Mark is a CPA/Consultant & Comedian & Piano Player
Mark Menezes, talks about his passions for playing piano and stand-up comedy. He also talks about how easy it is to relate to co-workers through these hobbies whether they share them or not and how the skills from playing music and comedy help with his career!
• Getting into playing piano
• Talking to co-workers about playing music
• How playing music helps with his career
• Getting into comedy
• How comedy translates to his work
• Why it is easier to talk about playing music in the office than doing stand-up comedy
• How an organization and an individual play a role in company culture
• Being a more interesting person in general can help you be a better professional
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Welcome to Episode 407 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want me to read the book to you with this voice, look for What’s Your “”And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. The book goes in more in-depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
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, Mark Menezes. He does strategies and transactions for EY in New York City and is also a career coach. Now he’s with me here today. Mark, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Mark: Good to be with you, John.
John: Yeah, this is going to be awesome. I’m so excited. Finally, another funny person, probably funnier than me, so this is going to be good.
Mark: I’m up to the challenge.
John: Right? 17 rapid-fire questions, get to know Mark right out of the gate here. I’ll start you out with Star Wars or Star Trek.
Mark: Never seen Star Trek, so, Star Wars.
John: Okay, by default, there it is. Okay. All right. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Mark: PC guy.
John: Yeah, me too. There you go. How about your mouse, right click or left click.
Mark: Oh, huge right click guy.
John: Huge right click guy. That’s what opens up all the cool stuff, right?
Mark: Yeah, that’s right.
John: It’s like, what? How about a favorite movie of all time?
Mark: I love Gladiator. It’s something that I will re-watch at least once a year.
John: Okay. Yeah. No, that’s a good pick. Definitely. How about, ooh, this is a good one, rain or snow?
Mark: I was born in Canada, so we’ll go with snow. I do love the snow.
John: Right? Rain is the worst. I hate rain so much. It just ruins everything, except for flowers, I guess.
Mark: Yeah. Yeah, I’m with you there.
John: Rain at night when I’m not outside. How about, accounting background, balance sheet or income statement?
Mark: We’ll go with cash flow here, Statement of Cash Flow.
John: Oh, cash flow, the one that I don’t know how to do.
Mark: Just show me where the money. More challenging one, yeah, that’s right.
John: Every time in Accounting class, I was like, I don’t even know. Let’s just forget about it. You just go in the program. You go to reports, cash flow, and then print. That’s how you do a cash flow statement, I think.
Mark: Sounds right to me.
John: Right, right. Exactly. How about, prefer more hot or cold?
Mark: We’re talking weather?
John: Yeah. Or food or whatever you want.
Mark: I’ll say hot. Yeah, hot. I’ve also live in the South. For most of my life, I lived in the South, so, hot.
John: Yeah, yeah, because you’ve got a little mix of everything.
Mark: Yeah, I got a mix of everything.
John: How about a favorite number?
Mark: Favorite number, 66.
John: Oh, is there a reason?
Mark: I don’t think so, but it just sounds good.
John: I like six. Why not two of them? Because three sixes would be weird.
Mark: Yeah. If one person hears this and says they like 66, that’s a win then.
John: Right. Exactly. There’s another one. Yeah. How about books, audio version, e-book or real book?
Mark: I like audio. I like audios. I like podcasts, so audio books are great.
John: Yeah, yeah. I never realized that until my paperback came out, and then people are like, “Hey, where’s the audio?” I’m like, it’s coming. Now it’s out, so everybody go grab it. How about a favorite Disney character?
Mark: Favorite Disney character. I’ll go with Aladdin perhaps.
John: Oh, yeah.
Mark: I don’t feel too strong about that one. I think we’ll just go, yeah, go Aladdin.
John: Well, that’s a great answer, man. Aladdin’s awesome. Sudoku or crossword.
Mark: I’m horrible at crossword. I’m so bad at that. I don’t understand how people are good at crossword. I don’t get it how people just are, literally, just two letters out of this eight-letter word and just, I know what that is. So, sudoku, for sure.
John: And why that’s fun.
Mark: Yeah, and why it’s fun. I think you have to be over 60 to start doing crossword. I don’t get when people under 60 do crosswords.
John: They also watch Wheel of Fortune. Same people. Same people.
Mark: That’s true.
John: How about a favorite color?
Mark: I don’t know if I have color here, maybe my college football colors, garnet and black. I went to University of South Carolina, so, garnet and black, yeah.
John: Yeah, the good USC.
Mark: That’s right, the real USC, first founded.
John: Yeah. Exactly, exactly. How about a least favorite color?
Mark: I guess, if that’s the case, I’ve got to go with my rival then, purple and orange, Clemson Tigers, would be my least favorite then.
John: There you go. That’s a slam dunk.
Mark: Yeah. Sorry if there are any Clemson fans out there.
John: No, no, they know. How about, ooh, this is a tricky one, pizza or hamburger?
Mark: Oh, pizza, for sure.
John: Yeah. Well, especially in New York.
Mark: That’s right, some great slices around here.
John: For sure. Definitely. How about, ooh, this is a good one, favorite comedian?
Mark: Favorite comedian.
John: Or more than one.
Mark: Yeah, more than one, but I like Louie CK. I think the era we’re living in, to caveat that.
John: Right, his comedy.
Mark: Yes, purely his comedy and how he redefined a lot of it. The self-deprecation and the observational humor, I think, is pretty unmatched in comedy. I think he’s pretty legendary.
John: And so prolific writer. He just churned out specials every year for a while there. It was unbelievable how much material he was churning out. Two more. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Mark: I’m more of a night owl. Yeah.
Mark: Sometimes it changes, weirdly. Different times of year, I suddenly like the mornings. I don’t know. I don’t have a reason for that. Yeah, generally speaking, night owl.
John: The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Mark: Favorite thing I own. I’m not very much a things person, but I have a keyboard. I like playing my keyboard. I’ve had a few different ones over the years. I’d say that’s what I’ve always liked the most is just having a keyboard wherever I live.
John: That’s awesome. That leads right into one of your passions of piano. Obviously, when you’re in New York, you can’t really have a piano in your place, unless you want to sleep on it.
John: This is my baby grand slash bed slash Murphy bed. You just pull down a piano bed.
Mark: I’m sure somebody has done it.
John: Yeah, totally. Actually, that would probably cost a lot more and only happen in New York. Yeah, so did you grow up playing piano? How’d you get started with that?
Mark: Yeah, I grew up taking lessons like a lot of people, taking classical music from a young age. I think I was around five or six. It was your typical parent saying, “Hey, you’re going to play piano whether you like it or not.” That era. I wasn’t a huge fan. I never really loved it until into my teenage years, I started to really like it. I play by ear. Something that I actually have is perfect pitch, which I didn’t really know that until also later on.
Mark: I’m not good at reading sheet music. I’m bad at that. I love playing by ear. If someone’s like, hey, can you just play this song? This is just the beat to a rap song or some or just pop song or a song from movie theme. Generally speaking, if I hear it and listen to it several times, I can play it, so it’s something that I’ve grown to love as I’ve progressed through life, and continue to love playing.
John: Yeah. I grew up taking piano lessons as well. It was like, I don’t like this. Then around junior high, my music teacher’s like, here’s the theme song to Cheers, and here’s Billy Joel’s song. I’m like, all right, now we’re talking. But to play by ear, that’s incredible, man. I can always hear when it’s off, but to just listen and then go play, that’s cool noodle around on. That’s awesome, man. Do you have a favorite kind of music to play? I mean, you would throw out a couple of different things.
Mark: Yeah. No, gosh, there’s no genre that I could even say. It’s anything from Coldplay to a Taylor Swift song to Hans Zimmer music. There can be country music. I don’t know. Any song that has a good melody to it, I can get behind it.
John: Yeah. What a great piano song. Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo, doo-doo. People are like, what? I know that one. That’s awesome, man. That’s really, really cool. Is this something that people at work know about? Because you can’t really bring the keyboard to work, I guess, but it comes up.
Mark: Yeah, it is. It’s something that I definitely share at work. There’s a lot of other people that play instruments when you have these conversations. When I do talk about playing piano at work, everyone seems to have either played an instrument at one point in their life, so they love talking about it. Then you hear so often, oh, I wish I kept it up. It’s like, hey, not too late to keep going at it. A lot of people love to talk about playing music, and a lot of people do. A lot of people actually are professionals, they’re still playing an instrument. They just don’t really play often. It’s more that they’ll spend a time doing it. They may really like it, but they just may not play that often.
John: Yeah. It’s one of those things where it takes practice to be good. I’m sure there’s a part of it too where, I don’t practice as much as I used to, so I’m not as good as I used to be. Therefore, I don’t want to tell you about it, sort of thing.
Mark: Yeah, exactly.
John: Everybody likes music, I would imagine. That’s a pretty easy statement to say.
Mark: One guy in my life that said, “I don’t like music,” and I’m just like, what, no genre? He’s like, yeah, I don’t listen to music. I don’t play at all. I’m like, come on. You can’t say that to people, man.
John: Right? Come on, dad. I’m right here. Yeah, I would not trust that person.
John: Not at all. Do you feel like music at all translates to the office? Is there a skill? There’s definitely that relatability, for sure. I would imagine the numbers and the way that music’s broken down, do you feel like that translates over?
Mark: Yeah, I think definitely just the creative expression of it just, there’s certainly the arithmetic function of playing piano or music. I think that actually does, and I don’t know, I may be not correct on this part, but I believe that just playing an instrument can actually help you in quantitative fields and help you in certain thought processes at work. That’s something that I’ve heard before, and that there are people that tend to play instruments tend to be higher performers in the workplace. I don’t know where I read that or saw that, but I’ve definitely heard that at various points. I don’t know the scientific reasons of why that might be the case, but it does, for sure, translate and can make —
John: Yeah, your brain is different, for sure.
John: Even listening to music, but playing music, for sure, there are studies for that. I would imagine just the practice, sitting down and practicing and making time for that is got to be neat. Because I would imagine if I told you you can’t play keyboard anymore, that you would be like, wait, no, I’m not going to be a very good person at work. I’m going to be pretty angry.
Mark: If it was taken away from me, I wouldn’t know. It’s just been part of my life for so long that it just affects my mood. It can make me in a better mood, if I’m having a bad day. It actually can change my mindset. It’s a really powerful thing for me.
Mark: You’re right, I wouldn’t know what to do. If I had to give that up, I would just say, no, that’s not happening.
John: Yeah, and the piano, the cool thing is, is that “and” has been with you. When you take a different job or you get promoted within the firm or whatever, it’s always there. It’s the other side of you. The work side changes, you have a different logo on the computer bag or whatever, but I’m still playing the piano. That’s always there.
Mark: Yeah, absolutely.
John: Let’s cross over to open mics, doing some comedy. How did that get started? Because everybody wants to know that story. I get it all the time.
Mark: From a pretty young age, I was always just someone that liked to just give a speech or just get in front of an audience or make a joke. It was just always an innate thing for me. Early in my career, I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina at the time. I just saw this opportunity to take comedy classes and then to get to perform at the top comedy club in Charlottesville. I was like, this seems really.
John: The Comedy Zone?
Mark: The Comedy Zone. Yeah, you’re familiar.
John: Yeah, been there.
