Abbey is a Marketer & Award-Winning Gardener
Abbey Kanellakis, a Senior Manager at Rea & Associates, talks about how she discovered her passion for gardening, when she realized being herself at work can benefit her career, forming The Committee of Awesomeness, and much more!
• Getting into gardening
• Succession planting
• Growing peanuts
• Being yourself in the office
• The Committee of Awesomeness
• Why it is both on the individual and the organization to promote an open work environment
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Welcome to Episode 405 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. And to put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and,” those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. And if you want me to read it to you, that’s right, this voice reading the book, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. The book goes 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 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, Abbey Kanellakis.
Abbey: You nailed it.
John: Yes. She’s the senior manager of Practice Growth at Rea & Associates outside of Columbus, Ohio. And now she’s with me here today. Abbey, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Abbey: Hey, I’m just glad to be here. Sorry for chiming in there. Once I start, I can’t stop.
John: Right. No, I’m excited to have you be a part of this after you won the award at the BDO Alliance Conference for the Rethink competition for people that had outside-of-work passions. I think it’s so cool that the Alliance did that award. I’m like, I wrote a book on that. So it was awesome to be a part of that.
Abbey: Hey, I am thrilled. Thanks to the BDO Alliance, I can now say I’m an award-winning gardener, and I have used that multiple times already. No one has tried the tomato yet, but I’m an award-winning gardener.
John: I love it. That is so awesome. We need to update LinkedIn right now. But that’s so cool. But I have my rapid-fire questions, things that I didn’t ask when we were avatars in the Verbella world of the Alliance. Here we go. How about a favorite color?
Abbey: Glitter unicorn.
Abbey: I do like glitter with everything, so we’ll just say glitter.
John: Just sparkly. Okay.
John: All right. How about a least favorite color?
Abbey: Brown? I have no reason, just it looks like poop.
John: Cats or dogs?
John: Dogs. Yeah, me too. How about a favorite day of the week?
John: Friday. Okay, there you go. How about puzzles, Sudoku, crossword, jigsaw?
John: Crossword? Okay. All right. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Abbey: Oh, so I do kind of like John Lithgow and —
John: Oh, yeah, he’s hilarious.
Abbey: Eva Green.
John: Oh, yeah.
Abbey: So she was great in Penny Dreadful.
John: Very cool. Yeah, good answers. Oh, here’s a fun one. Someone asked me this and I like to turn it around. Socks or shoes?
John: Shoes. Okay. All right.
Abbey: Or maybe socks with flip flops.
John: No! Never! This is the shortest episode of What’s Your “And”? I’m just kidding.
John: All right. We’ll give you one more chance. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Abbey: Star Wars, I suppose.
John: You weren’t super convinced but all right.
Abbey: Super glitter unicorn. I mean…
John: Okay. How about your computer, PC or a Mac?
Abbey: I am a creative person, so that would lead me to Mac, of course. But I work on PCs. They’re ingrained, so I would have to go with PC.
John: Yeah, me too. Same. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Abbey: All the ice cream flavors.
John: Nice. That was a trick question and that is the right answer. So you’re back to redeeming yourself. Okay. How about a favorite season, summer, winter, spring, or fall?
Abbey: Definitely not winter but the other three I’m good with. Spring, I am outside planting, so what’s not to love?
John: There you go. All right. How about your first concert?
Abbey: So there was actually the funny story too, the one that I went to with my parents, they took me to see Collective Soul.
John: Oh, yeah.
Abbey: Back in the day. But then my first adult concert was Cradle of Filth.
John: Oh, there you go, which is the opposite of Collective Soul.
Abbey: Totally opposite. They’re hanging on hooks.
John: Holy moly! Okay. I did not see that coming. How about a favorite number?
Abbey: Thirteen. That was my jersey number when I played softball in high school.
John: There you go. All right. How about books, audio version, e-book, real book?
Abbey: Totally the real book. I have a background in journalism, so I love the look and feel and smell of all things print. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy the sultry sounds of your voice as you read the book.
John: They were like, “So do you want to read it?” I was like, “I guess? I don’t know.” And then recording it is hilarious because in my book, as you’ve read, there’s 41 quotes from different people that have been on the podcast. They tried to get me to do characters.
Abbey: I was going to say, did you introduce some new characters in there?
John: I know these people, like imagine if I quoted you and then I try and do your voice, like you would get on a plane, fly to Denver and punch me in the face and then just go right back to the airport. Like I would do that.
Abbey: I really want to hear your impression of me right now.
John: So the spoiler is there’s a softer, slower John Garrett voice. That’s the quotes. There’s me and then there’s my quote voice. It’s pretty agnostic. It doesn’t have a gender.
Abbey: It sounds pretty lame, honestly.
John: Yeah, I wanted to use the recordings from the thing but they were like, “Eh, it’s not high enough quality,” or whatever. I don’t know.
Abbey: Next book, definitely do some impressions. We have to make that happen.
John: Right. Okay, let’s write the next one first, Abbey. Let’s slow down here.
Abbey: Coming soon.
John: Getting out of the — so we got three more. How about favorite toppings on a pizza?
Abbey: Cheese, cheese and more cheese.
John: Okay, there you go. That’s solid. How about a favorite Disney character?
Abbey: Tinker Bell.
John: Tinker Bell. Wow, that’s a good one, out of nowhere.
Abbey: Tinker Bell, Cradle of Filth.
John: Right, right.
Abbey: I’m a wildcard. You got whiplashed.
John: I think if you start to Cradle Filth album, when you start Peter Pan, no, no, no, never mind. Dark Side of the Moon. Never mind. Different things. Different album.
Abbey: I love that so much.
John: Last one, last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Abbey: So recently, it was my great-grandfather’s gardening book.
John: Oh, nice.
Abbey: And he got it from, it was like a garden club back in the ’60s or whatever, but he swore by it. And then after he passed away, my other grandpa went over and took it, and then my grandma gave it to me late last year. She’s like, “I’m imparting all this wisdom to you.” It’s been the best thing I’ve ever read.
John: That’s so cool. That’s absolutely hysterical too that your other grandpa swiped it.
Abbey: Oh, yeah.
John: It’s that good.
Abbey: I’m not going for the heirlooms. I’m going for the book.
John: Right. How’s he grow all that stuff? Which leads in perfectly with your and. How did you get started gardening? Was it getting that book, or was it something that you had been failing miserably at until then? No, I’m just kidding.
Abbey: I don’t think I’ve ever failed miserably per se at gardening, but I had never stretched myself to this extent. So I would try like a tomato plant here and there. But then I lived in some apartments for a while and couldn’t really do anything with that. Before we went on lockdown, my husband and I had just bought a house on half an acre land. I’m like, I’m going to get this gardening happening. Well, of course, COVID and everything. I remember seeing on the news that the state of Michigan was starting to ban all seed sales and whatever. Before that comes to Ohio, I am going to buy all the seeds. I literally went to Walmart and all under the car.
John: It’s that and toilet paper, like that’s what I’m going nuts on. But the seeds, that’s hilarious. That’s so awesome.
Abbey: And then, of course, I take them all home and I’m like, “How am I going to plant all of these?”
John: Now you got to plant them.
Abbey: What did I do to myself? There was a lot of work that went into getting the ground tilled. It was a beast. Of course, we moved in late so I got my gardening late. It was probably mid-June, which is really late for a lot of these. But I was out there every day. Fortunately, working from home. I would go out to lunch breaks and I would be out there pulling weeds. I’d come back in. I was out there probably more than I was sitting at my desk working. So I realized I really liked this. I had so many beans, the amount of tomatoes like I was impressing myself. I’m like, “Look what I did.”
John: Right, right.
Abbey: I just wanted to keep that going, and it kind of got out of hand because it was really big last year. This year, I’ve tripled the size of it.
Abbey: Yeah. That’s pretty good. I started seeds indoor, so I got grow lights and kind of the whole setup.
John: Yeah. So now, I mean, you’re way ahead. You could probably do two rounds, I would imagine. By the time June comes around, you’ll already have a crop.
Abbey: At this point, yes. I started all my tomatoes, and I’m planning on doing a succession planting. So I have late crops as well, so like a broccoli in July. I mean, I feel like I’m nerding out on all this.
John: No, no, you really thought it through and you don’t want to give out all the secrets of the book. I mean, I just love how you just embrace it. And I mean, you won an award. So like, I mean, you’ve got the hardware to back it up.
Abbey: That’s great.
John: Are you growing anything that you would consider unique?
Abbey: So yeah. And again, I learned this from that book that you can grow peanuts as far north as Ontario, Canada.
Abbey: I had no clue. I’m like, you can only grow peanuts in the south. What are you talking about?
John: Right, specifically Georgia.
Abbey: Right, right. Well, until I got peanuts and they’re Virginia peanuts, really big. I think that’s what they used to make like peanut butter.
Abbey: It’s like there are certain varieties for different things. And if they all come up this year, I’m going to try peanuts. I’m going to have enough, probably about 3,200 peanuts produced.
John: So the next year, you’ll be back talking about your circus. So we have elephants now to eat all our peanuts.
Abbey: Right. Apparently, I don’t do things half-ass. I’m in like, oh, I’m going to go try peanuts, so I’m going to do a field of peanuts.
John: No, that’s cool, though. I’ll be interested to hear how that goes. Can you just plant the peanuts that you would get in a store, or do you have to buy?
Abbey: Yeah, you kind of have to buy the seed, so the seed peanut. You don’t want them roasted already. That’s probably going to kill all that in there.
John: That’d be amazing if they grew salted and roasted. It’s like, oh, my gosh.
Abbey: It’s like, where does chocolate milk come from?
John: Right. Exactly. You’re going to start growing chocolate milk?
Abbey: It’s going to happen. Well, so my husband is Greek, and that’s one of the things that we love about gardening so much is we plant the vegetables we need for the horiatiki, which is your Greek salad, your traditional Greek salad. So of course, we have our tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, onions. We actually bought an olive tree, so now we’re going to be planting olives along with all of this. It’s like the only thing that we need now is feta. I’m like, give me a goat. You’re going to make it happen.
Abbey: Man, you don’t even know who I am anymore.
John: You’re going to have a full-on farm there. You’re going to have to move again.
Abbey: I’m not going to lie, I saved a baby rabbit a couple of weeks ago. The bunny family got ran over across the street. My daughter was like, “No!” So we had a rabbit up until this week. We finally let it go. But the country looks good on me, I guess.
John: Right. Look at you. This is awesome. Who knew?
Abbey: Who knew?
