Jonathan is a CFO & Cyclist
Jonathan Ankney returns to the podcast from episode #95 to talk about how he is regaining his annual cycling mileage after taking some time off to deal with health issues. He also talks about how the pandemic is shifting the dynamic in humanizing the workplace!
• Regaining annual cycling mileage
• Recent biking trips
• How our passions can fuel us
• How the pandemic is shifting the dynamic in the workplace
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Welcome to Episode 302 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I’m following up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is being published in September. It’ll be available on Amazon, Indigo, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details where you can sign up for my exclusive list, and you’ll be the first to know when it’s coming out.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories, each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Jonathan Ankney. He’s the President of Small Business CFO in New York City, and now he’s with me here today. Jonathan, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Jonathan: Oh, John, I’m happy to be back and talking with you again.
John: Exactly, man. It’s always good to connect, always good to connect. I have some rapid-fire questions, things that I’ve never asked you before, actually, and I probably should have before we hung out the first time there in New York, many years ago. Here we go. Let’s see what happens. Number one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Jonathan: None of the above.
John: Okay, fair enough, fair enough. This one you can’t get out of, oceans or mountains.
Jonathan: Mountains, for sure.
John: Mountains. Okay, interesting. How about a favorite sports team?
John: Steelers. Okay, interesting. How about, do you have a favorite food?
Jonathan: Favorite food, oh, boy, yes, Samgyeopsal.
John: Oh, wow. Okay, what is that? I don’t even know.
Jonathan: It’s a Korean dish, and it’s tabletop barbecued bacon.
John: Oh, yes.
Jonathan: Imagine someone slicing up a nice slab of bacon for you and slapping it up on top of a tabletop barbecue and a little bit savory sauce, mwah.
John: Yeah, I think I have a new favorite food. That’s fantastic. All right, how about suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?
Jonathan: I am gradually degrading to jeans and t-shirt.
John: I love how you call it degrading. That’s hilarious. That’s funny. All right, two more. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Jonathan: Man, chocolate chip.
John: Oh, okay, solid. Last one, toilet paper roll, over or under?
Jonathan: Over, of course.
John: Okay, all right. Well, you never know, you never know. So, Episode 95 when you were on, which was so long ago. It’s amazing that you came on. You were a brave soul. We talked cycling, and I remember you had brought your bike over to Korea to ride there. Yeah, you were way into it, and riding in New York City too. That’s the next level type stuff. Is cycling still something you’re into?
Jonathan: Cycling is something that I’m still into. I actually, the last time we had spoken, my mileage, annual mileage had declined a bit. I had some health issues. They are climbing back up. I think this year, I’m going to be back up to my old form, which is, drum roll please, 4,000 miles a year.
John: That’s unbelievable, man. I mean, 4,000 miles, that’s impressive. Do you typically do longer rides then?
Jonathan: Interesting and very good question to ask. The answer is that, as part of my physical recovery back into riding, what I’ve discovered is that it is better to pace myself by doing, I will call them smaller rides, let’s say 25 or 30 miles a day, more days a week, than to do one insanely long ride on a given day and then take a few days break and then get on for a smaller ride. So, I’m trying to understand a little bit more about how my body works and how to pace myself in order to get back into that form.
John: Yeah, and 4,000 miles, how many — I’m just thinking of a car. That’s like an oil change and your tires rotated. You get your legs swapped out? What do you do at 4,000 miles?
Jonathan: Sometimes I wish I could.
John: Right? That’s impressive, man.
Jonathan: Look at it this way, if I rode 300 days a year, that would be 15 miles a day, which probably is a little less than an hour.
John: There you go, okay, and you got weekends off. You’re fine. It’s all good. Yeah, that’s impressive. So, is it all the same bike, or do you have a stable that you go to?
Jonathan: It’s on the same bicycle. During the wintertime, I have a stand that I can put the bicycle on, and the rear wheel makes contact with a flywheel that has resistance on it, and therefore gives me the training to do that. My interests are Netflix and Amazon Primetime.
John: Oh, yeah, I’m sitting there eating a bowl of ice cream, watching Netflix. You’re on a bike, so, good for you.
Jonathan: The universe balances itself out.
John: No wonder I don’t fit into my suit pants anymore. They’re not elastic. What’s going on? That’s awesome, man. That’s so cool to hear that you’re still doing it. Have you made any other trips as well, in the past couple of years?
Jonathan: I have made some trips. Unfortunately, I’ve not been overseas with said bicycle. I was thinking ahead to our call today about what’s happened in the last couple of years, and one of them is that I had gone to San Diego for a Weekend of Masterminds in my Entrepreneurship program. When I was there, I thought, you know what? I’ll just go ahead and rent myself a bicycle so I can keep my mileage up.
So, I went to some place. It was basically a surf shop that had some extra bicycles. I will say that they weren’t in the best of form but still was enough for me to do what I needed to do. Surfer dude was like, “Oh, yeah, dude, man, you know what you need to do is you need to ride your bicycle up here.”
So, I woke up at 3:00 in the morning in California, because I lived on the East Coast, of course, earlier, and I stared at the ceiling for an hour and said, “Okay, let’s get up and go.” I go to the bicycle, discovered that my front headlight would not fit on the handlebars, so I was out of a headlight. I put the rear taillight on, so at least that was going for me, got in the bicycle, started to go down the street and then I looked behind me, and the battery went out on the rear taillight.
John: Oh, no.
Jonathan: Now I’m at the mercy of streetlights in San Diego. Well, they’re not like New York City where they’re every 15 feet because you’re going to get mugged. It’s a little more suburban and are like 150 feet apart. I had this situation going on where I would be in the light, and I would have to estimate whether or not there were potholes or hazards, 75 feet into that ride, the whole time.
John: That’s amazing.
Jonathan: That was hazard number one. Then I got up to this. I had no idea where I was. This is my second adventure and come what may what may, que sera sera. I had to go through a Navy base.
John: Oh, wow.
Jonathan: So, I’m riding in the dark on this Navy base, and it gets to the point where it’s the military cemetery. Well, the deceased don’t need lights.
Jonathan: So, there’s no light at all.
John: Super dark.
Jonathan: It’s super dark, and I’m riding through this cemetery. All I’m thinking to myself is, man, you’re on a bicycle. You have no headlight. You have no taillight. There are no lights at all. You pass through a military base. How do you know that there’s not someone with a night scope watching you, this whole thing? Well, okay, is this a terrorist? No, that can’t possibly be it. This guy is so stupid. He has to be from New York City, riding through a military base
John: At no point did it, like, hey, I can just go back to bed. There’s that. It’s like, no, you got the thing? Yeah.
Jonathan: None of that.
John: Good for you, man. That’s impressive. That’s awesome. It’s an adventure. Had you not brought that passion with you there then you would have just sat around and not had a great story. Hopefully, by the time you were circling back, the sun started to come up, and you were able to see all the things that you dodged.
Jonathan: I forget. I think I had a little bit of PTSD around that. Nothing comes back to me. I think you have a very good point there and that is that when we live out our passions, it enhances our lives in a way that a lot of people that live “normal” lives don’t get to experience; and the things that we do, give us the juices to keep us going and give us the stories and give us the seasoning that help us stand out from the rest of the crowd.
John: I love that, man. That’s so good. That’s so good because, yeah, it helps you stand out, but it just provides color to things and, like you said, the seasoning. You could eat a chicken breast, and that’s fine, but you season it up well and all that, it’s just so much better.
Jonathan: Might be normal.
John: It might be normal, right, but what’s normal anymore? Good Lord. What’s normal to you is definitely not normal to a lot of people who don’t live in New York City and everything like that. I remember when I first moved to New York. I was the only one who would do double takes on things, and that’s when I knew, when I had lived there long enough, because I just stopped looking back. You would see something crazy and then you wouldn’t even look back. You’d be like, yeah, whatever.
