Daniel is an Accountant & Skateboarder & Ship In Bottle Builder
Daniel Siemens, returns to the podcast from episode 183 to talk about his reignited passion for skateboarding, building a halfpipe, and how the culture at ScL Health allows for him and his co-workers to be open with each other!
• Recent ship in bottle projects
• Getting back into skateboarding
• Building a halfpipe
• Skateboarding injury
• “The Swordfish on the Slab”
• The culture at ScL Health
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Welcome to Episode 370 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 outside-of-work passions and also to hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited my book is out. You can order the book on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for more. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. Thank you so, so much for those. For those of you that have been asking, the audio version is coming next month. That’ll be super exciting. I can read the book to you.
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, Daniel Siemens. He’s a tax analyst with SCL Health, outside of Denver, Colorado, and now he’s with me here today. Daniel, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Daniel: Hey, thanks for having me.
John: Oh, man, this is going to be so much fun, so much fun. Episode 183, we talked the ship-in-bottle building, which was super cool. You were in the book. I had a really good quote in there, so, thank you for that. I have my rapid-fire questions, get to know Daniel on a new level here. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Daniel: Oh, man. I haven’t watched a whole lot of Game of Thrones, so I’m going to go with Harry Potter.
John: I’m the same. I haven’t at all, so I’m with you on that one. Talk or text.
Daniel: I will go with talk actually. It seems like I can communicate faster, talking.
John: Right? Because then it’s not back and forth, 14 times. It’s just the one call and then we’re done.
Daniel: Yep, exactly. Push through, let’s move on.
John: Right. Exactly. Exactly. Favorite season, summer, winter, spring or fall.
Daniel: Oh, summer, by far.
John: Oh, okay. All right.
Daniel: Yeah, I like warm weather and playing outside, all about it.
John: Yeah, yeah. All right. Oh, this is a beautiful one, shower or bath.
Daniel: It depends. If you have a Jacuzzi bathtub, something really nice, then bath. Otherwise shower. Our bathtub is tiny, so, shower.
John: There you go. There you go. It’s actually, a stand-up shower is our bathtub. That’s how tiny — no, I’m just —
Daniel: Yeah, right.
John: Exactly. Exactly. Three more. When it comes to books, audio version, Kindle or real books.
Daniel: Oh, that’s a good question. I’ll go with audio because I do find it easier to listen to books as opposed to reading. I don’t know. My wife is a bookaholic. There’s something about having a good aesthetic of books in a bookcase on a wall. They look good, so I can see both.
John: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Yeah. I didn’t realize that. That’s why I recorded mine. That’ll be out next month. It is so much harder to record a book than you would ever imagine. It was crazy. I wrote the book.
Daniel: Right. You’re like, I know what’s in here.
John: It was weird. It was super weird. Here’s a good one, socks or shoes.
Daniel: Doesn’t one go without the other? Shoes. I don’t know. I show off shoes more than socks. Socks just kind of sit under your shoes.
John: Right. Okay. Somebody asked me that at the end of an episode a couple of months ago. I thought it was really fun, so I’ve brought it into my repertoire.
Daniel: That’s hilarious question. I like it.
John: The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.
Daniel: Over. It’s easier to get to.
John: Yeah, absolutely. I agree. I agree.
Daniel: It’s in the patent apparently.
John: It is, I think. I haven’t seen it, but the internet said.
Daniel: I saw it on Facebook. I don’t know. Ridiculous truths you find on the innerwebs.
John: It’s true then. It’s true. Episode 183, the ship-in-bottle building, which is just super cool. Is that something that you’re still making?
Daniel: Yeah, yeah, a little bit, probably not as heavily as I was. I was a part of the Rocky Mountain Shipwrights and building models and that sort of thing. With the pandemic and everything, they haven’t been doing much because the average age is 70 to 90, which is prime danger zone, as far as the pandemic goes, so they haven’t been meeting at all.
I’ve done different things. I’m still working. I do a few here and there. I have this old Armitage McGann model that I’m working on that’s from the 1930s, just for storing, which is super fun. Just a quick synopsis of that. Armitage McGann wrote articles for Popular Science back in the 1920s. He put out books on, and it’s all how to build a really simple ship model for your home.
John: Oh, okay.
Daniel: Yeah, it’s super cool. It’s just old school. It’s like, go to the notions counter and ask for this. I’m like, what the heck is a notions counter? Apparently, that’s what they used to call hardware stores.
John: Okay. Okay.
Daniel: It’s just this old school book. It’s so fun to read and just dive into. The model is simple enough that it’s fairly easy to put together. It takes a lot of time. It’s something I’ve been working on. The guy I got it from said, “There’s some milkshake for your mind.” I was like, yeah, that’s exactly what this is.
John: Right. The milkshake that you get at the notions counter.
Daniel: Yeah, the notions counter, apparently.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s so cool. I’ve seen on social media too, that you’ve picked up a new hobby as well.
Daniel: Yeah. It’s one that I’ve been into for a long time, but just off and on. I finally got back into it in, what was it, May or June of last year. They did a thing with my work where they had mandatory PTO one day a week. I was like, well, now I have a day off a week that I have to take. What am I going to do with it? First thing we did was build the kids a big old playset that they could run around on and stuff. That was super fun. It was a good time. I’m already in that building mode. I’m like, you know what, I’ve always wanted a halfpipe in my backyard since I was a kid.
John: Skateboarding halfpipe, yes.
Daniel: I want a freaking halfpipe in my backyard. I was like, I’m an adult. I have adult money now. It’s time. Let’s get a halfpipe. I’ve been trying to go to the gym and trying to get fit, whatever, and treadmills suck. They are the worst. I hate treadmills. I’ve been working at the gym and stuff, off and on, trying to, and it just wasn’t going anywhere. I was like, if I had a halfpipe, I bet I would do a lot better. I have. I’m down 25 pounds since I built the thing.
John: Really? That’s amazing.
Daniel: It’s crazy. It’s a workout.
John: Yeah. You don’t really think of skateboarding as a workout. That’s incredible.
Daniel: Right. Because, yeah, you’re having fun the entire time, but, man, it wears you out. It’s hardcore.
Daniel: My halfpipe is small. It’s two feet tall, eight feet wide, probably about 20 feet long. It’s not like it’s gigantic, but, man, it’s just so much fun. This is ridiculous. I didn’t realize that. I guess it’s a thing. There are different Facebook groups and stuff where there’s a lot of people during lockdown itself that have built many ramps in their backyard. I’m probably one of thousands of people that are — somebody needs to do a documentary on this stuff because there are thousands of people building mini ramps and getting into skateboarding over quarantine.
John: That’s so cool. Did you subscribe to Thrasher magazine again?
Daniel: I haven’t.
John: That was my junior high. That was mine.
Daniel: Right. I should, probably.
John: I skated back in the day.
Daniel: Oh, did you really? Dude, you need to come out and skate my ramp.
John: Yeah, that would be incredible. I’m four feet taller than I was then probably, or maybe not. That would be awesome. That would be so cool, man. That’s just so great to hear that it’s something else, and the exercise component to it is pretty awesome, too. Yeah. Is it something that you’ve talked about at work at all? Because I know ships-in-bottles, they are just out, and people talk about them.
Daniel: Yeah, right. It’s a little harder. Now they’re not out because I’m working from home, so nobody really sees it. I’ve talked a little bit about my skateboarding. I think it’s one of those things where, especially when you’re older, per se, you’re not a teenager anymore, everyone’s like, what are you, skateboarding? Really? What are you, a kid? Even my neighbor was like, we get older, and sometimes we have to give stuff up. I’m like, maybe you get older and have to give stuff up. I’m still skateboarding.
John: Why? Whatever. It’s not illegal. It’s not taboo. It’s fun. That’s crazy.
Daniel: Yeah. There’s that old quote from Jay Adams that’s like, how does it go, you don’t stop skateboarding because you grow old. You grow old because you stop skateboarding.
John: Right? There you go.
Daniel: I think it’s true. I’m more fit than I was before, and I’m having just a blast with it. Yeah, I think there’s some truth in it.
John: Yeah. Right as soon as I saw it on social media, I saw the video, and I was like, that is awesome. Even when we got the two feet of snow just a couple of weeks ago and you had the board up, I guess I got to go do some work.
Daniel: Oh, yeah, that’s right. Oh, man. Yeah, and there are funny little quotes with it, as far as that board goes, because I did the art on that board. Part of it is accounting-related, so it relates to the podcast a little bit.
John: It’s awesome.
Daniel: I got into skateboarding, and I don’t know if I told you this. I had a really bad skateboarding injury, six or seven years ago, where I hit the pavement doing 20.
John: Oh, my gosh.
Daniel: Yeah, hospital for four days, it was pretty bad. I wasn’t wearing a helmet. If I was wearing a helmet, I would have just been scraped and bruised, whatever, but darn helmets. So it is this thing. My wife is reluctant, but also she’s pretty darn awesome that she lets me keep doing it after that traumatic experience. The deal has been that I could skateboard, but she’s going to make fun of me for it, as much as she wants.
I made the mistake of having her watch Search for Animal Chin with me. It’s on YouTube. Look it up. It’s the most hilarious, stupidest thing. I think it might be the first skate video that ever came out, but it’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s got a very, very young Tony Hawk. If you want to see Tony when he was a scraggly little kid, he’s in there. It’s the stupidest show, but, man, it’s so fun. It’s that old ‘80s language. Oh, that’s gnarly man. Oh, rad. Now whenever I’m at the skate park, she calls me. It’s like, hey, man, you land that swordfish on a slab yet? Oh, man, that’s gnarly. Oh, my gosh. So that’s on my board, the swordfish on the slab.
John: Oh, that’s hilarious.
Daniel: That’s where the swordfish part comes from. Then I was complaining to her about accounting stuff. People weren’t listening and doing — I’m like, this is the accounting rules, guys. We’ve got to follow those frigging laws and gap and everything. She’s like, you’re an accountant. That’s your job. You’ve got to slap them over the head with the cold dead fish of reality. It was just the funniest thing. So, yeah, that’s on my board too, the cold dead fish of reality and the swordfish on the slab.
John: That’s hilarious.
Daniel: It’s just this weird inside joke, but, man, it’s fun.
John: No, that’s great, man. You come alive. It’s creative. It’s fun. It’s laughing. It’s going back to youth, which, why not? I feel like so much of us, we become so serious. We forget about play. We forget about just not everything has to serve a purpose or have an end goal or be for money or whatever. Just do it just because.
Daniel: Yeah, there’s that dichotomy. There’s somebody on Tiktok, there’s a skater on Tiktok talking about there’s that triangle of things of learning, destroying and creating. Skateboarding very much embodies all of that because you’re learning tricks, you’re destroying your board as you do it, but you’re also creating within, the art itself for so many mini ramps, all sorts of things. That kind of applies to life in general, in one way or another. You’re creating. You’re learning, or you’re destroying something in order to build something new, and it goes in that circle.
John: Yeah. That’s really deep, man. I like that. That’s really good. It is very similar. Since we talked, have you seen people sharing their outside-of-work passions more, do you feel?
Daniel: Not so much with my work. We all know each other. We know what —
John: Well, that’s great then. Yeah, you’ve already achieved that level.
Daniel: Pretty much, yeah. My boss is still very into golf, absolutely loves it. He moved down to Arizona, so he’s got summer all year long, practically. I don’t know. Golfing in 120 probably isn’t fun.
John: Yeah, I know.
Daniel: But he definitely has more warmer days than he did in Denver.
John: Right. That’s for sure. No, but that’s cool though. I know with COVID, that definitely threw a wrench in everything.
Daniel: Oh, yeah.
John: I would imagine that, because you all knew each other and knew those outside-of-work hobbies and passions, that made it a little bit easier to translate over to the working remotely because, well, I already know these people and what lights them up.
Daniel: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. It’s a little bit different because you don’t have that office talk as much. You’re not passing in the hallway sort of thing, but it is nice to be able, when you get into a call, and be like, hey, how’s the golfing going? How’s the cycling going? Have that more friendliness before you get down to business because calls, just too much business and stuff, it’s overwhelming sometimes.
John: Right. Absolutely. I agree with you. I agree with you. Do you have any words of encouragement to anybody listening? Maybe they’re skaters as well, and they’re like, it has nothing to do with my job, or no one’s going to care, or whatever their hobby or passion is.
Daniel: Yeah, if there’s anything, especially things you did as a kid, that’s the one thing that I — skateboarding is something I’ve always come back to, do it, man Get into it. Build that mini ramp. That’s the other thing. It’s something I’ve thought about for years. It’s finally like, you know what, I’m going to do it and see what happens. It’s been absolutely the best thing for my health, for my sanity because, yeah, exercise is extremely good for your mental health as well. So, yeah, do it. Get out and do that thing you’ve thought about doing but haven’t yet.
John: Right, and no matter what, Search for Animal Chin on YouTube.
Daniel: It’s so cheesy. You’re probably going to hate me or want to be like, oh, why did he suggest this? But it’s fun. It’s ridiculously fun.
John: It’ll be super cool. The next time we talk, I hope you build a skate ramp in a bottle, something like that.
Daniel: I’ve thought about it. I have thought about I need to put a ramp or, at the very least, a skateboard in a bottle just to say I did.
John: Yeah, or a 2D skater doing whatever. Yeah, that would be awesome.
John: Well, this has been so much fun, Daniel. I only feel it’s fair, since I rapid-fire questioned you right out of the gate, that I turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Daniel Siemens podcast, skater, dietitian. I don’t know. Thanks for having me on.
Daniel: Well, I guess, rapid-fire-wise, since I didn’t know you skateboarded before, I’m going to say, what was your best trick?
John: Oh, wow. So, this was in sixth and seventh grade. We lived in the Azores, overseas, on base. Probably, I don’t know. I wasn’t amazing at it. There were stairs. I feel like there were four stairs. I could jump that and then landed, which, at the time, that was pretty good. It wasn’t massive or anything like that, but it was pretty good.
John: I wasn’t flipping the board in the air or anything like that. I was just landing on the board. I mean, there were 200 times where I landed on the board and then it slipped out from under me and then I fell on my butt. You just keep going back.
John: Very much like having a career actually, now that I think about it.
Daniel: There are so many parallels.
John: There are so many, but that was probably my best trick. I don’t know.
Daniel: No, that’s pretty darn good.Ollieing itself, it took me two years to learn how to ollie. I don’t know why I stuck to it that long, but I got it. Darn it, I got it.
John: Yeah, because it’s super cool when you do it. That’s why.
Daniel: It is. It is. Yeah, it’s fulfilling that way. It takes you that long. Then, I guess, since it took me that long, I’ve never really lost it.
Daniel: At least not the ollie. There are other tricks I’ve lost. I’m still trying to get disasters back. I don’t know if you probably saw that video on Twitter, too.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Daniel: Showing myself on the ramp, trying to go up and do a 180 on it. and just falling over. I still can’t get it. I’m still just crashing into the ramp, over and over and over. I’m going to get it though. I’m going to get it.
John: When you do, it’ll be with you forever. That’ll be cool, man. That’ll be cool. Totally awesome. Well, thank you so much, Daniel, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? and a part of the book and everything, and just being a good guy and a friend. Thank you, man, for being a part of this.
Daniel: Yeah, thanks for having me, man. This is super fun.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Daniel in action or connect with him on social media so you can get the future videos, you can go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s 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 my 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.
Tripp is a Wealth Manager & Dead Head
Tripp shares some stories from traveling the country seeing The Grateful Dead, making connections with other Deadheads, in the office, and why it is important to have something outside of work!
• Getting into The Grateful Dead
• How his experiences from touring applies to his work
• Why it is important to have something outside of work
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 369 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 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. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. The book goes into more depth in the research that I’ve done behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon, and more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it. The audio version is coming out very, very soon. I’m excited about that.
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, Tripp Gebhard. He’s a partner with PWM Planning in the Denver office, and now I’m in his office with him. Tripp, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Tripp: John, thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here and talk about my favorite topic. My friends will get a real kick out of this. I guarantee it.
John: For sure, man. This is going to be so much fun. I have 17-rapid fire questions, get to know Tripp out of the gate here. We’ve hung out so many times here in Denver, and I’ve never asked any of these. Maybe I should have actually, now that I think about it. Here we go. First one, favorite color.
Tripp: Blue, definitely, navy blue.
John: Yeah, I’m a blue fan as well. How about a least favorite color?
Tripp: Least favorite color would be purple.
John: Oh, interesting, okay.
Tripp: Or maroon.
John: Yeah, they’re kind of close.
Tripp: Yeah. Tough sports teams here in Colorado, colors, Rockies and Avalanche.
John: Yeah, that’s true. It’s exactly right.
Tripp: Tough to root.
John: It’s tough to root for them. How about when you were a kid in gym class, favorite activity?
Tripp: Oh, I’m going to say street hockey.
Tripp: Yeah. I play forward with a goalie stick.
John: Oh, really?
Tripp: Yeah, real powerful.
John: Yeah, I was going to say, you have to have some guns for that. That’s impressive. How about Sudoku or crossword puzzles?
Tripp: Crossword, for sure.
John: Okay. All right. How about brownie or ice cream?
Tripp: Ice cream.
John: Ice cream. Okay, there you go. Nice. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Tripp: Favorite actor or actress, I’m going to go with Bill Murray.
John: Oh, that’s a great answer.
Tripp: First thing that came to mind, yeah.
John: He went to college in Denver.
Tripp: At Regis actually. I don’t think he graduated. I actually went there my freshman year before going to University of Denver, so, got to hear a lot of Bill Murray stories.
John: Okay, there you go. All right, all right. How about, would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Tripp: Oh, early bird, for sure.
John: Early bird. Okay, all right. Star Wars or Star Trek.
John: Neither. Okay.
Tripp: Neither at all.
John: I’ll let it slide. I’ll let it slide. Fair enough. Fair enough. Your computer, more of a PC or a Mac.
Tripp: I am a PC, for sure, but I love my iPhone.
John: Okay. All right. There you go. Since you’re a PC, on your mouse, left click or right click.
John: Left. Making decisions. Boom, there it is. Okay, all right. Oh, this is a good one, summer, winter, spring or fall.
Tripp: Man, it is hard. How could you not pick summer in the mountains in Colorado, but I’m a huge skier, so there’s always the dilemma. I love all seasons, especially here when the sun shines, and you can do it —
John: Here in Colorado, they are because the mountains are great in the winter and the summer.
Tripp: I’ve learned to kind of take it with the seasons.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tripp: It’s better that way. That way, you’re not looking outside of what’s going on in the present. You just go do it.
John: I love it. I love it, man. Yeah. Just in case any other seasons are listening, he likes all of them. We don’t need to bang away on Twitter.
Tripp: Yes, yes, very neutral there.
John: Very neutral, very neutral. Chocolate or vanilla.
Tripp: Yeah, that’s a tough one because I love them both, but push comes to shove, I’ll take a vanilla shake.
John: Oh, okay. All right, all right. Okay, here we go. We’re going to go NASDAQ or Dow.
Tripp: Well, the darling of last year was NASDAQ with all the tech stocks, so let’s go with the Dow this year.
John: Okay, all right.
Tripp: Let’s change it up.
John: Okay, so you can move with the seasons on that, too. I see what’s up.
John: How about a favorite sports team?
Tripp: Oh, that would be a tie between the Denver Broncos and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball teams. It’s kind of neck and neck.
John: Yeah. No, I hear you. How about a favorite number?
Tripp: Well, the first thing that popped to my head was 16. I don’t know why. That just popped to my head, so we’ll go with that.
John: Yeah. No, that’s a good answer. Two more. When it comes to books, Kindle, real book or audio version.
Tripp: It’s interesting because the last two or three books that I bought, I actually bought the the hard copy version on Amazon so that I can pick it up, read it and make notes. I go back and forth and on all three. It just really depends. I don’t know why. It’s like, do I audio book it or what? It just happens.
John: Okay. All right. No, fair enough. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Tripp: Well, I already mentioned my iPhone. That would be just because I am just amazed that it literally can do everything. If I need to hang a picture, I can use a level. Driving anywhere, I could never imagine — every time I go somewhere, I’m like, I would never have found this the old way.
John: Right, right.
Tripp: I just am amazed. Plus, it’s my access to information and everything else, whether it be my meditation or whatever I’m going for. It just does about everything for me.
John: That’s awesome. I feel the same way. When I get somewhere, if my phone craps out right now, I will not be able to get home. I don’t know how I got — people are like, how did you come? How did you drive? When I go to a different city or traveling, I don’t know what the highway was. It’s the one that got here.
Tripp: It tells you, follow this little line.
John: It has made me maybe dumber, which I was already starting low. No, but let’s talk Grateful Dead. How did you get started with that? Was it from when you were younger?
Tripp: Yeah. So, my initial foray into the Grateful Dead was a buddy of mine, Kevin, and it was maybe eighth grade, ninth grade, a lot of studio stuff.
Tripp: I ended up getting into this, so, during that time, getting exposed to it. Then I went to boarding school, I guess it was my junior year, in Maine. Going up there is where I got exposed to this whole Grateful Dead society, whatever the hell Deadheads were. From that point forth, everywhere I went, it was like, half the people were Deadheads and half the people weren’t. That’s where I got into collecting a lot of tapes and started my tape collection of bootlegged concerts and so forth.
Tripp: Got exposed to some real hardcore East Coast Deadheads, New York deadheads, the real deal.
John: Like the Ben and Jerry’s founders guys.
Tripp: Yes, yes, the real deal. Then I brought that back to St. Louis. We just started going off and seeing concerts and trading tapes and stuff. How I actually got to my first show, which was cool, is I was working for my uncle. They had horses and so forth. I’m working in the stables, and my cousin had tickets to see the Grateful Dead in Wisconsin at Alpine Valley.
John: Oh, yeah.
Tripp: I had tickets that Saturday night to see America at Westport in St. Louis. Arden couldn’t get off work or something, so we switched. It was $13 a ticket. Can you imagine paying $13, which included parking?
John: That’s amazing.
Tripp: Included parking. My tickets were $19. It was like $40 for a weekend to go see the Grateful Dead, and we switched. I remember driving home and just this panic about, is my mom going to let me go? Is she going to let me go? I’m 16 years old or whatever.
Tripp: Her comment was, “I think it’s a great idea. You can go see the country. You can no longer be a hobo on a train, type thing. This will give you a chance to go out there and see the real world.” Growing up where I grew up, it was like, I heard 100 times, it seemed like a month, that you better eat that, there’s a starving kid in China. My mom used to always say, “This isn’t the real world. This isn’t how real people live.”
John: Oh, my goodness. Yeah, yeah.
Tripp: For me, it was this sense of, well, what else is out there? We have this cushy life, but there’s all this stuff out there. There’s all this adventure. She said, “I think it’s awesome. I think you should do it.” That was the entry to a whole another world.
John: Who did you go with?
Tripp: My first shows, I went with some friends from high school. The Boger family is a big name. They’ll probably listen to this at some point. Peter Boger is a good buddy of mine. He ended up having two older brothers, which was another thing that I got to go, was because we had chaperones.
John: Right, but older brothers are your friends. That doesn’t count.
Tripp: Older brothers who are not exactly — we got something different out of them than my parents thought we were getting.
John: Right, right.
Tripp: Anyway, yeah, that was the beginning. It was one of those things that I just — I remember going up to Wisconsin, and you met these people from all over the world, literally. It was just a really, really cool experience. The thing about The Dead which is so different than other bands, they put on a true show, not a concert, not repeating itself, very jazz, open-ended music and a lot of exploring. There’s just a lot of adventure in that and openness, so, a lot of fun.
John: It’s got to be cool too, because you know that you’re witnessing something that’s never going to happen again, because they’re going off on these solos or riffing. They’re jamming on something, and they’re probably never going to do this again, in this way, type of thing. It’s a one-and-done sort of moment and, like you said, it’s an experience.
Tripp: Yeah, and consciously, I think the band took that to the audience. Consciously, they said, we’re going to do everything in our power not to do this song in the same way, and put trips in at different parts, to change things and approach it a little differently, that kind of thing. You really did get a different concert every night. It was the thing. I felt it was like, hey, we go to a winning sports team event. You’re guaranteed to win tonight. I’d be doing it, so it was just a lot of fun.
John: No, that’s awesome, man. That’s super cool. Did you continue going to concerts then? Do you have a favorite one that comes to mind, beyond the first one?
Tripp: Well, like a lot of things in life, yeah, there was that very, very first one.
John: There’s quite a few, yeah,
Tripp: Yeah, the very first one was just, you can never get that one back. Everything was new. Everything was fresh. A lot of that stuff is still burned to my memory, just feelings or just images, if you will. I would say probably the second one was ‘87, ‘88, New Year’s at Oakland. The first time I saw The Dead was in June of ‘87. Then we went out to California, me and Peter, my buddy, and Kevin, who’s a dear friend of ours, who’s departed us, unfortunately, but he was in a lot of my first shows. That New Year’s and that whole experience and being out in California as a 17-year-old, it was just — every New Year’s, it’s like, there will be nothing ever again. I’m usually asleep at 10 now.
Tripp: It was such a special time. Those two kind of hang out, but then there was so many. The thing about when I go to Dead shows, you’d see people from a bunch of different — from boarding school, from grade school, from high school, from summer camps, all over the place. That kept that going. I went on, pretty much, four summer tours from ‘87 through, I guess it would have been ‘90.
Tripp: Then one of their band members died, Brent Mydland, who was a very, very important part of the band, had joined them in ‘79 and really changed the sound. Not just me saying this, but the time that I saw them, still to this day, a lot of the surviving members have said that was the best period, ‘87 through ‘90, when Brent died.
After that, I didn’t tour as much, but I still would see them maybe four times a year, for three or four shows, maybe a city or two, and do that. What I started to do is, at that point, I started listening to the Phish as well. They’ve been in my repertoire. That’s why I said they’re my band today, but The Dead is always my band.
John: Yeah, because Phish is the newer version.
Tripp: Yeah, and they’re totally different but don’t shy away from any of that because they thank the Grateful Dead for getting them there. They didn’t know that they could play exploratory music like that. They didn’t know — everything from the two-set system, they copied all that from — and they admit it, but their style, their music and everything is so different to us, I think to somebody who’s got the ear for it.
John: Yeah, exactly. They’re in the same family, but they’re definitely not the same.
Tripp: Yeah, and I would say, for sure, they’re the most popular jam band to come out of the Grateful Dead, but there are so many others. There are so many Dead-oriented-only bands.
John: That’s true, too. That’s true, too. That’s awesome, man. Four times a year, that’s dedication. This is clearly a passion that, if I were to tell you, you can’t go to another Dead concert, what?
Tripp: You feel like that now. We have definitely felt that way.
Tripp: Yeah. It’s just been that way. I don’t know when we’re going to get back. A few things, I’ve been to all 50 states. In 2016, the only state I had not been to was Oregon. My son and I, who was about 14 at the time, Penn, the two of us went out there and saw Dead and company, out in Portland. That was cool. From going to California, to upstate New York, New York City, Texas, Arizona, Southern California, Northern California, I’ve been, you name it, on a major highway, I’ve been on it, or through the state whatever.
John: That’s awesome. Yeah, because it’s driving to these concerts, that’s part of the experience as well. It starts days before the concert itself.
Tripp: It’s a circus. It’s a kind of a caravan. That was the fun thing.
John: I didn’t even think of that. Yeah.
Tripp: I think the last, probably five years, a big deal for us was Las Vegas.
John: Oh, okay.
Tripp: People would come from all over the country, from 1990 to ‘95. That was a great time.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s cool, and it’s cool that you were able to tour with them, basically, for those summers, when they were at their peak.
John: Which is pretty awesome. That’s super cool. That’s super cool. Do you feel like any of this translates to work at all through your career?
Tripp: Well, it’s certainly, definitely who I am. I think it’s funny because when I was thinking about this, when I started getting into this, I had to talk some of my friends that are doing it or talking to them and talking to their parents into it. There was this adult. We’re doing this. We’re teens. We’re doing something wrong because we were doing stuff wrong.