John: It’s just unleashed. Yeah, that’s so cool. And so do you feel like gardening at all translates to work, or you’re using some of the skills in your gardening or vice versa?
Abbey: Well, I can certainly bribe people with vegetables now.
John: Right, which in Columbus is better than money.
Abbey: It really is.
John: How many zucchinis do you have? What?
Abbey: I’ll give you some peppers for a tax return.
John: It’s funny.
Abbey: At work, I’m kind of known for now being the weird gardener, but in general at work I’m just the weird person, off the wall, unfiltered all the time. You know, it’s kind of interesting to see how that Abbey has translated into garden Abbey because, I mean, I give my plants voices and they say some really inappropriate things. You’re supposed to talk to your plants, but I think I took it to a whole new level.
John: They’re not supposed to talk back.
John: My plants have some attitude.
Abbey: Right. You need to go in the corner with the Brussel sprouts.
John: Right. Exactly. But what is that like? I mean, well, first of all, just being known. I mean, which I think in the professional world is not something that’s easy for people to say. Is that something you’ve been like since day one?
Abbey: No, not since day one. When I started the firm, this is — I have a background in journalism, so I didn’t even come from the accounting profession. And then I joined Rea & Associates and like, okay, this is a big girl job now. So now I got to dress all professionally and makeup all the time and fit in by being a carbon copy of everyone else. And I found it so hard and I really struggled with that because I was like, I got to shine.
John: Yeah, right. Don’t put baby in the corner.
Abbey: Right, don’t do it. And it was about three years into work and finally I just said, screw it. I have to be me. I am going to let my freak flag fly, so to speak. I’m just going to say what’s on my mind. What’s the worst that can happen?
Abbey: Although I’m sure that there’s a lot of really bad things that they use my imagination, but I’m taking a gamble and it’s either going to work, or it’s not going to work. And it did. From that point on, I had really good relationships with a lot of principals in the firm, upper management. I got the younger crowd. I have them kind of looking up to me now. I’m kind of a champion for the brand because that’s the other thing, we want to be different. And I’m doing my part.
John: Yeah, very much so, very much so. I love it. I mean, because there are so many professionals and then the collective of the firms or organizations that they’re a part of, they don’t always think about being different. They almost want to try really, really hard to be the same. I mean, similar to how you said, in the beginning, when you started there, for some reason, our default mode is be the same as everyone else because we’re not in sixth grade, and they’re going to make fun of us and all that stuff type of thing. So it’s cool to hear that your experience of standing out actually was a huge, huge positive.
Abbey: Well, and I’ve had some great opportunities as a result of that because I am not afraid, I’m not going to be the shy person. And I feel like so many people that I work with or the accountants, in general, are more hesitant to speak up or to maybe scared to hear their own voices, , in a way. Like you’re in a board meeting, and I don’t want to be the first one with an idea. That never stops me. I’m always the first one with an idea. Even if it’s wrong, I will say something. As a result, I’ve been welcomed on several committees, strategic communications committee for the association for marketing, working with the BDO Alliance on their marketing roundtables. I’ve done really cool opportunities, and people appreciate it when you actually speak up, and it’s been great.
John: Yeah, because, I mean, even if it’s not the exact answer, it’s close. If you don’t say anything at all, then you’re going to be completely forgotten. You’re not even heard. You’re seen. So it’s cool that, I would imagine, it just feels good to be like, wow, people know me. They get me.
Abbey: It feels good.
John: Yeah, yeah, because, I mean, it’s not something that everyone can say, unfortunately, and I wish that was the case. And it’s really so simple. It’s just sharing your and. I mean, it’s that simple. It doesn’t have to be full-on like, you know, whatever. It’s just a little bit.
Abbey: No. And what’s really amazing is when you put a little bit of yourself out there, then it empowers others to put a little bit of themselves out there, and it builds upon each other. And all of a sudden, you have this really great relationship at a whole different level, and it just makes everybody stronger as a result.
John: Yeah, I mean, all of a sudden, you’re surrounded by actually cool people I want to be around for eight to 10 hours a day, five days a week. It’s like, oh, wow. I mean, I remember when I was working in corporate and you go to a happy hour or whatever and you’re talking to somebody, you’re like, “Wow, can you bring this person to work next week? This is like a cool version. I would like to hang out with your more.”
Abbey: Right. We can totally hang. This is exactly what I want.
John: Exactly. It doesn’t have to be only after hours outside the office. It could be a little bit inside.
Abbey: And that’s one of the things that we noticed with the pandemic as well. You know, I went to our regional president’s office and he’s like, “Yeah, I’d like to have a barbecue because we’re no longer seeing each other’s faces, and this is a problem. So do you have any ideas on how we can bring everyone together?” And of course, I’m like, “I have all the ideas, but I know what this is going to mean. It means I got to lead something.”
John: Right. Right. It’s your idea, so you’re in charge.
Abbey: And that’s exactly what happened. I’m like, so I’m typing up the ideas, and I send it off and he goes, “Great! When are you going to start implementing it?” Crap! So I recruited a few people, and I formed the Committee of Awesomeness.
John: Nice. Yes. That’s an awesome name. I love that. That’s so cool.
Abbey: It’s still in there, you know.
John: Yes. It’s right there.
Abbey: So we had done everything from bringing in food trucks and baseball in the parking lot to drive-in movie nights, random Zoom happy hours. We do a lot of happy hours. We’ve had mix your own drink. So we’ve shipped drink mixes over to everyone and do it all together. We decorated ornaments together. It really did bring us together so much. And now we have more people than ever in our Columbus area office getting involved in the Committee of Awesomeness. And in our North East region, they created the fun committees. So it’s spreading. It’s spreading, John.
John: Yeah, I love it. That’s so cool because, I mean, it’s those little things that are not more work and things that maybe not everyone’s good at decorating an ornament, but some people are really, really creative and artistic and it’s like, what? I did not see that coming. That’s very awesome.
Abbey: I had some surprises. And even if they’re not like maybe the best at drawing, they’ll put their own spin. Someone burned the wood, like it was wooden ornament. Like, wow, look at you.
John: Right. Hey, Pyro, how are you doing? I guess you shouldn’t sit by the fire exits. But that’s awesome because it’s something that’s different. It’s “outside the box.” Even just a little bit creative, it just goes such a long way. That’s super cool to hear. So how much do you feel people are sharing their and maybe more now with the pandemic because we’ve all been in each other’s homes?
John: Right. Well, I mean, on the Zooms, not like hanging out in the front yard, like maybe —
Abbey: Floating in the window, breathing heavy.
John: Well, in Columbus, we actually just go break in. So when you come home, it’s like, “Hey, we’re here!”
Abbey: “I’ve already opened the bottle of wine.”
John: Right. Exactly.
Abbey: No, but that’s true because we were saying some of the really interesting things about being remote. And I kind of was that creepy person. I’m like, I really like seeing what everyone’s bedrooms look like because a lot of them are in their rooms. But then I, of course, realized how creepy that sounded, and I didn’t want to be that person any longer.
John: Yeah, but you can just say rooms or houses or, I mean, because there’s art on their wall or a picture or books. Like if they have it there, it brings them joy. So talking about it would naturally light them up, which on the virtual calls is kind of hard sometimes.
Abbey: It is. But on the other hand, I will say too because I am moving to full-time remote, and that means I’m, you know, we serve 13 offices across the state of Ohio, our Practice Growth team. So this has actually made it easier for me to have those connections. We’re implementing Microsoft Teams. We’re still using Zoom here and there. I feel closer to the people in Cleveland and Marietta and Medina than I have ever because I was in Dublin, and they started monopolizing the time. I love my Dublin peeps but they’re like, “We’re here. We need you.”
John: And even psychologically, the other offices just look at you differently than because, oh, well, you’re theirs and ours. And even though we’re the same firm and we’re all one group, there’s still —
Abbey: This thing.
John: That thing. Yeah, totally. I can totally hear that, for sure. But yeah, because now then you can relate to them, because you’re kind of on an island on your own. And it’s like, well, I’m all of yours.
Abbey: Right. Exactly. And they all want a piece of me, let me tell you.
John: Right. Here’s what some of those peanuts and vegetables. That’s all they want.
Abbey: I know. I was telling them, I’m like, for Christmas, I’m going to make little baggies of fresh roasted Abbey — I’m going to make a label for it. It’s going to have my face on it. It’s going to be great.
John: That’s the market review. It’s just you can’t get away from it. There we go. That’s so cool to hear. So how much do you feel it’s on an organization to create that space for people to share their ands, or how much is it on the individual or to be like, you know, they didn’t really tell me I could, but in my small little group, I’ll just get it started?
Abbey: I think it’s kind of 50/50. One, the person has to be willing to share, but they also have to feel like they’re in a safe environment to share. Going back to when I was in my first couple years of firm, I didn’t necessarily feel like it was a safe environment, not because it, you know, people were very welcoming and it was great, but it was like everybody were — they were wearing suits and they were certainly rule bound in many ways. No one else was speaking up or being crazy. So it would be weird if I did it. So someone has to take that initiative, and then the firm has to be accepting of that, I think. And once that happens, then it gets the ball rolling. And I can tell you, at least in our Dublin office, with the Committee of Awesomeness so many people are just — they’re bonkers over there, but they work so hard and they have so much fun in the meantime, and they’re not afraid to go and visit each other like in their cubicles, right?
Abbey: But I feel like we are closer now because we have that ability to kind of be a little weird. And it’s great. It’s great.
John: I love that so much. Yeah, it’s almost like the — I refer to it as kind of like the world isn’t flat moment where somebody had to go over the edge. And then you come back and you’re like, “Hey, it’s fine. Actually, it’s better over there, you guys, like everybody, let’s go.”
Abbey: “Come on over.”
John: Right, exactly. And it’s one of those where it’s almost 99.9% in our own heads of, well, no one else is doing it and permission-based sort of behavior of, well, they didn’t say I could and they also didn’t say you couldn’t.
Abbey: Yeah, going back to like high school or something, you’re like, I just don’t want them to make fun of me or think different of me if they knew this, but it really goes the other way. They want to know a little bit more about you so that they can look at you differently because, again, we’re not in high school anymore.
John: Right. I mean, so much of that formative years was just hammered into us, and it’s really hard to shower it off. It’s like, yeah, it’s stuck. You know, it really is. But it’s such great words of encouragement to everybody right there. It’s just let it go and —
Abbey: Let your freak flag fly.
John: Yeah, exactly. And that’s not the first time on this show that we’ve heard that. So that might be the title of the second book right there that I’ll have to then voice. It’s quite the tongue twister, so maybe I’ll rethink that.