Mark: I was like, this seems really cool. I like comedy, and I do it informally, but I said, I’ve never really actually performed. So, did a bunch of classes and learned how to write and learned how to perform and then performed. I invited some coworkers and friends to that performance, got really good feedback, so I was like, yeah, this is really fun. That’s how I initially got into it. I never thought, okay, is this going to be a hobby, long term? A couple of years later, I moved to New York City, all work-related, but there was just such a huge comedy scene here that was just a big byproduct of living here. I was like, wait a minute. There are open mics, opportunities everywhere here, so I was like, I’m going to absolutely continue to do this. That’s what I’ve been doing. It’s like a great bonus for me, living in a city like New York, to have a lot of opportunities to do open mics. Not talking about in the last year of the pandemic but.
John: Sure. Obviously.
Mark: In general, it’s a great city for that, and it’s given me the ability to do these.
John: It’s easily the capital of stand-up comedy, for sure. LA is more acting. Chicago is more the improv. New York is stand-up. That’s where the best are. That’s super cool. Also that you invited coworkers to that first show, which might be the best show of your life.
Mark: I was a little hesitant about it. It was like, in the thought process, should I really do this? I was pretty self-deprecating during that time, but it worked out well. Because it’s one of those things when you talk about doing comedy in the professional side, you get certain people that will raise their eyebrows. Most people think it’s really cool. At the same time, it’s like, oh, what, you’re doing this as a hobby? You’re doing this regularly? Some people can be a little judgmental of that at times.
John: Totally. Or they hear stand-up comedy, and they think it’s really foul or vulgar or whatever. It’s like, no, it doesn’t have to be.
Mark: It doesn’t have to be at all.
John: It just has to be funny. That’s all it has to be, and there are so many of us that aren’t that. That’s cool, man. That’s cool that you invited, I mean, I remember doing that. When you’re new in comedy, it’s just like when you’re new playing the piano, except for your kids, people are like, well, it’s a kid, whatever. When you’re doing stand-up, you’re new, you’re not good. No one is. Even Louie CK and Chris Rock and Ellen and all those people, they were terrible at first, but you don’t see those tapes.
Mark: Oh, sure. I’ve had my share of open mics that have just been crickets. I was like, this joke will kill, for sure, and just absolutely no reaction. I was like, well, maybe not, maybe not. It’s funny. You have this expectation sometimes, and your jokes can go completely just lopsided.
John: Well, soon enough, you’ll reach the point where that actually becomes funnier than when a joke lands properly. When you completely miss, you’re like, actually, that’s hilarious. That’s so funny.
Mark: That’s right.
John: You’re like, whatever. There’s got to be skills that translate over from that to work, in some way.
Mark: Oh, for sure. I didn’t really think about it actually until I started listening to your podcast and thinking about it a little more, how some of your hobbies can translate in the workplace. For comedy, for one, I think there are two aspects to it. There’s a performing aspect of just public speaking performing part, which that certainly translated into whether you’re running a meeting, facilitating a meeting, or being a spokesperson. Any kind of speaking capacity, function you might have at work, I think it has a direct translation to being a stronger employee.
Then I think there’s the more connecting with your audience aspect to it, of constantly, in comedy you think about what works and how will this be perceived. You have to think about that at work, too. It’s like saying things a certain way with certain types of employees, with certain types of bosses or clients. That certainly helps. You’re a little bit more thoughtful about your messaging or how you might communicate with people. I never really thought about that. I just took it for granted. It probably has helped in a lot of different work settings over my career, but I just probably haven’t even really fully reflected on that. I’m sure there have been times when it certainly has.
John: Yeah. It’s a cool, accidental byproduct. I remember my first time, first open mic went well. The second open mic the next week, I thought, well, I can go off on tangents like you do with your friends. The thing is, strangers don’t do that. They’re like, get to the joke, get to the thing. Your communication is so much leaner, after doing comedy, and I just get so frustrated with people that just ask a lot of questions. Because especially in comedy, when a comedian’s like, has anybody else had their car stolen? I want, one time, for the whole audience to just yell, no. Because you’re going to do the joke anyway, why do you ask that stupid, just do the joke.
Mark: Yeah, that was what I was taught when I took these classes. It was, you’ve got to get to the funny. People don’t want the whole story. They’re there to laugh. They don’t want the whole backstory or these unnecessary setups. It’s just like, hey, make us laugh.
John: Yeah, pretty much. It’s the same at work. It’s like, look, I don’t have time for this. Get to it. What are we doing? What’s up? Sometimes you make it stretch just a little bit to make that punch hit, but you know when and why. That’s cool, man. It’s definitely a skill that, and plus that you get a thick skin when you’re up there onstage, throwing jokes, and nobody laughs.
Mark: Oh, yeah, you’re in a really vulnerable spot. When you’re trying to do comedy, you’re being judged for everything.
John: Literally every, before you even say a word.
John: This guy? Really? You haven’t even heard me talk. Come on, man. It definitely makes you a lot better. Before you got into comedy, talking about piano was definitely something that you would share. Was there ever a part of you that was like, maybe I shouldn’t tell them that I play the piano or tell them that I do comedy because they’re going to, who knows what?
Mark: Yeah. Piano was never a concern because it didn’t give this perception that I’m taking time away from my work hours to do this thing. It’s, let’s just presume, let’s just presume that, hey, you can play piano pretty easily. I think comedy, when you say you do that, it’s like, wait, so that means this is a fixed time that you do these things where you attend these shows or do these open mic, that means that, you can’t just do that for 20 minutes like you can with piano. If you went to a venue, you did this, and you were there for a predetermined time. I think that’s a little bit becoming like, oh, how serious of a professional are you if this is important to you or if you really like this is? What do you care about more, is a perception that you might get from certain people, and certainly not everyone. That is something that can happen in certain conversations.
John: Do you feel like that’s been the case? Or is it mostly in your head?
Mark: I would say mostly in my head. I think most people, if you tell them you do comedy, actually that’s one of those hobbies that people think is really, really fascinating and cool. They just immediately say, I want to hear you.
John: Right. You’re like, ah.
Mark: Yeah, exactly. Then I immediately start almost pushing back. Yeah, in a few years more.
John: Yeah. Right. Wait till I’m at Gotham, and then I’ll invite you.
Mark: Yeah. There are these certain types of employees that are the judgmental type that really just don’t, I don’t think that’s cool that you’re doing something outside of work. That’s taking time away from work you could be doing. I would not call that the majority, but there certainly are in any organization.
John: Yeah, and they’re going to judge you, no matter what it is that you do. They probably judge that you, what, you play the piano? Why aren’t you reading more FASBs? What? It’s crazy sometimes, but it is so much in our own head because you’re worried that everyone’s going to be like that. Actually, 99% of people are like, what? That’s awesome. I want to come. When’s your next show? All that. Yeah. You’re like, I got laryngitis. I can’t do it now. That’s funny. How important is it that an organization creates that space for people to be able to share intentionally, this is the thing we do? Or how much is it on the individual just to start that conversation of, hey, I play the piano, what instruments do you play, or things like that?
Mark: Yeah. I certainly think it’s a two-way street there. Organizations, for sure, could do a better job of encouraging people to have something that’s not everything they do has to be work-related. That would be great to have that encouragement from people’s bosses, from teams, setting that expectation that, hey, this is okay. I think people will start feeling more comfortable that it’s okay to have this hobby or passion. I do think you’re right, that it’s also incumbent on the employee to try their best to go ahead and do this thing. If something is really important and gives you more satisfaction and makes you in a better mood every day, then try to do those things.
I was having a conversation with a former coworker, a couple days ago. She’s just like, you know that sounds great, but I have three kids, and my job is so demanding. I don’t know where to start. I don’t even spend time watching TV or doing anything. I don’t know. To me, I don’t necessarily have an answer for everyone. In a broad spectrum, I absolutely think everyone should strive. Then I get conversations like that. I’m like, let me get back to you. Let me think about what you can do when you have that just completely packed up schedule.
John: Yeah. Because it’s not something that you have to do every day or even every week or even every month. It’s just like, once a quarter, I block out time to do something that lights me up.
John: It’s going to make you better, like you said earlier. It just makes you happier, and that’s going to make you better at work. In all the research I’ve done, if your outside-of-work is chaos, then your inside-of-work is never going to be good. The more that leaders in organizations can nurture the outside-of-work, then inside-of-work will happen. You don’t have to force them to do this side. They know why they’re getting a paycheck.
John: That’ll happen. It’s just they don’t necessarily take care of that, which is a shame. What’s really scary is people just forget. For that lady, I would just ask, well, what did you use to like to do before you had three kids and before work was demanding? Well, it’s probably still there. That little fire is still there. Let’s just fan it a little bit and build it up. Do you have any words of encouragement to anybody listening that maybe thinks, I have this hobby, but no one’s going to care because it has nothing to do with my work?
Mark: Yeah, I would say that, absolutely, pursue a hobby even if it’s in small doses because sometimes people have this idea that’s floating around, I want to try this or do this. Maybe it’s that they need to try a few different things. Maybe if they try something, they try a hobby or a passion, and that’s not maybe the perfect answer, so they try something else. I would say, in general, to explore different options. Don’t be necessarily hung up on just one thing that you think is going to be the answer for you, outside-of-work, but I would say to be open-minded about what a hobby or passion could look like for you, things that you’ve never tried before.
If there is something that it is, for sure, the thing you want to do, I think the idea of being 5, 10 years down the road and not having done it, can lead to a lot of regret. That’s something that I would not want to have, to watch years go by. I’ve definitely talked with employees that are in their 40s or 50s. They say they wish they’d focused more with, whether it’s trying to create better balance for themselves or ability to be able to pursue something that is not professional-related. I’ve definitely seen it, seen the regret happen. I’d say that that should drive someone to pursue that, to avoid having that regret down the road.
John: Yeah. What’s super scary is, I had a client, this was several years ago, when they had mandatory retirement at the leadership role. The guy’s like, I have to retire in three years, and I don’t know what I’m going to go do. It’s like, what? That’s crazy. You’re not even really that old. You have a ton of money. You don’t know why you’re going to get out of bed every day? That’s wild. Yeah.
Mark: Yeah. I think that it is as bad as people feeling guilty about having a hobby. It’s almost that bad with some people that they feel like it’s a crime to have this thing. No, no, I just already ruled that out. That’s just not going to be in my life. Maybe someone else’s life, but not mine.
John: Right? My research has shown, studies at Duke, studies at Northwestern and other places, that it just makes you a better professional, hands down. I will fight anybody on that, for sure.
Mark: Yeah, and I think it goes to just being a more interesting person, in general, can help you be a better professional and connect with people better too. Whether you’re in the business of trying to find new clients or whatever it is you do, just developing relationships with people, if you have these things that you can talk about, I think you’re just naturally a more interesting person and more interesting conversationalist. That’s going to end up probably driving business, if that’s the pillar, and whether it’s your business development, whether it’s your relationship with your coworkers or counterparts.
John: Yeah, you’re exactly right. Because clients and customers also have outside-of-work interests and other dimensions to who they are, so it definitely can be a good thing. Mark, this has been super awesome, but I feel like it’s only fair, before we bring this in for a landing, that I turn the tables because I very rudely peppered you with questions in the beginning. We’ll make it the first episode of The Mark Menezes Podcast. Thanks for having me on. Here we go. I’m your guest. I’m all yours.
Mark: All right. Well, I believe that you are a Notre Dame guy, so my rapid-fire question is either who is your favorite Notre Dame player, coach or your favorite Notre Dame football moment, anything Notre Dame-related?
