Mike is an Accountant & Baseball Player
Mike Maksymiw, an executive director at Aprio, talks about his passion for baseball, developing deeper relationships through baseball, why it is important to engage and be authentic in the workplace, and much more!
• Getting into baseball
• Favorite memory of playing baseball
• Learning from mistakes
• Talking about baseball in the office
• Developing deeper relationships through baseball
• Why creating an open workplace culture starts with the individual
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Welcome to Episode 479 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. And each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby, or a passion, or an interest outside of work. And to put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. And if you want me to read it to you, that’s right, this voice reading the book, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audiobooks. Both versions go into more in depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. And I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it, and now listening to it, and writing such nice reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the workplace cultures where they are because of it.
And please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. And this week is no different with my guest, Mike Maksymiw. He’s the executive director of the firm foundation at Aprio. And now, he’s with me here today. Mike, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Mike: Oh, you’re welcome, John. Very glad to be here.
John: This is gonna be so much fun. I can’t wait, but I have 17 rapid-fire questions. Get to know Mike Maks a little bit better here right out of the gate.
Mike: All right. Go.
John: All right. Here we go. This is the easy one maybe. Favorite color.
John: Blue. Solid. Mine too. There you go. We’re already 1 for 1. All right. How about a least favorite color?
John: Yellow. Ooh, that’s a good pick. Yellow. Too bright.
Mike: John, I’m blonde and pale. So, I just blend in.
John: Right. There you go. There you go. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Mike: I got to go with a dubious local brewery here.
John: Nice. Very cool. In Connecticut, yeah?
John: Yeah. Very cool. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Mike: Tom Hanks. He’s good in everything.
John: Yeah, he is. He really is good in everything. Are you more suit and tie or jeans and a T-shirt?
Mike: Oh, definitely jeans and a T-shirt. What I wear doesn’t make me any smarter or dumber.
John: Right. There you go. There you go. Ooh, this is a good one in the northeast. Rain or snow?
Mike: Definitely snow. Rain is just gross.
John: Yeah. Right? It ruins everything. It really does.
Mike: It’s supposed to be fun.
John: Yeah. Right? I mean, like rain at night and water the plants and all that stuff. And then during the day, we can like be out and about and do our things and not be just drenched. How about puzzles? Sudoku, crossword, or jigsaw puzzles?
Mike: Sudoku out of those three.
John: Okay. All right. Interesting. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Mike: I go with neither really. But if I had to pick, I’d go with Star Wars.
John: Yeah. Especially if people are like neither. They just Star Wars. Yeah. Me too. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
John: Yeah. I’m the same. Like I don’t even know how Macs work. I’m not sure I’m allowed in the store.
Mike: Like gave you those problems when we’re trying to use software in the accounting world.
John: Oh, yeah. That’s true. That’s very true. They were more like the creatives and stuff. Yeah. Totally. How about when it comes to books, audio version, e-Book, or real book?
Mike: e-Book. This way, I have it with me all the time.
John: Ah, there you go. Yeah. Especially with the phones now. How about a favorite number?
John: Yeah. Is there a reason?
Interviewer: Oh. Yeah! Going way back. Sandy Koufax. There you go. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Mike: Early bird. I could do either one. But yeah, we wake up early and go to the gym, my wife and I, and then start our day that way.
John: Nice. There you go. Being productive. I’m still sleeping. So, you have the accounting background. I gotta ask balance sheet or income statement?
Mike: Balance sheet. You know when you’re done.
John: All right. ‘Cause it evens out? Right? I love it. That’s awesome. There you go. How about a favorite day of the week?
John: Okay. That’s not a common one, but yeah.
Mike: You’re almost done. There’s usually something going on, so you can hang out do something social. And Friday is a lighter workday usually.
John: Yeah. It’s kind of just getting that momentum started into the weekend. There you go. All right. Three more. Your first concert.
Mike: It was Elton John with my dad.
John: Wow! That’s a classic, man. That’s awesome.
Mike: Yeah, I was like 7 years old. He started singing The Bitch is Back. And I was like “Dad, is this allowed?”
John: Right. I’m telling— Right. That’s awesome. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Mike: It’s got to be a really good toasted almonds.
John: Oh, wow. Okay. That’s fancy.
Mike: Yeah. I got a lot of ice cream places up here in New England.
Yukon is famous for their dairy bar. So, we get a lot of quality ice cream up here.
John: There you go. Nice, man. Nice. And the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Mike: Probably my baseball glove. I’ve had it for 25 years. Maybe 30.
John: Wow. Okay. That’s awesome, man. When did you get it?
Mike: I got it for Christmas. I must have been 13 or 14, and my dad was selling with the Tigers at that time. And she brought it down to spring training and Alan Trammell broke it in.
John: Oh, nice. Yeah! That’s not every day you can just say that. Right? That’s cool.
Mike: Can’t say every day that a hall of famer broke in the glove and it still works.
John: That’s super cool. And that leads perfectly right into your hand of baseball. And I mean, I’m guessing you started playing T-ball as a little kid?
Mike: I started when I was 10. I wanted to play earlier, but we played soccer in the fall. I don’t know why we did that instead. I was like “Mom, I wanna play baseball.” She was like “Oh, we’re playing soccer.” And then I was 10 and I would go “We’re playing baseball now.”
John: Right. You used a deeper voice like, oh, he means it?
Mike: It’s that one time that year it didn’t crack.
John: Right. Right. Okay. That was a coach pitch level or what was that like?
Mike: I would say we called it minor league. So, the kids pitched, but there was like some barrier rules like you can only bat 9 guys in an inning. Like you couldn’t go and pass balls because the kids are still learning how to play. I see the kid. I was the kid.
John: Yeah. Yeah. But then you figure out how to play with the rules, right? So, if you were the last batter up, you just kept running. You didn’t care if you got out because no one can duck in.
John: That’s awesome. You know what? I would go to way more baseball games if those were the rules like in the major leagues. I’ll be like “Yes! Like this is incredible.”
John: Way more rundowns.
John: Right? Oh, my gosh, if there were pickles every inning, like that would be incredible. Oh, that would be so good, so yeah. So then, you played all through high school and kept playing?
Mike: Yup. Played through high school. I played in college at Bryant in Rhode Island. I played there 4 years. I had one really good year and then find an adult rec league. Played there for, I don’t know, another 10-12 years. Made some really good friends. We’re still friends like 3 to 4 of us. So, that’s probably the best part of it, is when you’re playing at an adult rec league, like no one’s going to the hall of fame because you played well on a Sunday doubleheader. You wanted like who you’re playing with. That would be pretty competitive. And have fun and drink a couple beers in the parking lot afterwards.
John: Right. Or before. Either way. Both. Or during. That’s awesome, man. That’s super cool. I mean, playing in college had to be pretty intense at times.
Mike: Yes. It’s like a full-time job. In the fall, it’s like a part-time job. You know, 20-25 hours of practice on top of all your classes. But in the spring, we had to be done by noon with classes, and we got home at 7, 8, 9 o’clock. It was like having a full-time job with no income.
John: Right. Right.
Mike: No like this stuff back then.
John: Right. No. NIDLs or anything like that. Yeah. That’s exactly it. Yeah. And it’s cool that you’re able to keep it going after graduating college as well. That you didn’t have to hang up the spikes and the glove. And you were able to keep playing.
Mike: Yeah. It was nice to hear that I decided to stop playing ‘cause I got to put the nail in the wall and hang the cleats up on it and not someone telling me “Hey, you’re just not good enough to play at any level anymore. Go away.”
John: Right. Right.
Mike: I was like my daughter has got soccer all weekend and I’m sitting here at my baseball game going I’d rather be watching her on the sidelines like I don’t know how long she’s gonna play. Like I’ve done this for a while. So, I was like “Hey guys, I’m all set now.” And that was it. Like it was a very easy decision at that time. Way easier than I thought it was gonna be.
John: That’s cool, man. Yeah. And then you can come to peace with it. Yeah. When it’s your decision, then that matters. But I mean, baseball is also a thing that you can watch all the time. You can go to games. It never leaves you. You know, it’s always still a part of you.
Mike: Yeah. That’s 100% true and I love watching October baseball on TV. It’s like watching the NHL playoffs too. It’s so intense. Every pitch matters because it could be a homerun or it could be like a wicked slider.