Abbey: Or practice, John.
John: I’m so lazy for that. I’ve got peanuts growing out back now, so I don’t have time to — the practice is talking to the plants. There you go.
Abbey: Right. Exactly. And just record yourself while you’re talking to the plants. And then the plants will start talking back and half the book is written.
John: Right. There it is. It’s actually only an audio book.
John: Right. Well, this has been awesome. But I feel like at the beginning of the episode, I so rudely peppered you with questions. So I feel like it’s time that we turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Abbey podcast. So thanks for having me on as a guest, I guess. I put myself. So I’m all yours. If you have any questions, fire away.
Abbey: I see you’re smiling, but you’re really crying on the inside.
John: I’m very nervous.
Abbey: All right. You have a few questions just gardening based, fruits or vegetables?
John: Oh, so I think gardening wise, as far as growing them, I would probably say vegetables just because fruits sounds harder, because that’s like a tree and like — so I think vegetables just seem easier or more common, I guess. So I’ll go with that.
Abbey: So you just want to be common, just run of the mill John.
John: Well, it just sounds hard. I got to grow trees and then have the trees grow the fruit. It’s like, I don’t have the kind of time. You can just go get apple seeds from the garden center and then plant them and then have apples that year. Like I might not even live in this house by the time the apples come out.
Abbey: Fair enough. Fair enough. It is a long-term commitment. I understand.
John: Yes. So maybe that’s more of what it is.
Abbey: He’s afraid of commitment, guys.
John: I need an ROI in six months. Like I don’t have this kind of time.
Abbey: Here’s a compromise for you. You go with the strawberries. You get the fruit.
John: Oh, yeah, I guess it is a fruit. All right.
Abbey: Speaking of fruits, tomatoes or peppers.
John: Tomatoes, tomatoes.
John: Yeah, cherry tomatoes, especially. Those are super fun, because they barely make it in the house because I eat them just right off. It’s like, oh, I was supposed to bring them in. Okay.
John: Right, right.
Abbey: All right, sunshine or thunderstorms?
John: Oh, sunshine. I hate the rain so much. It ruins everything. It should rain at night when I’m inside, water everything. That’s why I love Denver because it’s sunny almost every day. It’s like 300 plus days.
Abbey: It’s amazing.
John: Well, hopefully, we can be friends and hang out sometime.
Abbey: I’ll think about it.
John: Right. Well, regardless, it’s been so much fun to have you be part of What’s Your “And”? Honestly, Abbey, thank you so much for just being awesome.
Abbey: Thank you very much for having me.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Abbey or her garden or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. And while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. And don’t forget to check out the book.
So 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.
Stephen is a CEO & Gardener & Charity Worker
Stephen King, President and CEO of GrowthForce, talks about his experience as a concert promoter and how it plays a role in his career in accounting today! He also talks about how gardening and running a business are similar!
• Working as a concert promoter
• Being introduced to his first accounting client
• Getting into gardening
• Raging incrementalism
• Why it is hard to be open about hobbies at work
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 401 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. And to put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and,” those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want me to read it to you, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. The book goes more in depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial with your corporate culture. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such nice reviews on Amazon, and more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit Subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. And this week is no different with my guest, Stephen King. He’s the President and CEO of GrowthForce out of Kingwood, Texas. Now he’s with me here today.
Stephen, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Stephen: John, thanks for having me. I can’t wait.
John: No, this is going to be awesome. I’m excited to have you on. But first, I have my rapid-fire questions, get to know Stephen out of the gate. So seatbelt ready. You’re buckled in.
John: Easy one. Here we go. Favorite color?
John: Green? Nice. Okay. How about a least favorite color?
John: Orange. Okay, interesting.
Stephen: My parents are Irish.
John: So you only like half the flag?
Stephen: Green and gold, baby. Green and gold, not orange.
John: Oh, yeah. There you go. All right. I see. I see. How about a favorite Disney character?
John: Oh, solid answer. Solid answer. How about a puzzle, Sudoku or crossword?
John: Sudoku? Okay.
Stephen: Numbers guy?
John: Totally. Totally. How about a pizza or a hamburger?
Stephen: Pizza. New York City, baby. It’s the only place to get your pizza.
John: Amen, man. Amen. I agree. Totally. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Stephen: Oh, Julie Andrews.
John: Oh, yes. Solid answer. Okay, classic. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Stephen: Night owl. As I get older, neither.
John: That’s awesome. And naps in the middle, right
Stephen: That’s part of the day.
John: Yeah, absolutely. When it comes to books, audio version, Kindle, or real book?
Stephen: Real book, highlights, underlines, pages folded.
John: Okay, you get into it.
Stephen: Not enough of them. No, not enough.
John: Right. Right. How about a favorite number? Is there a reason?
Stephen: Yeah, because I could legally drink instead of illegally drinking like I had.
John: That’s great. That’s maybe the best reason I’ve ever heard. It’s hard to argue that. Absolutely.
Stephen: I was in an Irish neighborhood in Queens, you know.
John: Oh, well, there you go. Absolutely. Absolutely. As long as you can get up to the bar, then you’re in.
Stephen: You’re walking home after your parents go to bed.
John: Right. Totally, totally. How about a favorite animal? Any animal at all?
Stephen: Favorite animal, turtle, no question. I have two in my backyard. One will come out to eat from my hand and will bang into me if I’m not paying attention that he’s hungry.
John: That is cool. Okay.
Stephen: Yeah, yeah, Kingwood, Texas, I’m in a livable forest outside of Houston, and my grandfather in Dunleary outside of Dublin, he had a tortoise. So when you’re a little kid in this yard and there’s no kids to play with, find the tortoise was the daily fun.
John: Yeah, that’s not easy, man. They are like, they’re built to hide. So that’s cool, though. That’s very cool. I have to ask, a balance sheet or income statement?
Stephen: Income Statement. My company is called GrowthForce, right? What we do is we help grow your bottom line. We help you make more money. So the income statement strengthens the balance sheet.
John: Yeah, there you go. There you go. How about a favorite day of the week?
John: Okay. Is there a reason?
Stephen: It’s a state of mind that starts the weekend.
John: Yeah. Okay.
Stephen: It’s abundance, right? It’s just, okay, almost the end of another good week, and start of a weekend.
John: I love it. Okay. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Stephen: Star Trek.
John: Yeah. Okay.
Stephen: Yeah, especially originals back to the ’70s in black and white on a TV where three kids had to watch the same show.
John: Right. Those are the glory days, man. That sounds so normal to me. But you’re right, that is way not normal now. We got four more. Your computer, more PC or Mac?
Stephen: Wow. I consider myself bilingual. I would say more PC only because that’s what business is, but anywhere else I can possibly have at home and it’s a Mac world after all.
John: Okay, okay. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Stephen: I go to chocolate. Can I give you the whole Mr. Softee?
John: Oh, yeah.
Stephen: The double cone with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sprinkles and a little bit of the schmutz, what do you call it at the top? Caramel or something or other.
John: Yeah, exactly.
Stephen: That’s heaven. A double cone could last an hour.
John: eah, totally could. How about your first concert?
Stephen: Oh, I remember exactly. It was Jefferson Starship in Central Park. It was 1976. Billy Castiglione and I went. Free show on a Wednesday and it poured rain. There was nobody there. The show went on because Grace Slick said that we played in the rain at Woodstock, and we’re playing in the rain in Central Park. We are going on. There was probably 300 people there, and it was awesome. You know, right at the point where my love of music was starting and I got, you know, you’re in New York, so it’s like everywhere. Yeah, Marty Balin on guitar. They were doing the Red Tiger tour, I think was the album. Yeah, it was great. Jefferson Starship, not airplane.
John: Right. Right. Right. Right. Right. Very cool. The last one, the favorite thing you have are the favorite thing you own?
Stephen: Oh, I know exactly what that is. I have a piece of the World Trade Center.
John: Oh, wow.
Stephen: I have a core sample.
Stephen: Ground, it’s about eight inches tall. You can see where the cuts are, where the rebar cuts through the cement and the speckles of what they used as a binding agent to pour the cement. I was a manager of accounting system design at a big bank and global bank, and they had a $20 million gold bullion vault to physical inventory difference. And the auditors called me in to help figure out why.
And so what I had to do was to match up the trading system with the general ledger with the all the systems, and I needed some more computers in this conference room that was down six storeys below ground where the gold bullion vault was. They actually stored the gold in the World Trade Center.
John: Wow. Okay.
Stephen: Yeah. So anyway, I needed more computers. Instead of getting another extension cord, some guy came in because the CFO of the bank carved a hole in the ground, extended a power supply to the other side, and he pulled out this big 36-inch core sample. And I had a bank playing on the top floor, the 102nd floor. It was a fiduciary trust company. Barry O’Connell, who is the senior vice president, had one of these on his cadenza. I said, “What’s that?” He’s like, “It’s a piece of the World Trade Center.” I was like, “Can I get one?” He goes, “No, just the top dogs get that.”
So anyway, I say to the guy, “Can I have that?” He goes, “No, just the top dogs get that.” And then he pushes it off the table. It falls to the ground. It breaks into two pieces. He goes, “Unless, of course, it’s broken.”
John: I love it. Love it. That’s so New York.
Stephen: And he handed me the small piece and he ferried away the big piece and I had it.
John: That’s very cool, man. That’s really awesome. That’s an awesome story, for sure. So yeah, so let’s talk — I mean, we have so much here to cover, which is really cool. But I guess we’ll start with music. I mean, you’re obviously in New York, so music is everywhere in the city.
Stephen: And I’m from an Irish family, and so every party that we’ve ever had, there was singing all night.
John: Yeah, right, right.
Stephen: And that’s a tradition carried over from Leitrim and all of Ireland. So I did inherit the gene, though, to have the talent despite my mother giving me eight years of accordion lessons and four years of clarinet, it just didn’t work. But I always wanted to be a rock and roll accountant. I would go to these concerts and shows and I’d be thinking, this is such a cool business to do for the rest of your life.
John: Absolutely. You’re rounded.
Stephen: Yeah. So I was at Ernst & Young and I told them I wanted to do that, and they actually paid for me to go to Ron Delsener and had a class at the new school and taught how to be a concert promoter. And I started a little hustle on the side. In fact, that’s how I got connected with Amnesty International. But I found that the music industry ethics I just couldn’t live. The Irish Catholic boy from Queens could not cheat artists and the venue.
John: You’re right. I mean, I did comedy, I mean, full time in the city even. I mean, if anybody could stiff you 10 bucks, they would. And it’s like, really? And there’s nothing you can do about it. As the artist it’s like, well, I guess just don’t work for that person anymore but —
Stephen: They own the venue.