John: Easily, my favorite Notre Dame football moment was nine years ago, the 2012 undefeated season. We were playing Stanford at home, and it started to rain in the second half, fourth quarter especially, raining, as much as I hate rain that I established earlier. It’s pouring rain, and you’re to the bone drenched. It was a goal line, fourth and goal in overtime. Manti Teo stops the linebacker at the one-inch line. We win on fourth down, place goes nuts. Everyone’s pouring onto the field. Because in college football, you don’t know when, it’s going to happen or not, and, boom, here it is, fourth and goal. That was awesome. That was a really cool game.
Mark: Really cool moment, yeah.
John: Favorite player probably, all time, I don’t know, the Rocket was pretty awesome. Rocket Ismail. He was before my time, but he was pretty awesome to watch. Definitely, yeah, college football in general, but Notre Dame especially.
Mark: Yeah, cool. Now I understand that you know Lou Holtz or had a history with him, which is awesome. We got him at South Carolina, and then he started not being a good coach once he came over there. Or we’re just not, we just can’t, I mean.
John: It happens, man. It happens. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. Lou Holtz is easily my favorite coach, though.
Mark: They all have their moments when they they’re going to slip, eventually.
Mark: The only other question I can think of is, what year will the first human be on Mars?
John: Oh, wow. That’s a good question. That’s a good question.
Mark: Given a ten-year window to be, if you want to just —
John: I think it’ll be in ten years. I think it’ll be in ten years. Elon Musk is all over it.
Mark: Well, he wants to potentially die on Mars.
John: Yeah. I think I’ve read something where it was like, hey, look, we need people to go, and you might not come back. People are signing up because I think after 2020, they’re like, you know what, whatever gets us off of this one, I’m all for it because they don’t have COVID on Mars. Or maybe they do. I don’t know. Maybe that’s where it came from. Yeah, I bet in 10 years. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that happens.
Mark: That’s aggressive. That’s much more aggressive than what I thought, but, hey, only time will tell.
John: Exactly. We’ll have to revisit this. Yeah, we’ll have you back for the follow-up. You’ll be like, John, I’m on Mars. I’ll be like, what?
Mark: I’ll give up piano, give up comedy. I’ll just take trips to Mars back and forth.
John: Right. That’s my “and”. I go to Mars on weekends. All right. That’s cool.
Mark: Bars are great there.
John: Right. That’s awesome. Well, this has been so much fun, Mark. It’s really cool to have you be a part of What’s Your “And”? Thanks so much.
Mark: Thanks, John. It was great to be with you.
John: Awesome, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Mark in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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.
Shaun is a Technical Editor & Comedian
Shaun Hunley talks about getting into comedy and how it helped him overcome shyness in the office. He also discusses how he overcame the fear of what other people in the office thought of him as a comedian and differentiating yourself in your profession and hobby!
• Getting into comedy
• How his experience in comedy has helped his career
• People’s expectations on and off stage
• Skills he has brought to the office through comedy
• Overcoming what people think of us
• What helped him open up about his comedy at the office
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 271 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and,” because you’re more than one thing. There’s parts of you that are above and beyond your technical skills and there are things that actually differentiate you when you’re in the office.
I’m so excited to let everyone know my book is being published in just a few months. 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 changing the cultures where they work because of it. And the book will really help to spread this message.
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 week. And this week is no different with my guest, Shaun Hunley. He’s a Senior Technical Editor with Thomson Reuters and prior to that, was a Tax Manager in Public Accounting. And now, he’s with me here today. Shaun, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Shaun: Hello, John. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
John: Oh, of course, man. A tax person, I don’t even know what you guys do. So God bless you, man. I got a C plus in that class in accounting and never did it again, even my own taxes.
Shaun: Well, it can be very dramatic and tragic as what you probably experienced in that class.
John: Exactly. I was like, “Isn’t this make belief? We should just do this like a Sudoku puzzle and just put numbers in random columns and it’s all good.”
Shaun: Yeah, absolutely. That’s how it works.
John: Well, good for you man. Good for you. But I always start my episodes with rapid-fire questions. So it’s getting to know Shaun right out of the gate here. I’ll start you with a pretty easy one. Favorite color?
Shaun: Believe it or not, it’s gray.
John: Gray. Okay. That’s a very tax person answer.
Shaun: I don’t think I’m really depressed or sad, but I do love gray and it goes well with almost everything.
John: That’s true. That is an excellent point. And it’s not as dark and jaded as black.
Shaun: It’s a step up. Yes.
John: How about a least favorite color?
Shaun: Least favorite color? I’m going to go with the purple.
John: All right. That’s a solid answer, solid answer. Are you more pens or pencils?
Shaun: Definitely pens.
John: Yeah. Nice. Okay. How about Sudoku or crossword?
Shaun: Definitely crossword puzzles.
John: Crossword. Okay. All right. All right.
Shaun: I don’t like Sudoku. I don’t want to learn that. No.
John: Right. Because then you’ll start doing taxes that way. That’s why.
Shaun: That’s right.
John: Right. How about oceans or mountains?
Shaun: Ooh, I’m going to go with ocean because I was born in Hawaii, so I’m partial to the beach. I do love mountains as well, especially where I live in Georgia. There are some beautiful mountains. Though people in the West would call them hills. They’re not the Rocky Mountains, but they’re beautiful anyway. So I’ll go with ocean though.
John: Okay. All right. Oceans it is. How about a favorite band or musician?
Shaun: Oh, my gosh. I was going to say Bon Jovi because that was the first cassette tape I purchased in the early ‘80s. It was Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi. I’m surprised my parents let me get that one, but they probably didn’t know any better, but I’ll go with Bon Jovi.
John: That’s great, man. That’s awesome. Very cool, very cool. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Shaun: Definitely an early bird. I can’t stay up past 10:00.
John: Okay. That’s awesome. How about more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Shaun: Star Wars for sure.
John: Yeah. Okay. And your computer, PC or a Mac?
Shaun: Right now, a PC. I used to love Macs. Then I converted back to a PC.
John: Absolutely. So then on your PC, on your mouse, right click or left click?
Shaun: Left click.
John: Okay. Making decisions. That’s where it’s at. That’s like clicking on stuff. Yeah. Absolutely. How about a favorite animal? Any animal?
Shaun: A whale.
John: A whale?
Shaun: It’s my spirit animal.
John: And it’s your spirit animal. Okay.
Shaun: It is. I have a lot of whales in my house and on my clothing. It’s a little strange, but that’s just how I feel.
John: And is it a specific whale or just all of them?
Shaun: Just all of them. Just a nice, big, fat whale.
John: Okay. I love it, man. That’s awesome. And they’re great usually, so that’s great. Or that’s how they are in cartoons anyway.
Shaun: It’s my personality. Sure.
John: That’s unbelievable. Okay. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?
Shaun: Oh man, that’s hard. I was going to say Hawaii, but I’ve already talked about Hawaii. I’m going to go with Trinidad, the island of Trinidad.
John: Yeah. Not so much Tobago, but the Trinidad part. Yeah. I’ve never been.
Shaun: Well, Tobago is also beautiful, but it’s a little harder to get to and it’s more expensive, so go to the Trinidad.
John: Okay. All right. Yeah. I’ve never been to either. I’ve always just heard them lumped together. All right. Very cool, very cool. How about — this is a tough one — cheeseburger or pizza?
Shaun: I’m going to go with pizza because I used to live in New York City and I love New York City pizza. Nice thin, crisp crust baked in a wood burning oven.
John: Oh yeah, a legit pizza. Absolutely. How about a favorite number? Any number?
Shaun: I’ll go with 12.
John: Oh, okay. Is there a reason?
Shaun: I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because that’s the day I was born, but it’s a nice number. I like even numbers. Yeah.
John: Absolutely. How about more suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?
Shaun: Jeans and a t-shirt. Absolutely. I work from home so I never dress up.
John: You didn’t even have to think about that one. That was awesome. Two more, two more. More Balance Sheet or Income Statement?
Shaun: I’ll go with Income Statement because I don’t like when things balance to be honest with you. And me, myself, I’m not very balanced, so let’s go with Income Statement.
John: I love it. Okay. Just in the name alone, it drives me — yeah, that’s hilarious. And the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Shaun: The favorite thing I own is a small painting by a local artist here in Georgia. He signs his paintings with the name Cornbread. That is not his real name. Everyone asks me, “What does this mean?” It’s his nickname. And he paints a lot of birds. I have a painting he did call Guineas. I just really love it. It’s a folk art type of painting and I love that.
John: Very cool. That’s fantastic. Yeah. You’ve got to get him to do a whale.
Shaun: Yeah. That’s right. Sure.
John: Your worlds are colliding.
Shaun: Yeah. I’d have to include that part. That’s right. That’s right.
John: That’s very cool, man. Yeah. Let’s talk. Yeah. I mean sketch comedy and improv and all that, I mean how did you get started with that?
Shaun: It’s interesting because I’ve loved comedy since I was a little kid. I remember in the early ‘80s watching Saturday Night Live, which, again, I don’t know why my parents let me do that, but I mean maybe back then, it was cleaner. I don’t know. But I remember looking at people like Jan Hooks, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, all these classic comedian.
I remember watching this one skit with Jan Hooks. She was playing the Sweeney Sisters. I don’t know if you remember that. There were two women, sisters who would sing at this nightclub act type thing. And I remember watching that and thinking it was hysterical. I was like, “I want to be like that. I want to be a performer and make people laugh.” But as a kid and as a teenager, I was extremely shy. So I did not get up in front of people. With my friends, I was funny, but not with strangers. I was too shy.
When I got into college, believe it or not, I just had this desire to perform. I remember telling my roommates in college, “I am going to be in a comedy troupe at some point. So what happened is I took an improv class from the founder of one of the improv groups that was very popular at the time. I did it just to get noticed. I was like, “Oh, I want him to see me so when I try out, I can make it.” It went okay. But honestly, improv is very hard. You’ve got to be quick on your feet. There are some rules to improv. I had to learn like you always say yes, for example, which I like to say no to people a lot. So it was tough.
John: Right. That’s not what I was thinking. We’re going over here. Why are you in the garage?
Shaun: Let’s change course.
John: Right. Exactly.
Shaun: Yeah. It was a good experience. He said, “Yeah. You did a good job. Go ahead and try out.” But when the tryouts came, the group actually had disbanded. So I was a little bummed that they were no longer around, right? But then my roommate said, “haven’t you heard of this other group? They don’t do improv. They do sketch comedy.” And I said, “Hey, why not? Let me go ahead and try out for that group.” That’s how I got interested and that’s how I got into performing. It was in college.
John: That’s awesome. I mean I also grew up with that SNL class. I mean the Dana Carvey and the Mike Myers and Phil Hartman. Then Tim Meadows was there forever, I think. Then later on, it was the Adam Sandler and the Chris Farley and the David Spade group. I mean just all amazing. Then In Living Color came around and Jim Carrey and all of the Wayans family basically. That was awesome. I mean that’s what I grew up on as well and watching all that. And even The Kids in the Hall from Canada. Those guys were hilarious. Just seeing all of that. But I didn’t think it could be like, “Wow. You do that for a living? That’s crazy,” type of a thing.
Shaun: Exactly. Yeah. And I always thought that that’s something I would never do because everyone on those shows, they seem so fearless and extroverted. Whereas I did not feel, as a kid, like I was very extroverted. I was very introverted. But now as an adult, I would say that if I need to put it on and be extroverted, I can do it. And that’s how I’ve got through my career, by teaching and presenting at conferences and doing things like that. Comedy has really allowed me to tap into that extroverted side of me and also to overcome some of the fears that I had getting up in front of people and thinking, “Oh, no. They’re judging me. They’re going to make fun of me,” things like that. So it’s been a great experience leading into this career I have now.