Jonathan: I met a kid from the Midwest once, and I said to him, “Whatever you do, don’t react to anything. Just for example,” I said, “you’re walking in Time Square, and you see a guy in his underwear wearing a cowboy hat playing a guitar. What do you say to him?” He said, “I suppose I would say,” and I said, “Stop right there.”
Jonathan: Wrong answer. You don’t say anything.
John: You don’t say anything, exactly. My motto, when I lived there and when people come to visit, the rule was, number one, don’t talk to anyone. Number two, if somebody asks you a question, the only answer is I don’t know, I don’t live here. Because you’re not from here, how are you going to help them? If the subway doors are closing, “Hey, is this an express or a local?” You’re an adult, you figure it out. Not for me to tell you. If I’m not from here, now I’m going to tell you the wrong thing. You’re going to get mad at me, and that wasn’t my fault, type of thing. So, definitely, what’s normal in New York is, for sure, not normal anywhere. No, but that’s great man. Do you find that more people are sharing hobbies and passions now?
Jonathan: I think, given the pandemic, that the dynamic is changing a little bit, and you are seeing more into people’s private lives, sometimes maybe a little bit too much, Zooming into everybody’s homes and living rooms, the four year old comes out, screaming.
John: Does it make that person less good at their job? It’s like, no, you’re just a real human.
Jonathan: I think, in some ways, it actually has made us more humane.
John: No, I completely agree because we’ve been in homes that we would have never been in ever. I think, coming out of this, should be more taking that and then running with it. Don’t act like you haven’t been there and that this didn’t happen, for we’ve seen the sides of all of us that we work around.
Jonathan: Agree 100%. I know that what I’m about to say is probably going to be too much to ask, from a political standpoint, but at the same time, I also think that it’s the type of thing where, as society begins to understand, oh, that’s normal for them but not for me, and what’s normal for me is not normal for them.
John: Right, and they’re both okay. It doesn’t have to carry over into your judgment of somebody’s work product. That’s unrelated. So, that’s cool to hear. Do you have any words of encouragement for anyone listening that thinks that well, you know, I have a hobby, but it has nothing to do with my job?
Jonathan: I suppose what I would say around that is, live your passions, live the things that you really like to do and that give you energy and turn you on. Over time, you’re just going to end up dropping little bits and pieces about yourself and introducing yourself to people in a way that’s going to share a part of your life that’s very important to them and for them to know and, at the same time, also encourages them to open themselves up to you. It’s that personal knowledge about who people are, that, in my opinion, are going to reduce the barriers around knowing each other and to develop, dare I even say, a form of intimacy, a professional intimacy, knowing about each other and how each other operates and that we’re people beyond what the workplace actually is or looks like.
John: Do you feel like, throughout your career — I mean, I remember when we talked before, early on in your career, didn’t really share so much the cycling or whatever because it had no –there’s no charge code for this, type of thing. Do you feel like, now, work is different, in a way?
Jonathan: I suppose a little bit. The bicycling is one of those things that I’m passionate about, but I don’t necessarily need to tell people that, hey, I’m a bicycling nut. At the same time, it absolutely comes up. John, because I have my own business, there are two directions that I face. The one direction is facing and working with my clients. Sometimes I’ll have that especially with them. Then I have my team that works with me.
I think that what happens with my team is that, number one, they know it in part because they can see it sometimes on our video calls, the bike up there on the wall in the background; and just as we’re catching up on our weekly team meetings, it’s, hey, what did you do this past weekend? What are you doing? What’s going on in your life? Knowing what’s going on in my team’s lives is important to me. I also think that a part of that is me sharing with them what is happening.
Whether I think of myself this way or not, I am the leader of my company, and my company is going to have my DNA and my personality. How I behave around my company is important, and to me, to be able to say, we all have activities that happen outside of work — in fact, one of the things that I tell them is, “Listen, we don’t live to work. We work in order to provide people a service that we get paid for and, in turn, give us the lives that we want to lead, and this is a blessing that generations of humans did not have.”
John: Totally. That’s awesome. That’s awesome that you have that mindset too, that it’s not, hey, we’re on this call, let’s talk about work and then get more work done and work, work, work, work. We’re like, what are you doing, not working? Sometimes people need to breathe a little bit and then have some free time to relax and to share who they are.
John: Before I wrap this up though, it’s only fair, since I rudely started out the episode firing away at you, questions left and right, it’s now the Jonathan Show. You can now ask me some questions. So, whatever you got, I’m buckled in, ready to go.
Jonathan: Are you sure you’re ready for these?
John: I don’t know actually. Now, I’m not. We’re going to do them anyway.[0:15:03]
Jonathan: All right, here we go. If someone gave you a reset button that would let you skip 2020, would you press it?
John: Yes. I didn’t even need to wait for you to finish. Yes. Are we working on that button? Is this a real thing? I hope. Can we make that happen?
Jonathan: It doesn’t exist. Next one, someone offers you a million dollars to cheer for USC at the Notre Dame game.
Jonathan: You wouldn’t take it?
John: No. No. I would not. I would not because I would have no soul, and my soul is worth at least $2 million.
Jonathan: Now we’re negotiating.
John: I’m kidding. That would never happen, but that’s a great question.
Jonathan: All right. You meet a genie, and they offer three wishes. What are they?
John: Oh, wow, three wishes. Yeah, I guess one would be that, related to this message, that I just wished that professionals knew that there’s more to them than what they think there is, and the people around them. I just think that work and life, as a whole, would just be better, like you said, the seasoning. That would be awesome.
Another wish would be that people read my book, and it makes a difference. That, I think, would be pretty cool. The third one, why not, going with the Notre Dame theme, national championship, let’s go with it. I don’t think I have to use a wish on that because it’s going to happen, but I’ll do it anyway. They’ll do it anyway.
Jonathan: If I had gone to the third wish, it would have been, give me three more questions.
John: Oh, see? That’s why I’m not good at this. That’s an excellent point actually. It should have been, I need more wishes. So, when that happens for real, I’ll be ready. That’s awesome. Well, thanks, Jonathan, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?, so much fun to catch up.
Jonathan: Absolutely, happy to be here and talk with you again, John.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Jonathan in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, 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.
David is a CEO & Attorney & Cyclist
John visits David Kendall, Founder and CEO of Bold Legal, at his office in Denver, Colorado to talk about how his passion for cyclocross and his career as an attorney both involve leadership skills, taking risks, and how both satisfy his desire to pushing limits!
• Cycling with future pro cyclists
• Discovering cyclocross
• Importance of being a part of a team
• Handling high pressure situations
• Pushing the limit
• Talking about cycling in the office
• Nobody remembers an accountant or lawyer
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to do John’s anonymous survey
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Welcome to Episode 281 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and,” those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re in the office.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published very, very soon. It will 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 the changing the cultures where they work because of it, and the book will definitely help spread this message.
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, David Kendall. He’s the founder, CEO, and an attorney at Bold Legal in Denver, Colorado. Now, I’m with him in his office. David, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
David: I’m glad to be here. I’ve been looking forward to this and I think we rescheduled about ten times already. At last we’re here.
John: I know where you work, so I just outside in the lobby and finally, you let me up. No, I’m excited to have you be a part of it for sure, but you know the drill, 17 rapid fire questions out of the gate.
David: All right.
John: We’ve hung out many times, and I’ve never asked you any of these. I’m interested. Favorite color.
David: Duke blue.
John: Duke blue, okay. How about a least favorite color?
David: Carolina blue.
John: Interesting, two blues, okay. How about more chocolate or vanilla?
John: Okay, all right. How about a favorite actor or actress?
David: Harrison Ford.
John: Oh, that’s a solid answer. I get that actually several times. Yeah, that’s a good answer. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
David: Night owl.
John: Night owl, all right. More pens or pencils?
David: Neither. Paperless. No writing utensils.
John: Oh, look at you, man, typing. Okay. I like that. All right. How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
David: Can I go with neither again? I like the 500 to 1000 puzzles.
John: Oh, jigsaw puzzles, okay.