John: Right. Yeah.
Tripp: Yeah, we were kids. So we were going out there and exploring, but we had to talk these parents into it. A couple of my parents’ friends didn’t let them go or whatever. They were angry that they — there’s all this negative connotation, but it was such an amazing time. So I think that, for years, even when I was getting in the professional world, I tried to hide some of that because I thought that that wouldn’t be worthy of people hearing or whatever.
As I’ve gotten older, you start to understand how you were made. You start leaning on experiences. For me, I think, the adventure, I would go on the road, and we’d sleep behind gas stations. Nobody would be there. You’d have to deal with the attendant in the morning. I’d go knock on doors at 11:00 on a Sunday night to ask a farmer if we could sleep in his field. Certain things like that take a lot of courage. So, I don’t know, after you do that for a while, you’re just automatically doing that stuff, and you’re on the road surviving. So, those skills have always served me very, very well.
John: No, that is interesting though because, yeah, when you get into the workplace, it’s the first time that you’re not around everyone your same age.
John: All of a sudden, there are people that are 20, 30 years older than you that are your parents’ age, that you’re also working with. It’s easy to think that, well, they’re going to frown upon it because all my parents’ friends frowned upon it and whatever. Therefore… Yeah, it’s the same thing there. That makes sense.
Tripp: Today, honestly, it’s just such a part of who I am, but I’m also — I get the younger generation. They’re amazed because that’s not available today. A lot of the guys I work with are just past people that I talk to that are younger. A lot of what I do is multi-generational wealth management and so forth, so we mentor a lot of kids and stuff. I don’t know. To me, now, it’s important for me, that experience.
John: I walked into your office. You have a Grateful Dead logo against the window. You have the magazine here on the table. You have posters on the wall. Yeah, absolutely.
Tripp: These are all gifts too. Everything I have in here that you’re looking at is gifts from people that know that I love it.
John: Know you.
John: That’s fantastic, man. It’s cool that it’s just out, and there it is. It’s not like you’re shouting it from the rooftops, but, hey, if somebody comes in here, they know that’s the Dead logo. They’re like, oh, you like the Grateful Dead. It just opens up a conversation there.
John: I love how you said that it’s important. Why do you think it’s so important that not only people have something outside of work, but to also share it?
Tripp: Well, I am one of those guys, and I do a lot of coaching, too. For me, I’ve just learned that sharing and being vulnerable is you’re giving permission to that other person.
Tripp: With the Dead and stuff, I think about my office, it’s kind of a joke, but it definitely gets people into their own areas, and so just talking to people and getting them to open up. I facilitated a lot of member presentations for CTLF, and the one thing I start out with is, hey, what do you not want the group to know about you? Let’s just get there. I’ve never had anybody in that container that doesn’t get right to the gut of it.
Tripp: I have them tell their story. When I get to the very end of the story, I always ask them, so what do you not want me to tell the group? I’ve never had anybody tell, or in my introduction, I’ve never had anybody not, say, I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t tell everything, so let’s just go ahead and do that.
John: Yeah. Right.
Tripp: I think it’s very important to have outside activities. That’s who we are. It’s not like, I’m only a financial planner. I’m much more than that, and so are the people that work for PWM.
John: Yeah, and your clients.
Tripp: And clients.
John: It’s the same thing. Because that’s the thing when I talk to people, especially that are in the professional services world, it’s like, do you know who else has hobbies and passions? Your clients. So, if you’re able to create a connection, if you had a client who was also a Deadhead, you’re best friends for no reason. Good luck, anyone else trying to steal that from you because they’ll never leave you. It doesn’t matter. You just have a connection that’s above and beyond the work.
Tripp: Yeah. It’s like anything else. When you look at parts of society and stuff, I look at my CTLF group, Colorado Thought Leaders Forum group, there are two of us that are big Deadheads. Then there are three or four people that had seen them and are peripheral, know about them, had friends or spouses that were crazy like us.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tripp: It’s really everywhere I go. You’re going to be in a group of 10 people. There’s going to be a Deadhead or two in there. That’s just the way it always is. I don’t know why.
John: What’s cool is how you let that philosophy of the Grateful Dead permeate who you are and how you work and how you live and all of that, which I think is really cool.
Tripp: Yeah. No, definitely, just the sense of adventure, sense of community, sense of camaraderie. The Dead really did have a family. They were very much of a family type, very communicative to fans. You had constant communication, whether it be voicemails that you can call into, to listen to, for updates or —
John: That’s awesome.
Tripp: Yeah. They really — I don’t know. I felt like the adults, I don’t know, in my life before that, just all of them sort of had — they told you the way things were. Then you got out there in the real world, and it’s like, okay. It’s really open. They give you responsibilities, or here’s how they asked you to act as adults.
John: Right. Yeah, yeah.
Tripp: It’s like, well, nobody ever asked me to act like that. They told me how I had to act. It was just a whole different…
John: I love that, man, because that’s such a great parallel to a lot of professionals. We graduate college. They tell us how to act. They treat us like we’re five. It’s like, no, I’m highly educated. I’m intelligent. I know what I’m doing. Treat me like an adult, expect me to act like an adult, and then let’s go and make some damage. Let’s do some good stuff.
John: Instead, it’s, no, here’s your pacifier. What are you doing every six minutes? Put it on a time sheet. Where were you when I came by your cubicle and you weren’t sitting there?
Tripp: You loved being a CPA, didn’t you?
John: All of it. All of it. Golly, we’re adults here. I love how the Grateful Dead treated their fans that way, as family and as adults. Here’s our expectation, and then you rise to that.
John: I wish more corporate people listened to Grateful Dead now. That’s amazing. I didn’t even realize that. That’s super great. I guess when you were earlier in your career, when you weren’t sharing as much, understandably so, was there something else you were sharing? Or was it more just like put your head down and get the work done?
Tripp: Well, now that you asked me it that way, so, I worked for Invesco in 1995. That’s when Jerry died. I was actually in a training session in August at — we were getting trained on something. Jennifer was our trainer, who I’m still friends with today. She and her husband were big Deadheads. I worked at a floor of, probably, 80 people, and there was at least five or six of us that were on tour. We would go, not on tour, but we would go to California for the Cal Expo shows or go back to Chicago, whatever we did, active people. So, I don’t know if I really had to ever hide it.
John: Oh, okay.
Tripp: Would be the answer really.
John: Yeah, but you didn’t necessarily share it openly. It was more of like, oh, you like the Grateful Dead too? Okay, cool.
Tripp: Yeah. I think maybe it was that, now that I think about it, that 33-year-old getting in the financial services business, who had to, all of a sudden, button everything up, and that didn’t really fit in that buttoning up. After a while, you get tired of being all buttoned up.
John: Right. Well, that’s exhausting too. Who did I tell? Who didn’t I tell? What do they think? What don’t they think? In your own head, you’re building up these stories of this is what they’re going to say. None of it’s true, and none of it comes out that way.
Tripp: Yeah. The one thing I’ve done in the last, I’d say, three, four years is I really just — just say what you feel. Whatever is there, just get it out and then you don’t have to worry about it. I think that’s a maturation process that we go through too, of better understanding, hopefully —
John: Maybe in confidence as well.
Tripp: — some of us or something.
John: Yeah, right. Exactly. Exactly. It’s more mature than we were at 15. We’re 17.
Tripp: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
John: Exactly. That’s awesome, man. Before we wrap this up, do you have any words of encouragement for anyone listening? I know we touched on earlier of how important it is to have those outside-of-work.
Tripp: Yeah. Where we sit today, you and I were talking before we began this thing, we can’t do a lot of things we wanted to do or used to do. With anxiety, depression and all that stuff that’s really on the rise, I think the best thing we have is our relationships. So, the more we can talk to other people, that’s the best advice that I can give right now, is stay connected, stay open, stay open-minded and get after it.
John: That’s so perfect. I love how you said that, with the mental wellness, in the last year, has really become really crucial. It’s not just all work all the time.
Tripp: Yeah, so get out there and talk about your why with people. Have fun. There’s been a lot of that good connection with a lot of people, but a lot of people don’t know how to do that. It usually takes, if there are two people, it takes one of them to make that call. I’ve had so many conversations with people in the last two months that’s like, well, why don’t you be the one to call? You be the one to call because you’re just two people, right? Everybody’s sitting there saying, well, I don’t hear from people anymore.
John: Then pick up the phone and have a normal conversation, not a work conversation.
John: Yeah. No, I love that. That’s so great and so easy for people to do. Simple but not easy, I guess, is maybe the best way to say it, but, yeah, just do it. Pick up the phone. Call somebody. Call Tripp, everybody.
Tripp: There you go.
John: Call Tripp.
Tripp: Absolutely. Yeah.
John: Your iPhone’s blowing up. We’re all good, all good. Well, it’s only fair, since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning, that we turn the tables now. We make this the first episode of the Tripp Gebhard podcast.
John: Thank you so much for having me on, Tripp. I’m all yours if you want to fire away with some questions.
Tripp: Well, the first thing is an obvious one, John, is what is your “and”?
John: Oh, my “and” is college football, for sure, and ice cream and going to concerts.
Tripp: So, ice cream has been your main event.
John: Oh, yeah, ice cream, for sure, all the time. When I worked in the corporate world, doing comedy was certainly my “and” but then that became my job, which is very hard. I don’t advocate that anyone makes their “and” their job. It’s crazy and hard and insane.
Tripp: Okay, I’ve got a really good one for you.
Tripp: Grateful Dead or Phish.
John: Oh, wow. Okay, well, yeah, I guess the number of songs that I have listened to, I’ll say Phish only because I’ve heard more Phish songs just because they were newer, I guess.
John: They’re both great bands. Musically, they’re so talented.
Tripp: That’s a good answer. They’re still around. You can see them.
John: Yeah, yeah. I mean, in college and stuff, that was more, then, like Dave Matthews was also kind of jam bandy when you see them live. They were the bands at the time, so, yeah.
Tripp: Phish was a little bit more edgy.
John: Oh, yeah. For sure. For sure.
Tripp: Little longer hair and some other things that went along with the crowd and that kind of stuff.
Tripp: Okay. Would you rather have more time or would you rather have more money?
John: Oh, man. Yeah, that’s a good one. I’m going to say more money just because I’m with you, but more money —
Tripp: You don’t want me to manufacture time for you?
John: I think if you have more money, a stupid amount of money, then time doesn’t necessarily matter because it’s not like you’re working 40 hours a week or, in my case, even more, and then you have to fit in those “ands” and life around that. If you have a stupid amount of money, then your whole life is your “and”. You just do whatever you want. If you die at 40, well, you know what, you had all free time. You had the same amount of free time as someone who died at 100. So, I’ll take more money, I think, now that I’m talking it out.
Tripp: Well, money can definitely bring more opportunities and more leisure time.
John: Yeah, yeah. Also more problems, I guess, like Mo Money Mo Problems. That’s wasn’t a Phish song.
Tripp: There you go.
John: That wasn’t a Phish song.
Tripp: No, it was not, and that’s another discussion.
John: Right, right.
Tripp: Yeah, there’s definitely, be careful what you wish for, at some point.
John: Secretly, more money. Secretly. Awesome, man. Well, thank you so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”? This was super, super fun.
Tripp: Yeah, I’m pumped. Thanks for having me.
John: Absolutely, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Tripp or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. 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 to the podcast 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.
Arianna is a Consultant & Furniture Refinisher
Arianna Campbell, a consultant at Boomer Consulting, talks about her furniture refinishing hobby, how her family can be her toughest critics, and how it makes her better at her job as a consultant!
• Getting into furniture refinishing
• How furniture refinishing translates to her consulting work
• Why she was initially reluctant to sharing her hobby
• Why it is both on the organization and the individual to promote an open workplace culture
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
Pictures of Arianna’s furniture
(click to enlarge)
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Welcome to Episode 367 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 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 differentiates you when you’re at work.
If you like the podcast, you can go even deeper into my research. The book’s available on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, Bookshop, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading the book and writing such great reviews on Amazon, and more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love hearing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Arianna Campbell. She’s a shareholder and consultant with Boomer Consulting, and now she’s with me here today. Arianna, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Arianna: Thank you so much, John, for inviting me to participate. I’m excited to be here.
John: Of course. We’ve known each other for years, and I’m just excited to talk refinishing furniture, this new, super new talent. This is cool stuff that you have on Instagram and everything. I’m just excited. First we have rapid-fire questions, things I probably should’ve asked you the first time we hung out at the BTC Summit, but, hey, this is all good. Here’s an easy one, favorite color.
Arianna: Favorite color is going to be, let’s do green. You heard the decisiveness, green.
John: Okay, all right. How about a least favorite color?
Arianna: Least favorite color, maybe orange.
John: Okay, yeah. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Arianna: Favorite adult beverage is water because you have to make sure you are staying hydrated.
John: There we go, especially as an adult.
Arianna: Aside from water, a glass of red wine, most definitely a great thing too.
John: Okay. All right. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Arianna: Actor or actress. I don’t have one that comes to mind off the top of my head. I’ve been binge-watching more of the nature shows like the Planet Earth and things like that because the kids love those. Those are the first things that come to mind are cheetahs and lions and elephants.
John: Right. They’re on the screen.
Arianna: That’s the world I’m in right now.
John: They’re on the screen. Yeah, as a parent, it is hard to know who even is an actor or actress anymore. Yeah, exactly. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Arianna: Early Bird all day. I would rather get up at 3 am to work on a project than try to push at 10 or 11 at night. Hands down. Hands down.
John: Wow. Okay. Would you say more diamonds or pearls?
Arianna: Probably diamonds. I love both, but I’d probably say diamonds.
John: All right. Or maybe alternating. Why not, if that’s the thing. I’m not sure if that’s…
Arianna: I think it is. I think it is. It’s our world, and it can be both.
John: Exactly. Puzzles, Sudoku or crossword.
John: Neither. Okay.
Arianna: No. Neither one. I’ll come away from those just feeling completely defeated.
John: Right? You just flip to the back where it has the answers.
John: Yeah, I didn’t even know that was a word. Okay. Star Wars or Star Trek.
Arianna: Star Wars.
John: Star Wars. Yeah, me too.
Arianna: Hands down.
John: Your computer, more of a PC or a Mac.
John: PC. Yeah, me too. Oh, this is a fun one. How about your mouse, right click or left click?
Arianna: You can only right click.
John: Well, click or right click, I guess, is the…
Arianna: Click or right click? Click.
John: Click. Making decisions, boom, there it is.
Johhn: All right. Because right click is the one that opens up all the folders and the who knows what happens.
Arianna: Yeah, no.
John: Exactly. How about, this is a fun one, summer, winter, spring or fall?
John: Fall. Yeah, I love fall too.
Arianna: Yeah, absolutely. I live in Charleston, South Carolina, originally from Wisconsin, so winter is out. Live in Charleston. While it’s a lovely area, summer is hot. Fall is perfect, in my opinion.
John: Yeah, there you go. This is a fun one, balance sheet or income statement.
Arianna: Income statement.
John: Income statement. Doesn’t matter. Whatever. Just something. Oceans or mountains.
Arianna: Definitely oceans.
Arianna: I’m a beach-chaser. Interestingly enough though, I can’t swim, but I am a beach-chaser. Our favorite place to travel for my husband and is to the beach.
John: There you go. Nice. Okay. How about a favorite sports team?
Arianna: Favorite sports team, well, I have to go with the Badgers since I am a Wisconsin Badger. You got to love them. In our house, we’re 49’er fans and Tar Heel fans.
John: Okay, a little bit of everything.
Arianna: It’s how we roll. We’re all over the place.
John: That works. That works. How about a favorite number?
Arianna: A favorite number. One.
John: Solid. Is there a reason?
Arianna: Because you just asked me and I had to come up with one.
John: Okay. There we go. It’s the best. It’s number one. It’s the top. Two more. Kindle, real book or audio version.
Arianna: Kindle, definitely, because then I can read at night, whether the lights are on or not. I’m definitely a reader more than an audio listener, so I love my Kindle.
John: Okay, all right, like around 7:30 or 8 pm, when you say at night. No, I’m just kidding.
Arianna: Bedtime right there.
Arianna: Got to get up at 3 am to finish that project.
John: Exactly. I was like, woo. All right, last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Arianna: Favorite thing I have or own. The first thing that came to mind for the favorite thing to have, what’s in my life, is my family. I don’t know that owning the things as really that important. It’s about the people and the memories and things like that. So, favorite thing that I have is my family.
John: That’s awesome. Very cool. I know that it’s become family projects with the furniture refinishing. How did that get started?
Arianna: It’s crazy. It was one of the blessings of 2020. I know that 2020 definitely had its challenges, and it’s just unexpected surprises. One of the blessings that came out of it is that I was home more than I’ve been in the past five years. I typically spend a lot of time on the road within my job. Obviously, having the pandemic, was grounded starting back in February, so a lot of time at home.
My husband and I — I think everyone was in a spring cleaning, sprucing things up around the house kind of fix. We wanted to have some different furniture, and we looked at what was out there. Nothing was really fitting our needs. We saw an antique piece. It was really pretty, but it needed some work. It needed some paint. We were like, could we do this? Fortunately, I was home long enough for us to be able to find out. That is how our furniture refinishing started and then it’s blossomed since then.
John: Was it watching YouTube videos, or did you guys already have a knack for being crafty or woodworking or any sort of background in any of that?
Arianna: I didn’t think that I really had a knack in anything related to this. I hadn’t done anything like that. My husband is a little bit more handy when it comes to woodworking and things like that, but when it came to the actual painting of it, it was doing research. It’s crazy. I never knew that I’d have my favorite primer or my favorite sandpaper grit or my favorite wood filler.
John: These are questions I should have asked in the beginning, favorite sandpaper grit.
Arianna: I could have told you that. 320 because I can really get down to the fine detail.
John: Yeah, that’s when you’re making it shine. That’s where that’s at.
John: Of course for regular paper, that’s so fine. That’s so cool though. Yeah. It’s like, what? I have a favorite, all these things.
Arianna: I didn’t even know. I’d have to say that while I’ve been excited about our furniture refinishing skills, I didn’t know that I was also going to have to develop furniture moving skills. Because when you get the furniture, even if someone helps you load it into the truck, when you get home, it has to get out of the truck and then it has to move around to where it needs to be. So, now, I’m lifting weights, not just for my health and exercise. It’s to make sure that I can move this furniture.
John: Which is something that you didn’t think about. That is not in the brochure. They did not tell you that at the beginning. That’s for sure.
Arianna: It wasn’t at all. So, now, there’s this new motivation. I’ve got to make sure I’m getting my workouts in so that I can do my part.
John: Yeah, because one of the more recent pieces I saw was a full-on dresser. It was huge, old school dresser. That thing’s big and not easy to maneuver. That’s impressive. That’s relationship-building, I think, is what they call it.
Arianna: It totally is, me and my husband, the relationship-building.
John: Right? That’s awesome. Are there any more favorite pieces that you’ve done?
Arianna: I have to say that I really enjoy the custom pieces that we’ve had the opportunity to do. It started off as something that we just did because we enjoyed it, and it allowed us to customize what we wanted furniture in certain spaces to look like and to have that old sturdy furniture.
We did a custom piece for a set for a friend. It was her childhood set that she had given to her daughter. Her daughter was now 18, wanted something with a different look, more modern, more sophisticated. That was the gray one that you mentioned. It was really dark gray with gold accents. I got to do some hand painting on that one. To be able to do that for a friend and to have her entrust us with refinishing her childhood furniture was pretty awesome.
John: That’s also cool that it went from something that you guys were just doing for yourselves, to friends and other people saying, “Hey, can you do that for me,” sort of a thing. That means that it’s legit. If other people are asking you, then it must look good, type of a thing, which doesn’t really, totally matter because you were doing it for yourselves in the beginning. It’s just cool that there’s some validation from others like that. Then you can see them light up in what you’ve done, and they can celebrate it with you.
Arianna: Exactly, and they’re lasting pieces. When you’re getting furniture redone, it’s something that you’re looking to keep for a good while, especially when it’s those heavy, sturdy pieces. That’s exciting too, to know that you’re doing something for someone that’s going to be a piece in their home that is going to be part of their everyday life, especially when it became one of those unexpected things.
You mentioned earlier, my husband and I, being able to work on that together. It’s our weekend thing that we work on. The kids come out and help us with — well, they actually more supervise and ask, “Are you doing that? Are you sure that’s the way you’re supposed to do it? I don’t think that looks right.” I’m like, it’s just primer. It’s just primer. We’ll get there.
John: Right? Patience, children, patience. That’s amazing. Yeah, I can only imagine, when you have the critic over your shoulder and then you have three of them really.
Arianna: Yes. It’s a high quality process. They don’t let anything get by them.
John: That’s awesome. Does any of this translate over to work at all, maybe from a mindset perspective? Obviously, you’re not going into the office and painting all the furniture. It’s like, excuse me, Jim, I’d like to paint your desk.
Arianna: If you don’t mind, so just step out of the way. First, I’m going to lift it for you. First, I’m going to lift it.
John: Sandra, that bookshelf, got to go.
Arianna: I can help you with that.
John: My kids told me about it. Does any of this translate over?
Arianna: Interestingly enough, it does. I spend the majority of my time helping firms with their processes and really helping them to find ways to make their processes more effective so that they can find the capacity to focus on what matters. Because if we are spending time on wasteful activities, then we’re not able to really give our clients our best as experts and as professionals.
I’m Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, huge into process. Interesting part is that my husband works in manufacturing and also is a process expert. He’s a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. A majority of his job is all around process. You have the two process people coming together, creating a completely new process of refinishing furniture.
I will admit that we are both process geeks, but it’s been interesting, working together to create, for us, what’s been a process from scratch, trying to figure out what in there is adding value, what is duplication of work, what’s going to be valuable when we’re actually giving it to someone. Are they going to notice this part versus this part? Really trying to see value from the end client’s point of view.
Then we end up, inadvertently having, conversations about work. We don’t spend much time, when working on projects, talking about work, but it does really make you trigger things about, thinking about what matters. What’s important to the client? How can we be more focused on that? How can we build in more quality? How can we really just make sure that we’re also doing it in an effective way? There are definitely direct correlations that I was not expecting, and I wasn’t expecting to get to partner with my husband on so many different, what, essentially, in a lot of ways, are process projects.
John: Right? That’s just cool to hear because you’re exercising that muscle, outside of work, and just getting stronger, looking at things differently, and looking at something totally different because there are processes to everything that we do. That’s cool to hear that you were doing it for the love of it but, accidentally, because of my book, you were like, oh crap, I’m learning something here. This is work-related.
Arianna: It does tie together, John, and that’s what I love about just your message with What’s You’re “And”? is that we’re not just who we are at work, who we are as people and the things that we enjoy. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence. Well, I don’t know that I would have picked furniture refinishing, but given the space that 2020 gave us, I guess it ultimately, being reflective, doesn’t surprise me that process is really something that’s driving me in my hobby, when it’s also something that drives and inspires me at work, and connecting those dots.
One of my biggest things to focus on is continuous improvement. That’s what I talk with clients about so much is we’re not striving for perfection. We want to make sure that we’re making progress, that we’re getting better every time that we do this. That’s how we approach our furniture refinishing as well. We’re way more effective than what we were on that first project that we did. We look back at that, and we’re like, I can’t believe we did it that way. That’s also how I look at things at work often.
It is exciting to see the continuity between the two, and that’s why it’s important. Because then you can connect with people authentically, through hobbies. I’m not just talking to you about some nerdy process stuff at work. I can talk to you about process when it’s related to furniture refinishing, and you get that. It’s a lot more relatable.
John: I love that so much, and you don’t get better unless you do it. You weren’t doing it to be on HGTV or some Old World something. You were doing it just for fun, and something that we wanted. We want to make it a different color, and we want a piece that’s going to last. Over time, you get better at it and then people start to ask. I love how the social media, the Instagram stories and everything, it’s so fun to follow along on that. Was there ever a time where you’re like, hey, maybe we shouldn’t put this out there? Or were you always just like, this is who I am, why not?
Arianna: Well, I did have hesitation in the beginning because I felt like, well, I really like it, but what if it’s just my own personal style or taste. Not so much from not putting that part of myself out there, but I do think that you wonder if people will be as excited about it as you are. You want to put it out there, whether you’re excited about it or not, but it was more of the curiosity of, is it just something that I’m really fired up about, and it’s like, nah. I received really positive reactions, again, which lead us down the custom path and to have it be something that we love doing, so it ended up being a benefit.
That’s why people should share their hobbies because it’s created a lot of additional conversation also internally, at work. It gives something else to talk about with my teammates, and then they start talking about their hobbies. So, just encouraging people not to be afraid to share the hobbies that they do have. Again, it’s all about connecting as humanity, and we need that now more than ever.
John: Yeah. No, totally, I totally agree with that. It’s cool to hear that there was the positive affirmation from that because I think it’s 99.9% in our head of don’t share because people are going to judge. Why did you paint that gray? It’s like, I have three kids to tell me that. I don’t need the whole social media world to also tell me that.
Arianna: I have my biggest critics at home. They’re 10, 10 and six. They’re very well-experienced.
John: Right? Why do I need to go out for this? I’ve got it right here. It’s cool to the right people. Maybe there are people that scroll past and are like, well, whatever, but then there are people that do. They’re like, wow, that’s awesome. Really cool. I messaged you several times. I was like, what? This is so awesome, and just random things. I think it’s just cool to see those different dimensions of who people are.
Arianna: I agree.
John: Then when those conversations happen at work, those relationships just get stronger and deeper and richer than before.
Arianna: I agree with that completely. It gets other people talking about it too. It gives me an opportunity to say, “This is my “and”. There’s also a great book about that called What’s Your “And”?
John: Thank you so much. You’re too nice. You’re too nice. How much is it on an organization to create that space for people to be able to share their “and” versus how much is it on the individual to just be, “Hey, this is what I did over the weekend. I refinished a dresser or whatever. What do you like to do?” Is it more of a bottom up or top down, or does it matter? If you have a grumpy pants at the top, can you still share, type of thing?
Arianna: I think it has to go both ways. Especially now with the increase in remote working, it’s more important than ever before to have it bubbling up from the top and the bottom. I am a firm believer in the importance of the tone at the top, really opening up and sharing and creating that culture of, again, looking for ways that we can be connected through who we are as people, not just who we are at work, is important. Even if you have that strong tone set at the top, you still have to have people who are willing to share. I do think that it goes both ways, but I’m a strong believer in the importance of establishing that culture from the top.
John: Yeah, it does definitely make it easier. That’s for sure. It’s not impossible, but it makes it a lot easier. Even then, I found that the tone, even if you’re just a manager level person with your little team, you can set that tone.
John: Even if the tone at the very, very top is different, you can set that tone even within your small group.
Arianna: That’s a great point about defining what does the top mean, as far as from a leadership perspective, and remembering that there are opportunities at multiple levels throughout the organization to make that difference. I will still tell people, even if you’re the only one in your firm who’s talking about it, I think it adds to your authenticity, to your relatability, to be able to connect with people and build relationships, which is even more of an emphasis within the profession than it’s ever been before. As you’re focusing more on being more advisory and consultative, being authentic and being your true self is important, so show up that way at every opportunity you get.
John: Right. No, I love it. I love it so much. Those are perfect words of advice to everyone, and encouragement, as we wrap this up. It’s only fair that I turn the tables since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the very beginning. This is now the Arianna Campbell podcast, first episode. Thank you so much for having me on. I appreciate it.
Arianna: So glad to have you here, John. I need to know, dogs or cats.
John: Oh, dogs, hands down.
Arianna: Okay, peanut butter or jelly.
John: Oh, wow, that’s a hard one. Yowzers, that’s a tough one. I’ll go crunchy peanut butter.
Arianna: Okay, Coke or Pepsi.
John: I’m not a soda guy. I’m really not. I guess if I had to choose one of those two, yeah, probably Pepsi. Coke, for some reason, when I was a kid, my mom used to stir it up when I was nauseous, and would stir it up. So, I equate it —
Arianna: Oh, for upset stomachs.