John: I hear you. And the ironic thing is that most people that do comedy for a living are pretty introverted. We really are. I mean Adam Sandler is insanely introverted. I mean even when he’s on stage doing his stand-up a lot of times he’ll just be looking down and not — it’s a different thing. I mean Chris Farley, of course, was just an animal all the time. But for the most part, they’re just quiet, introverted people. What we think of people isn’t always the case because I thought the same thing. It’s like, “Man, these people are hilarious all the time.” No. They’re just regular people. Doctors don’t go around with a stethoscope checking people’s hearts everywhere they go. It’s like just dial it down. So kudos to you for giving that a shot, man. That’s really brave.
Shaun: Yeah. It’s interesting you mentioned that about people’s expectations because when I was in college, all my friends, sometimes, they’d look at me and say, “Why are you not smiling? Why are you not jumping up and down? Why are you not making us laugh?” I was like, “Well, I’m a human being. What you see on stage is not necessarily me all the time. It’s just a facet of me. It’s just a part of my personality.” So it’s interesting you mentioned that because that was hard overcoming people’s expectations at times.
John: Yeah, I know. I mean I get the same thing. When I started doing stand-up, I would go to whether it’s the networking thing or even just a party at someone’s house or whatever. And people would be like, “He hasn’t said a funny thing all night.” “Well, yeah, because I don’t have to. I’m not getting paid. I’m not on stage. This isn’t — I mean we’re just hanging out.” The person that’s always on I find is exhausting. That’s just an obnoxious jerk. It’s like you’re actually probably not very good. If we threw you on a stage in this show, you’re going to not probably do very well. I’ve seen that happen so many times. And it’s kind of satisfying to be honest when you see that person and it’s like, “Oh, yeah.” Then the quiet shy person gets up there and just lights it up. But that’s really brave of you to do that. And that’s really cool.
Shaun: Thank you.
John: So sketch comedy being like Saturday Night Live where it’s written scenes and a full-on show that’s kind of improv based but it’s written and performed.
Shaun: Yes. Everything was written down. Everything was scripted. There were times where I would write the scripts. But I would say most of the time, I did not write them. I was better at performing than writing, which now in my career I’d say has flipped, definitely better at writing now. But we used to do two hours shows of pure sketch comedy. We didn’t do it every week like SNL does it. We would do maybe four or five shows a month.
John: Oh wow, that’s impressive.
Shaun: Yeah. It’d take about a month to write all of the original skits. Then at the end of the semester in college, we would do like a “best of” which would be all the best skits that people liked and we put that into one show.
John: That’s pretty awesome man. Did you do it for just one year or —
Shaun: I did it for two years. After my undergrad, I went to law school. I thought, “I can’t be funny anymore, right?” I’m in law school. But there were times where I would go back and do guests performances with them. So I did it consistently for two years. Then probably another year, year and a half, I’d go back now and then to perform with them.
John: As an alum.
Shaun: Yeah, like as an alum. Yeah.
John: That’s really fantastic and a lot of work. I mean people have no idea. I mean to write a sketch, it’s hard. And to act it out and to get everyone on the same page and that it’s funny and legit and it rolls into maybe what the next sketch is going to be so it’s a seamless show, that’s a lot of work.
Shaun: It really is. I’ll never forget one of the guys who had been at the troupe for a long time, he would tell me, “There’s a difference between being funny with your friends and then being funny on stage in front of an audience.” And that’s something I really had to learn, especially that first year in writing skits, that I was not making my friends laugh. I was trying to make a large group of people laugh. And it’s just so much different.
John: Oh yeah. In the inside joke kind of references sort of thing.
Shaun: You can’t really do that with them necessarily.
John: Exactly. Yeah. Or strangers won’t go along with you if you’re off on a tangent. Then you come back, your friends are like, “Oh, okay. Well, whatever.” The general public will be like, “What the hell? I don’t even know what he’s talking about anymore and what the funny is. Just forget it. I’m done.” That’s awesome, man, and what a great skillset I would imagine that applies to work. I mean through law school and then you get into the the tax world, did you find that that gave you a skill that you brought to the office? I mean you already said that you’re able to turn it on when you’re speaking or teaching. But did you find it in the corporate world as well?
Shaun: Absolutely, especially with clients because I am usually introverted. But most clients I would say don’t necessarily appreciate that especially when you have a first meeting with them. They want to see that you’re passionate about what you’re doing and that you can answer their questions correctly. So I think the performing side of me would show through when I would meet with clients. It just helped me be more personable with them and I guess more animated. And I think it was good because a lot of people think tax people are boring, very introverted as well. A little dry, I guess you would say.
John: Yeah. Or just no personality.
Shaun: Just, yeah, lacking personality, which is not true. It’s definitely not true. So I think clients were surprised sometimes when they met me because I wasn’t that stereotype of a tax professional, right?
John: Yeah. And come to find out from doing the podcast that you’re right. I mean the stereotype is actually you. The stereotype is people that have multiple dimensions to them and other interests than a real personality and they’re normal people. And that’s encouraging to hear that, I mean, clients gravitate to that. They already assume that you’re good at the tech side because you work for a firm. I mean it’s got to be done right. It’s just it’s going to be done by somebody that is a normal person that I can relate to and have a normal conversation with.
Shaun: Absolutely. I think clients appreciate obviously when you’re technical and you know the answers. But what they appreciate even more is when you can talk to them like a normal human being and say these technical things in everyday language where they can understand their situation. And that’s what comedy has helped me with. It’s taking these technical things that maybe they don’t need to know all those details but I can then translate that for them where they can understand.
John: I mean that’s it right there. That’s so powerful because I’m going to bet that at no point in your business education or law school, did anyone ever tell you, “Go do comedy because it’ll make you better at your job.” And yet it clearly did. I mean it clearly did and you just nailed it. I mean clients don’t need to know how you did the tax return or what line item this goes to. I don’t even care what’s the end result and what are you saving me. Yeah, if you know the answer, that’s great. And if you don’t, you know who does. So you’ll help me because you’re a normal person. That’s really powerful. It really is. Did you ever share this side of you with clients or co-workers, that you had this sketch comedy gene that you developed in college?
Shaun: At first, no. Honestly, I felt — like I said earlier, when I went to law school, I felt like I can’t be funny anymore because lawyers are not funny, they’re serious, which is not true. That was the stereotype I was thinking about.
John: Totally. Yeah.
Shaun: So when I got into my first job, especially at a Big Four firm, I just felt like I couldn’t share that with others because they would think that I was not serious enough. They wouldn’t take me seriously. But I did have a few close coworkers that knew and I would share that with them. And they loved it. I think they really relate to it. So it took me a while to share that with more and more people at these firms.
John: Yeah. No, I hear you. I mean I was the same way. For the most part, it was just if people asked, “What did you do this weekend.” “Oh, I drove to the city and did a comedy show.” They’re, “Wait, what?” Was I supposed to say nothing? I didn’t know what I was supposed to say. I didn’t do it on purpose but it accidentally led to really cool things. Then when people find out, it’s always a positive experience. There’s follow-up questions. Then you can have conversation. There’s something that you have in common there. So it’s cool to hear that once you did, it was positive.
Shaun: Absolutely. And even at my current job at Thomson Reuters, I don’t think a lot of people know that’s what I used to do unless they look at my Twitter handle for example. They don’t really know, “Oh yeah, you did sketch comedy. Tell me a little more about that.” And it surprises them. But what I’ve been telling people lately is, “I used to be funny and I’m not funny anymore, so don’t expect me to make you laugh because I’m not going to do it.”
John: No, no. This podcast proves you wrong right there, buddy. You’re hilarious.
Shaun: But then they laugh, so, yes, I did make them laugh.
Shaun: It’s interesting overcoming, I guess, what you think people will perceive you as if you say you like things that are traditionally not associated with a tax professional.
John: Which is pretty much anything except for more tax work.
Shaun: Right, or setting the code. I mean I’ve known people at Big Four who they would read the tax code on the weekends and that was fun for them. That’s fine. Go ahead and do that. But for me, that wasn’t me. That wasn’t the essence of me.
John: Right. And the important thing is that both of you are okay. It’s totally okay to be all work all the time if you want to be, but it’s also 100% okay to have other interests and other passions. I think for too long, in our own heads or professionalism or whatever it is, one side has bullied the other. Then it’s the smaller percentage that has bullied the vast majority of us and just conforming to something that we’re really not. And it’s so powerful to hear you say that, that overcoming what people think of us. It’s really the hardest part of all of this, I think. And even for the two of us, of which I’ve done something that most people would consider to be the hardest thing on the planet, which is getting in front of strangers and making them laugh, even we were scared.
John: We’ve faced down some scary stuff and not blinked. Yet you put us into an office, talk about your hobby. “Ugh, I’ve got to go.”
Shaun: Yeah. Head down, eyes down. You don’t talk about it.
John: Yeah. Was it just confidence and your own technical skills or you were there long enough? What do you think it is that helped you to open up?
Shaun: That’s a great question. When I started proving myself to my co-workers that I knew what I was doing, that I was technical and once they thought, “Ooh, I can go to Shaun for questions,” then I thought, “Okay. I’ve proven myself and now, I can open up about this passion that I have.” And I think that they responded well to that.
John: No, and that makes complete sense. I mean especially something that’s like comedy where they’re going to have a predisposed, “It’s foul mouth. That’s dirty. It’s inappropriate. It’s a clown show. He’s not serious about anything.” Something like that is definitely — it’s important to let people know that that’s just a piece of you. There’s all these other pieces of you as well that are not that. And you’re not even that anyway. I think that that’s the hardest part. It’s people having to overcome themselves really. It’s the biggest barrier. Awesome, man. Well, do you have any words of advice to anybody listening that might have a hobby or a passion that they think has nothing to do with their career?
Shaun: Absolutely. Just go for it, right? That fear because when you let fear go and you overcome it, then you progress as a human being and you become successful not only in the hobby you’re pursuing, but also the job that you have, your normal job. So just do it. Overcome that fear. Don’t worry about what your co-workers think because all of us have different interests and hobbies and we can all be good at something. So just go ahead and do it. It’s my advice.
John: That’s so great. It’s only fair to let you be the host now and turn the tables because this has been so much fun. But before I wrap it up, to let you rapid-fire question me if you like, since I so rudely fired away at you at the beginning.
Shaun: Oh, okay.
John: So you’re now the host of this show, Shaun. Here we go.
Shaun: John, what do you prefer? A sketch comedy or an improv type comedy?
John: That’s really tough.
Shaun: You can answer with what you like to do versus what you like to see.
John: If it comes to those two — because stand-up’s a whole different animal. I think sketch is really great in the sense that really well-written sketches that weave together like what you guys did. You can see at The Second City in Chicago, Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, UCB and The Groundlings in LA where a piece of one sketch either is a thread through the entire show or bleeds into the next sketch which bleeds into the next sketch. I mean that’s just brilliant, well thought out. There’s some homework done there. That’s really impressive. Yeah. So really great sketch comedy is really funny to me.
Shaun: This might not be quick fire, but what is your advice to people who want to get out of a traditional career path? For example, someone in tax, if they want to do something in alternative career, what would you advise them to do?
John: Yeah. Well, I would advise them to keep the career that has the steady paycheck and the benefits and do it as a hobby. To do something that is creative or whatever is really, really, really, really, really, really hard. I mean I can’t stress how hard it is to make a living at something like this. So do it as a hobby and bring it in to work with you because you’re good at the traditional job but you also have this other side to you. So keep that going because that lights you up and that gives you that energy.