David: Yeah. That’s more my roll.
John: All right. I like it. This is a good one. Criminal or civil law?
David: I’m going to go with civil.
John: Civil? Yeah. Just less dirty. How about your computer? More of a PC or a Mac?
David: PC computer, Mac phone, so I’m an Apple phone guy.
John: Yeah, yeah. All right. On your computer, more right-click or left-click on the mouse?
David: I’m going to say I’m a left clicker.
John: Left-click, making decisions. That’s where you pick. How about a favorite band or musician? Or more than one, rattle it off.
David: Okay. The first favorite was Billy Joel when I was a kid. I’m a Long Island boy, without saying the G. Then nowadays, my latest find, Streetlight Manifesto. It’s a ska band.
John: Look at that, yeah. I was a trombone player in college. Yeah, I’m the only one who knows what ska is.
David: As a trumpet player in college, right back at you.
John: There you go.
David: I was once wanted to be the trumpet player for Chicago because it was the only rock band that had a trumpet as far as I could figure out. Like many other dreams, that one didn’t work out either.
John: Right, okay. That’s awesome. How about a suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?
David: Suit and tie.
John: Okay, yeah. I like it. How about a least favorite vegetable?
David: Cauliflower, easy.
John: Solid answer, and now they’re trying to make it into rice, like get out. And nuggets? Like what? That’s crazy. How about this? TV show. Suits or Law and Order?
David: Law and Order.
John: Okay. All right. Old school. How about a favorite adult beverage?
John: Wine, yeah. Is there a kind?
David: For me, it’s one glass of white, one glass or red.
John: It sounds like a Billy Joel song.
David: It is. It really is.
John: Then it’s Rosé, why not? How about a favorite number?
John: Is there a reason?
David: It’s the number that I wore playing soccer as a kid.
John: Okay, all right. No, that’s a great answer. The last one. Favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
David: Probably my bicycle.
John: What kind of bike is it, to be fair?
David: Whichever bicycle I happen to be on at the moment. I don’t know if you know. I lived in Boulder, and so one of the things that is kind of a thing in Boulder, is there’s a formula in Boulder for how many bicycles you need.
John: You need? Not want.
David: And the number is x+1 with x being the number that you currently have.
John: Okay. You’re always one short. I need another one. Need is such a strong word. That’s awesome. That’s fantastic, man. Very cool. That dovetails perfectly into your passion of cycling. How did you get into this?
David: It was mostly due to slave labor. I grew up and worked in a family business, and that family business, strangely, we had a retail bike shop and a retail furniture store. Bizarre combination, but it worked.
Given that my family owned a local bike shop, if there was a local bike race, clearly, it was critically important for the first person to cross the line to be somebody wearing the right outfit.
John: Fir the picture that gets in the newspaper.
David: Country Time Cycles needed to be, because clearly, if you were looking where do you buy your next bike, if the faster ones seem to be coming from Country Time Cycles, clearly, that’s where you go.
John: Which is really that simple, because that’s how people think even though it may or may not be correct all the time.
David: Exactly. I started racing because our business would host races. Then we would put on local races to get people excited about riding bikes. Nobody spends money on bikes better than bicycle racers, and particularly aging bicycle racers because at some point, if you’re a bike racer, you find out that you can’t get faster and the only way to keep up is to buy more speed. That means buy a lighter bike, buy faster wheels, buy faster everything because your legs aren’t getting faster after 40.
John: Right, yeah. That’s interesting. So you would be in these races?
David: Yeah. This started when I was roughly aged nine and ten. There being a whole group of races, starting with the juniors, and the technical title back then for the category of under 11 was midgets. I think that became non-PC, and so it’s probably just called under 11 now.
But it was what it was. There would be the kids races all the way up to — and I remember that there was a guy in his 70s that would constantly win these 60 plus race and put the six-year-olds to shame clearly by getting woofed by a 70-year-old. That’s how I grew up in the cycling world is everyone from kids to folks on social security out there racing their bikes.
John: Wow. That’s fantastic. You would do this several times over the summer or –?
David: Yeah. It was mostly of the summer, and so it coincided with the non-school sports in my world. So when I was in middle school during the school season, it was soccer and then into basketball or baseball in the spring or track. It was mostly my summertime pursuit was racing bikes.
John: And that keeps you in shape, for sure, especially for soccer and track.
David: Yeah. It’s funny. One of the things that my dad steered me or indoctrinated me, I’m not sure which it was but he convinced me back in the day that perhaps, instead of continuing along my first dream to be the short stop for the New York Yankees, he steered me towards running track in the spring and giving up baseball because it would help me in soccer and in cycling. I think it turned out probably for the best because this Derek Jeter guy —
John: Yeah, some guy named Jeter came along.
David: Probably would’ve made life difficult for me.
John: You never know. I mean you never know.
David: Who’s to say?
John: I mean I’d like to see him on a bike. I mean let’s see.
John: You’re the Bo Jackson out here. Then you grow up and you do it through middle school, high school, and then did you continue doing it in college?
David: Yeah. So essentially, I hit the pinnacle of my career as a bike racer, as a bike mechanic, as a furniture delivery boy, and I retired and I went to college. I tell a lot of folks that along Long Island, back on those days, there was a guy that I would race against on occasion and his brother, his name was George Hincapie. He was a couple years younger than me and his older brother was older than me, George wound up racing in the Tour de France and was riding with Lance Armstrong, all seven times that he won or didn’t won depending on your view. Finish line first.
As I tell everyone, George and I each made the right decision. I went to college and then to law school, and he became a pro. I think it worked the best for both of us.
John: Right, yeah. It’s also interesting too because when you grow up with that, and you’re like, well, I can’t beat the kid two years younger than me, I should never do it, little did you know who he would become.
David: My claim to fame is that I could beat him.
John: Oh, there you go.
David: But then again, I was 13 and he was 11. That’s kind of like beating up on your little brother if you’re nine and they’re seven.
John: Which is always okay, but you know, as the older brother like you know, it’s always —
John: But that is cool, and just looking back on those races and how much fun you had and close races, I’m sure.
David: Oh, yeah. It’s funny. There was one kid who grew up in Jersey and there’s only one place in Long Island can look down on, and that’s New Jersey.
John: That’s very accurate.
David: But back in the day, there was a guy named Jonas Carney. He was a year younger than me. I couldn’t beat the kid. I could not beat him no matter what. And then 20 years later, I find out that Jonas went on to race and is now, to this day, a sports director for a US-based cycling team, and so he kept with it. So guys that I used to race against and kid around with, they kept with it. They kept following their dreams and made careers in their passion of cycling which is super hard to do.
Then my lovely wife, Kathleen, when people ask about my bike racing, she is often the one to remind them that like they see in the NCAA commercials, David went pro in something else.
John: Right, yeah. But I mean that’s so good though. But you didn’t give it up totally. Because clearly, it’s back.
David: The randomness of the universe, I kept playing soccer and it was just harder when I moved to New York to do a lot of cycling when I was in New York, so I started my legal career in New York City, being a Wall Street corporate lawyer type.
John: Yeah, you’re going to die on a bike in New York City. It’s crazy.
David: Yeah. You look around and you see these bike messengers and it looks cool in the movies, no, it is crazy. It’s a death wish.
John: It really is.
David: For me, it seemed a little bit safer to just run in Central Park late at night even.
John: Okay. Maybe not that part.
David: But yeah, so for me, I like to say I’ve went into kind of a hiatus for two decades, and then I tore an ACL playing soccer and my physical therapist happened to be a cyclo-cross racer and said, well, you used to race as a kid? Well, our new rehab goal is clearly to get you back into shape, to go ahead and race with me on my cyclo-cross team.
For those that don’t know what cyclo-cross is, it’s sort of like the X Games of cycling where for kicks, the pros in Europe used to in the off-season decide, well, we’re kind of bored just riding on the roads and the weather kind of sucks, so let’s just go ahead and ride on trails off-road and through parks, and then put things in our way.
