking into that natural energy.
John: Yeah. And just having a genuine interest in the people. You know, just care. I mean, it’s so simple, but not easy, I think, for people. I mean, in the same way that Dustin cares about the horses, like we should care about our people, and that’s amazing how much that’s hard or doesn’t happen.
Paul: We also tend to hang around and collect people as friends or colleagues who are like us. Like we just do that naturally as human beings. And so, you know, our point is why don’t you make a beeline for somebody at a party who is completely opposite of you, whatever that means, like a different profession, a different race, a different ethnicity, a different whatever, and go and talk to them. Right? And that’s what people keep saying is like “How did you guys meet? Like what is conductors and cowboys— I mean, what’s the connection?” It’s like “Right. There’s seemingly no connection, yet there is this completely deep connection because we decided to explore each other’s background and lives.”
John: Yeah. And if you’re having a hard time finding somebody, just ask Paul ’cause he’s already observed everyone at the party, and he will point you in the right direction.
Paul: ‘Cause that could be a part-time gig. Right?
John: That could be. Absolutely.
Paul: Cruise director for people.
John: It takes me to like the Love Boat type of scene, but that’s awesome, man. Like I love that philosophy and how it’s all in the same vein, in the same direction of What’s Your “And”? and it’s bringing human to work and operating in that kind of squishy gray area, like you said. So I love that you’re able to help people with that.
Paul: It is figuring out or at least asking about their and, right? We often go to a party or a meeting. It’s like “What do you do?” And what do you do is one thing. I mean, what do you do is so small in scope, but what are you, who are you, what is your and, what drives you, sort of that is so much more important. And you know, I’ve talked to a lot of CEOs of companies, especially like family companies where they’ve sort of ascended to the throne because of their father, or grandfather, or whatever grandmother. And they’re just like “Well, I’ve gotta take over this company ’cause that’s what we do. That’s who our family is.” And I asked them, you know, “What do you love to do? Like what drives you? Is it manufacturing? Do you like just love manufacturing?” He’s “Not really.” And that usually is tied to the failure of their company because they’re not excited about it.
So they’re not really putting the passion and time into it. And there’s a direct correlation to your point between the end and the bottom line. And we don’t think about it that way. We think this and thing is squishy and the gray leadership is— like that’s bluff. Talk to me about the numbers. You gotta talk about the squishy stuff. The squishy stuff will give you the hard stuff about the numbers. There’s the direct correlation that a lot of folks don’t understand or don’t want to believe.
John: I love that so much. And there’s a company that I was reading about recently. It’s called Perrin. It’s a company that’s like helping people see the skills that they get from different jobs even when they’re flipping burgers at McDonald’s, what that translates to in the future. But they refer to these as essential skills. They’re not soft skills. They’re essential skills because the hard skills, in about 10 years, the computer’s gonna do all of those. So the others actually become essential. And I love that. You know, just those essential skills that we all need to have. And yeah, it’s just awesome to hear that parallel ’cause everyone’s either ridden a horse, or seen a horse, or seen a horse movie, or something. The Kentucky Derby, I mean, they’re massive animals and they’re so just majestic. But to be able to tame them and to bring them in, it’s a really cool skillset to have, and humans aren’t much different as wild horses really.
Paul: Kind of what you said is how we have to reframe it. So it’s not about taming this wild beast. This beast is an awesome, fantastic beast just like humans are. Right? And so, when you beat a horse, when you kick it with your spurs, it eventually resigns and sort of stops, and do people. The more you micromanage people, the more you yell at them, there’s a point where they give up. And as opposed to giving them more responsibility, investing more into them, then they sort of on their own blossom, and so do horses. And so, it’s really so many times— and we think about this with relationships too. Like we think if we could just squeeze them and hold them tighter, then they’ll love us more, you know.
Paul: It just doesn’t work.
John: No, their heads pop off.
Paul: Right. Exactly. It doesn’t work that way.