John: Yeah, exactly. What are you going to do? What a cool story, man. That’s really awesome. Really awesome. And then that led to the Amnesty International?
Stephen: Yeah. I feel like I’ve been on a mission for God. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, but crazy stuff has happened. So I had this little concert production company. The business model was, can we meet girls?
We guys, we’re putting on parties and clubs in the city. We’re in tuxedos at the door. It was a successful business. We met a lot of people, had a lot of fun. But one person I met with Celeste Amelia, who was the art director for Gloria Vanderbilt. And she said, “Hey, Amnesty International is having this big concert. It’s on MTV, but you can’t get any tickets. It’s Bruce, Sting, U2, everybody.” I’m like, “Oh, yeah, I know.” Because I want to do something for Amnesty here in the city. I want to do a concert for Amnesty International. Like we’ll do it the Saturday night before the show comes to United States. Excellent. The Cucumbers were the headliners. Oh, I’m going to forget. There was some good names on that bill. So Irving Plaza went bankrupt the night before the show. Closed down Friday night. Show was Saturday.
John: Oh, no.
Stephen: Yeah. So one thing led to another. I have to tell you, the owner at the time disappeared to his mom’s house in New Jersey. I put 5,000 — no, Celeste put $5,000 up of her personal money as the deposit, and I went in the heavy and said, “Look, this is Amnesty International’s money, dude.” The people who were cleaning up were like, “He’s at his mom’s house. Here’s his address.” I go to his mom’s house right away. I’m not going to do it. She’s like, “Come on in. He’s going to be home in an hour.” She set the table. I tell her the whole story. She’s like, “He’s going to pay you back.”
John: Oh, wow.
Stephen: And he did. He wrote a check. He gave me 5,000 bucks, and I gave it to Celeste, and we became lifelong friends.
John: That’s cool.
Stephen: My first failure, though. I learned a lot from that. I learned I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this. This is not fun. The night before the show, you’re sweating, breakeven points. It’s like — but I got hooked on Amnesty. Again, I’ve done this already. It was three years. So now I come back and to the head office and they say, “You know what? There’s a volunteer position of the coordinator of the New York City High Schools.” Sixty-three schools were organized by this guy named Konstantin Dierks, and he was moving on. Amnesty swelled in high school participation after the concert. So would I help coordinate them? Sure.
We had a meeting every Friday at four o’clock at the corporate office. I left Ernst & Young at 2:30, three o’clock, and did that for three years. I’m working on the ninth floor, where all the human rights activists were downstairs. And I remember my favorite one was Magdaleno Rose-Avila, who was the national director of the campaign to abolish the death penalty. And they were going to Albany to rally against the death penalty with eight buses. And he called me in, and he’s a big guy. And he says, “Stevie, I need you to get banners. We’re going up to Albany with buses. And I want on CNN. I want big banners across the pavilion. I want you to make as many big banners as you can.” I said, “Lenny, how are we going to make banners? I don’t have materials for banners.” He goes, “Your mama’s got bedsheets.”
John: There you go.
Stephen: True story. So I’m like, “All right. All right.” So I go back into the conference room because he pulled me out of the meeting. He goes, “All right, we got a job. We got to make banners.” “How are we going to make banners?” “Your mom has got bedsheets.” So anyway, a month or two later, I left Ernst & Young. I started my own CPA firm. I gave them two months’ notice. And after two weeks, right at the time I gave notice, I get a call from a partner, an audit partner that I worked with and as an auditor who said, “Hey, I just got a new client. It’s a nonprofit. I know we don’t do a lot of nonprofits, but I think they do exactly what you do. You do accounting systems and internal controls, right?” “Yes, that’s exactly it.” “Okay. This nonprofit, Amnesty International just signed us as an auditor. And we can’t do the audit because they don’t have any systems of internal controls to audit. They have outgrown their whole interest. They went from $6 million to $18 million like that. Can you help them?”
John: Wow, that’s serendipity right there, for sure.
Stephen: Oh, my God. So I said, “Do you know that I have a poster on the wall that says question authority?”
John: Yeah, right. There you go.
Stephen: HR tried to make me turn it down. I said, “Well, you take it down, because if I took it down, I wouldn’t be questioning your authority.” My partner protected me. They never took it down.
John: That’s cool.
Stephen: So anyway, I get invited in to make this bid. I had already given notice. Ernst & Young says, “Look, we don’t want this audit. We don’t do nonprofits. It’s too much risk for our insurance.” She said, “Just give me a proposal for $10,000 or less, and I’ll hire you because you know what we do for a living.” I would hire you. Ernst said make it 15 grand.” I was like, “But we’re going to lose.” She goes, “No, we don’t want it.”
So when I started my own CPA firm to have Amnesty as a client, I remember charging then $45 an hour, thinking like, okay, I’ve added up all my expenses and this is I have to get at least this much because taxes because I don’t want to make any money. So three months later, they asked me to be the CFO.
Stephen: It was really cool. Yeah. I did that for a total seven years in charge of all the money, at first managing it and then director of development for fundraising. But what was really cool was, as the director of development, you got to meet all these Amnesty International VIPs like Reza Jalali, an Iranian writer, a prisoner of conscience, who just became a friend, became a board member. He had an NPR thing in Maine. He’s like, come on up to Bangor and get on my show. It’s like, it was life-changing people.
John: Yeah, that’s cool. And making a huge difference.
Stephen: Making a huge difference.
John: Yeah, that’s so cool to hear, man. So cool to hear. I mean, also too, the gardening, which I know is a really big piece of your life as well. Is that something that just came up later on in life?
Stephen: No, my mother was a gardener. My mom comes from Ballinaglera, County Leitrim, cora lover, cora lover as is well known, and she’s a farmer. A dirty day is a good day. From being a little kid, I got a little dirt under my nails today because I was in the garden last night. She had everything growing in the yard. We had marigolds and tulips. I remember she’d cut bunches of them and have me deliver them to her friends in the neighborhood, and they would give me a dime. And I’d be like, “Okay, this is great. I got money.” So you know, ever since then, you know, I was the eldest son, so I say, “Come on out here and help me in the garden. You didn’t have a choice. Pull those weeds.”
John: Exactly. And you learned all the tips and the tricks and —
Stephen: Yeah. You learn to enjoy. We used to come over from Massachusetts, which was the country and bring manure and just really till the soil. It was so cool to have this farm smell in Queens.
John: Right. And you can grow this stuff. It actually works. So do you feel like any of those skills, like the love of music or even the volunteering and the nonprofit stuff and even gardening translates at all to work?
Stephen: Gardening totally does. Gardening is a direct correlation. Yeah. I mean, we follow a process here at GrowthForce called raging incrementalism. I learned that some Bob Goodman at Bessemer Venture Partners. Raging incrementalism basically means, okay, you plant some seeds, and you nurture them, and you give them some support and some water and some sun and some love, and some will grow and some will get blown away, and you’ll forget about those. Same thing is true in business. You’re the CEO, you’re the visionary. See, you got a lot of ideas, and the organization can’t handle all of them. So you try what you think will work the best and you give it the support that it can and you water it with money and you give it love from the managers, management team. And some of these ideas make it and become moneymakers, and some of these wither away and you write off a loss.
John: Some of them you cut and give to the neighbor for 10 cents, and then there we go.
Stephen: Exactly. And your people are the same way, right? They’re growing. They need to be nurtured and loved. And so —
John: I love that. That’s really good. Yeah, that’s exactly it. You’re right. Is it something that you talk about at work? I mean, I love how you had the question authority poster in your office back in the day, but is it something that even today, whether it’s music or listening to music or talking about gardening or what have you?
Stephen: I think the nonprofit stuff is something we talk about work all the time. We had a company meeting Thursday, and it was all about, how are we going to be a company with a conscience? How are we going to make the world better than we found it when we come to work each day because of the people we serve? And the nonprofits, what is the work that they do? And how does that help really make a difference? And how does that mean your life makes a difference? For our clients, we are them. We’re committed to their mission and their vision and their values. And so I think that thinking about others and helping people as much as you can is why people come to work here.
John: I love that. That’s awesome. Yeah. Because, I mean, there’s a bigger picture here. There’s more to it. You can be good at your technical skills, but what are you using those technical skills for? And do you know what the other people around you also love to do and what lights them up as well?
Stephen: Yeah, when you’re attracted with other people who are here to serve, it’s easy to want to help.
John: Right. And why do you think it is that it’s difficult to get people to open up about those outside-of-work hobbies or interests or passions that are beyond their degrees and certifications?
Stephen: Fear and time. Maybe time and fear in that order. Well, I think, you know, we’re all insecure and don’t want to be judged, I guess. I think it’s also social norms. We try to think of GrowthForce as part of your family. And so it is important that you dig, for all of us to have the time to be able to really know who we are and what our fears, uncertainties and doubts are, right?
I’m a parent of two and just came from lunch with one of our accounting managers, and we spent almost the entire time talking about the challenges of our kids in their 20s and it’s hard and that’s life and not about whether or not this client is happy or not.
John: Yeah, right. No, because the work happens, it’s going to happen. We don’t have to be intentional with making time. We know why we’re here to get paid and what our job is. It’s just I feel like most people, we need to make time for these other things.
John: Or we just let them slide and then we forget.
Stephen: It’s interesting, I got a chance to work for Paul Sarvadi, who’s the founder of Insperity and CEO and founder. He’s my boss, and he was a board member for one of my companies for years. And he said, you know, I remember I came to Texas and the first week there, I walked into his office and said, “How is it? How do you like us?” I said, “At seven o’clock, this building is spooky. I mean, it’s empty and it’s noisy. It creeks and there’s lights flickering like it’s really loud.” He said, “What are you doing here at seven o’clock?” I said, “You know what, I’m from New York, that’s half a day.”
John: Right. Right.
Stephen: And he’s like, “You New Yorkers, you live to work. I’m going to teach you how to work to live. You have to leave at five o’clock.” I try now every day to leave at four o’clock usually to meet one of my friends for a glass of red wine and unwind about the day.
John: There you go.
Stephen: But I think we’re trying to here at GrowthForce work to live, and we’re challenged now figuring out how to keep our culture, which has always been centered around our office in a hybrid service model. How do we keep the connectivity of the whole company when you can’t have a company meeting and then everybody goes to a restaurant or a bar? We miss that. We need that.
