John is an Accountant & World Traveler
John Bly returns to the podcast from episode 152 to talk about how he maintained his passion for traveling through the pandemic and how it has affected people being more open about their hobbies and passions!
• Places he wants to visit
• Renting an RV
• Places he visited this year
• Noticing more openness about hobbies and passions
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 342 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett and each Friday, I’m following 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 has 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. If you’re interested in buying 25 or more maybe for your clients or your team, there’s a form at whatsyourand.com so you can get discounted pricing from my publisher. I’m happy to hook you up with that for sure. Thank you so much to everyone who’s reading it and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. It’s been really cool to see how much of a difference it’s made. 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.
This Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, John Bly. He’s the managing partner of the South Atlantic region for Aprio. Now, he’s with me here today. John, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
John B: John, thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to having a few laughs and share some fun here over the next little bit.
John G: For sure, man. In Episode 152 two years ago, it does feel like way, way longer. I don’t even know if that’s even a phrase. It’s hard to believe I wrote a book by saying way longer, but anyway, I’m just excited to have you back. I have these rapid fire questions. I have seven that I didn’t ask the first time that maybe I should have, now that I think about it.
John B: It’s 2020 and it’s a whole new world, so two years ago is like a decade ago. So, rapid fire away.
John G: That’s true. Here we go. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
John B: Harry Potter.
John G: Okay. All right. This one’s a tricky one. Brownie or ice cream?
John B: Ice cream. But for some reason, I never got into brownies.
John G: Okay. All right. Fair enough. What’s a typical breakfast? If you say ice cream, super bonus points.
John B: Typical breakfast is a bowl of cereal and a banana.
John G: Okay, healthy. Look at you. Good for you. I know you travel quite a bit. That’s what we talked about before. Would you say planes, trains, or automobiles? Also a good movie.
John B: “You’re going the wrong way.” “How do you know which way I’m going? I’m not going the wrong way.”
John G: Right.
John B: Planes or trains, definitely not automobiles. Either plane or train is good.
John G: Yeah. All right. Since my book is out, are you more Kindle, real book, or Audible?
John B: Real book. I like to be able to touch it and feel it and make notes in it.
John G: Yeah, and I super appreciated you being part of the launch team, man. Thank you again for that. All right, two more. How about a favorite animal, any animal at all?
John B: I’ll say dog just because I like to give hugs and cats run the other way.
John G: Right. There you go. The last one, this is an important one. Toilet paper roll, over or under?
John B: Over. I used to be an under. My wife didn’t like it. I’m an over now.
John G: You don’t have to sleep on the couch tonight. Good for you, man. Good for you. That’s impressive. Well, I remember back when we chatted a couple of years ago, it’s world travel and those cool pictures from Australia, New Zealand, Asia and all the cool places you went even with your family and stuff, which was awesome. So in the last couple of years, has travel still been a thing for you guys?
John B: Yeah, it’s still a huge passion. The kids have been everywhere basically. The only place they haven’t been that they remind me fairly regularly is Antarctica, and they haven’t been to parts of Asia, so they want to get there. Post-pandemic, that’ll definitely be high on the list. I don’t know when we’re going to make it to Antarctica, but Asia is on the list for sure.
John G: Yeah. Have you done Antarctica without them?
John B: I have not. I know some people who have done speaking gigs, so maybe that could be on your list.
John G: In Antarctica. Those penguins are unruly. They’re just brutal.
John B: Yup. It’s one of those things on people’s bucket list, to speak on all seven continents. They’ll go for free, right? They’ll pay their own way just to say they did it.
John G: Right. Exactly. But even in the last nine months, travel obviously has been a little bit tricky, but you guys have still made it happen because that passion is very real.
John B: It is. We did our best to stay “quarantined” for a couple of months, and then as it looked like this thing wasn’t going to be a couple of months and it was going to be longer, the passion in our life had to continue. So the end of June on literally less than two weeks’ notice, we booked an RV. By the way, we’ve never been in an RV before in our lives.
John G: Nice.
John B: We booked an RV. I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. We booked an RV. For those travel enthusiasts, the best place to rent an RV is Phoenix, Vegas, or Denver. For some reason, they have a hundred times more than any other RV outlets in the country to rent.
John G: Okay. Good to know since I live in Denver, so maybe I need to hook myself up with one of these. All right.
John B: So we rented an RV, also didn’t know anything about them. Apparently, there’s a website like an Airbnb that you can actually rent somebody else’s RV.
John G: Oh, okay.
John B: It was half the price of a corporate one. The family of five spent 31 days roaming the West. The only deal my wife and I had — she’s a saint. The only deal we had upfront was Daddy has to work, so that means if I want to enjoy the sights and the sounds and do all the cool things then she has to drive the whole time, so I actually never even started the RV.
John G: Oh, what? You had a personal driver. That’s impressive. You know what, that’s a fair trade-off for the toilet paper. I think that’s fair. I think that’s totally fair.
John B: We could do seven or ten days and I could be totally disconnected, but if we’re going to do 31, I’ve got to be connected. You can appreciate this. I even led a webinar from the back of the RV with my wife driving. I had four screens set up. It was pretty cool.
John G: That’s impressive, man. That’s really cool. Also, that passion is very real and you can’t put that on the side for that long type of a thing, and there’s a workaround. There’s always a way and you made it happen, which is super cool.
John B: I agree. If you’re that passionate about something, there has to be a way, right? Now, we did it as safe as we possibly could. We were staying in the RV and we did it all outdoors. The last time we were together, we traveled the world. This was our travel through the US. We hit a whole bunch of states that certainly the kids hadn’t been to and a few that my wife and I hadn’t been to, so tons of national parks, a positive because we’re all looking for positives in 2020. We were in Yellowstone. One of the advantages of the pandemic, they don’t have large tour buses because nobody’s taken large tour buses. So the sightseeing, it was way less crowded and there was no big buses in front of it. It was perfect.
John G: That’s awesome, man. Yeah, that is a great idea. Was Yellowstone like a highlight or was there something that was also equally cool or fun?
John B: Yeah, Yellowstone was definitely my highlight. The kids were torn between the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. We spent four days in the Grand Canyon, which was really cool. I had been to the Grand Canyon before, so while it’s absolutely stunning and amazing, I had been there before, so not quite as high on my list. We went to Rocky Mountain National Park. There was some cool dinosaur stuff we did that I didn’t even know existed in the US.
John G: Right. Yeah, just a little bit west of Denver. Yeah, absolutely, man. That is nutty up there because my nephew’s way into dinosaurs, so they bring him up there. He’s six.
John B: You don’t have to be six to love dinosaurs. I love dinosaurs too, John. What are you saying here?
John G: No, I’m just saying he’s way into it. He knows more about dinosaurs than I ever did, and he’s six. I’m like, holy crap, I’m an idiot. His favorite dinosaur is one I can’t even say. How is that? But it is cool, man. That’s awesome. So did you drive all the way from North Carolina then?
John B: The most honestly thing we did, we needed to get on a plane.
John G: But again, there’s no one on planes either.
John B: Correct, so we flew to Arizona, rented the RV. I did a round trip from Phoenix, 31 days, about 6500 miles, and it was awesome. We hit it all really with seriously less than two weeks to plan. You could tell that the summer was going to be slow compared to what we’re used to, so we said let’s find something that fits us. Travel is definitely that passion, so how do we do it in a way that is still a lot of fun? Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t take it back. It was an amazing experience.
John G: That’s so fun. Plus, two weeks’ notice, one, you guys are avid travelers anyway. But two, when you’re driving, it’s super easy. You pull out the map or go on the internet and you’re like, “Hey, this is just an hour that way. Let’s go.” “Okay, cool,” just being nimble on your feet. That’s a great example for your kids as well to see that.
John B: It was and it was a totally different type of experience than we had ever done because you’re right, we did have to be nimble. We were headed out of Idaho towards California to spend the last five days down there in California line, and it really wasn’t open. Ironically, we’re pursuing this and it’s still not really open. We really couldn’t get in to California, so we pivoted and we spent a bunch more time in Utah instead. It taught some life lessons about being a little bit nimble and being creative and just living in the moment. The kids all really enjoyed it and it got them out of the stress of being home and doing all that stuff that happens in 2020.
John G: Right. Yeah, what a cool story and something that all of you will remember forever. That’s awesome, man. That’s super cool. Do you feel like people are sharing their hobbies and passions more now than they did a couple of years ago when we first talked?
John B: I do think so. I’m an avid golfer. The club that I’m a member of, there were 6000 more rounds through the end of August at the club than there had been ever in any year.
John G: Oh my goodness, and that’s only in eight months.
John B: Yeah, so I think people are definitely trying to find — they’re having — what I’ll say is more free time because a lot of people aren’t commuting back and forth. A lot of people are not having the types of social calendars that they historically had. And so they’re filling it with the passions that they’re pretty strong about. I hope that people are. If not then they’re having a worse 2020 than I am. That’s for sure.
John G: Right. Yeah. The other thing too is with all these video calls that we’ve had, we’ve had coworkers in our homes now, so they see the things on the walls or the painting or whatever you have in the background and ask about that. It’s been cool to see how this message is even more relevant in the last nine months where the band aid was just straight ripped off, where you can’t put on the facade in the office anymore. You’re at home. The kids need to get home-schooled. They can’t log on. The Amazon deliveries come in. The dog is going nuts. It’s just crazy and that’s life and that’s who we are. We’re all just human, so it’s been neat to see how it’s played out for sure.
John B: I think there are some people who found some new passions, too. For whatever reason that I can’t even think of, maybe there was something. Certainly, peloton is an example of people who have found their passion in exercise that maybe didn’t have it before.
John G: That is an excellent example where everyone else is doing it, so I guess I need to jump on, too, but then you find out it’s also healthy and it’s fun and all that. Yeah, that is true, a lot of new things. I think a lot of it is we just tell ourselves not to do something. My wife, she has always been really creative but let it slip, just wasn’t doing it as much, and then just got into painting. People are actually buying her paintings. They’re really good. I’m like, what? This is awesome. Yeah, it’s just cool to see her just light up from that because she has a different energy now from being able to do your passions, which is cool. So to everybody listening, just do it. Do you have any encouragement for people listening that maybe think, “My passion, no one’s going to care about” or “It has nothing to do with my job, so why talk about it?”
John B: Oh, definitely. I think in 2020, I think that people have shared more of their passions with other people and that everyone is looking for — well, maybe everyone’s an exaggeration, but almost everyone is looking for where they belong. Where’s their tribe? What is the group that also believes or thinks or does what I like? I think that that’s super helpful when you think about going from community building, which is something that the human race generally likes, to then being more socially distant, et cetera. Then finding a way, whether that’s online or whatever, to be able to find people with similar passions really is something that I think they ought to dive in and chase.
John G: Absolutely. Then if some of those people have the similar passions that you work with then that’s extra magic. The engagement is so much higher. It just works better in the end. So not only have it, but share it is a huge key. That’s awesome, man, so cool. It’s been so fun catching up with you, John. But it’s only fair since I started out the episode with my rapid fire questions that I turn the tables and make this the first episode of The John Bly Podcast. Thanks so much for having me on as a guest. I appreciate it.
John B: Absolutely. I heard there was an AICPA conference recently.
John G: Yeah, just last week.
John B: There may have been some interesting banter that you led. Do you mind giving a little insight as to the humor that was shown?
John G: Oh my goodness. Yeah, the Digital CPA Conference, they had me kick it off the night before the conference was, so I did an hour of a little bit of standup. Then we did like a Family Feud game, which was really fun and interactive. I always ask these open-ended questions kind of Family Feud style, and one of the questions was besides your significant other, name something you bring along on a date. Most of the answers were taken. One lady said a condom, and it was hilarious because I’m pretty positive that a lot of people never thought that that word would ever be said at an AICPA event, but leave it to me to make that magic happen. I, of course, quickly pivoted and turned it into risk management, which seems a little more user-friendly for the AICPA crowd or CPA.com crowd. Yeah, it was super fun. Everybody that was there had a lot of good laughs and all the nice comments. It was really, really fun to see.
John B: What’s the most random — you’re now an author. What’s the most random experience you’ve had with it whether somebody was like, “Oh my gosh, I read your book” and it wasn’t like the epiphany moment, but something totally random, or the strangest comment you’ve received about it.
John G: I would say that probably from parents who had their kids just leave for college, how much the book applied to them, maybe the stay-at-home parents that their identity was lacrosse mom or whatever, soccer dad, the parent that stays home that helps take care of the kids. So now that the kids went away to college, it’s, “Well, what’s my identity now? What are my passions?” and just realizing that it applies to not just corporate professionals. It applies to just everybody really. That was really something that hit me. I was like, wow, this is a lot bigger than I thought it was. That was cool where it was like, wow, I didn’t even realize how much it would resonate with that. Even people that are doctors, they’re never really taught how to manage people. They’re taught medicine until they’re 30 and then it’s, “Okay. Now, go run a business and be in charge of it.” I think it’s helpful for them as well. It’s such a simple thing to just ask people what their “and” is, what lights you up, and then care about them. I guess that would be probably the most random thing where I did not see that come in at all.
John B: That’s awesome. Well, it’s great that you’re making that sort of impact on people’s lives. It’s probably very rewarding to hear the feedback as well.
John G: Yeah, it is. Well, it’s also rewarding that people are reading it. That’s why you spend two years writing a book. I wrote it in a very conversational way so then it’s easy to read. It’s not a cumbersome task where it’s like, “Oh, this is hard.” No. It’s actually — some people have even said they’ve read it twice already, which is kind of cool. There you go.
John B: Last question. The vaccine happens and you’re totally clear to do whatever. What’s the first thing you’re going to do 2021?
John G: Wow. The first thing —
John B: And no dollar limit. Pretend it’s all free.
John G: Probably, honestly, this might be — this isn’t super exciting, but my parents live in an assisted living home here, so they’ve been completely locked down. I’ll probably take them out to dinner because it’s hard on us, but on them, it’s got to be even — I can’t even imagine. So probably just take my parents out to dinner would be the first thing, and then go to Antarctica so I could tell your kids I’ve been before they did. I’m kidding, man. This has been so much fun, John. Thanks so much for taking time to be a part of What’s Your “And”?
John B: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
John G: Awesome. Everybody, if you want to see some pictures of John on his adventures or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. And while you’re on the page, please click that big button to the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to get the book. It makes an excellent holiday present, if I say so myself.
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.
Rubik is a Forensic Accountant & Greeting Card Writer & Children’s Book Author
Rubik Yeriazarian talks about his passion for writing accountant themed greeting cards and children’s books! He talks about how this hobby has helped him improve his marketing skills, why it’s important to have something outside of work, and his experience in opening up about his hobby in the office!16
• Getting into writing greeting cards and children’s books
• How his work in writing greeting cards and children’s books helped improve his marketing skills
• “Market Day” at his firm
• Why it is important to have something to do outside of work
• Why it is on the organization to create a culture at work
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
(click to enlarge)
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 341 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.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is published. You could check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. It’ll make a really awesome Christmas gift. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Book Depository, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites. All the links are on that page. I can’t say how much it means that everyone is getting the book and leaving such nice reviews on all the sites and sharing how their cultures are changing 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.
This week is no different with my guest, Rubik Yeriazarian. He’s a Forensic Accounting and Litigation Support Principal at Briggs & Veselka in Houston, Texas. Now, he’s with me here today. Rubik, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Rubik: Thanks for having me, John. I can think of no better way to spend my PTO than talking to you about accounting and hobbies.
John: There you go. I don’t even know what charge code — yes, you have to PTO this. Oh, man! You know what? I might just talk to Briggs & Veselka. We’ll see what we can do. We can get you these 30 minutes back. There you go. Yeah, but I start out with my rapid fire questions.
John: Yeah, so here we go. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
John: Hot. Okay. Well, Houston, that makes sense. How about a favorite color?
John: Green. Nice. How about a least favorite color?
Rubik: Oh man. Yellow.
John: Yellow. Okay.
Rubik: Yeah, yellow. It’s like waffling in between red or green. What’s up with yellow? Make a decision.
John: Right. Okay. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Rubik: I really like Adam Sandler mainly because of the “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” movie, just a personal favorite of mine just from all the gratuitous use of hummus throughout it.
John: Nice. Okay. Oh, that’s so fantastic. He’s also a really nice guy, which makes it cool. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Rubik: I used to be night owl, but I have a one-year-old and a three-year-old, so more of an early bird now. If I’m awake, it’s going to be more in the morning. I tend to pass out on the couch by ten o’clock if it’s getting late.
John: Yeah, I hear you, man. Yeah, that would be tough. How about puzzles? Sudoku or crossword?
John: Crossword. Okay. How about chocolate or vanilla?
John: Chocolate. Okay. All right. If you had to choose, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Rubik: Star Wars. I never got into Star Trek. I’ve seen Star Wars, but I’m not a huge fan of both of them. I can identify characters, but — yeah.
John: I can identify more of the Star Wars characters for sure because I’ve seen maybe, I don’t know, two Star Trek. Maybe one movie, one episode of the show, so yeah, I’m similar. How about your computer, PC or Mac?
Rubik: I use a PC for all work-related stuff, but then I have a Mac for my hobby stuff, so a little bit of both.
John: Wow! Ambidextrous, I like that, man. That’s impressive.
Rubik: Macs suck for Excel though, so I don’t advise anyone to use Microsoft Excel on a Mac. I still can’t figure some stuff out on why it’s different.
John: It is weird. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Rubik: Oh, man. I can’t go wrong with just vanilla and putting some toppings on it.
John: Oh, okay. Okay. Yeah, toppings though, that’s where it’s at. That’s for sure. All right. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Rubik: I like making an old fashioned, so some whiskey or rye, mix it up. That’s my one cocktail that I’m more than decent at making, so that’s my go to.
John: There you go. I like that. How about suit and tie or jeans and a T-shirt?
Rubik: Pre-pandemic? Now, shoot, I haven’t put my suit on in six to seven months, so I hope it fits next month when I have to go to a trial.
John: That’s so funny. Yeah, I actually had to put my suit on a little bit ago and it didn’t have elastic. It was kind of like, these aren’t gym shorts, so I’m not sure. We’ll see. Yeah, that’s so funny. How about balance sheet or income statement?
Rubik: Let’s go income statement. Yeah.
John: All right. There it is. That’s the money. How about what’s a typical breakfast?
Rubik: Typical breakfast for me, I’ll usually do some kind of — not cereal, but now, I’ve been doing it with yogurt or peanut butter. When I’m at home, I get some kind of grain and some fruit in it. Once I start going back in the office though, it’ll probably be something a lot worse for my body. For now, it’s something that feels pretty healthy. It’ll be $12 to have a nice brunch every time probably.
John: Right. Exactly. Yeah, but you eat at home, so that’s even better. Three more. Do you have a favorite number?
John: No? Oh, just positive ones or negative ones?
Rubik: As an accountant, you’ve got to like everything, right? You can’t be biased towards numbers, so you’ve got to treat them all equally.
John: Okay. All right. Just in case they’re listening, we like all of you, so we’re good. How about with my book being out, Kindle or real books?
Rubik: Oh, man, I like Audible. I haven’t done Kindle yet, but I like Audible because if I read too much, I fall asleep. That’s why I like children’s books because they’re 12 pages, but Audible is great. So if you want to record a copy where you can read it to me, it’ll be easier for me to really listen to and focus on.
John: Okay. Yeah. My book will be coming out with the Audible in early part of next year, so there we go. The last one, favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Rubik: I just recently got a real awesome printer. It’s an Epson EcoTank ET-15000. To you, it means nothing, but to me, it’s really awesome. I can’t even explain all the awesomeness of it. Maybe it’s because my past printer was kind of crappy, but it really goes well with printing out cards and stuff.
John: That’s great. Yeah, it’s like the Lamborghini of printers. Yeah, whatever it is, that’s awesome, man. Very cool.
Rubik: When the kids get close to it, I just tense up. I’m like, “Don’t even think about it.”
John: Right. Very cool, man. Well, that dovetails perfectly into your “and” with the greeting cards and then the book as well. How did that get started?
Rubik: I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old, so I’ve read a ton of children’s books over the past three years. Some of them I read and I’m just like, “This is dumb. I can do better than this.” I was thinking about it would be great if there was a book I could read my kids that has to do with accounting or financial literacy somehow, but not too deep into it so they’re not like, “Well, I don’t know, Dad. This doesn’t make sense to me” to where it’s kind of a children’s book, but it has some jokes in there, but also for the parent to enjoy. I thought, you know what, one day, I sat down and said, “Let me just start writing down accounting jokes. What are some accounting puns I can think of?” It took me a while to think of a main character, and one day, I said, “What if there was a general whose name was General Ledger and he was the hero?”
Rubik: From that point, it started building out and I was like, I’m doing it. All right. Cool. It was over a year that I had been working on it and just had a little notebook. I was jotting down ideas in. That was my main motivation at first. The greeting cards complement it, but I’ve always liked greeting cards. I’m the guy who will spend 30 minutes in the aisle at Target looking at all the cards, trying to find the perfect one, put one back, put another, get another one. You just want that moment where you hand the card to someone and you’re looking at them like, “Did you read it? Isn’t that perfect?” They look at you like, “Oh my gosh, how did you find it? This card is perfect.”
John: Right, and you’re like, “I made it.”
Rubik: Yeah. Now, I can say, “Hey, let me create those perfect card moments.” So when accountants are giving cards to accountants or if an accountant is getting a card from a non-accountant, they can fully appreciate the accounting humor in the card.
John: That’s awesome, man. I love that. That’s so great because you’re like — I don’t even think that existed or does exist, or if it’s an accounting joke, it’s going to be — I don’t know. It’s just lame. This isn’t even a good one. This is written by a non-accountant.
Rubik: Right. The ones that you would have at some kind of card store is probably going to do some riff on the IRS and that’s pretty much it because they assume every accountant does taxes and there’s no other — I mean, we do other things clearly based on all the other people you’ve spoken to on your podcast.
John: Like embezzle. That’s definitely more lucrative. No, I’m kidding.
Rubik: Some do.
John: It’s a joke that I had on stage. We don’t all do taxes. Some of us prefer to embezzle. That’s just a joke that I had. That’s just super cool, man, but it started with a book. That was pretty much what — the General Ledger is what started it?
Rubik: Yeah. It started just with my desire to do a book. I actually several years ago had an interest in doing a side business in greeting cards, but I never really found a way to make it work. I was trying to come up with ideas, but nothing really, and my mind was like, “Yeah, this isn’t going to work out. This isn’t feasible.” Then as I was developing the book, I was like, “You know what? A lot of these jokes, I can parlay into cards as well.” Then I said, “You know what? Let it just all be accounting-related. Let me fully embrace the accounting nerd inside of me.” I’d have a captive audience, so that would make it easier to market it to a group of people.
An accountant will see something like this and I get a lot of laughs from accountants when they see the book or some of the cards, which if I just do a generic card, no one’s going to say, “Oh, that’s a great card” that says “Have a great day” or something, but if it has an accounting joke built in then you’re automatically going to get a better reaction from it from an accountant, at least.
John: Totally. That’s so great, man. That’s so great. Brian Regan had a bit — a really great comedian — of when he first had a kid. He opens the children’s book and it’s, “The clock. The clock. The clock goes tick. The clock goes tock. The end, 1995.” He’s like, “Who’s writing this? What the hell.” You’re like, “I can write this” and you did. I think that’s really cool. Have you heard from people that have gotten the cards or gotten the book? That’s got to feel really rewarding to hear their reaction to what you’ve created.
Rubik: Yeah. Well, when I see a sale come in, I’m like, oh my gosh. They’re not just looking at a picture of it in a social media post. They’re actually saying, “Take my money. I don’t want to just look at this virtually on my screen. I want to hold it and I might want to read it to my children” or have someone else read it to their children. I remember the first sale that came through. I was like, oh my gosh, what do I do? Okay. I’m going to package it here. My wife was looking at me like, “I think you should put some more tape on that postage label on the envelope just to make sure it gets there.”