John: Yeah, I know. I mean, like the craziest game I ever went to was the Cardinals were playing in the Astros in an NLCS. So, this was way back in like the early 2000s when the Astros were still in the NL. And yeah, it was extra innings. And Jim Edmonds had a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the 14th or something. And that’s the craziest sporting thing ever because you don’t even know what’s coming, you know. It’s not like a field goal where the clock’s ticking down. You’re either gonna make it or you’ll miss it and the game’s over. This is like you’re just sitting there watching and crack. “Wow! Like what? The game just ended? Holy crap! This is crazy.” You know? And like that’s the beauty of baseball and especially October baseball where you get in the playoffs and, man, everything matters, you know. And you go on a run and who knows what happens.
Mike: Yeah. That’s really why I like it, is there’s no clock. It ends when everybody’s had their fair share and that’s it.
John: Yeah, that’s true. Everyone has had their fair share. Right? So, do you have like a favorite memory from playing?
Mike: There was a game that we played in— I’m not sure why, but the baseball that day looked like a beach ball. And I batted 5 times. I went 3 for 3 with 2 triples, the game winning single, and they walked me twice after I hit 2 triples.
Mike: I’m standing on the on-deck circle in the bottom of the 7th inning, and I look behind me, and I’m like “You’re the third out. And they could walk me and get you to be the third out, but I don’t think they’re that smart. We have a guy on second. And I walk to the plate. I’m like I think they drive the right center field and then we’ll win.” And I got the second pitch. I was like “Oh, that’s the one.” Knocked it right where I wanted to.
Mike: Walk off it. I was like “All right. That was awesome.” That’s like the one time in my whole career batting where like that happened. You know, that good of a game.
John: Yeah. I mean, I’ve seen some like old videos of like Will Clark from way back where he’s just like “Okay, I’m gonna hit the ball here.” And then he just does, you know. Not during a game, but like during batting practice or whatever. And you’re like “Wow.” To be able to hit the ball exactly where you want it to land and go, like that’s amazing, you know. And to be able to have that kind of day is super cool, man. That’s awesome. And so, do you feel like any other baseball gives you like a skillset that translates to work?
Mike: We get really good at being okay with failure.
John: Right. That’s true. If you’re 3 out of 10, that’s amazing. You’re 300. Like that’s really good.
Mike: Right. So, baseball is built for “All right, you failed. What did you learn? What do you do different next time?” Or sometimes “Man, I hit a rocket.” And the shortstop jumps up in the air and snagged it like “All right, I did everything perfect and still out.” Okay.
John: Right. Right.
Mike: In work, it just gives you the sense of “Hey, let’s try it.” “Well, what if it fails?” “Well, what if it doesn’t? What’s the worst thing that happens? Like we try again.”
John: That’s true. Yeah. I mean, these aren’t life and death situations. I mean, you file a tax return wrong, you can do an extension. You can refile. You know, you can whatever. I mean, these are a lot of things that are bad. I mean, you obviously try your best and do your best work. But you know, at the end of the day especially when it comes to innovation and things like that, give it a go. Like you said, what if it does work? Then awesomeness, you know. Then you’re hitting 2 triples.
Mike: Yup. Or the way that you failed gives you a different approach. Right? That you didn’t think of when you came up with your first idea. So, you try and then this thing on the left field comes in and it’s like “Oh, I missed that one completely. We got to address that one now. But here’s how and it’s gonna fix this other problem we have too.”
John: No, I love it. I love it, man. That’s so cool because, I mean, obviously no one told you when you were at Bryant to play baseball because it will make you a better accountant or business person, you know. Like no one ever told you that as a kid or growing up and yet it clearly does, you know, which is kind of cool.
Mike: Yeah. It’s wicked cool how your hobbies can really impact how well you can do in your profession and not because you studied, or got good grades, or took a particular leadership course. It’s just I’ve been failing at baseball for 30 years, you know. I’m not worried that this work paper is a little bit messed up.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s such a great thing because then it just sort of takes the weight off your shoulders of saying I’m a baseball player, you know, because I find a lot of people from interviewing hundreds. It’s just that they’re afraid to call themselves something because they’re not a professional, they’re not a world record holder, they’re whatever. And it’s “well, I enjoy playing baseball” if you wanna rephrase it. But either way, even in the major leagues, you’re failing at baseball. So, even when you’re getting paid millions, you’re still failing. I love that frame of mind. That’s so great, man. It’s awesome. So, is baseball something you talk about it at work through your career?
Mike: Yeah. There is usually someone in the office that played baseball too. So, it’s easy to start up a conversation with them and so many people like love watching the game, not every day because it can get a little bit hot.
John: There’s a lot of games. There’s a lot of games.
Mike: Yeah. There’s a lot of games. It’s always on. The whole summer, there’s a game on.
Mike: There’s one day without baseball game. It’s the day after the all-star game. And sitting here in Connecticut, half the state’s is Yankee fans, half the state is Red Sox fans. Do you wanna start a conversation? Just walk up and be like Yankee is Red Sox. Oh, man. Especially a group of people.
John: Yeah. Right. That’s awesome, man. So, do you feel like the conversations with people that did play baseball or that are really into baseball, that those relationships at work are different than other people that you also work around?
Mike: They get deeper faster. So, when you’re trying to create deeper relationships with people at work so that you get who they are as humans, it definitely helps to get deeper faster and then you can parlay that into “All right, so who’s your friends at the office?” And now, “Oh, you introduced me to this person that I don’t know all that well. But because I got to her through you, now like we start at Level 2.” So now, I can get a deeper relationship with her faster.
So, I’m not starting at square one with everybody because you can kind of parlay those relationships around and not use them in like I’m purposely using them, but just that’s how human interactions work. I like to have something in common with you so that when we’re talking, especially getting to know each other, we’re okay. We’re not defensive. We’re being our authentic selves.
John: No, I love that, man. Even if it’s not the same thing, you know, like “Oh, you didn’t play baseball in college. Well, but what lights you up?” You see someone light up as much as you light up talking about baseball, man, that’s awesome. I’ll listen to you all day because you’re excited. Now, I’m excited that you’re excited. Like tell me about ballet. I have no idea anything about it or whatever it is. And so, even if it’s not the same thing, it’s still cool. It’s not junior high school where we made fun of the person that doesn’t do the thing that everyone else does. Now, it’s the opposite. Now, I wanna know about that type of thing.
Mike: Especially when you’re in the office or when we were in the office and overhear someone or you’re in that group of 6-staff people kind of sharing a bigger space and someone walks in, you start talking baseball and it comes up that you played in college, he goes “Oh, yeah, I wrestled in college” or “I played field hockey.” And you’re like “You did field hockey? I ran lines for that game. Didn’t even know how it was played and I learned from all the girls playing. Like they we’re so cool. Like tell me about you playing field hockey.”
John: No, that’s exactly it. And I love how you said you get deeper faster and it’s not talking about the work. That isn’t getting deeper faster. Getting deeper faster is talking about your “and” or your outside of work interests. I love how you said that because we don’t get deeper faster talking about the latest tax code. How do you do this macro in Excel or whatever? Like that’s very surface level type of thing. So, that’s interesting.
Mike: Yeah. What really comes and helps too is when you need to have one of those difficult conversations, you know, when your friend struggled with something or you got to give them some feedback. “Yeah, I like you as a human. And they know I like you as a human. So, I’m gonna start the conversation off with I like you as a human. I gotta give you this feedback though. It’s to make you better.” And you’ve developed that deeper relationship on baseball, or field hockey, or art, or ballet. And they trust you when you say “I want you to get better and this is why I am giving you this.” And they walk away better instead of no relationship and it’s “John, you mangled that macro. You put a comma where there should have been a decimal point and we were off $4 million.” And you’re like “Oh, crud.”
John: It doesn’t even balance. Right? No. You’re exactly right. I mean, when I was at PWC, the second project I was on, the manager only talked to me 3 times and all 3 times were to tell me when I did something wrong. And it was like “Guess who’s never gonna be on any of your projects ever again because I don’t wanna work with you because I’m not this bad? Let’s calm down on this.” But if you have 100 conversations and 97 of them are about I like you as a human, tell me about you as a human, and then three of them are about “hey, you kinda messed this up a little bit”, then cool. Like you said, it’s a friend saying “Hey, you can do better. I know you can type of thing. How can I help you? And I like how you see that. That’s super cool, man.” And I guess how much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create that space where you can talk about your “and” at work or how much is it on the individual to just maybe start a little circle amongst their peers?
Mike: I think it’s got to start with the person because you’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there a bit and start with what’s your “and” when you start those conversation with people that you don’t know all that well. But what the organization could do is allow you, or encourage you, or not slap you on the wrist if you’re walking around and poking around someone else’s cube to say hi for 5 minutes or talk at the water cooler. But you could envision it in your head. You sit in there poking around with your— you know, grabbing a cup of coffee with 2 colleagues. And all of a sudden, a managing partner walks by. What happens? Everybody disperses. It’s like cockroaches and light. But if you were the managing partner, your job there is to stop at the coffee machine whether you drink or not and be like “Hey, you were talking field hockey? My niece plays field hockey at Marist.” And engage them and say you shouldn’t scatter like cockroaches like it’s okay.