Arianna: Yeah, I can feel that. Okay, one more is, the glass half full or half empty.
John: Oh, man, that’s hard too. I’m going to probably say half empty. Just the comedian in me is just always the pessimist. Just, everything’s wrong and just the lens. Just the comedian in me is that way, unfortunately.
Arianna: I appreciate that answer. It’s not unfortunate, but maybe we can make your glass refillable. How about that?
John: Well, it’s unfortunate when I’m looking at my own glass because then it’s super hard. I don’t even have to have kids to have the critics. I’ve got them in my head. Brutal.
Arianna: We all do to a certain extent. That’s why you need the glass to be refillable.
John: Exactly. There we go. See, now I’m walking away enriched. Thank you so much, Arianna, for taking time to be a part of What’s Your “And”? This was super, super cool.
Arianna: Yes, I agree. Thank you so much for inviting me. It’s always great when I have a chance to spend time connecting with you and sharing, and looking forward to the next time we’re able to do so.
John: Yeah, thanks so much, Arianna. Everybody listening, if you like to see some pictures of Arianna outside of work or some of the pieces that she’s refinished with her family, or maybe connect with her on social media so you can follow her along on some of the stages, 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 get the book.
Thanks again for everyone 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.
Chip is an Accountant & Cowboy
Chip Schweiger, Audit Director at PKF Texas, or as he would say “Full-time CPA, part-time cowboy”, talks about how his hobby as a cowboy helps him improve at his job and why it is so important to have something outside of work!
• Becoming a cowboy
• How horse riding helps him with his work
• Why it is important to be able to get away from work
• How being a cowboy translates to his job as a CPA
• His blog
• It’s ok to be vulnerable at work
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 365 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 put it 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 that my book is out. You can go to whatsyourand.com for all the details or links to Amazon, Indigo, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, a few other websites. It’s just really cool to see how much people are reading it and changing their work cultures where they work because of it. The Amazon reviews are just so kind. Thank you so much for that. If you’ve read it and can drop a review, that would be super cool, too.
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, Chip Schweiger. He’s an audit partner at PKF Texas in Houston. He’s a full-time accountant, part-time cowboy, and now he’s with me here today. Chip, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Chip: Absolutely, John. Glad to be here. Looking forward to it.
John: Oh, man, I’m so excited for this. I can’t even tell you how excited I am. We have 17 rapid-fire questions first, to get to know Chip right out of the gate here.
Chip: Mac for home, PC for work.
John: Okay. All right. Good for you. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Chip: Vanilla, no question about it. Yeah. Is there any other, other than vanilla?
John: Right? That’s always the base at least, so there you go. All right. How about a favorite season?
Chip: I like fall. I like college football. I like the leaves changing. I like all of that, and it gets close to the Holidays, so, fall is — I call it autumn, but that sounds fancier.
Chip: Yeah, exactly. Autumn, man. That’s my favorite as well, for a lot of the same reasons. How about balance sheet or income statement?
Chip: Income statement, baby. Let’s make some money.
John: There you go. There you go. How about, oceans or mountains?
John: Mountains. Nice. All right, how about a favorite sports team?
Chip: I went to the University of Southern California, which is a small school in LA. They are the one that I have to root for. No matter what happens, I’ve got to root for SC, but I also live in Houston. I’ve kind of become a Texan fan. I’m kind of between there or somewhere in between there.
John: No, that works. Absolutely, that works, totally, and we’ll still be friends for the next 20 minutes.
Chip: If you say so.
John: There you go. There you go. How about a favorite number?
John: Is there a reason?
Chip: That’s my football number.
Chip: Yeah. It was my football number. I wanted 35 when I started in Pop Warner football. Some other big bruiser guy had 35. I was a scrawny kid. I begged for 35. He just looked at me like it’s not going to happen. I begged the coaches. They said not going to happen. I said, “Well, what do you have close?” They said, “Well, we’ve got 34 here. Nobody wants that number.” I said, “All right, I’ll take it.”
John: There you go, and then Walter Payton.
Chip: Yeah, and then a bunch of famous people followed after me.
John: Yeah. Right? I asked Walter why did he pick 34? He’s like, because Chip Schweiger, Pop Warner jersey. There you go. That’s awesome. That’s a great story, though. How about books, Kindle, real book or audio book?
Chip: Real book, although I’m not the biggest book reader. In my household, my bride is a huge book reader. In fact, she prefers real books as well. She will read a novel, get on the airplane. We’re going to fly someplace, she’ll start the book, doesn’t talk to me the entire time, grunts when she wants to drink, finishes the entire book by the time we land.
John: That’s amazing.
Chip: Oh, it’s incredible.
John: How about, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Chip: Star Wars. I actually just had a binge session with Star Wars, and we were trying to figure out, what order are you supposed to watch those in?
Chip: They let them out. They did all the different ones, and it’s like, no, you’ve got to go back one. You’ve got to come forward a couple. Luke Skywalker is old and then he’s a young guy. It’s kind of creepy but, yeah, Star Wars.
John: It keeps bouncing around. It’s like a Tarantino mix of just bouncing around. Where were we now? I don’t even know.
Chip: Exactly. I like the way you said that. I’ve got to remember that.
John: There you go. There you go. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Chip: Crossword because Sudoku, I deal with numbers all the time in our business, as you know. Numbers are just not that much fun for something relaxing, so the word is where I’m at.
John: Yeah, yeah. It’s too close to work. Absolutely. How about, if you had to choose, rain or snow?
Chip: Oh, is there a third option to this one?
John: Sure, you can say neither.
Chip: Rain is okay, but we get a lot of it where I live. We live down on the coast of Texas, and you get a lot of rain. They pop up. Right now, we’ve been having a lot of rain and so I’m not the biggest on rain. I probably like some snow, but you put me in some snow and probably I’d complain about that too.
John: Right. Well, snow, it probably means you’re on vacation then because it’s not at home.
Chip: Yeah, true. True.
John: There you go. Yeah, I hate rain. I hate rain so much. It just ruins everything. Rain at night when no one’s outside, and then grass is green. Everything’s good. I’m such a baby on that. It’s hilarious. How about a favorite color?
Chip: I’d probably say orange, but safety orange. There’s a color called safety orange. This is a real deal. Right now, John’s thinking, man, what is going on here?
John: It’s bright hunter orange, no?
Chip: Yeah, it’s a little bit of — I don’t know what that color code is, but it’s a little bit of red. It’s a little bit of orange. The Coast Guard uses it. I just think it’s an orange color that I like.
John: Okay. Yeah, not Tennessee football orange.
John: Exactly, all right. Okay. All right.
Chip: No disrespect to Tennessee Volunteers but, yeah, it’s not that orange.
John: Total disrespect coming from me.
Chip: John Garrett, that’s with a G-A-R-R.
John: Right. I went to a game, a Notre Dame-Tennessee game in Knoxville, and I wore a bright green Kelly sweater. The lady next to me, in total head-to-toe Tennessee orange says, “Wow, that sweater’s a little obnoxious, don’t you think?” I was like, what?
John: It was the funniest thing ever. I was like, I wish I could have recorded what just happened.
Chip: Thank you, ma’am, and you just moved on. Right?
John: Yeah, pretty much, like, yeah, whatever. How about a least favorite color?
Chip: You know what? I’m not the biggest fan of pink.
John: I read someplace, and you’ll appreciate this maybe as a college football fan. I don’t remember the university. We’ll call it Michigan State, that they painted their locker room pink.
John: Yeah, the visiting locker room.
Chip: The visiting locker room, and everything was pink in there because it just kind of made people docile and calm. I’ve always remembered that. Every time I look at pink, I’m like, that’s just makes me sleepy.
John: Yeah, yeah. Right? There you go. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Chip: Oh, just the one, huh?
John: Oh, okay.
Chip: No, I’m completely kidding. A bourbon is what I usually drink. I’ve also been drinking, and this is not a plug, but Ranch Water has become popular in Texas, Southwestern United States. They’re starting to can it, so I’ve been drinking canned Ranch Water, which is pretty cool.
John: Yeah, that is cool. All right, we’ve got three more. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Chip: I like Denzel Washington.
John: Oh, yeah.
Chip: I’ve seen every one of his movies. None of them are the same character. Everyone is believable. You can watch him as a Navy captain and then the next movie, he’s a corrupt cop. I think his acting ability is just phenomenal.
John: Yeah, and he’s just a good person, which is also a bonus as well. All right, would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Chip: Night owl.
John: Night owl, okay.
Chip: If I’m left to my own devices, I’ll get up about the crack at 10.
John: There you go. There you go, Pacific Time.
Chip: Pacific Time, yeah. I get my stuff in, get my workout in and then get after it, but I don’t mind being up. People who work with me know, sometimes, I get emails at 2 am. What is this guy doing? I’m just getting ready to go to bed.
John: I’m just up. Yeah, yeah.
Chip: Yeah, I’m just up.
John: The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Chip: Oh, you know what? I’m so fortunate to have, gosh, so many great things. Every time somebody talks about the thing that you have that you’re most fond of, I reflect on my horse, and I reflect on how amazing she is and how she’s gotten my butt out of a couple of really tricky situations. I don’t really think that I own her. On paper, I owner her, but it’s more of a partnership.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Chip: So, I don’t know. Maybe my other favorite thing I own is my iPhone.
John: Sure. Right. Okay.
Chip: Connect to the world and get work done and post pictures and all that stuff.
John: Yeah. What’s the name of your horse?
Chip: Her registered name is MAM Misty Blue. She’s a registered Quarter Horse. I call her whiskey.
Chip: There’s a story there, which all of my friends, a lot of them who are real cowboys, working cowboys who have been very generous with their time and sort of let me into their world, they said never name a horse whiskey. Whatever you do, never name a mare, whiskey, because you’re just asking for trouble.
John: And then you did.
Chip: And then I did, yeah.
John: Right? Has it been trouble?
Chip: She’s tried to throw me off. If I’m not respectful, she’ll try to throw me off a couple of times, and she’s tried that a couple of times. She’s succeeded once or twice, but we have a good partnership. As long as I ask nicely, she’ll generally give me what I want.
John: There you go. There you go. That’s fantastic, which goes right into your “and” of being a cowboy, which is so cool. I saw it on social media. I read the article as well. A bit ago, we had been trading messages for a little bit. How did you get started on that? Because you can’t just, one day, us, city slickers, where you just rollover out of bed, and you’re like, yeah, I’m a cowboy now, type of thing.
Chip: It’s funny. I say I’m a part-time cowboy. The people that I respect the most in this world are actually working cowboys that work out on ranches that have been doing it for hundreds of yours. They’re amazing people. They’re honest. They have grit. They have integrity. They have a work ethic that’s beyond belief. I, a bunch of years ago, said, I really emulate these guys. I’m too old to take that up as a profession, but I can certainly do my part in terms of spreading the word about the western way of life, about Western Heritage and about the American working cowboy.
I started to do that when we were growing up in Southern California. My dad had a friend from SC where I went to school and where he went to school, that had horses up in the hills above LA. We would go up there all the time. Hey, can we ride your horses? Can we ride your horses? We ponied around on them. That was a ton of years ago. Since then, my life has been, on and off, riding horses. Sometimes I would ride them a lot. Sometimes work got in the way and so I may not ride for six months. About four years ago, I just decided that this was going to be my hobby. I got into it more seriously, bought my horse, and it’s been great ever since then.
John: That’s really cool. Just curious, when life gets in the way, work gets in the way, that six months when you’re not riding; are you different than when you are able to ride?
Chip: Yeah, it’s interesting because there are times — and we work in a stressful business. You have client demands, and you want to get things right. You want to do a good job. We take great pride in our work. Sometimes that stress will get to you. For me, it’s important to have an outlet. The outlet is, when you get on a horse that’s 1100 pounds that has their own idea about how things should go, if you’re not focused on everything between the two ears of that horse, you’re probably going to find yourself in the dirt looking up with the horse looking over you. So, it really helps to center me, at least for me, really helps to center me, especially when I get a little bit spun up about stuff.
John: I totally agree, and especially something like that, how you described it, where you’re 100% engaged when you’re riding and when you’re out there doing that, versus, at work, it’s easy. Sometimes it wanders, sometimes not, whatever, but it’s such a release and an escape. It’s really crucial for people to have that, especially after the 2020 that we all had, to really have something that’s outside of work to have that release.
Chip: Well, it’s interesting. I encourage people at our firm, I encourage friends to have some release. I love how you said it, John. If it’s not riding horses, if it’s yoga, if it’s running, some people, whatever it is, do something outside of your work life to make you a rich, full person, and have that release. Because when I get off my horse, if I’ve had a tough day at work and sometimes because of work, I ride late at night. When I get off that horse and put her up and put the saddle up and come home; then I find that I’m more focused on whatever work issues that I had before I went to the barn. It’s a pretty cool thing.
John: That’s so fantastic. Yeah, because the stereotype is more work. What are you doing with free time? Why aren’t you doing more work? It’s just encouraging to hear that it’s, no, no, step away from the work because then when you come back, you’re actually more focused. It’s not just a make-believe theory thing. It’s true. You’ve experienced it.
Chip: That’s a big part of our culture is, I have people that work hard, I call it work hard, play hard, but work hard and then also get away. We love people doing stuff outside of work. We love people having a life outside of work because it just makes them better at work, makes them better for our clients, and ultimately, makes them happier people.
John: I completely agree. I wrote a book on it. No, totally, that’s, yeah.
Chip: Yeah, I shouldn’t be lecturing you about it because you get it.
John: No, it’s everybody listening, though, because they could hear from me, but who is this guy? You’re a partner at a huge firm in Texas, so it’s like, this is legit. It’s not case study bubble world. It’s for real. So, no, I appreciate it because it’s just encouraging to hear that it’s real, and it makes a difference. Do you feel like any of your cowboy experience translates to the office at all?
Chip: I do. It’s interesting. The work — and I’ve been fortunate, as I said, to have friends who are real working cowboys who have let me tag along and work cows with them and be polite when I did something wrong.
Chip: I need you to get over to that gate. I need you to get over that gate right now. Actually, I need you to be over at that gate three seconds ago. Then we drink a beer afterwards and we talk about it. I tell them how thoughtful and thankful I am about the experience. Can I get an invite back? They usually say no. What it teaches you about riding a horse and about working in agriculture, at least for me, is that, you know what? Everyone’s trying hard. Everyone’s trying to do the best they can. Really, just be a little bit patient.
What these folks have done for me is allowed me to make mistakes and said, it’s okay to make mistakes. One thing that I’ve tried to take back in my professional life is telling people and telling myself, it’s okay to make honest mistakes. Don’t make a bunch of them, don’t make the same mistake over and over, but it’s okay to make honest mistakes because that’s how we learn. That’s how we grow.
John: I love that. It’s so great because, especially in the accounting profession, like engineers and law and these professions where you have degrees on top of degrees and certifications and all that, we build ourselves up to be like we’re supposed to be perfect. We’re just not. We’re human. You’re not making mistakes on purpose, but sometimes it’s going to happen. It’s just having some grace there and that forgiveness. So it’s cool to see that you’ve experienced the back end of that, on the ranch, and when you feel that forgiveness, it’s like, wow, that’s really powerful. Then you’re able to bring that to the office. That’s super cool. I feel like if I had started under you, I might still accidentally be in accounting.
John: Right? Well, I don’t know. Maybe. It was a mutually agreed upon decision between me and the profession, but it is cool. Clearly, this is something that you talk about at work. I know that some people, it’s hard for them to know how to bring that up, or how do they discuss this. Can you just talk through a little bit of that, of how did it — did it come up? Or is it just normal? I’m just talking about what I did over the weekend or whatever.
Chip: Yeah. I write a blog. A shameless plug, I write a blog about the western way of life.
John: Yeah, what’s the website for that?
Chip: It’s cowboyaccountant.com.
John: Exactly. There we go. Everybody listening, go to that. Yeah.
Chip: So, some people at work started to read it and would ask me about it and see articles. I share the articles to my professional LinkedIn page. It was really cool to see the people that would come up to me and say, “Hey, I read your blog article.” I would say, “That’s great. Remind me of your name again.” Just to hear them talk about what they got out of it, makes you, boy, I tell you what, made me feel so good. A lot of those folks are at work.
I don’t talk about it a lot at work, but on Fridays, I may come in, in jeans and boots. If I was fortunate enough to win a buckle, doing something, I may wear that buckle and get a couple of questions about it. A lot of times what I’ll do is, in talking with my partners, we talk about horsemanship and training horses. Training horses, in my mind, is really not training the horse. It’s really training the human. We talk about the crossover between horsemanship and humanship.
John: Yeah. Wow, that’s super powerful.
Chip: We just got really deep there, didn’t we?
John: Yeah, we did. I love it, man. That’s so great. You can’t also just drop winning a buckle out of nowhere, so we’ve got to back up a little bit. What’s that all about, and what have you won a buckle for?
Chip: Oh, well, I use my horse for just general cow horse work. She’s a ranch horse. That’s her bloodline, but we also do cow horse work. There are cow horse competitions where you try to keep a cow at one end, try to get the cow where you want it to go.
Chip: I do ranch patterns with her. We basically ride around in a pattern that the AQHA says, okay, you’ve got to go do this. Do a circle. Do a spin. So, had a little bit of success there.
John: That’s cool, man. That’s super fun. Yeah, because my wife and I watched Yellowstone, the show. I don’t know if you’ve seen it.
Chip: Great show.
John: Oh, it is good. Okay, I thought it was going to be one of those where it’s like, that’s not even close. No, but it’s really cool. The young kid wins the full riding contest on accident, literally on accident. It’s a great show, though. That’s a really cool show.
Chip: It’s interesting because everything that happens in rodeo comes off of the working ranch, right? If you’ve got to go rope a steer, that was usually to rope the steer so that you could doctor him or so that you can move him into a different pen. If you’re going to ride a bucking horse, it’s because you needed — back in the day, they broke horses by basically breaking their will by riding them until they quit bucking. The only event in rodeo that, in my way of thinking and in my research, doesn’t come off of the working ranch is riding a bull.
Chip: Right. Some cowboy, at one point, said, “Hey, y’all hold my beer. Watch this.”
John: Exactly. It’s like, that guy’s crazy, and then like, I’ll do it. I’ll do it longer. No, that’s fine.
Chip: I don’t worry about the first guy that ever rode a bull. I worry about the second guy.
John: That’s a great question. It’s the same thing I say about the tax person is like — no, no, I’m just kidding.
Chip: No, that’s exactly right. Just kidding, not kidding.
John: Right. Exactly, exactly. That’s super cool to hear, how much the outside of work impacts the at work, not just from you talking to partners about the horsemanship and humanship type stuff, but also getting to know other people that read your blog and say, “Hey, that was really cool. This is what I got out of it.” Now you know people on a first name basis and have some connections. It also humanizes you, which I think is very powerful because when you’re a partner, there’s a lot of people that are intimidated by that title.
Chip: Yeah, it’s true, and I’ve always — I’m probably one of the people that I believe has the least comfort with pretenses. I’m just not a pretentious guy, but when you’re a partner in a firm, and you come in a suit and a tie, and you come into a meeting; people just naturally get concerned about that. So I always try to find a way to, if I can, to let them know, it’s going to be okay. Nobody’s going to have anything bad happen here today. We’re actually going to get along. As long as we serve our clients and keep ourselves happy and do the right things, then we’re going to be fine.
John: There are some learning moments and some teaching moments, but we’re all good. We’re all good.
John: That’s super awesome. How much is it on the organization to create that safe space for people to share their hobbies and passions? Or how much is it on the individual to just kind of start the circle themselves from the bottom, if you will?
Chip: Yeah, it’s interesting, great question, because I believe every relationship is mutually beneficial but also mutually vulnerable. That’s the relationship that we have with our spouses. It’s the relationship we have with our employers. The benefit is that there’s a place to work, that there’s a means to make an income for your family, and to make a life, but there’s also a vulnerability. Sometimes I think we need to make sure that we keep that relationship between benefit and vulnerability in check. It’s okay to be vulnerable at work, especially if you’re anywhere in the organization. It’s okay to be vulnerable.
I wish in corporate America, that we would talk about it more. We talk about the people. Maybe through the pandemic and maybe with working from home, we’ve learned a lot about each other. I think that we’ve gotten a lot closer because we’re all collectively in this thing. So, I’m hopeful and positive and optimistic for the future that we get even further than we are right now.
John: I agree. We’ve all been in each other’s homes on these video calls with coworkers that, before, you would put on your best front or whatever, the facade of how my life is all together. I’m super professional person. Then when we’re working from home and doing these video calls, and the dog’s barking because there’s a delivery, the kids can get into their home school, all things are crazy; it’s like, we’re human. I think that the Band-Aid was ripped off, and what’s your “and” became even more prevalent. I agree, I hope it stays, and we pick it up and run it even further.
Chip: Yeah, we’ve really — I mean, I think in our firm, we try to do a lot of stuff with our teams. Technology has made that very helpful and easy to do. When we get together as a group, it’s amazing that we still crave the personal interaction with each other. I like how you said it. We’re all wearing T-shirts, and cats are running across the back of the screen. It gives us an opportunity to ask each other, hey, what’s your cat’s name? What’s your T-shirt? Where did you get it? Tell me the story behind it. That’s pretty cool. That’s one of the blessings about this pretty rugged thing that’s happened to all of us.
John: Yeah, totally. Yeah, that’s really the good thing that’s come out of it. I agree totally. Do you have any words of encouragement to anybody listening who has a hobby outside of work that they feel like, no one’s going to care because it has nothing to do with my job?
Chip: We talked about it before. I believe everyone would benefit from having a hobby or hobbies. I believe everyone would benefit by putting 100% of their effort into whatever that is, and it really, in my way of thinking, doesn’t matter what it is. It can be, you can think, boy, this is the goofiest hobby, and nobody’s going to want to hear about it. You know what? You’re doing it for yourself, and you’re doing it to make you a better person. So, I’d encourage everybody, just do it.
I come to work most days in a suit and a tie or a sports coat, and I go home. Whenever I get home, I change into boots and a dirty shirt and a jacket that I probably wore the day before, and a hat that is, well, my wife wishes I would get rid of it, but it’s my favorite hat, so I can’t. It’s just nice to have the two sides of an individual. I’d encourage everybody, it’s okay to have your two sides. It’s okay to have your your hobby life and your work life. Actually what both of them do, and this is why I’m so appreciative of what you’re doing, John, what both of them do is make you better at the other thing.
John: Nice. Yeah, I agree totally. That’s what’s been really cool about the research of interviewing so many people is, at first, it started out as, well, these people have a hobby. Then it became, wow, all of these hobbies impact their careers. At the very least, it humanizes you to other people around you but in a little bit of vulnerability, but a lot of times, there are technical skills and a way of thinking and a ruggedness or an inner fortitude that comes from these different things. You look through a different lens, or you have a creative side of you, and both sides make both sides better. I appreciate you saying that. That’s so awesome to hear.
Chip: I think people, when you’re dealing with a hobby, and you run into a roadblock, and you care about it; you find a way around the issue. You find a way through it because it’s just you and your hobby. It’s just you and yoga. It’s just you and running. If you want to run a marathon and you’re getting tired, you’re going to figure out a way to keep training to be able to run that marathon. Then when we get to work, we get a problem, and we sometimes seize up. There’s a great lesson there in, well, what did you do to conquer that problem that you had in your hobby, and translate that same behavior into conquering the problem at work.
John: Yeah, and there’s a confidence to be found there as well.
Chip: Yeah, 100% agree.
John: That’s so awesome to hear, man, so awesome to hear. Well, before I wrap this up, though, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and allow you to question me. We’ll make this the first episode of the Chip Schweiger podcast or the Cowboy Accountant podcast, whatever. I would never be a guest on that one, so let me get the Chip Schweiger podcast.
Chip: I happen to have a few questions, so we’ll get to them right now. Let me do speed round, if that’s okay with you.
John: Totally. Totally.
Chip: So, turnabout is fair play. Favorite color.
John: It’s just always been blue. I don’t know why. It’s always been blue, and it’s never red. It’s always been blue.
Chip: Cool, cool. Favorite holiday movie.
John: Oh, wow, that’s a good one. Holiday movie. Yeah, probably — I mean Home Alone is so good, and it’s so funny. It’s great because my nephews are six and eight, and they are cracking up at all the juvenile humor that I am also still cracking up at. It’s great.
Chip: Love it. Movie’s 30 years old, somebody told me.
John: Oh, totally. It’s insane. Yeah, Macaulay Culkin is way old now. I feel like my middle nephew is, once he saw that movie, it unlocked a new dimension of his brain that is not good. Holy Molly, yeah, it’s all the booby traps and the shenanigans and all this. Yeah, it’s pretty awesome to see because I’m not his dad, so it’s all good.
Chip: I love it. Exactly. Yeah, you can wind him up and then just kind of walk away and enjoy the show.
John: I’m cool Uncle John.
Chip: You are cool Uncle john.
John: There you go, and then turn it back.
Chip: Okay, one last question then. At home by the fire or on a beach.
John: Oh, wow, that’s a tough one. I guess I’ll say on a beach because that means that I’m on vacation. There’s that. Although I am a bit of a homebody and at home by a fire is also good, but 51-49 on a beach, I guess.
John: Just because it feels special, and it’s not an everyday thing. It’s something where I’ve got to — I’m not in Texas, on the coast. I have to get on an airplane for that, so that’s cool. Well, thank you so much, Chip, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? I just love having you on and so really appreciate you taking time to do this.
Chip: This was the most fun, John. I really appreciate you having me on. I had a blast.
John: Cool. Well, thanks, man. Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Chip, I’m telling you they’re legit, or connect with him on social media, his Instagram account is awesome, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, as well to his blog, cowboyaccountant.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to get 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.
Gail is a President & Music Lover
Gail Wilson, founder of GWA Business Solutions, talks about her passion for music and attending concerts! She also shares when she realized that learning about other people’s hobbies add insight to who they are as people!
• Getting into music and concerts
• Gail’s first concert
• Her favorite concert she has attended
• Attending socially distanced concerts and karaoke nights
• Why it’s important to have an escape from work
• How knowing someone’s “And” provides insight to who they are as people
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 363 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 put it 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 the podcast, you can go even deeper into my research with the book. It’s available on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and then writing such nice reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
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, Gail Wilson. She’s the president and founder of GWA Business Solutions in Markham, Ontario, Canada, and now she’s with me here today. Gail, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Gail: Hi, John. How you doing today?
John: Doing awesome. I’m so excited to have you be a part of this. I also love concerts. You love concerts. This is going to be so much fun. I feel like I’m also the guest. We get to share all of our “ands”. This is going to be a blast.
Gail: You got it.
John: Before we get into it, I have my rapid-fire questions, get to know Gail on a new level here, right out of the gate. I’ll start you out with a pretty easy one, favorite color.
Gail: I knew you were going to ask me that, and I don’t have a favorite color. I love favorite colors, but if I had to pick just one, you know that beautiful color you see when you look out in the Caribbean Sea or whatever your fancy is, and you see this blue-green. That would have to be it.
John: Yeah, yeah, that is blue-teal, blue-green, whatever it is. Yeah, it’s so perfect. It really is. It’s interesting that the whole ocean isn’t like that. I’m sure there’s a reason. How about, okay, so least favorite color.
Gail: I love color, John. That’s a tough one. I would say a color I don’t look really good in and that most people don’t look really good in. I would say that would be like a really super bright red.
John: Okay. Yeah, I hear you. I hear you. How about, this is a fun one, shower or bath?
Gail: I like them both. You’re asking me all these questions.
John: You like all of the things.
Gail: Right? Unfortunately, there’s nothing better than having a really good shower.
John: What if you filled the bathtub through the shower head, then it’s both at the same time.
Gail: Yeah, yeah, for sure.
John: How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
John: Okay, there we go. We’re on a roll now. Here we go. Diamonds or pearls.