Now, that’s a lot easier of a process, but it was certainly exciting to see just the reaction that I get from people not only when they want to buy it, but then I’ll see people send me messages or share some of my posts and say, “Oh, it’s so great that someone’s doing something like this” or “These are really great.” It’s just a good feeling knowing that yeah, there are people that appreciate this. It’s not just me.
John: Yeah, that’s really fantastic. Would you say that any of this gives you a skill that you bring to work at all?
Rubik: Really it made me look at marketing a lot more and just understanding too the digital marketing. I know that’s something that we look at work-wise before I got into all this stuff, but now when I post something and I’m looking at it and saying, “Okay, let me look on LinkedIn. I got this many views and this many likes and shares” or whatever, okay. What was up with this one that this one did better than that post? So as we do things work-wise when we’re putting out some of our own work-related marketing content, I’m a little more aware of that stuff now to say okay, let’s be able to look at that to see what works, what doesn’t work when we’re trying to sell forensic accounting.
John: Wow. Yeah, I didn’t even think of that. Plus, I guess just that creative side, you’re able to make that ad just not so stale. It’s still forensic accounting. It’s what you’re selling, so you can’t have this Apple ad or something like that, but you can also just a little bit outside the box to make it not look like everyone else’s ad type of thing because you have a different lens that you’re looking through.
Rubik: Yeah. We just have to know who the user is. I have a much more defined user on my greeting card and children’s book business, but then with forensic accounting, we have to think about okay, if an attorney is going to see this advertisement, are they going to say, “I completely understand. I need to pay these people money” or if an attorney’s client sees it, we have to think about it a different way. But I’m a big data guy, too, so I just know now that okay, here’s all the data that’s available through those social media metrics and analytics that we can look at and evaluate on what’s working and what’s not working.
John: Yeah. That’s cool, man. That’s great because it’s a muscle that you’re exercising outside of work. I’m sure at no point — I’m going to bet a ton of all my money actually that at no point in your business education did anyone say write a children’s book or make greeting cards because it’ll make you better at forensics accounting.
Rubik: No, I don’t think so. Maybe someone said, “Hey, if you need to consider quitting your day job, maybe go write a book or something” but they didn’t get into the specifics.
John: No, that’s cool. I would imagine your appreciation for printers has also gotten way up.
Rubik: Oh, yeah. You have no idea. I had a printer just at home that my mother-in-law had gotten us five years ago, and we never print anything at home. It’s this printer with full ink and everything. A year ago actually, we had an event at the office. It was Market Day and people could come in and bring in some crafts or whatever.
John: Oh, that’s cool.
Rubik: If they have a side hobby, bring it in and sell it in the firm. That was the first time I printed these greeting cards and I just busted out that old printer. I said, “Well, okay, this is what I have. It might not be that good,” but it actually was decent. It was really good. It’s nowhere near my new fancy toy now.
John: The 15,000.
Rubik: That’s right. Yeah, the other one wasn’t even like 2000.
John: That’s hilarious. That’s such a cool thing that the firm did. It sounds like Briggs & Veselka where if you make something then bring it in and share it. It’s almost like show-and-tell, flea market style. Sell it. That’s cool. I would imagine that that had to open up some eyes for some people, and even people that you didn’t even know did other things as well.
Rubik: Oh, for sure, yeah. I looked around the room and at first, I went in and I decided — when they sent out the email about it, I said, “Oh, you know what? I’m either going to do it or I’m never going to do this thing, so let me design one.” I designed one. It was right around Christmas. It was beginning of December, so I made one Christmas greeting card with an accounting joke on it. I said I’m just going to print out 20 of these. I’m going to try to sell these. If no one buys them, if everyone says these are dumb then forget about it. If they sell then okay, I’m onto something.
John: That’s a lot of pressure on your co-workers.
Rubik: Yeah. I was selling it up. I was targeting all the tax folks because it was a tax joke on my card and I sold out. Now, it was intimidating because I look around the room and people have this whole setup they’re bringing in. They’re like, “I have a tablecloth. I have a banner” and this and that. I’ve got like a shoebox with 20 greeting cards in it and a few dollars of change in case someone pays with a five. What am I doing here? But it worked out because I just sat next to the person selling kolaches. It wasn’t good for my profits because every dollar I made, I just bought a kolache.
Rubik: I’m a little more responsible now with my business, so good lesson learned.
John: Right. Oh my goodness, that’s so good. I could just imagine your set up and you’re like, “I don’t know what’s going on.” Everyone’s got a full pop-up store and you’re almost the homeless man that’s just selling whatever’s in your shopping cart. What the hell, man? No, but that’s great though because it’s more genuine and authentic. That’s great because it’s that target niche and then you go in and you hit it. Then you’re like, okay, this can be a thing. They didn’t even know that they were guinea pigs in a big experiment.
Rubik: Oh, yeah, and they had no idea the book stuff was going on in the background, so that was kind of further validation for me. If I can get people to buy these cards, let’s do this book. I just got to finish it and figure out how to get it into a printed book format, which was another process. But it was definitely a good, motivational stepping stone for me to get over that first hump and then get that proof of concept, and then motivate me to keep going with it.
John: Yeah. Was there a part of you that ever thought — because I would imagine that not a lot of people knew that you had this going or that this was an idea of yours or whatever, maybe a couple of coworkers or maybe no one. But was there a part of you that was like, “They’re going to judge me” or “This isn’t what a principal does in accounting firms” or something like that?
Rubik: For sure, yeah. There was definitely a part of it. Everyone can always say, “Oh, I’m busy. I’m busy. I don’t have time to do this stuff,” which if you really are passionate about it — a lot of this stuff I would do 11 o’clock at night. It’s late at night on the weekends or whatever, so it’s not like it’s a day-to-day thing. But there was always that concern of, well, okay, if I’m doing this, should I be spending more time on these other things related to my job? Is someone going to judge me for that? That was always something that I was initially worried about. But then we get that email that says, “Hey, everyone, let’s have a Market Day. Bring in all your stuff.” It was a really easy way for me to be like, well, they want me to do this. Let me see who else is out there coming out with this stuff, so it was a good event, I thought, to help people come out there.
John: And kudos on the firm because we’re so permission-based. That basically gave you the permission to be like, hey, this is what I’m doing. How important do you think it is to have something outside of work as opposed to just spend more time doing work?
Rubik: Very. I’ve worked for people who I feel like didn’t have that thing outside of work to get them out of the office. I feel like for me initially, a lot of the stuff I do outside of work, it’s through professional organizations and volunteer efforts I can do through there. But then just having those things outside of work to pull me away from the PC and pull me onto the Mac to be able to work on other things, it’s really important. I feel like it just helps you grow, helps keep you happy, helps keep you grow in other areas that you might not get through your normal day-to-day.
John: Yeah, it’s just that unplug. For you, like you said, away from the computer, the work computer, and onto the creative computer, if you will, the non-Excel one. So even if you wanted to do Excel, you couldn’t, but that’s so great, just to unplug a little bit. There are plenty of studies done on more work doesn’t equal better output.
John: Especially something that’s so different and it’s more that creative because with me doing internal audit and merger acquisition work and then doing standup comedy, I enjoy the creative because you can’t really get creative a lot in the accounting side or you’re not supposed to.
Rubik: You’re not supposed to. You can. There are penalties and repercussions you may face if caught.
John: Then on the other side, if you’re not creative then that’s when the penalties happen, or figuratively. So it was just nice for both sides of my brain to be able to just exercise that, but it’s cool to hear, like you said earlier, of those examples of where it does apply to work.
It’s not just nothing at all type of a thing. I love that example from Briggs & Veselka. How much do you think it is on an organization to lead that charge and encourage people to share those outside-of-work interests versus how much is it on the individual to be willing to bring in their crafts and things to share or even just talk about it?
Rubik: Right. I think it goes to the organization’s culture. If they have an openness to it, it really goes down to making sure people can have a life outside of work. If the organization is just stressing billable hours and wanting everyone to be present and be in the office all the time, that puts a damper on anything you can do outside of work. So I think that’s one big picture element of it. But then also just having people, mentors and managers within your team that encourage it as well, I feel like that plays a big role as well.
John: Yeah, because it actually just speaks to the framework or the organization as a whole. Also, people can’t have anything to share if you don’t give them time to go do the thing to talk about. There’s actually another step before that that they need to be doing as well, which is a really great point. No wonder you’re a principal. Let’s do it, man. I like that. You’re right. “Hey, everybody, share what you’re talking about.” Well, we don’t have time to do anything to share, so that would defeat the purpose.
Rubik: Well, work more efficiently then you’ll have time to do it.
John: Right. Okay. Yeah. Exactly, or you work more efficiently and then we just give you more work to do.
Rubik: There you go.
John: Because you’re so good at it, and it’s like, “No, no.” That’s such a great example. Is there anything else that you’ve seen in your working world to encourage people to share those outside-of-work interests?
Rubik: It’s funny. When I was in the office, you walk around and you see different people’s offices. You see something in their office that you can automatically connect with and you’re like, “Oh, hey, you went to…” I went to the University of Houston, so if I see someone with the U of H anything, I’m like, “Oh, hey! Going to the game?” or “Yeah, what’s up with the basketball team?” I feel like that always helps with being able to see people just express themselves a little bit. A lot of people have the standard college stuff, but then I’ve seen some people have different things, little gadgets, little trinkets, Legos, all kinds of things that you look at it and you’re like, “Oh, yeah, this person wants me to talk to them and ask them about this thing that they’re bringing in to express themselves. I think this is okay. I think I’m allowed to do this.”
John: Right. That’s such a great thing of just having something in your office. It’s not shouting from the rooftops. It’s not bragging. It’s not looking for attention. It’s something that brings you joy looking at it, number one, but number two, it’s an invitation to people to ask me about this, if you would like. Then that just creates a real conversation as opposed to just work-related talk and then I’m leaving. It opens that door. I imagine it has to grease the wheels a little bit for camaraderie and teamwork.
Rubik: Well, and a little more interesting conversation aside from the normal, “So how is the weekend?” “I’m going to block out the next 20 seconds.” “Oh, cool. So here’s what we’ve got going on this week.”
John: Right. “Well, my cat got run over by a truck.” “Okay. Anyway, we got work to do.” It’s like, what? No, I just said the worst possible thing ever. “Anyway, we got work.”
Rubik: “If you want to buy a new cat, we’ve got to bill some hours, so let’s get on this so the client pays us.”
John: Right. That’s for sure happened. We’re laughing about it, but it’s for sure happened. It might be your next book, I don’t know.
Rubik: It’s a little morbid for children. I’ll have to see. Greeting cards are better, greeting cards for adults. I can be a little more naughty in some of the jokes on there versus the children’s book.
John: It’s almost like — I just imagined almost like a Far Side like when I was younger. That was my go to, Far Side and Mad Magazine and stuff like that. That explains why I’m here where I am today. This has been awesome, Rubik. Do you have any words of encouragement for people listening that think that their hobby or passion has nothing to do with their job or no one’s going to care?
Rubik: You never know. You automatically think no one’s going to care, but you’d be surprised. Everyone has some kind of interest outside of work and it can be very different from totally non-accounting-related. You just never know until you ask them. I’m really hoping that people get more open about sharing their outside-of-work hobbies and don’t have that fear because like you said, it really leads to more interesting conversation. You can have a lot more fun if I’m checking in with a co-worker, saying, “Hey, how’s that hobby going? Where are you at on it?” You really have a much stronger connection with them as a result of that, so it’s really mutually beneficial for being able to see — for me, I’m able to see okay, these people care about me, but then it also gives me an opportunity to express an interest and it just makes you feel good.
John: That’s so perfect. As a leader, a leadership role, it just shows some genuine interest in the people around you. It’s huge because we forget what it’s like to be 22 to 23 coming out of school and then a principal. What are you, invincible? Do you know everything? So when you’re like, “I like to do greeting cards and make a children’s book,” it’s like, oh, he’s a real person. That’s neat. That’s really cool.
Rubik: I don’t know what 22-year-old me would have thought of 35-year-old me if I would have said that. It’s like, oh, yeah, 35-year-old me, I do greeting cards. 22-year-old me would have probably judged, but I don’t know. I probably would have gotten over it.
John: But it’s a good example to show you can have other things and still be successful.
Rubik: Yeah. Maybe 22-year-old me would have been more cool with it if someone would share those experiences rather than just worrying about, “Hey, so where’s happy hour this Friday?”
John: Yeah, exactly, or golf or more work. There are other sides to that and that’s really neat. Before I wrap this up though, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and allow you to question me, so we’ll make this The Rubik Podcast. Welcome to the first episode. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it. So whatever questions you’ve got, let them rip.
Rubik: Okay. John, are you ready?
Rubik: Favorite holiday of the year?
John: Oh, favorite holiday. I’m going to go Tax Day because it’s also my birthday, April 15th.
Rubik: Oh my gosh, you are an accountant. Oh, man. I could make a special accounting tax day/busy season/birthday card for you.
John: Exactly. It would have all of the things. It would be a trifold. It would have to have —
Rubik: Oh yeah. I’d charge double for it, for sure. Funny card or sappy cards?
John: Oh, funny card.
Rubik: Oh, thank goodness.
John: Yeah. If you’re going to send a card — I don’t know. I used to actually — I’m not huge on the cards because I didn’t write it, so I don’t really mean it because somebody else wrote these words. My mom especially, very big into cards, and my grandmother as well. So for holidays, I would give them the blank inside cards. So it’s got, for Christmas, a picture of a volcano and then it’s blank on the inside. Then on the back, I would just write, “Love, John.” My kids, if you wanted a card, you got a card. The message is not from me, so blank inside. There you go. But funny cards for sure.
Rubik: Perfect. I’m going to take a guess that you’re a fan, but favorite Weird Al song.
John: Oh, wow, so many, but I’m going to have to go — oh, man, he is a genius. I’m going to have to go — I believe it was 3rd Grade talent show elementary school. It might have been 4th Grade. It was 4th Grade, 4th Grade talent show. We did, “Like a Surgeon”. One of my buddies, there were three of us — or four because one of them was the person getting operated on. At the very end, one of my friends — his mom was a nurse, so we got these giant syringes, almost like turkey baster syringes without the needle, of course. At the very end, we squirted the whole audience with water. It was great, but yeah, “Like a Surgeon,” that one’s hilarious to me. There are the newer ones, too, but that’s the one that just came to mind right away just because of that talent show, which we won.
Rubik: Well, I would imagine. Everyone’s terrified enough. They’re like, well, this is the most memorable one where I’m going home with a souvenir. I got —
John: There was no talent at all on that stage. When we were doing our piece, it was just pure funny and just silly. When you’ve got a bunch of elementary school kids voting, that’s what you go with.
Rubik: I’m impressed that as a ten-year-old or so that you guys were able to nail that. I’m sure you got all the lyrics and everything.
John: Oh, I’m sure not, but it was close.
Rubik: I’m sure there were some teachers that were mortified a little bit like, “Are they singing the parody or the real song?”
John: Right. This isn’t Madonna. I had the record — I mean, the albums, Weird Al albums. I was a huge fan of Weird Al still to this day. He’s great. That’s where my music parodies are inspired by, for sure. You know Weird Al. He’s the OG on that.
Rubik: He is, yeah. I used to want to be Weird Al, but then I could never sing.
John: It’s the accordion that gets me, too. He’s just so good at it. It’s like, man. Yeah, singing as well. I’m a lip syncer, that’s for sure. That’s cool, man. Well, thank you so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”? Rubik, this has been really, really fun.
Rubik: Yeah. Thanks for having me, John. I really enjoyed it.
John: Cool! Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Rubik’s cards or book or see him in action, connect with him on social media, go to whatsyourand.com and everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button to do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to get the book. It’s great for the holidays.
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.
Ges is an Ex-Banker & Choral Singer
Ges Ray returns to the podcast from episode 171 to talk about his recent performances with his choral singing group, his opportunity to travel to New York to sing at Carnegie Hall, and how he has noticed more of an interest in people as humans in the workplace!
• What choral singing is
• Singing at Carnegie Hall
• Other recent performances
• A change in values at the workplace
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 340 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett and each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work, and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited. My book is out. You can order it on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for more. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. It’s just really, really cool to see the difference that the message is making for everyone out there. 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.
This Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Ges Ray. He’s a retired banker who’s now a public speaking confidence-builder through coaching and online workshops, and now, he’s with me here today. Ges, thanks so much for taking the time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Ges: It’s a pleasure, John. I read your book twice. It’s amazing. Go read it. You’ve got to read it, folks.
John: Oh, well, thank you so much, man. It is. There’s enough meat in there, but it is a quick read for people that aren’t readers. That’s how I wrote it because people are busy. I just appreciate being part of that launch team, man. Thank you. I have rapid fire questions for you. We’ll just do seven though, ones that I didn’t ask the first time, but maybe I should have now that we’re friends. Here we go. First one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Ges: Oh, Game of Thrones, definitely.
John: Okay. All right. This one’s a tricky one, brownie or ice cream?
Ges: Brownie, perhaps with ice cream on top?
John: Oh, that was a trick one. That’s the right answer. That’s exactly it, warm brownie a la mode. There you go. Nice. Good save. This was a fun one somebody asked me and I like asking people now. Socks or shoes?
Ges: Oh, socks first.
John: Right? That’s what I said.
Ges: Here in the UK because it’s really chilly here at the moment.
John: Right. Yeah. Right. Shoes without socks?
John: You can wear socks without shoes anytime.
John: Totally. Here’s a good one. Oceans or mountains?
Ges: Oceans. Oh, the sound of the ocean lapping against the shore, yes.
John: Very nice. How about real book, Kindle, or Audible?
Ges: Real book with pages you can touch, the sensuous feel of rich, creamy paper.
John: Wow. There you go. I almost want to eat it now. Two more. How about a favorite animal? Any animal at all?
Ges: Cat. We’re a cat household. We adore cats. In fact, we even foster cats in this house. So when they’re being rescued, we are the staging between their rescue and their forever home. So we have a stream of fantastic cats coming through. They’re wonderful.
John: That’s very cool. The last one, the toilet paper roll, is it over or under?
Ges: Over. How could anyone do under? It’s over.
John: I don’t know. It happens, I think. It happens. Most importantly, it’s within arm’s reach. That’s the priority there, but definitely over. So Episode 171, we talked choral singing. Maybe for those that weren’t able to catch that one, what is choral singing? Just to bring people into the loop.
Ges: You’re singing in a choir. There’s a huge tradition in the UK of choral singing that goes back to probably about year 300, I suppose. It’s just part of our world in the UK that choirs get together. People get together to sing. I know you do it over the pond as well, but it’s very much a tradition here. Dorking Choral Society, 60 or 70 people singing everything from Handel’s Messiah to Eric Whitacre, one of your composers, really glorious voices occasionally with instruments, but often just voices on their own, so it’s choirs singing.
John: Okay. Nice. That’s awesome. I know that you had a pretty huge trip since we last talked, and some pretty awesome things have happened.
Ges: Because I was getting quite interested in it at the time, wasn’t I? I try not to pick myself up about this, but I do mention it three times a day since May.
John: As well you should. As well you should. I mention it three times a day and I’m not even you.
Ges: I sang an a capella solo onstage at the Carnegie Hall, New York.
John: That is awesome.
John: That’s it. That’s the peak.
Ges: I’m an amateur choral singer. I’m not a professional singer. I just do it for fun, but thank you. There’s a long story behind it. I got the chance to be on stage with — actually, it was a score called Zimbe! It was a work that’s done really well. The guy who composed it and who was conducting phoned me up one day and said, “Ges, do you and some of your colleagues fancy coming to Carnegie Hall to help us?” Do we? Then he phoned me up again, “Ges, you know that little solo on Page 89 for the bass voice? You know, don’t you? Because you’ve sung it. Would you like to do it in Carnegie Hall?”
“Alexander, you’re asking me to sing a solo?” What it is, you get to the end of a chorus and it goes silent. The conductor just points his baton at you and you come in, no instruments, no lead, no entry, just in from silence. You’ve got to hit it, bang in the middle. It’s one of the scariest moments of my life, but oh boy, was it fun.
John: Yeah, and you nailed it and that is just awesome, man. That’s some intense pressure. What’s that old joke? How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. That’s so cool, man, and you were able to get to New York City and hang out for several days. Yeah, that’s super fun.
Ges: Well, here’s another side story. My daughter came with me, so that weekend cost me a fortune. I couldn’t even claim it as a business trip. She was staying with me because she was part of the world premiere that we were part of ten years ago. There was a show we wanted to see, Waitress. We thought, “We’ll never get around to seeing it on Broadway.” We’re chatting to some of the soloists and there’s this young guy, Tyrone. He’s really nice. He says, “Oh, I know I’m singing here, but actually, I’m in the cast of Waitress.” “You’re what?” He said, “Just go to Times Square to the discount booth. Get your tickets. When you’ve seen the show, just come around to the stage door,” so we did. We saw the show, and at the end, fought our way through the crowds because there are millions of people wanting to get to the stage door. Somehow, I convinced the massive guy on the door that we actually knew Tyrone. We were let in and we were given a backstage tour.
John: That’s fantastic.
Ges: Yeah, what a memory.
John: That is fantastic. Between that and then Carnegie Hall, good Lord! You did it. I lived in New York for nine and a half years. I didn’t do either of those things. You were there five days and you nailed it.
Ges: Three actually.
John: Three days?
John: Now, you’re rubbing it in. That’s so fantastic and so cool to hear that. What a special time, and to be able to share that with your daughter too is really cool.
Ges: Exactly. It’s a shared memory. She’s in her 30s now, but we’ll never, ever forget that. It’s a moment forever. The half a dozen of us who went over from Dorking Choral Society, we got this little secret group. I even use the picture of me singing in Carnegie Hall as my Zoom backdrop when I’m feeling in the mood.
John: There you go.
Ges: I show off about it.
John: That’s fantastic. We’ll have a picture on the show page at whatsyourand.com for everybody who wants to check that out, for sure. Yeah, it’s probably a memory you won’t forget because you bring it up three times a day. There’s that, too. No, I’m teasing, but you’ve been able to perform quite often actually in the last two years since we chatted.
Ges: Absolutely. I’m a longstanding member of our local choral society of Dorking Choral and a smaller group, so yeah, every chance we get, we sing. In fact, despite the current problems, we’re getting together to sing some carols to an old people’s home Saturday week. So socially distanced, but we’re standing outside and giving them again a capella renditions of old favorite carols. We will enjoy it probably more than the residents will. It’s just so much fun to get together.
John: That’s fantastic to hear that you’re still able to do it and practice because there’s got to be some joy, happiness, and fulfillment that come from singing.
Ges: Oh, hugely. With another hat on, I’m a trustee and vice chairman of the Leith Hill Musical Committee for the Leith Hill Musical Festival, which actually stems from Vaughan Williams, one of our UK conductors who’s well-known across the globe. His sister began the Leith Hill Musical Festival in 1905 and it’s happened every year since. At the moment, we’re planning for 2022. You’ve got a dozen choirs who come together for a couple of days and actually compete, old-fashioned, cutthroat, to-the-death singing competition.
Ges: But then that day is collection of choirs, so we have probably three or four choirs having sung, say, Handel’s Messiah or Mozart Requiem for the competition and various other pieces. We all get together on stage. I was on one a couple of years ago, very Requiem, one of the biggest pieces in the repertoire. So we had over 200 of us on stage with a 60-piece orchestra just three feet away. When you’re in the middle of all that singing your heart out, oh, it sends a shiver down your spine and you come out floating on cloud nine. It is a fantastic community experience.
John: Wow, that’s awesome, and the power of just that many people that are good. That’s pretty fantastic. The way you described that is probably rarely you described coming out of work at the bank. “It sent shivers down my spine. It was amazing. Honey, you’ll never believe it. I’ve got to bring it up three times a day for the rest of my life.” How amazing that spreadsheet looked. That’s just cool to hear that, the way that you light up and you can hear it in the tone of your voice. It’s just cool when people are talking like that.