So we have to jump off our bikes, put our bike on our shoulder and run up a flight of stairs or and they would do this to work on their keep-fit, work on their bike handling, so before mountain bikes existed, these guys were putting knobby tires on regular — you know, what we used to call 10-speed bikes, which there’s no such thing anymore. They just look that way. They now have like 22-speeds.
John: Oh, gosh!
David: Yeah. But anyway, that was the genesis of this kind of riding and people had said to me, so you have a perfectly good bike and you jump off it, and throw it on your shoulder and run for a little while. That seems silly, but then again, probably people said the same thing about Mogul ski racing.
John: Yeah. Why would you go where all the bumps are? You just go on the smooth car.
David: It’s faster over there. I did, I went out, finished my rehab, showed up for the first race of the season, and had never done it before. Well, this whole thing of clipping into your pedals, clipping out, and then jumping off your bike as speed, so I finished muddy, bloody, but happy.
I came back the next week. Essentially, since then, I’ve been racing probably from April through the cyclo-cross season is in the fall, up until kind of Thanksgiving, probably racing at least once every other weekend, if not more.
John: That’s awesome. These races are — I mean I guess in Colorado, they probably have them every half mile.
David: Well, then, that’s the thing. Certainly, because there are so many cyclists and there are so many opportunities, admittedly, my home’s in Boulder, so I admittedly have become a rather Boulder-centric bike racer. I don’t think there’s any need to drive longer than I’ll race.
John: That’s a good parameter.
David: If you have a luxury of there being so many races nearby all the time, it’s almost as easy as going hiking. There’s always an opportunity. Most of the guys that I raced against and guys who do a lot of cycling, they’re like, you’re doing another race again? Do you have to be in every race?
John: I need the t-shirts, all right?
David: I think what people, you know, that get to know me well enough, I just get a kick out of that competitive situation to be lined up and pushing myself to the limit, and to a certain extent, it’s just fun to see some of your buddies out there, and just saying, okay. I’m going to get you this time.
There’s another guy that I became friends with over the years, just as we’re cycling because when we do cyclo-cross, they actually call you up in order so that the fastest guys are on the front row, the next eight fastest guys are on the second row.
John: So somebody not running somebody over.
David: Right. The better you do, the better your call up.
John: Got it.
David: This guy and I kept getting called up right next to each other and we would finish you know, one in front of the other, one behind the other, time and time again. Now, we have a standing bet for the big championship. Whoever wins essentially gets free beers and the other guy’s buying, and we don’t even mention that the bet’s on every year. At the end, we decide where we’re going to go to drink.
John: So there’s a state championship. I mean this I legit.
David: Well, and admittedly, this is what I would refer to as my category being the medium old, medium fast guys.
John: That’s so cool though.
David: Yeah, and so they do the age group categories. The funny thing is once you’re a masters racer, when people get older, a lot of the population like oh, boy. I turned 40, I turned 50, I’m getting old. With masters’ racers, it’s like, oh, man. I’m almost 40. Now I can be the young guy again. Instead of being the 39-year-old guy racing against the guys who are 30 and 31 or the 49-year-old racing with the guys that are 40 and 40, this year, I turn 50 so I get to race in the 50 to 59-year-old category. I’m finally not the old guy as I have been the last two or three seasons.
John: You’re going to break out that Country Time Cycles t-shirt again just like when you were a kid, like yeah. Get your picture because you’re going to be crossing first now. What’s up, mom?
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s really cool. Do you feel like cycling has given you a skill that you have brought to — or even running and soccer before that that you brought to being an attorney?
David: Yeah, so I think without a doubt, I am the person I am today because of athletics. I learned the importance of being part of a team. It was an area where I’ve started to really develop confidence. As a kid, I was shy yet the one place that I found myself being most popular was on the sports field. It’s one of those things in I think at least every guy I know remembers when you would pick teams on the playground.
John: Oh, man. Brutal.
David: If you were the last one picked versus being the first one picked, the absolute jolt of ego and self-confidence and truly, that is what in part helped a shy kid become more outgoing and being willing to go after anything and everything out there in the world was that I saw that I could take a chance and people wanted me to take the chance.
In soccer, it was about who’s going to take the penalty kick. I was always the one that wanted to step up and I was lucky enough that my teammates also wanted me to be the one to step up.
John: That’s a huge vote of confidence.
David: Yeah. For me, that’s kind of what I do today in my job. What I’m all about is I want to be the champion of my clients when they’re doing their deal, when they’re trying to get a financing done, when they’re trying to sell the business that they founded and turned into a great company, and it’s time for them to cash in and go spend the rest of their life at the beach vacationing wherever, or it’s time for them to cash in and do the next thing.
It’s something where they look and say okay, I want somebody to step up and do this for me. Who is going to be my champion in this deal? For me, there’s a bit of that. I think a lot of people that do what I do find it can be awfully stressful. For me, I just thrive on it. For me, a little bit of stress or sometimes even a lot of stress, to me, that’s when I feel like I’m at my best.
John: Yeah, because it’s more of like let’s do this. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid kicking penalty kicks or riding in races.
David: Yeah, and this whole theory of flow, like being in the flow. You hear about the basketball player that’s just in the zone or unconscious. When people are finding areas in their life — when they can do that, when they can recreate that feeling of they’re just in the zone, and things are just going their way and that same feeling that I have on the bicycle where when I’m racing like a criterium on the road, it’s essentially 90-degree turns on asphalt, and there’s potentially somebody on your left elbow, somebody on your right elbow. Guess what? I’m not thinking about what’s for dinner.
I’m not really worried about my to-do list. I am 100% focused on getting the right angle, coming into then turn, keeping an eye on who’s to my right, knowing which guy in the pack is squirrelly and you want to stay away from because he’s going to take down half the guys out here and for me, that sort of what other people would be a stressful scary situation, to me, that’s an adrenalin rush. I’m like yeah, this is awesome.
When there’s that sort of stressful, scary thing of negotiating a deal, trying to come up with — negotiating the final points and it’s a position where people sometimes freak out. And me, I’m like all right. Let’s go. I’m ready. I think that that just being comfortable with those kinds of situations so in comparison to putting life and limb at risk, coming through the final corner, and sprinting for the line, if you’re just negotiating terms in an M&A deal, well, at least you’re not going to be physically harmed so in comparison, for me, it’s more just adrenaline and fun and excitement.
John: And it’s something that you’ve been doing. I mean this is something you still do every other week on the weekends and it’s a muscle that you’ve been exercising that now, in the office, it’s like oh, I can do this. It’s nothing during law school or even undergrad where they told you to go and play these sports or get into cycling because it’ll make you a better attorney, but clearly, it does. Is cycling something you talk about with co-workers and clients?
David: Absolutely. Certainly among my friends and clients, everybody knows that if they want to talk either cycling or college basketball, that they’ve always got a willing participant with me. It’s funny. There are clients that I have today that are clients because we did Wednesday morning group rides at 6:30 in the morning out of Boulder. There are some times where I get introduced to people and truly, it’s hey, do you know David Kendall? He races cyclo-cross too. You guys should talk. Oh, and by the way, he’s an attorney too. Don’t you need one of them?
John: But the lead is never you know, the attorney part. Never. But you know, the stronger connections are on something else.
How much do you feel like that matters to clients or how much does it matter when you’re looking for staff or people to work at Bold Legal? Is it something that’s important to you or is it just kind of a nice to have?
David: The name, Bold Legal, in it of itself, it is about going all out in everything you do in life. What does that mean for me? It means going all out and putting yourself on the line for your clients and doing legal work but that’s how I want to live all of my life. I want to push myself to my limits. I want to take advantage of the experience and the talent I have but not hide in the corner when I describe to the web designer what I was looking for on a website for Bold Legal.