John: Now, that’s exactly it. And by leading by example because, I mean, I feel like so many times we’re so permission-based especially in the corporate world that “Well, they didn’t think we could. Yeah. But they also didn’t say we couldn’t.” You’re waiting for them to tell you here’s all the things you’re allowed to do? Like that’s an exhaustive list that will never be complete. So, how about you just look at the things they said not to do and then don’t do those? But that’s a pretty small list really. And I love that how— you know, lead by example, and stop people, and be human, and be authentic. You know, that just makes you a better leader ‘cause now people actually wanna be around you, and wanna follow, and wanna listen to you as opposed to being scared and like it’s the principal in high school or something that walks by.
It’s like “Ugh! Run!” We’re not even doing anything wrong.
Mike: “Authority! No!”
John: Right? Exactly. Exactly, man. I love that. Yeah. And so, is there anything that you’ve seen in your career whether it’s a place that you’ve worked or a client that does something that maybe someone listening to me like “Oh, we could do that”?
Mike: Yeah. You know where it happens? When our office was setup, we had like 4 people in an area, but they have their own sections. But I was talking to one, somebody took out their earbuds and was listening, and they just popped their head around the corner, and they’re like “You’re talking about this—” Driving app maybe it was to track mileage because clients don’t track mileage. An they’re like “I use this one because I’m an Uber driver on the weekend.” I was like “Oh, there’s an app for that? Huh. Let me call my client because they love using their smartphone. Like what’s the name of the app?” And he just write it down. “Go talk to your client.” “Wait, you mean to tell me I had a button on my phone and it will do all this for me and then I’ve got the information I need for the IRS?” “Yeah. The information when the IRS asked me for and I don’t have it, they win every time?” “Yeah.” “Where I’ve got a 20,000-dollar tax deduction with 8 grand on the line every year?” “Yeah.” “Okay, yeah. this is worth 9.99 a year.” “Okay.”
John: Right. Right. Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. But because you have that open relationship with people, then you get to that work level sort of a thing and that’s cool, man. Yeah, that people aren’t afraid to just poke their head around the cubicle side or things like that. That’s cool. That’s awesome. Yeah. ‘Cause, I mean, sometimes it’s this weird balance between should it be like really structured and forced or should it just be like “Well, whatever happens happens”? And I feel like there’s a happy middle ground there. They provide a little bit of structure, but let people kinda play in the sandbox sort of a thing.
Mike: Yeah. And as we’ve evolved as a profession to be more output based as we should be because we’re not green bar and paper anymore where your inputs like— You can’t fill out a green bar any faster than I can. So, the time was kind of the equivalent-ish. So, it doesn’t matter how long it took you. Now, we’ve automated so many things. The amount of time I spend on something is almost irrelevant. But if I have 7 things to finish this week and we get all seven done, I don’t care if you spend 50 minutes in the water cooler talking with your friends or 20 minutes talking about whatever TikTok video came out over the weekend. “Did you get all 7 things done on time for the client, and we deliver them all, and they’re happy, and they’re good, and your—” “Yeah.” “All right. Good. We’re golden.”
John: No. I love it, man. That’s exactly it. It’s managing outcomes, which is harder from a leadership perspective, but it’s much better from attracting, retaining, and engage talent perspective from the human side.
Mike: Yeah. I actually think that managing outcomes is easier, but tracking metrics is more difficult. We have way too many input metrics that are easy to track after the fact. Kind of like what most of the accounting is. I look back on history and here’s what it told me. But if you wanna get into this where clients want us to be in looking forward in the profession, managing outcomes is looking forward. All right. We’re going to get 7 things done. How are we going to do that? We can estimate how much time it will take to say is it realistic or what resources we need. Clearly, that’s an input we need to know, but it’s like UPS counting how many miles their truck is driving, how it drives revenue. They don’t. How many packages do they deliver? Yes, mileage tracking matters, and they do it, and they want an efficient route. And there’s probably a statistical correlation to revenue that you could draw. Doesn’t mean that it should be your primary driver.
John: Yeah. I mean, you could drive 100 miles in a tight city and drop off 47 packages or you could drive 100 miles out to the country and drop off 1 package. It’s the same miles. So, the miles isn’t the factor of how hard you worked or how productive, and the bottom line of the day isn’t the miles. Yeah, it’s packages delivered. It’s how we’re gonna do that and then it’s just figuring that out and getting everybody in line and all row in the same direction I guess.
Mike: Right. John, if you talked to me on Wednesday and say I finished all seven of my projects that you gave me this week, I’m gonna reward you with four more to fill up your week. I’m gonna say “All right. Come here. Can you tell me how you did a week’s worth of work in 3 days?” I would like everybody to be able to do that. Like what is your superpower and could you spend tomorrow like writing it down and like preparing a presentation and we’ll talk about it Friday, and we’ll kill the day next week teaching everybody how to do it? And then they’ll get all their work done in the 4 days that are left in the week.
John: No, that’s exactly. Instead of just piling on and really breaking someone, it’s like let’s celebrate that and let’s help everyone be as good and productive as you type of a thing. And I love that mentality, man. That’s awesome. That’s super cool. So, do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening who might think “Hey, I’ve got an end, but I don’t think anyone cares because it has nothing to do with my job”?
Mike: I would say that somebody cares. Like even if I walk in I’m a college athlete, right, I’m a baseball player, I was a partner at the last job I had, I’ve got a lot of things that if you just look on a paper might give you a little bit of hesitation if you’re a 22-year-old staff who took ballet and theater on the side while you were getting your accounting degree.
Mike: No. I love the theatre. They do stuff I can’t do. Like I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I can’t act. I love watching them do stuff I can’t do. Tell me all about it. I want to learn it. I wanna learn it specifically because I’m a baseball player, because I can’t do those things. Like the fact that it’s the opposite of what I enjoy is why I want to hear about it. So, yes, yeah, we definitely want to hear hobbies, passions, interests. And if I get this weird look on my face because you start talking, I don’t know, Dungeons and Dragons, it’s because I don’t know anything about it. Like I’m a noob. Educate me like I’m a noob.
John: Wait. There’s a dice that has 47 sides to it? Like what? Or whatever that is.
Mike: What’s the name of that shape?
John: Right. Right. Exactly. Can you draw it? Like just bring one in tomorrow. But no, I love it, man, just because you care. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s just caring. Having a genuine interest in the people around you. That’s such easy advice. It’s simple, but not easy I guess is the best way to put it.
Mike: You know what’s cool too? You flip the roles momentarily in that moment. And I’ve given you a super safe space to be the expert, and you don’t quite know it.
John: Now, that’s true. That’s really powerful especially from a leadership perspective where you’re willing to relinquish that and be like “All right, you’re the alpha here. You’re the in-charge, the power, the expert like you said. Run with it.
Mike: 3 years from now when we’re in a pitch meeting with a client and somebody there starts talking about this person’s passion, I could do it again. You need to go talk with John about that because we’ve had conversations. He knows way more than I do. I’m the figurehead. I’m Queen Elizabeth right now. Go talk to John. He knows everything.
John: Right. That’s the quote of the show right there. “I’m Queen Elizabeth right now.” That’s awesome, man. Well, before we wrap this up though, I feel like it’s only fair that since I peppered you with questions at the beginning that we turn the table and make it the first episode of the Mike Maks podcast. So, what do you got for me?
Mike: Favorite place you traveled and why.
John: Okay. Yeah. Well, my wife and I just went to Dubai and then the Maldives. That was pretty awesome. Dubai is very modern, very clean. Everyone speaks English. It’s on all the menus and the signs. It felt very Western as a city and all their skyscrapers are all cool and modern. They’ve all been built in the last 25 years or so, so yeah. So, yeah, Dubai was a really cool city. I would highly recommend it if you’re up for a 14-hour flight.
Mike: We took the 11-hour flight to Hawaii from Boston. And my wife wasn’t having it again.
John: Oh, yeah, that’s a long flight.
Mike: Yeah. All right. What’s an experience or something about you that would be difficult for someone else to believe happened?