Ges: Well, it’s just a tiny little bit from the Requiem. Those of your listeners who understand it will know. There is a trumpet solo at one part of it where about half a dozen trumpeters, they just blast your ears off.
What they did on this one was they actually sneaked around the back of the building and up into the balcony, out the back of the auditorium. At the point where their solo was to happen, the doors flung open and they’re standing at the top of the balcony, blasting on their trumpets, and the whole audience let them out, six feet.
John: Suddenly, the show is for you, too. It’s like, “I’m not interested in the show. I get to see it, too.”
John: That’s really cool. Yeah, there is a performance piece to it for sure. So do you feel like people are sharing their passions more now or is there still work to be done?
Ges: You’re right. There is still work to be done. I still got a business to run. Everyone has where they can, but I think there’s more of a focus now — the world has shifted, isn’t it? The old values — I’ll give you a practical one. I like cars. We all like cars and I’ve got outside a contract car. I don’t own them. I just rent them from a contract company. It’s one of the best vehicles I’ve ever had. It goes off. My wife gets frightened every time I touch the throttle. She holds me back, saying, “No, no, don’t.” Apart from trips down to — my dad’s in a residential home down on the coast in Kent in the UK, a long way for us. It’s about two hours, which I know is nothing in your world, but it’s big in the UK.
John: That’s a hike.
Ges: Apart from occasional trips to see him, it is sitting out there, unused. So a value that was previously placed on an asset that you would use and do something with and maybe show off about, it’s meaningless. I love watches, but I’ve only worn a watch twice since lockdown, once to my mother’s funeral, once for burying her ashes.
John: Oh my goodness.
Ges: And that was only because it seemed disrespectful to be glancing at a mobile phone.
Ges: So the values that we had before have, I think, changed for the better. People now want to — they want to know you, just just as you do. People are less scared, I think, of actually admitting that they have a life and they do other things because people want to know about people now. Cross fingers, that carries on and becomes part of our world going forward because we need to be part of a world where people share and understand and talk to people as people, and not just as corporate guys following the rules.
John: We’ve been in each other’s homes now. You’re with these Zoom calls and these Microsoft teams calls and whatever software is out now that people are using. We’ve been in each other’s homes. We’ve seen when the kids can’t get the homeschooling to connect right or what art is on someone’s walls or the dog is going crazy because the delivery person is dropping something off. So to act like we haven’t been in each other’s homes and seen each other at this state — because for the most part, people put on this facade of everything’s great when they go to the office. And then when you’re at home especially for eight or nine months, you can’t hide that anymore. It’s like this is me, take it or leave it, which has got to be a little bit liberating for most people because it’s like I’m done pretending to be something.
Ges: There’s an example from a colleague of mine who normally comes to your part of the world and meets a Manhattan lawyer in his corner office, and that’s the world he’s always visited him for years. But of course, he couldn’t go there anymore, so he’s now talking to him, exactly as you say, on a screen in the kitchen. Okay. It’s a pretty nice kitchen because he’s a Manhattan lawyer, but still, it’s human now. It’s not, oh, you can only see me in my office setup. It’s right, we’ll still do business, but actually, there’s a human element behind it as well.
John: Yeah, exactly. I think that that just makes it stronger. Like you were saying earlier, people just want to know people, which is really, really fantastic. Do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that maybe they’re in a choral group or they have another hobby that they feel like has nothing to do with their job and no one’s going to care?
Ges: Yes. Talk about it. Let people know because you will find even if — a tiny example. My wife, who’s retired now, thought she might like to do some crocheting. That’s the sort of stuff grandmothers used to do. She mentioned it and people come out of the woodwork and say, “Oh yeah, I’ve just started.” Whatever it is you love, whatever it is that tickles your fancy, just start mentioning it because people will come out of the woodwork who share that view and you’re less likely to be put down for it now. There is a fact that in my world of building people’s speak performance abilities, your audience always wants you to succeed. I think we have such that fear of the world that we’re going to get knocked back or it’s not right to do it, but actually, people do want other people to succeed and people usually want to help. So just talk about the stuff that you want to talk about and get the encouragement from others to support you and find your tribe. It may be it doesn’t resonate with someone. Okay, they’re not going to be part of the conversation, but someone will be part of that tribe and want to share their experiences with you.
John: Exactly. Yeah. We’re not in middle school anymore where everyone’s going to make fun of you for being the outlier. Now, it’s cool and there are follow-up questions and “show me”. It’s been fantastic to see how it’s played itself out here in the last nine months especially, but in the several years that I’ve been speaking on it. Such great words of encouragement.
It’s only fair though since I started out the show, before I close it out, that I turn the tables. This is the first episode of The Ges Ray Podcast. Thank you so much for having me on as your first guest. I know you have some questions for me, so I’m all yours.
Ges: Rapid fire question, easy one first. Chocolate, milk or dark?
John: Oh, I will go milk chocolate.
Ges: Okay. Marmite, love or hate?
John: Marmite? I’m going to need to Google that. It sounds — is it like Vegemite?
Ges: Yes, yes.
John: Then it’s a hate.
John: You can keep it. More for you, man. More for you. That is weird to me.
Ges: Spread thickly on toast and back under the grill, I’d say. Okay. Holidays, beach or city?
John: You know, I’m going to say — let’s go beach. Why not? Because it’s very peaceful and relaxing. It’s less stressful.
Ges: Gotcha. Two more. Shirt, plain or dazzle?
John: Oh, that’s a good one. You know, I’m going to go plain on the shirt, but inside my coat is dazzle. So then when I open it to get something, people are like, “Whoa. Wait a minute. What’s that going on in there?” A party! I’m kind of like discreetly having fun.
Ges: Discreet dazzle, I like that.
Ges: Last one, and I think I know the answer to this, but car, shift or automatic?
John: I’ll go shift. I like the manual because that’s usually more of a sports car. I can also have more control. Yeah, I’ll go with that, for sure. Unless I’m in San Francisco where there are hills in traffic then it’s going to be like, “Oh, no, don’t stop at the red light.” But otherwise, yeah, manual is fantastic.
Ges: Well, you surprised me there, John. You surprised me there. I thought it would be an automatic answer to an automatic question, but there you go. You’d be very welcome in the UK because most of our cars are — well, we call them gear stick over here, but I know it’s “shifts” in the States.
John: Yeah, or manual transmission. Yeah. Well, awesome. Well, thank you so much, Ges, for being a part of this. It’s been so cool having to be on this journey. It’s just great to catch up with you again, so thanks again.
Ges: My pleasure. Thank you, John.
John: Everybody, if you want to see some pictures of Ges on stage at Carnegie Hall or some other outside-of-work pictures he’s got or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. And while you’re on the page, please click that big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. Don’t forget to get the book. It makes an excellent, excellent holiday gift. I’m a little biased, but it’s still pretty good. Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this podcast with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Suraya is a COO & RV Road Tripper & Paddleboarder
Suraya Yahaya talks about getting an RV and the adventures she has been on with her family through the past year. She also talks about how her experiences with the RV and traveling have helped her with problem solving and relating to others at work!
• Why she got an RV
• Some of her latest trips
• Talking about the RV at work
• Skills she learned from traveling that apply to her career
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about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 339 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. It’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 it and writing such nice reviews on Amazon, and more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it. And please don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week.
This week is no different with my guest, Suraya Yahaya. She’s the founder and CEO of Khazana, Inc. in Denver, Colorado and now, she’s with me here today. Suraya, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Suraya: Thanks so much for having me, John. I’m excited to be here.
John: This is going to be so much fun especially those 17 rapid fire questions. Get to know Suraya on a new level. Are you ready?
Suraya: I’m ready. I’ve got my vegetable shake with me.
John: That’s not going to protect you. All right. Here we go. I’ll start you out with a fairly easy one. Chocolate or vanilla?
John: Chocolate. Oh, that’s slam dunk.
Suraya: My vegetable shake is chocolate.
John: It sounds like my kind of vegetables. Those Hershey’s vegetables, they’re delicious. How about puzzles? Sudoku or crossword?
John: Okay. How about a favorite color?
John: White. Okay. How about a least favorite color?
Suraya: I’m going to go with lavender. I was looking at clothes yesterday and I saw this lavender sweater for my daughter and I was like, “What? No!”
John: Even the way you say it, it sounds so like, “Lavender? Ugh!” I hear you on that. How about prefer more hot or cold?
Suraya: I prefer hot. I’m always cold. I prefer hot. The 60 degrees in December, I’m going to take it.
John: There you go. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Suraya: Some people are going to laugh, but I have had the biggest crush on Keanu Reeves since I was 16 years old.
John: Yeah. He’s like the nicest guy.
Suraya: I hear he’s the nicest guy. Of course I’ve not met him but his movie skills are — let’s call it challenged. Let’s call it challenged.
John: But the movies he’s in are really good. You’re still watching it.
Suraya: They’re really good, yeah. I think the great part is that he seems like a nice guy.
John: Yeah, he’s just a really good person, totally. I’m with you on that one. I can get behind that. All right. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Suraya: I’m a night owl for sure. I don’t actually settle down until past 11 or almost midnight.
John: Oh my. Yeah. Wow. Okay. All right. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Suraya: Star Trek.
John: Oh, okay. That was a quick answer.
Suraya: I actually do like science fiction, so it’s not like I’m just throwing it out. I actually do like science fiction.
John: Right, right. If Keanu Reeves would do the new Star Trek movie —
Suraya: Right. Exactly. John Wick meets Star Trek, yeah, I know. My husband and I are actually rewatching Star Trek Enterprise. That was kind of like — I can’t remember — one or two season show, but we’re just rewatching that.
John: Yeah, very cool. All right. How about your computer? More PC or Mac?
Suraya: PC. I love the graphics and pictures on Mac, but I just can’t hang with all the connectivity issues that you have to troubleshoot.
John: Oh, I’m not even cool enough to go into the store. They’d kick me out.
Suraya: Yeah, there is that.
John: They’re like, “You’re too square. Get out.” How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Suraya: Denali Moose Tracks, which is basically double chocolate with chocolate chunks.
Suraya: It scares the crap out of everyone who tries.
John: Yeah. Absolutely. I need the ice cream with chunks. I need more of the calories per bite.
Suraya: I highly recommend it. It’s probably why I go to bed at midnight actually. “I’ve got to think about this.”
John: There you go. This is more of an intervention than a podcast, Suraya.
Suraya: Yeah, right?
John: Since you’re in operations, I have to ask, line chart or bar graph?
Suraya: Neither actually. I love charts and I look at them to get data and to understand the big picture, but actually, I manage operations with people. I like talking to people and I think you can get a lot more from people than charts can tell you.
John: Okay. All right. I had to ask. I needed a good laugh out of that. All right. How about a favorite adult beverage?
John: Scotch. Okay.
Suraya: The smoky kind. The smokier, the better.
John: Oh, there you go. All right. How about oceans or mountains?
Suraya: Mountains. I’m from Malaysia and I grew up by the beach, white sand, the whole thing, but I’ve lived in Colorado now for 20 years and mountains for sure.
John: Mountains it is. All right. We’ve got four more. Heel, flats?
Suraya: Heel, four-inch.
John: Four-inch? Whoa! Okay. All right.
Suraya: Personal, mostly flats.
John: Exactly, but it’s all good. It’s all good. When you want to.
John: Do you have a favorite number?
Suraya: I don’t think so, no.
John: Just positive ones?
Suraya: Just positive, yeah, exactly, just positive.
John: There you go. How about since my book’s been out, Kindle or real books?
Suraya: Real books. I love the feel. I love the smell. I love holding. I love the whole tactile experience of reading.
John: Yeah, for sure. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Suraya: I have a bangle/bracelet from my great grandmother that has been passed down through the women in the family, so I have that. I have her earrings, too. I have two daughters and I will give one of them each of that. It’s over a hundred years old.
John: That’s incredible. That’s super cool. That is super cool. Yeah, that’s awesome. From Malaysia, growing up there and everything, yeah, that means a lot. That’s really cool.
Suraya: It does. Well, my great grandmother was from India, and so it’s stuff she brought with her when she immigrated to Malaysia. I just love old things. My friends laugh because I’m just incredibly boring and I hang on to old things. I think there’s so much value in just the stuff that people overlook sometimes, so I hang on to all the old jewelry. I have my grandmother’s cookbook and it’s actually written in Indian script. So she would actually be writing the recipe. It’s kind of funny because she’s like, “And don’t forget to add” and then she writes with the Indian script and I’m like, “No! Add what?”
John: “The magic ingredient? No!”
Suraya: “This is not going to work unless you add…” and then it goes into a different script and I’m like, ugh!
John: Right. Exactly. That’s awesome. Actually, I have a recipe of a Scottish shortbread from my great grandmother in her handwriting, and yeah, it’s kind of cool. Of course, I never knew her. It was way before me, but it’s really good shortbread. It’s from the motherland, so it’s legit good.
Suraya: Have you been to Scotland?
John: I have, yeah.
Suraya: Yeah. I went to Culloden field, the highlands, and there’s actually a shortbread recipe in the museum that is etched on the wall that they found on the field after the battle. I guess it fell out of some soldier’s pocket. It must have been his mother’s recipe. It’s actually on the wall because it’s in Culloden field where the Jacobite battle took place, and I actually took a picture of it, so it’s pretty cool.
John: No, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. That dovetails perfectly with all of your travels, all of that wandering, if you will, the wanderlust in the RV. Maybe we’ll start with the RV. When did that come about? Because not everybody has one.
Suraya: Not everybody has one. You don’t have one? You don’t have one parked in —
John: Oh, we have three. Which one am I taking out today?
Suraya: My husband and I have been married for 20 years this year, and one of the things that brought us together when we first started dating was we both have this incredible sense of wanderlust. We traveled together. After we got married, before we had kids, we traveled. Collectively, we probably visited maybe between 15 to 20 countries together —
John: Oh, wow.
Suraya: — after we were married. The pandemic hit and we’re all isolating at home, which is what we needed to do, but we still have this incredible sense of wanderlust. We started thinking about, “How do we do this? We can’t be at home this entire time, not going anywhere.” I know a lot of people had to have that as their reality. Certainly, I’m not trying to do a compare and contrast there, but for us, what we decided to do was get an RV. If you can’t jump in the car and go someplace and get a hotel room because you have to clean the heck out of the hotel room when you get there, we’re going to get an RV.
Also, I think having an RV, every day is an adventure. Every day is an adventure, seriously. We’re not handy people. We’re not mechanics. The furnace drips, and my husband and I both stare at it like, “What are we going to do now?” So when we thought about getting an RV, everybody was like, “Don’t do it. It is the worst possible thing.”
It appeals to that sense of adventure and that sense of wanderlust. What has been great about it is as a family, we ended up spending the entire summer learning together, learning how to use it. It is an adventure even when you’re just parked at a lake. Getting to the lake is the adventure.
Suraya: It’s like, “How do I drive this? Am I going to hit someone?” You park it. You turn it on. It’s an adventure because there are all these you turn on this, turn that on, shut this off before you turn that, the furnace, the air conditioner, et cetera. Then you’re lying in bed at night and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, the water pump.” All this stuff you just think about. Literally, you cannot relax. We come back from the RV weekend like, “Where’s the bed?”
John: Right. That’s hilarious. That’s so funny, but it’s also part of it. It’s part of that experience.
Suraya: It’s part of the experience at a time when I think, again, learning taking care of each other, continuing to support each other is so important. I think it’s actually brought us closer as a family. It has allowed us to keep that sense of adventure in our own way. Essentially, the world’s your oyster. You could drive from Denver to Alaska.
Suraya: We’re planning our trip and we think we might go up to Calgary from Colorado, which is like a straight shot up. I was talking to my husband the other day. He’s like, “Oh, it’s only 19 hours!”
John: In an RV, it’s probably double that.
John: Yeah, exactly. Calgary, the Canadians, they say it’s the Denver of Canada. It’s very similar. I’ve been there actually when they had the stampede even. It is very Western and really good people. Yeah, it’s a fun city. That’s for sure.
Suraya: Have you been up there?
John: I have, yeah. Yeah, I was there. Actually, I flew in, and Banff is just a 45-minute drive away and that is really amazing. Is there a more fun trip that you went to with the RV so far?
Suraya: We just got back our last trip before we had to shut the RV down. Our last trip before we had to shut the RV down was we went to Eleven Mile Park in Colorado, which was just beautiful right there by the lake. We’re able to get out. The weather was warm enough. I do have two funny stories from Eleven Mile Park.
The first story is we were by the lake. We’re fishing. It’s myself, my husband, and we have three children. They’re fishing and we see this thing in the water and it’s swimming. My kids are excited. They’re squealing, “It’s an otter! It’s an otter!” You can see that the head is out of the water and he’s going back and forth in front of us. Finally, he turns and he starts heading to shore. My kids are squealing at this point. We’re like, “Shut it down. Shut it down. Don’t scare him.” I swear to God, he comes up to shore. He jams himself between the three kids like he’s the fourth kid. It wasn’t an otter. It was a muskrat. He has a giant crab in his mouth, or a crayfish, and he starts eating. He’s holding this crab. This muskrat is eating this giant crayfish and he’s looking around at the kids like, “Well, kids, what’s going on?”
John: That’s hilarious.
Suraya: Everyone was dead silent because we’re like, “Is this really happening?” The muskrat just comes up, sits like he’s the fourth child —
John: That’s amazing.
Suraya: “So, guys, what’s going on?”
John: Yeah, it’s like a Dr. Doolittle moment where you’re talking to animals now.
Suraya: No one moved for the seven minutes it took him to eat his crayfish. Then out of the corner of my eye, I see this second dude come up the water. I’m whispering to the kids, “He’s coming. There’s another one. There’s another one.” The second dude comes, walks up again on the shore to this first guy and tries to yank a piece of crayfish from him. The first guy’s like, “No, no, I have family now and my crayfish.” Then the second guy leaves and then the first one leaves. It was just the most surreal experience.
John: That is amazing.
Suraya: The five of us looked at each other like, “What just happened?”
Suraya: This muskrat really — because normally, you hear that animals are scared of people. Of course, my part-time lawyer brain is like, “Please, let’s not have a park ranger show up and think we were feeding him.”
John: Right, like you gave him the crawfish.
Suraya: We’re not feeding this crazy muskrat that came up and sat between my kids.
John: Exactly. That’s so cool though. What a great experience for the kids as well.
Suraya: Yeah. So we’re totally stoked at this point, right? We’ve got all these adventures. We’re totally stoked. We pack up the fishing stuff and we get back in the car. We’re driving back to where the RV is from the lake. We see a herd of something on the road. I’m like, oh, deer. You know in Colorado, in parks, deer. I’m heading towards them and I was like, “Oh, it looks kind of big. Maybe it’s horses. What is that?” We get up to this thing. It is a herd of wild donkeys.
John: What? I didn’t know there was a thing.
Suraya: I didn’t know they were wild. It’s literally a herd of donkeys. They stopped the car because they were on the road. We stopped; they flanked us. They flanked us. They come around the car, all around the car. They start scratching their necks against the side mirror.
John: Oh my gosh.
Suraya: My husband’s like, “Can you just Google and see if they’re wild donkeys?”
John: That is amazing.
Suraya: I was of course thinking, “Is that really what I should be Googling right now? Maybe I should be Googling park ranger phone number.”
John: Yeah, 911.
Suraya: “Help. We’re surrounded by wild donkeys.” So I Googled and yes, there is a herd of wild donkeys in Eleven Mile Park.
John: And you met them all. There you go.
Suraya: We met them all. Of course, the children are trying to hit the down button on the window. I’m like, “That window better stay up, okay?”
John: Mom Suraya came out. There you go. That’s super cool though. You wouldn’t get that had you stayed home and even just watching Netflix or Nature Planet or whatever. That’s super cool.
Suraya: Every moment is terrifying in the RV. I highly recommend it.
John: Yeah. You might as well live on the edge a little bit. Why not? You mentioned earlier that people are like, “You’re crazy. Don’t get the RV.” Is this something that comes up with work people as well?
Suraya: All the time. The RV has become the conversation opener and the way that I think people connect with you because normally, I think as COO, people expect you to be in charge of all these functions and have all the answers to the problems. Well, not have all the answers, but come to you for problem solving. The fact that I get on the phone, I talk to my clients about, “Hey, the water pump turns itself on in the middle of the night in the RV. I don’t know why that happens. Should I be worried about this?”
John: Right. That’s awesome.
Suraya: It’s not only become a way to connect with people. I think it also allows people to just see me in a different way and that we have fun with it. We’re having this conversation right now and people are like, “Why did you get an RV? It sounds like it’s a lot of work.” I’m like, yeah, because we all have a desire to explore and see the world, and this is the way to do it.
John: Yeah. Sometimes too, it’s easy to overlook those things to explore within our own state because we’re busy on an airplane to a different country. All of a sudden, you get in the RV and you’re like, “What? Look at this.” It was right here two hours away from our home and we were busy flying over it, so that’s kind of neat.
Suraya: Right. Exactly. It’s also a huge learning thing too because things could get stale. You do the same thing over and over again. This just, in a terrifying way, allows us to expand our knowledge base. It’s like oh, yes, I am going to read up on why the water pump comes on in the middle of the night.
John: Exactly. That’s awesome. I love what you said earlier of how it just allows people to see you in a different light. How important do you think that is?
Suraya: I think it’s really important. I think over the years, I’ve learned that the leaders, I think, the ones you connect with the most and I think the ones that you trust the most — and I think trust is really important at the leadership level — are the leaders who want to appear vulnerable. “I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. Are my kids going to get food poisoning because the refrigerator didn’t come on?” are the leaders who appear most vulnerable and the leaders who allow themselves to be seen in a light that you can connect with. I think when people build that rapport and trust with you, there’s a rapport and trust that flows through everything else, problem solving, planning, strategic planning. In my role, I do a lot of that, people development. I talk to people about where they want to go with their careers, and they see me as someone who’s a more well-rounded person and I think they’re able to bring themselves to that conversation, too.
John: That’s so well put, and somebody that they can trust with “Here’s what I really want to do and it’s not at all what my job is right now.”
John: You’re like, “That’s awesome!”
Suraya: Right. Also, I kind of like this, but I don’t know anything about it. I wanted to go for it and I’m like, yeah, go for it. The first day my husband and I got the RV, we couldn’t even get through the door. We don’t even know how the lock works.
John: How to unlock. There you go.
Suraya: Just do it. If you have a passion for something, explore it.
John: Yeah. No matter what it is, have that passion and explore it. I love that. That’s so perfect. It’s so perfect. Is traveling in general something that you would talk about all through your career or is it something that you opened up more about later on?
Suraya: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think that I’ve always loved to travel. Malaysians, there are only 33 million of us, but man, we get around. My parents and grandparents — well, my grandparents and great grandparents being immigrants to Malaysia, they had that sense of wanderlust. I’ve always traveled. I think I went on my first trip when I was like, I don’t know, two years old. Throughout my teenage years, I went to school in the UK. I left home when I was 17 and went to school in the UK. I traveled there extensively throughout Europe and then got married and traveled as well.
Yeah, it is a way, I think, to again have another — one, I think traveling opens up your perspective and your viewpoints. So to answer your question, at work, when people throw something out, I consider it and think, “Oh, well, okay. Maybe that’s something they’re saying based on their experience.” It makes you consider a different viewpoint because you’ve been exposed to so many different viewpoints. Travel is fun. People have great travel stories. People learn things when they travel. I think it just makes for interesting conversation.
John: Yeah, for sure. It’s just interesting because some of us in our own heads, we think, “Well, it has nothing to do with our job, so why talk about it?” type of thing. I was too dumb to know that we weren’t supposed to. If somebody asked, I was like, “Well, I did a comedy show this weekend in Louisville, Kentucky” or whatever. Oh, I was supposed to say nothing? I didn’t know.
Suraya: Exactly. Right. I think some cultures, work cultures, don’t invite that kind of authenticity and connection. It’s very stick to the facts, come in and do your whatever report.