John: Okay. All right. Two for two. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Gail: I met Jane Seymour, and it was really fun to meet her in person.
John: That’s cool.
Gail: She was at a stage event. Of course, I didn’t have a backstage pass. Somehow I got to see her. I’m not quite sure how I finagled that, but I did.
John: Good for you. Good for you. That’s cool. Yeah, really great actress as well. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
John: Early. Okay, all right. How about when it comes to books, Kindle, real books or audio book?
Gail: I like a real book, but I also like Kindle.
John: Sure. No, no, I hear you. How about, since you’ve got the accounting, bookkeeping background, favorite number?
John: None. Is there a reason?
Gail: I just always thought nines look really smooth.
John: Yeah. No, they do. You’re right. Yeah, I hear you. Okay, how about a favorite sports team?
Gail: It’s got to be the Jays.
John: Oh, okay, all right. There we go. Oceans or mountains.
Gail: Oceans, big time.
John: Because of the blue. I see what’s going on.
Gail: You got it.
John: Yeah, here we go. This is a fun one, balance sheet or income statement.
Gail: Income statement.
John: Income, okay. Somebody asked me this one at the end of an episode. It’s been fun to ask people now, is, socks or shoes.
Gail: Flip flops.
John: Okay. There we go. There we go. That’s hilarious. That’s awesome. How about, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Gail: I like them both, but I’m an original Trekkie. I was like five years old back then, even though I’m 29. You didn’t ask my age, but
John: Not at all. Not at all. You were four or five when you started watching them. Right? Three more. Your computer, PC or a Mac.
John: Okay, yeah, me too. Favorite ice cream flavor. I love ice cream.
Gail: Oh, it has got to be that one where they put the yummy vanilla and then they add all this caramel and then a little bit of chocolate chips.
John: Yeah, like a Moose Tracks almost?
John: There you go. Yeah, all the chunks. All right, last one, favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Gail: It’s going to be my iPad.
John: Oh, your iPad, okay. There we go.
Gail: I’m a computer person, you know?
John: No, totally. So let’s talk concerts and live music and all that. Is that something that you grew up going to? Or did you start doing it, later point in life?
Gail: My mom loved Elvis, so I grew up listening to Elvis and listening to music for my sister. She’s nine years older than me, and she always had music on. In those days, it was a while ago, you would save your allowance to buy one song.
John: Right, like a single. Yeah.
Gail: She would spend her allowance every, maybe once a month, buying an album, right? So I had Led Zeppelin playing and all this stuff as a young girl, great things to grow up with. We also had comedy, which is why I like to make people smile, which was Cheech and Chong.
John: Okay. That’s great.
Gail: This is what I was listening to. So, when I had an opportunity to go to a concert, I was about 15 and with a date. My date said, “We have an opportunity to go and see Supertramp.” Of course, Supertramp’s album was Crime of the Century, bloody well write, all these really great songs that you need to think about. So we go down to the concert, and I loved the concert. I did not need drugs. I did not need alcohol. I just needed music. When I’m stressed, I put just music on and the live music, then that’s the escape. That’s the time where I can say, I don’t have to think about any of my customers’ questions.
Gail: I don’t have to think about what solution do I have to come up with. I just think, how am I going to get in and enjoy this moment? Because the concert, the music, it just draws you in, the positive energy of everyone around you, because I don’t see people at concerts that are unhappy.
Gail: Right? When you’re at a concert, everybody’s happy, and anybody that didn’t like it is gone. So it’s a way for us to escape to a completely, 100% positive, comfortable environment.
John: Yeah, I love that. That’s so true. It’s so true. Because somebody asked me at the end of one of these episodes, sporting event or concert, which is such a hard one because I love both, but then I thought about it. I said concerts because every time I go to a concert, it’s an experience, every time. There’s the audience there. There’s the band. There’s the interaction between the two. Everyone’s singing and all that. Where at a sporting event, sometimes it’s an experience, but sometimes it’s a two-to-nothing baseball game, and whatever. I eat some nachos. I agree with you. There is that experience there, for sure.
Gail: Well, that reminds me of a story, and it’s a good one. I went to see Keith Urban a few years back. One of my state friends was in town, and he was going to the Microsoft conference. He goes, “Oh, you know — some famous person was playing there, but he couldn’t get me in. I said, “Hey, why don’t you come to the Keith Urban concert with me? My husband can’t make it, and my son is coming with me.” So the three of us go down. We go to see Keith Urban. My family knows my friend, Robert, very well. It was great. We had a really good time.
Besides the good time I had, I was sitting in the American Express lounge, having a drink. I looked over and I said, “Hey, that guy really looks like Kevin Pillar, doesn’t it?” Robert’s like, “Yeah. Yeah, it does.” The guy beside us goes, yeah, and there’s like four other members of the team. There’s smoke and all these other guys, and they’re all in this private room. This girl goes over and gets her picture taken with Kevin Pillar.
I said, hmm. I love Kevin Pillar. He’s probably our favorite. We love him. Wouldn’t it be great if I get my picture taken with him? So, sure enough, my son had gone out to get junk food because that’s what kids eat. I went over to where the bodyguards were and asked Kevin if I could get my picture taken with him. He graciously said, yes. My son walks in and says, “Figures, my mom is standing there getting her picture taken with Kevin Pillar.” It’s so obvious that I like to meet people. I’m not crazy people when I meet people. I’m just like, “Oh, hi, how are you? Can I get my picture? Thank you very much. Have a great night.”
John: Yeah, but he plays for the Jays, and he’s in Canada. He’s just happy that people recognize him because he’s not on the Leafs. Everyone knows the Leafs. That’s super awesome though that it combined the two where it’s a Blue Jays player at a concert, and you get the picture. That’s awesome.
Gail: In the middle of the concert, he was on the floors. I like to be a little further back. Some concerts, the floors, but not at the Molson Amphitheatre or Budweiser Center, whatever they call it now. Anyway, in the middle of the concert, he gives Keith Urban a Jays shirt.
John: Oh, that’s great.
Gail: Keith Urban puts it on, so that even made it better.
John: Yeah, so then the place went nuts. That’s awesome. That’s very cool. You’ve been to concerts all over the US and Canada. You’ve been to quite a few. Is there one that’s one of your more favorites that comes to mind, or more unique, I guess?
Gail: The favorite person I ever saw was at — there’s a little casino in Niagara Falls, and it seats 1500 people. Steven Tyler decided to go and play there with his country band.
Gail: I got these seats, fifth row, center.
Gail: It was like he was right there with you. This was different. He was probably the most charismatic performer I’ve ever seen. Maybe he normally isn’t like that, but it was just, there’s only 1500 people. I don’t know if you know a lot about him, but he has this charity called Janie’s Charity. He was performing that. It was just this song, Janie’s Got a Gun.
John: Right. Yeah.
Gail: It was just such a meaningful concert. It’s funny because people don’t think you can get that from a concert. They’ll say, oh, it’s perfect if I listened to it on my recording. Well, who cares if it’s perfect on my recording?
John: Yeah, it’s super fun when the band goes off script, or they do extra solos, or they link something out, or they tell the story behind the song, or they do a different version of it. That’s why you’re there. You can listen to it at the mp3 or whatever or on Spotify, or now just say, tell the gadget what song you want to listen to, and it plays it. Or even some people that do covers of somebody else’s song, or maybe it’s a song that they wrote that someone else made famous and so they’re, here’s my version of it. Yeah, and that’s always fun to see, where you’re like, what, that’s awesome, type of a thing. Or it’s Steven Tyler singing country music. That’s great.
Gail: I have to admit he did sing my very favorite song, Dream On, and I recorded it, of course, on my little cellphone. It was just a different experience because of him being such a great star and being in such a small environment. I remember hearing one of my friends went to see — was at the El Mocambo, which is a little club in Toronto, and famous people come, and the Rolling Stones played there. They said it was the same kind of thing. Then the Rolling Stones just came up. Wow. That’s not an opportunity you get. He’s never played in a band again that I know of.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Gail: He’s back touring with Aerosmith when tours are back on again.
John: Right. Hopefully soon, hopefully, soon. Yeah, we’re all missing live concerts, but you have been able to see some live singing even during the pandemic, which I think is so fantastic how clever people have been to make it happen. Because when we chatted before, you talked about it was like a karaoke night but because all these bands aren’t touring, the lead singers and people that are really good singers aren’t performing. You stumbled into a karaoke night, and it was like all-star night almost.
Gail: It was incredible because the last time I saw live music, a friend of mine, he owns Toronto Fashion Week for men’s and women’s fashion, and you know what’s happened to the fashion industry. It was a cool event. We ended up meeting an Olympian at this little event in town that nobody knows how to pronounce that they see how it’s spelled called Stouffville.
Gail: So, here are all these people that are pretty famous, coming into Stouffville to watch the Canadian Fashion Film Festival, and then we went to the same venue and saw a band. This band played at Boots and Hearts. It’s a huge country festival in Canada. Some little guy that’s in his basement, and they said, this is the first time we’ve played since COVID hit. It was August.
John: Yeah. Wow, that’s crazy. Then you told me about how one had the clear shower curtain liners around the singers so then it could keep the COVID in, I guess. I don’t know.
Gail: Yeah, that’s a great story, John. Thanks for reminding me of that. We were driving along, and we thought, hmm, there’s a cute little place right on the water. Let’s stop in there. There’s a little pub and great. It was the whole nine yards, so we went in there. I said to my husband, “That sounds like live music. That does not sound like an album.”
John: Right. Let’s go. Find it. Find it.
Gail: We get in there. We got this amazing table. Here’s this shower curtain up inside, not just one. There are two shower curtains with a shower curtain in between, so, picture that. It’s like a crossword puzzle. You have two little boxes, and the shower curtains are all around it. The guy doing the karaoke, manning it, he’s on one side. He’s sitting there sterilizing everything, two microphones, and everybody has to have a microphone cap on, and he’s pointing the sterilized microphone through the little partition there between the two shower curtains so that — and these people could sing. I was just saying to my husband, “I don’t care if it’s even really bad music. I just want to hear live music.”
John: Yeah, yeah.
Gail: This guy that was up there, I was floored. I said, that person must be a professional. The next person one got up. She was just as good. The next person — the whole night had to be all professionals.
John: Yeah, because they’re not touring and they’re not performing anywhere. Instead, they’re in a shower curtain cube at a bar in the middle of nowhere, just working out their chops. Yeah, and I love that. That’s so great. I feel like that should be a movie with Will Ferrell in it or something, where it’s just pandemic karaoke, or I don’t even know. Even with all this, you’re still able to get some live music and even listen to the music as well. I loved how you said that earlier, where just listening to music is that escape from work and that stress relief. You’re not always thinking about work. When the music comes on, you’re able to take a break. How important do you think it is for people to have something to take that break?
Gail: It’s so true, John. There’s stress. Doesn’t matter what comes in your life. You could have death in your family. You can have whatever in your family. You can imagine, what do you think was playing at my mother’s funeral?
John: Oh, well, not a Cheech and Chong bit, I’m sure. Right?
John: Yeah, Elvis, like you said, yeah, yeah.
Gail: We played Elvis at my mother’s funeral because that’s what my mother brought us up doing. She was a happy person, full of life, lots of fun, and funerals are a very solemn time. My father didn’t want to go. We put a little bit of — it wasn’t like we’re dancing or anything in the funeral parlor. Don’t get me wrong.
John: Yeah, yeah. You were celebrating.
Gail: Yeah. So, you know what? At the end, my dad was like, “Am I ever glad you talked me into coming to this funeral.”
John: Right. Yeah, no matter what’s going on, even if you’re having a bad day or something didn’t go your way, a client didn’t choose you, you didn’t get the promotion, whatever it is, there’s all ranges of bad things. Then, yeah, given the pandemic, I’m homeschooling my kids, my spouse got laid off, whatever it is, there’s all kinds of crazy happening. It’s so crucial that you keep that “and”. You have that outside-of-work hobby and passion, whether you can actually do it, like going to concerts, not as much, but listening to the music, you can, and stumbling across that karaoke night. It’s almost like an oasis in the middle of the desert. It’s so crucial to have those. I agree with you, totally.
Gail: Right. I’m visiting Florida right now, and things are very much safe here. They still have live music outside. The other day, I listened to a steel drum band guy. He goes, “I was lucky. I gave up on cruise ships in January before all this hit, so we had gigs lined up.” Then Tommy, I sent you a picture of me with Tommy.
John: Whatsyourand.com, yeah, yeah.
Gail: Yeah, and seeing Tommy for many, many years. Tommy Treadway, he is just one guy, and he goes around and sings. Sometimes he sings with a band as well. I had a lot of fun the other night, and there was nobody there, by the way. There was art table and then about 35 feet away, there was another table, but it was all outside. It was at a restaurant where people were coming and going and picking up the food. It was just something the restaurant area of the resort wanted to have something fun for people to listen to while they were waiting for their pizza.
John: Yeah. Do you find yourself talking with, like when you’re at a conference, with people about their “and” or maybe music in general or clients as well?
Gail: Yes. Especially since I’ve met you, John, I’ve been telling everyone that I’m going to be on this podcast. They told me what their “and” is, and really a great insight into who people are because everybody wants to tell you their “and”.
Gail: I also said I like deep-sea fishing because I do. I love to go fishing, but concerts are really what I do the most of.
John: What really lights you up. Yeah, and you can have more than one. You don’t have to have just one. That’s so awesome to hear that you share that and then people are like, well, here’s mine. It’s like, wow, that’s awesome. It sounds like more people can be on the show, so that’s even better. That’s just cool to hear that you’re not hiding it, and no one cares, that has nothing to do with my business, whatever. It’s, no, no, share it. Why not? Because people like to hear that as well.
Gail: Well, we have to get educated all the time. When you go to a conference, everyone thinks, oh, you’re at a conference. It’s going to be so easy. You’ve got to be staying in a hotel room. All your meals are cooked. You’re looking at them. Are you kidding me? Breakfast at seven, and I might get home by 11, if I’m lucky, and then crash and have one of those showers we talked about at the beginning.
John: Yeah, yeah. Right.
Gail: Then pick yourself up and then we go from there, right.
John: Your brain is full. That’s for sure, yeah, and then meeting new people and all that stuff. That’s for sure. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that thinks, my hobby has nothing to do with my job, no one’s going to care about it?
Gail: I would disagree, 100%. I remember one time I was dancing around the office. We were having something going on. Everybody said, wow, I didn’t know you liked dancing so much. I thought, how could you have worked for me and not know that? So we started talking more about our hobbies, and everybody got to know each other a lot better. I think it really helped the organization.
John: Yeah, I agree, obviously, 100%. It’s cool to hear that it’s not just theory, make-believe. It’s legit real, and it worked. That’s cool. This has been a blast. It’s so much fun. We could talk music all day, for sure, but it’s only fair that, before I wrap it up, I turn the tables and allow you to question me. So, welcome to the first episode of The Gail Wilson Podcast. I don’t know. I tried to make it feel like it’s at a concert. Thanks so much for having me on, Gail. If you have any questions, or I’m happy to be your guest.
Gail: Well, John, welcome and thank you. You know what, I had to do a little prep work for this. I found out you have a punch line. I have a punch line. It’s really boring. Solutions that fit. Yours is much more fun than mine. It is. I really do, I love it because it’s true. Your punch line about getting serious results doesn’t have to be that serious. It’s true.
John: Yeah. Well, thank you.
Gail: Because I’ve met you at conferences, and it’s really important to have people get a little bit of lightness in their feeling because what we do is open heart surgery. It’s very serious work that we do in this field, and we have to really get to know all of the people’s ugly parts, right? Many people, they all say, everything’s great. Here’s my question for you. Everybody’s telling me how great everything is when, why are you calling me in then?
Gail: How about you, when you meet people, what do they say to you? Do you have to convince them that comedy is good? Or do they already know, you know what, our conference is a little dry, can you lighten it up a bit?
John: Oh, so when it comes to speaking at conferences, yeah. Sometimes people are nervous because they hear the word funny. They think that it’s not going to have any value or have any substance to it. Because oftentimes, speakers, if they’re funny and engaging, there’s not a lot of substance to it. It’s like cotton candy, where it looks big and it’s going to fill you up. Then you eat it and then two minutes later, you’re hungry again. Or they have a lot of content, but they’re really boring, and you don’t end up listening to any of it because you’re falling asleep.
The greatest compliment I’ve gotten is that I’m really, really good at combining the two, which is, I think, the way it should be. If people aren’t listening, then they’re not learning. If they’re laughing, then I know that they’re listening because you’re not going to laugh at a joke if you didn’t hear it. So, bringing a little bit of humor, a little personality to it.
Not everybody’s on board right away because it’s definitely different. It’s different than what’s been done. The cool thing is, is that there are a lot of meeting professionals out there that are feeling the pressure to do something different. That’s when they turn to me and then they realize, oh, wait, it’s actually about 90% substance and the meat, and about 10% is the funny that’s just sprinkled throughout so then you feel better about it.
That’s definitely something that I’ve had to overcome at times in conversation is, that it’s not just funny. It’s not a clown show. It’s funny for a reason. It’s the same with work. People that are in an office, it doesn’t have to be all serious all the time. It can be funny. There can be stories. You can be dancing, like you said, and still get your work done. If anything, I think you get your work done better if you’re dancing.
Gail: Well, I’ve studied a little bit about how to relieve your stress. I do some meditation and different things that I do. One of the things is actually from a Taylor Swift song that you’re supposed to do. Shake it up.
John: Okay, okay. Right?
Gail: It really, it’s a stress reliever. I always say people need to go to a lot of concerts, and they’re not on drugs, like me.
John: Right, exactly. I’m the same. I’m the same.
Gail: Even though it really does shake off that stress.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so cool. Well, Gail, I really appreciate you being a part of What’s Your “And”? It’s been so fun talking concerts and getting to know you more. Thank you so much.
Gail: Oh, thank you, John, for having me on. It was lots of fun.
John Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Gail at these concerts or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s 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 get 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.
Twyla is a Head of Accountant Channel & Mountain Enthusiast
Twyla returns to the podcast from episode 196 to talk about how the pandemic has given her time to reflect on herself and determine what’s best for her mental health, as well as finding a new hobby in hiking in the mountains!
• Why she is not running as much
• Getting into hiking
• Self-reflection and changing hobbies
• The more human you are, the more opportunity for an authentic relationship
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 362 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. Check out whatsyourand.com for more. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. It’s really, really overwhelming to see the impact that it’s making. For those who have been asking, fans of the podcast, the audio version is coming very soon. You can have me read you the book, if that’s what you want.
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, Twyla Verhelst. She’s the head of Accountant Channel, as well as the program leader for FreshBooks, and now she’s with me here today. Twyla, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Twyla: John, I am so excited to be back chatting with you. Thanks for having me.
John: Oh, for sure. This is going to be awesome. I mean, Episode 196, that was only a couple of years ago or so, and a lot has changed. Yeah, I’m excited to catch up, for sure.
Twyla: Yeah, me too. Thanks.
John: Oh, totally. I have my rapid-fire questions, things I didn’t ask the first time, probably should have. Here we go. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
John: Neither. That’s an answer. That’s fair enough, fair enough.
Twyla: I haven’t read either. I haven’t been into either series. So, I guess that’s my answer, neither.
John: No, no, fair enough. Fair enough. How about this one, talk or text?
Twyla: Text. Oh, gosh, text. Please text me first, then we’ll decide if we should talk.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so awesome. Here’s a good one, summer, winter, spring or fall.
Twyla: Oh, summer all the way.
Twyla: I like the warmth. Yeah.
John: There you go. When you travel, planes, trains or automobiles?
Twyla: Absolutely planes because I live in Canada so if I want to get to that warm weather, that usually means getting on a plane, unless we’re going somewhere in July and August.
John: Right. That’s awesome. Very good. With my audio book coming out in a couple of months, audio version, Kindle or real book.
Twyla: I love a real book. I love the look, the feel, the smell. I love all that, but when you’re trying to balance a lot of things like we are this year, I’m going to go with the audio.
John: All right. Oh, this one’s tricky, rain or snow.
Twyla: I won’t use the answer neither again because I want to say neither.
John: No, neither is not allowed.
Twyla: I will say snow just because you can do things in the snow versus in the rain.
John: Yes. I hate rain so much. I hate rain. I can’t even tell you how much, and I always have. It ruins everything. There’s nothing fun in the rain. I know somebody right now is tweeting at me, I love rain. Well, good for you. Soak it up, literally, pun intended. No, I agree. The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.
Twyla: Over, totally over.
John: Yeah, totally.
Twyla: It’s not even a question, John. You could stop asking that one.
John: I guess the cat people are under. I don’t know. I learned that after asking so many people, random strangers on the sidewalk, for the podcast. Yeah, but Episode 196, we talked running and marathon running with a bib on your shirt pinned on. There are pictures and all that. Is running still a thing for you?
Twyla: You know what, I’ve got a really interesting segment here first to chat about, with running. Because running is still a passion of mine, for sure, but 2020 really has been interesting because although running itself wasn’t canceled, races were canceled. I quickly learned how racing is an important part of my running. Now, just to lay the foundation here, I am not fast. It’s not like I am this super competitive, uber fast runner, but I do enjoy the challenge and the training of a race.
So, what happened was, I started out in January, keen on my goals for 2020, started training for my next marathon in May, and of course it was canceled. When it was canceled, I found myself in a spot of, alright, I’ve already started training. What do I do? Do I just keep going? With juggling life and juggling a kid at home and remote working and activities canceled, I found training and running a lot. I just found it to be that I wasn’t super motivated because I didn’t know when my next race would be.
I caught myself in this really interesting spot of, alright, so running itself isn’t canceled, but in my mind running was canceled. Now what do I do? What do I do to still pull in the things that I was trying to get from running, but doing something else? Usually my go-to would be, okay, I’ll go to hot yoga. Hot yoga classes are canceled. My next go-to would be, I’m going to travel. I’m going to get on that plane. I’m going to travel. Traveling was canceled. I kept going through all these different things to figure out what is it that I’m going to do.
I got really exploratory with things that were more local but that were more what I needed in a time of a global pandemic when life is just challenging. Because one of the things I love about a race and training for a race is the challenge. I like the mental challenge that’s required in order to train for and finish your race. When I say mental, some people would say, what are you talking about? It’s physical. You have to run. It’s your body. I find that, because I’m not an elite runner, really running is me versus me. Running is you versus you when you’re out for a run, and then you’re wanting to train for something.
What I love about that is that it’s you who set the expectation of training and then running and finishing. There’s nobody at the finish line to say, you have to get here. It’s not a team sport. There’s nobody that’s like, pass me the ball, or I need you to do this, so I can do this. It’s just not like that. Nobody cares if you stop your training or didn’t put in your effort. Nobody cares if you literally pull out partway through a race. It’s this mental fortitude that you develop in running that is like this challenge of getting through something even though there’s nobody counting on you to get to the end of it. I just find it’s this different skill set.
I found though, in 2020, when life was challenging enough, it’s like, I don’t need that right now. Because races started to go virtual and I could have gotten myself motivated for something like that, but it just wasn’t it for me.
John: How about I told you, I ran it, and then we’re good?
Twyla: Just write down this time. I did it. I promise.
John: Right? Send me the T-shirt and the pretend medal.
Twyla: Yeah, exactly, exactly. So, yeah, it just wasn’t motivating to me to sign up for something virtual. It created this opportunity to be really exploratory with what’s next and what do I want, to have more mental health as opposed to mental challenge. Because life was challenging enough, I need a balance, not more challenge added to my list. I started to then — like I said, I tried yoga, canceled. I tried thinking about traveling somewhere, canceled.
It got me thinking about what’s closer to me that I can still do that isn’t canceled that still is feeling grounding, balancing, outdoors. That became the mountains for me. I spent a lot of time in 2020, whether it was by myself on a little day trip, if that’s what I needed, or with my family. We spent weekends out there and even a week out there in the summertime, just to enjoy the mountains, which are a 45-minute drive for me. When you said planes, trains or autos, here I am saying planes, planes, but 45-minute drive and I get into the beautiful Rocky Mountains, which I do find very uplifting and grounding all at the same time.
You can do a variety of things out there, whether that’s hiking or still going for a run that’s not as competitive, how fast can I go, but just a nice run where you’re taking in the scenery more than anything. I took my laptop out to the mountains and just even did some creative work out there. No judgement here. Sit and enjoy a glass of wine, looking at the mountains, it all is just what I needed.
John: Just one glass? Come on now.
Twyla: I can’t tell you all my secrets, John.
John: Right, right, right. But that’s so true, just getting into nature and unplugging, literally and figuratively, can really do wonders for you. I love how you said that of the running was just as much mental as physical, which it is. There have been studies done with the Navy Seals and all that, where your brain tells you to stop before your body can actually stop. It’s a lot of mental. I agree with you totally. We don’t need more mental challenges in 2020. We need less. I love how you you came to that realization and then took action on it, which is great because you’re just in a better place. You’re a better professional because of it, which is great. It’s not more work and more, more, more. Sometimes it’s, take the foot off the gas a little bit. That’s so great to hear, and that’s so awesome.
Twyla: Yeah, what I love about being able to explore that and get to that spot is it’s not like I’m giving up running. I still go for runs. I’m just not training aggressively for anything. It’s not that I’m saying, running is a thing of the past for me, and I’ve moved on to something else. That’s not the case. It was just, especially last year, it was a not right now, not a not forever.
I just got really real with what it is that I needed in order to be the professional that I need to be, be the mom, be the wife, and more so now, needing to be the daughter, because my parents are getting older. They’ve moved in with us recently as a result of COVID, and my mum being faced with some mental challenges around COVID and how difficult it is. So I need to be able to be all these things.
So, that was getting just really honest with, alright, what do I need to keep myself centered and keep myself really grounded and really balanced while still having the opportunity to do something physical, but it’s something that’s really fulfilling and not an extra thing I’ve got to do each day.
John: No, that’s awesome. Yeah, because last year, yeah, it’s just a lot. When we first talked, these hobbies and passions and interests were a way to create connections with others and connections with clients and skills that we can bring to work and all this, but in 2020, it was, what can I do for my own sanity? That’s where your “and” is just as important for that also, so, kudos to you for doing that. That’s awesome. Is there a place in the mountains that you guys always went to, or just a variety of places?
Twyla: No, because it’s so close, you can go to a variety of places. There’s a town called Canmore, which is just outside of Banff that we often visit. It’s just a little bit smaller and a little bit quieter. That said, 2020, it was quieter than general because there were less tourists coming to the park, but, yeah, it depends on what we’re going to go do there. Where we wanting to just go and go for a little run around town and along the river and take in the views and then go for a nice little lunch? Which of course looked different, it was more takeout lunch and go sit on a bench, but is that what we wanted? Or was it like, well, we’re just going to go to — a couple of weekends ago, it was like, we’re just going to go do snowshoe for the morning and come back. So then you can go to a different spot. You don’t need to go into town. So, just depends what you’re going to do there, but it’s all within a 45 to 60-minute drive from us.
John: Do you find your almost, as a local tourist, discovering things? Oh, I didn’t even know this was here. Or I forgot this was here. I came when I was a kid or something like that.
Twyla: When it comes to hiking, it’s literally a playground that you can just keep exploring as long as something’s not too wildly steep. I am, in my older age, I’m getting to be a little bit wimpy when it comes to the steepness, but there’s just so many opportunities to check out, new places and see — even just seeing something in a different season looks different in the mountains. There’s a thing of the fall that’s got the pretty colors. There’s winter that’s obviously clearly different. Then there’s going out in the summertime when — we had a really warm summer last year, so it was quite hot for the mountains, where at the end, you could pop your legs into the river, which was quite cool and refreshing. It just looks and feels different each time of year.
John: That sounds so awesome. Do you feel like, since we chatted a couple of years ago, people are sharing their hobbies and passions more? I know you are, a ton. You’ve done a lot of videos and challenges with people on LinkedIn and social media, on Instagram or what have you. Do you feel like people are sharing their passions more?