John: Oh, wow. Like all of my comedy like from doing comedy full time. Like all of them. I’m trying to think of like one. I mean, there’s so many. But yeah, I mean, the Borgata and Atlantic City like huge, super fancy like resort casino opening for Louie Anderson in front of 1,000 people. That’s pretty crazy. It’s hard to relate to that. I even look back on it and it’s like “was that even me” type of a thing. There’s an amount of anxiety going into it because it’s like this is crazy and then there is the guts that you have just like performing that like in front of 1,000 people, but then it’s also the really cool factor and the appreciating then and being in the moment sort of thing. And Louie was so gracious, and super cool, and absolutely hilarious. And yes, we did a show Friday night and a show Saturday night. And yeah, that was pretty surreal, but so many stories like that where you’re like “Wait, what?” It’s crazy.
Mike: That’s wicked cool. Not many times in a half-hour conversation you hear I worked at PWC and I opened at Atlantic City for Louie Anderson.
John: Right. Right. But I mean, everyone’s got their story that doesn’t have to be mind blowing. It could just be something simple and it’s a cool thing. That’s why I started the podcast. It was because it was like I had someone remember me 12 years after my first PWC office when I was doing comedy and open mics. And then 12 years later, I’m speaking at a conference and he tells the meeting professional “I know John Garrett. That’s the guy who did comedy at night.” And it was a guy I never met. He was in the tax department and I don’t know how taxes work. So, you know, it’s just cool to see how powerful these “ands” are and what you remember about people.
Mike: Yeah. And that’s what the relationships are. Right? You never know when they’re gonna come back.
John: Totally. Yeah. Or what people remember about you or if they remember you at all and that’s the thing. If you don’t share your “and” or this human side to you, then odds are they’re not gonna remember you at all, which is sad because you work way too hard and you’re too good at your job to not be remembered. Like that’s frightening to me.
Mike: Yeah. When you leave a place, you want what you stood for to stay behind with the other people who are still there. Like that’s really the impact and the true legacy. It’s not a name on a front door. It’s not 47 books published or anything. It’s “Hey, when Sally is managing Jimmy and Sally takes the same lesson that you imparted on her and imparts it on Jimmy and now Jimmy has it, it’s like that’s really how you leverage and have an impact.”
John: And it lives forever.
John: Man, your podcast is so much deeper than mine. This guy is deep in a hurry. That’s awesome, man. Well, no, I appreciate you being a part of What’s Your “And”? And yeah, I just appreciate you taking time to be a part of the show. So, thanks, Mike.
Mike: You’re welcome, John. Glad to be here. Had a great time.
John: Yeah. And everybody listening, if you wanna see some pictures of Mike outside of work or on the ball field or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything is there. And while you’re on the page, please click that big button. Do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to check out the book.
So, thanks again for subscribing on Apple podcast or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Ed is a Meta-Consultant & Musical Theatre Fan
Ed Kless, Senior Director from Sage, returns to the podcast from episode 92 to talk about his passions for baseball and musical theatre. Ed shares with us how he is getting through the cancelled baseball season, sharing his passions with his kids, and his thoughts on being open about your passions in the workplace!
• Watching simulated MLB games
• Sharing his passion for baseball with his son
• Getting his daughter into musical theatre
• How he applies his minor in Musical Theatre towards his career
• Rapping through a long strategy meeting
• You should feel comfortable to be open about your passions
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Welcome to Episode 284 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett. 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 to let everyone know that my book is being published very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or sign up for my exclusive list and you’ll be the first to know when it’s coming out.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes of the podcast. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every Wednesday and Follow-up Friday, and this one is no different with my guest, Ed Kless. He’s a senior director at Sage Accountants Solutions, co-host of The Soul of Enterprise podcast and a senior fellow at VeraSage Institute. Now he’s with me here today. Ed, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Ed: Honored to be back.
John: Yeah, man. I’m excited. I mean we’ve hung out a couple of times in between at conferences, and I’ve got questions that I’ve never asked you that I probably should have before we hung out.
Ed: Yeah. All right, rock and roll. Let’s go.
John: Here we go. Here we go. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones? Okay. Yeah, I’ve only seen Harry Potter, so, yeah, I’m with you. How about a favorite TV show of all time?
John: MASH, ooh, solid answer. That’s solid. How about more suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?
Ed: Oh, jeans and a t-shirt, no question.
John: Right. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Ed: Ooh, good one. Let’s go with wine. Depends on the day. I’m Irish. I’m equal opportunity alcohol, so we’ll go with wine.
John: Is it breakfast or dinner? Doesn’t matter. That depends, John. Yeah, that’s awesome. How about oceans or mountains?
John: Oceans, okay.
Ed: Yeah, I grew up on Long Island, so.
John: Right. There you go. That makes sense. Two more. Favorite ice cream toppings.
Ed: Dark chocolate chips.
John: Oh, okay. Interesting. The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under?
Ed: Over. Over, for sure.
John: Yeah. Absolutely. No, that one’s actually… There’s only one right answer. Yeah. Last time you were on, I mean Episode 92. God bless you, man, for being on so long ago. We talked baseball, going to baseball stadiums, bringing your son and all that. Now you have the baseball on your desk all the time as your little fidget spinner of sorts. Clearly, we’re not able to watch baseball right now, but are you still passionate about it?
Ed: I am still passionate. Funny story, my son is now 14. We’re up to 20 baseball parks, by the way, so that’s an update —
John: Oh, that’s awesome.
Ed: — from the previous time. This weekend, my wife went out to socially distant shop and came back home with the PS4 edition of MLB 2020, The Show. A new thing for him and it was on sale, blah-blah-blah. Anyway, so he throws it in. I’m working at my desk. This is Sunday. My office is a little bit down from the game room. He comes running in. He says, “Dad, come here, come here, come here.” I walk down. He’s apparently fired up. One of the things they have on The Show is the ability for you to watch the games that would have taken place that day.
John: Oh, wow.
Ed: He fires up the Met game. We’re watching the Met game. I’ve got to tell you, within about 30 seconds, I’m like, oh, I can see how Jake’s going to do today.
John: It’s a video game, make-believe simulation.
Ed: I was desperate for baseball that I was just, oh. It was great. The Mets won 6-nothing over the Braves. deGrom won eight innings. I’m like high-fiving.
John: It’s great. That’s so funny. Yeah, it’s just like we’re so starved for really anything. We’ll watch a simulated video game.
Ed: I was hooked. I was sucked in.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so great, but also so cool that technology’s gone that far that it’s what the game would have been that day had baseball been happening. That’s impressive.
Ed: Yeah. It’s kind of cool. The announcers are awful. I don’t want to say it. The Met announcers happen to be real favorites of mine. The guy who does it, Gary Cohen, who’s been around forever. Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez who are both great star players for the ‘86 Mets, and they are just the most fantastic announcers. Even the Yankee fans, that’s the one thing that they will admit, that the Mets have better announcers than the Yankees. So, that’s a real fun thing.
John: Did they have those announcers on the game, or is it —
Ed: No. Actually, I think it’s Alan Michaels, which is good. At least it’s not Joe Block. I am an anti-Joe Block. I detest —
John: I’m not sure who does like Joe Block.
Ed: — Joe Block.
John: I’m not even sure Joe Block likes Joe Block.
Ed: Yeah, if Joe Block listens to your podcast, I’m sorry to break this news to him.
John: I’m sure we’re not the first ones that told him anything like that.
Ed: Joe, what’s your “And”? Because it’s not really working out for you. You’re…
John: Right. Yeah, go do cricket or something. Do something else. That’s super funny. That’s super funny. But that’s cool, Ed. It’s still a passion of yours and that you’ve passed it onto your son and that you can still explore that passion through video games even at a time when baseball isn’t happening. That’s kind of fun.
Ed: Yeah, it is kind of cool. Like I said, he’s 14. He’s possibly going to be trying out for the freshman team in high school next year. We live in a highly competitive school district so even making a baseball team would be amazing at that point, and kind of fun. It’s almost to a point now where I won’t let him throw full speed to me.
Ed: I’m 53. My reaction time, not anywhere near as fast as you can throw, so.
John: Right. Yeah, or you put a glove inside the baseball mitt to help pad.
Ed: I used to catch myself, so I’m pretty good at making sure that I catch between the thumb and the forefinger. I’m just worried about just flat out missing it and hitting me square in the face.
John: Right. That’s hilarious. Yeah. But there is a point, yeah, where it’s like, whether it’s us getting older or just them getting better, you’re like, whoa. Hey, okay. Yeah, you guys throw amongst yourselves, get a friend or something. This is the moneymaker. You can’t mess this up. Come on now.
Ed: That’s right.
John: That’s super awesome. Also, too, I know musical theater is something that we’ve talked about as well in the past. We kind of glanced on the first time, but, yeah, didn’t really talk about too much.