Paul: So why do we keep trying to do that? Like let ’em go. Let ’em blossom. They’ll come back. It’s that saying like if you love something, set it free. If it comes back, you know, it was yours. If it doesn’t, it never was. And that’s a wise saying. And it’s the same kind of philosophy that you gotta let people move around. You know, horses, I found out that when they are fearful of something, they need to move their feet. Like they need to run away from it and then they’ll get to a safe distance and look back, okay, like what was that thing that scared me and then they’ll slowly come back and assess what’s going on. But if you try to hold them from running away, then they’ll kick, and bite, and could actually kill you right in the moment. Same thing with people.
Paul: You gotta let ’em run away. You gotta let ’em go off the deep end for a few days, few moments, and they’ll come back around because that’s how we operate. We need to sometimes just run away from the thing that scares us, but it doesn’t mean that you’re running away forever.
John: No, I love that and yeah. And just harness the talents and the skills and find the right channel to just go ’cause it’s amazing, if you’re able to do that, what can happen.
Paul: Yeah. It’s a trust thing. Right? And then that goes back to being centered yourself ’cause the people who micromanage feel like there’s some sort of insecurity that they have within themselves that they need to then micromanage others so that there’s a control and it just doesn’t work. It’s never worked. You know, I’m dealing with that all this week. It’s like managers who they feel like control is— And as long as I can see you working, then you’re doing a good job. But like if you’re working remotely or if I can’t see what you’re doing, then you obviously must not be working.
John: Even though the finished product is there, but, well, your Keebler elves might have done it. I don’t know. It’s like “Okay, like whatever.” That’s hilarious, man. Such good nuggets, man. Really, really great advice for people listening. Just rewind the last like 10 minutes, and re-listen, and put that into work at your work. Put that into action. So that’s awesome, man. Well, I feel like before wrapping this up, it’s only fair since I peppered you with questions at the beginning that maybe we turned the tables, make this the first episode of The Paul Jan Zdunek podcast. So I’m all yours, man.
Paul: Well, you started in accounting, right? And a lot of people— even I get this still today, it’s like accounting, they’re boring. They just keep their heads down. They’re just bean counters. But you know, obviously, you are not. And how did you make that leap from bean counting to standup comedy?
John: Yeah. Well, you know, it was just always— I was just me in all of the places even when I was at work.
You know, I still had a personality, still had a sense of humor. And when I would ask people in all the careers or even clients that I was visiting through PWC and what have you, it was like “What do you do”, and they’re like “Well, I take this spreadsheet.” “No, I know what that is. Like who are you? Like who else are you?” And it was just so cool to see all the people around us. And so, I was just doing comedy at night for fun. It was just a creative, fun hobby and just an outlet. And then I accidentally got good. And you know, the profession and I decided I should take my talents elsewhere. So then, I went comedy full time. But yeah, I mean, I don’t recommend people do it full time as your hobby ’cause you’re probably not that good at it because that’s why it’s a hobby.
Paul: Yeah. As we talked about earlier, I mean, did that hobby then start seeming like a burden because it was a career?
John: Very much. And so, you have to have an and, another and. You know, it was college football, ice cream, going to concerts. You know, all that’s been always a part of me, but comedy is one that I guess stood out more. But yeah, you have to have those outlets and those things where you’re able to turn your brain off, you’re able to do something, that pure joy. Like I try to tell people like when you talk about work, sometimes it’s fun, but sometimes it’s not. But when I’m talking about going to a concert, it’s always fun. Like it’s always fun. And you can tell when people are talking about their and. Like they light up, their eyes get bigger and yeah.
And certainly, I mean, I did plenty of comedy gigs like a bar at a bowling alley for 100 bucks ’cause, yeah, I need 100 bucks on a Wednesday or a bar where like a football game’s on on like Monday night football and they’re like “Hey, can you turn the comedy down ’cause we’re trying to listen to football?” I mean, just all kinds of stuff like where people are playing pool and they won’t stop playing pool. And it’s like, well, that’s kind of annoying when you’re telling jokes. I mean, all kinds of crazy. But I mean, of course, also really cool big shows and comedy clubs, but you have to work your way up.