Twyla: I feel like when you start to open up more, they start to open up more. It’s like you’ve opened the door for a safe space. I do think that inside of my new role with FreshBooks that I’m working for a global tech company that’s really predominantly been focused on software and a user experience of the software versus I’m creating an accounting professionals program. So I’m thinking very much about human experience.
What I would say that I’ve really learned since we last spoke is that the more human you are with somebody, the more opportunity there is for a deeper, authentic relationship. I think about that daily inside of this program. I think about that daily when we’re talking to our colleagues over remote Zoom chats and trying to do everything virtually. I used to think about that when we had clients, but you just think about it even more so now, with the changing time and the lack of opportunity to get together, face to face.
I do think that sharing more and being a bit more of an open book has created the opportunity for people to do the same and reciprocate that. It’s really quite interesting when you learn about somebody who, they’re a runner too. My initial boss at FreshBooks, I had no clue, but he is a runner. So then I quickly jumped onto my pictures. I was like, check out this one. Because he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I probably showed him one of those pictures that I shared with you a few years ago, and said, “Here is the run that I did across the Golden Gate Bridge.”
You just quickly can connect with somebody when they do share the same passion or interest. It’s like, bingo, this is an instant connection. There are times that they’ll share something about a hobby that you’re like, you do what? You can just be really curious about what it is that they’re up to, and maybe it’s something that you become interested in. Or maybe it’s just something that you learn more about, and you actually challenge that part of your brain instead of challenging the part of your brain that’s all work, work, work, or balancing your life right now. I think it just paves that way, when you open up more, that they share more, and you just get to learn so much more about one another.
John: That’s so encouraging to hear that this isn’t like Harvard case study bubble world. This is the legit thing that, within the last several months, you put into action, like with FreshBooks, starting there, the person that you’re reporting to, and like, here are pictures of me running. We connect over running, so much stronger than something else, even if it’s not the thing, like you said.
I had somebody just a couple of weeks ago, I was just talking to, and they said that they like to play pickleball. I was like, I don’t even know what that is. Now I need to Google it. What is this? What? Where has this been all my life? There are no pickles involved at all. I’m so disappointed. Yeah, but it’s cool because it’s interesting, not only about them, but just to learn something new even, type of thing. That’s super cool to hear. Do you have any encouragement for others listening that maybe they have a hobby or a passion, maybe it’s pickleball or running, that they think no one cares about, or maybe it’s piggybacking even on the steps you’ve taken to take care of yourself first?
Twyla: I think my my biggest advice would be that is to get curious, but that can be about yourself and about the people that you are in relationships with, whether that’s work relationships or client relationships or what have you. I am on this real desire to make sure that I’m always being curious, and that doesn’t necessarily just mean about myself. There’s always lots to learn about yourself and we know that, but then getting curious about other people and what they’re up to, and just continual curiosity. What is this? What does this mean? What’s inside of this for me? What’s inside of this for my clients? What’s inside of this for our company or our firm or our growth? There are so many things.
Sometimes when you get curious, it can be like, what you learned is maybe something that you’re really not that comfortable with. At least you learned it, and you moved on from it, or that you learned it — some people would say, well, you gave up running, and you could beat yourself up around like, oh, I really should get back out for a run. Gosh, I haven’t had my running shoes on forever. Depending on your personality, you can actually really be quite down on yourself by letting go of something that you used to be really passionate about.
I think getting curious is understanding that’s okay that you’ve let go of that. Now you’ve embraced something different that you need more right now. That’s the curiosity that I love. If you can extend that beyond yourself into other people, you’ll start to see that other people probably have some other type of habits like that, too. It can be even an opportunity for you to learn more about them as to what is it that they’re drawn to. Why are they drawn to painting versus something highly aerobic? Or why are they drawn to pickleball?
Pickleball is a completely different challenge than squash or tennis. Why that? It could be my why to that is because I’ve got friends who play, and now I’ve got somebody to play with. It could be squash is indoors, and they want to be outdoors. There are all these different things. You can learn, well, they obviously are an outdoor person, not an indoor person. There’s just so much learning inside of just somebody saying, “Hey, this is what I do.” It’s like, hmm, interesting. I wonder why you like to knit versus you like to play pickleball.
John: Then, too, companies can use those talents and that mindset in a certain way. If somebody is in a band or does musical theater or whatever, well, they like to be in front of audiences. If somebody likes to knit or do jigsaw puzzles, probably doesn’t like to be in front of people. So, choose wisely when you have a presentation to give, type of thing, or what kind of clients they’re doing or all that stuff. Such wise words, for sure. It’s only fair though, before we wrap this up, because this has been super, super awesome, is to turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Twyla podcast. Thanks for having me on.
Twyla: Thanks for joining me, John.
John: Right, absolutely. I kind of poked myself.
Twyla: Alright, I got two questions for you, not rapid-fire. I’ll let you think about them and give us a good answer. Have you, John, taken on any new hobbies in the last year or further embraced any hobbies that you already had?
John: Oh, wow. Okay, you’re going to make me think now. This is going to hurt. This is going to be painful. For me, I guess having the book come out was a good amount of work, so that took up a lot of my time and energy, for sure, which is definitely work-related. For me, college football is one of my big hobbies, passions. That happened, which is huge, because I was, literally, like, I don’t know what I’ll do if that doesn’t happen because I can’t go to concerts, the ice cream places are all closed.
I did, actually, I picked up rowing. Running, every time I run, I’m just thinking of everything else I should be doing besides running. I don’t know why, but my brain can’t just enjoy running. I’m literally like, there’s 100 things I should be doing besides this. Rowing, I can — and I just got the basic. It’s not super at all. It’s less than 100 bucks rower, but put on a YouTube video with the training, and so I can watch that and then row and do that as well.
I also enjoy that because it’s like 20 minutes, 30 minutes, bang. You get a pretty good heart rate up and all that, where running is an hour. I don’t know what. It could be shorter, I guess, but I just feel like it should be longer. So I did pick that up near the end of the year. I’ve never rowed. I’ve never thought of rowing. I guess I’m a little bit tall, so I can hang out with rowers. I don’t know.
Twyla: You feel like you’ll fit in there.
John: Yeah. So I do it about five days a week.
Twyla: That’s awesome.
John: Yeah. I’ll probably, at some point, upgrade to the real rower thing. Yeah, we’ll see if I keep going with it.
Twyla: That’s awesome. I love it. Now, maybe rowing machine companies will, all of a sudden, have this spike in sales, and you could say, you’re welcome.
Twyla: My next question for you, which may be your answer might still be rowing, is, what are you doing for your mental health? I’m going to just tell you why I’m asking you this and why this is different than the hobbies one. I find that many of us, myself included, are really starting each day at the subconscious level of residual stress. We’re starting at below our norm, whether we know it or not.
I feel like there’s just numerous ways that we can all cope with this stress and this pressure, and I just honestly feel like the more ideas we all have in our idea bank, then we can just pull from these ideas when we need them. Or look at, well, that might work for me. If John’s doing that and it seems to be helping him, I’m going to try that. So, I would love to know what it is that you are doing for your mental stress when we’re going through this global pandemic.
John: Sure. So, outside of a glass of wine…
Twyla: Just one. Just one.
John: Don’t judge me. I didn’t say how big the glass was.
John: I was at an Italian restaurant the other day, and the owner of the restaurant was like, we have these glasses that can fit a whole bottle of wine. I was like, I don’t believe you. They don’t even look that big. I was like, I don’t believe you. Sure enough, he had an empty bottle, filled it with water, brought it over, and I was like, that is amazing. Anyway, one glass of wine. No, but rowing is good.
My wife and I have taken — we went to Cancun for Thanksgiving, US Thanksgiving, because we needed something to look forward to, so we booked it in like July or August. It came, and we were like, well, we’re going. It was just similar to you, where it’s going to the mountains or just getting out of your normal environment is so crucial because the work for everyone else now is — I mean, for me, it’s in my home anyway, but for everyone else, it’s also now in your home. It’s not just like a laptop that’s in a bag or your phone. It’s your whole setup is there. For some people, it’s their dining room table because our homes weren’t built for all of this, spouses with offices, kids with a school room, and your bedrooms and a living room.
Getting away from that physical space, I think is huge for taking that break or even making connections with others. When we go back to the offices, go for a walk or go out to lunch or something. For me, it’s just getting away. I have a dog, take him to the dog park. It’s like a 30-minute, 45-minute break, but it’s outside. The sun’s shining and a little bit of exercise and fresh air. Let him run around. Sure, subconsciously, I’m still thinking because it’s really hard to turn that off, but not actually doing the work, and I’m not in that in that environment.
That would be my biggest tip would be just get out of the house somehow, go for a walk around the block or something. You’re not going to get COVID from taking a walk a couple of blocks. You’re outside.
John: But you’re right, there is a residual stress that’s there on all of our brains. That does take some mental toughness to get through. We’re not all in this together. We’re not all in the same place with the same experiences, with the same situation, so we’re not.
Twyla: I completely agree.
John: This has been great. Now you got me thinking and all of that stuff. My smoke alarm in my house is getting ready to go off.
Twyla: You’re going to have to take one of those walks outside.
John: Right, exactly. Exactly. Thank you so much, Twyla, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? This is awesome.
Twyla: Thanks so much, John. It was so much fun catching up with you. I hope that you enjoy those walks. Keep rowing, and we’ll chat again soon.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Twyla out in the mountains or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s 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.
Randy is an Accountant & Craft Beer Enthusiast
Randy Crabtree, a partner of Tri-Merit, talks about his passion for craft beer and how he applies it to his work with establishing connections with his clients. They’ve been doing some really fun and creative things around this during the pandemic!
• Establishing connections when interviewing candidates
• Getting into craft beer
• Virtual craft beer tastings with clients
• Randy’s previous “And”
• Why it’s important to have an “And”
• The organization’s role in encouraging employees to have fun outside of work interests
• Follow your passion, even if it means changing your profession
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 361 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 put it 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 that my book is published. You could check it out at whatsyourand.com. All the details are there and the links to Amazon, Indigo, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, a few other websites. Everything’s there. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s getting the book and reading it and then leaving such nice reviews on Amazon and sharing how their cultures have changed because of it.
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, Randy Crabtree. He’s a co-founder and partner with Tri-Merit, it’s headquartered in Chicago, and the host of The Unique CPA podcast. Now he’s with me here today. Randy, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Randy: Well, John, thanks for having me here. I’ve actually been looking forward to this since we set it up a few weeks ago, and I’ve got to tell you a couple things. Congratulations on the book.
John: Thank you, man.
Randy: I got a copy. I’m halfway through, but you’ve already affected me with that book, talking to our employees. Every time I talk to someone new now, I’ll ask them, “Hey, what do you do outside of work? What’s the fun things you’re doing? What do you enjoy doing?” I’ve just started to get on this roll of doing that, and it’s been awesome. I appreciate what you put together there.
John: Well, thank you so much, man. The episode’s over. We’re done, everybody. All right, that’s Randy Crabtree. No, thank you, man. That means so much.
John: Wow, that’s so cool. It’s also just cool to hear that it’s not fake theory stuff that’s in a bubble. It’s real life things that are actually pretty simple to do, and rewarding and enriching at the same time. That’s so cool.
Randy: I talked to a guy yesterday, one of our newer employees. He’s been around here a year but a newer end, and young guy. We started talking. I was asking him questions and found out he tore his ACL three times, playing sports, which I’m the only other person I know of who has done that. I tore my ACL three times. I’m like, yeah, we have this connection.
John: Right? Do you guys have a punch card where the next one’s free?
Randy: Exactly. I got a new knee now, so I don’t have to worry about that anymore.
Randy: They replaced it.
John: That’s super cool though, man. Look at that. Yeah, that connection that you have with him, that’s really neat. Really neat. Well, I have these rapid-fire questions. The first one was going to be, how many times have you blown out your knee? Now, I’m glad to know. No, I’m teasing. Because most people would say zero and then Randy’s over here hogging them all up.
Randy: That’s right, five surgeries in, so.
John: Oh, man, golly. Yeah, we won’t talk about any of that. All right. So I’ll do some easy ones. I’ll do some easy ones for you. All right, your computer, is that a PC or a Mac?
Randy: PC. I’m a CPA. It’s a PC. Is Mac even used in accounting? I have no idea.
John: I don’t know. I’m sure the cool ones are doing it.
John: So, on your mouse, is it right click or left click.
Randy: You know, I never even think about that. It’s the left click. Yeah.
John: Yeah, you’re making decisions. That’s what it is.
Randy: Exactly. I didn’t even know right click was an option.
John: Right. Okay. All right. Sometimes it opens up all the cool stuff. It’s all hidden. Yeah. No, I’ll get you so distracted later today. How about, here we go, trilogies, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Randy: Star Wars, for sure, and the original trilogy, which is what, episode 4, 5, 6. I don’t even know what it is.
John: Right, yeah. I actually haven’t seen the other ones because I’m scared to really — I don’t want to ruin it.
Randy: It can. It can.
John: Yeah. How about, suit and tie or jeans and a T-shirt?
Randy: Oh, jeans and T-shirt, for sure.
John: Okay, okay. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Randy: Crossword. Try to do it every morning but usually Sunday, for sure.
John: Wow. Okay. All right. How about a favorite color?
John: Nice. Mine too. How about a least favorite color?
Randy: First thing that popped in my head was pink. I don’t wear pink. I don’t know why it’s my least favorite, but that’s — I guess, I don’t wear it.
John: No, I hear you. I gotcha. How about — this is a fun one. Somebody asked me and I think it’s fun to ask people back — socks or shoes.
Randy: Socks or shoes. I’m going socks.
John: Okay. Yeah, that was my answer too.
Randy: Yeah. I’ve been in the Bombas socks lately, and they’re really comfortable.
John: Nice. Okay, all right. Now we’re getting sponsors for the show. How about, as an accountant, balance sheet or income statement?
Randy: Well, because I’m 58 and starting to get towards retirement, personally, I’m looking at balance sheet to see where we’re standing. That’s the first thing that came into my mind.
John: It’s very honest. It’s very honest. How about, here we go, Chicago, favorite deep dish.
Randy: Lou Malnati’s.
John: Malnati’s, there you go. All right.
Randy: Although I had Pequod’s a couple of weeks ago, which is, everybody in Chicago will say that’s the best, or at least the pizza people. It was really good. I just love the Lou Malnati’s crust, so I’m sticking with Lou Malnati’s.
John: Yeah, I don’t think I’ve had that one. Alright, how about a favorite actor or actress?
Randy: Adam Driver, not because of Star Wars, but Adam Driver is just amazing. I saw him in Star Wars originally. I wasn’t thinking of his acting. Sorry, I’m going to expand on my rant here.
John: No, no, please do. Yeah, yeah, because I haven’t had Adam Driver yet, so that’s a good answer.
Randy: Well, he was in, what was it, BlacKkKlansman, which he was really good at. Then I saw him in this movie, Marriage Story, didn’t like the movie, but he was amazing. Then now, I’ve just like, okay, I’ve got to see what else he’s in. I see he’s got a couple movies coming out. I’m looking forward to it. He’s just, in my mind, an awesome actor.
John: Yeah, he’s really good, really good, for sure. How about, oceans or mountains?
Randy: Well, I just spent last week on the ocean with a gulf, but if I had to pick one, it would be mountains.
John: Oh, okay. All right. You did a little rope-a-dope on me there. I like that. That was good. How about, are you more an early bird or a night owl?
Randy: Early bird. I actually asked my wife that because I was listening to one of your podcasts, and she goes, oh, you’re definitely an early bird. So, I’m an early bird because my wife says I am.
John: Right? Okay, okay. How about a favorite sports team?
Randy: Favorite sports team is the Cubs, favorite to watch is the Bears, but not the Bears of today.
John: Right? Yeah, the old ones, there you go. All right, how about a favorite number?
Randy: Seven. Lucky seven, that just came to my head.
John: There we go. All right, how about, two more, for books, Kindle, real book or audible?
Randy: It’s really all the above. I’ve been doing a lot of the audio books lately, one, because my wife and I would spend about 45 hours in the car over the last couple of weeks driving down to Southern Texas, so, a lot of audio books there. I’ve been getting more into the Kindle books. If I’m outside sitting on a beach, I just like the real book in my hand, but I’m getting more towards the Kindle.
John: Okay. All right. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Randy: Well, the favorite thing — I mean, I can go with just the normal, family, friends, health, all that, but the favorite thing I own, if we’re looking at an object, right now it’s my pop-up camper. My wife and I bought this 23 years ago, and for the first 13 years, used it a lot. Then the kids were in sports in high school, sports in college, and we stopped using it. Funny thing is, last summer, we took it out of storage, got it all tuned up, which was perfect timing because now we’ve used it quite a bit this year during the pandemic because you can go out, be safe, and go camping. It’s got us a renewed enjoyment of camping, so, the pop-up camper.
John: That’s fantastic, man, and it’s paid for because it’s the old one. There you go. That’s the best part.
John: It’s free. Yeah, that’s awesome, man. Very cool. Very cool. So, let’s chat craft beer. How did you get started with that? I’m guessing I know how but I mean, more appreciating craft beer as opposed to consuming it.
Randy: Yeah, I’ll try to make it a short story. Originally, when I started drinking beer when I was 10 years old like everyone — no, not ten years old.
Randy: You edit that out.
Randy: In college, I always would like the Michelob or the St. Pauli Girl rather than the Old Milwaukee. Although, I did enjoy a Stroh’s. I did enjoy a Stroh’s and all that.
John: A little step up.
Randy: It just seemed — I thought that there’s something different. Then as I got older and really when we started Tri-Merit, I started traveling a lot. Tri-Merit, we started 14 years ago. I started traveling a lot. After a couple of years, I started noticing these different beers around the country. I thought, hey, let’s try this one, let’s try that. I can’t even tell which was the first craft that I had on my travels, but I tried this craft beer. I was out east. I’m like, man, this is pretty good. It was an IPA. I can’t remember. I think it was a chain brewery. There are some out there like Gordon Biersch or whatever, but it wasn’t that.
Then it just started as I was traveling. It’s like, okay, let’s find what beers around here, and that just started getting more interest in it. It really kicked off when I was at my local liquor store, talking to the beer buyer. This is probably 10 years ago. This was January. He said, “Hey, you should try this one.” It was called Hopslam, and Hopslam just gets released in January, every year. It’s from Bell’s Brewery out of Michigan. I tried it. I was like, oh, man, this is amazing. So then I started to really hunt out different beers. It really got me going into it. So, that’s the origin story.
John: That’s fantastic, man. That’s great. Yeah, and so through work, it fueled your “and”, which is kind of cool, or got it started even. That’s actually how I got started in comedy. If it wasn’t for PwC having a training out in LA, I wouldn’t have gotten into comedy. So, there you go.
Randy: Yeah. I’ll expand on that in a second, but let me dig a little deeper on the — because this will tie together on the craft beer end of things.
Randy: All right, I’ll tease now. I’m actually, besides Tri-Merit, I’m a partner in a craft beer bar and liquor store, bottle shop, beer store, craft beer store, but we sell other things, in Chicago. That came out of my love of beer, but it also came out of a little bit of a down portion in my life. I had a stroke almost seven years ago. When I had the stroke, part of my recovery was just — I mean, I’ve always been a workout fiend. I work out all the time. After the stroke, they didn’t want me working out as hard, so I would go walking every day, walking a lot, just walk, walk, walk. One, mentally, you’re just trying to clear your head, but then I would have a beer podcast on while I was doing my walking.
The podcast at the time, I think it was more just he would release videos, and I would just listen to the videos. It was by a guy named Chris Quinn, who owns The Beer Temple. So he had hundreds of these, and I would just listen to him while I was walking. I get more excited about beer and get more educated on beer. Long story short, well, let’s make a long story long if you don’t mind for a second.
John: No, absolutely. We’ve got time, man. This is great.
Randy: This was actually a week before my stroke, not after my stroke. I was traveling before the stroke, a week before the stroke. Because I had a stroke February 6th of 2014, week before the stroke, I was in New York, Super Bowl week, go into this hotel, rough day of travel, didn’t expect anything good, get there, and they had this Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout, which is an awesome beer.
John: Yeah, Brooklyn Brewery is great.
Randy: It is great. Sat down, had that beer, and it just relaxed me for that rough day of travel. Travel doesn’t normally bother me, but that week, it did. Fast forward a year later, after the stroke, there was a contest where you had to write your favorite memory of drinking a Brooklyn beer, Brooklyn Brewery beer. I just wrote the story about the stroke and then remembering back to before the stroke, having this beer and how it just made me relax and no concerns. Put a lot of time and effort into this, and I thought it was an awesome story. I thought, there’s no way I’m not going to win this contest.
The contest was to go to, actually a podcast taping with Garrett Oliver, who is the head brewer and part-owner of the brewery. It was going to be like 20 of us there. You’re going to have FaceTime with him, get to meet him kind of a legend, not kind of, is a legend in craft beer. So, wrote the story. A couple of days later, got an email. Hey, you’re invited to this get-together with Garrett Oliver.
John: That’s awesome.
Randy: I knew I was going to win. Then that turned into — that night, somebody new Chris Quinn who owns The Beer Temple, who, now I’m a partner with. Somebody there knew him. Somebody was starting to say, “Hey, Chris is thinking of expanding. I think he needs help. Can you help?” I’m like, what? I don’t know. How am I going to help this guy?
John: Right? I’ll just drink all the inventory. That’s what I’ll do.
Randy: Exactly, but I felt like I knew him from listening to all these podcasts. The next day, I got introduced to him in an email. We met a week later. Within a couple of weeks, we decided, you know what, we can probably do some stuff together and try to expand this business. That’s how I got involved with not only drinking craft beer but, I guess, selling craft beer.
John: Yeah, but you’re just a fan of and an aficionado of sorts. You know a lot about it just from being around it and then just learning more about it. That’s super cool, man. What a great story though. That’s so great. Yeah. Do you feel, at all, craft beer gives you a skill or a way to relate to people when you’re at work? Does it transfer into the office?
Randy: It does. It’s not that we go out of our way to hire people that enjoy craft beer, but it seems like either I force it on them, which I don’t think I do. It’s just the thing. People are liking craft beer these days. The pandemic has actually allowed this to happen. We’ve melded both businesses together from a standpoint that — and prior to COVID, I was traveling. I’m sure you travel a ton, but I was traveling 110, 120,000 miles a year on planes, 100-whatever, 50 nights a year on the road, whatever it is, a lot of time.
John: A lot.
Randy: What we do is we support CPAs through different tax areas, specialized tax areas, so I go meet with our CPAs and take them out to lunch or dinner or breakfast or a drink. Or I go to conferences. I speak at a lot of conferences. That’s all changed now. What we’ve designed is, we came up with this idea. We love craft beer. Most of our people that we’re dealing with, at some level, like craft beer. So we started these virtual craft beer tastings.
John: Love it.
Randy: Where, what we’re doing is we’re sending four beers out to a CPA firm, four beers a person. If they have 20 people that want to get on, if they’ve got two people that want to get on, we’ll send them out the beers. My partner, Chris Quinn, from The Beer Temple will get on and talk us through tasting the beers, explain the beers, answer any questions about beer in general, not even those beers, just have a real relaxed time, talk and then drink craft beers.
So, we’ve been doing this, and we have not had a firm say no to this. In fact, I got an email yesterday, because it’s a Zoom call we do it on, and they said, this may win the award for Best Zoom Call ever. So, we’re doing a lot of that. We get to meld these businesses. We get to stay in touch with our clients, which our clients are the CPA firms. We get to stay in touch with our clients. We get to have a great time. Everybody leaves, having an awesome time, and we get to relax for a while, not think about COVID-19, not think about not traveling and just have a lot of FaceTime and closeness with people that we wouldn’t be able to do now.
John: I love that. That’s such a great idea and such a simple thing. It’s something where, never once during that call are you talking about work, or hey, can we sign up a new contract, or, hey, whatever. No, it’s purely beer and talking about beer and people that like beer. We send you it. You can sample it. You’re going to learn some stuff. That just goes such a long way in that client relationship, or even coworker relationship amongst their team and with your team. It’s so cool.
Randy: The things we do are usually have an engineering background to them, the services that we do, tax-wise. What we’re trying to do now is get all project managers, which is typically an engineer, on the Zoom call with the CPA firm that they’ll be working with so that they get a better relationship going on with our project manager as well. Again, everybody has fun.
John: It’s awesome, man. What a great example. It’s literally taking your “and” and just magnifying it and then finding out that other people like it, too. Then it’s just a collective fun thing that everyone can bond over. What a perfect example, man. I should have had that in module three of my book, example number ten, of what to do. You’ll be in the second book, whenever that comes out.
Randy: Second edition.
John: Yeah, but what an easy example for people to do even just amongst your team, just have somebody come in that knows what they’re talking about, wine, beer, whatever, food, something that a lot of people like, and go with it.
John: When you were coming up through your career, was craft beer something that you would talk about or not really? Or is it something that came on later?
Randy: That didn’t start really until Tri-Merit started and when I started travelling. I would search out a little bit better beers, but really the craft portion’s the last 10 to 12 years, and that’s been my Tri-Merit time.
John: Yeah, exactly. I was just curious. Earlier in your career, was there something else then, like a different —
Randy: Oh, yeah. I’ve always had an “and”. My “and” for the longest time was basketball. I’ll guarantee you, I’ve probably played more basketball games than anybody you know or have met.
John: No, no, I believe you.
Randy: That was my “and”. Then when my playing days were diminishing, I was still playing but coaching. I’ve coached 500 games probably. I don’t even know but, yeah, it’s a lot, from every level, from just park district teams to junior high team to AAU teams to all these different things. So that’s been a passion for years, but my kids are older now. I’m not playing now. It’s easier to relax with a good beer than to have to write up plays anymore. I’m retired from that.
John: That’s cool, man. It’s just cool that there was always something there, above and beyond work. How important do you think that is for people to have something, an “and”?
Randy: I think it’s huge. I’m of the mindset that — I know there are people out there that love work, and I love work. I have a great time, but work is not who I am. Now I feel like I’m stealing lines from your book or something. Work is definitely not who I am. What I am is a dad. What I am is a husband. What I am is a stroke survivor, a craft beer enthusiast, a camper, a traveler. That’s who I am.
John: Yeah, yeah. Mentally, it’s just better, where not everything hinges on something at work. Be good at your job and like your job and like the people around you, but there’s more to who you are, for sure.
Randy: You and I talked before, but when I knew I was going to go into business for myself, which was back actually in — well, it actually started when I was 16, but that’s not when this started.
Randy: A window washing company I started when I was 16, which is actually a lot of fun, too. There was hiring all my high school friends and paying them about three times what minimum wage was, and I was probably making about 10 times what minimum wage was. When I started public accounting, I was like, okay, there was a list of rules, not rules, but things I wanted to do. We won’t always want to have fun. We want to make sure that — I don’t want people thinking, why do I have to work on this holiday? Or why are we — get your work done when you can get it done. Be smart about it. You’re all professional. So we’ve always tried to have that mindset that fun and outside stuff is important.
John: That’s awesome. Yeah, because the work will happen. It’s always there.
John: But you have to be intentional with making time for the other. How much do you feel like it is on the organization to create an environment where it’s okay to have outside-of-work interest and then share them, versus how much is it on the individual to just get it started?
Randy: I don’t think you can force people to have other —
Randy: You could tell them, hey, you don’t need to be working — I was going to say 80 hours. That was my past life when I was in public accounting. Now, 60 hours is a crazy week. You don’t need to be doing that. You know what, I think you’re more productive if you don’t do that. That’s my personal opinion. I’m sure people would argue with that.
John: Some science behind it too, actually, but yeah.
Randy: It’s not our role to force you to have other interest, but I think it’s our role to encourage what you like outside of work and try to incorporate that in the fun we have with work.
John: Also model it, which you clearly are. Because if someone at the top says, “No, no, go,” but they’re workaholics and are at the office all the time, well then that’s not going to work. Because if I’m a staff person, I’m like, you’re setting me up for a trap because I’m going to go and have fun, and then I’m going to come back and my key card doesn’t work.