John: Definitely, it’s creating that connection beyond work. So you know, it’s what’s that connection? What’s that picture on your wall behind you? What’s that, you know, your dog that just went running across the screen? It’s creating those connections and creating intentional time to just learn about you or just hang out, like the wine at 4:00 p.m., because so many times, especially with the remote stuff, we have it scheduled on our agenda, we get on, we talk work, and then it goes dark. We don’t really take the time to have that idle chatter like we would have in the office on a regular day in person. It’s creating that connection above and beyond the work. There’s a myriad of ways to do that, but it’s just creating that time to just “Hey, how’s life? What’s up?”
You know, some organizations actually do a one-on-one direct report for an hour every month. So the first two or three months, it’s kind of awkward because I don’t know what we’re going to talk about for an hour, but after that, it’s holy cow, that was 60 minutes. That’s amazing.
Stephen: One to one, dig into that a little bit. So one to one who to who.
John: Yeah. So everyone who has direct reports, you just meet with each of them for, you know, four or five people for an hour a month. In person is great but even remotely, and don’t talk about work, like maybe 5% of the time.
Stephen: Yeah. No, no, I just had lunch. Just lunch, right? I got to get back to just lunch. Thank you. I learned something today.
John: Hey, you’re welcome, man. You’re welcome. No, this has been so much fun. It’s only fair, though, that I turn the tables, though, since I so rudely peppered you with questions. You should probably ask me some questions, so then we even this out.
Stephen: Okay. So favorite music?
John: Favorite music, so it’s going to be like a rock, more like alternative rock, I guess, more upbeat.
Stephen: How about favorite band?
John: Favorite band. So like The Killers or Blink 182 or even like my first concert was Metallica, just kind of more upbeat. I don’t know, just stuff like that, that’s always good. I mean, it’s not necessarily like maybe the most musically — I mean, metallic has got some pretty good music into it, but it’s just fun to listen to. I mean, I’m not here to necessarily learn. I’m here to be entertained.
Stephen: I want fun.
Stephen: Mountains or beach?
John: You know, that’s a tough one because I live in Colorado, so the mountains are — I can stand in the backyard and see the mountains. So probably beach just because I’m on a vacation then, like I had to get on an airplane to go to the beach, so that seems more special, I think, so yeah.
Stephen: All right. Ketchup or mustard.
John: Oh, ketchup.
Stephen: Okay, we have that a lot.
John: The ketchup guy. There you go. There you go. No, that’s awesome, man. Before I leave though, do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that maybe feel like, you know, I have a hobby outside or I like to garden maybe, but no one cares and it’s not my job?
Stephen: Yeah, I think we’re all looking to connect to something bigger than ourselves and by sharing that personal side, it creates connectivity with others that helps everybody work as one and care about having each other’s back because it’s not just the person in the next tube. It’s the mother of three who’s struggling and needs a little bit of extra time. And when you help somebody else, you feel good, right? So you know, by sharing, you end up caring.
John: Yeah, I love that. That’s awesome. And it rhymes, which is even better. So that’s perfect, man. Well, Stephen, thank you so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”? This was really, really awesome.
Stephen: Thanks, John. It’s great to be here.
John: People listening, if you want to see some pictures of Stephen at a concert or gardening or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. And while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Don’t forget to check out the book. Thanks again for subscribing to the podcast on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Hannah is an Internal Auditor & DIY Crafter
Hannah returns to the podcast from episode 141 to talk about her latest hobbies in gardening and DIY crafting projects. She also talks about why she decided to step away from the fiddle and how she has been more aware of people sharing their passions in the office!
• Why she does not play the fiddle anymore
• Getting into crafting and gardening
• Some of her favorite DIY projects
• Being more aware of people sharing passions in the office
• Coffee chats at her office
• You do not need a work-self and authentic-self
• How sharing has improved her confidence and work performance
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 328 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know the book is out. You can order it on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for more. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. Thank you just so, so much for that. It’s really overwhelming.
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, Hannah Horton. She’s an internal auditor with Humana in Louisville, Kentucky, and now she’s with me here today. Hannah, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Hannah: Hey, thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here.
John: This is gonna be awesome. It’s so much fun. First, I have my rapid-fire questions. We’re going to do seven here, get to know Hannah on a new level, if you’re ready.
Hannah: I’m ready.
John: All right, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Hannah: That’s hard because I love them both for different reasons. I’ll go with Harry Potter because that’s been in my life longer than Game of Thrones.
John: Okay, okay, all right. How about a favorite band or musician?
Hannah: Jason Isbell. I love Jason Isbell.
John: There you go. This is a tough one, brownie or ice cream.
Hannah: No, that’s easy for me, ice cream.
John: Okay, all right. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Hannah: Margaritas, for sure.
Hannah: On the rocks with salt.
John: Okay, all right, all right. Since my book’s out, and you were part of the launch team, which was awesome, thank you so much for that, Kindle or real books.
Hannah: Real book, for sure. I’ll go audio book sometimes, but I just cannot get into an e-book format.
John: Right. Yeah, it is a little different. That’s for sure. Two more. How about a favorite Disney character?
Hannah: That’s hard. For some reason, my first instinct was to go with a villain, Maleficent.
John: Okay. Yeah, there you go. That’s happened before. That’s awesome because they definitely stand out. The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.
Hannah: Over, for sure.
John: Over. Yeah, there you go. All right. Episode 141, a little over two years ago, that was awesome. We were talking you and Abby had started taking fiddle lessons during busy season. That was just awesome. Are you still toying around with the fiddle?
Hannah: So, my fiddle update is that you will not be seeing me at the Grand Ole Opry anytime soon. I have not been practicing. I would say, when I still lived in Nashville, a couple things have transpired to the demise of my fiddle career. Abby and I used to go to the lessons on Saturdays. I would say the peak of my fiddle career was I did teach myself how to play My Old Kentucky Home during Derby, so that was cool.
Hannah: One thing I learned about myself, I don’t think we talked about this last time, I tried to play that in front of my family during our Derby party, and it was the most nerve-wracking. It was like 10 family members, but I was just like, oh my gosh, this is so terrifying. That kind of clued me in that I would not be doing this further.
John: Maybe you need a bigger audience. Maybe ten is too small for you. Maybe that’s it.
Hannah: I don’t think that was the — but I left public accounting, got into internal auditing, and I also moved from Nashville back to Kentucky. I think just not having the set time for lessons with an instructor just led to the downfall of the fiddle playing.
John: Sure. No, it happens. I understand totally, but it was a cool example and one that I used in the book, where I had some quotes from you and Abby of just how people knew you for the fiddle playing even though you weren’t Grand Ole Opry level. It was just something that you guys enjoyed doing, which was really cool to see, for sure.
Hannah: Yeah, for sure. I still have it. It’s in the corner of my office right now actually. I just don’t pick it up that often.
John: No, no, it’s all good. I know that you’re busy with other things, so I’ll let you share what those are.
Hannah: I have a couple of different things, especially since I’m out of public accounting. Now that I also bought a house, so I moved into a house, that has led to a lot of DIY house projects. I’ve always been kind of crafty, not artistic but crafty.
John: Okay, and what would you say is the difference between that?
Hannah: I can’t draw or paint something, but I’m crafty. I can make a Halloween wreath. I can paint something, but I can’t paint a picture.
John: I gotcha. Okay, all right. I thought crafty was like shady. That’s why I was like, all right, because people call me crafty too. So you really enjoy that side of it. That’s cool.
Hannah: Yeah, for sure. The DIY projects, especially just because we’re in the house. Obviously, when you’re renting, you can’t do as many projects. Also because we’re in a house now, I’ve also gotten into gardening, which is so fun. It was like a huge learning curve at first, to figure things out, but it’s so fun. Every morning, I would go out there and be like, what’s happened? What else has changed today? It’s so fun.
John: Yeah, because my wife and I have a garden, and she’s way into it. I think they only grow at night. Is that what happens?
Hannah: It’s insane.
John: You see them during the day, and they’re just hanging out. Then at night, it’s like, you just doubled in size. How did that happen?
Hannah: It’s seriously magic. I go out there, and I’m like, all of a sudden there’s a giant zucchini that was not here yesterday? This is amazing.
John: Right? So, what kind of things are you growing?
Hannah: My favorite thing is I did zucchinis, which had a very big learning curve for me. That was fun. My other favorite thing is cucumbers because I don’t love cucumbers, but I’ve been able to make pickles out of them. So I’m just so impressed with myself that I’ve been able to grow this and then make it into a pickle.
John: That’s a next level step. That’s not just, here’s a cucumber. It’s, now we’ve got to take that and then go pickle it and then wait. That’s impressive.
Hannah: Thank you. It’s actually easier than you would think it is, but it sounds very impressive.
John: Yeah. Well, don’t tell anybody that. Man, it is exhausting.
Hannah: Yeah, it’s hard work.
John: I’d explain it to you, John, but it’s just too hard.
Hannah: You wouldn’t get it.
John: Yeah, exactly, exactly. It’s like fiddle playing. It’s just, don’t worry about it. That’s super cool, though. Then the crafting, do you have some of your projects that have been more of your favorites?
Hannah: Oh, yeah definitely. Let’s see, the ones I’ve been most proud of, we built our kitchen table. That was a team effort. That was not just me, but I will take a lot of credit for it but not all the credit.
Hannah: Well, because I’m very into yard sales and thrift shopping as well, so I would never just go to a store and buy a brand new table. I was trying to find used tables that I liked, and I was like, well, for the price these people are charging, I can just make one that I really like. So, I looked at the plans, I went and bought all the supplies, I took it to my dad’s house. He did the more of the physical sawing, piecing together. Then once we got it together — there were three of us, four of us working on it, my dad, my boyfriend, me, my sister’s boyfriend. My sister did not help at all. She will not get credit. Once we finished putting it all together, we brought it back home. I painted it and then I stained the top and clear-coated the top. Now, there’s my kitchen table.
John: That’s fantastic. That’s super cool. Because there has to be a sense of pride and achievement in especially a kitchen table that you use daily, it’s got to be pretty awesome to be like, hey, we made this, sort of a thing. Where the zucchini, it’s like, well, it’s gone within one meal, but the table is — that’s really neat. Yeah, good for you. Because it’s not like, I’ll just go buy it; it’s, no, no, let’s make what I actually want and then taking the plans and tweaking them and then, yeah, making it your own. That’s cool.
Hannah: Really fun.
John: That’s super awesome, super awesome. Do you feel like people are sharing their hobbies and passions more now or that you’re more aware of it, in the last couple years?