I had Mark Windburn on a couple of years ago on the podcast. He referred to singing as him breathing in happy. So breathe in that happy and share it with others. But can you make a living at it or maybe your life circumstances are different? Probably not. Probably not. That’s why it’s a hobby. But you don’t have to be amazing at it. You don’t have to be world class at it. You’re still that. I mean there’s no difference.
Then at some point, you just do it as long as you can, both. Then at some point, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to have the opportunity where circumstances come up and you think you can give it a go, then, yeah. I mean you just — but I think do it as long as possible as a hobby. Don’t just go quit your job because you did one — “Well, somebody bought one of my paintings, so now, I’m a professional painter.” It’s like, “No, that’s insane.” Do not do that. So definitely keep it as a hobby as long as possible. I don’t know if that’s the answer you wanted, but I’m very careful to make sure that people don’t, despite — how my career panned out? I was very fortunate. A lot of things have to go your way to get that to happen. But I also did it as a hobby for years. I mean years. And now that I’m out here, I mean it’s hard. It’s a hustle every single day. You are your own business and it’s difficult.
So I’m very careful to not tell people, “Just quit and follow your passion,” because that’s crazy talk. And anyone that tells you that is a jerk because they’re not being honest. Because for that one person that made it, there’s another 9,999 that didn’t. And I don’t want to be the person that tells you to go do it and then you find me one day and punch me in the face. “You told me I could make it.” “I don’t even know who you are.”
Shaun: You’re right. Right.
John: And that hurts like, “Aw.” Well, thanks, Shaun. I really appreciate it. This has been so much fun catching up with you, having you be a part of What’s Your “And”?
Shaun: Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much. It’s been a great time.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Shaun when he did the sketch comedy or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on that page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture that I’m doing.
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.
(parody of “Firework” by Katy Perry)
Written by John Garrett. https://thejohngarrett.com
Directed and edited by hayman studio. http://haymanstudio.com.
Vocals by Hugh Wilson. http://hugmusic.net/
Shot on location at RKL in York, PA. http://www.rklcpa.com/
Thanks to RKL’s office in York, PA for being so accommodating! It wouldn’t have been possible without their help.
LYRICS:I wake up every day / with a job to do
I might be in charge / but I don’t have a clue
I like acronyms / and my Blackberry
Hold on, I’m blowin’ up / made of TNT
And I already know / you think I’m a jerk
But I don’t care because / I will take credit for your work
Shut my office door / and have a seat
I’ll tell you why I’m great
I just live for my job / that’s right
No dates / at night
Weekends / I’m here
Making you live in fear
Because I am a manager
Smartest one on all the earth
Have my MBA-ay-ay
So you’ll do what I say-ay-ay
Because I’m a manager
Brightest one on all the earth
Have my MBA-ay-ay
Wish you could be me someday-ay-ay
Cool, cool, cool
Because I make all the rules, rules, rules
We will work as late as I say, say, say
And you will never get your way-ay-ay
Because I am a manager
Smartest one on all the earth
Have my MBA-ay-ay
Wish you could be me someday-ay-ay
Cool, cool, cool
Because I make all the rules, rules, rules
Cool, cool, cool
Because I make all the rules, rules, rules
(Lyrics ©JohnGcomedy 2020)
Greg is a Comptroller and Stand-Up Comedian
Greg Kyte returns from episode 3 to discuss with John their shared passion for comedy, update us on his stand-up career, his new live show, and shares stories on how he has applied his comedic passion in the workplace!
• Emceeing conferences
• Importance of a great emcee
• “Comedy Church”; Greg’s new live show
• Applying his passion for religion into his comedy
• Stories from working ‘2003 hours’ at an accounting firm
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
Pictures of Greg Performing Comedy
(click to enlarge)
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 208 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-up Friday edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday I follow up with a guest who’s been on the show from a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work. Also, hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know my book is being published this fall. They’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details, or sign up for my exclusive list and you’ll be the first to know. I really appreciate the support. If you do, you’ll even get a few tracks for my comedy album for free. And please don’t forget to hit Subscribe to the show. You see them in the future episodes every Wednesday and then now with the follow-up Fridays.
This week is no different with Greg Kyte. He’s the Controller at Utah Valley Physicians Plaza and the founder of Comedy CPE. Now, he’s with me here today.
Greg, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? I’m so glad to be here. I mean, we’re pals from way back when, so it’s always nice to circle back around. Not just pals from way back when but our and is the same, so we got that in common. So yeah.
John: Yeah, exactly, which is how we got connected to begin with.
Greg: Yeah, exactly.
John: We didn’t connect over the accounting. That’s for sure.
Greg: Nope, that was not it.
John: We both had the same questions. How do you do a cash flow statement? I don’t know either.
Greg: Right. Do you want me to talk about cash flow statements? Because…
John: As much as I would, but that’s not your and. So we’ll that in a different show, Greg.
Greg: Because at my company, we have non-cash distributions. It screws everything up because the assumption is that the distributions, it’s just a whole thing.
John: It sounds like a whole thing, but I do have rapid-fire questions for you right out of the gate, just so we can see what happens here. So here we go. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Greg: Game of Thrones.
John: Okay. Suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?
Greg: Jeans and a t-shirt all day long.
John: Okay, how about a favorite ice cream toppings?
Greg: Oh, caramel. I love caramel.
John: Interesting. Okay, cats or dogs?
Greg: I have dogs.
John: Okay. Favorite Disney character?
Greg: It would be the genie from Aladdin.
John: Yeah, also hilarious. Also hilarious.
Greg: Yeah. Sorry, but to be specific, the animated Aladdin.
John: Okay, not the thing that came out with a new one.
Greg: All props to Will Smith. He’s amazing, but it’s not. He’s no Robin Williams.
John: Very true. Very true. And I know you fly a lot, aisle or window seat?
John: Okay. And the last one, this one is important, toilet paper, roll over or under?
Greg: Under is an abomination to everything that’s good. Listen, if you invite me to your house and your toilet paper is rolled underhand, I’m changing that because you’re wrong, and I’m probably not going to be your friend anymore.
John: There you go and unfollow on social which is where it really hurts. That’s where it really hurts.
Greg: Right, exactly.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome, man. That’s awesome. So let’s talk comedy. What’s new in the comedy career since we talked in 2015? That’s four years ago, man. That’s nuts.
Greg: So long good. It’s weird because I think when you’re in the thick of it, it seems like everything’s kind of moving along sort of incrementally, but you look back over a span like four years and there’s tons of stuff that’s happened in the last four years because my and is kind of nice, just like with you. You can find a niche at the intersection of the skill you were trained for, accounting, and what the passion is, what the hobby is, which is comedy.
So one of the things that I’ve been able to do a lot over the last four years, which I’ve totally loved, is I have been doing the presenting, I’ve been doing the comedy, continuing education stuff, that’s been great. That stuff kind of comes to me. I don’t do a whole lot of marketing for that. But another thing that’s happened is just emceeing conferences which is great. It’s a little bit risky. There’s a little bit of panic that I get when I’m doing that because it’s not just where you show up and you do your material per se. A lot of it is just you’re rolling with it, you’re given announcements, whatever’s happening.
But that’s been great. I love that to death. I’ve done a few Xerocons. That was a big deal doing it with Jason Blumer with the Thriveal CPA Network, do his stuff, and those have been great. It’s so much fun to be able to go to something like that as a comedian and go, these things aren’t known for being high energy or fun or funny. I’d be able to come in and people go, “What the hell just happened? That was amazing.”
John: Yeah, I mean, exactly because that’s the thing is I don’t think that people understand how important a good emcee is until they see one because they’ve never had an emcee, or it’s been the managing partner or the executive director or you name it. It’s just somebody who does it and it’s like, yeah, but that’s a totally different skill that you need to run a show. It’s something that you learn from doing all the comedy shows which is great, man.
John: I mean, that’s what I do as well. I think what you’re doing too is you’re creating an experience for the people that are there. They’re learning the content but in a way that is something that they’ll remember.
Greg: It’s how to keep people engaged with it because of — I mean, you know this. It’s like, if you space out while somebody is doing comedy, whether you watch it on TV, you’re seeing it live, whatever, you space out during the setup, and then you hear the punch line, you hear everybody laughing, and you go, “I just totally miss something,” and that’s what I did. So there’s a lot more engagement when you do keep stuff fun.
Another thing that — this is actually new as of about a year ago, I’ve also started running my own show, like my own regular live show, here in Salt Lake City called Comedy Church because another interest of mine has always been religion. I was very, very religious for about 20 years of my life, not so much anymore. Still very interested in that kind of stuff. So Comedy Church is basically, like I said, it’s a live show. I’ve got comedians that come in. They do their bits about God and religion and things like that. And then after they do their set, I do a little interview with them just to be like, how is your life intersected with religion? Has that changed over time and where are you now? And it’s been a great show. It’s been fantastic, so much fun.
John: That’s interesting.
Greg: Yeah. And every now and then we’ll get some musical comedian that will come in that will do a song because that was the original idea was just like, let’s do a comedy show that’s about religion that mirrors the format of a church service or religious service. It’s sort of evolved on its own to be what it is. But anyway, so that’s just a blast. A lot of work but a lot of fun.
John: How often do you do that?
Greg: It’s every other week except I take off December because it gets too busy with the holidays, and I take off the summer because it gets too busy with vacation. So every other week in the spring, every other week in the fall. So actually on August 25th, we’re starting back up for our fall season.
Greg: Yeah, and it’s pretty cool. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Wiseguys out here in Salt Lake City, but we started the shows at a bar. It was like a dueling piano bar that actually opened up for us on Sundays which was cool. But then after we proof of concept over there, the guy who owns Wiseguys invited us to move it over to his place. So we’re legit now which is pretty great.
John: Great for you, man. Too legit to quit.
Greg: Too legit to quit.
John: Look at you. You just did the hand symbols. I know you did. I know you did.
Greg: Well, I’ve got my baggy crotch pants, and I just did the little shuffle.
John: I would ask if you could do the dance, but I’ve seen the video. I know that’s enough.
Greg: It is enough.
John: That’s really great, man. That’s really great. I guess one thing that’s always fascinating is just people sharing their hobbies and their passions. Do you find that that’s happening more now or is it still a lot of work to be done?
Greg: Well, okay, it’s funny, John, because I want to say, yes, people are sharing their hobbies more. But I wonder how much my perception of that is skewed because of you and the work that you’re doing because we follow each other on social media. I regularly see posts come up about here’s a CPA. They’re not just an accountant. They’re also Bigfoot hunters or whatever the various ones are called. So I’m seeing a lot of that. I’m just saying, dude, you’re changing the profession, man. You’re making it happen, and I’m seeing it through Instagram, if not in real life as well.
John: Well, thanks, man. I appreciate that. People who are in Instagram, you can go to What’s Your “And”? It’s pretty cool because there’s pictures of everybody, including you, I believe, on the Wiseguys stage even. Everyone’s smiling, like they’re all smiling. They’re happy, and they’re alive. If I were to step into everyone’s office randomly, I’m not sure if everyone would be smiling the same way, unfortunately. So it’s cool to see.
Greg: And here’s the thing too. Just in terms of, specifically, an accounting profession, people sharing their and, I think it has a lot to do with where you’re at and where you’re going in your firm. I believe that once you get to a higher, more visible level at your firm, you’ve got to have more to talk about than just accounting, or else I don’t think you’re going to get there. Or if you get there, you’re going to hate it and everybody’s going to hate you getting there. Do you know what I mean?