Randy: We have four partners in the firm now, and I think we all model that fun portion, that outside activity portion. I don’t think — maybe a couple partners who work more than, but it’s just the role they’re in.
John: Sure. No, absolutely, but they have an “and”, and they make time for it when it’s time. That’s super cool, man, and such a great example for people listening, to just take those small steps and encourage them to do that. Do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that maybe have a hobby or a passion that they feel like has nothing to do with their job, or no one’s going to care?
Randy: Well, I feel like every time I say something about this, I’m stealing your words and ideas, but…
John: It’s all good. It’s all good.
Randy: Follow your passions and, honestly, even follow your passion if it changes your profession. Really, if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, I think you have to have fun with what you’re doing, as well as what you’re doing outside of work. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing at work, it’s just going to hurt what you’re doing outside of work as well. This comes from a guy that’s changed professions, multiple times. I started as a computer programmer, then I went into food sales, and then I decided I should be a CPA, became a CPA, then I went into real estate development. Then were doing this, especially taxes. I guess that’s just the way I live things. I get tired with something after a while. It’s like, alright, it’s time to move on. If I’m not having fun, let’s try the next thing, but this is the last thing, Tri-Merit.
Honestly, I changed my roles in Tri-Merit, about four years ago, from basically being — I’m a self-appointed Managing Partner from the start, just because there were two of us when we started. As we grew, it just continued that way and realized that is not my passion at all. My partner that started the firm with me is much better at that than me. I was to the point, four years ago, I was like, I’m just tired of this. I’m not sure I want to do this anymore. Now that I found the role in the business that I love, which is just drinking craft beer with CPAs, I can’t imagine not doing this anymore. I mentioned retirement before. I want to have that option, but I don’t see that for a while.
John: That’s such a great thing of the renewed energy you got at work when you were able to bring your “and” in and bring it there. That’s it. That’s not necessarily your job, but when you’re able to bring the energy you get from your “and”, into the office, then you have a renewed energy for the work that needs to be done.
Randy: I agree, and I’m lucky I’m able to do that. Not everybody can do it as easily as me probably, but do the best you can.
John: Or you can talk about it, at the very least, then you find some other people that maybe like to do the same thing or come watch you perform or whatever. That’s cool, so cool. Well, before I wrap this up, it’s only fair, since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning, that I turn the tables and let you fire away. I am super nervous for this. I’m not going to lie. I’m very nervous.
Randy: Here’s the first obvious one, beer, wine or other.
John: I’m more of a wine guy, wine and cider. I don’t know if that — cider is as close to a beer as I usually get.
Randy: Yeah, cider is a good option as well. I was always a, eh, cider, it’s this sweet thing. I’m not going to like it. There are so many good dry ciders that I didn’t even realize were out there that I’ve got to start trying —
John: And they’re way more than just apple. There are so many. It’s amazing.
Randy: Nope, I can definitely see the cider end of things. Alright, I think I know the answer to this one, but football or baseball.
John: That is a tricky one. I’d probably say football. It’s a little more active.
Randy: I had a feeling you were going to say football. I’m sure your listeners know, but you’re a Notre Dame guy, and Notre Dame is kind of known for their football.
John: Yeah, a little bit, a little bit.
Randy: Just because it’s getting really cold where I am right now, summer or winter.
Randy: You can pick another one, I guess.
John: Fall, definitely the sweet spot. Fall, just because there’s Thanksgiving, which is awesome, and football, and the weather’s perfect. I would probably say winter, I guess, if I had to choose between the two, just because summer can get gross, hot. I’ve got to cut the lawn and all that.
Randy: See, I look at the lawn as exercise. It’s like, alright, I’m going to get 5,000 steps in when I’m cutting the lawn. I look forward to that, and I get to listen to John Garrett on What’s Your “And”?, on the podcast while cutting the lawn.
John: Nice. There we go. Starting out with the sweetness and ending with that, I like this. I like this. All right. Well, no, this has been awesome, Randy. Thank you so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Randy: Yeah. No, believe me, it’s been a blast for me. I really appreciate you thinking a lowly craft beer drinker is worthy of your show. I appreciate you having me on.
John: If people listening want to see some pictures of Randy outside of work or maybe connect with him on social media or the link to The Unique CPA podcast, everything’s there at whatsyourand.com. While you’re in the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to get the book. As Randy said, it’s pretty good.
JP is a CFO & Cyclist
JP Lisdorf, of Lisdorf International Consulting, talks about his passion for cycling, sportsmanship, and how quality hours of work are more important than more hours!
• Getting into cycling
• How his cycling relates to his work
• Quality hours
• Why it was difficult for him to share at first
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 359 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 put it 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 that my book is published. You can check it out at whatsyourand.com. All the details are there. If you like the podcast, you can hear a lot more and get deeper into the research that I’ve done in the book. It’s available on Amazon, Indigo, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, all the book websites. All the links are on the page at whatsyourand.com. I can’t say how much it means that people are reading the book and then leaving such nice reviews on Amazon, and more importantly, just changing the cultures where they work because of it.
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, Jeppe Lisdorf. He’s a consulting CFO living in San Diego, California, and now he’s with me here today. Jeppe, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And?”
Jeppe: Well, thank you. You literally made my dreams come true.
John: Thanks, dude. You’re too much, man. It’s literally like, I was like, hey, I’d love to have you on the show sometime because you said, “Hey, I love the podcast.” You were like, “What? That’d be great. “Literally, it’s, people who want to be on, email me. Let’s do it.
Jeppe: No joke. I’ve listened to you, every single podcast, since 150.
Jeppe: I’m a huge fan.
John: Well, thanks. Hopefully I’m getting better, over time.
Jeppe: I don’t know. It’s difficult to improve on the Mona Lisa.
John: Oh, you’re too kind, man. You’re too kind. You’re already my favorite guest, and we haven’t even started. There we go. No, but thank you, Jeppe. Honestly, that really means a lot. You know the drill, 17 rapid-fire questions. We’re going to have some fun here.
Jeppe: What can I win?
John: What can you win? You can come back for the Follow-Up Friday.
Jeppe: Awesome. I’ll take it.
John: There you go. There you go. Alright, let’s start with, here’s one, oceans or mountains.
Jeppe: Oh, this is fun. I’m from Denmark, so, hands down, mountains because we don’t have any mountains in Denmark. Our tallest place is like 200 yards, 115 meters. My wife always makes fun of me that every time we’re out driving, like, oh, look, there’s a mountain. My wife is from here, so she’s like, “Yes, it’s a mountain.” She always jokes with me.
John: That’s funny. Every day, you’re surprised that they’re still there?
Jeppe: Yeah. No, it’s just literally like, I get to drive to this office where I work, and I see this huge old time mountain that’s out in the background. I’m always like, wow, it’s so beautiful. My wife just thinks, yeah, they’re still there.
John: Right? No, but it’s true. I live in Denver. I’ve only been here a couple of years, and it’s true. It takes your breath away. It’s almost like a wallpaper sort of a thing. Are they really there, or is it just a tarp that somebody put up?
Jeppe: It’s beautiful. I think because we’re Danish and we’re such a flat country, we have this inferiority that when we see mountains, we’re just blown away.
John: That’s awesome. Some people, they’re called pitcher’s mounds on baseball stadiums. That’s a mountain. That guy’s up on a mountain, playing baseball. No, that’s hilarious. All right, how about a favorite sports team?
Jeppe: Oh, shucks, favorite sports team, that would have to be the Green Bay Packers.
John: Oh, okay. All right. Wasn’t sure if we’re going soccer or —
John: All right, Green Bay Packers, interesting. How about a favorite number?
Jeppe: Funny you should say that. It’s number 4 because of Brett Favre.
John: There you go. I was going to say, right in line. All right, and when it comes to books, Kindle, real books or audio version.
Jeppe: I never got the hang of Kindle. Audio books, I can’t pay attention. I did that in the car. I love books. I love the smell of books. My wife complains because they take up so much space in the house, but it’s just, I love books. I love the feeling of books, so, yeah, hands down.
John: Awesome, man. I’m with you on that one. I’m with you, for sure. How about, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Jeppe: I never understood Star Trek. Hands down, Star Wars. Star Wars number two, I saw that, literally, like 150 times. Next after The Big Lebowski, that is my most watched movie.
John: That is your favorite one, okay, and then Star Wars, okay. Wow, all right. More suit and tie or jeans and a T-shirt.
Jeppe: Hands down, suit and tie. I used to work for a company that had a lot of millennials, and they had — very dressed down. I respect, but I just feel that you have to be appropriately dressed. I’m sorry.
John: I enjoy a nice suit as well, especially once I realized that there are these made-to-measure companies, so they make them for people like me.
John: Because off the rack, it’s —
Jeppe: You mean handsome fellas?
John: Well, just lanky, I think is the word for it. It’s somewhat athletic but just the sleeves are too short for the shoulders then the waist is giant. It’s just dumb. The made-to-measure, they’re super fun. You can make your own inner lining. Yeah, I agree with you. Computer, PC or a Mac.
Jeppe: PC. I do Excel work. I, literally, I never use the mouse. I’ve learned everything in my head.
John: Oh, wow.
Jeppe: Literally. It will be hours before I touch the mouse. For me to relearn that with a Mac, I wouldn’t.
John: Yeah, all the hotkeys and the shortcuts.
Jeppe: Exactly. I’d rather just retire.
John: Right. I’d rather just win the lottery and then be done. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Jeppe: Yeah, really none of those.
John: None of them. Right. Okay, fair enough. That works. How about a favorite ice cream flavor? I love ice cream.
Jeppe: That will be pistachio.
John: Oh, okay. Yeah, you don’t see that everywhere all the time.
Jeppe: No, that’s true.
John: How about a favorite color?
Jeppe: That will be blue.
John: Yeah, mine too. How about a least favorite color?
Jeppe: Oh, shucks. Yeah, I’m not a hater.
John: In case they’re listening, you don’t want to hurt their feelings.
John: That’s awesome. All right, here’s a fun one. Socks or shoes.
John: Both? Okay, I’ll give it to you. All right. No, somebody asked me that one a little bit ago, and I thought it was hilarious. So I’m having fun asking people that. How about, what’s a typical breakfast?
Jeppe: Yeah, that one’s bad. I used to have a great routine and just eating fruits in the morning. I did juices and stuff like that. Then life happens and you forget it. I’m really bad and inconsistent. That’s actually going back to what we’re going to talk about, my cycling thing, later. That is really the big thing that I need to get back to, doing better.
John: No, no. I’m not the healthiest individual when it comes to eating either, so it’s all good. I’m not judging for a second. I’m actually proud of you, to be honest. I’m not the only one, woohoo. All right, since you have the CFO accounting background, balance sheet or income statement.
Jeppe: Here’s a funny story. Obviously, just to answer your question, first of all, income statement. Now, a couple of years ago, I was interviewing for a job with Bloomberg for a financial analyst. They asked me, “What is the most important financial statement to tell you what’s going on with the company?” I was so nervous, and I did what some accountants tend to do. I was overthinking the question, so I ended up answering, statement of owner’s equity.
John: That’s awesome.
Jeppe: In my mind, I was thinking, oh, well, what can tell what happens to the company? Instead of just saying income statement, which is the obvious question, but that was too simple. I was overthinking it and came up with statement of owner’s equity.
John: Right, that’s hilarious. That’s super funny. All right, we’ve got three more. Favorite actor or actress.
Jeppe: That will have to be, either the dude from The Big Lebowski or Clint Eastwood. When I was in high school, we had a Clint Eastwood, a friend and me, and we would just meet every Sunday night and watch Clint Eastwood movies.
John: That’s fantastic.
Jeppe: It was.
John: There’s a ton of them.
Jeppe: There are, and they’re all great. The rule was you’re not allowed to talk when Clint Eastwood was in this scene.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so good. That’s so good. I wish that that was your “and” still.
John: That would be awesome. How about, are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Jeppe: Well, I’m probably more of a night owl right now. We just had kids. I take, literally, the whole night shift. I take it then my wife does everything else, so I guess I’m a night owl.
John: Okay. Okay. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Jeppe: I will say the favorite thing I own would be my bike, obviously. It’s not a super expensive bike, I’d say. When I was back just before college, I bought my first real racing bike. I had a girlfriend at the time, and she was complaining. She was like, “You spend so much money buying stuff for that bike, and I never get anything. Only when it’s my birthday do I get a present. Sometimes I wish I was that bike.” I mean, I really liked that bike.
John: That’s awesome. Right? The bike’s still with me.
Jeppe: Yeah, it’s very nice bike. Actually, I gave it to a friend of mine, so every time I’m visiting him, I still ride it.
John: That’s cool to hear, man. That dovetails perfectly. We’re talking about cycling.
John: Yeah. So I guess you’ve been riding for a while. How did you get started with that?
Jeppe: It’s funny. I grew up watching cycling with my dad. That was like watching the Tour de France with him. It was something that some of my earliest memories are watching that with him. I never really got into it as a kid because if you want to buy a road bike, it’s way too expensive, even just getting a decent road bike. It’s not that my parents couldn’t afford it, but they were more like, “Hey, we want to make sure that you want to do this.” I was like, yeah, I’m not sure.
I played soccer as a kid. It was only when I turned 19 and I got my first job, I saved money and then I bought my first bike. That was the bike that I bought all those things for. Then I started competing. I got a good start on it. It was literally the summer before I started college. I was like, hey, I can be really good at this, or I can party and meet girls. Then option number two, one out, but it was funny because it reminded me of something in one of your Friday Follow-Ups a couple of weeks ago. Well, it was like back in November. There was a guy who, he was a jazz pianist.
Jeppe: Damien, yeah. He said his frustration was that he didn’t play so much because he used to be able to play at a level, and he couldn’t play at that level anymore. That was exactly what happened to me because I thought, okay, I’m going to do the party scene in college and have fun, and I’m still going to cycle. What happens is, I used to be living breathing for cycling, all I thought about, eating, ride, practicing, ride. Then all of a sudden, okay, you don’t go for that many rides. All of a sudden, you can’t go on those three or four-hour rides. Now they become two-hour rides. What you see in a two-hour ride is not so much. You really don’t get out of the city. Eventually, it gets to a point where like, hey, why even bother.
What Damien said really connected with me because when you’ve done something at a certain level, you have standards for yourself and for the people around you. This goes both for an individual sport, and also for people sport or team sport. You’re used to being at a level. You see things. You experience things. If you play soccer or something that you used to be very high level, now all of a sudden, you’re a team that is low level because you don’t have the same time available as you used to. The people around you are not so good. All of a sudden, you see the game in a way where you’re like, hey, this is not fun, because the things that were fun were like — I don’t know. I know you’re a comedian. I think there’s something similar there.
You said something also way back. What makes Jerry Seinfeld fun is he said that joke 10,000 times. He has developed a pitch and a knowledge and his timing is perfect. The point is, if you stop doing comedy for years, do you still have that? I don’t know if it’s the same in comedy, but I know in many sports and people I know —
John: Totally. You get out of practice. You just get rusty, and you know in your brain — I mean, it’s similar to it. I used to play soccer as well, not as much anymore, but my brain says I can go and get that ball but then my body does not. Your brain is like, I know what can happen, I know what really good is, I know what I’m capable of; but that’s for somebody that dedicates a lot more time to it and practices more and all of that. At some point, you have to either say, look, it is what it is and whatever; or another big thing is just I enjoy cycling. It’s not at the same level, but I enjoy it and that works. That’s the thing that I think a lot of people, they either want to be, if they’re not world class then they’re nothing. There’s so much in between that’s still to be celebrated and shine a light on.
Jeppe: Good point, and you can still have fun doing that. That’s so true. Yeah.
John: Yeah, but you’re not alone in that. Obviously, Damien, I’m the same way. I can resonate with that totally. It is hard to just recognize that, yeah, it’s not the same level, but there’s still the joy. Hopefully, you can still find that.
Jeppe: Yeah. No, no, I refound my love for cycling, five years ago. That’s the thing. We’re not talking about something that’s 20 years ago. No, no.
John: No, no, no, of course not. I knew that.
Jeppe: Yeah, and that’s the thing. In between, I had a love affair with cricket. That was also cool, but, yeah, I rediscovered cycling here about three to five years ago. It just started with, I got a road bike, a really, really good road bike, and then I took some classes. We have a velodrome, a track here in San Diego.
John: Oh, yeah, those are the small — those are intense, man. Those are great.
Jeppe: Are you kidding me? It’s the best. Now, what do you call, it’s almost like a calling to me that I want the velodrome cycling to grow bigger. Because here’s my point, John, if there had been a velodrome in my hometown when I was growing up, I would have been one of the best cyclists. I mean, it’s easy to say that. My point is, because track bikes, you can get a perfectly fine track bike for $500. If you’re a kid, you can ride that one to every single thing. Yes, you’re not going to have the fanciest bike, but it’s good enough. That’s the point. It’s not the same with road bikes.
Here’s the thing, I got into track cycling, okay, then I ended up buying my first track bike. That was just like 500 bucks. I was like, okay. I love the track because the competition is so intense. The thing is, we have Friday night races. You go Friday. There’s warm-up at seven and then there are three races that are five to 10 minutes each. You just go all out there, and that’s awesome. Then at night, you’re done. Hey, that’s so good. Either you won some or you lost some, but you had so much fun. Everybody is in just communal spirit, and they’re just making it happen. So I fell so much back in love with cycling, and it consumes me. It got to the point where, actually, last year, I did more miles than I’ve ever done. At 41, I did more miles than I’ve ever done at any stage in my life.
John: Good for you.
John: Yeah. That’s fantastic, man. I think it’s cool too, because it sounds like there’s also a community to it. Because cycling can be very individual but when there’s a community to it, then there are people that have a genuine interest in you, and you have a genuine interest in them.
John: It’s a group thing.
Jeppe: It’s so cool. You go there. You ride the first race. Then you’re talking trash because there’s always someone younger than you. You’re sitting there on the benches after the race, and you’re just calming yourself. There’s always this young hotshot who goes to San Diego State University or something like that, and he’s always faster than you. I just try to egg him on or do something, but that’s just fine.
John: Get it in his head.
Jeppe: Exactly. This is the point. That’s one thing I believe very much. When it comes to sports, like you say, get in his head. It’s okay to do that. It’s probably not completely sportsmanship.
John: It doesn’t matter.
Jeppe: Here’s the thing, and this is something that’s very important to me. I learned this while playing cricket actually. When I played cricket, I would go all out to win. Everything within the rules, I would do that. The point is, I would be the most fierce competitor. This thing is, when the game is over, I’d be the first one to go in the bar. Hey, let’s have a beer and talk about the game and just have fun. Because that’s the point, you have to be really, really competitive and go all out in the moment and then afterwards, maybe somebody treated you wrong, or there was something that didn’t go your way, forget about it because we’re all friends.
There’s a competition. When you step outside the line, you’re over. You’re best friends. I think that’s the spirit of the sport. That’s the spirit of the way I always played the game, both the game of cricket and in cycling. I don’t mind being really, really — I mean, I become a different person when I’m on the bike. It’s very, very respectful. I always talk to people, like, hey, afterwards. Make sure that outside of the track, we’re communal, but I will talk trash. I’ll say anything I can to win when I’m in the race or when I’m playing the game or whatever. The point is, you have to also just remember that we’re all human. Your competitors are human, and they want to win too. Just let them know that, hey, it’s nothing personal. I like you as a person. I just want to win.
John: Right. It’s that simple. It really is. That’s exactly it. Actually, as you were describing that, it reminds me of a lot of times when I was in corporate world of, you’re in a boardroom and you’re hashing out ideas. Somebody says something, and you’re like, there’s no way. That is a terrible idea, do not even put it on the board, whatever. After, it’s like, let’s go to lunch. It’s not personal. It’s just how it is. Do you feel like the cycling and/or the cricket gives you a skill in some way that translates to work?
Jeppe: Yes. One of the things I work with, it’s bursts of intensity. When you’re riding a race, you’re not going all out, all the time. You have to be like 80 to 85%. Sometimes you’re 90 and then you’re back to 85, knowing that and like — I know a lot of people, and especially in accounting, and no disrespect, I know people are talking about working 60 to 70-hour weeks. I’m not sure how factually correct that is, but that’s not my problem. My thing is, if you are working those long hours, you need to conserve your energy. You need to look after yourself.
That’s one of the things I’ve learned where, when I have a long day and I know I’m coming in for 12, 14-hour day, I know I’m not going all out the entire day. I need to space my day. I need to do something where I’m like, hey, now I have to be really, really on point. Now there’s something where I can do, for instance, a reconciliation or something that doesn’t require much brain but just more repetitive. You put your headphones on, you listen to music, and then you come back.
It’s that thing where, always having the the main goal in mind. For me, training for events, for cycling, when you train for an event, like let’s say I had the Masters Track State Championship last year. I was training for that for two months. What you do is, when you’re in training, not to go into details because I’m very much a nerd with this, and I’m going to bore, whatever listeners are still left, I’m going to bore them away.
John: No, don’t think of yourself like that.
Jeppe: No, but the point is, when you have cycling, there are different levels of intensities. Let’s just call them green, yellow and red. Green is like you walking around. You can do that indefinitely. That’s the type of intensity. Yellow is the one where you can do, let’s say, 6, 8, 10 hours, because it’s that. The normal person can probably do one to two hours, but a decent trained person should be able to do four to six hours or whatever. Then there’s red where you can’t do more than an hour.
Jeppe: The point is you need to space your practice so that, for instance, during a week, if I were riding four times, I would only go into the red, twice, once, maybe twice. The point is, when you’re out on a Thursday afternoon, and there’s this hotshot coming around you on the bike path, and you’re like, hey, if I just go up to this intensity, I can follow him. No, that’s going to bring me in the red. The thing is, when you go into red, you break down the body. That’s the thing. You can only break down the body so many times within a given week.
So, having that month-long perspective, in the moment when you’re there, now something is really big to me because when I was the CFO for a big Amazon selling company, I knew I had to report financials on the fifth business day of the month. I knew, what do I need to do to get there? I can’t be stressed out the entire month. The first five business days of the month, yes, I can be stressed out.
John: Very intense, yeah.
Jeppe: Very intense, and everything has to do there. Then I have some days for consolidation and then I have some days for improving things. That’s the thing where, I always had this thing in my mind where it’s like, okay, I can maybe stay here until midnight. Or I can come in tomorrow and be more focused. This is the thing.
It was actually funny and that was where my “and” became really big to me because I had a period where I was very stressed out. I think the biggest thing I learned from cycling is to manage burnout. I never burned out even though I had very, very busy years getting to where I’m at, but I got to a point where I was like, hey, I need to do this. I need to stay these insane hours in the office like everybody else. Then I was like, hey, you know what, if I don’t go out on my bike, I’m not going to have a fit body. If I don’t have a fit body, I’m not going to be able to think properly. I’m not going to be able to contribute.
It got to a point where I went to my boss and said, “Hey, Ian,” this wonderful man, Ian, who gave me a chance. I’ll always be grateful for him. I said to him, “Ian, I need to go out cycling three days a week. I can’t go Friday, Saturday, Sunday, so Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m going to leave the office at 3 pm.” He was just, yeah, whatever you need. He supported me in that. What ended up happening was I didn’t work more hours because the hours I was there, I was much more focused. That was the point because it was at a point where, when my stress level was growing, it’s like, well, I’m just going to cut out this bike ride. I’m going to cut out this one. You get to a point where, going back to what Damien talked about.
I’ll say, for cycling, I would much rather go three times a week, like 30 miles, three times a week than 30 miles once a week. Because it’s so much easier when you get in the habit of doing it because then it just becomes, hey, I have to make a mental decision to go out. That drains on you. When it’s discipline, like I said, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3:00 p.m., I leave the office.
John: Yeah. I love that. Yeah, that’s so awesome. Not only that they embraced that, but how beneficial it was for you to be more focused when you were in the office then because the work still got done. Like you brought up, the first thing we cut is our “and”. Hey, I’m too busy, so now I need to stop doing those things. It’s the opposite. It’s, I’m too busy. I need to still make time for cycling or whatever your thing is. I love that example for people.
Jeppe: I went through a transition earlier in the year where I left the job because the culture wasn’t right. I was like, okay, well, I needed to get in the next thing. I was like, okay, well, I should be really, really busy looking at, and I was, but I was like, no, I have to be really, really busy keeping my discipline with my “and”, going out on my bike three times a week to make sure I stay fit because everything else — I mean, it doesn’t matter adding extra hours, if that’s all you do. They have to be quality hours. That’s, again, something I learned from cycling.
It doesn’t matter if you practice. It has to be quality of practice. There has to be a point with what you’re doing. If you are just, let’s say, you’re looking for a job, hey, I have to look for a job, eight hours a day. Well, if that’s your outcome, then your input is just going to be sitting in a chair, eight hours a day. If your outcome is, I have to get X amount of interviews, or I have to send this amount of applications or something that is geared towards that, then you can do that. Then that will leave you the time to go and do your “and”, which makes you grow, and that makes you more attractive.
John: Yeah, I love that. That’s such a great takeaway for everybody listening. That’s awesome, man. This has been so good, so many nuggets. I’m just blown away right now. My brain hurts.
Jeppe: Thank you. I really appreciate that.
John: It’s just cool to hear you living and breathing what’s your “and”, and that it’s not just theory. It’s actually applicable and it works. That’s awesome.
Jeppe: I think the thing is, to me, it was difficult to share my “and” in the beginning because it’s really like, sometimes we’re not sure if we’re going to be taken seriously, especially like me because, like I say, in accounting, especially corporate finance, everybody’s like, yeah, I’m working 60 hours. Well, I’m not because Tuesdays and Fridays, I leave at 3 pm to go out cycling, and I get the job done within the hours that I’m there. That is something that it’s a little provocative to say that to people.
By the way, John, before we finish, I do want to give a shout-out to my wife. I know we’ve been talking about our “and”, but my wife, she is literally my everything.
John: That’s awesome, man.
Jeppe: Sorry, I get emotional because —
Jeppe: I wouldn’t be here today and I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, not only in my career, but also having a wife that understands me, that understands I need to do my “and”. So, my wife, she’s my everything, and cycling is my “and”.
John: For sure. That’s really cool to hear. Yeah, you’re a lucky dude. That’s for sure.
Jeppe: Thank you.
John: That’s for sure, man. It’s not just one “and”. There’s other — family and stuff like that, I look as different than the “and”. The “and” is more just for you. I love that you have all of those sides. Now the kids, and you’re a busy, busy dad.
Jeppe: I’m living a blessed life. I could not believe to live so blessed. Again, I say, I wouldn’t be living this life if it wasn’t for my wife because she is the one who inspires me more than anything. She deserves the world. Again, I humbly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her. My wife is so smart because she always keeps me out of trouble.
Jeppe: There was once, like accepting a job, and she was like, no, no, you don’t want to do that. Another time, I was about to buy a house. My wife doesn’t really interfere. She lets me be me all the time. She lets me have my “and” and everything, but she just stops me from doing the stupidest things. Every great thing I have achieved would have been annihilated because of the stupid things I would have done if she hadn’t stopped me.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so awesome. Yeah, very cool, man. Well, before we wrap this up, though, it’s only fair, since I was questioning you out at the beginning, it’s only fair for me to turn the tables and let you question me. So, welcome, everyone, to the first episode of the Jeppe podcast. Thanks for having me on.
Jeppe: Yeah, thank you very much for being on the podcast, John. I don’t hesitate to say that you were the first one I wanted to have on the podcast when I started.
John: Thank you, man. You’re a good guy.
Jeppe: So, Fahrenheit or Celsius.
John: Oh, yeah, I’m going to go Fahrenheit just because it’s what I grew up with. Yeah, it’s just easier for me.
Jeppe: I know you’re a huge sports guy, as well as me, I mean, mainly college sports. If you could choose, and I’m not talking about being the trombone player, but like playing on the actual team, what sports team in history would you most like to have been a part of?