I said well, here’s the analogy, and it was easy because happen to be a guy who was a mountain bike rider. He got the cycling thing and I said, here’s the vision for Bold Legal. Do you know that finely-tuned race bike that’s getting the last little adjustments by the pro mechanic, and it’s like shiny and you know, you can see the chain clicking up the gears and back down and it is just so finely-tuned. That is not what that bike is made for.
You need to get that thing out of this stand and you need to lean it over in a corner, coming through at breakneck speeds, with people on either side of you knowing that if you hit the brakes, you lose, and know that you’re a good enough bike handler and you know what your machine can handle so that you don’t have to hit the brakes. You go all out, and it’s not that you’re being a crazy risk taker, no. It’s about knowing what you can do, knowing your abilities, and pushing to the limit.
That, to me, is what good lawyering is about. You need to know the law, you need to know the risks, you need to know your trade and your craft. In order to do a great job for your client, you need to be able to push yourself to the limit.
John: Right. You need to get out of the stand, get out of the textbook, get off from behind your desk and actually go.
David: Exactly. When I first taught how to be a lawyer in New York, again, as the Wall Street corporate type, we were told, truly told as young attorneys, try and divvy up all of the issues in a deal between business issues and legal issues. Don’t do anything on the business issues, only address the legal issues, and leave the business issues to somebody else. Let them take the risk on that.
I thought that was terrible. Here I am, I grew up in a family business which is like what I call my first business degree then I got an undergraduate business degree from University of Richmond, and I went to law school to be essentially a business guy who happened to be a lawyer.
The idea that well, why would we not participate in those business issues? Because there’s risk. Wait, what? Truly, we were being conditioned and taught when those really hard questions of you know, the last final toughest point in the deal and it’s not like a technical legal thing, just put your hands up, walk away from the table and tell your client, good luck with that. Just tell me what to write down.
I was always talk about look, if you’re going to be at Bold Legal, to work here, you need to understand what the name is about. It is about stepping up. It is about when your client says, hey, John. I don’t know. There’s three different possibilities here. I’m at a loss. I don’t know which to pick. Which would you do? If anybody is not willing to step up and put their butt on the line and tell the client, if I were you, I would do option A, option C, whatever it may be, then go work somewhere else.
I think that attitude is in part, because in sports, I didn’t want to sit on the sideline, I wanted to take the penalty kick. I didn’t want to hit the brakes because gee, it might be a little bit dangerous, no. I wanted to go faster through the turn because I knew I could. In soccer or in cycling, a lot of people think of cycling as individual sport but often, you have guys on your team that are helping you during the race and help bring you to the front if you’re the sprinter and bring you through the wind up to that last moment where you have to come around and sprint. They brought you there. If you’re going to hit the brakes after they did all that work —
John: Right. You’re off the team.
David: That’s not right. When everybody is sacrificing for each other, that teamwork in cycling is also something that translates really well to what I do as a business lawyer because I’m doing a bunch of work to set up my clients for success. It’s very much like being the last guy in a lead-out train for a sprinter like the pros do where there’s two or three guys and the fastest guy is the fourth guy in line.
One after another, everybody uses up everything they’ve got in their legs and they pull to the side and say, I’m done. It’s up to the next guy. For me, what we do at Bold Legal is a lot like the lead-out rider.
Here it is. We’ve got an opportunity to get a deal done. We’re going to do everything we can to set up our client for success. At the end of the day, they got to keep peddling, and they got to be doing the work right alongside, they can’t get dropped off the back of the pack, they can’t wipe out three turns ago. They need to be right with us. They’re working hard and we’re just trying to block a little bit of wind for them, trying to help them avoid some of the difficulties and bring them to the front when it’s time for them to go ahead and win.
That’s just that idea of knowing that if everybody fulfills their role, that success comes not because everybody is just out for themselves, but it’s because everybody knows what their role is. If they can be the best at their particular role, then that’s how the team succeeds.
John: No, that’s perfect. What a perfect analogy as well. Before I wrap this up, do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that may think that their hobby or their passion outside of work has absolutely nothing to do with their career?
David: Well, I guess speaking to a former accountant and coming from a current lawyer, nobody remembers an accountant or a lawyer.
John: Totally, even if you’re also an accountant or a lawyer.
David: You know, and it’s something where what is it that makes people interesting? It’s usually not what they do for a living unless you have one of those great jobs like Derek Jeter. But it’s something that for me, I love what I do. It works out well because it’s something that I’m passionate about and that makes me better at it, but what makes me more interesting are the stories I can tell.
John: About outside of work things.
David: Right. What sets me apart from other lawyers, well, if people know my personality and they understand where it comes from, if you know that here’s a guy that’s turning 50 and still wants to go out and race bikes.
John: Right, off-road and then carry them half the time.
David: You know, this is somebody who is going to go all out that is not averse to doing the work and wanting to really perform at a high level. I still have that competitive nature in me. I hate losing. That’s the part what makes me a good lawyer. If somebody sees me in those you know, what passion I have for going fast on a bike on asphalt or in the mud or whatever, here’s a guy I can count on to go all out for me.
John: That’s true. Yeah, yeah. Maybe we all get a little road rash, but it’s good. No, that’s so perfect. It’s only fair that I allow you to question me since I started out the beginning questioning you. Since you’re a lawyer and I’m in your office looking you in the eye, it makes me a little bit nervous. I’m not going to lie. But you’re the host now. So what do you got?
David: All right. The first rapid response I want to know, South Bend, Indiana is best known for?
John: Notre Dame football. I mean that’s pretty much it. South Bend and Notre Dame are actually two separate zip codes. Notre Dame existed before South Bend actually. So South Bend is a town, yeah, wow. I mean I guess the Studebaker I think was made in South Bend.
David: All right. So then my next question is something I know about your “and,” being funny. So tell me. Up and coming comedians that I should check out.
John: Oh, okay. Yeah, well, I mean I don’t even know if they’re — I mean they’re friends of mine, so they’re not necessarily up and coming, I mean it depends on what that means, but I mean there’s a lot of really funny guys that are out there, they just don’t have sitcoms but they’re really close like Tommy Johnagin is so funny. He was on Last Comic Standing so a lot of people might know him from that.
Nate Bargatze’s really funny. He’s got a development deal going. Keith Alberstadt, really funny guy. Ryan Hamilton, he’s got a Netflix special out, very funny guy. Those are all, you know, people that I did shows with and hung out with, and yeah, they’re all still making it happen. It’s cool to see where they go.
David: Then well, you asked me. Drink of choice.
John: Oh, yeah. I’m a wine guy as well, and there’s a white wine called Vermentino that I guess is traditionally Italian but is now being grown in Sonoma and it’s a really great white wine, so that’s now the go-to. Chardonnay, there’s too much of a variable there with the oaky-ness, I just can’t do that. Some of them are really great because they’re not the oaked, but then you get the oaked one, you’re like yeah, it’s like the lime on the Doritos chips or whatever.
David: All right. Based on that answer, would any of your college buddies have expected you to become part of the wine and cheese crowd?
John: No. For sure, not. For all the reasons, that will be on another podcast episode. No, but thanks so much, David. This has been so much fun having you be a part of What’s Your “And”?
David: Thank you.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of David on his bike 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 and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use, and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Joel is an Accountant & Cyclist
Joel Ungar shares some powerful experiences participating in the Wish a Mile cycling marathons for the Make a Wish Foundation. He also tells us how his passion for cycling makes it easy for him to establish connections!
• Getting into cycling
• Preparing for a cycling event
• Health benefits from cycling
• Experiences with the Make a Wish Foundation
• How his firm supports his passion
• How cycling offers him an avenue to establish connections
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 269 of What’s your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I’m interviewing professionals who, just like me, are known for hobbies or passions or interests 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 that you do at work, it’s the things that actually differentiate you when you’re in the office.
I’m so excited to let everyone know my book’s being published very, very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or you could sign up for my exclusive list and you’ll know when it’s coming out. And please don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week on the podcast. And this week is no different with my guest, Joel Ungar. He’s the Director of Accounting and Auditing at Silverman, Kaplan and Sakwa near Detroit. Now, he’s with me here today. Joel, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s your “And”?