Case in point, so I’m a controller, so I do need to work with a CPA firm. I do a lot of the grunt work for the tax return, but it’s super complex tax return, so I pass it on to them at a certain point. Obviously, I can’t review my own financial statements, so they do that. There’s a newer guy who’s starting to work with us from their team. He was real back office. I’d email and stuff, but then I met with him and it was one of those just weird things where — so I was meeting with the partner who’s in charge of it and this guy. This guy, he was just the lump, man. The partner, however, is very outgoing, almost like, “Hey, dude, I think I’m paying you by the hour, so let’s focus, focus.”
John: That’s weird that you’re the one saying to focus, like a weird turn of events.
Greg: Right. But the other guy, like I said, I’m just kind of going, I think he probably is good for being the nameless, faceless guy who’s crunching numbers in his cubicle, but he’s not going to move from there if he doesn’t at least get comfortable, because I got to assume there’s something that he’s interested in more than accounting, and I have zero idea what that is. So if you’re not cultivating that in, if you don’t have it, if you’re not willing to be vulnerable enough to share that with your clients and coworkers, I kind of think that’ll probably limit how far you’re able to go in your firm.
John: I agree 100% because I had someone remember me 12 years after I left the PwC office in St. Louis as the guy who did comedy at night. I had never worked with him. I never met him. He was in the tax department. I don’t even know how taxes work. He was on a different floor. I think everyone deserves, 12 years from now, to have someone say, “I remember you. You were the person that this.” And it’s never work related. It never is.
Greg: The first year that I was in the accounting profession, I worked at a firm. I like to say I worked there for 2003 hours. I probably told you this before. When I was at the firm, I think it was a monthly staff meeting that everybody was supposed to come to. Right after I started there, because I’ve been doing stand-up longer than I’ve been an accountant, so I went to the partner who’s in charge of those meetings. I was like, “What would you think if I did like an accounting update at the beginning of the staff meetings?” What I did is I wrote jokes based on articles in the Journal of Accountancy, and I did like five minutes up front at every single staff meeting. It was a tough crowd. You want to talk about tough crowds, it was a tough crowd. But it was the home team too, so they were cool. One of the partners who, after I did that, maybe three or four times, he came up to me and he was trying to be a little bit under his breath go, “The only reason I come to these meetings is because of you.”
John: That’s great, man. That’s so great. It was a guarantee they remember you.
Greg: Oh, yeah, without a question. Yeah, for sure. Oh, and the managing partner did not enjoy my sense of humor, though.
John: Why it wasn’t 2004 hours.
Greg: There was a guy, I can’t remember his name, but whoever it was, the current president of the — because Barry Melancon is the CEO of the AICPA. He doesn’t change, and he’s a cyborg or something, so he’s never retired. But every year, they get a new president. So whoever the president was, Ernie Escalante, so anyway, something like that, Ernie something, and I just made a joke. I think about his name and the managing partner just completely humorous, says, “I met him. He’s actually a really nice guy.” It was like, oh, my God.
John: You would have laughed harder. You got that joke, Ernie.
Greg: Yeah, exactly.
John: He’s laughing the hardest about that joke. I don’t even know the guy. That’s hilarious, man. It was Bert and Arnie joke, I bet.
Greg: It’s probably something like that. I mean, I guess that’s more just for my own kind of subversive side where it’s like, it’s so nice that one partner is saying the only reason he shows up for it. And then at the same time, I’m like driving the managing partner up a wall because he’s worried that somehow words going to get back to Ernie that I burned him hard in the staff meeting.
John: Right. I mean, clearly, nothing’s going to happen like that, and they’re going to shut the firm down. You’re like, “What’s the worst thing can happen?” It’s crazy. Like, your clients are going to find out that, it’s just dumb. People can build things up so much in their own head. And then when you let it out, it’s like, oh, wow, like everyone does love this, like this is cool.
Greg: Well, exactly. And that’s the thing is that I think that in our profession as accountants, so much of what we think, our perceived value is taking everything very seriously. But that’s bull crap because what people really want is they want to make sure that you’re competent, that you’re trustworthy, and then beyond that, they’re awesome. If you’re somebody who’s like — I mean, it’s countless times that people have told me how refreshing it was that I actually have a personality. So I don’t think that we have to be these severe serious, buttoned-up people all the time. And there’s a time to not to screw around. I think that time is very infrequently, but some discernment is going to help you navigate through that.
John: That’s so perfect, man. And what a great way to wrap it up with a great bit of advice. And it doesn’t even have to be like messing around. It’s just show some personality. I think for you and me, the personality obviously is goofing around. But not everybody has that but show some flavor like the person that you met with, the new person at the firm that’s doing the work for your company, then it’s like, you got to open up a little bit, buddy. Like you got to show some personality here.
Greg: And it takes a little vulnerability, but just I think if people do it, they’ll figure out it’s not really that big of a risk.
John: I would argue riskier to not.
John: That’s great, man. Well, I started out rapid-fire questioning you. So it’s only fair for me to turn the tables and allow you to rapid-fire question me. I have all the bulletproof everything on because I’m so nervous right now for you firing away.
Greg: Question number one, what is the most crucial part of the tax cuts in JOBS act?
John: Oh, the most crucial part is the part where it says “the end.” That’s the most crucial part because then you know you’re done.
Greg: I was still hoping you would have just said, “Oh, paragraph 8.”
John: Right. I don’t even though if there is a paragraph 8. I do know there is a “the end” though.
Greg: I see it, right, right. Okay, so next thing, coffee or running shoes?
John: Running shoes. I somehow missed the coffee train altogether.
Greg: Did you, really?
John: I’m not a coffee drinker.
Greg: You’re not a coffee drinker. I’m not so much of a coffee drinker either, so I’d probably go the same thing.
John: I’m not going to run in the running shoes, but I’ll wear them.
Greg: I mean, I will but I can run about as good as I can dance. And then just the last rapid-fire question for you. What is the worst thing that you’ve ever done in your life?
John: Interview Greg Kyte twice.
Greg: Perfect. There are so many regrets.
John: So many regrets. I can’t even count the number of showers I need right now. So this has been great, Greg. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me again on What’s Your “And”? This was so much fun.
Greg: Absolutely. Yeah, fun for me too, man. Anytime.
John: Yeah, and everybody listening, if you want to see what Greg looks like and be like “No way!” go to whatsyourand.com. There are links to his social media. Follow him on Twitter. He’s got hilarious stuff that he’s posted there with his cartoons that he does. And while you’re on the page, please click that big green 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.
Julie is a CPA and a theatre producer
Julie Incorvina is a CPA and Certified Fraud Examiner, currently celebrating 25 years with Redwitz, Inc. in Irvine, California. She has over three decades of experience in public accounting, specializing in audit and accounting services for non-profits and various for-profit industries.
Julie talks about how her husband got her into theatre production as well as how it provides a creative outlet, and how it helps maintain her managerial skills that she brings to the office. Julie also talks about her own productions she has written and when her theatre is used for movies!
• Opening a theatre with her husband
• Her job as a producer
• Big screen opportunities
• How being a producer translates into the office
• Taking the team out to theatre shows
• ‘The Real Desperate Zombies’ productions
• How the management level in an organization can be a big influence on company culture
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Tom is an accountant and Civil War buff
Tom Bazley, Managing Director of BDO USA, LLP, talks about his passion for researching American history. More specifically, the American Civil War! Tom talks about how he is able to establish a connection with some of his clients through this passion and how it has established a mutually beneficial relationship with lawyer! (more…)
Twyla is an accountant and runner
Twyla Verhelst is the Co-founder of Helm, a cash flow forecasting app and Co-founder of Twenty Eighty, an accounting firm in Calgary, Alberta. Twyla has entrepreneurial experience in accounting, advisory, and software with an underlying passion to help others find their confidence and discover what lights them up. Twyla is committed to empowering bookkeepers and accountants to create the business they desire using tangible tools along with the most invaluable and intangible tool, their authentic self.
Twyla tells us about her journey to become a runner, including some memorable moments like completing a run with her daughter on Mother’s Day, how she started sharing her passion for running in the office, and how sharing this passion has inspired some of her colleagues to run as well!
Graeme is a CEO, Yankees fan, and Shakespeare actor
Graeme Gordon is a British former naval officer, now a CEO of Praxity – Global Alliance. He shares his stories of being introduced to baseball and falling in love with the New York Yankees, to almost accidentally being cast as a producer for a Shakespeare play. Graeme also talks about how these passions are beneficial in social situations in the workplace!
• Being introduced to baseball by a young child
• How he got into acting in Shakespeare plays through his daughter
• Talking about these passions in the office and offering outings to plays for his co-workers
• How acting has improved his speaking skills
• How his passion for baseball serves as a great ice-breaker
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 195 of the Green Apple Podcast. This is John Garrett. 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 just by doing it or even sharing it, it makes them stand out like a green apple in a stereotypically boring red apple world. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and. You’re never going to believe when we talk with Graeme later about his and. He’s the CEO and acts in Shakespeare plays and also as a Yankees baseball season ticket holder, which is amazing, considering he lives in the UK.
But first, I have a quick favor to ask you. If you like the show and are listening on iTunes or your favorite Android app, don’t forget to hit subscribe, so you don’t miss any of the future guests because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. And this week is no different with my guest, Graeme Gordon. He’s the Executive Director and CEO of Praxity which is the largest alliance of independent accounting tax and consulting firms in the world. And prior to that, he had a variety of positions in finance and accounting. I was fortunate enough to hang out with Graeme and meet him last year at the Association for Accounting Marketing Conference. So I know this is going to get crazy in a hurry.
Graeme, thanks so much for being with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
Graeme: It’s great pleasure.
John: I’m so excited to make time. This is going to be so much fun. But as you know, we always start it out with get to know Graeme on another level with my 17 rapid-fire questions.
Graeme: I’m here.
John: Okay, very good. Very good. All right, here we go. When it comes to trilogies, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Graeme: Star Wars.
John: Okay. All right, and your computer, a PC or a Mac?
Graeme: It’s a PC.
John: Okay. When you click on your mouse, right click or left click.
Graeme: Both actually. I’m a happy clicker.
John: There we go. I’ve never had that answer. Awesome. You’re just bragging. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
Graeme: Hot. Oh, God, I moved from Scotland because it’s too cold. I love this place. I’d rather be in Florida than Scotland.
John: Okay, okay. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation? You’ve been all over the world.
Graeme: Well, vacation, Venice, I think.
John: Oh, okay.
Graeme: I got a place in Florida I love to visit because it’s an island. Having said that, I love Scotland. There’s an island in Scotland I love to visit.
John: And what’s the name of that one?
Graeme: You have to roll your R’s there as well.
John: Okay, perfect. I’m practicing. I’m practicing. How about when it comes to financials, going back to your accounting days, income statement or balance sheet?
Graeme: Profit and loss.
John: Okay, profit and loss. I like that. I like that. That’s very British of you. Would you say you prefer more suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?
Graeme: Well, neither actually. It’s a khakis and buttoned down, open-neck shirts.
John: Okay. Okay, kind of an in between. All right. Since you have the accounting background, I have to ask, do you have a favorite number?
John: And is there a reason?
Graeme: Everyone says lucky. The other one is 42 because it’s the answer to everything.
John: Okay. All right, Jackie Robinson’s number. That’s what that is.
Graeme: Well, I was going to say 42 is the most number you’ve got to remember.
John: Oh, yeah. As a Yankees fan, of course. Of course. Yeah. So do you have a favorite Disney character?