John: The TPX report from Office Space.
Suraya: Exactly, from Office Space and that’s fine. That’s fine. I think, in my opinion, the cultures that are the most successful and invite collaboration and people feel like there’s really an environment of caring about the whole person and people who want to contribute to that type of an environment is where they invite people to share about stuff. There’s knowledge about, “Oh, what did you do this week?” Not just what you did this weekend, to your point, but also, “Where have you been? Where did you grow up?” that kind of thing.
John: Yeah, that next level stuff. That’s so great to hear. That’s so awesome. So awesome. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that might have an interest or a hobby that they feel like no one cares about or “It has nothing to do with my job?”
Suraya: I think start sharing. I truly do believe — over the years, I’ve learned — like you said, John, you never knew. You never knew that it was not the right thing to do. I almost had a little bit opposite perspective of you. Well, I for a long time had experiences with different work cultures where I never knew that it was okay to do it. It’s almost the opposite of you. So if I would just say to listeners, if they’re in that kind of an environment, start doing it. Start sharing who you are. Start sharing your whole self. If people shut you down and they’re like, “Nope, I don’t want to hear about that, John. No, I just want you to stick to your TPX report” then you’re not able to bring your whole self to that place, that environment. Maybe it’s not the environment for you.
John: Yeah, but you never know until you do start to share.
Suraya: You’ll never know until you try it, right? I would say you want to find the environment where you can be your whole self.
John: Yeah, amen, because otherwise, you’re going to work with one arm tied behind your back and that’s dumb. I can be so much better in —
Suraya: Everyone has different circumstances. Some of us may not have the luxury of choice and I’m always very conscious of that when I throw out advice. If it turns out we have to be, I think, in an environment at work where you can’t be your whole self then I would say feel free to be your whole self everywhere else.
John: Yeah. There you go.
Suraya: If you’re at soccer practice with your kid, talk about your comedy club routine that you do —
John: Yeah, or your RV or whatever it is.
Suraya: If you’re at church, talk about scotch. I don’t know.
John: Right. There you go. It’s important, like I say, in the book. It isn’t sharing drama. It’s what are your true passions, what do you actually really — things that are more positive that bring you happiness and joy.
Suraya: That is a great point because I think there was a time there during, I would say, early to mid stage pandemic when it was just the grind, and yes, it was so easy to share drama. It was so easy to share drama, but this was a way to positively connect with each other as a family and also positively connect with people because it was funny. It was like, “Oh, so you pretty much spend your entire night in the RV reading the manual.” “That’s right.”
John: That’s so good. I love that. That’s hilarious. That’s so funny. That’s really funny.
Suraya: And we read that RV manual front to back.
John: I promise, everyone, What’s Your “And”? is an easier read than an RV manual. I can promise that. I’ve never read an RV manual, but I’ve got a lot of money on me being right on that one.
Suraya: I have no doubt it is a funnier read and less stressful.
John: There you go. Well, this has been so awesome, Suraya, but it’s only fair that I allow you to turn the tables on me since I started this episode rapid fire questioning you. So we’ll make this the first episode of the Suraya Yahaya podcast, everybody. Thank you so much for having me on as your first guest. I appreciate it. So what questions have you got?
Suraya: Favorite city you’ve been to?
John: Favorite city, probably Cape Town, South Africa.
Suraya: Oh, wow!
John: My favorite, yeah. That’s pretty cool because it’s a cool mixture of a lot of things going on. Plus, there’s wine country about 30 minutes away, Stellenbosch.
Suraya: Yeah. Actually, my husband and I were just talking about that. Africa is a destination we have on our list. I want to go there.
John: It’s so diverse. Africa’s huge.
Suraya: It is. It’s very diverse. I know.
John: It’s like everyone in America thinks, “Oh, America is huge” and it’s like, well, not totally.
Suraya: You’re absolutely right. Well, that’s awesome. Favorite drink?
John: Favorite drink, like a liquor?
Suraya: Yeah, liquor.
John: Mojito because it’s fun to say and it’s minty. I’m a girl. My wife and I, we would go to these all-inclusive resorts and I don’t know how to order liquor. I skipped over that, and so she would order it for me. I was at a conference in Chicago and a guy I knew from Texas happened to be there for business with the Texas State Society of CPAs. We met up at this hotel bar and the bartender is like, “What do you want?” and there was nothing wine. I know wine well, but I couldn’t get any wine at this bar. I’m like, oh no. So I said what I say to my wife, “Vodka and something fruity” and it’s like the whole bar stopped. They’re like, “Wait. What?” The bartender was like, “What do you mean something fruity?”
Suraya: Right. The soundtrack stops in the back.
John: He’s like, “So, vodka and pineapple?” “Yeah, sure, man. Whatever.” The guy that I met, he’s like, “What in the heck was that? Are you an adult?” Now, my go-tos are mojito or if it’s like a simple thing then vodka cranberry.
Suraya: I feel like I should buy you some. I’ll buy you a scotch or no?
John: I’m like anything fruity with vodka or rum. That’s me.
Suraya: I’m not going to judge, but let’s move quickly to our third question.
Suraya: Yeah, exactly. Bring your peach mojito when you got to sit in the RV. Since we talked about me going to bed at midnight, what’s your favorite thing to do to wind down?
John: Oh, that’s a good one. That’s a good one. Wow. That is a good one because it is hard to wind down.
Suraya: It is, right? And it’s something we don’t think about. Maybe we’ll leave the audience with that. I think part of self-care for 2020 no matter where we are in the year is think about taking care of yourself and winding down and filling out a little.
John: Yeah, for sure. Watching TV isn’t necessarily good for winding down. We just watch mindless —
Suraya: I was going to say mindless.
John: Yeah. My wife got us on Married at First Sight, which is —
Suraya: Oh yeah. Oh my.
John: It makes me look so good, so that’s why I watch it, but it’s so mindless and it’s just silly and whatever. So something like that, but that’s really not great. Yeah, definitely nothing on my phone. I’d stay off that for sure. Sometimes it’s nice before or after dinner just sitting on the back patio and just chilling out. The weather in Colorado, of course, is so nice. So just sitting outside and just chilling out, that’s always good, too. Cool!
Well, this has been so much fun, Suraya. Thank you so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Suraya: Absolutely. Yeah, I’ve enjoyed it. Thanks for having me. It’s been a great conversation. I can’t believe the time has just flown by. It’s been awesome.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Suraya’s RV or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there, and don’t forget to buy the book. While you’re on the page, please click that big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use, and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Bailey is an Accountant & Needlepointer & Bass Guitar Player
Bailey Smith, owner of Sopris Accounting Solutions LLC, returns to the podcast from episode 56 to talk about her shift to needlepointing after becoming a mother and how she is noticing a growing amount of understanding that people are more than their careers!
• Why she temporarily stopped playing bass guitar
• Getting into needlepointing
• A growing understanding that people are more than their careers
• Employee spotlights
• There will always be someone who is interested in what you’re doing
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Welcome to Episode 338 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I’m following 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 the book now 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 and how much more deeper and richer I go into this message and weave in some of the quotes from some of the guests. It’s been really fun.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe on 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, Bailey Smith. She’s the owner of Sopris Accounting Solutions in the Denver area, and now she’s with me here today. Bailey, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Bailey: Thanks for having me, John.
John: Oh, this is gonna be a blast, so much fun. I have my rapid-fire questions that I didn’t ask you last time, and maybe I should have. No, I’m just teasing. All right, here we go. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Bailey: Harry Potter.
John: Okay. All right. How about a favorite Disney character?
Bailey: I think I’ve talked about this the last time, but Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
John: Right. You did, now that I remember. I was just making sure you didn’t change it up. How about, this is a fun one somebody asked me recently, socks or shoes?
Bailey: Weird. Socks?
John: Right? That’s what I said. Because I was like, you can’t wear shoes without socks, kinda.
Bailey: In the summer.
John: Yeah. I don’t know. I’m a fan of socks.
Bailey: Sandals? I don’t know.
John: Well, now that it’s winter time, too, socks are good. Yeah, in the summer, sandals. I guess socks with sandals, that would be gross. Okay, well, hold on, whoa.
Bailey: It happens in Colorado.
John: Right, it does. Actually, it very much does. How about, oceans or mountains?
Bailey: Ooh, no, can’t choose. Both.
John: Both. There you go. Okay, fair enough.
Bailey: I was born in California. I’m an ocean girl too.
John: Sure. No, absolutely, absolutely. How about, Kindle, real book or audible?
Bailey: Real book.
John: Real book. Okay, all right. Two more. Brownie or ice cream.
Bailey: Brownie with ice cream.
John: There it is. That was a trick one. That was also a trick one. You can definitely combine. Last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.
Bailey: Over, all the way.
John: Over. Okay. All right, all right. There you go. Yeah, Episode 56, four years ago. That’s crazy, first of all, that you are on so early. God bless you for being a guinea pig on that. We talked about playing bass guitar and going to concerts. Is that still a part of your life? I know, obviously, not as much now with the going to concerts, but still playing bass guitar some?
Bailey: Yeah, I am. I had a son, two years ago.
John: Congratulations. That’s awesome.
Bailey: Thank you, thank you. I was taking bass lessons and had to stop playing for a while because I was getting too big, couldn’t work around my belly. So, I had to take a break from that for a while. Once he was born, I had to be quiet during nap times, which was my only free time, so had to take a little hiatus from the bass. I’m getting back into it now. He loves music. He loves anytime mom or dad play their instruments, and we’re hoping to get him into some instruments soon.
John: That’s fantastic. Yeah, that’s very cool. In that hiatus time, did you pick up something else? Or is being a mom — I mean, that’s more than a full-time job.
Bailey: Yes, it is a full time, but I did. I actually got into tapestry or needlework. My husband bought me one for Christmas, our first year with our son, Colin. It’s something I can do that’s quiet and can watch TV while I’m doing it and pick it up and put it down whenever I need to. It’s a fun new hobby that I like to do.
John: Is that something that you had ever done before, or you just picked it up?
Bailey: I’d never done needlework, but when I was a kid, I did latch hook which is similar with more with yarn.
John: I remember that. Oh, that’s great.
Bailey: Yeah. I think when I finished that one, he was like, yeah, you need something else. His grandma had done needlepoint when he was little, so he thought it would be a good adult version of the latch hook for me.
John: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. That latch hook, I remember that. It’s like a giant mesh, and it was always — it was very bristly and hard. It was heavy duty. It had the grid painted on it, so you just color — you just drop the yarn in and do the little hook, and you frame those? I don’t even know what you were supposed — it’s like a rug, but you don’t step on it.
Bailey: Right. Yeah. I framed one when I was a kid and gave it to my dad, which he actually kept, and when he passed away, I got it back. So, I have my framed latch hook from that. This one that I finished is, it’s huge. It’s like, three feet by five feet.
John: Holy cow.
Bailey: Yeah, it’s massive. That’s why it took me so long to do.
John: Like decades.
Bailey: Yeah. I think I’m gonna frame that one and put it up in my son’s room because it’s a mama and baby panda.
John: Oh, very cool, and it’s so big that, yeah, it is a piece of art then.
Bailey: It is.
John: That’s awesome. Very cool. So then the tapestry, needlework, do you have scenes that you like to do or things in particular that are more your favorite?
Bailey: I’ve only done two so far. The one that my husband first got me is one of the Four, what is it, Times of Day by Mucha, the artist?
John: Oh, yeah.
Bailey: So, they’re very intricate and very long and big.
John: Right. A way to start big there, Bailey.
Bailey: I know, so I had to get a less complicated one to start with, to try it out. I did finish that one and started on the Mucha about two months ago. It’s going slow but progressing. It’s the same idea as the latch hook. It’s just smaller and with a needle.
John: Yeah, and you just make X’s? Is that mostly how it goes?
Bailey: Yeah, you just loop around the X.
John: Yeah, and it’s quiet, like you said, so that’s good for nap time, when you’re also not getting a nap at the same time, which that’s what I would do if I were you.
Bailey: Yes, sometimes I do.
John: No, I don’t blame you. I’m napping, and I don’t even have kids. There’s that.
Bailey: Fair enough.
John: Yeah. Do you feel like people sharing these outside of work hobbies and passions, their “and”, if you will, is something that people are doing more in the last four years, or still work to do?
Bailey: I think so. I think there are some companies out there who are hearing the message. Not necessarily concise, worldwide thing, but I think they’re understanding that people are more than just their careers. As we grow into the future, I think that, especially with so many people working from home, there’s going to be a lot more of that where you have to share with each other in a more conscientious way. Otherwise, they’re just going to lose sight of each other.
One of the things that one of my clients is doing is they do employee spotlights where they ask, similar to this, a couple of questions, what’s your favorite color, what’s your favorite musician, sports team, whatever, to kind of open up for stories. Then they send some pictures and things along with that, and then the whole company can see what you’re interested in, what your hobbies are. That spurs discussions because they post it in Teams. You can add little comments on there and back and forths. Somebody might be like, oh, I know Victor Wooten, the bass player, because I mentioned that had I met him in my bass-playing. It’s just building more connections that way, when we’re not all together.
John: No, I love that, and it’s an internal thing. It’s not like it’s customer or client-facing. It’s the spotlight of a new person, each week, and some pictures and, yeah, what are the other dimensions to the Bailey Smith? What’s going on here? That’s cool. You bring up such a huge point of, since we’ve all been working remotely, or phases of that, off and on, we’ve been in each other’s homes now. Don’t act like we haven’t. So, it’s cool to just see, like, wow, what’s that piece of art? Where did that come from? Why do you have it? It’s on your wall. It clearly means something to you.
Bailey: Yeah. Is that a vacation photo? Is that actually you on that volcano?
John: Right? Did you take that picture? What, type of thing. Yeah, that’s so cool to hear that a company like that is doing that. That’s something that everyone listening right now can start right after they listen to the podcast, just have an internal Slack or Teams channel to share that.
Bailey: It’s so easy to do. It’s something that it’s just, it makes us all a team again.
John: Yeah, because that’s the thing, when you get on those calls, most of it’s just straight to the work and then get off the call and then we’re done and whatever. It’s not a lot of the chitchat and the small talk and the water cooler, whatever type stuff that usually happens in the hallways or when we’re in person. That’s cool. That’s very cool. Do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that think that, well, I have a hobby but no one cares, or it has nothing to do with my job?
Bailey: Oh, I’d say that everybody cares. Everybody has something that they do outside of work. Even if you are a workaholic, you are not just your job. It’s crazy, to me, to see how many people have that connection if you just open up there. Like I said, I mentioned that I had met Victor Wooten who’s a huge bass player. He’s amazing. Somebody else who I’ve worked with for years but never really connected with, was like, oh, man, he’s so great. I follow all of his work, and I’ve seen him in concert so many times. It turns out, we were at the same concert together.
Bailey: Yeah. So, it’s things like that. Somebody is always going to be interested in what you’re doing, whether you think so or not.
John: That is super cool. Yeah, and then all of a sudden, now you have that connection that’s far above and beyond just we work for the same company type of a thing. That’s really cool. Because then I have to imagine, the next time you’re talking to that person or whatever, music comes up. It’s just a thing that pops up. I love that, how, even if you are a workaholic, you’re more than your job. That’s so true.
So, it’s only fair, since I started out the episode, peppering you with questions, that I turn the table, and we make this the first episode of The Bailey Smith podcast. Welcome, everyone, to the show. Thanks for having me on as a guest. I appreciate it.
Bailey: Yes, yes. Thanks for talking to me. I’m gonna pepper you with only three questions.
John: Okay, okay.
Bailey: Maybe not as hard, but we’ll see. All right, here we go. New York or Denver.
John: Denver, hands down, yeah, hands down. New York, there’s an energy, and it’s cool. Everywhere you go, there’s something from a movie or a TV show or whatever. There’s history, but it’s also exhausting. At some point, you reach adulthood, and you’re like, why do I live like this? This is crazy. Denver’s just, I’m not supposed to say how great it is. It’s always cold and snowing. No one should ever move here.
Bailey: Yeah, it’s horrible. Don’t live there.
John: No one should ever move here.
Bailey: Just visit.
John: It’s just barely better than New York, Denver.
Bailey: Awesome. All right, skiing or snowboarding.
John: Snowboarding. I feel like there’s too many variables, X, Y, on skiing, ankles up, down, left, right, knees and ankles. Where, in snowboarding, your ankles are locked in.
Bailey: Your knees are locked in.
John: Yeah, so it’s pretty much just make fists so you don’t break your wrists and then just go. Plus, the fists are good to swing at people that get too close.
Bailey: So you’re one of those. I’ll watch out for you.
John: I’m really not that good, actually. I’m more worried about being in everyone else’s way. There are those eight-year-olds that are going down on one ski, backwards, and I’m like, why you’ve got to do that? Why?
Bailey: Because they started when they were two.
John: Exactly, but it’s been fun learning and doing it. Yeah, it’s definitely super fun, but I’m more in-the-way guy. Or that’s how I feel anyway. I’m probably not as bad as I think.
Bailey: Probably not.
Bailey: Last one, music or sports.
John: Oh, wow, that is really hard. Can I say music at a sporting event?
John: You combine some.
Bailey: I did. It’s only fair.
John: I mean, just being at a concert, that’s really good at engaging, and there’s an experience to that. At the same time, for me, college football, especially, if you’re at a really great game, that is an experiential moment. That being said, I guess that happens more times at a concert. At a sporting event, it has to be something really special. If you’re at a baseball game and the Rockies win, seven to two, and they’re, whatever; okay, that was fun. You never walk away from a concert being like, well, that was fun. It’s like, what?! So, I guess maybe a slight nod to concerts, but sporting events are right there with it, for sure.
John: That’s a tough question. That was a good one. That was a good one.
John: Thank you so much, Bailey, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? It’s been so fun catching up.
Bailey: Thank you so much for having me back on.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Bailey and some of her work or 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 buy the book. It’s perfect for a holiday gift.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message
Martin is a Consultant & Saint Nicholas Researcher
Martin Bissett, founder of The Bissett Group, talks about his hobby in researching the real St. Nicholas in who he was, his history, and how his story has been embellished over time. He also talks about the spirit of giving and how he applies it towards his work as a consultant!
• Researching St. Nicholas
• Some of St. Nick’s history
• Origins of the name “Santa Claus”
• How his research is applied to his consulting work
• The best lesson he learned on budgeting
• Changing your perspective on how you offer services
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Welcome to Episode 337 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 my book is out. Check it out at whatsyourand.com for all the details. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Book Depository, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites. All the links are on the page. It makes a perfect Christmas gift as we’re talking to Martin about St. Nicholas. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s getting the book and leaving such nice reviews on all those sites and changing their cultures at 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, Martin Bissett. He’s the founder of The Bisset Group in the UK, and now he’s with me here today. Martin, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Martin: John, thank you very much for having me. Congratulations on the book launch, by the way.
John: Oh, thanks so much, man. I really appreciate it. Yes, it’s been a little overwhelming, but it’s cool to just see people are reading it, which is awesome, which is the whole reason you write it.
Martin: I can’t believe it. I wrote a book, and people started reading it. It’s just fantastic.
John: It’s crazy. I know you’ve written several books yourself, so maybe it’ll be a package deal. It’ll be a buy-one-get-seven-of-Martin’s or whatever.
Martin: They’ve read yours. That’s the difference.
John: Well, we’ll see. We’ll see. I don’t know. They’re all good book stops and backdrops on Zoom calls, as well, so there you go. I have 17-rapid fire questions, get to know Martin on a new level here. Here we go. I’ll start you with an easy, one favorite color.
Martin: Oh, black. I know it’s an absence of color but black.
John: No, that counts, man. Interesting. All right, how about a least favorite color?
Martin: Oh, maroon. I don’t want maroon at all.
John: Okay, all right, all right. How about a favorite breakfast?
Martin: Oh, I’m very, very boring. Cheerios for me.
John: Cheerios. Okay, all right. There you go. It’s healthy, or they say so. I don’t know. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Martin: Well, I don’t know how many listeners will remember this, but there was a very famous British actor called Dirk Bogarde, not to be confused with Humphrey Bogart, who used to be known as the idol of the Odeons, meaning the main guy in the cinema, as it were, in the movies. He was my hero for a long time.
John: That’s awesome. Very cool. All right. How about, are you more suit and tie, or jeans and a T-shirt?
Martin: Oh, well, it depends what we’re talking about. Again, if I’m professional, if I’m in work duty then I’m definitely suit and tie. Off duty, yeah, I don’t wear too many suits and ties to dinner.
Martin: Yeah, it could be a new thing.
John: Yeah, exactly. Turn a new page.
Martin: You don’t dress well enough, come back later.
John: Right. Your wife sends you away.
Martin: Refuse table service, yeah.
John: Exactly, in your own home. That’s awesome.
Martin: Go back upstairs, try harder.
John: Exactly. It’s just another Tuesday. How about puzzles, more Sudoku or crossword? Okay, there we go.
Martin: Not a big one for puzzles. I have a hard enough time remembering my own name.
John: Right, right. How about, are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Martin: Through circumstance these days, an early bird, but if I was my bachelor self, it would be a night owl definitely.
John: Okay, okay. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Martin: Again, sci-fi, so you can rule me out completely.
John: Okay, all right, there we go. It was such an intense answer. You were going to go — you were like, nope.
John: Right, exactly. How about your computer, PC or Mac?
Martin: Oh, well, I would love to be with the artisans and say Mac. I do own a Mac, but I’m PC for functionality all the way.
John: Yeah, I’m PC as well. I’m not cool enough to even go into a Mac store.
Martin: Me neither.
John: So then for your mouse, are you right click or left click?
Martin: That’s a very good question. I am left click.
John: Okay, making decisions, boom. There it is. How about a favorite TV show of all time?
Martin: Oh, my goodness. Again, this is actually, it’s a US show, but I don’t know who’ll remember it. There was a show that was called The Equalizer, which turned into two movies that Denzel Washington, I think, starred in. The TV show was significantly better. Everyone should watch every episode.
John: Okay, there we go. There we go. There’s no science fiction in The Equalizer.
Martin: None whatsoever.
John: None at all. There you go. How about, since you have the accounting background, more balance sheet or income statement?
Martin: Oh, bottom line is all that matters, probably P&L.
John: P&L, yeah, yeah. How about, more oceans or mountains?
Martin: Again, we’re choosing something where I want both. If I have to choose ultimately and you force me, I’m going mountains.
John: Okay. Yeah, well, you could have mountains that go into the ocean.
Martin: I want mountains that go into the ocean, please. That would be ideal.
John: There you go. There you go. We’ve got four more. How about a favorite number?
John: Two. Is there a reason?
Martin: Yeah, who doesn’t want a good number two?
John: Oh, my God, that’s maybe the best one I’ve ever heard. That’s awesome because that’s impossible to argue. That’s impossible to argue. Yeah, that’s beautiful. That’s absolutely beautiful. So, with books, we were talking about them earlier, more Kindle or real books?
Martin: Oh, real books all the way. All the way.
John: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. We’ve got two more, two more. So, when you are going casual, is it more jeans or khakis?
Martin: Oh, it’s definitely jeans for me. I’m a very traditional Levi’s guy.
John: Oh, okay, old school. Nice. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Martin: Probably my health, I would say. Not out here, but I’ve actually seen a lot of people come and go this year. When it happens, even if you’re expecting it, it really makes you appreciate what you’re given that you have very little control over. I currently, as we record this, have my health, and I’m very grateful for it.
John: I completely hear you on that because it is weird, even friends your age type of a thing, where you’re like, wait, what? That’s crazy. There’s actually, just a month ago, a guy that I used to do comedy with in New York who was probably four or five years younger than me even, just passed away. You’re like, wow, that’s crazy.
Martin: It messes with your brain. I have, now, four school friends down.
Martin: You think to yourself, if you had known back then that you only had until your early 40s in which to get — to have your friendship, I think you would have made a lot more of our time together. Yeah, it really is sobering when that happens.