John: Oh, yeah. Well, I graduated from Notre Dame, and I’m a huge Notre Dame football fan, so just to play Notre Dame football would be pretty awesome.
Jeppe: Is there a particular year?
John: Oh, wow. Well, ‘88 was when they won the national championship, so that’s a good year. I was there when Coach Holtz was there. He wrote the foreword for the book as well. I think playing for him, he’s definitely a hard coach to play for, but he really, really cares. So, yeah, somewhere in there, that ‘88 to ‘93, those were some pretty glory years.
Jeppe: By the way, I really love the foreword that he wrote. It was really, really nice.
John: Oh, thanks. Yeah.
Jeppe: I mean, I wanted to read the book before I read that, but I wanted to read it even more after I read what he wrote.
John: Well, thanks, man. Yeah, he was really generous to do that, really, really generous.
Jeppe: Next question, would you start Rudy?
John: That’s perfect, and no, I would not. Yeah, you get into play and here — I mean, because I was friends with some walk-ons even when I was in school. They work so hard, if not more, than the players that are starting because they have arguably a little less talent, but they have all the heart. It’s really impressive to see them just basically get their butt kicked every day, in order for the starters to get better. They get no glory, no TV time, no playing time hardly. It’s those people that just love the game. It’s impressive, but I still wouldn’t start him, the hell no.
Jeppe: Would you play him at all?
John: Yeah, I think he gets in. You have to play him. The guy worked so hard to get there that you’ve got to get in for a play. There’s got to be a finish to the story. It can’t be like, yeah, so I was on the team. When did you play? I never got in. What? That’s a terrible story. I don’t want to be the one to ruin it.
That’s awesome, Jeppe. Thank you so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”? It’s been really, really cool to have you be a part of this.
Jeppe: Thank you for the opportunity, John. I really appreciate this.
John: For sure, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Jeppe outside of work, or on his bike or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re there 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.
Ariel is a Management Consultant & Baker & Volunteer
Ariel Lomax, from Jabian Consulting, talks about her passion for baking, her drive to getting things done the right way, and how you can develop an understanding of someone through knowing their passions!
• Getting into baking
• Coming up with the name of her bakery
• Being intentional with your time
• Understanding people better through knowing their hobbies
• Ariel’s volunteer work
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
Pictures of Ariel’s Cakes
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Welcome to Episode 357 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 put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
If you like the podcast, you can go even deeper into my research with my book. It’s available on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it. It’s really cool to see.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love hearing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Ariel Lomax. She’s a manager in Jabian Consulting’s Atlanta Office, and now she’s with me here today. Ariel, thank you so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Ariel: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me, John. I’m excited.
John: Oh, this is going to be so much fun, so much fun. I start out with the rapid-fire questions, get to know Ariel at a new level here. Here we go, shake and bake. We’re ready. How about a favorite color?
Ariel: Favorite color is coral, between pink and between orange, it’s coral.
John: Yeah, very specific. How about a least favorite color? Red. Okay, interesting. How about, prefer more hot or cold?
Ariel: I prefer cold because you can always warm yourself up in the cold. In the summertime, you cannot strip everything off of you and walk outside.
John: Exactly. I’m with you on that one, 100%, totally. How about, are you more early bird or night owl?
Ariel: Early Bird. I wake up at 5:30 every day and go to the gym.
John: Wow, that is impressive. I do neither of those things so, good for you.
Ariel: Every day.
John: Very impressive. How about, Star Wars or Star Trek?
John: Neither. That works.
Ariel: I’m not a fan of either. I’ve got to be honest.
John: That’s honest, absolutely. How about your computer, more PC or a Mac?
Ariel: PC. I’ve never owned a Mac.
Jon: Yeah, me either. They’re weird to me. Then on your mouse, more left click or right click.
Ariel: No, no, thank you.
John: Right? Because none of the —
Ariel: I would say right click.
John: Right click, there you go. That’s where all the clever stuff is. Very cool. How about, diamonds or pearls?
Ariel: Pearls. We need pearls. I’m an Alpha Kappa Alpha woman.
John: Oh, okay. Okay. All right, there we go. There we go. You have the accounting background, so, balance sheet or income statement.
Ariel: Balance sheet. They have to make sense, what goes in and comes out. It has to, hey —
John: Yeah, the full picture. I see. Okay, okay. How about, chocolate or vanilla?
John: Chocolate. Okay. All right.
Ariel: Milk chocolate, yes.
John: Okay. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Ariel: Favorite actor would be Michael Ealy. He’s beautiful. Favorite actress, I’m going to go with Kerry Washington right now because I love Scandal.
John: Right? Yeah, exactly. The shows that they’re in actually makes an impact on that too, for sure. How about, oceans or mountains?
Ariel: Oceans. I love the sound of the ocean waves. Oh, my God, it relaxes me so much. I do love mountains, but I would prefer the ocean.
John: Right. Yeah, if you had to pick one. How about, four more, favorite sports team.
Ariel: I’m going to get killed for this but the Patriots.
Ariel: It’s my stepmother’s fault. I’m a Patriots fan.
John: Okay, all right. Sorry, not sorry, there you go. Very cool. How about a favorite number?
John: Okay, is there a reason?
Ariel: My line number on my sorority is 21, and that was the best year of my life, so, 21.
John: 21, there you go. No, that works. How about when it comes to books, Kindle, real books or audible?
Ariel: Real books.
John: Real books. Yeah, very cool.
Ariel: I highlight pages like crazy and underline things and take notes, so, real books.
John: Yeah, absolutely. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Ariel: Favorite thing I have is the box I got from Michaels that has every single card, note, love note, flower note. Anything that anybody’s ever given me that has sentimental value is in that box, so if my house burned down, I’m grabbing that box under my bed. It’s coming with me because when I have a tough day, I go back in that box, and it just fills me up with so much love.
John: Oh, that’s a good idea. That’s really cool, Ariel. That’s very cool. Let’s talk baking. How’d you get into that? Is it from when you were a kid?
Ariel: My aunt, my mom’s sister is baker, and she baked all of our cakes all of our lives. When I went to high school, people’s birthdays, you give them a doll. I’m like, I want to do something different. She taught me how to make the box cakes, the Betty Crocker cakes.
John: Oh, yeah.
Ariel: I would use the Christmas tins and put a cake in there and decorate it very, semi-nicely as much as I could, and say, “Hey, Happy Birthday,” to my friends.
John: Right, in a Christmas decoration even though it’s April.
Ariel: Have some bold colors in there maybe, once in a while. Then I started, for my basketball team, we had practice before first period. I would bake cupcakes. They were maybe three inches big, and I would sell them. Every morning, before first period, it would be sold out. My mom’s like, I’ll buy all of your ingredients, you keep your profits. I would sell, every day, 40 cupcakes a day, off the room.
Ariel: I became known as the cupcake lady.
John: Okay, okay.
Ariel: I’ve just always loved baking, so I would take classes. I got to go to a special school where I got to major in Culinary Arts and interned at the Marriott Marquis in the Woodlands in Texas.
Ariel: I kept baking throughout the years but when I came to college at Parkland University in 2009, I was just so focused on, get a corporate job. Deloitte is what I wanted. I baked on the side for things here and there, didn’t charge people, but I just was so focused on corporate life that it was all about that. ‘09 to ‘13, in college; 2013, started with Deloitte, full time; travelled every week, didn’t have time to bake. I baked for Thanksgiving and Christmas and maybe one-offs for friends’ birthdays, but nothing to the magnitude I’m doing today.
John: Yeah, because you can’t bake in a hotel in another city.
Ariel: No, I’m flying, Monday through Thursday. I only have Friday, Saturday and Sunday to wash clothes, go to the doctor, see some people and pack up and go out on Monday.
Ariel: When I left Deloitte, I came to Jabian, a local consulting firm. We do not travel. I realized I had time. My dad’s sister passed away a few years prior from kidney failure. Her name is Michelle Monroe. My bakery’s name is Sweet Monroe’s Bakery. I’ve been talking to her. She knew I loved to bake, and she made me promise her that I would start my bakery. Because I wanted to keep that promise to her, I did it. I officially became Sweet Monroe’s on January 8, 2017.
Ariel: Sweet Monroe’s since 2005.
John: Yeah, yeah, right.
Ariel: That’s how baking started. It was just, I was always in her bowl, licking the icing and licking the cake water. It was creative. That’s where my creative gene comes out, in my desserts and in my baking.
John: I love that so much, just how powerful that is where it’s more than just, I like to bake stuff. There’s a big deep story here which is rich.
Ariel: I like to hear people’s responses and look at them when they’re like, hmm, it tastes so good. I’m like, Yeah, I did that.
John: Right, and it is amazing. I remember graduate school then you move out. You’re just like, oh, I’ll make a cake. It’s less than five bucks. It’s so cheap. Even if it’s just out of the box, which isn’t as good as what you’re doing, but just out of the box, the fact there are cakes on everybody’s table, every week, is amazing to me. It would be terrible for health reasons, but it would be amazing. Just, there are always smiles when there are baked goods there.
Ariel: It is. It feeds your soul. It really does.
John: Literally and figuratively, that’s exactly it. I guess you’ve taken it to the next level where it’s like, no, no, I have a bakery. That’s a big leap.
Ariel: It is a big leap, and I am self-taught. You want to learn anything, you can figure out how to do it. You just have to take time. I started off with learning how to make my cake smooth. It was just stressful for me. I even took a class. It didn’t work. It was a Wilton class, didn’t work for me. I wanted to learn how to make cake pops, miserable, failed. The cakes weren’t even fully rounded. It was bad.
Ariel: I’m a very determined person. I don’t like to fail. I had to go into GSD mode, get shit done. I said I have to get this done. I have to do this right. I will not be successful if I don’t invest in my craft. So, a lot of time, a lot of money, of course, but I’m reaping the benefits of the hard work I put in before. There’s nothing I cannot do. If I hadn’t done it before, I’m going to practice. I’m going to figure out how to do it. I will be honest with you as a customer, and say, I haven’t done that before, but give me a week. I’ll send you a picture of a replicated instruction that you sent me, and we’ll go on from there.
John: Yeah, and I have to believe that GSD mode translates to the office.
John: I would imagine you were at your GSD mode when you were in college even. It’s just now, you’re using it in a different way.
Ariel: I was an athlete. I ran track and cross-country. I’m a cross country, All-American Division. I was a nerd. I was an Accounting major. I didn’t party until my senior year when I knew I had my job, I’m graduating with a 3.0 GPA, and now I can celebrate. I came to Atlanta from Houston to get an education and to start my life. I did not want to get distracted or do anything that might jeopardize that. So, yeah, I was in GSD mode all the time. Let me tell you, I stayed up all night for a test I knew like the back of my hand.
John: Right. That’s fantastic. You just see how the outside-of-work baking translates to, it’s not a distraction, it actually gives you another muscle, if you will, to bring to the office that’s different than maybe what everyone else has.
Ariel: I call it cake therapy because you go to therapy to vent. If I’m having a rough day, I go home and I bake it out. I work it out. I come back the next day, and I’m great. Sometimes, a few of my clients have been Mercedes Benz and E*Trade. They’re bigger companies, and it’s just me. Some days, I’m up, 24 hours, at least, just to get 700 cake pops done for your Valentine’s Day event at E*Trade.
John: Oh, wow.
Ariel: Yeah, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
John: That’s very cool. Yeah. Do you feel just the difference — you just have to be intentional with making time for it. Is that really the difference?
Ariel: You definitely have to be intentional. You have to plan. I’m a big planner. I think things through, start to finish. It also comes with being in consulting. We plan a lot for our clients. But it’s being intentional with your time. I tell people all the time, be intentional with me because I’m intentional with you. Respect my time so I’m going to respect yours. You make time for what you want to make time for at the end of the day. If I want to be great at this, I’m making time to be great at this. It really is just as simple as that. I don’t like excuses. I don’t like, well, I… No, get it done. Figure out a way to get it done. Once you’re done, you’ll look back and say, I did that. I did that.
John: Exactly. Even if it’s something that’s outside of work, it still matters to your life, and it’s still important. Do you have any of the cooler things that you’ve made, that you’ve baked that you’re super proud of, that you’re like, wow, this is —
Ariel: I’m going to share some pictures with you. There’s this geode cake. I used to collect rocks when I was a kid in Indiana. I would take a hammer and break it. You can see all the crystals inside of it. One of my friends from high school, this is where it all comes full circle. I’ll be 30. She just turned 30. In high school, she used to buy my cupcakes, play basketball with me. Her birthday was in Houston last weekend. I baked the cake here, decorated here, drove it down the Atlanta streets, got it through the airport in Atlanta, got it on the plane, got it off the plane in Houston, got a rental car. It was a handled box which is a new thing for me. I went to the rental car. I drove down the street, and I said, let me go check on the cake. I went to stop, pulled it up by the handle where I have been holding it the whole day. Cake falls.
John: Oh, no.
Ariel: Cake falls to the concrete ground.
John: No. No, no.
Ariel: Oh, my God. I didn’t bring any tools with me. I brought stuff for cupcakes and cake pops. I had to go into, what, GSD mode.
John: GSD mode.
Ariel: I called my mother. I said, “Can you run to Party City, go to Walmart, get all these things for me?” I stayed up all night. I slept maybe two hours. I replicated that cake. I told her because I had to check the timing of what window I was working with. Once she saw it, she goes, “Oh, my God, that’s better than the first time.” I’m like, thank you. So, geode cake, I do. I’ve done some fondant cakes. My thing right now are drip floral cakes, so, with chocolate around the top and actual real flowers that I’ve sealed the actual stems. I just love it right now. That’s my thing.
John: That’s very cool. Those are awesome. Do you talk about this at work?
Ariel: I do. My job actually supports me. When we have our quarterly meetings, I bake for that. Any client things we want to give gifts to, they tap me before they go buy anything from the store, and I love that about Jabian. The thing is, like What’s Your “And”? more than half the firm has an “and”. We have an “and” because we chose to leave the travel and come to the local. Yeah, they support it. They know I bake. They love that I bake. They buy for their kids, for their families. Other clients know about me. I bring stuff in the office, and I have extra, so they love me.
John: Yeah, yeah. Of course, anybody making baked goods, you’re my new best friend. I don’t even care. You can call me whatever you want. It doesn’t matter.
Ariel: Absolutely, absolutely.
John: Yeah. That’s fantastic. Do you feel like there’s a different connection to people that know your “and” and you know theirs, verses maybe prior in your career where maybe you didn’t always have those connections or shared that?
Ariel: I would think so. Knowing my “and”, it shows you a different part of me. My aunt is baking and volunteering. I volunteer a lot. A lot, a lot. I feel like my purpose on this earth is to serve and help people.
Ariel: I think knowing that about me, it paints a full picture of who I am versus just seeing me at the office because I’m on GSD when at the office. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to — we gotta get work done. But also, we’re humans too, so I do smile. I do have fun. I do have other things that interests me that you might be interested in too. It helps people understand me better, and also them. Because work is work and that’s just what it is. There’s a time to play, and there’s a time to work. Sometimes people don’t like to show the other side of them at the office, so when you do see it, it humanizes them a little bit more, especially if they’re your leader or your manager or your director. So, I think it helps. It helps to know people’s “and”. It helps to try to include them in it, too.
John: Yeah, absolutely. Because whether someone else bakes or they don’t, just knowing that, or volunteers or they don’t, just knowing that. Plus, when you talk about it, you light up. Your eyes get big. Your tone, your smile, everything about it lights up. Where, at work, sometimes you light up about the work, but sometimes you don’t because like you said, work is work. Joy comes from the “and” all the time. If you’re able to talk about that at work, then suddenly, there’s joy in the office. There’s some emotion in the office, and you start to care about people. The volunteering as well, is that something that you’ve been doing for a long time or?
Ariel: Yes. I mentioned I’m from Houston.
Ariel: When I came to Jabian, I helped — we have a day of service on MLK Day, every year. I helped lead, my first year there, with the organization called “HouseProud”. HouseProud from Atlanta, they provide low income repairs to disabled or senior citizens in a particular area because gentrification is happening. I decided that I want to do more. That was great, but I want to do a lot more for the community. The hurricane hit Houston in 2017. I forgot what hurricane that was. There’s just so many.
John: Well, even in 2020, there’s been 40 of them, I think.
Ariel: With my one hand, decorating these cookies, but they were beautiful for the first time. What HashtagLunchbag does, let me back up, is they just provide food to the homeless. It started with three men in LA. What they say is we’re all one circumstance away from being in that same position, which is, for some people, very true. So, for every month, since 2017, we gather people together in Atlanta, and it’s in most major cities as well. We make it fun, have a DJ, we decorate bags, put motivational cards in those bags, make sandwiches, and we hand them out. When you see people and kids and you hear them say, thank you, they’re crying like that; it does pump into you. It really does because we’re more fortunate. If, God forbid, I’m ever in that situation, how would I want someone to help me? What would I want them do for me? I literally treat people how I want to be treated and better than I want to be treated because of that, just that notion of, if I’m ever there, this is how I want somebody to help me. So, HashtagLunchbag every month, HouseProud. I’m also becoming a court-appointed special advocate for neglected and abused children because I have time. I want to be able to help people and kids that cannot speak for themselves and make sure that what’s happening and what’s being decided for them is what’s in their best interest.
John: Yeah. That’s so fantastic. It’s amazing how, if you’re intentional about it, that there’s time. There’s time. You get your work done. You’re good at your job. You like your job and all that, but there are other hours in the day where you don’t have to feel like, oh, well, if I don’t use them for work, then I must not be very dedicated. It’s actually quite the opposite of, if you use them for something else, you’re richer and deeper and a better professional when you do show up in the office.
Ariel: Right. One of my friends who was the CEO, he challenged me because I was like, I’m not doing enough. He’s like, I want you to write down what you do for every hour on the hour for one day. When I did it, I’m like, I have so much more time left. I need to find something else to do. What am I doing? He was like, see? You have time. You just don’t do what you really do. So I tell my friends that. When you say you don’t have time in the day, how much time are you on social media? How much time are you watching TV? How much time are you investing in yourself? If your answer is ah or not enough, do more.
John: Yeah. What if mine is like several hours of eating cake, does that count?
Ariel: I need you to multitask and do something else at the same time.
John: Exactly. Come on, John, I’ve got icing all over my papers now. What? No, no, but you’re so right, just being intentional about it. Also, it doesn’t have to be something maybe that you do every day. Like you said, the HashtagLunchbag is once a month. Okay, cool. It’s twice a year. Whatever it is, just make time for it. Otherwise, it goes away altogether. That’s what I found. It goes dormant and then extinct, where it’s, I forget what I even like to do.
Ariel: Correct. A flip side of it too, with volunteering itself, is when you’re going through things. I went through something crazy this year. When you lose yourself in volunteering, it helps heal you. Because if what you went through doesn’t matter, it’s reminding you that even though you went through that, you should still have gratitude because it could be so much worse. So, I encourage people that are going through things, to give back because it’s — again, I’m not saying that what you feel doesn’t matter. I’m just saying that you’re going through that, and I understand that, but here are some folks going through a little bit worse than you. It might help with your healing process and how that looks for you.
John: Yeah, get you moving, get you active, get you helping others. There’s all the psychology research behind how that helps you as well. Yeah, that’s super cool to hear. Is there anything that you’ve seen, whether it’s companies you’ve worked for or clients or what have you, that does something specific to encourage the sharing? It sounds like Jabian, they’re buying your cupcakes and inviting you to bring to meetings and things like that, which is super cool, but even for other people as well?
Ariel: We have Jabian Cares. That’s our nonprofit for Jabian, and there are opportunities, from a volunteer standpoint, of just sharing the opportunities that are out there. They allow us to put money into that fund, but they also, they want us to come bring ideas to them of how we can continue to help people, or whatever your passion is. What do you want to do? What do you like doing? What organization do you work with? How can we help? They did a whole 10-year campaign where they gave $10,000 to 10 different organizations, and that was based on the employees nominating these actual organizations they work with.
Ariel: Also with just, as far as sharing my business, my sorority sisters, my family, my friends, they market me more than I market myself. That’s why it’s good to communicate what you do because people don’t know what they don’t know. My friends don’t know I’m baking over here, all night, all day. They’re not going to know, to tell a friend, “Hey, it’s great.” Or, “Hey, check her out. The designs are amazing. Well I don’t know if she does — well, ask her anyway.” It’s really just communicating and networking.
The greatest book I ever read was Never Eat Alone. Read it. It’s monumental and beautiful. A lot of relationships, even just from business relationships, they grow into personal ones, or vice versa. My clients at work, their birthdays for their kids or Thanksgiving or Christmas, they reach out to me, and that’s perfectly okay, but it would not have happened without us having deeper conversations outside of work about what else do you do besides working at Jabian?
John: Exactly. Yeah, and that’s it because you connect over the work, but that’s very two-dimensional, surface level. It’s literally that simple. What do you like to do outside of work? It’s literally that simple. Or it’s sharing a little bit of yours and then they feel compelled to share a little bit of theirs, type of a thing. Because I think that’s where people are nervous. They’re going to be judged, or it’s not work appropriate to talk about something else besides work. It’s so many things going on inside people’s heads that are lies. They’ll eat you up.
Ariel: I will say, this year has made those taboo conversations easier to have, when I tell you all of the social injustices, everything, the politics. We’re talking about it, so talk about your “and”. It’s no longer taboo. Talk about it. I’m telling you, hey, to talk about it. If it’s not okay to talk about it, say, “It’s not okay to talk about it. I want to talk about it.” Push. Push the line a little further.
John: Exactly. That’s like in my book. Everything is fair game up until you inhibit someone else’s ability to do their job.
John: If it’s something that’s taboo or going to be really causing a problem or going to inhibit people’s ability to do work, well, then, dial it down a little bit. Otherwise, it’s fair game, and there’s a time and a place for those things.
Ariel: It’s not necessarily what you say sometimes. It’s how you say it and when you say it.
Ariel: Talk to HR first if you need to, but yeah.
John: Right, and then just wear a T-shirt that says, GSD, and then go. That’s awesome. That’s so fun. Do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that maybe feel like, I have a hobby that no one’s going to care about or has nothing to do with my job?
Ariel: Words of encouragement. Try. Jump. You may fall. You may fly. Try. You can look back and not have regrets of not trying to do whatever that thing is or to start that thing. I have no regrets because I tried it. I could have started in 2017, officially, and I don’t have time, but it’s not in me to quit, so, huh. I could say, I did follow that dream of mine. I made it to that finish line. Now, I made it to this one, but I started. So, just start. Take the leap and jump. You may fall, but you may fly. You won’t know until you actually jump or take the leap.
John: I love that, and you’re doing it for you. You’re not doing it for everyone else’s approval. There you go. I love that. That’s awesome.
Ariel: Do it for yourself.
John: Very cool. So it’s only fair though, before I wrap this up, that I turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Ariel Lomax podcast, everybody. Thanks so much for having me on. I’m glad to be here. Since I peppered you with questions, it’s only fair that I allow you to fire away at me. I’m ready.
Ariel: What made you go into comedy?
John: Oh, it chose me, I think. I was at a training in Pasadena when I was at PricewaterhouseCoopers. It was a couple of weeks. We would rent a car and go down to the Improv in Hollywood and watch a three-hour show of tons of comedians. Whose Line Is It Anyway? would come in and do a 45-minute show. It was awesome. That was the first time I saw stand-up live and realized, oh, it’s not always hilarious. Sometimes it’s not, and I could be as not funny as that person. This is LA, so, why not? Then, yeah, just thought, it’s a creative outlet that’s totally different than my internal audit merger-acquisition work at PwC. Why not? Then I just started and then was okay at it. Then you just keep going. It was more of just, it was a challenge for me. It was fun for me, and it just gave me a different challenge and a creative outlet. Then I just got good, so, yeah.
Ariel: That’s amazing. That’s so amazing.
John: Yeah, I think some things like that choose you sometimes. Growing up, you don’t think, oh, yeah, I can just go be a comedian. Nobody says that. You can’t do that. That’s not a job. You go to college, go work for Deloitte, have a career, like you were saying. Then when you break that mold, you realize, oh, wait, I’m still breathing. Things are okay. I’m happy. It’s very hard, though. I definitely don’t advocate that people make it their career. I think it’s totally cool that it’s a hobby.
John: Because when you make that shift, everything changes. Everything changes, and so I’m very careful to make sure that I explicitly say, do not quit your job and follow your dream as your hobby, type of thing. Because if I’m able to tell you that and you don’t, then you never would have made it. It’s way too hard out here.
Ariel: Okay, a few rapid-fire questions. You’re going to like this. Chocolate or vanilla.
John: You know, and that’s a hard one for me too, I’ll go chocolate just because eating vanilla outside of a milkshake or ice cream, vanilla is like, no. Chocolate, you can have in all of the things.
Ariel: Cookies or cake pops
John: Wow, that’s actually a really hard one.
Ariel: I’m going somewhere with this.
John: Okay. I might say, yeah, maybe I haven’t had enough cake pops to know. I would say, because I’ve had a lot of cookies, so I guess I would lean towards cookies probably just because I don’t know enough about cake pops.
Ariel: Okay, and what is your favorite color?
Ariel: Blue? Okay. All right. Well, be expecting some blue treats from me soon.
John: What? That would be awesome. Oh, this is so cool. Cake pops, cake pops, I want your cake pops. I want to see.
Ariel: Cake pops, okay, I’ll send you some because you hadn’t had any. If you had Starbucks ones, it’s not quite the same. Mine are amazing.
John: Yes, exactly. I want to set the bar here so then whenever there’s cake pops again, I’m like —
Ariel: They’re not Monroe’s
John: These are not Monroe’s, exactly. Well, that’s awesome. Well, thank you so much, Ariel. I’m excited to have you be a part of What’s Your “And”? Thanks for taking time to do this.
Ariel: Thank you so much for having me. This was so much fun. I enjoyed it. Thank you.
John: Awesome. Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Ariel in action or some of her finished goods or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, also for Monroe’s and everything else. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture and check out the book. It’s good. I promise.
Thanks again for subscribing to the podcast 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.
Karen is a Creative Agency Owner & Harry Potter Fanatic
Karen Reyburn, owner of The Profitable Firm, talks about finding her passion while dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome, breaking down the resistance of being creative, overcoming shyness, and her companies pillars and values concept!
• Getting into Harry Potter
• Why we may resist creativity
• Overcoming shyness in her early years
• 4 company pillars and 6 personal values system
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to do John’s anonymous survey
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Welcome to Episode 355 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 put it 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 the podcast, you can go even deeper into my research with my book available on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it. It’s really, really cool.
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, Karen Reyburn. She’s the owner of the Profitable Firm, a global creative agency for accountants, and she’s based in Scotland. Now she’s with me here today. Karen, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Karen: It’s a pleasure, John. It’s so great to be here. I love this “and” concept. It’s so great.
John: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. I’m excited to have you be a part of it, first guest from Scotland, so checking that off the list.
Karen: Scotland might be a little embarrassed because I’m a dual British-American citizen. I’d like to apologize that I don’t have a Scottish accent, but I’ve been here 20 years. I’ve got some.
John: It counts, exactly. It counts for me. We’ll do 17 rapid-fire questions, have some fun, get to know Karen right out of the gate here. Here’s a good one, chocolate or vanilla.
Karen: Vanilla. Don’t like chocolate.
John: Okay. All right. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Karen: Crossword actually.
John: All right. There you go. How about a favorite color?
John: Yellow. All right. As a creative, how about a least favorite color?
Karen: I would say black. I think it just seems very dark and negative. I’m a big fan of optimism and cheer and positivity, which yellow.
John: Yellow, yes. Like bumblebees, you’re a little mixed.
Karen: Well, I had a bad experience with bees, John. I’m not sure we want to talk about that. I got attacked by a hive of them when I was small.
John: Oh, my goodness. Yeah, never mind that. I apologize. Look at me. I’m terrible. How about more hot or cold?