Hannah: I would say I’m definitely more aware of it. Also, just the switch of jobs and companies and cultures, that’s also different. I feel like at my current job, there is a lot of sharing. I have a specific example for you that I thought would be good. My team specifically has what we call coffee chats, twice a week, for 30 minutes. They used to be in-person. We’re all remote now, so it’s a little bit different, but we’re still having them. These are times set aside specifically to talk about anything besides work. We’re not supposed to talk about work during these 30-minute blocks.
John: Nice. I love that.
Hannah: Yeah, so that’s a really good example of how my team specifically carves time out to talk about things that are not work. Sometimes it can be a little slow to start, or some people won’t really have things to talk about, but then once we get warmed up, it’s just talking with everyone about whatever they want to talk about, not work.
John: That’s super awesome. Do you do it as a group or are they one-on-ones?
Hannah: It’s as a group. Our department’s broken out into teams. We used to have a smaller team. It’s a little bit bigger now. There’s usually, I would say, between like four to eight people on each call.
John: That’s fantastic. It’s just not talk about work, which is cool. Yeah, and how often do you guys do this?
Hannah: We do this twice a week, 30 minutes each times.
John: Oh, wow. That’s incredible. Yeah, yeah. Because I’ve heard of other examples of one-on-ones, monthly or whatever, but twice a week, and it’s just for 30 minutes. Your work is still getting done. It’s not like, oh, well, we’re going to need you to come in on Saturdays to make up for that 30 minutes, twice a week.
John: Type of thing. If anything, I would imagine that work gets done better now.
Hannah: Yeah. You definitely make connections with everyone on the team. Because especially working remotely, some of these people, I’m not on jobs with, so I wouldn’t even be talking to them at all. So then having them on the call, and then just saying, what did you do this weekend? The last coffee chat, we ended up talking about some fantasy football leagues, we were talking about Jurassic Park because that’s what I’m reading right now, so just all kinds of stuff.
John: That’s cool. Do you feel like it makes a difference when it’s a dedicated time for that, in creating these relationships with people?
Hannah: Yeah, definitely, especially being remote. Because in person, you would see them sitting next to you or when you’re walking in or going to get coffee, and just be like, hey, what did you do this weekend? Since you don’t have that, working remote, these specific two sessions a week carve that time out.
John: Yeah. No, I love that. I love that so much. That’s awesome. I would imagine, because I feel like it’s one of those things where, even if you were in person, if you just let people decide, they probably won’t do it, type of thing. The fact that you have dedicated time, okay, everybody, show up to this. Is it something that you get excited for? Or is it something like a CPE training where you’re like, oh, God, got to go sit through this?
Hannah: No, it’s fun. The first one we have is Monday morning at nine, so it eases you into your workweek where you don’t have to work at the beginning of the day.
Hannah: Just kind of ease into it.
John: Yeah, plus, make sure you woke up, Monday morning. How crazy was your weekend? Somebody shows up. Their hair’s all messed. Oh, boy, you don’t even have to answer. We know. Margaritas, there it is. No, that’s really cool to hear. Do you have any words of encouragement for people listening that might think, I’ve got this hobby or this interest that has nothing to do with my job, so no one’s going to care?
Hannah: Yeah, I would just say, don’t be afraid to show up to work with your authentic self. Don’t feel like you have to have a work self and a real life self. You only need to be one person, and your hobbies don’t have to be super adventurous or super glamorous. Mine is like, I’m in a book club, and I garden. It’s not that glamorous, but it’s what I do. People know that’s what I do.
John: But you’re making pickles, and it’s interesting. It’s fascinating. There’s stuff to it.
Hannah: Yeah, same thing for anyone else that has any kind of hobby that they want to share, especially people that are newer to the working world might feel like they need to not share that side of them. So, I would just say, share your authentic self, be real, be you.
John: Yeah. It’s almost like, if you feel like you shouldn’t, then that’s twice the reason you should. Because when you’re brand new, you’re the same as everyone else. Especially when you’re at a bigger organization, what makes you different than everyone else is not how great you are at the technical skills because everyone else also has the same technical skills, type of thing. So, being a real person is something people gravitate towards. Like you said, even you feel like yours are not that exciting, but people still know and ask you about it. I feel like too, we’re critical of ourselves because it’s what we do. Like you’re telling me, you designed and built a table or tweaked plans to build that table and then painted and all. I’m like, what? That’s awesome. To you, you’re like, it’s a Tuesday, whatever. It is what I do.
Hannah: Yeah, we’re definitely more over-critical of ourselves, but hearing something from someone else that they may not think is a big deal, you decide you would be like, wow, that’s so cool. I would never think to do that, or I would never do that.
Hannah: One of my friends that I work with, she plays pickleball. We played a couple of weekends ago, and I was like, this is so fun. I’ve never played this before.
Hannah: Just things like that, if you’re not sharing, people aren’t going to know that’s what you do.
John: Yeah, or that it’s even a thing.
John: You show up with your homemade pickles, and you’re like, I’m ready. It’s like, no, Hannah, different.
Hannah: Different pickle.
John: Different pickle. Different crafty. Come on now. That’s really cool to hear, really cool to hear. It’s not just like theory. It’s in the real world. That’s great.
Hannah: Also, I feel like sharing your real self has made me, in my experience, feel a lot more comfortable, and it’s made me feel a lot more confident around people at work. That leads to just better work, in general, for being able to come forward and saying, hey, actually, I want to do this, or I’m interested in doing this, which I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing if I felt like I was strictly in work mode, professional mode.
John: No, it totally makes sense because that’s the thing is, work is always changing. There’s new technology. You get a new job. You get promoted at the company. You’re using a different skill set. Things are always changing, changing, changing, changing, and that rock that never changes is those outside-of-work interests. The DIY craftiness, the gardening, that’s with you. Even if you get promoted or you go to a different job or whatever, that still comes with you. The logoed computer bag changes, or the fleece or whatever. Yeah, that is a source of confidence. Sadly, we let that go first. It’s like, no, no, that’s what you let go last. Let go of everything else first. That’s really cool to hear that that’s what you’re feeling. That’s awesome, very cool.
Well, this has been so great, catching up, Hannah. This is so much fun. It’s only fair that before I close it out that I turn the tables and allow you to question me. This is the first episode of the Hannah Horton podcast, everybody. I’m glad to be a guest. Thank you so much.
Hannah: Yes, welcome. I have a couple rapid-fire questions for you.
John: Okay, all right.
Hannah: All right, let’s see. Are you more puzzles or board games?
John: Oh, that’s a good one. I’m going to go board games because that satisfaction of beating someone else is great. It’s just great. Puzzles, it’s like, well, you know.
Hannah: That’s a little more relaxing.
John: Yeah, yeah. I was supposed to win.
Hanna: All right, more Airbnb or hotel.
John: Oh, that’s actually a tough one. I might go Airbnb where it’s more of just dropping into the local. Especially in another country, that’s always fun because then you’re in a house of what it’s normally like there, sort of thing. Yeah, I’ll go Airbnb on that.
Hannah: I agree with you on that one. I love searching Airbnb. It leads up to the anticipation of the trip, for me, of searching all the fun Airbnbs to stay in.
John: Yeah, and plus, there are cool, little quirky places that it’s like, all right, when else are you going to stay in a, whatever, a tree house in the middle of the jungle in Australia or whatever. Well, there we go.
Hannah: We went to San Francisco, one time, and we stayed on a boat, like a boathouse.
John: There you go. Right? When’s that going to happen? Why not? Right? That’s awesome.
Hannah: All right, one more. Since it’s fall, pumpkin spice or hot chocolate.
John: Oh, hot chocolate all day. It doesn’t even have to be fall. I’ll do it in the middle of summer. Yeah, hot chocolate, I am definitely — I mean, the pumpkin people can go nuts. I like pumpkin pie, but drinking it, it’s not my — yeah, hot chocolate, and I’m definitely a hot chocolate snob.
Hannah: What do you mean? You need fancy hot chocolate, or you need to prepare it a certain way?
John: Starbucks chocolate is three thumbs down. It is not good. It’s funny because whenever people want to meet for coffee, I always put in the email, coffee/hot chocolate, because when we show up, I’m going to order hot chocolate. They giggle, like, I’m seven. I’m like, well, maybe I am, but it’s good. I’ve had several people be, well, if I knew you’re going to do that, I would have gotten hot chocolate. Well then why didn’t you just get hot chocolate? Who cares?
Hannah: Okay, I agree with the stance.
John: It’s not like a sippy cup. It’s an adult mug, and it’s hot chocolate and, yes, whipped cream and, yes, whole milk. Yes. If you’re going to make some hot chocolate, don’t try and skimp on the good stuff.
Hannah: I support that.
John: That was a little bit of a tangent there. Now we’re all learning about John. No, but it’s been so cool catching up with you, Hannah. Thanks so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Hannah: Thanks, and congrats on your book.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Hannah and some of her projects, or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to buy the book.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Clayton is an Accounting Technologist & Gardener
Clayton Oates returns to the podcast to talk about how he is satisfying his travel bug through the pandemic, his gardening, helping small businesses, and taking time for yourself!
• Places he visited in the last couple of years
• Traveling locally
• Getting into gardening
• Becoming more aware of other people’s hobbies
• Shifting focus towards helping small businesses
• Finding an And for retirement
• Taking time to be still with your own thoughts
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 318 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday, I follow up with a guest, who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work, and also hear how this message might’ve impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is out. You can order it on Amazon, Booktopia, IndiGo, barnesandnoble.com, and a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for more. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. It’s just so overwhelming to read those. Thank you so, so much for that.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Clayton Oates. He’s the founder of QA Business in Australia. Now, he’s with me here today. Clayton, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Clayton: Good day, John. Mate, it’s awesome being here. It’s always fantastic catching up with you, mate. So yeah, thanks for inviting us back.
John: Oh, for sure. Absolutely. You were in the book, you were part of the book launch team. I just appreciate you being a friend for so many years and being a part of this, so that really means a lot.
Clayton: Oh, mate. My pleasure. And yeah, just being a part of this project with you is awesome, the way you sort of brought people together and sort of it brought their stories to life and actually so that others can actually experience and share and learn from what we’re all sort of doing outside of our professionalism and keeping it weird as you’d say, so that’s fantastic.
John: Right? I mean, for you and me, it was already weird, so it doesn’t matter. We got this. But I have seven rapid fire questions to ask you here really quick, things I’ve never asked you before and I probably should’ve before we hung out the first time now that I think about it, but here we go. All right. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Clayton: Oh, I’ll go Harry Potter, mate.
John: Okay. All right. How about a favorite band or musician?
Clayton: I’ve been listening to a bit of Journey lately. So yeah, I’ll go Journey right now.