Paul: So when people actually were listening to you, was there a moment that just like totally flopped like you’re like I gotta get outta here, that totally landed wrong?
John: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. All the time. Because if you’re not doing that, then you’re not pushing yourself. You know, if you’re playing safe and just doing only the stuff that works, well, then you’re not gonna grow, you know, and you’ll never get new material. And so, yeah. I mean, there’s certainly been plenty of times where I’ve just bombed and I’m just like—
Paul: How do you get out of it?
John: I mean, sometimes it’s fun to be like “Well, I thought that was hilarious. Nobody else— Okay.” You know? And then typically, once you get stronger, your miss is not as far off. Like you’re at least hitting the dart board now, but then you always have a really good joke right after it. So then, even if I lost him for 30 seconds or a minute, I’m gonna get you right back with this half marathon bit. So here we go.
Paul: You’ve gotta have an escape path, I guess, escape—
John: Yeah. Yeah. Or you just call it out and be like “Hey, you know, that was a new one. And apparently, I need to work on it.” Or it’s the other way around. And it’s like first show Friday laughed for about an hour on that joke. That’s on you guys. Like I don’t know what to tell you. You want me to tell it again? I’ll tell it again. Here we go. You know, like I’m just having fun with it type of thing. But yeah, I mean, certainly. Even when I lived in New York, I’ve seen Chris Rock and Gaffigan and, you know, people come in and Seinfeld. And you’re like “Oh man, everything…” No, they’re trying out new stuff. And you know, their miss is still pretty close to the bullseye, but it’s still like “What the hell is that?” You know? “Like I should write for you.” No. But you’re growing and that’s how you get more stuff.
Paul: Yeah. Awesome. Well, that’s a big deal to put yourself out there like that, you know. It’s not easy to do that because, you know, just like being a musician, people are judging you on you’re inside and not what you do. Right? It’s who you are as a person, what your emotions and your intellect. And it’s much more personal when things don’t go well and also much more personal when things go well. It’s euphoria, right?
John: Yeah. No, it really is ’cause you’re the product.
Paul: Yeah, exactly.
John: That’s what’s hard about it. Yeah, it’s not just “Oh, this pen is terrible.” It’s like No, you are terrible.” And it’s like “Wait, what? Like as a person? Ugh.”
Paul: That’s why people say as a musician, actor, comedian, whenever you’re doing something like that, if you don’t absolutely love it and if it’s not something you have to do, then don’t because the criticism personally will tear you down in a second.
John: Yeah. I mean, you dealt with that with your music side. And I mean, every single day, someone punches you in the face, every day, whether it’s an audience member, or it’s a booker, or it’s a comedy club manager, or it’s somebody telling you that you are not good enough. And so, you just have to have that inner fortitude, or that confidence, or enough good shows that you can go back and listen and be like “No, no, no, I am good enough. That’s just on you.”
This was hilarious. There was a comedy club that I was trying to get into. This was back in the day where you could burn your own DVD. So I burned my own DVD and I sent it along with here’s a list of all the comedy clubs I’ve done. And the guy watches, and he calls me, and he says “Hey, that accountant character you’re trying to do is very annoying.” And I’m like “That’s not a character, man. That’s just me.”
Paul: You’re very annoying.
John: Right? Exactly. And I was like “I’m not Larry, the cable guy, who’s not a cable guy at all.” He’s like an IT guy from Nebraska, but like that’s a character. This was me. Like I’m being me. And he’s telling me that that’s annoying. And it’s like “Well, I guess I’m not going to Cleveland.” It’s like “All right.” Yeah, man, it’s hard. It’s hard for sure. Well, this has been so great, Paul. Thank you so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”? Really, really awesome.
Paul: My pleasure. Hope to do it again.
John: Absolutely. And everybody listening, if you wanna see some pictures of Paul outside of work, or maybe connect with him on social media, or get a copy of the book, Cowboys & Conductors: Conversations on Horseman-Humanship, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. And 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 Paul’s book like I said.
So thanks again for subscribing on Apple podcast 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.