Ed: That’s my relationship with my daughter. My daughter has now gotten into doing a lot of musical theaters. She is ten or 11, I’m sorry, and is doing all kinds of great stuff. I’ve just had a great time watching her evolve in that area. Look, we’ve talked about What’s Your “And”? I minored in Musical Theater, and I got to tell you, I use that more than I do any of my other business classes in terms of doing what I do for Sage.
John: That’s interesting. Yeah, because you’re onstage at conferences, doing the podcast, creating relationships. Even Mark Cummins came out and said that the Liberal Arts majors have better skills for business these days than the Business majors, and I believe it’s true. Yeah.
Ed: I know you participated in this too, just like improv and comedy. That’s a huge skill to be able to do that and interpret that, come up with things off the cuff. Really, I can’t thank my Theater professors enough for what they were able to teach me. Not that I didn’t learn anything in my Business classes, but that stuff tends to go a little bit stale over time. The Humanities and the Arts don’t.
John: Yeah. That’s an excellent point. That’s actually really interesting. Yeah, because the business stuff is always changing, and it’s always morphing. Sure, the technical stuff is there, but how much do you actually use that as you move up the ranks? When you’re not in the bottom two levels anymore then you’re not really in the trenches doing the debits and credits or whatever.
Ed: To that end, I think there’s a lot of people who go to school too, for, say, Accounting, and I’ve heard this from a number of people that I’ve interacted with, is, I didn’t really learn accounting until after I got my first job. It’s like I didn’t learn how to drive until after I got my license, that cliché. I didn’t really understand — and a lot of people are not taught operational accounting at all. You walk in. What do you mean accounts payable, accounts receivable? They didn’t talk about this. Out of pay checks? I just want to know what the T-accounts are. I’m sorry, that’s not how operational accounting works.
John: Exactly. It’s not the real world. Is there a multiple choice for what I’m supposed to do here? No, there is not. That’s so true. Because when you get out in the real world, it’s not the academia bubble that we were all in, but in theater, it kind of is. It’s still that same — it’s real life.
Ed: It’s the same thing. It’s just, if you learn how to act, if you do a show in high school or college, the next level is, it’s more intense. It’s the same it’s just instead of three hours a day, it’s eight hours a day. That’s what you do.
John: Yeah. So when you were in college or even growing up, were there any theater shows that you were in that were your favorite?
Ed: Two off the top of my head that were my favorite, first I had the opportunity in college to play Riff in West Side Story.
John: Oh, nice.
Ed: Yes, which was proving that what I — and this is how I build myself. I am an actor who can sing.
John: There you go. There you go.
Ed: I’m not a singer. I’m an actor who can sing, and I’m even more of an actor who can, I won’t even say dance. I will say I smile and get the last two steps right.
John: There you go. Stick to landing.
Ed: That’s right, stick to landing. Everybody’s, “Oh, that guy, he did good at the end. Tripping over himself the whole rest of the time, but that’s alright.” The other one that I did, and this was an off-Broadway production of Pippin. I got a chance to play the title role in that, which is also one of my all-time favorite shows.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s really cool. That’s exciting times. To be able to perform in those kind of people, that does give you the skills to then, when you’re speaking at a conference, it’s like, yeah, whatever. It’s really even easier because no one knows what I’m supposed to say.
Ed: Yeah. The guy who directed the production of Pippin went on and he wrote and won the Academy Award for Birdman.
John: Oh, wow.
Ed: Alex Dinelaris. Shout out to Alex. There you go.
John: Nice. That’s very cool. That’s very cool. Are these things that you share with colleagues and coworkers? Do they know these sides of you?
Ed: Oh, sure. For a very brief period of time, I was the interim vice president for Sage Accountants Network. Stress on the interim because I did not want the full-time thing.
John: Okay, okay.
Ed: Because that’s an administrative position, and I would want to shoot myself. I did do it because I was the most senior person, and I had a couple of opportunities, one where we were presenting a strategy. This is the middle of a six-hour meeting. I’m like, okay, we’ve got to do something different. So, I’m about to present my strategy, and I’m like, I’m giving you a beat. I, impromptu, invented a rap for the strategy thing that we were going to do. Everyone was like, “That was real nice. Okay, next person.” It was great. No questions.
John: Right, because they were afraid.
Ed: They’re like, oh.
John: What song is he going to come up with next? That’s funny though. Yeah, but I’m sure they listened to that as opposed to some of the other ones, six hours in.
John: Where it’s like, yeah, you’ve got to mix it up. There’s got to be a pattern interrupt there.
Ed: It is, yeah. It was fun, and I think it worked out okay, so that’s so good.
John: Yeah, clearly. I mean you’re still at Sage.
Ed: I didn’t get fired. Yeah, why not.
John: Yeah, but I mean has there ever — because I know a lot of people that I talk with, there’s a part of them that thinks that people are going to judge me for what it is that I love to do outside of work. Or they’re going to think I’m not very good at my job. Was that ever something that crossed your mind?
Ed: Never for a second.
John: I just tell people I was too dumb to know that we weren’t supposed to tell I guess. You asked me, so I told you.
Ed: Yeah. No, I never for a second. That’s just how I was brought up. I don’t know if that’s New Yorkish or just my parents, but we’re just, well, this is what it is.
John: Yeah, take it or leave it.
Ed: Take it or leave it. That’s why I never bought into this whole social media. So many people have their Twitter for their friends and then their Twitter for their profession.
John: Yeah, it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to remember, which one did I post it to? Yeah. Or even who did I tell that I like to, whatever, that I used to do musical theater or whatever? It’s just weird. Especially with the whole quarantine thing, I think it’s a huge collision of our professional life and our real life are now on display for everyone. These Zoom calls and things like this. I mean these are real people. You have to recognize that you have real people that are working with and for you.
Ed: Well, in fact, to that end, on the musical theater and just even being in front of the camera and doing all that, I’m even coaching colleagues on things like, “Hey, you know what, let’s get a good microphone. This is not going to be the last time that we’re going to be working from home. I’m just telling you.” You can hear people so much better when they have a higher quality microphone. It’s not even close. The second thing is when you’re on these Zoom calls, and I tell them, “Okay, you want your eyes about a third of the way down the screen.”
Ed: You don’t want to be down — just at the top of somebody’s head which is like…
John: No, it’s so hilarious. Or it’s like just their nose and mouth. You’re like, um, this is weird. I could tell you had pizza for lunch, and I don’t want to —
Ed: Right. Or you have the people who have the dual screen and they’re constantly looking at the other screen. I’m like, you know what? You can actually move your stuff to the screen that you’re looking at so that it doesn’t look like you’re a complete dork and looking at the other screen.
John: Right. It’s just simple things, but it makes communication better. It makes the relationship better, all those little things. I feel like, especially now that you can’t be in person, to create that connection through hobbies and passions and stuff is even stronger and more important now than it ever was, type of thing.
It has been an interesting journey. That’s for sure. Yeah. I’m just glad that when my book comes out, it’s not about something that was two months ago, before all this. It’s still something that applies. Because I should make the subtitle, “How to Survive a Quarantine,” and then bestseller. What?
Ed: Put COVID in there somehow.
John: Yeah, exactly. Two stars. Never mention Coronavirus. Yeah. Do you have any encouragement to others that are listening that maybe have hobbies and passions or think that people are going to judge them because it has nothing to do with their job?
Ed: Well, two things on that; one, I think you should let it out, and two is if you’re afraid of your situation where people are going to judge you for what it is that your hobbies are, you probably are in a situation you shouldn’t be in anyway. I mean that in all sincerity. Life’s too short to be working with people that you can’t trust with a hobby of you — I’m hoping that your hobby is not building nuclear weapons to blow up…
John: It’s something that’s legal and not super controversial.
Ed: I think that kind of thing can and should come out. It is about building trust. You probably heard this a million times too, but connection before content.
John: Especially in technical speakers and executives that are speaking to their people, whatever, it’s just content. There’s not even a connection attempt. Yeah, and I love how you said that, connection before content. That’s what I’ll tell people that are nervous about speaking or whatever. I’m just like, well, how do you want them to feel? Just, how do you want to make them feel? Because if you don’t make them feel anything then they’re not going to learn anything or even remember anything that you tell them, so just don’t even go up. Lunch is early. See you. Yeah, it’s insane to me, but I love that. Yeah, I love that. That’s awesome.
Well, Ed, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and let you rapid fire question me and let you now host the show, which you host several other podcasts, so this is just regular seat for you, but rapid fire question me if you want.
Ed: What I’m going to do is underrated or overrated. You’ve got to tell me if the thing that I say to you is underrated or overrated. If you want, you can give an explanation, or you can just say underrated or overrated.
John: Oh, I’m so nervous right now. This is going to be awesome.