Graeme: Yes, I do. It’s Goofy.
John: Ah, good answer. Very good answer. That’s a solid answer there. Would you say more Sudoku or crossword puzzles?
Graeme: I can’t do Sudoku, so I have to say crossword puzzles but neither of them actually.
John: How about a favorite color?
Graeme: It’s red.
John: And how about the least favorite color?
Graeme: What we call green, kiki greens, green — oh, I can’t describe them so that off gray, green.
John: Oh, yeah, like an olive green, sort of like army green almost?
Graeme: Well, it’s halfway between the two, but it’s a bit dull. I remember when we first got married, we got a house back in the ’70s. We thought we were really chic. We got ourselves an avocado bathroom set. Oh, my God. What a mistake?
John: That’s hilarious. Because it came out like the kiki green-ish?
John: That’s very funny. Just you describing it makes me hate the color, and I don’t even know what it looks like. So very well done. It’s a bathroom set. I have to ask — this is an important one — toilet paper, roll over or under?
John: Over. Okay, just making sure it didn’t change as you cross the ocean there. How about a favorite animal? Any animal.
Graeme: Black panther.
John: Oh, good answer.
Graeme: That’s my dream animal, though I actually have had Labradors since I was eight. And my present Labrador, Merlin, is a yellow lab. I absolutely adore him as well.
John: Very cool. Very cool. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Graeme: Derek Jacobi. I think he’s a great actor. I think he’s really underrated.
John: And we got two more, two more. When you’re traveling, especially when you’re flying, more window or aisle seat?
Graeme: Well, I prefer the window seat, but I’ll take the aisle seat because I don’t want to disturb people when I get up to go to the toilet.
John: Right. Yes, exactly. Exactly. And the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Graeme: Well, if I ignore my wife, in one sense, the first time I’ve been allowed to ignore my wife, it would be my dog Merlin.
John: Nice. Very cool, which was the lab that you talked about. That’s awesome, man. That’s very cool. What a great start to this episode. I know you mentioned it in the intro, but I’m so curious how someone from the UK has Yankee season tickets. How does that happen? Basically, let’s just jump right into that. Have you always been a baseball fan?
Graeme: No, no, I have been an American football fan for many years, many, many years and actually was able to have a secondment, two-semester secondment to Penn State and got really into it there. So when I came back to the UK, I was in an American football team over here where I lived. I guess long story very, very short, I got a phone call from Neil Austrian asking me if I wanted to join the NFL and be the financial controller for the London Monarchs. It took me all about two nanoseconds to say yes.
John: That’s so cool.
Graeme: I worked for them for about six or seven years. When I was crossing the States at their offices, of course, as part of a professional team who can get tickets to other professional teams in any way you want. So I thought I’d try looking around and see what anything on the other sports. Now, hockey, ice hockey, I have also liked for some considerable time. So I went to see the Rangers, and I asked if I could go and see the Knicks. They were playing, so it so happened I had to go to Boston and they gave me tickets to see Boston versus Milwaukee, the Bucks. I sat there anyway, two points, two points, two points, and I was absolutely bored to tears. But I then went to see the Yankees. I got tickets that I really could not afford now, just above the Yankees dugout as it turns out.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Graeme: And I turned to this couple sitting beside me, a man and his son. His son must be seven or eight, something like that. He said to him, “Look, you can tell by accent, I’m not local and I’ve never been to a baseball game before in my life. I’ve got to say, to get an eight-year-old baseball fan to describe it to you is perfect because he gave the absolute basics from there. With my knowledge and love of cricket and statistics and numbers and all the rest of it, I was hooked from that day. So this would be back in ‘91, ‘92, something like that. I was trying to get season tickets then because back in the old Stadium, you had to wait your time and I did wait my time. I guess it was about ‘97, it must be earlier, it’s ‘96, sorry, I got season tickets and I went there. I was sitting beside all these guys and got really into it. Of course, the new stadium, they raised the prices, shall we say.
John: By a multiple.
Graeme: Yeah, exactly. And they gave their premium ticket holders first choice. So by the time they got to ours, I was about halfway between third base and the foul pole. If I tell you exactly where it was, when Derek Jeter went in for the dive into the stands, if you see any of those photographs, you’ll see my feet and my son’s feet because we had two tickets.
John: That’s awesome.
Graeme: Yeah, but it’s our feet. We recognize our feet. No one believed.
John: Your shoes should be in the Hall of Fame.
Graeme: If anyone out there knows of a photograph taken from a different angle, because it was obviously taken from behind him, actually we can see our own selves and we can prove that we were there, then I’d love to hear about it. So anyway, so I fell in love that way. Even the new stadium, I was offered the bleachers tickets $10 apiece, and I thought I’m not coming all the way across spending several thousand pounds normally just to sit in a $10 seat in the bleachers which, of course, from about this time of the year onwards are indeed bleachers. I have sat in them a couple of times. So I thought right, I’ll hold that. And lo and behold, I did. So yeah, I got them and now my tickets are in Section 105, which means absolutely nothing if you don’t know Yankee Stadium. It’s in fair territory from the home base. It’s just to the left of the foul pole and about three up in those row 14. It starts at row 11.
John: Right. Because the way it angles there.
Graeme: It’s in a short porch. Lots of poles go over my head. I’ve never caught one in my life.
John: That’s so great. Just going back to when you asked people to explain the rules of baseball to you, I had that happen once. My brother and I were in San Francisco at a Giants game, and we were standing in the standing room only area in the back where Barry Bonds would hit all the homeruns into the water. And there was a college kid that was standing there who was from Austria, I think. And he said, “Can you explain to me the rules of the game?” And I’m like, “Sure.” So I started explaining. I’m like, this is the dumbest game ever. I don’t even know there are so many rules on top of rules because it’s like, well, if he hits the ball and has to go inside the lines or it’s a foul ball but if it’s a pop fly and they catch it outside the lines, then he’s out. But then if he’s — you know what I mean? There were so many different things. So we were kind of okay, and then in about the seventh inning, the pitcher balked. I was like, I don’t even know how to explain it. I can’t even explain it. I don’t even know either. He’s going to first like that’s it. It was pretty funny.
Graeme: You haven’t even got to the unwritten rules. Baseball has got so many of them.
John: Yeah. And now now you’re an expert. So next time that happens, I’m just going to call you and be like, “Can you explain it?” Because I’ve been playing since I was five, so I don’t know why I know all these dumb rules. But, man, what a crazy, crazy game. To explain soccer or football to people, it’s pretty simple. Just don’t use your hands. Unless you’re the people with the long sleeve shirts on and the gloves, then you can use your hands. But otherwise, don’t use your hands. It’s that easy. But baseball, it’s like, what? This is nuts. I didn’t realize how crazy that was until you had to explain it to someone. And then it was like, oh, man, my head hurts.
Graeme: You wait till you try to explain cricket to someone.
John: You know what? You should do that for me some time. I’ll come over and then we can go to a game, and now I have all the questions.
Graeme: You’ve got 12 people who are in till they’re out, then the 12 people that are out come in and then the others go in.
John: There you go. It’s that easy. Come on, John, pick it up. That’s really cool. So how many games do you get to a year?
Graeme: Probably about a dozen.
John: Nice. That’s fantastic. That’s probably more than New Yorkers, to be honest. You just fly in and then take the subway. You don’t eat at the park or anything.
Graeme: Yeah. Someone else pops the train for me.
John: There you go. Yeah, they’re playing. That’s fantastic. Very cool. And then, I guess, is this something that you talk about in the office? I guess since you’ve had them, do your co-workers know about this?
Graeme: My co-workers know about it, but none of them actually have any interest in it after the fact that they are all but one are British and the other one is Romanian. It so happens, we have a gender diversity issue because they’re all female.
John: Oh, wow. That is certainly an issue. I have your back on this one. Plus, it’s such a foreign game to them that they’re just like, whatever. But I mean, I’m sure after you take the trip and you come back, I’m sure they ask, how was it?
Graeme: They do indeed. Usually, they’re interested but more in the case of did I go shopping? Did I go to Sephora and pick anything up?
John: Right. The rest of the New York City experience.
Graeme: My daughters are very happy I go because they want me to go to Sephora. I’m probably one of the few people from over this side of the water who can go into any Sephora store anywhere in the world and get anything you want because I know exactly where it’s going to be.
John: That’s fantastic. You’ve just been to so many. That should be your passion actually. We should just talk about you shopping at Sephora.
Graeme: About four Christmases ago, five Christmases ago, I’ve got three kids, but two of them are girls. They gave me a t-shirt, a black t-shirt with writing on it. It says, “You don’t scare me. I’ve got two daughters.”
John: Right. You don’t even blink anymore at anything. You don’t even look both ways crossing the street. You just go. You’re like, “Whatever. I’m invincible.”
John: That’s very funny. Very funny. But I mean that’s so cool though. That’s your thing and then people know that about you. Do you have Yankee stuff in your office? Okay, that’s definitely a yes right there.
Graeme: Oh, yeah. I have the Yankee helmet when you get the ice cream in.
John: Oh, yeah. Right, the plastic helmet.
Graeme: Yeah. It so happens I’m drinking out of a Yankee’s well-known beer. I’m not drinking the beer. I’m drinking water, those ones with the built-in straw. I drink water in that. It’s got the entwined NY on it.
John: Yeah, you’re bringing it to the office which is really cool. Is that always been something that you’ve done in your career like sharing things, or is it just something now that you’re CEO, you’re like, “Look, no one else can yell at me, so I’m doing it”?
Graeme: No, ever since I fell in love with the Yankees, I have had people know about it. They know what I’m up to and why. If Michael Kay ever wants to retire, I’m taking his job.
John: Right. Yeah, I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a lottery for that as well. Yeah, you’re not the only one that wants that. Yeah, that’s a pretty sweet gig.
Graeme: I’m probably the only one in the lottery who doesn’t have an accent though.
John: Right. From your perspective. Everyone else is like, we have to practice — luckily, the Yankees doesn’t have an R in it or it’s the New York Yankees. We’re rolling the R.
Graeme: It’s like Sterling at the edge. The Yankees win. Yankees win. I can do it. I can do it with the New York Yankees win.
John: Right. See, and everyone will think that their reception just fuzzed out. That was weird. The signal got weird every time he says it. That’s very cool. I know that you also do acting, and especially Shakespeare acting, which I appreciate you not using the Old English on this podcast. Is that something that you’ve been doing since you were young, or was that more of a late development as well?
Graeme: Again, it’s one of my daughters. I’ve been a bit of a diva, at least my wife and my mother tell me so. But back when she was 11, she’s 33 now, she saw this advert to audition for a Shakespeare play. It was actually A Midsummer Night’s — no, it was Romeo and Juliet, sorry. She said, “I’d like to do that.” Okay, yeah, that’d be very good. So I think her mom took us to the first audition. I took her in her second audition. She got a call back. And that was in February, early February. And then the rehearsals were Mondays and Wednesdays from beginning of March all the way through to the end of May. I ended up doing that. It was fairly close. It wasn’t too, but the actual performance is in the open air outside a saintly home near-ish us, probably about 20-minute drive by the time you get to where it was. I took her there, dropped her, went back. By time I got back, I had like half an hour before I had to go back and pick her up again. So it took about two performances, and there are 10 performances over a two-week period.