John: Yeah, writing a book was definitely a journey as well. How about this? A tricky one. Brownie or ice cream?
Clayton: Brownie with ice cream?
John: Oh, okay. I see. That’s actually the right answer. That was a trick. That is the right answer. Combo. How about a least favorite vegetable?
Clayton: I would have to say — is cucumber — is that a vegetable or fruit?
John: Yeah, cucumber. It counts. I’ll take it
Clayton: Yeah, I can’t stand it if. It’s been anywhere near a salad or anything I’m about eat, for some reason, I am so allergic to cucumbers.
John: Okay, how about pickles? Do you do the pickles or –?
Clayton: No. Nothing. They’re in the same family, I believe.
John: No, it’s actually pickles or cucumbers that are just pickled. But yeah, some people are — one’s behind but not the other. I think that’s funny to me.
Clayton: Can we hang up now? I think I’ve just learned something.
John: Right. It’s almost like you read my book. You’re like, oops, my brain hurts. How about Kindle or real books?
Clayton: Real books. I’ve got a stack of them. But I’ve also — using Audible quite a bit as well.
John: Oh, audio. Okay, nice. Yeah, mine will be probably in about six months or so. For everybody listening, that’s like, “We like his voice. It sounds like Super Dave Osborne.” Well, there you go. All right. Here we go. Chocolate or vanilla?
Clayton: Chocolate. I am an absolute chocolate addict. It’d be chocolate.
John: There you go. This is an important one. Toilet paper roll. Over or under?
Clayton: Just on the side, actually. Have you seen those?
John: Right. Where they’re sitting up.
Clayton: I haven’t taken a lot of notice. I do know that you’re talking about this recently, and I think over because that’s the way my wife makes the house work.
John: Yeah. That’s the right answer also.
Clayton: I dare not change that.
John: Yeah, dare not change that. That’s awesome, man. Well, you were Episode 160 which is just awesome to have you back. We were talking world travel and how you grew up not really traveling even for a long time, and then all of the sudden in the last like 10, 12 years just going through passports because they’re filling up. Since we talked, are you still doing some travel? I know you were because we hung out in Denver, which was super fun.
Clayton: Yeah, in February. Well, actually my passport expired in April. I haven’t renewed it yet, because who knows what their passport’s going to actually look like post-COVID. It filled up, John. I sort of went back and counted the trips and 32 trips in ten years. It’s just been incredible from none before that. I’ve had this burst of 32 in ten, and then obviously, the last six months or so, you know, none. I’m still passionate about that, and that’ll come again at some later stage, but right at the moment, yeah, that passion is on hold. It’s in hibernation right at the moment.
John: Exactly. It’ll happen again, for sure. It was just so fun having you in Denver. I mean, you messaged me, and you’re like, “Hey, I might be coming to Denver.” I’m like, “When?” You’re like, “Tomorrow.” I’m like, “You live in Australia.” Like what? You had already been in the U.S., you just grabbed a flight to Denver, which was super cool, and we got to hang out. That was awesome. It was your first time here, yeah?
Clayton: It was, and I absolutely loved it. There’s a lot of other people that listen to this podcast, and they’ll go, yes, he’s done exactly the same thing to me. Look, if you’ve traveled and you’ve gone somewhere, and you know you’re in the area or in the vicinity of someone that you know, why not take that little extra step to just reach out to them? Well, a lot of times, especially corporate travel and so forth, we tend to sort of in and out, you know, I’m there for this purpose and, “Hey, I’ll catch up with you next time,” or maybe you don’t even message them.
But what an amazing ability to be able to go part way around the world, know that someone that you know lives nearby, even if it’s a flight, in that case, and just say, “Hey, I’ve been thinking I’m coming there, how about we catch up?” The fact that you just said, yeah, let’s do this. I think that’s just a real special part about being able to travel.
John: Yeah, for sure, because then you get to hang out in person, and you get to see the city, you get to feel it and smell it and touch it and all that. It’s just so much more fun. Then I can give you a gentle hug as opposed to the big pick you up bear hug that I gave you in Boston that we still talk about. I cracked a rib.
Clayton: It was worth it.
John: Lawsuit pending. Hopefully, there’s statute of limitations in Australia.
Clayton: I think we’re good.
John: Okay, good, because then I can visit and not get arrested.
John: But no, that’s so awesome. Were there other places that you visited in the last couple years since we talked?
Clayton: Yeah, U.S. a couple of times. Bora Bora was one in the South Pacific, which was sort of this, I’d like to thank Expensify for that, actually, they were the guys that brought a heap of us together over there. That was an absolute bucket list, dream come true moment. But probably since COVID, really, I’m still traveling a little bit around our local area, being in your own backyard, in our state, for example. We’re pretty much locked down here at the moment between states. So yeah, sort of discovering just the road trips, and being able to visit places in your own area is — it’s calming, actually, it’s sort of this, you’re bringing a little bit more sort of order and stillness to your life.
I haven’t necessarily missed the international travel. I do love it. I’m really looking forward to when it happens again. I love 14 hours on an airplane by myself, which is fantastic, because it’s just this totally selfish sort of me time, which is if you go for 20 hours, I’m totally happy with that. I’ve learned to like it and really enjoy it. But yeah, at the moment, jump in the car, go and explore some areas, have weekenders away in our local area with the family, so it’s been great.
John: Yeah, that’s really cool, man. Really cool. Also, some gardening as well. I see it on your social media anyway, and some other hobbies that you’re picking up since travel’s not as much.
Clayton: Yeah, I mean, we’ve got a few acres here, we’re so fortunate to have a bit of space around us, especially at this time, so I feel incredibly blessed about that. But we’re in a sort of sub-tropical area where everything grows. In fact, it’s raining outside at the moment. I’m here in shorts and T-shirts, so sort of subtropical, rich, red volcanic soil, so everything just jumps out of the ground.
I think for me, you know, the gardening side, it sort of was born out of necessity to maintain the space. But interestingly, I’ve sort of found that sitting on a ride on lawn mower, mowing a few acres of land, it takes it to a Zen state. And I think there’s only a couple of other, you know, moments in your life when you’re in that sort of creative Zen state. I think there’s only a couple of other moments in your life when you’re in that sort of creative Zen state. It’s like you’re doing something, but you’re also nice and relaxed, and then you’re able to think and think creatively.
I found that also, in taking long drives on country roads, which probably isn’t a great thing. You should be concentrating, you’re driving.
John: No one else is coming the other way, so you’re fine.
Clayton: I say also, maybe having a shower, your thoughts pop into your head in that state, and maybe sit in the bathroom. It’s like, well, I should take a notepad. Well, most people take their phones these days, so you can easily take notes.
John: Yeah, and it’s just cool to hear like, there’s a finished result at the end.
Clayton: Yeah, love that.
John: It’s an immediate result of boom, there it is. I did that.
Clayton: It might be a guy thing perhaps, but I’ve got a lot of hedges and I’ve got this petrol hedge trimmer and some of these are now 15 feet high, actually. Here I am on these trestles, and, oh, they’re going to go a bit higher, trestle on a trestle, not a good look, that’s for sure.
I’m in the office here now I’m looking around and I can see these hedges and look, the accountant brain in me, I fest up to my OCD, that’s for sure. They’re all nicely lined up, they’re at the right height, and they look fantastic. What I need now is just some sort of hedge growth retardant that actually sits them at that level. I think the British comedy guys, The Goodies were trying to introduce something like that in the ‘70s, so anyone that can come up with that, I think it might be these days, plastic, but if that could be done, oh, wow. I’d be a very happy guy.
John: That would be amazing, yeah, because I mean, two days later, something’s going to pop up. You’re like, I got to get it, because you can’t just have one.
Clayton: It’s a bit like your inbox isn’t? It’s like, I think I’m inbox zero. Hang on. Here’s another one. I’m inbox 11,000. I don’t really care about that.
John: I’m way up there as well. I have a friend of mine that tried to brag about his inbox zero. I’m like, well, how do you — he’s like, well, I have a folder that is things that I’ll get to, but that’s just your inbox.
Clayton: That’s cheating.
John: That’s cheating. It’s totally cheating.
Clayton: I think we need a serious audit on these guys that call this. But yeah, that gardening thing has been great. I think you just refer back to that, you know, the ancient Roman, Cicero, I think talked about this, what you need is a great library and a great garden for sort of peace of mind. The library site is, you know, probably reading and gardening I think my go-to things since sort of the COVID happened, and since the international travel has been put ice at the moment.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s so cool to hear. Do you feel like people are sharing their hobbies and passions more, or maybe you’re more aware of it?
Clayton: I think I’m more conscious of actually exploring what other people are doing in that space. I mean, your book actually talks about what these guys are doing outside of their work, and probably our conversation has triggered that curiosity in me for sure. I probably wouldn’t have thought about it much if we didn’t speak about it, and you didn’t actually bring attention. Particularly at the moment, you sense that people have gone from one of two directions, they’ve either gone all work or all sort of not chilled out, but all sort of concerned about the future.
They’ve probably forgotten a little bit, and I had. I certainly had. I sort of took a while to find Santa in this new world that we’re finding ourselves at the moment. Whilst work, you know, for me too, I also did find myself back into my work a bit as well, more the roots just to where I’ve come from, and actually helping small business. I lost touch with that a little bit, and learned to teach. I think there’s been so many changes in the last number of months around the world with government support programs, and how to help small business and the money side of things, and the compliance. I decided to learn a lot of that in Australia, Australian conditions, and teach it.
I’ve run a lot of webinars, a lot of the free informational webinars for small business. It’s turned out that there’s a reach, our database, if you like, or our business reach has doubled in the last six months, and it took just 25 years to get to the first part. Then in six months, the reach was doubled, because we’ve focused really on helping other people try and navigate their way through this situation that we’re finding ourselves in.
A lot of professionals have that opportunity, you know, because the stuff that we sort of take for granted, or maybe we found a little hard to learn, why not teach it, and actually share it with others in a way that’s simple, and that others can then relate to it because there is a lot of concern, there’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of pressure and stress out there. What can we do to actually relieve that pressure cooker situation? That’s been incredibly fulfilling for me, and partnering with others doing that.
John: Yeah, no, that’s really cool. At some point, you get out of the fire, if you will, and then let’s create that relationship as two humans on what is your “and?” What do you like to do? Who are you as a person, because then you could actually serve them for real, as opposed to just giving them financials and a bank statement that’s balanced or something.