Joel: Yeah. Well, I was trying to find a reason to not eat lunch just yet.
John: Right. Perfect, man. Yeah. Well, I’m not the right person because I will eat lunch and talk to you at the same time.
Joel: Yeah. I’m capable of that skill too.
John: Awesome. Yeah. Well, you know the drill, man. I appreciated you reaching out. You’ve listened to the podcast for a long time and, yeah, happy to have you on. It’s the rapid-fire questions. I hope you’re ready, man. Get to know Joel on a new level here. All right. How about a favorite color?
John: Blue? Okay. How about a least favorite color?
John: Green? Interesting. Okay.
Joel: Michigan State University. That’s their color.
John: Oh, okay. It was either that or red. I knew it was going to be one of those two.
John: How about oceans or mountains? Okay. Interesting. How about pens or pencils?
Joel: Pens. Blue ink, specifically.
John: Oh nice. Okay. Yeah. I see a theme here.
Joel: Oh yeah, I didn’t even make that connection.
John: That’s why I’m a professional, Joel.
Joel: Apparently so.
John: When it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Joel: Oh, crossword. And you have to do them in blue ink.
John: Right. See?
Joel: Seriously, yeah.
John: So then the letters stand out from the black and white grid.
John: Okay. How about early bird or night owl?
Joel: I’m an early bird, definitely.
John: Nice. Okay. Do you have a favorite comedian of all time?
Joel: Groucho Marx.
John: Ah, nice.
Joel: Curly Howard would be a close second, but Groucho is amazing.
John: He’s brilliant. How about more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Joel: Star Trek, definitely.
John: Okay. Would you say more suit and tie or jeans and a T-shirt?
Joel: I generally would’ve said jeans and a T-shirt. But pat myself on the back, I’ve lost a lot of weight. I’m the only one at the office that wear suits. It’s because I like wearing them and they fit.
John: Good for you, man. Congratulations. Very cool. On your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
John: Yeah, me too. And your mouse, left click or right click?
Joel: Oh, the right mouse click is where you’re going to get the more interesting stuff. I try to right mouse click to do things if I can.
John: Yeah. How about more cats or dogs?
John: Me too. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?
Joel: I love the Caribbean. I’ll tell you Mykonos, when I was there for a couple of days when I was 22, that was spectacular. I’d love to go back there.
John: Wow. That sounds awesome. Yeah, I’ve never been, so very cool. How about Balance Sheet or Income Statement?
Joel: I’ve heard you ask this one. As a CPA in public practice, Balance Sheet all the way. But I’ve been a controller CFO and I was Income Statement all the way. I mean I focus on adjusting the Balance Sheet but I didn’t look at it after that. We always were focusing on the Income Statement.
John: No, that is funny which side it is, depending on which one. All right. We’ve got three more. Prefer more hot or cold?
John: Hot. Yeah.
Joel: That’s why I live in Michigan, for the wonderful hot winters.
John: Right. Exactly. That’s what I was thinking. I was like — I said, “Maybe no one’s told him.” How about a favorite number?
John: Is there a reason?
Joel: Yeah. That’s Sheldon Cooper’s favorite number on Big Bang Theory. He’s got a big explanation for it. It used to be 17. I’m still fond of 17, but 73 is just cool. I’ve got to get the T-shirt, actually. I haven’t done that yet.
John: Yeah. That’s the first time on the podcast that I’ve heard 73. That’s for sure. So I like it. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Joel: It’s funny. There was a conversation recently at home about if the house was on fire. I said, “If the house is on fire, grab my bike.” I guess I’m going to say my bike, but I’d be more concerned about my wife and kids getting out of the house for —
John: Sure. Absolutely. That’s a given, of course, but yeah. What kind of bike is it?
Joel: It’s a Motobécane or Motobécane. I’m not sure of the proper pronunciation. All carbon fiber, it’s a road bike and it’s the kind of bike I ride all summer long.
John: Yeah, fancy, man. That dovetails right into your passion — cycling. Is that something that you’ve been doing since you were a kid or is it more of a recent discovery?
Joel: I definitely rode growing up. I remember I had a really cool bike that I’ve got to find the picture and send it to you. And I rode even throughout my years at Michigan. I usually had my bike at school. If I was there for the summers, I would ride around. But up until three, four years ago, I never rode, I think, more than 24 miles in a day. So it’s definitely — in terms of the distance riding, it’s a new thing for me.
John: Yeah. So more of as a kid, of course, it’s just getting around on a BMX or a Huffy or something. Then in college as well, more of a mode of transportation.
Joel: Yeah. I wasn’t cool enough to have a BMX or a Huffy, though.
John: Oh, okay. Okay. All right, my bad. Team Murray, I think I had one of those when I was a kid.
Joel: I might have had one of those too. Yeah.
John: Yeah. The knock-off Huffy, that was what I had. So then it was more for exercise in the last three or four years then?
Joel: It started that way. The way that it really started was it was the beginning of 2017. I was trying to come up with a set of goals for the year, which is not something I’ve done every year. I was allowing myself to just free-form and see what came out. Then I saw that I wrote down that I was going to ride in what’s called the Wish-A-Mile that year. I stepped back and I was like, “Really? Where did that one come from?” For the background, the Wish-A-Mile is a three day 300 plus mile bike ride.
Joel: Yeah. It starts in Traverse City, Michigan, which is in the Lower Peninsula, beautiful, beautiful part of the state. It’s a hundred miles a day for three days. It raises money for Make-A-Wish Michigan. Then I had a number of friends that have done it, but I had never really thought about doing it. So I was like, “Where did this come from?” But I decided to pursue it.
John: Nice, man. That’s awesome. Yeah. And they call it a Wish-A-Mile because if they’ve called it Wish At 300 Miles, no one would do it.
Joel: Yeah, probably not. There is a one day option where you’d do 50 miles. Fifty miles, for me, it’s like I might start breaking a sweat. There was one day after Wish-A-Mile last year where my wife said to me, “So how much did you ride today?” And I said, “Just 65.”
John: Oh my goodness. Wow.
Joel: “Just 65?”
John: Just as like an outing. Yeah, 65 mile. Man, you know there’s cars for that sometimes. No, but that’s impressive, man. That really is. I mean 300 miles over three days is nothing to sneeze at. I mean that’s some dedication. And you can’t just go do it. I’m sure that there’s some training involved.
Joel: Well, yeah. And that’s the funny thing. There’s a team here called Team Alex. It’s the largest team that rides in it. And I know a lot of people that were on it, so I’m sure that had something to do with it. One of whom is my brother-in-law, Bruce. He happened to be the first person I saw when I was still deciding on it. I told him that, “Bruce, I think I’m going to ride in WAM,” because it’s Wish-A-Mile, WAM. Bruce says to me, “Oh, I don’t know if you know how hard this is. I don’t know if you realize how much you have to try.”
I know what I wanted to say to him, but I was polite and I didn’t say it back. Now, recently, I found out from him that the reason he said that was that our mutual brother-in-law and then his brother had both done WAM in the past and they didn’t do well. And he felt responsible for them. But then I contacted really the guy who was my best friend in high school. And David was like, “This is absolutely doable. I’m going to help you get ready for it.” And it was great because we’d been in occasional contact over the years. Then all of a sudden, it was like, in a sense, being back in high school because we were together all the time riding. It was fabulous. I mean I don’t see much this time of year, but I’m really looking forward to when the weather warms up because I get to hang out with my high school friend again.
John: That’s really cool, man. And creating those bonds over cycling is pretty awesome, pretty awesome. Yeah. That’s really cool, man. Is that the once a year that the WAM and then other than that, it’s training and riding for fun?