John: Yeah, for sure. Also the fact you had four friends, that’s amazing. That’s four more than me.
Martin: Five more than I currently have, which is a fact.
John: Right, right. No, no, I’m kidding, but you’re absolutely right. Talking about your fascination with St. Nicholas, how did this start? Is this something since you were a kid, I’m guessing, but then it continued on?
Martin: What you’ve got to know here, John, is that my father really, really did Christmas very well, indeed. I know really well. We didn’t go overboard on the decorations, but everything looked really warm and cozy and nice. It was so welcoming, and Christmas really was a very special time of year in our household. It was beyond the norm, but it wasn’t overkill. We didn’t have lights all blinking on the garden or anything like that. It wasn’t anything like that.
What my dad would do is he would just tell me stories of the North Pole, and I was inquisitive. How does this happen? How does that work? How does he get in if you don’t have a chimney, and all this kind of thing. He just seems to have answers like this. He didn’t even blink, didn’t flinch, and it created a character for me to really buy into. I felt like I knew this guy. Well, I knew him quite well already, but as of course Santa Claus. Or in England, we generally say Father Christmas. So, this became more real than a mythical elf that shows up to give some presents and disappears again with having got diabetes from the cookies.
John: Right, right.
Martin: It was something more real to me, more tangible. So, when the time came, when the magic was broken, actually it’s not real; I wasn’t prepared to accept that. It had become far too real for me. I was not prepared to accept this, and as I went studying, I found out that I was right. It was completely real. It’s just been changed over the years. The whole legend of Santa Claus or Saint Nick, when we trace it back to its origin, you see exactly where we’ve got to today.
What fascinates me is, how does someone who almost nothing was written about, anything that was written about him, was written years after his death, he lived an anonymous life, as far as we can tell; how did this guy end up being one of the greatest symbols of kindness and sharing and giving of all time, the patron saint of children, the patron saint of sailors, believe it or not the patron saint of prostitutes?
John: Oh, wow. Okay.
Martin: I won’t even go there, to why that is, but I think you know. If we go to any given, I think we still call them this in the US, pawnbrokers?
John: Oh, yeah, like pawnshop, yeah, yeah.
Martin: What do we see? We see the three gold balls outside, right? That’s the symbol of the pawnbroker is the three golden balls that hang in front of the store. That is the three sacks of gold that Saint Nicholas anonymously dipped through a window of a former nobleman for his daughters to have a dowry to stop them from being sold into slavery.
He had heard – of an orphan child who nevertheless was left a lot of money because he had rich parents. So, became an orphan, he grew up under the tutelage of priests and teachers and so on, and this is a guy who went around, giving anonymous gifts. He heard this story of the guy fallen on hard times. He was a widower, himself. He had three daughters. The daughters, he couldn’t afford for them to have dowries. The only option in those times was slavery of some kind or other.
John: Right, right.
Martin: The worst kind. The story goes that the guy is praying for assistance and support of some kind, and magically, the stockings of the ladies are held up by the fireplace, spot the theme there, and gold gets dropped in via the window into these fireplaces on the edge of the room at 1 at night for three nights. He gets caught on the third night. He turns to the man, and he says, “Tell no one of this whatsoever.” Given that that legend lives on 1700 years later, I guess the guy did blab after all.
John: Yeah, somebody told somebody, right. No, but that’s so fascinating because I guess I didn’t really know all of that history. I knew some, but that’s pretty awesome.
Martin: Nobody does, and this guy turns out to be pretty fantastic, in terms of we know about it. It is sure to be said that this guy’s story has been embellished. The story has also been greatly embellished to the point where we have North Pole and flying reindeer now.
John: Right. Exactly, exactly.
Martin: All the good stuff, all of the core things that make him appeal to you, the things that you want to see in yourself as the most best of yourself, seems to be, as much as scholars can verify, seems to be authentic, seems to be what this guy was all about.
John: Which is the thing that Christmas spirit and the giving and the generosity and the —
John: — helping the less fortunate or what have you, is very real.
Martin: Or just showing people that you love them, whether they’re less fortunate or not, and it’s the one time of the year that it’s not all about you. It will appear in the studies I’ve done, which is fairly substantial now, when you trace it all back, it would appear, as far as we can tell, this was the actual nature and character of the man in question. For me, that’s proof.
John: That’s very cool, and all the other stuff is just veneers that humans have put on top of that. At the core of it, you can’t argue that that’s not real. That’s very real.
Martin: Even the evolution of the name is fantastic because it’s St. Nicholas, Nikolaos, as it would have been in the Greek of the time, and that as it got through to Central Europe, as the legend spread to Central Europe, the Dutch have that as Sinterklaas. Today, Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas. Of course, the Dutch New York was New Amsterdam. The Dutch settlers there brought this legend of Sinterklaas, which has gradually evolved over to Sinta Claus, has gradually evolved via linguistic changes into what we now know to be Santa Claus. So, we know that Santa Claus, we trace straight back to St. Nicholas, on that basis.
I just love that fact that these things are traceable, and we can see the etymology. We can see the origin of the legend that we now know. We know he’s written out in the red suit because Coca-Cola put him in a red suit in the early 1930s, 1940s, whenever it was. That’s why he wears a red suit now, but at the same time, we know that certain other things actually come from the original. Carrying a big sack of stuff around, that was part of the original. This hood ensures his anonymity. That’s original. So, I love that there are still some remnants of the original story in today’s Santa Claus.
John: No, that’s awesome, man. That’s so cool. How do you feel like that impacts you today, being so into that idea of giving and what have you?
Martin: As weird as it may sound and as tenuous as it may sound, there are lessons for me in business, through all of this. Let’s take the first one, we’re always talking about, embellishments. Okay?
John: Oh, yeah.
Martin: The truth has been made bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, still true, but as much impact as possible now. St. Nicholas only ever impacted people in his immediate area in Demre, what is now Turkey, but at the time, it was the Land of Myra, I think, at that time, in Asia Minor. That story is now known all around the world.
Now talk to me about marketing. So many people, especially in my world, I work with accounting firms, so many people in my world, they have incredible stories of where they helped businesses, literally, saved the mortgage, saved jobs, saved the marriage and, created jobs, create dreams, gave them their time with their family back. CPAs and bookkeepers, they create these things, but the only people who ever know that freaking story is the recipient or the beneficiary and the CPA themselves. I try hard to get the CPAs to tell those stories, far and wide, because that’s what most business owners are looking for. We want support like that. We want help like that. It’s taken other people to tell Saint Nick’s story. He didn’t tell it. It takes marketing departments to tell the story that the professional technicians do.
John: That’s such a great point, man.
Martin: I’ve seen marketing. The guy was rich through inheritance in the first place. That’s why he had something to give. That tells me that you have to balance the thing given you. If you become somebody who just gives everything away, you’re broke very quickly. You need a constant stream of income to have income or resource to give. So, you have to take care of your own situation because if you can’t be there for you, you can’t be there for anybody.
John: I completely agree with that, totally, and I think that’s something that’s lost on people sometimes.
Martin: Absolutely. There’s another book called The Richest Man in Babylon, which I think is quite well-known. It’s just the best lesson I ever heard on budgeting, where this guy in the story, poor Arkad, is saying, you’ve got 10 eggs. You produce eggs for a living. You’ve got 10 eggs. You can trade for everything you need in your monthly expenses. Everything you need is nine eggs, but you produce 10, so you’ve got one left over. The next month, you produce another 10, but you only spend nine. The next month, you produce another 10, but you only spend nine. What happens to your basket? Well, ultimately, it’s overflowing, spending less than you earn all the time. Not rocket science, but no one can get it right.
John: Exactly. There needs to be credit eggs.
Martin: Yeah. These are eggs I could use?
John: Exactly. Absolutely, because if you don’t earn, then you can’t give, so having a good income or a good job actually sets you up to be able to give more and to provide more and help more.
Martin: Exactly. So the lesson is making sure your business is profitable. Make your business profitable, pay yourself first. These are lessons I get from a guy who has something to give because he couldn’t give with otherwise. He would have to rely on donations otherwise, which is where I think a lot of charities go wrong. They don’t find ways to generate income. They have to keep going, like, begging ball, and that turns people off. There are so many, John. I can go on with this for a long time.
Let’s go with one more, the anonymity. I love the idea of anonymity. This is the only podcast I’ve ever done on this subject. It might be the only podcast I ever do on this subject. The anonymity is a big deal for me. It was about the gift in itself, not the giver, not the recognition, not the gratitude. You didn’t need any of that. You weren’t giving to get praises. You gave because you felt you should, and you felt your recipient was in need, and you got out of the way. There was no you in this equation, and that’s what I love. Of course, again, it’s up to us to write about him for us to know he even existed in the first place.
John: Yeah, and I love that, where it is literally the gift. It’s not about you. It’s not looking for recognition. It’s not — that’s the thing is we don’t do our jobs because we’re looking for that high praise. I do the job because I’m supposed to do the job. This is what I do, but there is a story there to be told, of the impact of doing the job. There’s another level to that.
Martin: With the current generation I talk to, 25 to 40-year-olds, right now, in my game, the accounting profession is still very young. 25, 40 is still rising star, future leader category. I ask them what they want to be remembered for. I’m going to say, comes a day when the retirement party is going on. It’s all about you. I said, go there. We’re looking back on our career of 30, 35 years. What had to have happened, other than feathering your own nest, what had to have happened? The 25 to 40-year-olds, John, they always say, “I want to be remembered as somebody who was there for people. I want to be remembered as somebody who built this for somebody, who was remembered as a great leader, not as a boss.” I believe these answers are authentic, that are coming from them. I believe that’s genuinely what they want. I see it in their eyes. So, I’m delighted that spirit exists in the current 25 to 40-year-olds right now.
John: That’s exactly it. That’s super cool to hear. I’ve spoken at some partner retreats type things for firms. There’s always some that are retiring. I’ve never once heard or seen a slide on a spreadsheet of, well, here’s the amount of revenue they brought in for the firm, and here’s the number of clients. No. They’re always stories that are not even work-related at all, and those are the stories that people are telling. I think that’s really, really important that we all remember that. It’s just a nice reminder to be like, well, the work is important and clearly, that person had to do the work to get to where they are, but what is it that people are remembering and talking about? It’s not that side of it. In the same way with Santa Claus or St. Nicholas, it’s not, how did he get his money, or where did he live? It was the spirit of the giving is what we’re talking about. That’s such a great parallel. I never even thought of that. I can’t wait for Christmas to come in a couple of weeks. We’ll be like, that’s just amazing.
Martin: What about this year? Is this commercial this year? I like it.
John: Exactly, exactly. This has been awesome. Is it something that you talk about in this way with people, clients at work-related settings? Or is it just, you just bring that spirit to things?
Martin: Well, you’d have to ask the audience for that answer. I could only tell you what I see. No. The answer is no, I don’t talk about it. I feel like that defeats the objective of the anonymity. I would like to believe, and the audience would have to confirm or deny, but I would like to believe that the best possible example you can set is one of behavioral example. It would be interesting and probably dangerous to my reputation, for people to say or for people to be asked, what do you think of Martin? What have you observed of Martin? What do his actions suggest? Does he walk his own talk or not? For me, that’s the ultimate — the thing to strive for. I don’t think you’ll ever get there. I don’t think you’ll achieve perfection. I don’t think we’re a race of perfect people. What I do think, there’s an opportunity for perpetual improvements. There’s an opportunity to do better than you did yesterday and to put right, the things you got wrong yesterday, which is the beauty of the new day. So, for me, no, it’s not something I talk about. I am hoping that, in my behavior that’s observed by others, there are consistencies there.
John: Yeah, because this is a little bit of a different thing where it’s not like you just go around talking about Santa all the time. It’s Christmas in July, everybody.
Martin: How do we get some new business? Well, you really think about it from the point of view of Christmas Eve. This is what you do.
John: Exactly. How many cookies do you have in your budget?
Martin: How is your cookie pipeline going? We need more cookies in the pipeline. Close your cookies at all times.
John: Actually, if every time you made a visit to the place and they had cookies and milk for you, that would be great. Let’s do that, everybody.
Martin: I love one, all of a sudden. So, no, I don’t see the direct application there. What I do see is for me to — a constant reminder for me to up my game. However well I did, it wasn’t good enough. I’m going to have to up my game again. Because from what we can tell, this guy lived his life — well, and I didn’t want to bring religion into this. This guy was following the example of his Savior as he saw it.
John: Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely.
Martin: He was the Bishop of Myra. This guy was a religious man. Had we been able to interview Saint Nick, and been able to speak Greek as well, he would have been telling us, what’s the big deal?
John: Yeah, I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do.
Martin: I’ve got to do this. So, for me, I look at it from Saint Nick’s point of view. I think, well, this guy’s my hero. This is the guy I want to be able to emulate, not for other people to say, “He was like this,” but for me to say I tried my hardest. I mean, you’ll never get there.
John: Oh, no, no. Yeah, but you can at least try and be better. I think it’s great because you’re showing up. You’re walking the walk, and that spirit gets through to other people. The intentions and what you’re conveying is what translates.
Martin: Then we have to make the business application because then when you’re trying to do a deal with clients, whatever it is, and you speak in these terms, they’re making judgment calls about you. Not just what’s coming out of your mouth, but what your eyes look like and where they’re looking at any given time. What’s going on with voices, where your hands are, and that’s triggering your authenticity and your sincerity.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Martin: If you are at least attempting — again, I want to heavily caveat that I am a safe, comfortable distance away from sainthood here.
John: Right. I think everyone knew that part, Martin.
Martin: I think people look for people who strive and say, okay, he had faults, he has shortcomings. She had faults, she has shortcomings, but you know what? The things she does, they come from the heart. We build a lot of goodwill in business that way.
John: Yeah. No, I love that. I love that so much, and how much it transfers over to the business world. This has been awesome, man. This is so great, and I think something that everyone can really change their thoughts on, pretty easily. It’s just change perspective.
Martin: Not to have a complete makeover, but how do I improve one tiny thing? I want to improve in that, congratulate myself quietly, and then go and improve the next thing. Just little bite-sized chunks, that’s it.
John: Yeah. No, no, I love that. I love that. So for people that have hobbies and passions and interests that seemingly are not related to their job, do you have any words of encouragement to them, as far as whether it’s pursuing them or sharing them or even having these hobbies that are seemingly not work-related?
Martin: Oh, absolutely. There’s always a correlation somewhere. Sometimes it’s rather tenuous, and you have to bend it a lot to make it fit, but over time, you find that business is about human behavior. When you’ve been in the game a long time, you see the same patterns. Businesses have got the same concerns that are asking you to fix. You’re giving them the same solutions you gave them six months ago because they didn’t implement it six months ago. We all sign up for gym memberships in January because we’re all fat because we can’t be disciplined over 12 months.
Martin: It’s always the same stuff. I think, over time, the more passionate you are about something, and the more you can link it to your commercial goal, whatever creates your income in life; it creates that sense of authenticity. One thing that comes to mind as we’re talking here, John, I have a decent record for being asked back as a speaker, not for being asked, but for being asked back second, third, fourth, my record is seven times, seven consecutives. I always ask the question, what was it you loved about last year? What was it I said? What was it I did? What went on the screen behind me that you really got some insight from? Nobody, John, can remember a thing I freaking said. Nobody can. Nobody knew what it was. They can’t even remember my name properly. I said to them, “So why am I back?” They said, “Well you’ve got great feedback.” I said, “You gave me great feedback. Thank you. Why?” They said, “Well, we don’t know. We just liked your energy.” One word shows up over and over and over again. We don’t care what you said. We don’t care what you said about. We don’t really care how you said it either. What we did really care about is we went away feeling energized and invigorated and hopeful. That’s what you translated. That’s what I think anybody who’s got a hobby or passion, when they translate that into the work, all of a sudden people will be magnetized towards them. We don’t understand your hobby, we don’t really care about your hobby either, but we love your energy.
John: Yeah, because they light up. You could hear it in people’s voices, their eyes. There’s color all of a sudden.
Martin: Absolutely, and everyone’s going, I’m feeling great, I don’t know why. It’s like, let’s keep the spirit here. So anybody who’s got an unrelated passion or hobby, I would ask them to up their game on it because there’s a direct business correlation, if nothing more than in the energy and passion that you exude.
John: Right. Yeah, that momentum carries forward, and even just talking about it at work just a little bit, it’s super cool. That’s awesome, man.
Martin: The more people you invite to tell you about their thing as well, and it’s equal; all good. All good.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s so great. Well, before I close this up, it’s only fair that I allow you to question me and turn the tables here, since I started out, peppering you with questions. We’ll make this the Martin Bissett podcast, Episode One. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it. Yeah, so what have you got?
Martin: So, John, you’re late. Okay, here are my questions for you. You have launched a book. For everybody who launches a book, are 1,000 people who wish they could launch a book. There’s a lot of, what I would call, vanity publishing that goes on these days, one page idea turns into 300 pages of a book with filler, and it’s done for self-gratification, not to share content with people who might need it, and so on and so on and so on and so on and so on. What I noticed most of all, John, is that people don’t realize how hard it is to write an actual coherent, powerful set of words, over a series of chapters. My question to you is this, do you find the writing process particularly easy or difficult or in between, and what are your tips or hacks for breaking the writer’s block and getting that key ideas down on paper?
John: It’s a journey, for sure. Writing the book, there are a lot of people that do the ghost writers, where they hire someone to write the book for them. I wrote all of my words and then extra that didn’t make it. So, for me, it was very much a momentum thing. It was just write every day. Some days, it’s a little bit. Some days, I hit a groove, and it’s a lot. It’s literally just a momentum thing of just write every day.
For me, it helps having a content editor where, before I started writing, we mapped out the structure of the book. The bones were there. It was just up to me to just put the meat on it. So, it was just write every day. Don’t edit as you write, just pour it out. Even if you’re like, hey, I think I wrote about this in another section, write it again because you might say it better or at least differently. Just let it out. Don’t edit and edit after you get it all out. It’s really hard to do because I’m a big fan of first draft is the final draft, but when you go through the book process, you realize that your first draft is like, there’s like 30 more drafts. It’s crazy.
With What’s Your “And”?, just once I turned the book over to the publisher even, before that were tons of iterations, but even once I turned it over to the publisher and I was like, well, we’re pretty much done; no, three more rounds of copy editing and then three more rounds with a different proofreader. It’s a journey. The cool thing is, is that, what is it, iron sharpens iron, type of thing, so the book’s vision that I had in the beginning, it’s that but actually better, which is cool, because I definitely hold a high standard for what I put out there. Because that is frustrating to me where someone’s like, well, here’s my leadership book. I’m like, well, we’ve already got a billion. How is yours different, like, legitimately, for real different? That’s what I’m proud of with What’s Your “And”? is legit different. It’s a different style and structure to it, but also the message isn’t something that’s out there.
John: That’s why I’m excited about it, but, yeah, write every day. That’s it, even if it’s just a little bit.
Martin: More often is the key.
John: Exactly, yeah.
Martin: Fantastic. My second question is a follow-up question to that. I know a lot of would-be authors who end up being — they start to get in the place in their mind where they think that their book, when it’s finally done, is going to be the next Harry Potter, and it’s going to make them a billionaire in 10 years. They don’t realize that it’s really an expensive business card, for many of us. We’re not in the publishing business. I’m not trying to make money out of books because that is not what it’s for. So, I would ask you, obviously, you want the book to have the greatest reach possible, but for you, what is the biggest payoff of actually having a book and indeed a brand that is grown from the book? What’s the biggest payoff for you, and where does the book serve you the best in your business?
John: Yeah. Well, I think, for me, it’s just putting my stake in the ground of, here’s my philosophy, here’s what I think, here’s my research that I’ve done, here’s it. When people are like, what is it about that you — what do you speak about? Well, hear this. Like you said, it’s a $5 business card or whatever. It’s, well, here, I have a book. I’ve done the research. Here it is. What are you going to come speak on? This. Then after I speak, would it make sense for everyone in the audience to have something that reinforces this, six months later, after they slip and forget? Or when they’re thinking, hey, I can do — actually, I’ve done what I think I’ve done. There’s another level to it. Because there are layers to some of this where, when you hear it the first time, you catch a certain layer, but then if you listen again, later on, you catch that second layer that you completely missed before because you were so far in the weeds. That’s what I think is is great. Plus, then it also gets to people that haven’t seen me speak. They haven’t heard the podcast. It’s people that are advocates of this. Because I look at it as our message, it’s yours and mine, and I just happen to be the mouthpiece of the collective.
John: It’s our message. People are like, hey, other people are on board with this. Let’s share that with them.
Martin: I love that. Talking about Saint Nick, the book is like the Gospel of John here, that you’ve got here, and those who read it and say, yeah, I go with this. If you read John’s book — I think I saw it, in fact. Was it Angie Grissom?
John: Yeah, yeah.
Martin: Wonderful, wonderful lady and great friend of mine, and Adelaide as well, perhaps were —
John: Yeah, with Rainmaker Companies. Yeah.
Martin: Check out John’s book. Check out John’s book. It’s wonderful that that’s the thing that works for you. Because I think a lot of authors or would-be authors need to understand first, the blood, sweat and tears go into that 212 pages but also what it can do for them beyond mere book sales alone.
John: Yeah, yeah. Because the book sales alone aren’t necessarily going to make you make a living off of that, but it’s getting that philosophy out there. The consulting and the speaking that comes from people that are like, oh, we want to have this at our place, we want to create this, is where that helps out.
Martin: I think, below referrals, which are always the diamond standard of anybody’s credibility, probably the book is the next most critical thing you can do with an expert to establish your position and say, look, publisher thought this was worthy, publisher marketed this, I have written this position. I love what you’ve done to put this message out because I haven’t seen what you’ve done before. I’m not saying other people do that. I love something, not just because it’s new. Oh, what’s this? Okay, I hadn’t thought — this is a new angle. This is a new paradigm.
John: Yeah. Well, thank you, man.
Martin: No, you’re very welcome. No problem at all.
John: Yeah, well, I appreciate it. More importantly, thank you for having me on the Martin Bissett podcast, Episode One, so, thanks.
John: Right. Exactly, exactly. This has been so much fun, man. I just appreciate you being a part of What’s Your “And”? Thanks.
Martin: No, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Martin in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget, buy 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.
John Takes a Moment to Say “Thank you”
It’s the day after Thanksgiving here in the United States and I’m officially stuffed! This year hasn’t been ideal for any of us but that doesn’t mean that we still can’t take a moment to give thanks.
Thank you for subscribing to this podcast to hear about the “And” of other professionals and how that applies to their work.
Thank you for sharing this message with your friends and coworkers — and bosses, too! This is our message and it’s making a difference in workplace cultures.
And finally, thank you for reading the book! It was a journey writing it and seeing the positive feedback made it all worth it. If you haven’t gotten the book yet, the links are at WhatsYourAnd.com. And if you have the book, please take a minute to leave a few sentences as an Amazon review.
Thank you again.
• Thank you message from John
• John reads a chapter from the book titled “You’re not Engaged to the Job, You’re Engaged to the People”
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
What’s Your “And”? Links
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Welcome to Episode 336 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday, I usually 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, but today, I just thought it’d be appropriate, since yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the United States, just to take a day to say thank you, just thank you from the bottom of my heart.
It just means so much that you’re listening to the podcast and resonating with the guests, and more importantly, the support for the book, What’s Your “And”?: Unlock the Person within the Professional. It’s just so cool that so many people rallied around this. I truly believe that this is our message. I just happen to be the mouthpiece, if you will, and the one who wrote the book, but I really look at it as it’s all of our message as a collective whole.
Just thank you for being a part of this, from the bottom of my heart, it just means so much, and for the people that have gotten the book and shared the book with others, left Amazon reviews. If you haven’t done that yet, please just take a minute and and leave a review on Amazon, a sentence or two is great. Just, how would you describe this book to your friend? Or what was just one takeaway you got from the book? You don’t even have to read the whole book. You can just read a little bit of it and still leave a review. My publisher explained to me how crucial those are for the life of a book, and I just really appreciate anyone that can just take a minute to just go do that.