Ed: Okay. Underrated or overrated, Dave Chappelle.
John: Oh, underrated. That dude’s amazing. You could never — yeah, that guy’s amazing.
Ed: Underrated or overrated, the Payroll Protection Program.
John: Overrated. Oh, my goodness, insane.
Ed: Insanely overrated.
John: Yeah, overrated. I mean the attempt was good, but I’m not even sure if it was a foul ball. I mean it was a whiff. You tried to swing hard, but I’m not even sure if you tipped it. Yeah. It was one of those where it’s a foul tip but the catcher still catches it. The catcher didn’t even have to move. It was like, that was a foul tip but he still got it. You’re out.
Ed: All right. Underrated or overrated, Notre Dame football.
John: I see where you’re going here. I see where you’re going. You know what? Underrated. Underrated. The most NFL draft picks of all time, tied with a certain school in Los Angeles that’s not good but, yes, underrated. There’s no way I could say it otherwise. I know that everyone’s disagreeing who hates them, but that’s fine.
Ed: All right. Thanks, John.
John: Including Joe Block, probably Joe Block.
Ed: Including Joe Block.
John: He’s probably like… Right. No, but this has been so much fun, Ed. Thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Ed: Happy to be here.
John: Everyone, if you want to see some pictures of Ed in action or maybe connect with him on social media and also get the links to his other podcasts, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com, 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.
Sean is a Lawyer & Baseball Coach
Sean is an attorney with a decade in practice. He has a background in commercial and investment litigation. His practice focus in highly regulated and (at times) highly politicized areas of public pension protection, energy regulation and procurement, and cannabis, with experience in contract, constitutional, employment, real property, municipal finance and restructuring, and governmental transparency matters. Sean is a Detroit-area native and Notre Dame undergrad. He spent 8 years working in Chicago and DC before attending MSU College of Law.
Sean Gallagher, a friend of John’s from college, talks about the obstacles and difficulties of coaching youth baseball and how he applies these skills in the office!
• Getting into coaching youth baseball
• One of his success stories as a coach
• Taking risk in baseball and in your professional life
• Talking about coaching in his office
• Difficulties of coaching 7-8-year old children
• Organizations and individuals being a fit for each other
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Welcome to Episode 235 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. If I put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and,” the things above and beyond their technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being pushed in just a few weeks. It’ll be available on Amazon 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 listening to the show and sharing it with their friends and colleagues and then changing the cultures where they work because of it.
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. This week is no different with my guest, Sean Gallagher. He’s an Attorney and Managing Member of Gallagher Law in East Lansing in Detroit, Michigan. We went to Notre Dame together, both lived in Dillon Hall. Now, he’s with me here today.
Sean, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Sean: Glad to do so, John.
John: This is going to be awesome. There’s going to be so much fun. I’m glad we’re able to make this work. I know you fairly well having lived and in Dillon together for years. I figured let’s do some rapid-fire questions so everyone can get to know Sean on another level. Here we go right out the gate. Favorite color?
John: Blue? Nice. How about a least favorite color?
Sean: Least favorite color? Brown.
John: Brown? That’s a good answer. I figured —
Sean: No. No. Orange.
John: Orange. Yeah. Orange or brown together, I mean the whole Cleveland football brown jersey pretty much
Sean: Right. Two bad things that go bad together.
John: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. I don’t know why. How about when you fly, window seat or aisle seat?
Sean: Oh, I love the window.
John: Window? Nice. Okay. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Sean: Harrison Ford.
John: Oh yes, solid answer. Would you say you’re more early bird or night owl?
Sean: Wow. I’m both.
Sean: Depends on the day.
John: Impressive, man.
Sean: No, no. But if I’m exercising, it’s got to be early.
John: Yeah. Yeah. I hear you. When it comes to puzzles, more Sudoku or crossword?
Sean: Oh, Sudoku.
John: Oh, okay. Okay. Pens or pencils?
Sean: Mechanical pencils.
John: Nice, a little bit of both. I like it. It’s a hybrid. Yeah. But you can still make mistakes and erase them and no one knows.
Sean: That’s right.
John: That’s good. How about do you have a favorite number?
John: And why is that?
Sean: Because of that Dave Matthews song.
John: Okay. There you go.
Sean: My alternative answer there is any prime number. I love the prime numbers.
John: Oh, nice. Yeah. And 41, that’s a big prime number, set down there in the single digits. More cats or dogs?
Sean: Probably more dogs. But in our house, it’s fish.
John: Oh, okay. Okay. Fair enough. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
John: Hot? Interesting.
Sean: Well, I mean hot food, cold temperatures. Hot food, cold weather.
John: Okay. There you go. Now, when it comes to your law, criminal or civil?
John: Civil? There you go. All right. How about a favorite cereal of all time?
Sean: All-time favorite cereal? Honey Nut Cheerios.
John: Oh, classic. That’s a good one. Jeans or khakis?
John: Jeans? All right. Your computer, PC or a Mac?
John: PC? Yeah, me too. On your mouse, right click or left click?
Sean: Right click.
John: Right click? That’s where it unlocks all the cool stuff. Two more. This is a good one. Suits or law and order?
Sean: Law and order definitely.
John: Law and Order? Okay. All right. All right. The last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Sean: The favorite thing I have right now is my grandfather was given a silver dollar struck in 1882, e pluribus unum.
Sean: Yeah. I carry it with me on a money clip. I hide it with $1 bills. I carry it with me pretty much everywhere I go.
John: That’s fantastic, man. That’s really cool.
Sean: I appreciate this I spoke with an actuary this summer who was a coin collector. He told me the name of the guy that designed this coin. Apparently, it’s referred to as this guy’s dollar bill because he designed it.
John: Wow. Look at that, man. But 1882?
John: Man, like 140 years ago almost. That’s awesome.
Sean: It’s old school.
John: Yeah. That’s really cool. Also cool is you coaching baseball, especially youth baseball. How did you get started with this? Obviously, having kids is probably where it starts, but not everyone goes into the coaching route.
Sean: Right. Well, I played baseball from third grade through sophomore year in high school. Then I played on the Dillon Hall Inner Hall team, played one year of Inner Hall baseball with Dillon Hall, Dillon Hall. Rah, rah! Go team! That was I guess fall of ‘94. Then my baseball career took a semi-retirement until my oldest son — when he got into coach-pitch as a six-year-old or seven-year-old, I was up for coaching. He just turned 11. That was four seasons ago. So I’ve been coaching for five seasons. He was six when he started. That was what got me into it because I was like, “Well, I’ll coach,” because they needed a coach.
John: Right. Were you also the pitcher as well? I was the pitcher.
John: For people that are listening, the coach-pitch is to your own team, right?
John: Yeah. It’s not like you’re throwing heat to the other team. Well, that seems totally unfair.
Sean: When you strike out the side, you hang your head in shame. You strike out your own kid. I get five strikes. You couldn’t manage to put it over the plate. So the kids are crying. And yeah, you hang your head in shame.
John: People are hanging K signs for all the strikeouts. It’s like, “No, no. Put them away. Those are my own team.” That’s awesome, man. Just out of curiosity because I also played baseball for when I was very young, tee-ball all the way through. Tenth grade was when I stopped. What is it that made you stop?
Sean: I decided that I was going to play soccer in the spring other than baseball, in part because I liked the baseball program. I don’t know if I thought it was too political. My primary sport was basketball. After the basketball season ended, I was like, “I’m going to play soccer this spring, rec soccer.”
John: Yeah. For me, for some reason, around — I don’t know when but the ball started hissing when it came to the plate and when I was hitting. I did not like that. That was bad. I mean because when I was in sixth grade, we lived overseas. My dad was in Air Force. I was lumped in with eighth and ninth graders. I was in sixth grade and also small. So I got hit a lot. And I was just like, “Man, this hurts. This is dumb. What am I doing?” If I can be all time fielder, I would totally do that. But yeah, when the ball started hissing, I just was like, “Whoa, soccer it is.”
Sean: The real reason in the game is I couldn’t hit a curveball to save my life.
John: Right. Yeah.
Sean: It was coming at me. I couldn’t —
John: It’s going to hit me in the face. That’s my moneymaker. What are you doing?
Sean: That was probably the thing that really put my career to bed.
John: Yeah. Yeah. But that’s so cool that you’re out there again and coaching and sharing the love of the game with your kids. Yeah. That’s really awesome. Are there any more rewarding stories that you’ve gotten from your coaching experience?
Sean: My favorite story just this year is what I like to refer to and will, if I ever write the book about coaching youth baseball, will be the title. It’ll be the reluctant catcher. I had a six-year-old on the team this year. It’s boys and girls. Boys and girls get to play, so that’s fun. You see the interactions. It’s six and seven, eight-year-old years old. They’re all just out there playing.