Joel: Yeah, for the most part. Although this year, I plan on doing a second ride. I’ll mention in a bit, but to ride 300 miles, I ride 1,700 miles before it. And that’s just as much a part of the process as the actual ride itself. If you think about the process that people go through a marathon training, we do a little bit of a taper, so to speak, in the week or so beforehand. The weekend before, I think we did a — maybe we did about an 80 mile ride. Then the next day, it was probably a little less, so still only 150 miles for the weekend. You do what we call, a hundred miles, we call a century. I think last year, I did five centuries leading up to WAM itself.
It was really hard because we had a horrible spring. And I was really concerned about if I’d be able to hit 1,700 miles. When June 21st hit, all of a sudden, the weather got good. And that’s when I really ramped up my riding. It was then. But the centuries are really important training. I mean you’ve got to learn how to pace yourself. It’s like when you ride a hundred miles in a day, you can eat whatever you want. We stop a lot and we eat a lot. And I’ll tell you — I don’t know if you’ve got Little Caesars Pizza.
John: Oh, yeah, the $5.
Joel: Right. They’re headquartered here. But at the end of the first day last year, we’re all at this one hotel in Big Rapids, Michigan, at least all Team Alex. And there’s — I don’t know how many — 30, 40 pizzas in addition to other food. And I started with four pieces of a large pizza. Then I went back and got a fifth. And that wasn’t all I ate that night.
John: That’s awesome, man. Is that what led to a lot of the losing weight? It was getting into more of the cycling?
Joel: Well, it was a combination of — I’ve been a stress eater. After my first WAM, I was trying to be a business coach at the time and that just failed. So there was the stress from that. Then my father passed away, Labor Day, that year. So I just started eating up a storm. And it took some time. I rode WAM last year way too heavy. But this year, I expect to be — the goal’s to get down to 159, but I expect I’m probably going to be in the 160s. Then I’ll be with the hills that’s going to help a lot.
John: Yeah. That’s impressive, man. That’s really, really fantastic. Then it has to also feel good that not only you’re riding and it’s good for your health and you’re feeling good about you, but doing it for Make-A-Wish, Michigan, there’s some feel good to that as well.
Joel: Yeah. That really became a bonus out of all this. I mean I knew that it was for Make-A-Wish. And if you’re doing the three-day ride, you have to raise 1,200 dollars. If you don’t raise 1,200 dollars, you’ve got to show up at the registration day before that starts with a check for the difference. The first year, I raised about $3,000. And then 2018, I missed because I had to have surgery on a toe of all things. I know it sounds lame, but I wasn’t able to ride until after WAM because of that. But last year, I raised almost $6,800, I think.
John: Wow, that is a lot.
Joel: Yeah. And this year, I want to raise 10,000. It’s a three-day ride. Then there’s the day beforehand when they bust you up to Traverse City. A lot of us view it as the four most important days of the year because you’re really doing something really important, but there’s also just the experience of the ride. But getting to know Make-A-Wish and what they do is just absolutely incredible.
We finish now at Eaton Corporation, E-A-T-O-N. Eaton Corporation is a big sponsor. And they have a Proving Grounds out in Marshall, Michigan, which is about 100 miles west of me. And this is Detroit. There’s Proving Grounds all over the place here. So we finish the last miles on their track. But along the way, there’s what they call the silent mile. It’s not a mile long. But we all — I mean Team Alex is riding together. We finish together. There’s about 100 of us or so. And we all got off our bikes. On the side, there’s like a little rising. And there’s all these Make-A-Wish stars with a picture on one side and a name on the other. Those are all kids that had a wish granted that didn’t live. You’re walking past this and we’re not saying a word. I mean we’re just doing walking by and looking. A couple people walk amongst the stars and straighten them out if they’ve blown around a little bit. I’ve got tears in my eyes. It’s just gut-wrenching. And it just reminds us of why we’re doing it.
I do a lot of Facebook live videos during the ride so people can know what’s going on. And I’m going to do more during training this year. But on day two, I think it’s around mile 37, we’re going through some Amish country. They know we’re coming through there. And there’s a place that makes donuts, a house, a farmhouse. And these donuts are amazing. They’re like right out of the fryer. I turned to my friend. Mark was standing next to me. Of course, he messed it up. It’s like, “Mark, why do we ride?” and he says, “For the doughnuts.” I was like, “No. We ride for the kids. And for the Amish doughnuts at mile 37.”
John: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. But I mean that’s so powerful though to be going through that and and to see how many lives have been impacted by that and how fortunate we are. And to be able to give back like that is really fantastic. It’s really cool, Joel.
Joel: I’ll tell you. On day two, they told us that there’d be wish kids at various stops. There’s like seven rest stops and a lunch. So day two, I’m having lunch with a friend of mine who incredibly went to that evil university south of me. We’re talking and then this young girl — she’s maybe about eight, cute as could be — comes up and her wish had been to go to Hawaii. She’s got a three dimensional — I think it was a whale puzzle made out of dart wood, those intricate things. She’s like, “Do you think I could put this back together?” We’re all playing along. “No, you can’t do that.” So she takes it apart, puts it right back together.
Her father was behind her. At one point, it’s like, “Go ahead. Show them.” So she lifts up her shirt a little bit and looked at her abdomen. You can see what almost looks like a deck of cards, pressing out under her skin. I think it was the pacemaker. So I turned her and I said, “Are you dad?” And he goes, “Yeah.” I said, “How is she doing?” And he said, “She’s fine,” but pause, “…until the next surgery.” And you just got to remind yourself these are just kids. They didn’t ask for this.
So because of the size of Team Alex, we’ve got three Wish kids assigned to us because at the end, you get a finishers medal. And a Wish kid will put it over you and they say, “Thanks for riding.” And it’s just like — people say to me, “Oh, it’s a great thing that you did.” It’s like, “Those kids are the heroes. All I did was ride my bike and raise a little bit of money, but all I did was ride my bike.” So I got to meet whatever Wish kid.
There’s this nice kid named Thomas that’s probably 11, 12 years old. He’s got this heart ailment. It’s like Tetralogy of Fallot, I think it’s called. It’s like a combination of four different things. The only thing that you could really tell — and I didn’t even notice that his lips are blue. So my friend David and I are sitting with him and his mother and his older sister. We’re talking to him and we’re treating him like royalty because he’s Wish kid and I’m watching his sister just rolling her eyes constantly at all this. And it’s like, “Yeah. He’s a Wish kid.” But to her, it’s just her little brother. “Okay. So he’s got this medical condition. So what?” That does humanize it a little bit more. But I remember I said to Thomas — it was like the year before he’d been the Wish kid for a bunch of small teams. And I said, “So what was it like?” He’s like, “My jaw hurt?” It’s like, “What do you mean your jaw hurt?” He said, “Because I had to smile so much for all those pictures.”
John: He’s such a celebrity. Yeah.
Joel: Yeah. He liked it in there. He was putting the medal on me. And I went up to him and I said, “You better be smiling kid for the picture.”
John: Yeah. That’s really funny, man. That’s awesome.
Joel: And there’s a real camaraderie in Team Alex. Like I said, there’s lots of miles of conversation. There’s lots of miles of just riding and you’re just being quiet and you’re taking it all in. I don’t know how many million stocks of corn we ride by and how many million soybean plants. I remember there’s one time on day two. And day two was miserable this year. The wind was just horrible. But finally, there was corn fields on the left and a soybean field to the right. I started singing, “Corn to the left of me, soybeans to the right,” and whoever’s next to me goes, “Here I am stuck in the middle with you.”
John: That’s funny, man. That’s awesome.
Joel: I make up my games to help pass the time. There was one guy that was riding with part of the time who’s about 30, which is really young. Most of the people are in their 50s and 60s actually because if you’re young, you’ve got kids. I mean you can’t take off and say, “Hey, hon, I’m going to go ride 100 miles today,” she’s not going to like it. My wife once approved of it. I decided that this one guy named Orin that he just had a really great butt. That was one of my games. It’s just little stuff to pass the miles.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s awesome. I’m just curious. Is this something that you talk about at work with colleagues and clients?
Joel: All the time.