John: Cold, yeah.
Karen: I live in Scotland. I grew up in Arizona, so I had plenty of hot.
John: Yeah, yeah, so you’re balancing it out. I see what’s going on. All right, how about a favorite actor or actress?
Karen: I just suddenly went blank and then have so many.
John: Okay, you can have more than one.
Karen: Well, I wouldn’t say this is a favorite ever, but I think it’s because I was talking to somebody recently about the actor who played Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films, Matthew… I’ve suddenly gone blank on his surname. We were talking about how he was this terrible —
John: Matthew Lewis.
Karen: Thank you. He’s this terrible-looking — I mean, that’s just sounds mean, but he’s just kind of a geeky-looking kid and then he gets incredibly hot as he gets older. You talk about getting Nevilled. I’m like, oh, he’s got — it just seems like a lot of the Harry Potter actors actually just seem like such cool people. I follow them on in Insta or TikTok or whatever. They’re just really fun people, and I love it.
John: I wonder if they were cool people anyway, or if being part of the Harry Potter series made them open up.
Karen: I kind of feel like you have to be cool anyway. There is an element to which you’re not going to suddenly become this wildly different person. It’s going to bring out the cool — I mean, you know that video of Daniel Radcliffe rapping the ABCs? Just the talent, it’s incredible.
John: That’s very true. All right, that’s a good answer. How about are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Karen: I am a night owl. I would lean towards that. I don’t like getting up early, but once I’m up, I love being up early. It’s kind of a catch-22. I stay up super late. I drag myself out of bed, but if I’m up early, I’m like, woohoo, I’ve achieved all this stuff by 9 am.
John: Right. Exactly. Okay, how about more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Karen: Oh, if I have to pick one, Star Wars.
John: Okay, or probably just Harry Potter. That would probably be the trilogy, I think, if you had to pick a series.
Karen: Yeah, I was like, the answer to that one is Harry Potter. Yes.
John: There you go.
Karen: Star Wars is okay, but I offend Star Wars people by how much I don’t care, and I really don’t like Star Trek much at all. Yeah. Sorry, all the people who have now stopped listening.
John: No, no, no, no, absolutely not. Absolutely not. Are you more of a PC or a Mac?
Karen: Oh, Apple. I’ve got an iMac, an iPad, iPhone, tablet, an Apple watch, literally every —
John: You have an iEverything. Look at you. There you go. All right, all right. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Karen: I don’t really like ice cream very much, but if I had to pick one, it would be sugar-free vanilla because I don’t eat sugar.
John: Back to the vanilla. Okay, all right. Yeah, there you go. All right, how about more heels or flats?
Karen: Flats because always, but also, I threw out my back about seven weeks ago, and I don’t want to wear heels again.
John: There you go.
Karen: Seriously. Why do people do this to themselves?
John: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. All right, as the owner of a creative agency, more digital or print advertising?
Karen: This is the answer we always give everybody when they ask any marketing question. The answer is, it depends. Who is it for? Who’s the audience? What is the company? What’s the purpose? What are you trying to do? My default would tend to be digital, especially these days, but I think there’s great power in print.
John: Okay, all right, all right. Are you more oceans or mountains?
Karen: Okay, my answer to that is the Isle of Mull, which is my favorite place in Scotland. It’s off the west coast of Scotland, and it has both. That is why I love it. One of the reasons I love it.
John: No, absolutely, that totally counts. Absolutely. What’s a typical breakfast?
Karen: Sourdough bread with smashed avocado and bacon.
John: Oh, wow. Okay.
Karen: Just gets all the protein and the veg and the carbs and everything, and it lasts me till like 2:00 because I always forget to eat lunch.
John: I was going to say that’ll fill you up. Three more. Do you have a favorite number?
John: Is there a reason?
Karen: Yes. When I was in high school, I played basketball. That was my number. I think at the time I picked it, my gosh, that was probably back Michael Jordan. You were like, yes, that was his number. And also Psalm 23 from the Bible. So, it kind of went with both of those, which I liked.
John: Very cool, very cool. When it comes to books, Kindle, real books or audible.
Karen: Real books. I am a, hold it in your hand, underline it, feel — and also, I’m on my phone and screens almost constantly as a digital creative agency, so I like to be able to not be distracted.
John: Yeah. No, I like that. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Karen: Favorite thing that I own. Wow.
John: Like, there’s an emergency, you have to grab something and run out.
Karen: Well, I was going to say my house, and now you’ve kind of —
John: No, that counts.
Karen: How do I grab my whole house?
John: No, that counts. Absolutely. Your house totally counts.
Karen: That counts?
Karen: I think it’s just because I lived in Scotland — I’ve lived here for 20 years, but when I first moved here, I was just going to be here for three years and then go back to America. Then I decided to stay, and then I kept staying, and then I got my residency, and then I got my citizenship. I finally bought a house which, for me, was like, this is my home. This is where I live. This is my place now. That was the moment my family was like, oh, man, I don’t think she’s coming back, which was sad for them.
John: Right? We can change over the bedroom now because she’s not coming back.
Karen: Yeah. That was also when they were like, right, seriously, the stuff in the garage has to go. You can’t keep storing it here. That’s been 20 years. Let it go.
John: Exactly. You’re like, I don’t even remember what’s in there.
Karen: Seriously, I didn’t. I actually went through the boxes, and I was like — there are photo frames of people that I haven’t spoken to in 20 years. I’m like, right, okay, we can let these go.
John: Yeah, yeah, exactly. That’s awesome though. Yeah, owning a home, very much is like, this is home. This is where I live. It’s permanent. It feels more permanent anyway.
Karen: I know the time we’re recording it, this particular year, I’ve spent a lot of time at home. It’s been a great blessing to, even when your home drives you a little crazy, to still love it and be grateful for it and to say, well, if I have to spend a lot of time not traveling and not going places, this is the place I want to be.
John: No, that’s awesome. That’s very cool, very cool. Also gives you time for more Harry Potter stuff.
Karen: It sure does.
John: So let’s chat about, so how did that get started? Were you, early in, waiting in line for the books at the very beginning?
Karen: No. Interestingly, I didn’t even really engage with it, I don’t think, when it first came out. I’m trying to remember what year it was. I think it was 2011, I want to say. That’s a rough estimate. I was looking it up for somebody one time. Basically what happened is I had an illness called chronic fatigue in America. Over in Britain it’s called ME. It basically means that your immune system is really low, and your energy levels drop to an exhausted point.
John: Oh, wow.
Karen: You never quite know how much energy you’re going to have when you wake up in the morning. It usually hits with a virus at first. Then the virus goes away, and then you’re left with this complete exhaustion. They didn’t know what it was. It’s a diagnosis of exclusion, so you get tested for literally everything you could possibly have. When they find out you don’t have any of those things, they call it CFS.
So I went through various stages of it being, first I got the virus, then it went away, but I still felt horrible. Then I would get better and be like, oh, I’m all healed. I’ll never have to worry about this again. Then I’d have a relapse. There was a period of time where I had a relapse. It was particularly bad.
When I’m in relapse mode, I would be able to work and then come home and collapse, and just do it all again, the next day. That was all I was able to do. There would be spells of time where for two or three weeks, I couldn’t work at all. This was more or less before homeworking too, so if you weren’t working, you weren’t doing anything.
John: Yeah, you were literally weren’t working.
Karen: Literally nothing. I remember I watched through the entire 10 seasons of Friends, which I had never watched all of them from start to finish. That shows you that’s all I could do, was sit back and watch. I got them from the local library. I would go, that was my big outing for the week, I would go to the library, get these DVDs and bring them back and watch them.
When I finished Friends, I was like, what am I going to do now? They had the first Harry Potter book, the physical book at the library. I tried to read it when it first came out and just couldn’t really get into it. I don’t know. It was like too much. I’m like, what is all — there’s Quidditch and there’s this, just different terminologies.
John: Made-up words, right.
Karen: Yeah, I just wasn’t into it. So I tried it again. I was like, well, I’m bored. What else am I going to do? I let it sit there on the chair next to my bed, and one night, about 11:00 at night, I remember looking over at it and going, oh, hell, I’ll just pick it up and read a chapter. I read the whole thing, could not put it down. 4 am, I put the book down and was like, I have to get the second one. The whole story just got me. I’m that kind of a reader, when I’m into something, I don’t put it down.
The next day, despite being quite exhausted, this was not library day, but I went anyway, and got book two. I read book two. Then I discovered, hey, there’s films of these. So I would finish the book and then get the DVD from the library and watch it. I remember, after I finished the fifth book, The Order the Phoenix, I went to the library, and I was like, they don’t have this. Why did they not have this DVD? I thought, well, that’s fine. They just don’t have it. Looked it up on Amazon, wasn’t there. I suddenly went, oh, my word, it hasn’t come out yet. I’m still like, I’m in the middle of this. This is so exciting. I can get into this now. I’m not late.
John: You’re in real time now.
Karen: Yes, that’s exactly how it felt. So, every time, from that point on — I mean, I finished the books really quickly, but every time after that, when the films came out, then we got to go to the cinema. I remember one time, a bunch of friends and I dressed up in all the different characters for, I think it was the sixth film. We went to the cinema at midnight, when it came out. We had a Dobby, and we had a Lucius Malfoy. I think I was Bellatrix. It was just such great fun.
I just got into it at first and then you just start collecting. You start gathering. People start figuring out you like it, and they give you stuff. I was talking to a friend of mine recently, that he said, I haven’t been to your house, but I would imagine that there’s just Harry Potter stuff sprinkled everywhere. I said, well, the funny thing is, when I look at my house, I think oh, there’s a few things. Then somebody comes to my house, and I mention something, like oh, I’m really into Harry Potter. They look at me, and they’re like, Really? You think?
I just look around and realize, like every blanket that’s strewn on the sofa is one of the Hogwarts houses, and there’s a whole bookcase of Harry Potter Lego in the corner. There’s just all kinds of little stuff that I have floating around.
John: That’s so awesome. Yeah, because why not? It brings you joy.
Karen: It really does. The Harry Potter Lego, my friend and I, we found them on eBay. This was before Harry Potter Lego was a thing, so we would get them for like 50p, a pound. It’s like $1.50 or something, really cheap. We got the great idea to take a road trip to some of the places in Scotland where the films were filmed.
John: Oh, yeah.
Karen: Take the little Lego people there and take all these pictures and video.
John: The Lego people in the scene.
Karen: Yeah. I felt like I was about seven years old.
John: That’s awesome.
Karen: Right? So, we did this. We had such fun that we did it again. Every time I kept going to a Harry Potter place, I would bring these Lego figures. Now, I probably have, oh, I don’t know, at least 200 Harry Potter Lego figures of all the — I mean, I have 4 Privet Drive in Lego. I have the night bus in Lego. I have all this Lego, and I will take them to different places, and actually created an Instagram called Potter Journey. It’s got like 200 followers, so if anyone listening wants to be like, 202 or whatever, but I didn’t do it for that. I just was like, it’s just fun.
We’re really big at PF, my creative agency, on creativity, true creativity which is not for an audience, not for a purpose as such, but just to play, like a child, like true creativity which is — you might even draw something and then throw it away, but the creative process is to make your mind think differently.
I have a friend here whose daughter, she’s now 12. I’ve kind of brought her into the Harry Potter universe, and she has very happily joined me there. She and I will go on road trips in the Highlands of Scotland. The way that she thinks about things, like, ooh, we could do this, or we could have them do that, or we could put them in the water. It’s always way beyond something that I would think, and it’s so fun.
John: That’s awesome, and I love that concept of just thinking differently. The “and” allows you to think differently. How important do you think that is, not just for creatives, but for just all professionals?
Karen: I think it’s important for every human being. I believe passionately that every human being is creative, not that you can be, but that you are. You are born that way. You’re created — every human being is created to be creative.
I own a creative agency working exclusively with accountants. One of the biggest barriers for accountants is, oh, well, I’m not creative. I don’t design things. I don’t paint. I don’t write very well. I don’t whatever. We’ve really been working for a long time on really addressing that and saying, yes, you are. You’re creative because you’re a human being. Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re creative in the way that you might imagine creativity to be.
I think our society has really turned, the worldwide society and culture has turned creativity into this thing that an artist achieves. Whereas, true creativity has to do with problem-solving or thinking a different way, and curiosity. Curiosity, and this is why children are so great at what we consider creativity, because they’re not thinking about what they can’t do. They’re thinking about what they could do. They get in a laundry basket with a bunch of holes and say it’s a boat. We go, well, your boat’s going to sink. They’re like, well, how else am I supposed to move through the — they’re just not thinking that way.
John: Exactly. No, I love that. I love that so much, where, as adults, we’ve put up all these walls, I guess, to make life easier, but it makes it very gray and boring.
Karen: Well, I think we’ve done it to — that’s interesting, make life easier — I think we’ve done it to make life feel more safe because we’re like, well, creativity can be a scary thing. It can be an embarrassing thing to us, if we let it. I think it was interesting when you were asking about this podcast about talking about this. I remember in the early days, when I would mention to people that I was really into Harry Potter, I remember thinking, are they going to think that this is like, here I am, this owner of a global professional creative agency? It didn’t last too long in my mind because of everything I’ve preached to our clients and to other accountants, but it does cross your mind.
You say, oh, they’re going to think I’m really childish. They’re going to think this. They’re going to think that. All that happens is the people who are like you and think like you, go, hey, that’s really cool and fun. Maybe it’s not my thing, but that’s your thing. That’s your “and”. Actually, most of my clients, at least their kids are into Harry Potter, so they will be out with their kids. They’ll send me a picture of their kid with their Hogwarts robes on or their kid’s birthday cake, and they know that I will be like, that is the coolest thing ever. I want a cake like that.
I think we really resist creativity sometimes because true creativity means trying something that may fall apart, that may make you look stupid, or you think makes it. It doesn’t, but you think it does, because it’s all in the mind. I would go to some of these places. There’s a castle called Alnwick Castle in England, which is about two and a half hours from me. That’s where they filmed some of the scenes from the first and the second Harry Potter films.
I brought the various figures that I wanted, and I had the scenes in my mind. There were certain places that I wanted them. I’m lying there, flat on the ground, with these little Lego figures, and I’m setting them up. I’m flat on the ground with my camera. What was so funny, the adults would walk — some of them would give a double look and keep walking, but the kids would just stop and just stare. They get this big smile on their face, and they’d be, look it’s Hagrid, look it’s this.
I remember the first time that happened, I was tempted to be so embarrassed because everybody’s looking at me. Suddenly, I though — you’ve got to remind yourself, you’re probably never going to see these people again. Also, it’s actually bringing them some joy. It’s certainly bringing the kids joy. I have to remember that they’re not — I mean, there might be a few people laughing at me, but by and large, they’re not. They’re actually going, that is so cool and so fun. It just caused me to take note.
I’ve even had people stop me and be like, I’m sorry, can I take a picture of these? I’m like, yeah, sure, go for it. Then I tell them about my Instagram, and they go and look it up. They’re like, this is — come over here. Come, look at this. This is so great. We just have the best time.
John: That’s fantastic. Yeah, because we’re not in junior high anymore, where people are going to just make fun of you the whole time. I think we’re just stuck in that mode of, we’ve been so ingrained. Ken Robinson speaks about this so well, of just how education just trained us to be scared to fail or go outside the Rails or —
Karen: Oh, education, don’t even get me started on that.
John: Right? When you do step outside, it’s like, oh, wait. Yeah, sure, there’s a handful of people, but they have nothing.
Karen: And they’re not your people.
Karen: That’s the other thing I have to remember. If somebody is going to truly make fun of that, then they’re not the kind of people that I’m going to spend time with anyway. As you said, most of it is in your own head, and some of it is leftover from — because creativity taps into childhood and childishness in the best possible way, it also harks you back to how you felt as a child.
I was one of the most shy, nervous, scared children you’ve ever seen in your life. I wouldn’t even go to physical school until I was, in America, in second grade because I was too afraid. I was afraid to be in a class of people. I would hang on to my mom. Even when I started, I went to a private Christian school that was very, very small, and that was scary enough for me. I tell people this now, and they never believe me.
The big thing that really helped me the most is I got to university, and I remember I had to speak in front of a group of 300 peoples that — I was part of a Christian group called Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and there was like, 300 university students every Friday. They asked me to make an announcement, and I was like, oh, I can’t talk in front of 300 people. Somebody said, listen, you just have to tell them about this thing. I thought, well, that’s fine. I know about this thing. So I get up to announce this event. I said something, made some joke, and everybody laughed, not at me, but with me. I was like, oh, I like this.
John: Right. Right. There’s some magic there, that’s for sure.
John: Very much so. It’s also, you’re doing those Lego pictures for you. You do have an Instagram account or whatever, but you’re doing it because, I enjoy doing this. I’m not asking for your approval or what you think. I really don’t care. Is it good or not? I don’t care. I like it. That’s, I think, the hardest hump for people to get over is not everything is for everyone else’s approval. It’s just for you.
Karen: I get that a lot because I — you know how some of your strongest strengths are your greatest weaknesses. It goes both ways. So, the superpower of caring for other people and empathizing with them and really engaging with them, which I do, means that, on the flip side, the weakness for me is that sometimes I care a little too much.
I’ve really appreciated, even just by owning this agency and working with the team and the clients and getting to know myself better, as you do as you get older, and getting to the point where you’re like, yeah, everybody has their “and”, their thing, or some multiple “and”, and that’s what makes us human. That’s what makes us cool. That’s what makes it less boring.
I talk to accountants all the time, who are saying things like, well, I need to make sure my video is professional. I need to make sure my marketing is professional. Actually, the way you’re thinking about it probably means boring. What you really need to be is yourself, and you need to be the most yourself you can be. That’s what people want because then they will learn to trust you.
John: Professional means the same as everyone else.
Karen: Oh, seriously.
John: It’s like, oh, if I scratch out the logo and the name of the company from this website or from this one-sheet or from this video, do we know that it’s actually yours? Or is it the same as everyone else’s? Something that I love that you guys do there at PF is the five pillars.
Karen: Oh, four, four pillars, yes.
John: Or four pillars, rather. I’m sorry, I added one, so we get five now.
Karen: No, it’s okay. We actually have four pillars and six value, so maybe that’s where you got the five, right smack in the middle.
John: Yeah, divided by two, the accountant in me, it’s base five.
Karen: We’re not the numbers people, John. That’s what the accountants do.
John: Exactly. The pillars idea is so cool. What is that about?
Karen: Yeah. It started, I think round about the time I had started the business. I was thinking about what we stood for as a business, and I was thinking about how often, well, I would say always, with a person who owns a business, the business values reflect my personal values. So at first it was my personal values, and I wanted the company to stand for those too.
The original four were integrity, generosity, service, and rest. I actually changed them because what I meant by service was to truly serve with heart, not just customer service or whatever, which means nothing actually, has a negative impact; but to truly serve and to give and to go beyond. I thought, well, service isn’t quite a good word there, so we changed it to, now we have creativity, integrity, generosity, and rest. Those are our four company pillars that are the foundation on which the company is based.
Then we started talking about values, which is our way that we, day to day, deal with things. So those would include things like take responsibility, show positivity, collaborate, be gracious, and the whole team is expected to live up to those.
John: Yeah, then there’s the personal ones as well, which is even above that, which is really cool, too, for everybody to have their own —
Karen: Yeah, so we moved from the company ones to — I think it came up because somebody, one of the team and I were talking about coffee or Harry Potter or something, and she said, it’d be kind of cool if we had our personal pillars as well. She just jokingly said, “What would your top five things be?” I just rattled them off. I was like, oh, I don’t know, like whiskey, Harry Potter, walking, coffee, and Jesus. We had this hilarious laugh about, she’s like, really? Jesus last? I’m like, well, because he created everything, so it’s fine. I was like, sorry, no offense. It’s not in order.
John: Yeah, exactly. We’re all at the same table. It’s all good.
Karen: Yeah, exactly.
John: I think that’s cool to ask people those because then it’s like, oh, okay, these are things that matter to Karen.
Karen: Yes, and that’s what it became, is — it was a joke at first. My five have not changed. I called my fifth one my faith pillar, but we don’t do them in any order. The point was to say, what matters to you? What little things and big things — one of the team has taco pillar, and one has chai pillar, and one has pasta pillar or farm pillar. That just means that we know what’s important to them.
We also have two core values that we live our life by. My two are freedom and honesty. It takes a while to figure out what your two core are, but those kind of work together. So, we’ve designed those little icons for each of us. On the PF website, if you go to the About page, every team member has their five personal pillars and their two core values. So, you go there, and you’re like, ah, yes, this is my person. I too, like tacos or pasta or coffee or whatever.
We’ve started asking clients, if they had five pillars, what would theirs be? Everybody loves it. They’re like, oh, I’m going to have to think about this. Ooh, would it be, is it gin, or is it wine?
John: You get five. You get five.
Karen: I know, you only get five. They’re like, is it cool if I have two pillars that are alcohol? We’re like, listen, you make this a call, I’m just saying.
John: Whatever you’ve got to do. I love how none of the pillars are more work, and how that’s okay. That’s totally okay.
Karen: Well, not only okay, but I want all my team to be people who are well-rounded people who actually talk about tacos and farms and pasta and their dog because we spend so much of our time at work. I know, lately, within the past year or so, we’ve all realized how integrated work and everything else is, but I’ve always believed, if you spend this much time at work, you need to be your real self. You don’t finish work, and then become somebody else. You bring your best self to work. If that means talking about something like pasta or farms or chai or whatever that’s important to you, then it helps us to know that.
We were talking about how people love to have an opinion about things like coffee. I said, if you really want to get your social media going, make some really controversial statement, like, tea is better than coffee, and see what happens. Half of your people will be like, no, coffee. In my case, it must be black coffee. None of this milk and sugar nonsense. If you’re going to have coffee, get to the good stuff. I feel very strongly about this. Then somebody else is like — I mean, my dad, who’s passed away now, was always like, it kind of just tastes like roast dirt. I’m like, the funny thing is, Dad, you’re not too far wrong. It’s just really good dirt.
John: Exactly, exactly. That’s awesome. I love that concept, and something that everyone listening can easily do today with your team. I love how you’re asking clients and how it’s grown beyond that, and how much people are gravitating towards that idea. I love it.
Karen: Yeah, I would love that, if you’re listening and you — ideally, it’s the top five things that you’re just like, if somebody who knows me would know that these are things that I default to or my rest thing or my relaxation, my fun thing. When I was on holiday this year, for a couple weeks, I didn’t end up traveling too far. It was in Scotland. All of a sudden, one day, I texted one of the team, and I was like, I literally had coffee in the morning, I went for a long walk. There was something I was coloring in, some Harry Potter thing, had some prayer time and meditation time and then drank some whiskey at the end of the day. I didn’t plan it. I wasn’t like, oh, let’s go through the five pillars. I went, that’s how you know, when you have a day where you just want to do things for you, those are your things.
John: Exactly. No, I love that. It’s what lights you up.
Karen: Yeah, and there are no rules. There are no rules. One of the team, one of his pillars is the name of his dog. You’re just like, well, that’s who’s important to you. It’s one of the things in your life that’s important to you. There can’t be any rules. They’re just five things or people or whatever that you would default to and that you love and that people know that you love and enjoy.
John: No, that’s awesome. What a great takeaway for everybody listening. This has been so much fun, Karen. This has been really awesome. It’s only fair though that, since I started out the episode, peppering you with questions, that we turn the tables, and welcome everyone to the first episode of The Karen Rayburn podcast on your birthday.
John: Happy Birthday, Karen.
Karen: Thank you.
John: Thank you so much for having me as your guest. I’m so happy to be here.
Karen: Oh, great.
John: Yeah, so whatever you’ve got, fire away.
Karen: My first question absolutely is what would your five pillars be?
John: Holy smokes. Well, I think I have to include my wife.
Karen: Is it going to be wife pillar, or is it going to be her name?
John: Brooke, okay, Brooke. We can go Brooke and then college football and ice cream and music, like concerts and what have you, and I guess comedy.
Karen: Okay. Ooh, I like that.
John: It goes back to my background. Also, I enjoy funny things.
Karen: That was brilliant. I love it. See, this is the fascinating thing to me, is everyone can come up with five, and usually, it really shows you something about the person. Because if music and concerts are your thing, you’ll be really suffering, not being able to go to concerts.
John: Right, exactly, exactly. The live stream, it’s just not the same, and even sporting events, similar. I can watch on TV. Luckily, college football happened, but it’s not the same without being able to go. But ice cream is always here.
Karen: Ice cream is always here. I just discovered, somebody pointed out to me that in America, this isn’t in the UK, there’s this website that allows you to order ice cream to get delivered to your house. I don’t even remember what it was called, but I remember looking at this and being like, wow, America, that is next level.
John: That is next level. Then you can order the the insulin right after that for your diabetes, also your dentures because all your teeth are going to fall out.
Karen: You can also order things like soup and healthy vegetables, so maybe just have a balance there. Yeah.
Karen: Now we understand, this is why ice cream pillar.
John: What would we do with that? It’s crazy.
Karen: Protect our bodies. Let’s see. Well, I’ve got a couple other questions. Since we’re talking about Harry Potter, what would your Hogwarts house be? Do you know what your Hogwarts house is?
John: I think not Slytherin. I feel like Slytherin is, oh, okay. I feel like that one was kind of shady. Is there a way to find out?
Karen: Yes, there is. You go to the Wizarding World website, and there’s an official — you’ve got to sign in to make an account and then it will do an official sorting hat. It’s a serious test, John. The whole team has done it. A couple of them ended up in Gryffindor, and they’re like, well —
John: Yeah, I would say Gryffindor for me actually.
Karen: They’re like, Harry Potter’s house, and everybody gets that. They tried to take the test multiple times, and they kept getting the same answer.
John: Yeah. Oh, but it’s based on what your… Yeah, so Slytherin is ambition, pride and cunning.
Karen: Yeah, that’s it.
John: Yeah, and Gryffindor is determination, courage and bravery.
John: Oh, maybe — well, no, there’s wisdom in Ravenclaw, so probably not that one for me.
Karen: I know. I was like —
John: The wit.
Karen: I have to work really hard. I’m not like naturally smart. My sister’s a Ravenclaw. I’m like, yeah. Basically, if you slim down the four to the simplest principles, you’ve got ambition, bravery, learning, and loyalty. Those would be the four categories.
John: I guess bravery, probably, because I’m pretty crazy like that. I do this for a living thing, so what do you want?
Karen: Yeah, I know. This is the thing. Absolutely. Okay, another question I have for you is what is your favorite holiday of them all?
John: Favorite holiday. Yeah. Wow, that’s going to be a good one. It’s not Halloween. Halloween is my least favorite. Although I love candy, so I’m torn there.
Karen: So, after Halloween, with the sales.
John: The day-after sale, exactly, that is my favorite. I don’t know. Thanksgiving is always so good because the food is just — there’s gravy on everything. It’s just so good.
Karen: So much carbs, you know?
John: Oh, yeah. Then the leftovers, there’s turkey sandwiches for days, and the cranberry sauce and the stuffing. Yeah, and there’s less pressure than the gift-giving of Christmas and Hanukkah and those sorts of things. So, yeah, I guess I would say that.
Karen: Yeah, I like that. I’ve always loved Thanksgiving for that reason, because you just eat good food and give thanks for it.
John: Pretty much. Yeah, and then food coma.
Karen: Yeah, food pillar, carbs pillar. Anyone who has those, that will be your holiday.
John: Those actually should have been my pillars, sugar, carbs.
Karen: Can I just have five food pillars? Is that cool?
John: Exactly. None of them are fruits and vegetables, though. It’s like, John, are you sure? Are you going to make it?
Karen: Oh, yeah, I got this.
John: Exactly. Exactly. Well, that’s awesome. Thank you so much, Karen, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? This has been super, super fun.
Karen: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I just love the whole premise of it, and it’s just brilliant from start to finish. Thanks for having me.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Karen in action or some of her pictures from her Harry Potter adventures or maybe connect with her 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 get the book.