But this one young lady who is the same age as my youngest son — they’re in class together — her dad is a big-time college basketball player. She’s a spitfire. For six years old, she’s got personality that just does not quit. If she decides she’s going to do something, well, she’s going to do it. The problem is if she decides she’s not going to do something, there’s no way to convince her otherwise. She’s got a strong personality.
So about the fourth game of the season, I do the lineup such that every kid rotates the batting order. They all get to be first and keeps the same batting order. But in the field, I try to rotate them around so that they’ll get to play their positions. Well, she was up to play catcher. I started putting the gear on her. She’s standing there. She’s like, “I don’t want to play catcher.” I’m like, “No, no. It’s okay. You want to play. It’s okay. You’re going to be fine. You can do great.” I did the sales job of the spring or the summer, the early summer in getting her from the dugout 57 feet over to behind the plate where she stood for an entire inning standing there. She didn’t move. She just stood there and would look over. She’s got glasses. She’s a six-year-old with glasses looking at me, glasses with the face mask on, just looked at me like, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to do this.” But I convinced her not to say no. I convinced her not to decide no. And I convinced her to play catcher for one inning, which I thought was a huge success. Because if any of those 57 feet between the dugout and behind the plate, had she decided no, then it might’ve been some other kid out there and it wouldn’t have been as great. But I kept talking and kept talking and kept distracting her and distracting her and finally got her out there and she’s playing. Pretty soon, the inning was over. She’s like, “Get this gear off of me.” I’m like, “You’re fine.”
John: Right. “Never again.” Yeah. That’s impressive. Yeah. Because I mean it’s one thing to teach the game but then, yeah, when you have such young kids out there, I mean there’s so many other levels of stuff that’s happening that you could never be prepared for.
Sean: When it’s 80 degrees and then it’s humid outside, no one wants to put the gear on. There’s that one kid that always wants to put the gear on, but this one did not want to put it on, did not want anything to do with catcher. Yeah. That was cool. It was something she didn’t want to do. Sometimes, that’s the thing, John, that I find about baseball.
On one baseball and games — and I consider baseball a game. It’s a game. It’s a game with rules. It’s a game with really abstract rules. It’s a game with not a lot of fairness and not a lot of equity. In the law, we’ve got the law, the legal rules. Then we’ve got equity. We’ve got, well, what’s fair. At least in the United States, those things work hand-in-hand. There are two courts that were merged. They were separate course in England back in the day. They were merged in the course of the United States when we brought the English common line. So we got rules and you got fairness. You had both on the court.
Baseball has rules and there’s not a lot of fairness. There’s just not a lot of equity in baseball. In six and seven-year-old coach-pitch baseball, the equity is you get five pitches, not three, before you strikeout. So they play five pitch baseball. But I feel like baseball is one of those games that you learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about the kids you’re coaching. They learn a lot about themselves. And you learn about what?
A quote — the man I play basketball for in high school was a Polish dude from Southwest Detroit.
John: Oh, boy.
Sean: Yeah. He just coached basketball and baseball and football. But I played basketball for him. He used to say, “As you live, so shall you play. And as you play, so shall you live.” So if you play hard when you compete, you’re going to get out to the world, you’re going to compete hard. And if you don’t, well, then maybe you need to keep playing and keep learning how to compete.
The other thing about baseball, in six-year-old hitting a baseball, hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do. I’m just saying. Hitting a curveball, it’s one thing to hit a curveball. Try a straight street ball.
John: Yeah. Then within the lines, like nothing just hit it at all. Hit it like 90 degrees.
Sean: Yeah, 90 degrees. That’s right. Yeah. And the best players in the world, they only hit it a third of the time. They’re the hall of famers. And the rest of us are just – man, if you make contact once, that’s fantastic. The other thing about it is you have to take a risk to get the bat off your shoulder and take a risk that you’re going to miss. You’re going to swing and miss. Then in business and in life, sometimes you swing and miss. Sometimes, there are tears. Sometimes, there are not. But it’s another one of these lessons where, “Yeah, you struck out this time, but great job swinging the bat. Great job swinging the bat. We’ll work with you and we’ll get you in contact.”
The other great thing about six-year-olds and seven-year-olds and eight-year-olds, you see a progression over six weeks or over eight weeks. They come so far so fast. It’s not immediate gratification, but it’s — you invest a little bit of time and you see a lot of improvement.
John: I love that. You’ve got to swing the bat in order to get the hit. And how much that translates to life and especially your corporate life, your professional life, yeah, I mean that’s really profound. That’s fantastic. And you’re teaching the kids that, yeah, you swing. You miss. You had a foul ball. You get out, whatever. It’s not the end of the world. Failure is okay.
Sean: Right. And it’s like a Thomas Edison thing, failed 10,000 times and then you get to win. I mean most of us will get 10,000 chances or we make 10,000 chances, if we need to make 10,000 chances to take 10,000 chances. But things like – and the kids, they don’t need to hear about this or want to hear about this at six-years-old or eight-years-old, but submitting a job application or sitting for professional examination, you only get that day. You only get that shot.
In some circumstances, law school for example, most of the courses are — you don’t get a grade all semester long. Then one day, at the end of the semester, you get one test. It’s curved and you get one shot. And that’s the only grade you get. That translates to the practice of law in that you stand up before a judge, you get one shot at this. You don’t get multiple shots. You may have put something in writing ahead of time, which may be the more important thing, probably is, usually is, but you get one shot. So you want to make sure you make contact.
John: Yeah. Is this something that, the coaching, that you talk about with colleagues and clients and people in the business world, corporate law world if you will?
Sean: You know what? At times, yeah, during baseball season. I consider baseball season for these kids to be late April to the end of June. So I’m talking about it because two nights a week, I’ll be coaching for two nights a week during the entire month of June. Then maybe a couple of weeks during May, I’ll be peeling off to go ahead to the field for a 5:30 game or 7:15 game. So it comes up. It’s not something that I have found myself talking with clients or colleagues about that much. They know that I do it.
John: Yeah, but it’s the thing that they know about.
Sean: Right. And I’ve had a few clients that have hired me in part because of the relationship that I built with them coaching their kid. When you see a coach out there — I had this experience this year trying to wrangle all kindergarteners and first graders, because I had all six-year-olds and seven-year-olds this year. It’s like, “Eyes and ears on me. Eyes and ears on me. I need your attention. I need your attention.”
Particularly early in the season, they’re just learning about being on a team, learning about paying attention, learning about listening, learning about — I had to do things like say, “Okay. We’re going to race around the soccer goal that’s out there in the middle of the outfield. Who’s going to be coach? I’m going to beat you guys,” and have to flat-out run and get them to get their wiggles out, like doing that stuff.
Then you see — this is the other interesting feature of coaching these days. It turns out practice is a spectator sport.
John: Oh boy.
Sean: Or a spectator activity where parents come to watch practice as like an evening – this is a fun thing to do. It’s just to go and watch their kid practice. I don’t know about you, but a quarter century ago, but my parents never came to watch practice.
John: No, that was freedom. Yeah. You can ride your bike home as a matter of fact.
Sean: Right. My dad was there. He was on the field helping and that was it, but couldn’t generally be there to practice. In high school, my coach would lock the gym doors. No one was allowed to practice. He didn’t care. As long as he was the coach, the players and the coaches and that was it. But then all things have changed. Parents come and watch. So they get to see how you approach coaching their kids. So a couple have hired me because of that. That’s not my primary marketing tool, particularly because my specialties are so deep in the weeds. It’s not where I expect to find the people that need my help.
John: Right. Yeah. And it’s always interesting to me how when we’re doing our hobby or passion or outside of work interest, it’s easy for us to tell people what our job is. But then when we’re in our job, it’s not easy for us to share what that passion is. Everyone that’s at the baseball field knows, “Oh, Sean’s a lawyer.” But not everyone in the law world knows all the time that you’re a baseball coach. It’s not you — it’s everyone. It’s just for some reason, when we walk into a corporate setting or a networking event or whatever, we shut that side down. And it’s really perplexing to me because I was the same way back in the day as well. And it’s just trying to get people to see that the magic happens once you open up. If none of the parents have known that you were a lawyer, then some of those business opportunities wouldn’t be there to help them out.
Sean: How did you first come to that?
John: I’ll ask the questions. No, no. I’m kidding. No, that’s true. I was just too dumb to know. Basically, someone would ask, “So what’d you do this weekend?” just trying to be nice. Then I guess you’re supposed to say, “Nothing,” or, “Well, I didn’t do anything.” But I said, “Well, I drove to Springfield, Illinois and did a comedy show at the Funny Bone. And they’d be like, “Wait, what?” All of a sudden, now we’re having a real conversation like two adults, like people that are interested in each other.
