Ali is a Lawyer & Marathon Runner
Ali Metzl, a shareholder of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, talks about her passion for running marathons and how it benefits her work at the office with developing relationships with clients and colleagues, and helping her maintain focus!
• Getting into distance running
• Ali’s favorite marathon
• How running helps with focus in the office
• Relating to clients and colleagues with running
• Hosting 5K’s at company retreats
• How the culture of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck fosters people with passions outside of work
• Why it on both the organization and individual to promote a culture of sharing
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Welcome to Episode 253 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I’m interviewing a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and,” those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published in just a few months. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and changing the cultures where they work because of it. Please don’t forget to hit subscribe 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, Ali Metzl. She’s a shareholder with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in Denver. Now, she’s with me here today. Ali, thank you so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Ali: My pleasure. I’m happy to be here.
John: Yeah. This is going to be so fun, so much fun. But right out of the gate, you know how the drill, 17 rapid-fire questions. Yeah. Exactly. This is fun having an attorney on the other side of this. Normally, I’m the one getting drilled. But no, no. It’s all good.
Ali: Probably cost less that way.
John: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. So here we go. This is actually a pretty good one. Suits or law and order?
Ali: Definitely law and order.
John: All right. How about with your computer? More of a PC or a Mac?
Ali: PC. I don’t own a Mac. And I’m not technically savvy.
John: No, no. I’m not even cool enough to go into a Mac store. I don’t even know. I don’t own enough white clothing to fit in with it.
Ali: Or enough vests.
John: Yeah. Or enough vests. Exactly. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Ali: It’s a tie between cookies and cream and mint chocolate chips.
John: Solid answer. More heels or flats?
Ali: As the time goes by, living in Colorado, more flats.
John: More flats?
Ali: My New York City days, more heels.
John: Right. How about favorite toppings on a pizza? You can load it up.
Ali: I’m a plain, classic girl. Just a slice, a good slice. Having lived in New York City for so many years, the classic is where it’s at.
John: Absolutely. Exactly. No, for sure. How about when it comes to law, more criminal or civil?
Ali: I don’t ever want to be in a courtroom. The only time I’ve been in a courtroom was when I was sworn in.
John: Oh, wow.
Ali: And I want to keep it that way.
John: Right. Exactly. All right. How about do you prefer more hot or cold?
Ali: I’m a cold weather girl. I like winter.
John: How about a favorite number?
Ali: My favorite number is four.
John: Is there a reason?
Ali: I like even numbers. And I think at some point when I was young, my mom also has a favorite number. It’s four. And I think I picked that up from her.
John: That’s a good number.
Ali: So I always had it as my jersey number. And that was always the number I gravitated towards.
John: That’s awesome. No, that totally works. It totally works. More chocolate or vanilla?
Ali: Definitely chocolate, dark chocolate.
John: You didn’t even think about that one for a second. That was awesome. How about pens or pencils?
Ali: Definitely pens and very specific fine point pens. I’m very particular about my pens. The extra fine point.
John: Extra fine point?
Ali: Yes. Rolling ball pen that I need to have special ordered.
John: That’s fantastic. That’s awesome How about puzzles? Sudoku or crossword?
Ali: Great question. Definitely not Sudoku. I’ve recently started doing those short crossword puzzles from the New York Times, the ones that have the letter in the middle and all the letters are on the outside. Then you can shuffle them and you have to get a certain number to be considered a genius. I like those a lot.
John: That’s a good one. How about a favorite color?
John: Blue? Okay. How about a least favorite color?
John: Red? Interesting. Okay. Yeah. It’s the opposite. That works. We got four more. How about a TV show that you would binge watch?
Ali: I have to say we’re not huge TV watchers. I watch a lot of political TV and sports.
John: That works for binge watching both of those things because they’re on all the time.
Ali: Yes. I definitely binge watch MSNBC and Broncos.
John: Right. There you go. Okay. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Ali: My favorite actor would probably be Pierce Brosnan. I don’t know that I have a favorite actress.
John: That works. How about more early bird or night owl?
Ali: I get up early to exercise, which I’m sure we’ll talk about later in this.
John: Absolutely. Yeah.
Ali: Although I mean in my earlier lawyer days, I was up much later than I am now. But I think now that I’m getting older and with the kiddos, I’ve got to get up early to get my time.
John: Exactly. The last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Ali: I mean my family would be number one.
John: That’s an excellent answer especially if they listen.
Ali: Yeah. Well, they’re going to listen to this.
John: Right. Exactly.
Ali: So my family. And I think I would just say probably the time we have on the mountains because now, my kids are old enough where we can all ski together.