Clayton: Oh, absolutely. It’s so relevant to you know, my business world has been accounting, bookkeeping, consulting and technology companies. Taking the moment to sort of find out when you’re working with a small business owner and operator, why are you doing this? Instead of maybe that straight up question, talk about their “And,” because it’s probably an easy way to have a conversation, what do you do outside of work? What do you enjoy doing? What would you wish you could do more of? Suddenly you then can help connect some dots to actually help them or enable them to achieve more of that.
We don’t get up in the morning and go great, I get to go to work today and I get to sort of you know, a timesheet or whatever. No. We’re doing it because we want this. It’s sort of a pathway to get through to get to something else. But the reality is if we can combine both and keep both happening at the same time, and then you’ve got your “And” all the way through anyway.
John: Right, and it’s an “And,” it’s not an “Or.” You can do both, and you should have these other dimensions to who you are.
Clayton: I mean, imagine working your whole life and you get to the R word, which I don’t like to talk about, of the end of your working career, and then you’ve got to find an “And.” That’s sort of a 50-50 hit and miss. Oh, my gosh, if I do or I don’t, It’ll be all over pretty quickly. There’s a great book that I’ve just finished reading called the Second Mountain. David Brooks wrote it. Hugh Jackman actually recommended off the back of a podcast I was listening to.
It talks about the first mountain that we tend to all climb is sort of this achievement, goal- orientated, work-related, I get to my pinnacle of my career, maybe achieve business success, it could be financial freedom, whatever that is. But then there’s a valley pretty much after that, and then there’s this second mountain. A lot of people maybe don’t even get to experience the value until end of working life.
Getting to experience that earlier on, if you’re having a valley at the moment. That’s okay. This is normal, because then there’s another mountain, and it’s not the same mountain as the first one. It is different. This might be around fulfilment or purpose, more purpose, and so helping others, so forth. You hear people talk about this all the time. You think, why would they be talking about that? Because they’ve gone through this first mountain achievement, deep valley, aha moment. There is another mountain.
John: There’s another mountain. Just keep going. Yeah, I love that man. Well, there goes my second book idea. I’m going to write the third mountain. That’s what I’m going to write, it’s going to be — what’s that mountain? I don’t know.
Clayton: It’s a range.
John: It’s the one when you turn at the wrong sign. Somebody switched the sign up, then you go the wrong way, so you miss the second one. But that sounds awesome, man. That’s exactly what it is, and then talking to people with the consultancy that I’ve done and stuff is a lot of people like, I’m going to go retire and I don’t know what I’m going to go do or you have these “Ands” along the way, because it makes work better, but it also makes retirement better too.
Clayton: Oh, absolutely. Taking the time to sort of be still, you know, pause and reflect. I’ve read so many books. I’m an avid reader anyway. But this time has given me more time to actually read. Stillness is the Key, Ryan Holiday. Any Ryan Holiday book is awesome. Also, James Clear, Atomic Habits is a great book. But the Stillness is the Key, you know, sort of the stoic philosophy or most around just taking time out to be still in your own thoughts, is something that we tend to run from or we’re not geared to do, particularly in the corporate world. It takes discipline, and discipline will give you freedom, basically.
To be still in your own thoughts, to take time to do that, whether it’s just getting up half an hour earlier in the morning, and there’s a lot of people who meditate, some people just start reading, or just pin thoughts, journaling, for example. I think, as a society or humanity, we’re starting to sort of shift more to that sort of direction, even though our mainstream media might not be portraying that, I think there’s a groundswell of the masses that are getting this.
John: No, that’s awesome to hear, man. That’s so awesome. This has been so much fun catching up with you, and man, now I’m learning like, holy cow, man. This is awesome. Now I have books to check out too. This has been great. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that maybe thinks no one cares about my hobby, or it has nothing to do with my career?
Clayton: It probably doesn’t even matter whether someone cares or not. It’s what you think, and what’s going on in the conversation between your ears. Just pause and reflect. If you don’t have something, no one’s going to check up on you. No one’s going to sort of say, “Hey, you need to have this, you should do this.” They’ll just get benefits from having things outside of there’s one dimension of life, and probably looking and prioritizing too, you know, I think, talking about this COVID time, it’s like, what are our priorities? More perhaps going back to our family, friends connection with others, personal development perhaps, and getting in touch with ourselves more. I know, it sounds like airy-fairy off with the pixies, and I do live in sort of an alternative part of the country.
John: Right. No, but you’re right. I mean it’s for sure. It’s what matters. I think that this really threw on the parking brake, as we’re going down the interstate at 90 miles an hour or whatever, to what really matters, and who are you as a person, because worker B is not who you are, you’re more than that. Really getting to realize that, and understanding that the work will get done, and there’s always more work to get done.
John: I think just having blind faith. Things will work out. They will work out and whatever that work out is, it is. I know this is hard to fathom when you’re writing amongst a crisis, or either self sort of inflicted or existential crisis of some sort that’s out of your control perceivably, but things will work out. I’ve got a timeline and just remove our expectations around anything other than that. It’s sort of frees up, sort of clears some blockages perhaps along the way that we might be holding ourselves back.
John: Very true. That’s awesome, man. Well, it’s only fair that before I wrap this up that I allow you to question me since I started out the episode peppering you with questions. This is now the Clayton Oates podcast. I’m your first guest. Thanks so much for having me on, man.
Clayton: Well, welcome, John. I really should’ve prepared. Well, I suppose one thing to ask you is — and referencing probably to the COVID time right now, we’ll get through that pretty quickly, is what’s changed in your world in the last six months?
John: Everything. I mean, yeah, I would be on airplanes flying to conferences, speaking on stages in front of live audiences. Now, you know, not so much, or not at all really. Some virtual things. I’ve also found that with my comedy background as a professional comedian for years and Emmy nominations and things that people want that. They want a distraction, they want some funny they want just, hey, our people are really buried right now. Can you just give them some relief? Sort of a thing.
I’m also finding that the What’s Your “And”? message applies even more now to this where people before were a little bit skeptical or whatever, now they see, “Oh, wow. Yeah.” Because I didn’t actually have a real relationship with the people I worked with. I passed them in the hallway, “Hey, how are you?” “I’m fine, you’re fine.” Okay. But now that we’re virtual, we’ve been in each other’s homes, we’ve seen the art on the walls, or the kids yelling, or the dogs barking. I don’t have anything to talk to you about, because I don’t really know who you are as a person. It’s really just getting cultures to be built around people’s outside-of-work interests. I think the need is even more now.
Clayton: Wasn’t a question I had written down or anything was, what is your “And,” and how has it changed?
John: That’s a great question. My end is definitely college football, and ice cream. They’re still making ice cream, so we’re good on that. They almost didn’t have college football, but they’re having it, especially Notre Dame is playing. That’s my school. I’m excited. They have their games already, and so yeah, I’m just excited for the season and see what happens. About two-thirds of the schools are playing, and then about a third or half aren’t. I know that that doesn’t add up to one, everybody listening, but that’s why I’m not in accounting anymore. There you go.
Clayton: Look, another thing I’d need to sort of touch on is your book. I loved it. It’s fantastic. It’s a great read. I commend you on putting pen to paper there. What have you learned through the book writing experience? I know there’s a lot of people out there that are probably thinking, I’ve got a book in me. I know, this could be a podcast in itself, or a whole series of it. But you know, someone’s thinking, I’ve toyed with the idea, maybe they’ve lost a bit of confidence, perhaps they thought their story isn’t worth telling, or they just feel as though they’ve put it on the shelf. What would you say to someone that’s thinking, I’ve got it in me, or I had it in me, can I reignite it?
John: Yeah, well, first of all, thank you so, so much for those kind words, because when I’m on stage speaking, I can adjust on the fly, and make things happen for that audience that I’m in front of in the moment. But on a book, I’m not sitting there with you as you read it to be like, oh, wait. Skip the next five pages, you’re not going to like that part type of thing. That’s what was really hard was just writing it that way to make it approachable for everyone.
I guess for me, I wrote the book, because as a speaker, a lot of people don’t really give you credit for coming up with your own ideas or your own concepts or your own philosophy. I wanted to have the book to be like, no, no, here it is. This is the Bible of sorts of here’s my stuff. Read it. That’s what I talk about is my thing. I’m not giving a book report of what other people wrote in their books, they can speak on that, because that’s stealing if you talk about their stuff.
You really got to want to write it. I mean, it’s hard. It’s a journey. Everything gets thrown in your way from the universe to stop you from writing this. There’s a great book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s for creatives. But I love that book. I kind of look at my book as the war of art for professionals. It’s just a no nonsense, just micro chapters, here it is, boom. In that book, it just talks about how there’s going to be just obstacles nonstop if you’re actually creating this really great thing that should be out in the world.
You just have to believe in yourself, and then just write a little bit every day. It’s a momentum thing. Don’t even give yourself a word count, just write. Some days, I would write one chapter and be like, all right, that’s it. That’s all I got. Then other days, I would just be firing away, just like I’m in the zone and whatever, but you have to sit down and write every day. It’s also write twice as many words and then it edits down. It’s like cooking spinach maybe, where you start out with a big heaping pile of it, and then by the time that it’s in the pan for ten minutes, it’s all of a sudden, where’d it all go? It’s all just wilted down. Just write and write and write and write. Also, there’s so many books. Why is yours different? And lean into that.
Clayton: I love that message that. One word you sort of touched on, there was the authenticity, it’s authentically you. I suppose for anyone listening, whatever you put down, it’s going to be you in there. There’s a methodology and a process and all of that, that sort of fits around the creation of something like this. But the fact that this is probably why there are so many books, there’s so many people and so many stories to be told, and someone is going to benefit from hearing your story.
John: Exactly. Yours isn’t going to be the worst one, trust me. I’ve seen some terrible books. Write it and then, but know why you’re writing it and to become a famous author is not the answer. It’s because I have this story, and I need to get it out there. Okay, great. Jeannie Ruesch, who I had on the podcast, who’s a fiction writer —
Clayton: She’s awesome.
John: And she’s awesome. She told me the greatest advice is once you’ve written it, your work is done. It’s on the readers now. It’s on you guys. If you like it, awesome. Thank you so, so much. If you don’t like it, also awesome, because I still wrote the book that I wanted to write. You just have to be confident in that. So yeah, no, that’s awesome. Well, your book’s coming soon, Clayton. You know what that means. There we go.
Well, it’s been so much fun catching up with you. I really appreciate you being a part of What’s Your “And”? for sure.
Clayton: Thanks, mate. It’s absolutely awesome always catching up with you, so I look forward to seeing you in person soon enough.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Clayton in action, or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re there, order the book. Clayton says it’s good. While you’re on the page, please click this 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.