John: Oh, okay.
Joel: In fact, I’ve got to tell you I just was talking to someone who’s a retired CPA who’s referring something to us. We’re talking on the phone the other day. The guy lives in Florida now, like all good retired Detroiters. We’re talking and it turns out he’d been on Team Alex earlier before I was involved.
John: That’s crazy.
Joel: Yeah. It’s just really interesting that you find that kind of stuff. But the day after WAM, I was only able to work out about a half day. Then I had to go home and sleep for like four hours. It’s a little exhausting. But I write the office and email and tell them about the experience and some pictures that I had. Then I say in there, “Thank you for listening to me speak about nothing but Wish-A-Mile for the last two or three months,” because it’s really either about Wish-A-Mile or people knows like, “So did you ride last night?” because as it gets closer, I’m riding almost every night, weather permitting. It might just be just 25 miles but I’m riding. I even have a route in the square mile that I live in that I call the stupid route. It’s where I do every side street in the square mile. It takes me 19 and a half miles to do it. Who would have thought? So if I’m riding by myself, I might just do the stupid route. It just depends.
John: But that’s cool that people that are around you are interested and ask.
Joel: Yeah. The firm has been supportive. A number of people will donate to the ride too, which is really nice. I really do appreciate the support from the firm.
John: Yeah, absolutely. But it also has to feel good to have something to talk about besides just the work and to know that they actually care about something you care about. It’s got to feel good because that’s not always the case. I would imagine in your career, you’ve been places where it’s, “Just get back to work,” type of a thing.
Joel: Yeah, pretty much. But it comes up the rest of the year too at different times.
Joel: And I have to be really careful when I’m with my brother-in-law because I ride with what everyone calls like Bruce’s group. There’s like type A and there’s type Bruce. And I’m saying that lovingly. I’ve known Bruce since I was a kid. We just happen to marry his sisters. But Bruce does all the organizing work so it’s great. I just have to show up. He’s got the route planned. I don’t have to spend time doing that. But Bruce has a group of people that ride with him. So it’s great hanging out with all those people. It’s just part of the whole experience. My friend, David, he and I ride together all the time, but we don’t ride WAM together because he likes to do his own thing. It’s a lot of fun.
John: That seems really awesome, really awesome.
Joel: A hundred miles in a day is doable. It’s crazy. Three hundred miles in three days is nuts. So to be even nuttier, David’s talking me into, there’s a ride, I think it’s two weeks after WAM called ODRAM, O-D-R-A-M, One Day Ride Across Michigan. And it starts at this place called the Double JJ ranch. It’s about 20 miles north of Muskegon, Michigan, so it’s right on Lake Michigan. And you had to do west, about 145 miles until you get to Lake Huron.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Joel: I’m planning on doing that this year because it’s not crazy enough to do a hundred miles in a day. My record’s about 112. But 145? Let’s see if I can do that.
John: And two weeks after, you just did 300. So good for you, man. That’s impressive. It sounds like it’s really benefited the career and the work that you’re doing, as well as creating relationships. How much do you feel like it’s on the top down, like your role as director of accounting and auditing? Or how much is it on an individual to be a part of that?
Joel: It’s up to the individual. No one at work is interested in doing it. But I’m still trying to recruit someone to Team Alex and one of these days, I’ll succeed. Because there’s so many of us. But it’s just — you meet a lot of people for every city, “John, how about riding a hundred miles a day three days in a row?” And the typical response is, “I don’t think I could ride ten miles.”
John: Right. Exactly. It’s called a century because it’ll take me that long. That’s why.
Joel: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah. If we can average 15 miles an hour, that’s six hours 40 minutes in the saddle, but you got all the rest time. You’re going to lunch in the midst of that. Usually, we leave at 6:00 in the morning. And if we’re doing good, we’re back at three o’clock. Oh, that’s not there. You’re still home in time for dinner.
John: Absolutely. And as far as finding out what other people’s passions are, do you feel like that’s a tone at the top sort of a thing? Or is that something where people can create their own little circles? Or how much does that matter?
Joel: The tone at the top here definitely encourages people to pursue whatever interests them. I have to admit I can’t really tell you that about all the interests and passions of everyone else at work. We have a couple people that are skiers. Yes, in public accounting, but they’re skiers. My assistant loves to play maj. Some play maj four or five, six nights a week. Some people have their different passions. I’m really glad that I finally found something.
I’m going to be 58 in a couple of weeks. There’s someone on Team Alex, this woman who people are uncertain exactly how old she is, but 78 or 79. And she does all 300 miles. When I said there was bad wind on day two, we ran across her somewhere, the Bruce’s group of people and we’re like, “Marsha, tuck in with us. Take benefit of the draft.” She’s like, “No, I’m better on my own.” And it’s like, “I want to be Marsha.” I mean she’s one of my heroes. I hope to be riding well into my 70s.
John: That’s interesting how you say you finally have something. Do you feel like that’s made it different the way that you approach people at work and clients? Or was it something else before cycling?
Joel: There probably was something else before because it’s not like I have a hard time starting conversations with people. When I’ve said to my wife, “Apparently, I’m an extrovert,” and she’s like, “Yeah. Says he who leaves me in his dust whenever we go to a party.” But it’s always an avenue when you’re talking with someone or it’s like it somehow comes out. But I always try to find out what other people are interested too.
There’s a Facebook friend of mine that I’ve had for a long time that we’ve never met in person but with mutual friend type thing. And I keep saying to her, “Rose, we’re riding this year.” And I think this year, we’re actually going to ride together this year.
John: Oh, very cool.
Joel: It’s been a way to meet more people. One of the guys I ride with yesterday, just to talk about how can we do some professional stuff together. So it leads to various opportunities.
John: Definitely. And it’s not, “Let’s talk about more accounting and auditing.” It’s, “Let’s create a connection over something else,” and then it can lead to business, like you said.
Joel: Yeah. I’m trying to avoid being a total bike geek, though. There’s people who talk about, “Oh, you got the Shimano 905 or whatever.” I do spinning classes to help get ready for outdoor riding season. I don’t really enjoy it. One of the reasons is you don’t go anywhere. That’s one of the nice things about a bike. You’re going somewhere. It’s like, well, we do a ride where we go to Lake Erie. And it’s still really cool to me. It’s like I don’t see a great lake every day. Hopefully, when I do ODRAM, I’m going to see two great lakes in a day. But it’s just fun to go these distances and see things.
John: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. Well, before I wrap it up, do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that might have a hobby or a passion that has nothing to do with their career?
Joel: Yeah, I always tell people, “Go for it.” People need to know you and like you. And I think it makes you a more interesting person. You need something to be focused on outside of work. I mean if I was reading FASBs at night, I don’t think anybody would want to talk to me.
John: Right. Totally.
Joel: I know my wife doesn’t want to hear me talk about biking, but that just goes with the territory.
John: Yeah. The alternative is me talking about auditing, so you pick. That’s really great, man. So it’s only fair that before we button this up that I turn the tables and allow you to now be the host and question me. So I’m in the hot seat now.
Joel: All right. I got three for you, John. First one, road bike or mountain bike?
John: I’m going to go mountain bike just because I don’t trust myself with the whole clipping in to the pedals thing. That makes me nervous. So I’ll go mountain bike.
Joel: Obviously, I have a road bike because that’s how I do my riding. The thing with when you’re clipped in, I mean it makes you a stronger rider. But you’re going to fall. Just accept it.
John: Right. Exactly.
Joel: But I’ve gotten better at that. It rarely happens now. All right. Next question, Beatles or Rolling Stones?
John: Oh, wow. I’ll go Beatles. They’re the original, I guess.
Joel: All right. Last one, Jen or Marsha?
John: Oh, wow. Okay. Probably Marsha, I’ll say, just because everyone always complained about her. Exactly. Exactly. But this has been really fun, Joel. Thanks so much for being a part of What’s your “And”?
Joel: You bet.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Joel on his bike or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links will be 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.