I thought so solid. I was just going to stay here. I’d read a book or whatever. I got talking to this nice elderly lady who was there. She and I just talked generally and she knew I was coming because I told her that fairly quickly and what was going on. She said, “Next year, why don’t you try out for like a spear-carrier’s role? At least you’re there. You’re still sitting in the back doing nothing. Your daughter can do the big bit, and you get a spear-carrier roll and just come on and be a soldier patch or a member of the village or something like that.” It’s not a bad idea.
So the next year, I went to the auditions. We’re in rehearsals, the second rehearsals where we did the walk through the block and all the rest of it. I was sitting there, and the director, it turned out that the lady I’d be speaking to was actually the founder of the Children’s Shakespeare Company. She was co-directing with this other chap. The other director came to me and said, “Oh, Graeme, thank you very much.” And I went, “Yeah, what? Pardon? What for?” “I understand you’ve agreed to be our producer.” “Pardon? Two questions. First of all, when did I volunteer? And what the hell is a producer?”
John: Yeah, yeah, what does a producer do?
Graeme: Yeah, exactly. “By the way, I have a speaking part in this, so do I lose my speaking part?” “No, no, you can do that as well.” Okay. Some 17 years, I produced it as well. And as I said, whatever I could take a part, I would.
John: Do people that you work with come to these shows? Clearly, they want to hear more about that, I guess, than Yankees baseball.
Graeme: They do. We normally have an outing every summer. That’s the first one we have done is Midsummer Night’s Dream this time, but unfortunately there’s a lot of clashes. We’ve got various conferences and things like that that totally clash. So I’m only going to be what I refer to as the bar steward this time that.
John: You’re out there, man. You’re way more on stage than any of us. Maybe you get to sample some of the wares as the bar steward. You got to test it out. You can’t just like go.
Graeme: I have a very, very strict rule for myself. If I’m driving and I have to drive to get there, if I’m driving.
John: Okay, then yeah.
Graeme: Yeah, exactly.
John: Yeah, I hear you. I hear you on that. So do you feel like either one of these has benefited your career in some way? Because so many people think that passions outside of work are distractions. You’ve heard me speak, and I feel like it’s quite the opposite. How do you feel about that?
Graeme: The answer is both have helped. Obviously, my speaking voice. I have what is referred to in some of our conferences, as the voice of God. When I want people to be quiet or do something, I can go back into my diaphragm the way I’ve been taught at the Shakespeare. I can project so much that it will quiet an entire room of 250 to 500 people. But also from a public speaking point of view, I can stand up and I can deliver the way that I think is relevant, but not just normally, and also the delivery. We think back about really good orators. JFK was a good orator. Obama was a good orator. People are known not to be particularly good orators. One of things they do that is actually not noticeable unless you pay attention, whenever there’s a comma and the longest tail where there’s a full stop and it sometimes just draw things out a bit as I’m trying to do now to sort of explain and to show you what I mean. If you do that, when you’re public speaking as I’m sure you know, John, as having heard you, if you give pauses and such between, not long pauses, you don’t sound like you’re dumb, but it does allow people to actually listen to what you’re saying and to what you want them to say. So that’s the Shakespeare side of it, absolutely. As for the Yankees, it is such an icebreaker.
John: Oh, yeah.
Graeme: You what? You have Yankees. How? What? How did that go? Of course, there’s a story of how it came up. I’ve given you the five-second version of a two-hour story. There’s a story of how it came up. There’s a story of how I worked at the NFL which in itself is the sort of thing that people sort of say, “Oh, I’d love to have done that.” It’s knowing how to deliver and being able also to deliver something that people are actually genuinely interested in.
John: There you go, right. How big of a deal is that do you say when it comes to accountants and professionals, in general, to actually talk about things that are genuinely interesting?
Graeme: It is. If you think about it, virtually every firm I know say they are the trusted advisor of their clients and I hope, for their sake, they are. But when you speak to someone, the client takes a certain amount of things as said. When you go into a prospect, et cetera, you’re seeing them, they’re expecting you to be professional. They’re expecting you to have all the qualifications and to say that you want to be their trusted advisor and all of that is BS. What they want to know is, are you genuinely interested in them? And if you can bring them out, say, they got baseball fans or they’re Shakespeare fans or any of the other sort of things and you talk about that and get them to talk about their life and where they come, then that’s cool.
John: Yeah, I completely agree. But in your words, that’s so powerful to hear. Even if it’s not the same thing, let’s say they hate the Yankees, they’re Red Sox fans, then you still have something in common. Even if they don’t do any of the things that you do, at least they share theirs and now you both know more about the person behind the professional or within the professional, if you will, is really what it’s all about. Why do you think it is that we’re so reluctant, like why is that not the default for most people?
Graeme: Most people think that they need to impart their benefits or their goodies to someone. They sort of say, “If I’m going get this prospect actually come to me or someone to buy this service from me, whatever, I’ve got to convince them that I’ve got the silver bullet that they’d been looking for.” Having been a CFO, been a CEO in listed companies, et cetera, I know full well I don’t give a damn because I know full well they don’t have the silver bullet. I want someone who has a pocket full of nickel-plated bullets, I can pick off little things that I need here that’s worrying me, and therefore, as a prospect, that’s what I want to get the knowledge that they have the ability to have my benefits in mind.
John: That’s huge and it’s not talking about your expertise and all of your wisdom because you’re convincing them of something that they already believed. You’re like, “No, no, I really am smart.” They’re like, “We thought you were anyway. Why are you — the more you try to tell me you’re intelligent, the less I start to believe you.” That’s exactly it. I love that. There is no silver bullet. We just need some nickel-plated bullets that get the job done and from a basis of you genuinely care about me. That’s so perfect.
Graeme: If you can apologize to someone and mean it genuinely, “Sorry, I think you’re wrong, because…” or “I’m sorry, I misspoke,” and you genuinely do that because they feel that either you’re going to insult the person or you’re going to infer that you are insecure and you don’t really know what you’re talking about. With that in mind, I’m going to apologize to you right now because I have realized that actually Derek Jacobi is in The King’s Speech.
John: Oh, okay. All right. All right. What’s up? What’s up? No, no, I’m just teasing. I was just like, I felt like their name ring a bell.
Graeme: Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are the main —
John: Yeah, absolutely. Right
Graeme: With Helen Bonham Carter. But, yes, he is in it and I’ve totally forgotten that.
John: No worries. But he’s also before my time, so I appreciated you saying that because I’ve clearly lied about how old I am. But it is true. If you have that relationship with someone where you realize that you have kind of a friendly relationship that’s beyond just the business, whether it’s a co-worker or a client, then you’re able to have those frank conversations and it’s not insulting either way. The feedback isn’t critical anymore. It’s actually just feedback, or it’s just a question, because you have that relationship where you know that it’s not coming from a bad place, if you will. So that’s fantastic. Apology accepted, Graeme. Apology accepted. I apologize for butchering your name half the time that I say it.
Graeme: Well, I always say to people, don’t worry, because a lot of people call me Gordon Graeme, and a lot of people call me Gordon thinking it’s my surname. But I always say, don’t worry, my grandmother used to call me Glenn and that was the name of our dog at the time.
John: Oh, my gosh. That’s so perfect. So perfect. So do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that thinks maybe they do Shakespeare and they’re like, “Well, this has nothing to do with my job. Why should anyone care”?
Graeme: I think it can be very boring if you compare it to your own job, et cetera. I love my job. Don’t get me wrong. But without outside influences and what have you, I could be, and probably would be, exceedingly boring. No one would want to talk to me. I’d be the person in the corner.
John: Right. We’ve all seen it in all the offices.
Graeme: Yeah, absolutely.
John: But the passions in the outside of work interest give you some dimensions.
Graeme: Yeah, I think it does. It keeps you alive as well. Also, as I said earlier, it makes sure that when you’re talking to someone, you’ve always got some aspect that you can connect with. Like of six degrees of separation this day and age with podcasts and blogs and everything else, you’re probably talking about three degrees of separation. So you soon get to it. Even if someone that isn’t a baseball fan, for example, but their uncle Tiberius is a Boston Red Sox fans and hates Yankees, that gives you something to talk about and keeps them going. There are other things. I’m an ex-naval officer as well, so there’s all sorts of other things. I believe very much that the potpourri of one’s life is much more important to your own satisfaction and to your success in business.
John: Wow, I love that — potpourri of life. That’s very cool. So before I bring this in for landing and wrap it up, it’s only fair that I turn the tables back since I rapid-fire questioned you out of the gate. So I know you came ready, so I’m extra nervous. I’m not going to lie to you. So here we go.
Graeme: Do you still use your CPA skills at home?
John: Oh, absolutely. I’m running a business here. I’ve got profit and loss statements. I’ve got balance sheet. Yeah, absolutely. I’m running a business, man. When it comes to that, I can at least understand the financials. I understand when the expenses come in, how to categorize them, and I know what a trial balance looks like and all that. But anything beyond that, no, not at all. Actually, even if you talk to the people I worked with as a CPA, they would probably say those are more skills than you had when you worked here. So that’s impressive.
Graeme: Apart from eating green apples, what keeps you healthy?
John: Oh, wow. Well, here’s the secret fun fact. I’m not necessarily the healthiest individual when it comes to eating desserts and ice cream unless those count is keeping me healthy, those are definitely part of my diet. I guess I just try to walk or run somewhat regularly. When I lived in New York City, I would walk everywhere because you’re always walking somewhere. But now that I live in Denver, there’s a little bit less of that. But yeah, just trying to just stay moving, I guess, is the best for me.
Graeme: When you travel, you turn right or left on a plane?
John: I turn right. Yeah. I’m not up there in first class with you fancy pants recliner. If it’s international, I try to do the economy plus, I guess. So just a little bit of a step up there because I’m almost six-three and coach is not going to work for more than two to three hours. Yeah, I turn right. So there we go.
Graeme: As you live in Denver, do you hike in the mountains, climb the mountains, or just enjoy them with a martini?
John: Ah, probably enjoy with a glass of wine is more of it and then snowboard a little bit in the winter. I guess that goes to the not being healthy part of it.
Graeme: Those are my questions. Thank you.
John: Very cool, Graeme. So I appreciate you taking time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast. This was so much fun.
Graeme: It has been my pleasure, absolute pleasure.
John: If you’d like to see some pictures of Graeme at the Yankees game or maybe just his shoes with Derek Jeter diving or maybe on stage or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. And while you’re on the page, please click that big green button there, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. It’s going to help for the book that I’m launching in October. And 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 which is to go out and be a green apple.
Green Apple Slices Finale
This week, John and Rachel close out the “Green Apple Slices” segments and wrap up over 130 episodes together.
The Green Apple Podcast did weekly “Green Apple Slices”, where John Garrett and Rachel Fisch discussed a recent business article related to the Green Apple Message. These shorter segments were released each Monday, so don’t miss an episode by subscribing on iTunes or an Android app.
Justin is an accountant, vacuumer, and rideshare driver
McAuliffe CPA Enterprises. P.C. is a full-service accounting firm, specializing in Chart of Accounts organization and general ledger development and maintenance—with a focus on creating high-quality books and records to streamline the financial reporting and tax compliance processes. With nearly 15 years of diversified public accounting experience, Justin founded McAuliffe CPA Enterprises, P.C. in 2018 to work with small business owners to organize their books and records, assist with management of the general ledger, develop and/or retool the chart of accounts, and help develop or maintain an accounting infrastructure—serving as an outsourced controller and CFO and COO for key clients, when necessary.
Justin joins us on The Green Apple Podcast to talk about his passion for cleaning and how he finds it to be therapeutic as well as necessary! Justin also talks about being a rideshare driver as a way of getting out of the house and to improve his interpersonal skills!