If you haven’t gotten the book yet, you can check out whatsyourand.com. All the links are there for Amazon or Indigo or barnesandnoble.com or Bookshop or a couple of other places. Again, thank you so much to everyone who supported this message.
I thought I would just read one of the chapters here from the book. They’re all micro chapters, so even if you’re not a reader, you can feel like you’re burning through them. This one here really resonates with a lot of people and on social media. It seems like it’s gotten a lot of attention. The title of the chapter is: Not Engaged to the Job, Engaged to the People.
People are more engaged because they are closer to the people they work with. Based on my experience, I believe that you aren’t engaged to your job, you’re engaged to the people you work with. Humans crave connections and are built for community. The stronger those human connections are, the more engaged you will be, no matter what your tasks are.
The first step to increasing engagement doesn’t require a lot of money or creative ideas. It only requires management to foster an environment where people are encouraged to share their outside of work interests. Celebrating these hobbies and shining a light on these passions will draw people closer to each other. I realized this when I spoke at a partner retreat for a large regional accounting and advisory firm a few years ago. Three of their partners were retiring, so time was set aside for others to talk about them. There wasn’t a single mention of the number of clients they brought in or how much revenue they had made for the firm. Each story was something personal that had occurred outside of work.
The more sharing that occurs, the greater the odds that people start to genuinely care about each other even if they don’t share the same interest, but it’s an even bigger bonus if they do share the same interest because then they have more to talk about besides work. They might also even find time to do that hobby together outside of work, developing stronger bonds that will keep them engaged.
Here’s a quote from Rumi, who was on the podcast. She’s a film festival volunteer and a marathon runner and a photographer and an awesome, awesome person who I’ve had the fortune to have lunch with in New York City. She’s super cool. She says, “All of the things that we do outside of work are part of what makes us better when we’re at work. It’s really exciting because the more we’re willing to explore and enjoy our lives and learn new things that aren’t part of our official training, I think that makes us better at thinking, better at communicating, better at interacting, better at connecting with coworkers, which ultimately makes us care about each other more.” That was a quote from an episode that she was on.
Then I go on to say, the people who you talk to about your outside of work passions have a different relationship with you. They see you in a different light and are more interested in those other parts of your life and vice versa. You have a stronger relationship with these folks, and are more engaged when you’re with them. If you had your dream job at your dream company but were surrounded by people you couldn’t tolerate, you’d quit. On the flip side, I was talking to someone at a professional services firm that had been recently acquired by a larger regional firm, and the transition hadn’t been very smooth. Many people chose to leave. Someone told him, the reason people are still working here is because of the other people who are still working here.
There you go. There’s just a quick micro chapter from the book, What’s Your “And”?: Unlock the Person Within the Professional. If you haven’t gotten it yet, please grab one. There’s the Kindle version. There’s also a paperback version. Audio version will be coming sometime in the first quarter of next year.
I just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the United States and just thank you to everyone around the world who’s been a part of this message and joined with me and allowed me to keep going and do what I do. So, just thank you so much for that.
Please check out whatsyourand.com. We’ll be back next Friday with another Follow-Up Friday. Of course, the Wednesday episode will happen as well. I’ll just leave you with this. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast, whatever app you use, or for sharing this episode with your friends, and the podcast with your friends, so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Kellie is an Bookkeeper & Cabin Renovator
Cloud Accounting Aficionado Kellie Parks talks about her cabin renovation projects, building her own “she-shed” office, running a cloud-based accounting firm, and how her renovation projects apply to her profession as an accountant! She also talks about her other passion for water skiing!
• Getting into water skiing
• Getting into cabin remodeling
• Renovating her family’s cabin
• Running her business out of her “she-shed”
• Applying her love for automation and tech to her renovations
• How her remodeling work goes hand-in-hand with her accounting work
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 335 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. It’s available on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, Bookshop and 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 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, Kellie Parks. She’s a cloud accounting aficionado at Calmwaters Cloud Accounting in Puslinch, Ontario, Canada, and now she’s with me here today. Kellie, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Kellie: Well, thanks for having me, John. I’m sure it’s going to be fun.
John: This is going to be a blast. We’ve hung out a couple of times at conferences, so I’m just excited to have you be a part of this. I have my rapid-fire questions, as you know. These are things I probably should have asked before we hung out that first time. Here we go, get to know Kellie. Easy one, favorite color.
John: Okay. How about a least favorite color?
John: Green. Interesting.
Kellie: I know.
John: So, Christmas is sort of a half-and-half for you.
Kellie: Actually, you know what? No, I’m going yellow.
John: Yellow, okay. I’ll let you switch. I’m nice like that. I’m nice like that. How about, do you prefer more hot or cold?
Kellie: Oh, cold.
John: Yeah, yeah. Well, as a Canadian, I was assuming that would be the answer. How about a favorite actor or actress?
John: Shrek. That’s great. That’s a great answer. That’s awesome, very cool. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Kellie: Oh, early bird. If I’m up till 9:00, that’s late.
John: Oh, wow. Okay, all right, and that’s Eastern Time, so hoo.
Kellie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The tournament ended at 11. I was literally napping partway through it.
John: That’s fantastic. Would you say you’re more diamonds or pearls?
Kellie: Actually, I don’t wear jewelry.
John: Oh, okay. Well, there we go. That’s easy. How about, when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword.
Kellie: I don’t do puzzles.
John: Oh, okay. Let me see what else I can ask you that you — how about a least favorite vegetable? I don’t eat vegetables.
Kellie: No, I love every vegetable.
John: All of them?
Kellie: Yeah. I don’t think I have a vegetable I don’t like. I can name a bunch of fruit I don’t like.
John: Okay, least favorite fruit, let’s go with that.
John: Bananas, okay, and that was an easy one. You knew that one right away. All right, how about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Kellie: How about Shrek?
John: How about Shrek? That counts.
Kellie: I’ll still go with Shrek.
John: Shrek is also a series. Absolutely, I would totally take Shrek as an answer. That totally counts. Your computer, more PC or a Mac?
Kellie: Well, I have PCs. I love Mac to death, but PCs just make all the more sense for me.
John: There you go. There you go. On your mouse then, is it left click or right click?
Kellie: Right click.
John: Right click. That’s where the fun is, right?
Kellie: Right? Finally, I answered a question the way you asked it.
John: These are your answers. That’s totally awesome. Here’s one that you’ll nail, favorite adult beverage.
Kellie: Wine, beer, wine.
John: All of them.
Kellie: Carry on.
John: Is this like the vegetables where I like all of them?
Kellie: Yeah, basically.
John: All right. Here we go. Since you’re an accounting background, balance sheet or income statement.
Kellie: I’m a balance sheet girl. I don’t want to be a dumping ground. I hate that.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just put it all in goodwill and make it balance.
Kellie: Or clearing account, right?
Kellie: I know, how about we don’t do that? Ask my accountant. No.
John: Right? There you go. How about oceans or mountains?
John: Mountains. Okay. Do you have a favorite number?
Kellie: 18. I had a tipping point, health-wise, at 19, so I guess my glory days were at 18.
John: Okay, okay. No, that works. We’ve got two more. Since my book is out, I’m asking, more Kindle or real books.
Kellie: Real books, 100%.
John: Yeah, yeah. The last one, favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Kellie: My water ski.
John: Oh, okay. All right. It’s just one water ski? So, you’re slalom skier?
Kellie: Yeah, I’m a slalom skier, yeah.
John: That’s impressive. Okay. No, I just caught onto the water ski as opposed to skis where it would be two.
Kellie: Yeah. No, when I’m snow skiing, I demo, but I own my water ski, and don’t put me on anything but my own.
John: That’s very cool. Is it a certain brand?
John: Just yes. All right. That’s super awesome. I love how particular you are with that. That’s also something I didn’t realize about you, and I think a lot of people might have just learned. That’s super cool.
Kellie: You asked and then I never answered. It’s the HO Phantom. I have custom boots on it too.
John: Oh, nice. Yeah, you go all out on that.
Kellie: Yeah, yeah. I have my own ski boat too.
John: Yeah, I feel like we were talking cabin remodeling, but we might actually dip into the water — because have you water skied since you were little?
Kellie: My starter husband was my coach and my boat driver. As it turns out, there are better reasons to get married.
John: Starter husband.
Kellie: My current husband will not drive me, water skiing, at all, which is fine. I skied at a water ski school, but carry on.
John: Right. I’d imagine that’s like teaching your spouse how to golf, where it’s like, better to just not be involved. Wow, that’s impressive. That’s very cool, very cool. But cabin rebuilding, remodeling, re everything, almost just built it from scratch, when did this start?
Kellie: Three years ago in October. I’m third generation out on this little lake that I live on. It’s not that little. It’s 10 kilometers around. My grandparents had a cottage out here, and my current husband’s grandparents had a cottage out here. We grew up together cottaging. He’s a lot older though, so we didn’t give each other the time of day. When you’re growing up at a cottage, the fellow’s three years older, he’s definitely running with a different group.
John: Right. He’s ancient.
Kellie: Anyways, they were summer places for us. I went off to university, he went off to university, didn’t see each other for a while. In school, my parents built a house where my grandparents’ cottage was. His parents were in Florida all winter, but they moved in, in the summers to their family cottage, but they didn’t do anything with it. They just tried to keep it standing.
I’ve had five houses on the lake before this one, just bought wrecks and fixed them up. Then three years ago, somebody came along and wanted my last wreck and wanted it right then. I’m like, okay. Because we were going to buy the cabin. I know people don’t know this, but you and I are looking at each other. I’m pointing at the cabin because it’s right here.
John: Right, right.
Kellie: We were going to buy the cabin two years still from now, we were five years up, because it was built by our grandparents, his grandfather, and then renovated-ish, I’ve got quote fingers in the air, renovated by his dad and a couple of my cousins. It’s 100-year-old, truly handmade cabin with a lot of alcohol that went into the building of it.
John: Okay, so not always all level and square.
Kellie: No. No, that was optional. I don’t think they had levels for squares or anything. They just — and then my in-laws were pretty bright about it. They knew that they weren’t going to be here in the winter, so it wasn’t winterized. Literally went to building places and got new storm windows, but it was super cool. It has this amazing vibe. It’s got this 100-year-old, handmade stone, boulder fireplace.
John: Oh, wow.
Kellie: Right? It’s got this amazing vibe that you’ll never duplicate, and my husband and I, it means the world to us because it’s the last place standing on the lake that’s kind of original. We don’t need much. We kicked the kids out a while ago. They’re gone. They didn’t go far. A couple of them lived right out here on the lake with us, but we don’t want much. We travel a lot, and we live outside.
Anyways, we’re moving into this place way ahead of when we should be, but we had a good opportunity with the other place. I got three different contractors out to try and save it, and all of them were like, no. Every one of our friends is like, what are you doing, man? Take it down. There are two problems with taking it down. We love it. Everybody’s like, okay, but, Kel, if you renovate it for 200,000 or you just build a new one for 500,000. I’m like, and you guys do math here? That’s still 300,000.
John: Right? Maybe, are they paying for it? How good a friends are these?
Kellie: I’m going to take that 300,000 and go to Thailand a whole lot of times, guys, or New Zealand. Right?
Kellie: I love how cavalier people are too. You’re building for 500 — first of all, you’re not going to build anything anymore for 500,000.
John: Yeah, yeah, and it’s also your money, so of course they’re cavalier about it.
Kellie: I love how cavalier they are with $300,000. It’s just like nothing. You guys pulling this out of the air? What’s happening here? Then I’m going to have a brand new house. I don’t want a brand new house. I don’t want a brand new house.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Kellie: I’m lamenting my woes with wine, with my mom and my dad, and my dad says, and I’m trying not to swear, but he uses the F word. He says, “I’m going to save it.” Because my dad is a jack of all trades. He says, “I’m going to drag all your cousins out here, and my son’s a framer.” He said, “We’ll save it.” I’m like, okay, this ought to be good. He did. We have now been at it, it will be three years, as I said, and we are reaching the end run, including my brand new iron filter went in today, because we’re on a well. We’ve got it all. So, new filter, not new filter bed, we fixed the filter bed.
Just to give you a description of our life since February, we put in a new fridge in February. Then our stove went, and we had to wait until we could get people in here in June, I believe it was. We replaced the stove then the washer dryer said, hey, I want to be new too. All of the mechanical would get us through for a couple of years because we’re just trying to keep the cabin sanding, which I put windows in it. So then the washer dryer went, then the outside pipe to our septic went. This is all since February. Then a couple of weeks ago, the iron filter, water pressure tank, water heater and softener all went.
John: Golly. These are all things that you weren’t even planning on at all.
Kellie: Not yet, no. We knew they would be coming. Out of all of that, did you notice what’s left to blow?
John: It’s the heater? Well, no, you had the hot water heater.
Kellie: Our dishwasher went.
John: Oh, you had a dishwasher in a cottage. That’s impressive. That’s fancy cottage.
Kellie: I know. Actually, at least about — except when we entertain, we love having people here. I know it’s COVID. We’re COVINOIDS. We are hybrid COVINOIDS but all the same. So the dishwasher is replaced. So, aside from trying to save the cabin, there is nothing with a moving part now that has not been replaced.
John: That’s unbelievable. Just the amount of adversity that you’ve gone through is impressive. Hey, move out today, into a cabin that we weren’t even thinking about for five years, and then to get in there and then to have everything that you didn’t plan on replacing, all go within seven months of each other. It’s crazy.
Kellie: It’s really nice. I only moved two doors down, or we, because my husband and I moved together. It’s our 20th anniversary coming up.
Kellie: We moved two doors down. The people that bought our old place weren’t going to change a thing. Then they basically changed it from the ground up, and it’s gorgeous. They thank us every time they see us for selling them their place, which is also, they’ve been the best neighbors, so it was totally the right decision.
John: That’s fantastic.
Kellie: The roof is getting — again, I’m pointing.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Kellie: The roof is getting done this week. That is the last of the major expenses. We had to do windows. We had to do installation. We had to do, well, as you know, everything.
John: Yeah. Wow.
Kellie: Yeah, it’s been an adventure. Then what we did was — so the cabin is, it’s not small, but it’s not big. It’s basically, I think, 1,000 square feet. I don’t think. I know it is. It’s 1,000 square feet, but I bet you we have 3,000 square feet of living space, not to mention our property. So, the living space, because we get a lot of wind here on the lake, we’ve got a living space right down at the dock. We’ve got a big back deck that looks out over the light. We’ve got a whole thing up the side. Then we’ve got a whole thing of what would traditionally be someone’s front yard but then that faces out — I mean, we’re also back on to 250 acres of trails. Every one of those areas has a fire pit or a fireplace of some sort, and some of them have covering so that even with rain, we can be outside. So, we spent probably more money outside than we did on the inside of this.
We haven’t done the kitchen. Our kitchen was done, let’s say, 40-some odd years ago, and my uncle slapped together wood boxes and flat pine, face frontings. It’s a fantastic kitchen to cook in, with as you know, brand new appliances. We kept the actual cupboards, so everybody who comes in, they’re like, oh, when are you replacing the kitchen? Yeah, well, not now. We’re spending our money outside, thank you very much.
John: Yeah. You spend so much time outside anyway, when the weather is nice, or the coverings help even when it’s not, but you have the fire pits. That’s super cool. Then your she-shed, which is just rocking, that’s part of it as well. Was that an original piece, or did you have that built?
Kellie: Yeah, so my dad realized the money was going to need to keep coming in, but I’m living in absolute chaos.
Kellie: So, he built me a she-shed. Just for people who can’t see it, which is everybody listening, it’s a 12-by-eight-foot cabin. It’s got all full cabin windows that lift up.
John: Oh, there you go.
Kellie: Pull them up to the roof. It’s all pine tongue and groove.
Kellie: It’s a stand-up desk, and it’s just very cool. A few of my cousin’s made me little signs to go around it. I’ve got a couple of chairs. People love to just come and sit here, and we chat about stuff. It’s got this fantastic vibe. You can feel the love that my dad put into it, to keep me out of the cabin when he was working in it. Basically, I lived in the cabin. He also took control of the cabin, meaning that he was doing a lot of stuff that he wanted to do in there, not necessarily asking my permission.
John: There you go. Yeah, eight hours later, you come in and…
Kellie: Yeah, we’re digging up our entire front yard because we had to fix some of our septic beds. When he was done digging up the yard, also, he had to dig around the foundation of the house to insulate from the outside because it was built on little cedar logs. So, he did that, but when he was done, he still left all the equipment in the front yard, thinking that that was hilarious. When I was doing webinars or stuff, he’s just out there lifting the high hoe up and down, the bucket.
John: Like, waving to people with his big bucket.
Kellie: He would stick his head in. I have a sign, like, don’t come in here. He didn’t care. He’d just be sticking his head in with his silly hat, swearing and asking me questions. I’m like, you can’t do that. Why not?
John: That’s awesome.
Kellie: So, he built me this shed. My husband is a fly fishing guy, and he built my husband a fishing hut too, where he runs his business out of. He’s got all his waders and his gear and everything in there. So, he’s got a really cool working hut himself. It’s kind of fun, yeah.
John: That’s super cool. When you’re doing these webinars and when you’re talking to clients, you’re in the she-shed. They’re seeing a lot of this happening in real time, with you, which is really cool.
Kellie: Yeah, or my clients, not now, but I am completely, 100% cloud-based accounting. I’m a bookkeeper and 100% percent have been, I’ve been on cloud products since 2012. I’m looney for this stuff. Most of my clients are local, so they come to my shed.
John: Oh, they even just show up. There you go. Oh, that’s great.
Kellie: Yeah. It’s cool.
John: That is really cool. Sometimes people, they have these outside of work interests, and they don’t like to share them, for whatever reason. You’re like, no, no, I’m living this 24/7, so are you, type of thing, which is great.
Kellie: One of the funnest things — I think funnest is grammatically correct — one of the funnest things I did, I love tech of any kind. Oddly enough, I don’t have any screen time. We can’t watch TV. We don’t stream Netflix. I don’t do any screen time after work. I have a visual problem with moving things on screens, so we don’t do TV or any of that, but we love our music, especially like concept albums and stuff. We’ll just have that going there, listening to Edgar Allan. We’ve got it all going on.
I love tech and automation, so I decided, even while the cabin was still a wrecking ball — I mean, it’s cute as heck now. It’s really getting there. While it was a wrecking ball, I smart homed it. I had said to Jeff, “I’m going to smart home the house.” He’s like, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, we’re not smart homing the house. I just want to walk around and turn on lights.” I’m like, yeah, that’s really dumb. I already had, even then, had 12 Sonos speakers.
Kellie: The whole thing is gigged up, inside and out, with Sonos, so that’s awesome. You walk everywhere, and there’s all this music going on.
Kellie: He was fine with that. He went away to — they have fly fishing conferences, believe it or not. I smart homed the house while he was away one weekend. I did all of the outlets. I did the thermostat, all the lighting, all that. It was all smart homed.
John: That’s amazing.
Kellie: No, not for him. He got home, and he was just like, “You promised you weren’t going to do it.” No, I did not promise.
John: I did not promise.
Kellie: I got my work life and my love of automation and tech all come into one place. That was fun.
John: That is super awesome. I would imagine that just from a budgeting standpoint of doing the rebuild, you’ve got that nailed, but does any of the cottage remodeling project transfer over to your work at all from a mindset perspective or anything like that?
Kellie: Yeah, yeah, 100%. Everything I do is built with an outcome in mind.
John: Oh, there you go.
Kellie: Defined what the outcomes were that we wanted in the cabin. What was the lifestyle we wanted? How are we going to live in this thing? What’s actually really, really important? The layout of the kitchen was really, really important; pretty, pretty cupboards aren’t. Right?
John: Right, right.
Kellie: The fireplace had been sealed up for 65 years, so we got somebody in because we knew we wanted that thing running again. There was no way we weren’t going to have a working fireplace. So, one of the outcomes was, how can we do that and make it not change visually? We had a glass door on the front and a flue that’s up at the top with a chain to open the flue. Otherwise, you have to do this whole thing that tears apart all the old stone.
John: Right. Yeah, which ruins it.
Kellie: Yeah. I’m the same at work. It’s always, any of the processes or systems or anything, any of the tech that I choose, is built on, what’s that outcome going to be? What’s the client outcome? What’s the Kellie not doing too much work outcome? Right?
John: Just overcoming all those obstacles has to give you some sort of confidence. When you get any sort of a setback at work, it’s like, well, I’ve done crazier. We’ve had all the appliances go, so what else could be — it’s one of those mental toughness, sort of a thing.
Kellie: Yeah, oh, 100%. If you’re living in a cabin while you’re renovating, and it’s not winterized, and you’re in Canada; you can get through that… You know?
John: Right. The fact this isn’t a reality TV show is amazing to me. I feel like you should have your own show.
Kellie: Well, and it’s funny. I know there’s a lot more interesting people who’ve done more interesting renovations, but what’s interesting is — oh, I just said interesting, what, six times in a row — is that the naysayers. Also, the other thing that I had in mind was always a plan. I knew what the brand identity was going to be, for lack of a better word. So, I have a brand identity, and that ties in inside and out with all of our living spaces. So, on the outside, I have a lot of screens, and they delineate areas. You’ve got these different living spaces. They’re louvered, tall, significant. They’re six-by-sixes with louvers and then with this lattice that you make, you don’t buy. It’s actually one-by-one. So, there’s a lot of that, that gives all these cool defined areas.
John: That’s awesome.
Kellie: Yeah, and then I knew that it was going to be — it’s black. The cabinet is painted black. It’s like a warm wood color and white, and that’s the theme throughout the whole place. Because it’s small, you can’t re-change it at all up everywhere.
John: Right, right.
Kellie: Now, a lot of the naysayers are like, okay, that actually worked out. So, there’s some satisfaction there. Because some of the processes that I put together at work, there have been some people along the way, going, I don’t know, that seems a little out there. Then when it works out, you’re doing a little ha. There you go, John. I did what you asked of me. Do a little shoulder roll.
John: Right. That’s awesome. No, but you’re right. It’s, I’ve done this before in a different way, and I can overcome this. That’s really impressive. It’s awesome. I can’t wait to get back to Toronto, so I can make the drive over and be like, wow, this place is super cool.
Kellie: Well, that’s the fun thing. It’s only an hour outside of Toronto. It’s not an hour north where all the traffic is. I’m an hour, west. I live on a lake. We have a — it’s an international water ski training site, so I don’t have to go far to do one of my other passions.
John: All of your “ands”. Yeah, exactly. That’s fantastic.
Kellie: I’ve got 250 acres of running trails behind me that I don’t have to get a car. The girls and I just go. We call it going OTL. We don’t go off the lake very often.
John: Yeah, there you go. No, you have it all there. That’s so perfect. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that maybe has an outside of work interest that they feel like has nothing to do with their job or no one’s going to care?
Kellie: Yeah, find something that you love or something that you accidentally wound up doing. Now this is the sixth house that I’ve taken a train wreck and renovated. This was the biggest challenge. Or let’s say you really love being outside, but you’re not a runner. That’s just not your game. Well, it doesn’t matter. Everybody says, oh, well, you can’t just go for a stroll. Yes, you can. There’s a million ways to enjoy the great outdoors, with or without alcohol. I hear this from people. Oh, that’s pretty cool that you love to run or whatever. I don’t mean that the way it just came out. It’s like, no, it’s because I absolutely love it. It’s not an effort. It’s not, I have to run it. It’s, I get to run. If that’s not your gig, find something that is your kind of gig. You’ve got to have something outside of work that turns your crank, especially — so I’m going to go off here a little bit. Bookkeepers and accountants work way too hard.
John: Yeah, they do.
Kellie: It’s because our work is never ending. A friend of mine is an air traffic controller, and he made a really interesting statement. He said, “Air traffic controllers are one of those rare professions that you leave work, and you’re done for the day.”
John: Yeah, because you can’t land planes from your home.