See, it was just somebody asking, probably just going through the motions. Then you give them a real answer. Then now, you’re having a conversation. A big part of it is just showing a genuine interest in each other and the people around you. And there isn’t a charge code for that all the time. That isn’t how we get paid or how we get promoted or how we get bonused. But that’s really how it happens, right?
I mean I’m just curious. From your experience, how much do you think it’s on an organization to create that culture, if you will, where, yeah, having outside of work things is encouraged and share them? Or how much is it on an individual to just create their little circle amongst themselves and get it started that way?
Sean: That’s a million-dollar question. I don’t know. I think it maybe starts with expectations. What do you expect from yourself? What does your employer expect from you? Maybe it’s part of the conversation of — I don’t know how many corporations prioritize this, but it’s maybe part of the conversation of, “Why are you a fit for us? Why are we a fit for you? Do we want you to lose yourself in this job and not have a life? How do we encourage you to have a life and not make work your everything?”
There are different kinds of businesses. I mean there are certain kinds of professional businesses where they’re going Monday through Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I’ve read some things recently where maybe the idea of work life balance is may be kind of a falling apart. And maybe there is no work life balance. It’s just how you figure it out. It’s just life, which makes some sense. Maybe it’s, “How much does the employer want from you? And how much do you want from the employer?”
John: And just have an open conversation about that. Yeah, there was a guy I had on several years ago, Chris Hooper. He has a firm in Australia. In the interview process, he straight up asked, “What’s your dream job? Because I know this isn’t your dream job. So what’s your dream job? Then how can we help build you up to get that dream job later? Because right now, you’re not qualified for it or you’d be applying for that.” And that’s cool because then it shows that someone actually cares about you and not just the part that you can give them.
But I love how you said it’s expectations. And it’s why are we a fit. And I’m going to assume that fit goes above and beyond the technical skills because the people with the same technical skills are a dime a dozen. That’s a hard pill for people to swallow especially after you go to law school. You pass the bar exam. You’re like, “Look at all this work I’ve done.” Then you get to the table and it’s like, “Well, so is everyone else,” and be like, “No, no. I stand out.” “You mean, just like all these other dozens of people that are here?”
Sean: Right, who all want to work and all want to find success. Many of them may not know what that means or what it might mean for them. But then there are other people that know exactly what they think it should mean.
John: Yeah. It’s a weird thing to me. And I feel like I don’t know if it’s TV and movies or if it’s just professionalism feeds us these lies that this is how you’re supposed to behave or how you’re supposed to be. If you’re a lawyer, this is how you’re supposed to act. It’s like, “What? No. Just be you. You don’t have to act like something else.” It’s always so mind blowing to me because I feel like it’s easy to fall into that trap.
Sean: When it’s safe, right? It’s safe not to be different if the corporate theory is, “Okay, there are all these people that can do these different things. We want to work with people that we feel like we can work with. We want to work with people we like that are like us.” Well, then, “Okay. We’re like us. We have shared values. We have shared ideas about how we want to do what we’re doing, whatever that service or widget making operation is.” We have shared values, but then recognizing that we’re not all the same and we can’t all be the same. We’re not all going to be able to be successful in the same way that somebody else is successful. What works for Ms. W may not work for Mr. S. But there may be a way for it to work for them, to be successful in whatever field they’re in depending on their personalities and what they’d like to do and want to pursue. It may look very different. It may or may not lend itself to success in that organization. Very few people stay in one endeavor. At least, it seems like.
John: Right. Yeah. And I mean because things change. The organization or you as a person, what you think is important or what matters or what success looks like, certainly changes. Yeah. But that’s great, man. It makes it harder to manage as well because you’re not hammering everyone flat into a commodity. “We’ll just grab a staff person. It doesn’t matter which one.” Well, it does. It really does. It’s easier to manage that, but it’s not necessarily best. Yeah.
Now, this has been interesting for sure. Do you have any words of encouragement for anyone listening that thinks, “I’ve got this hobby or passion or what. Maybe it’s coaching youth baseball. But it has nothing to do with my job.”
Sean: Oh, keep doing it and learn about yourself the best you can by doing it. I would say just think hard about how it fits into your life and how it may or may not fit with your professional endeavors.
Over the last five years, when spring would come around, I would really look forward to coaching. I knew I would be making time that I probably didn’t have. I had it but it’s a matter of time and attention and priority when you’re in a situation where you’re working in what we lovingly referred to as BigLaw. I worked in BigLaw for about nine and a half years fulltime. In the last half of it, I was doing coaching youth baseball. There’s a trade off when you’re expected to build a significant number of hours per year to clients and their expectations for how that model works. Not necessarily work hours but you’re putting in four to six or more hours per week for two months or more than that sometimes that you could otherwise be building. That’s a week’s worth of time or more. You make a couple of weeks’ worth of billable time that you could otherwise stay in the office and build, build, build.
John: But there’s other things to who you are. It’s not all law all the time. Clearly, from coaching, you got better at your job and even developed some business. There’s definitely a positive to that as well, it sounds like.
Sean: Yeah. And I think I got better at life in part because I really found myself committed to it and realized that in part, being able to be committed to something like that, at least for part of the year, was something I wanted to continue. I’m looking forward to the next baseball season.
John: Next spring?
Sean: Next spring.
John: Yeah, man.
Sean: There is one other thing I wanted to mention, John. That is thinking about baseball and teaching just illustrates how abstract the game is. That’s Abbott and Costello, Who’s on First?
John: Oh, yeah.
Sean: So my challenge of the day would be explain balls and strikes to someone who knows nothing about the game of baseball other than involves throwing a ball.
John: I had this happen. My brother, the football coach at Cal at Berkeley — Jeff Tedford was the coach. I helped him drive across the country and get settled there. We went to a San Francisco Giants game with a couple of staff. This was when Barry Bonds was still there and hitting homeruns into the water and all that. We were standing in the outfield there. About the third inning, a guy standing next to us says, “Hey, can you explain to me the rules of the game?” I’m like, “Wait, what?” He was from Switzerland and was on college break and came to California and had done like Yosemite and stuff and was catching a baseball game. So, “Yeah. Sure. Why not?” I mean it’s baseball. That’s easy. Then you start explaining and you’re like, “This is the dumbest game I’ve ever heard of.”
Maybe lacrosse is the other one where you’re like — I even don’t know the rules of lacrosse. Every time I think I know them, I’m wrong. But baseball, everything was going okay. It was like, “There’s two strikes. Then there’s a foul ball.” So it’s like, “Well, that’s not actually a strike if it’s the third one.” Then you’re like, “This is so stupid.” But then in the eighth inning, pitcher balks. I was like, “I don’t even know what to tell you. I don’t even know. I can’t even tell you. I’m done with this. This is the dumbest game.” Yeah. It was so hard. Somebody from another country where they do not play baseball at all, period. And it’s like everyone here in the US makes fun of soccer. It’s so easy, so easy. Just don’t touch it with your hands. Done. That’s it.
Sean: And it’s linear, right? It’s one way or the other way.
John: Yeah. Then the clock doesn’t stop. We’re just done at 90 minutes. Then everybody goes home. Yeah, but it’s totally true. It’s hilarious. Well, before we wrap this up, it’s only fair that I allow you to question me if you’d like. So fire away.
Sean: It’s been a while since I took somebody’s deposition, but I will do my best.
Sean: Okay. They’re great together, but if you had to pick one, milk chocolate or peanut butter?
John: Oh, wow. That is a tough one. I’m going to go milk chocolate.
Sean: Okay. The use of red ink when editing, is it angry or is it easy on the eyes?
John: I guess it’s easy on the eyes. It just stands out a lot easier. So then you know where to go. It depends on how much writing, I guess. If it’s more than half the page, then it’s angry. If it’s less than half the page, then it’s easy on the eyes.
Sean: I wish you had used blue. It stands out, but it’s not as angry.
John: Right. Right, right, right.
Sean: Finally, what is your favorite island?
John: Oh, wow. That’s a good one. Favorite Island? I’m going to have to say, Zanzibar. It’s off the coast of Kenya in the Indian Ocean. It is an amazing place. It’s a very different place as well. But the Indian Ocean is just so beautiful. So really anything there is good with me. It’s not as funny, but it’s legit. It’s an interesting place.
That works, man. Well, thanks so much, Sean, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This was really fun.
Sean: Yeah. Thank you, John. I really appreciate it.
John: Totally. Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Sean in action or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big button. Do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. 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.