Kellie: Right. He said, even cops, even whatever, doctor, they’ve still got that same caseload staring them down, and they could probably work forever. Accountants and bookkeepers are, I think, the biggest in the weeds on those, similar to lawyers, that this work is deadline-driven. It’s got to get done, and some of us feel that nobody else can do it just as well as we can. We work too hard. Not me.
John: Right, right, right. Well, no, just as a whole.
Kellie: Part of the reason they work too hard is that they’re not experiencing joy out — your thing, they don’t have an “and”. Get an “and” and get out.
John: Yeah, I love that. That’s so perfect right there. Before I wrap this up, though, it’s only fair that I turn the tables because I so rudely peppered you with my 17 rapid-fire questions right out of the gate. So, this is the first episode of the Kellie Parks podcast. Thank you so much for having me on. I appreciate being your first guest. So, what questions you got for me?
Kellie: Okay, what is your favorite reading beverage?
John: Oh, favorite reading beverage. I guess I don’t really have a reading beverage but maybe a cider. I’m kind of a cider guy, like pineapple cider.
Kellie: Hard cider, soft cider?
John: Yeah, hard cider, yeah, like a pineapple cider is pretty good.
Kellie: Like an apple cider or a cider…
John: An adult, alcoholic cider.
Kellie: Got you, okay.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Kellie: Where’s your favorite reading place?
John: Favorite reading place. It’s probably our living room, with the TV off, obviously. Living room couch, yeah, is probably pretty comfortable.
Kellie: Okay, hard or soft cover.
John: My books have paperback. I guess I prefer paperbacks only because it saves you five bucks. The accountant in me is strong. Hardcovers are nice as well, but I don’t know. I guess the paperback because then you can just peel it a little bit more and make it pliable for your reading. Where the hardcover, it’s more of, you have to hold it. The paperback is a little more pliable, I guess.
Kellie: I know I only get a chance to ask three questions, but I have one more.
John: Yeah, yeah. No, you can ask one more.
Kellie: Biography or autobiography?
John: Oh, that’s a really good question. I’m going to do a hybrid. There’s a book right here, Dick Cavett. He was a writer for The Tonight Show and then he had his own show. His biography is half and half. He wrote an autobiography but then there’s an interview portion that’s also about a third of the book. So, it’s a little bit of both, which is kind of neat, I think, because then it mixes it up. I hadn’t heard of that before, but I’ve had that book for a long time. Only because in your own eyes, you could see something one way, but through someone else’s eyes, all of a sudden, little things become maybe bigger than what we think. Because we’re doing it, so we don’t think it’s that cool or that big of a deal.
Kellie: Or we’ve got disassociation going on.
John: Yeah, or that too, exactly.
John: Yeah. I don’t know. That’s a great question though. That’s a really good one. Now my brain hurts. I’m going to have to think about that one. I should have said neither like you did to all your — no, I’m just kidding.
Kellie: Is it neither, or is it neither?
John: Oh, we’re going to get niche and niche on me, are we? Is that what’s happening?
Kellie: Here in Canada, we’re all about the soft CH’s, man.
John: Right? Because niches get riches. Niches get riches.
Kellie: Oh, boo. You know what? I know those were your rapid-fire questions. I love reading a biography and an autobiography about the same person.
John: Oh, that’s a good call.
Kellie: It’s really interesting. I’ve only had one autobiography that I could not get through, though, because autobiographies, by their very nature, are me, me, I, I, me.
John: Yeah, that is kind of hard.
Kellie: A lot of people handle that beautifully. There’s only one that I’ve ever just went, okay, that’s enough me, I, I, but it’s interesting to read both sides to it.
John: That’s a good perspective. Yeah. And because I’m efficient, I just did it all in one book. That’s why I came up with that one.
Kellie: Yeah, super-efficient.
John: Which I thought you’d be proud of actually, with all the apps you use.
Kellie: Yes, super proud. Yeah.
John: Well, this has been so fun, Kelly. I so much appreciate you being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Kellie: Thanks for having me on the Kellie Parks Podcast.
John: Right, exactly. Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Kellie in action or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Damien is an Accountant & Pianist
Damien returns to the podcast from episode 114 to talk about teaching his kids how to play piano, having John on his podcast, and overcoming the fear of feeling vulnerable!
• Teaching piano to his kids
• Why there is a pressure for perfectionism
• Overcoming the fear of being vulnerable
• Never stop your hobbies
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 334 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited my book is out. You can order it on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for more. Thank you so much to everyone who has read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. It just takes this message from the podcast, and it’s so much deeper, a lot more research. I think that’s really cool, the feedback that I’m getting from people.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Damien Martin. He’s a tax partner in BKD Chicago office and the host of the Simply Tax Podcast, and now he’s with me here today. Damien, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Damien: No, thank you. It’s an honor to be here, especially after your new book. Congrats again on that.
John: Thank you so much, man. It’s been a blast having you along for the ride and being a guest on your podcast as well. It’s been cool. It’ll be fun to catch up here.
Damien: Absolutely, it will. Again, I guess I’d remiss if I didn’t say thanks for coming back on, on the Simply Tax Podcast, great conversation about the books, some insights. I know I just really enjoyed the conversation. I think I told you that. It was one of the most fun conversations I’ve had in a while. Yeah, that was great.
John: Well, I appreciate it. Well, now we can recreate the magic here on my show. I have some rapid-fire questions though, up-front, things I didn’t ask you the first time. Maybe I should have, now that I think about it, but…
Damien: We’ll see. Wait for the answers and then we’ll see.
John: Let’s see. Let’s see. Here we go. First one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Damien: Harry Potter.
John: Harry Potter, yeah.
Damien: Yeah, mostly because of the kids. I have kids who are just getting into Harry Potter, so maybe it’s a justified answer, perhaps.
John: No, totally, totally. How about a favorite TV show of all time?
Damien: That’s really tricky. You kind of stumped me here. What’s odd is, and the reason I say this is I used to watch a good amount of TV. I don’t watch it as much anymore. I’m kind of like, the all time, I don’t know. I’m kind of a live TV, news, sports kind of guy. If that counts then we’ll go there.
Damien: SportsCenter, there we go, landed on it. I was thinking… Yes, SportsCenter.
John: That counts as a TV show to me, man.
Damien: It does, yeah.
John: It totally counts. I could binge-watch that. That’s for sure. Here’s a tricky one, pizza, New York or Chicago deep dish.
Damien: I’m a Chicago guy, so, clearly Chicago.
John: Yeah, I won’t even ask you which one because then that’ll start real wars. How about, more oceans or mountains?
Damien: I’m an ocean kind of guy. I like the ocean.
John: Since my book’s out, are you more Kindle, real books or audible?
Damien: Audible, actually, and maybe it’s the podcast thing. I enjoy the real books, but the practical reality I came to a long time ago was I don’t read them as much, but I will listen to them. While I read your book in paper copy, which I enjoyed, I do tend to find myself on Audible more frequently.
John: Yeah, yeah. The audible version of mine will be out early part of next year, so that’ll be cool. How about, brownie or ice cream?
Damien: I will be honest that, lately, I probably have been passing on both, but historically, I’m more of an ice cream guy.
John: Ice cream. Okay, okay. Good for you. The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under?
Damien: I don’t know if it’s fair to say that I’m cool with either as long as there is one, I guess.
John: That’s actually the most —
Damien: Just one, not over or under, yeah.
John: As long as it’s within arm’s reach.
Damien: Exactly, then I’m happy. Make it simple here.
John: With the Travelogue, the bathrooms will be so big where it’s like, I can’t even reach. It’s like, who designed this? I’m a tall guy. I can’t reach this? This is crazy.
Damien: Think about a guy like me. I don’t quite have the stature here as you, so maybe happens a bit more frequently, perhaps. I don’t know. It’s just like, this doesn’t make any sense. I’m right there with you.
John: Priorities, people, priorities.
Damien: That’s right. We’ve got to be practical. I understand the aesthetic. Let’s work on the practical here.
John: Exactly. The CPA in both of us is excited about the practical.
Damien: Exactly, exactly.
John: Yeah. So, Episode 114, we talked jazz piano. You’re really good, and it’s awesome. It’s just so awesome. Are you still able to play and practice in the last couple years since we chatted?
Damien: I am, but I’m going to be completely honest, and I think even our conversation that you and I had on the Simply Tax Podcast even gave me the mental permission to almost share it, just to say that I haven’t done as much with it as I would probably like in the last couple of years, being completely honest with that. Like you said, sometimes you end up doing other things. I still have, so I guess maybe where I again maybe hold myself more accountable and think, oh, I’m not doing what I want, is I’m not performing externally like I used to. Right?
Damien: I still do use it for stress-relief and to play at home. So, it’s a yes, but I guess I would look at it as like, oh, I don’t even know if I would want to come on these Follow-Up Fridays. Am I worthy of this? I’m not really doing it like I used to. That’s not cool. But like I said, our conversation earlier kind of gave me that, well, yeah, but that’s maybe not the point. I still have an “and” and it still is an “and”.
John: Yeah, and you enjoy it. Even if it’s just noodling around for 20 minutes on the piano at home, it’s not performing for an audience or what have you, it’s still a piece of you that you’re not cutting off altogether. Even a little bit at a time still counts.
Damien: Absolutely. No, I agree. I think that’s the thing, again, giving myself the permission to be okay with that, even when there were periods of time where I didn’t do that as much. What’s also been cool, and I’m talking other kids’ story here. I guess I’m always cognizant of mentioning the kids stories because I can remember, especially early on, I worked with somebody that was like, I feel like all we ever did was talk about the kids. I’m like, I don’t have a kid. I can’t really relate to this.
John: Kids are awesome.
Damien: They are, and it totally changes your way of thinking. It’s like this whole pandemic experience. I almost can’t go back to my way of thought there. I almost can’t go back to my mind of thought before kids. It happens throughout, constantly. I guess there are two things here. One is that I’m a big phase of life guy. I always say that. It’s almost like my saying, I feel like maybe I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s okay, phase of life-wise, you can back off on the accelerator a little bit.
What’s been kind of cool though, with the kids, is I’ve been able to take the piano and actually sit down and start to teach them how to play. They just turned six. Again, I think they’re awesome, but it is a little bit of a different skill set to teach six-year-olds how to play the piano and make it interesting. That’s also been a challenge, and it’s got me playing a lot more, and just demonstrating to them. So, that’s been cool. I have a little captive audience there too, to the extent I can keep them sitting next to me when I start playing.
Damien: It’s been kind of cool. It’s taken on a different shape, for sure, but it’s kept me going. It’s also, I find, it’s driven me even a little bit further to revisit things I haven’t thought about for years, which has been a very, very cool and rewarding experience.
John: Yeah. No, that’s awesome to hear. Because it’s still a piece of you, it’s just manifesting itself in a different way, and it’s even more rewarding when you’re able to pass it along to others, let alone your children, then it’s cool. They could start to see the magic and feel some of the same feelings of why you’re so passionate about it as well. That’s got to be awesome.
Damien: Yeah. Actually, it was a recent episode of your podcast, What’s Your “And”? podcast, 331, I think it was, with Greg, and he was talking about how he taught, I think it was someone in his neighborhood, how to play the drums and how that kind of came back full circle. Again, I think, it is. It doesn’t have to be a kid. Maybe this is my segue over to the non-kid side of it. That feeling and the ability to take something like that, that is a part of you, and then be able to at least light that fire in somebody else or get them down that road; that’s a really, really rewarding feeling. It transcends even just the benefits of playing the piano, I guess, I’ll say.
John: That is awesome. Yeah, Greg Tirico and his drum set.
Damien: Yeah, yeah.
John: Why do you think it is that we’re so hard on ourselves like that? Why is it that it needs someone like me to almost come along and just be like, no, no, it’s still awesome? We always aim for straight A’s and pass the CPA exam with all 100s, the first time, or whatever. Everything’s got to be perfect and blown out to the max. It’s like, sometimes, like that old adage of good’s better than perfect, type of a thing. It’s just weird. Why do you think that is?
Damien: I think — and maybe it also depends on kind of your industry, so I’ll speak to mine — I think there definitely is a drive, all the people you find yourself surrounded by, tended to have the same sort of thing. You’re always trying to put the best image of yourself, almost like the social media phenomenon, where it’s like, you have to have this really great, perfect picture. I don’t know if I can exactly nail it down. I know there is some deep-seated psychological thing there. I’m fairly certain, but I’m not going to go down that road. I’m a tax guy. I can’t do all the psychology stuff here.
Certainly there is just this need to be able to always look like you’ve got it all pulled together. I have absolutely found, and it does, it takes maybe somebody to nudge you a little bit, like you coming along. That’s why I think your message is so fantastic and your book is so fantastic because it does, it gives you the permission to do that, or the nudge to do that and say, “Yeah, you know, you’re right.” Because I find, especially myself, and I’ll speak to my own personal experience, I am my hardest critic, by far, and I think that’s what it is.
I think there’s also some element of — again, it depends on your industry probably and the group that you work with — there is some sort of an element of, everything is this way and you’re trying to fit into whatever that everything is this way is, if that makes sense. This drive to try to almost conform is there, but all of the times, again, and I’m repeating myself because I have said this before, that, all the times I’ve done it, it’s just been rewarding. It’s deepened the relationship, and it’s helped, in more ways than one.
John: You’re right. It’s almost like we don’t want to share it for fear of being ridiculed or made fun of, or we’re in seventh grade again, type of a thing, of, did you hear Damien’s piano? It’s terrible? Why does he even say that he does it because no one wants to hear it? Or that painting is ugly. Why would someone share — I think the phrase that’s really powerful is just, I enjoy.
In your case, you’re great. You don’t have to sweat it. If somebody’s just noodling on the piano and just playing some Mary had a little lamb, once in a while, sweet. That’s still fun. I enjoy playing the piano. Am I good at it? Kind of. It doesn’t matter though because I enjoy it. I’m not doing it for your approval or your permission or your judgment, type of a thing. I think that that helps take a lot of weight off of the alphas that are out there, like us, and typically in the white collar nerd professions that we swim in, for the most part.
Damien: I think that there’s some element of — it’s almost like a weakness or something, to say, or you’re almost opening up the door, like you said. You get stuck in the seventh grade mentality. You were there, right? Seventh grade boys are, they can be —
Damien: They’re rough, right?
Damien: I will tell you, not once — brutal is the better word for it.
John: Yeah, absolutely.
Damien: Not once have I ever been ridiculed. I’m sure somebody has said something or whatever. Everybody has their opinion. Again, I’m not doing it for them. I think, once you get over that, in some element of your life, and I think that’s maybe where the performance and music has really helped me, you’re able to do that in other areas of your life. Whether it be hosting a podcast or doing a presentation or whatever it is, there’s always going to be somebody that thinks something. Not that I don’t care, because I do take the feedback, and I want to always improve, so it’s not I don’t care. I’ll stop myself from saying that. I don’t let it kind of seep in or I try not to, but there is something like a protectionist thing that you create the shell that like, I can’t show this to you because you’re going to find the thing that’s wrong with it, when really, I’m the only one that’s doing it. Maybe it almost gets a little bit, I want to say exaggerated, or it grows a bit on you even, where something like — my case, I used to play so much more and then you do — and I’ve heard this from a number of people. I had a mentor that once told me, said, “You can’t ever stop because you’re going to lose it, and you’re going to really regret it later if you do that.” Not doing it every day, you’re not as sharp as you used to be, right?
Damien: It’s a skill. You’ve got to practice. You’ve got to maintain it. So, I think there is an element of that too, of when you had a level of something at a certain point and then it slides back from that, you start to, I found myself in particular, really shying away from it because I just — I almost didn’t want to even admit that, oh, yeah, I can play the piano, I think, for that reason because then someone’s going to want to compare it to what I used to be or something.
Damien: Like you said, it’s just not the point.
John: That’s so true though because I’m the same way. When I’m now switching to a lot of these virtual events, I bring a lot of that TV background and the comedy background to it, and so if I get involved, there’s going to be some production value now. There’s going to be intro music. There’s going to be different camera angles. It’s going to be a TV show. I’m going to bring a 10. If it’s not going to be a 10 then I’m like, oh, because I know what it can be, but sometimes that seven and a half is amazing to everyone else.
I’m also my harshest critic and very similar, where it’s, well, why even do it if it’s going to be half good? But sometimes our half good is really great for others. It’s just, give it your best shot. If it’s something that you enjoy doing, then it’s great, and keep doing it. I love how your mentor said that, just don’t ever stop because then it’ll go extinct. That’s what I found from people is, you just stop doing it all together. Then you forget, and then decades later, you’re like, oh, yeah, I used to like to play the piano, I think. It’s scary.
Damien: It is scary. I’ve seen it to an extent. That’s that extreme because it’s dusting it off at times. Especially with with the kids, because that’s really — I found like another outlet for it, like I said, and it’s keeping me doing it more regularly because I want to keep them going and progressing and teaching them. That is so true and is just more of a reason to tell yourself, I have to keep that “and”. Whatever it is, whether it’s the piano or whatever the skill is or the passion is, you’ve got to keep it going because you need it. You need it for yourself and something to be proud of, at least for yourself, even if not for other people.
John: Yeah, I love that, man. I love that. This has been so fun catching up, man. This is really great. It’s so encouraging to hear so many great nuggets in here for everybody to go listen again because Damien’s dropping some knowledge bombs here. It’s really cool, and it’s firsthand experience. It’s just being vulnerable and just sharing. Hey, this is what happened. So, a lot of people listening that are — you’re not alone. I’m very similar, and I think they are too, so I appreciate it, man.
It’s only fair that before we wrap this up though, that I turn the tables since I rudely peppered you with questions. It’s the Damien Martin podcast, Simply Tax version whatever. You host your own show, so I don’t need to coach you through it. Thanks for having me on. Whatever questions you got for me, fire away.
Damien: Well, thanks for being on today, John. It’s great to have you, some really esteemed guest here. I really would like to ask you, and I’ve heard you talk a little bit about it at times, but that first time that you really went out there and did the comedian thing and the comedy thing, and you kind of held yourself out there, what’s the insight there that maybe you would share?
John: Okay, yeah. It was the Funny Bone in St. Louis. It was in Westport Plaza, I think is the name of it, St. Louis Funny Bone. It was open mic night. I went the week before to watch because I was like, I’m going to do this. I went and watched and then I was like, okay, I’m not going to be the worst person that’s ever done comedy, so we’re good. Then I put my name on the list. I went back the next week. My parents came. I had quite a few high school friends that came. They were going to say my name, so I was going to go up. People are like, well, were you nervous? You’re nervous when you write your name down. That’s where the nerves happen, because after that, it’s all going to happen. So, you think it through, steps before walking onto the stage.
It was so funny though because the night before, I went over to my parents’ house for dinner, and my mom, they’re like, you know, it’s not just you up there. I mean, it is just you up there. It’s not your friends. You’re not able to play with other people’s comments and be witty like that. I said, “Well, no, I’m well aware. I’ve researched this.” Then I brought out a legal pad of paper where I’d written down a bunch of joke concepts. So I just ran through all the joke ideas. Now, in my parents’ defense, I didn’t do the punch lines to a lot of them, but they laughed at none of them. The only response my dad said, “We didn’t raise you that way,” to one of my jokes, and my mom said, “You can’t say that.” Those were the only two reactions I got to probably 40 ideas that I had.
I freaked out, drove over to my friend’s house. We hung out. We mapped out what it was going to be the next day or the next evening, go onstage, and I had a little index card that I had cut to fit in the palm of my hand with my set list. I still have it actually, to this day. Then went up, my parents videotaped it, camcorder. We’re going back to 2000. We were so amateur that we didn’t know that you put it on a tripod. So, my mom’s holding the video camera, laughing, shaking the camera. I could hear my parents laughing. I’m like, where was this last night when we did a dry run?
It was cool. The first time actually went really, really well, especially given it’s your first time. It was quite a thrill to have just a roomful of strangers laugh when you say words. It’s a crazy thing. It’s got to be similar when you play the piano that people sing along, or they clap afterwards. It’s just a cool feeling to bring some joy into people’s lives that you might never talk to ever again, type of thing.
Damien: Yeah. No, absolutely. There’s probably a common ground there between making people laugh and listening to music, trading this element of joy, bringing an element of joy is definitely, yeah, that feeling is fantastic and definitely keeps you coming back for more. No wonder you kept going, and I’m glad for it because you’re obviously good at what you do. You’re a funny guy.
John: I appreciate it.
Damien: Yeah. Well, thanks for being on the show. I guess one last question.
Damien: I forgot you here. I’ll ask you one more. How about the podcast, what was the experience there, the first time you went down the road of, I’m going to do a podcast? I know it’s taking a different angles from there, but we’re going with a theme here, John.
John: This is hilarious. No, totally, strip it down, man. I don’t listen to podcasts. I never have. I don’t consume podcasts. I know that there are people that do listen to 20 or more. So, I didn’t know what podcasts were out there. I actually Googled top business podcasts because I was like, well, I’m going to do this show where I’m interviewing people where they talk about their outside of work thing, so let’s see what’s out there. What’s the “competition,” even though it’s not competition, but just what’s out there. So I listened to probably two or three episodes of the top 10 business podcasts that are out there, this was going back five years ago or more, and just wrote down, well, I really like this, or, man, I hate that, or this is what I like about this, and how can I make it my own? What do I want it to be? After being like, okay, this is what’s out there, all right; you just jump in, and you just start. You just have an idea of a plan.
If you listen to Episode One with Nancy McClelland, the dancing accountant, and then you listen to a more recent episode; clearly, it’s changed. It’s tightened up. The concept is still the same, but your skills get better over time. You really hone in. You can only read so many books or listen to other podcasts or whatever, before you just have to just jump in and do it. I think that that’s with a lot of things is you can study as much as you want, but you have to actually, at some point, the rubber meets the road and you have to do it. That’s where the real learning happens. So, yeah, that’s how it all started, was just me wanting to share people’s stories, wanting people to hear that you’re not alone. There are other people out there who also have hobbies and passions, just like you, and I don’t know, let’s see where it goes, type of a thing.
Damien: That’s so great. Because I do get that question a lot and I guess that’s why maybe I’m both of those. Getting the ball rolling, I think, is the hardest part for a lot of people. There’s a lot of people that say, “I want to do a podcast. How do I do it?” I will share my two cents, and I will say, “This is just my two cents of how it happened for me.” Now I’ve got your two cents as well. We can say, hey.
John: We almost got a nickel.
Damien: Yeah, there we go. Man, it’s really going up here. We’re riding up. I love it.
John: That’s awesome, man. Well, thank you so much, Damien, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? So cool to have you back.
Damien: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you, and we’ll see you around.
John: Everybody, if you want to see some pictures of Damien in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Also, check out Simply Tax Podcast, the link will be there too, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. Don’t forget about the book. It makes a super great holiday gift.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this podcast with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Tosha is a CEO & Family Vacationer
Tosha Anderson, founder and CEO of The Charity CFO, talks about her passion for traveling around the world with her family and how it played a major role in motivating her to start her own firm and establish a company culture that allows her and her colleagues to pursue their hobbies!
• Getting into traveling
• Starting her own firm
• How her passion for traveling influences her work as an accountant
• The importance of unplugging from work
• Building the culture at her firm
• Applying your creative side towards accounting
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 333 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.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is published. It’s available on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, all the websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it, 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 sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Tosha Anderson. She’s the founder and CEO of The Charity CFO in St. Louis, Missouri, and now she’s with me here today. Tosha, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Tosha: Thanks so much for having me.
John: Oh, this is going to be so much fun. You’re in St. Louis, so you’re already near and dear to my heart. We’re all good. This is going to be a blast. I have my rapid-fire questions here though.
Tosha: Fire away.
John: Get to know Tosha on a new level right out of the gate. Okay, easy one, favorite color.
John: Red, okay. How about a least favorite color?
Tosha: Probably a brown, something a little dull.
John: Yeah, that’s a solid answer. That’s a good answer. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?
Tosha: Favorite place I’ve been in the United States is probably San Diego.
John: Oh, yeah, that’s a good answer. That’s a good answer. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Tosha: Sudoku probably.
John: Okay, that’s actually how I do my taxes.
Tosha: That’s how so many people do their taxes.
John: Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Tosha: Definitely an early bird. I’ve been accused of being a shot out of a cannon in the morning.
John: By accused, by everyone?
Tosha: It’s probably valid.
John: It’s probably valid. All right, how about a favorite actor or actress?
Tosha: Let’s see. I have to confess, I’m horrible at watching movies. I would probably say something like a classic, like a Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, any classic movies that you just know it’s going to be good because they’re in it.
John: You just know it’s going to be good. Yeah, absolutely. All right, this is a tricky one, brownie or ice cream.
Tosha: Brownie, for sure.
John: Brownie. Okay, okay, all right. Since my book is out, got to know, Kindle or real books.
Tosha: Wow. I do a lot of both, and I do audiobooks. It depends. If I’m on vacation on the beach, I need a real book. If I’m just reading on an airplane or at home, usually Kindle, good mix of both.
John: Yeah, yeah, and the audiobook, I should throw that in the mix too. Yeah, absolutely. How about a favorite number?
John: 10. Is there a reason?
Tosha: Not particularly, I just like the… It’s a nice balanced number. I don’t know.
John: It’s a solid number. I was just curious. Yeah. No, absolutely. How about, oceans or mountains?
Tosha: Oh, that’s a tough one. Both, which is probably why I like California.
John: There you go. The mountains could go into the ocean.
Tosha: Exactly. Or the Pacific Northwest which is where I just came from, so, absolutely both.
John: Yeah. Cliffs, that’s the answer, cliffs. There you go. How about, this is a good one, balance sheet or income statement?
Tosha: I like the income statement. On a technical accountant would probably, an auditor that I used to be with would probably say balance sheet, but I’ll go with income statement.
John: Yeah. No, good for you. Way to rebel. I like that. How about a favorite TV show of all time?
Tosha: Probably The Office.
John: Yes. There you go.
Tosha: It’s just so relatable.
John: For all the reasons, all the reasons, yeah, yeah. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Tosha: Oh, I don’t do sci-fi so much. I think that’s the practical-minded me. It has to be something I can envision, that I could empathize with, and sci-fi is not something I’ve been able to get there.
John: I can understand that, for sure, for sure. All right, heels or flats.
John: Heels. Fancy, all right. Three more. Your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Tosha: Oh, 100% Mac.
John: Oh, wow. Okay, all right.
Tosha: Yes. I told you I’m not a normal accountant.
John: Yeah. I’m not allowed even to go into a Mac store. I am not cool enough.
Tosha: My whole company is on Macs. Everything in my life is Mac.
John: Good for you. All right, how about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Tosha: Probably a butter pecan or something chocolate and coconut.
John: Oh, okay, all right. That’s a good mix. Okay, and the last one, favorite thing you have or favorite thing you own.
Tosha: Well, I would probably say my four-pound Chihuahua named Einstein, but if I had to pick an actual physical good, it would definitely be one of my Apple products, either my MacBook or my phone or my Apple Watch.
John: All right, you have all of the things. That’s impressive.
Tosha: I really do.
John: I think that’s why their valuation is so high. Thanks to Tosha Anderson. That should be in the press release.
John: That’s awesome. Well, cool. Let’s talk travel. Is that something that you grew up doing or something you got into later in life?
Tosha: Yeah, it’s definitely something I did not grow up with, and I really wanted to create a life that allowed me to travel more. I just didn’t know when, how, where. Really, it hasn’t been for, but the last couple years, I started traveling more and more. I did a little bit in high school. I spent about three weeks abroad. Frankly, I was just a poor college student and a poor high school student. My parents were both blue collar working people that just didn’t have an opportunity to allow us kids to travel with them quite a bit. It’s definitely something that, now that I’m a little bit older and have a little bit more disposable income, that we’re able to do more and more. So, it’s definitely something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s just now actually have an opportunity to do it.
John: No, I can completely understand that. I grew up, my dad was in the military, so luckily, we just moved, and that was kind of vacationing. There was that, so I got fortunate that way. Otherwise, yeah, very similar, for sure. Is it mostly within the US where you travel, or have you been also going abroad as well?
Tosha: It’s funny, up until this year, I would say, over the last couple years, most of my travels have been abroad, certainly Europe, lots of islands. I love the beach, as I mentioned, but I also can appreciate mountains. We’ve done a lot of travel, my husband and I, around the Caribbean and those sort of things.
Over the last couple years, we’ve really decided to explore more of our own country, so we’ve been really focused on doing a lot of travel here within the United States. We’ve been doing a lot of traveling up until this COVID-19 situation. We’ve been able to travel quite extensively last year and the year before, a little bit of a slowdown this year, of course, but hoping to continue and pick it back up, once things are a little bit more stable.
John: No, that’s fantastic. You mentioned San Diego, of course, but are there some of the other cool stories or experiences that you’ve had from travel?
Tosha: Yeah, so really dovetails into my “and”. My “and” was really, I wanted to — honestly, I’d left my job without a plan. I just assumed I would get another job that was a better fit for me. I’m a very practical person. I’m an accountant. All calculated risks and all of my decisions have multiple contingency plans, so when I left my full-time job as a CFO, I resigned, and I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I had to find something better. My husband’s a nurse. He worked nights in the hospital, and I worked all the time in this really high-stress job. I just knew, whatever I was going to do, wasn’t going to be that.
I left my job and then I just decided — I actually got a couple interviews lined up for another CFO position, and I decided to cancel them, withdraw my name from consideration, and I went ahead and just decided to start my own consulting firm. I thought I was just going to find a couple clients, work part-time, but maybe we can live abroad for chunks of time. Maybe we can go on multi-week vacations. I’m starting to think all of these things that we can now do if I wasn’t chained to my job.
Tosha: It took off from there. That’s really what started everything, but after four and a half years, which is how long the firm has been in existence now, we just took one of our first longer vacations, and we actually — so we were in St. Louis. We ended up hitting nine different states. We actually went to Idaho, stayed there for a few days, went whitewater rafting. We then rented an RV, and we took an RV out to Yellowstone and many spots in Yellowstone, so, seeing parts of Montana. We went out the Grand Tetons, down to Wyoming and Jackson Hole, circled back and then got rid of the RV, rented a car and then drove out to the Pacific Northwest and along the coast there. Yeah, we were gone for a good two and a half weeks. That was an incredible trip, the longest one in my adult life. Next we’re hoping, if all works well this winter, I would love to do two weeks in Hawaii.
John: Oh, nice.
Tosha: A couple different islands. Winter is cold here. We’ll be trying to go somewhere warmer.
John: Right. Well, especially in winter, yeah, that’s very strategic. That’s for sure. It’s just cool how much there is — I mean, in our own country, in the US, and no matter what country we live in, I think we usually take it for granted because it’s like, well, I’ll get to it someday, and then you never do. That’s great that you were intentional about it.
Tosha: Oh, and that’s really my focus now at the particular age that I’m at. I had some amazing wisdom shared with me when I was contemplating starting this firm. At the time, my daughter was a year old, and someone said to me, “Your kid’s going to need you when they’re older. They notice more when you’re not there when they’re older.” At one year old, she’s just not going to see that you’re gone so much, or you’re busy, or you’re preoccupied with business. Now that she’s six, she absolutely knows when I’m not available to work, or she doesn’t perceive me to be spending enough time with her.
Tosha: Now she’s at a school age and she gets summers off, my goal is, every summer, to go somewhere for two or three weeks, every single summer.
Tosha: Until she’s old enough where she doesn’t want to hang out with me anymore. I’ve only got a few more years, but —
John: There is that window where it goes by quickly, I’d imagine, but that’s great. Because I remember, as a kid, that’s one thing my parents were good about, was taking advantage of where we were around because we were only going to live here for two or three years, so you have to. I remember moving to St. Louis for high school, and there were kids that hadn’t been to the Arch. I’m like, wait, what? You’re 14. How’s that possible? It’s just right there. Yeah, so that’s really cool.
Tosha: Yeah. She’s probably been more places and been on more airplanes than most adults I grew up with, for sure.
John: Yeah, yeah. Do you feel like traveling gives you a skill that makes you better at your job?
Tosha: I think, by traveling, that’s my motivator. What do I have to develop in order to do that? If I could reword the question a little bit, what have I developed because of my love for travel, because of my love for flexibility and freedom? That’s really this overall obsession with systemizing my entire business. Every single process, every single function, every single task in my entire company has been documented, trained. There’s a succession plan, not just for all the things that I’m responsible for, but for what everybody else is responsible for. This has been a year in the making that I’ve really become intentional about doing this so that everybody knows where to go if an issue or a question arises from a client or from anybody.
I’ve developed this skill of really developing whole logistical systemic process for every, and training my team how to do that to really make the business not dependent on me, which if you would have asked me a year and a half ago, I never thought that was possible. In fact, probably two years ago, I realized I’ve now committed to having the worst job for the worst boss, and that was me and my —
John: Oh, wow. Yeah, yeah.
Tosha: Because I never take a day off. Not only am I an accountant, but I have my own practice. I have a team of eight people that report to me, and I have about 65 clients that are always –somebody is going to need something at any given time. So, how to create that barrier for me to be able to unplug and truly spend time with my family, which was a little bit different than even a year ago. About a year ago, in September, we took our daughter to Disney World. I had not even gotten my laptop out. I just had it with me. I wasn’t working. She said, “Mom, you can’t work at Disney World.” So, my plan was to work before she woke up, but —
John: She was also a shot out of a cannon.
Tosha: She is. I had to bring my laptop with me just because I was afraid, and I was very anxious, and I was a little uneasy. This year, to be able to be gone twice as long, without even needing my laptop and the team — not only did the business survive, but it actually had a record-breaking month, and I was gone for over half of it.
John: Wow. That’s incredible. How important is it, do you feel like, to have that unplug, to not be all work all the time? Now that you’ve experienced both sides, how important is that?
Tosha: One of the things that I realized that I always thought a seven-day vacation was too long for me because I’m just naturally high-energy person. I’m always thinking of new ideas. I’m coming up with new thoughts for the business. I realized that two weeks was long enough for me to decompress and to actually create some headspace so that I could really enjoy where I’m at, take it all in, not worry about, okay, we’ve been here for a few days, settled in. Now, we only have a few days to really enjoy. Now we’ve got to get ourselves back to going home and back to work.
By having such a long period of time, it really helped me create enough headspace to truly unwind and decompress, which I think was really good just for overall mental health. Interestingly enough, it really helped me stop thinking about the day-to-day stuff that I would normally focus on while I’m at work or even if I’m on a long weekend trip. It allowed me to think more intentional and strategic and creative about my business beyond, like I said, the day-to-day stuff. It was really good for business, but it was also really good for me. Now I realized I need to probably do this a couple times a year.
John: Wow. Okay.
Tosha: Maybe one in the summer, one in the winter.
John: Yeah. Because when you’re in college or when you’re a kid or whatever, you just think, well, if you work more then it’s better. It sounds like it’s actually almost the opposite, where you had a record-breaking month, and you weren’t even there for half of it.
Tosha: Yeah, it’s incredible. Now I’m so excited to share it with other people that are in a similar situation to me, whether they own their own practices, or they own their own businesses, or maybe they run a department within a large corporation or something to that effect. It is possible. I would have never thought it was possible, but I’ve somehow managed to make it happen. This is now a whole company culture idea for everyone.
John: What do you mean by that? Is it something that you’re intentional about with everyone?
Tosha: Yeah. So, interestingly enough, I started the firm, I was very transparent with everybody about why I started the firm, I wanted to create a company that was of high-performers. Because I knew if my vision was to create flexibility and freedom for myself and for my team members, we needed to have high-performers. It’s a company culture that everybody knows that we work really hard. We try to work smarter and hard, but work less hard, and continuing to train, document, create systems and processes for everybody to do what they need to do, and for everybody to be accountable to it.
By doing that, everybody knows that there is an opportunity to take parental leave if they need to, to take vacation when they need to. Right after I finished with my two-and-a-half week vacation, my Chief Operating Officer went on a two-week vacation. I’ve had other staff people that have taken long periods of time away. We’re able to do that and easily transition our client work onto someone else, while the team’s able to take those breaks. Sometimes it’s planned, for pleasure, for vacation, and sometimes it’s not planned. Or it’s not necessarily a vacation, but it’s something that’s important for their families or their lives.
So, really, the culture is making sure that work’s handled but in a way that’s easily delegated and there’s succession plan so that we can take care of our lives and ourselves in a way that’s sustainable, that hopefully prevents burnout.
John: Yeah, I love that so much because it just shows that there’s a genuine interest in all of the person. It sounds like it almost starts with taking a genuine interest in yourself. Because if you just think, well, it’s all work all the time, then you’re going to think everyone else is all work all the time; but if you really dig down, and you’re like, well, maybe it’s not all work all the time. Maybe there are other things that I have an interest in. There are other dimensions to your life. That’s where the “and” comes in because it doesn’t have to be an or. You can be both or three things or four things and still — and it’s probably more successful.
Tosha: That’s why I love the idea of your podcast really because to me, it is an “and”. It’s funny, I have a team now, but I kicked and screamed and fought against the idea of getting an office, against getting team members. I’m only going to work part-time. I’m only going to have me. Then the business kept growing and growing, and I realized, just because it’s just me, does not mean it’s easier. In fact, it’s much harder when it’s just you, and by creating that environment, my “and” was lost. I felt like a fraud.
I started this journey with the intention of having flexibility, freedom and ability to spend time with my family and travel and experience things that we always wanted to experience, but I don’t want to wait until my daughter’s grown or retirement or any of that. I want to do it now. By locking myself into that kind of business structure, that kind of environment was just completely hypocritical and contradictory to why I started it in the first place. So, I try to put that first and foremost and front and center of everything that we do, and the entire way that the company is designed.
One of my staff actually worked for three weeks in Hawaii last year. So, not only just the ability to take time, but by nature of the firm being virtual, that we could truly pick up our laptops and take up anywhere we are and still be business as usual.
John: No, that’s great. Yeah, it’s funny how you realized you were accidentally creating the thing that you would run away from because that’s all we know. It’s so easy to just fall into that rut of, well, this is what normal is. It’s like, no, no, you don’t have to be one thing to be successful. Whether it’s as an individual, whatever you think the stereotype is, it’s not. There’s a million kinds of accountants or lawyers or engineers that are all good and successful. Or as an organization, whether it’s a company or a firm or what have you, you can make it what you want. Especially when you’re in leadership, it’s make it what you want. I think that’s awesome. That’s really cool to hear, and it’s encouraging to hear that people care.
Tosha: It’s interesting breaking the stigma of what an accountant is but also breaking the stigma that if you want to take a long period of time away to be with your family that that’s okay. You shouldn’t be apologetic about that. Very often, I think, as parents with young children, that’s very front and center and near and dear to those people, but even not, people with aging parents or people with families across the world or just because you want to explore.
I had another staff person had an amazing opportunity with her church to do a program in Washington, DC, but she was going to have to leave the company in order to pursue this opportunity with her church. It was an extracurricular thing, but it required her to be in DC. I said, the business owner of The Charity CFO, you have to work around that, rather than you being in the office. But the 38-year-old woman that didn’t travel enough as a young person, says, absolutely, take that opportunity, and we’ll work it out. It’s only six months of your life. It’s going to be fine.
It’s absolutely breaking that stigma of doing the “and”. Doing both. It doesn’t have to be either-or. It doesn’t have to be the traditional way we’ve always done it.
John: That’s really cool to hear. Living it as an example, as a leader is super great because then people know that it’s not just lip service. How much do you feel like it’s on the organization to create that culture to say, hey, it’s okay to share? Or how much is it on the individual to maybe just create their little circle themselves and start from there?
Tosha: I think it’s a little bit of both. I think it’s on the organization, whatever their culture, whatever their vision is, to be radically transparent with the people that they’re bringing on. I know a lot of organizations I think, require an element of self-awareness. What is your culture? What are you trying to — what do you believe in? You say you don’t care about FaceTime, and people grinding out the hours, but nothing indicates the opposite. Or if you do value people that work really hard, are you willing to make difficult decisions and get rid of under-performers so the rest of it doesn’t suffer?
Being aware of what’s going on and also taking action when things are out of line with a culture that you want to create and then be really intentional with the recruiting to make sure it is a good match. Here’s an example. I met this guy. I was interviewing for a new accounting manager position we were creating, and he seemed really great. I found myself in jobs that weren’t good fits for me. Obviously, I’m a highly motivated individual. Obviously, I like to be smart. I’ve been successful with my firm. So, it’s not that I wasn’t a good employee or what have you.
John: Or didn’t know how to do the job.
John: You have the skills.
Tosha: The right roles, I like to think that every human wants to do a really great job and will exceed their own expectations, if given the right opportunity and the right role. I really evaluate their personality, and I do some assessments. I really like to ask them very specific questions to make sure that this is going to be a job and a company they really want to work for. This guy, I noticed he had changed his jobs a couple of times in different public accounting firms, and he kept going back to doing the same things, over and over again. He didn’t want to keep doing that. A lot of accounting is very cyclical. Sometimes it’s daily tasks. Sometimes it’s weekly or monthly tasks, annual. It’s all a process.
I thought that was kind of interesting, and I asked him, “What is the thing you like to do outside of work?” That’s always an interview question. He said, “I actually like to paint. I did this whole mural at a new place.” I said, “Listen, I hate to be the one to tell you this.” This is what I suspected. I figured he was a creative type. I said, “I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’re not an accountant. I don’t know how you ended up here, but I suspect that you really like the creative side of life. Somehow you’re in accounting.” He said, “Well, I wouldn’t have chosen accounting. My dad wanted me to do accounting, so I just picked it.” I’m like, that’s what I thought. I said, “That’s why you’re restless in these roles. You may find a way to use your accounting background, but it needs to be in a different way than this cyclical repetitive work. It needs to be some good projects. It needs to be something different.”
That’s what I mean by companies and organizations have a responsibility to know who they are, know who they’re hiring, have a level of awareness of themselves. Of course, the individuals, when they’re radically transparent about that, like I was in that interview. This isn’t going to work for you, I promise you. It’s not that I don’t like you. It’s not that I don’t think you’re smart. It’s not the fit. By me sharing that, it allows him to decide, maybe I need to create some awareness of myself and figure out what makes sense for me.
John: Yeah. No, that’s a great point. It’s one of those things where, unfortunately, sometimes those people feel like it is an or. I can’t be a creative painter and an accountant. I have to be one or the other. It’s like, no, you really don’t. What if you did the accounting for an art studio or for an art museum or for a painter that’s loaded? Whatever it is, you can bring that in. Or if a firm brought him in, it’s, hey, paint the wall here, go nuts, use that creative outlet in the office somehow. You can weave them together, sort of a thing, sometimes. That’s so cool to hear that, yeah, just being radically transparent. I love that phrase.
Tosha: I like to ask that question about the “and”. For example, my chief operating officer, I hired him as an intern. I asked him, “What is your secret talent that if you could find some way to incorporate it in your work life, what would that be?” He said, “I like to code my own software and websites.” I said, “You’re hired,” because so much of modern accounting is computer, technology. He’s now my chief operating officer. Or I have an accountant that loves graphic design, so she does different things for me, for fun, sometimes. It’s really cool to see how you can incorporate that.
Also, how can you find the right role, like you were saying. Creative minds, which I’m kind of a creative mind, I get restless doing the same thing over and over again. What I like to do is have more relationship management with my clients, and I like to work on projects. So, give me the messy set of books, I’m going to clean it up, and I’m going to pass it on. Those are the kind of things that I realized with my creative mind that I need to do, but I need to find a role that complements that and allow me the opportunity and the lifestyle to do some of those other things that are not at all related to.
John: Yeah, that’s exactly — that’s what I have in the book as well. It’s just about how there’s this untapped well of skills that people don’t go to, that companies and organizations and firms don’t tap into because we define expertise too narrowly. Our expertise is our college degree and our certifications. It’s not. You have skills from your traveling. Your COO has skills from all of this coding fun. The creative artist has skills that you and I maybe don’t have. When you bring those into the firm, yeah, do you know debits on the left, credits on the right? Absolutely, but I know other things as well. It’s just using them in the right role, whether it’s what clients you put them on, or it’s what projects you put them on, or what kind of work. That’s really cool to hear that you do that just subconsciously. It’s just is happening.
Tosha: Yeah. I always ask the question, what is your hidden talent? Also, if you couldn’t do accounting as a career, what would you choose? It’s always interesting to see, if I couldn’t do accounting, what would I end up doing? Interestingly, I’ve thought of like, I would be an educator somewhere, probably in academia somewhere, either university level. Initially, I was going to be a special ed teacher which is completely different. It’s always interesting, in the interview process, to hear what people say.
John: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. That’s really cool to hear, and it’s so encouraging. Do you have any words for people that maybe have an outside of work hobby or interest, but they feel like it has nothing to do with my job and no one’s going to care?
Tosha: I guess my words would be, it’s okay to do that. Because people look at me as an accountant and assume I love numbers. I love business. I understand numbers. I use the talent to understand them to make a living that is fairly lucrative and allows my family a lifestyle that we get to do the things that we enjoy. Sometimes, if your passion or your hobbies become your work, sometimes it loses some of that appeal. I think it’s really fine to have separate, but also to know that, is your work hindering your ability to, if you don’t have an “and”, is your work hindering your ability to create an “and”? That was something for me. People would always ask me, “What are your hobbies?” I have a job. I don’t know.
Tosha: Yeah, podcasting on my commute, I don’t know.
John: Yeah, right.
Tosha: It’s totally fine to have a hobby, and your hobby doesn’t necessarily need to be your career. Making sure that you’re not losing sight of your “and” because of your career, is my path and my wisdom, if I could share that with people.
John: That’s so perfect, so perfect. This has been so much fun. It’s been so cool getting to know you and and just hearing what you’ve created there at Charity CFO. Before I wrap it up, it’s only fair that I turn the tables since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning. This is now the Tosha Anderson show. I’m happy to be the first guest. Thanks for having me on. Do you have any questions? Fire away.
Tosha: My question would be, if you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
John: Dolphin, and everyone makes fun of me all the time. I do not care. They’re like, “What are you, a nine-year-old girl?” I’m like, maybe, but I don’t care. Dolphins are awesome. They’re wicked smart. They’re super funny. They can do all kinds of cool stuff. So, yeah, dolphin for sure.
Tosha: What’s your favorite book?
John: My favorite book is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a book mostly for creatives, but it just talks about overcoming the inner critic, I guess, if you will, and just create big, build bigger.
Tosha: What’s the favorite place you visited and why?
John: Favorite place I visited. I’d probably say Cape Town, South Africa is probably my favorite. It’s this weird mix of, because of apartheid, which, of course, wasn’t good, but it provided this infrastructure. It’s still got that Western city kind of feel, but it’s got that underlying raw African vibe to it. Plus, there are amazing wineries about 45 minutes away and Cape of Good Hope down at the bottom. It’s just cool nature and city and food and people all in one.
Tosha: I’ll wrap it up with one of my favorite interview questions, like I mentioned. If you couldn’t do your current profession, what would you do?
John: Wow, I feel like — are you going to hire me? This is going to be awesome. Maybe so, maybe so.
Tosha: I’ll create a job.
John: I’m just glad you didn’t ask me what kind of tree I would be because I never knew how to say that one. Yeah, so if I wasn’t doing this, yeah, I think it would be awesome to be a college football sports announcer, reporter sort of a thing, or maybe even a coach, I don’t know but, yeah, something like that. Just something college football-related would be super awesome.
John: Yeah. Well, thanks so much, Tosha. It’s been so much fun getting to know you. Thanks for being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Tosha: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It’s been great.
John: Everybody, if you want to see some pictures of Tosha on vacation or maybe connect with her on social media and get a link to The Charity CFO, 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.