John: Oh, that’s cool.
Ali: That’s just really special time.
John: Yeah. That’s super fun, super fun. Awesome. Yeah. So talking about running and exercising in general, but the running, is that something that you did since you were younger or did you get into it later?
Ali: As a kid, I was a very serious ballerina. I also played soccer from the time I was really little. So for me, exercise was always a part of my life. And growing up, both of those things are regimented. I didn’t start distance running for fun until I met my husband when I was in college. He has several older brothers who got him into the habit of marathon running. When I saw what he was doing and it was a great way as I was finishing college to translate — ballet ends at a certain point in time unless you go become a professional. So I was looking for the natural transition to continue what I was doing. So I got into distance running from watching him and sharing that. I mean it’s something that we’ve shared for a long, long time since, but it’s become a real critical part of my sanity.
John: A critical part of your sanity?
Ali: Yes. And my family’s sanity.
John: Right. That’s hilarious. Yeah. I think that’s really cool. So it’s something that you guys do together?
Ali: Yes. And I will say my husband is a fantastic runner. He has evolved past running and is much more focused on long distance biking at this point. I’ve stayed committed to my running. But it was something that we for sure shared. And the focus on having races and having goals, that piece, we still share.
John: That’s awesome. So do you have any favorite races or runs that you’ve done?
Ali: My favorite race is the New York City Marathon. I moved to Colorado, seven, almost eight years ago from New York City. I was born in New York City. We used to live basically at the finish line of that race. So for me, it’s this tour of my city, a city that means a lot to me. When we run that race, we don’t run actually together. But it’s a race that my husband and I do together with a few of his brothers. So there’s always this really special family component to it. And just the scope of it, it’s iconic.
John: Oh, it’s huge. When I lived in New York City too, I mean you go through all the boroughs and just end up in Central Park there. Yeah. It’s a lot. I mean I never ran it. But gosh, it’s shut down the city. That’s for sure. You would see people everywhere.
Ali: It’s a special day for the city. And it’s one of those that gives you perspective on so many things. But I would say that is my special race.
John: Really cool. Would you say that running at all gives you a skill that you bring to work?
Ali: It has been essential to my focus. I think having an escape or a place to release has been critical to me. I mean because I started doing this kind of distance running when I was in law school and have been doing it all through training and my career. And not only does it give you a release and an out, but it gives me the ability to retain a human piece of myself. So no matter how hard law school was or those early years of being an associate or a really contentious, complicated issue that I’m dealing with, having that part of myself and part of my life that’s untouchable with its own set of goals and I’m working towards something that is outside of how hard my life will be, retaining that human element has always been so essential for me.
John: That’s so powerful and the way that you put it. I mean because it’s something that you can control and it’s something that is independent of the work. So even if you have a bad day at work or a long day at work, you still have this to look forward to or this to work on.
Ali: Exactly. And you’re still moving forward with progress towards an independent goal that exists. So it’s a real check to retain your humanity when work is hard and feels all-consuming and stressful. To continue that piece of yourself outside of that is really important.
John: That’s awesome. Is that something that you learn from somewhere else or you just did it on your own in happy accident sort of a thing?
Ali: I felt that. And it’s something that I think my husband I probably spoke about early on. He’s an orthopedic surgeon. So he, during his training, did five Iron Men when he was in medical school and residency. That was always something that we talked about. It was people who don’t come to these challenging parts of their professional life with something that is outside of that. It’s really hard to develop that later on. Or it’s easy to give that up when things get really, really hard, right? You’re just like, “Oh, I have to wait until I’m past this part of my career to get back to that thing I care a lot about.” And we always prioritize that because we felt that that made us better professionals and made us more efficient in our job, more focused in our job. That’s something that we’ve talked about and been aware of for a long time.
John: Oh, that’s awesome. Yeah. Because I mean it’s so true. I mean there’s so many people that I’ve met in the consulting work that I do and speaking at conferences and stuff. It goes dormant. Then if you let it dormant long enough, it’s extinct.
Ali: That’s right.
John: Then you’re getting ready to retire and you don’t know what you’re going to go do. And that’s really scary to me.
Ali: It is.
John: When I hear people tell me these stories, I’m like, “Oh my goodness.” So kudos to you and your husband for keeping that there and seeing how important that was to you and then holding onto it, which isn’t easy.
Ali: It gets easier to prioritize it if — maybe just like exercising, right? — if you practice that. If you practice it from the beginning and you stay committed to it, then it’s not as hard to build that into your life.
John: That’s true. Yeah, because it’s always been there and you just never let it go. That’s awesome, really cool. Is running something you talk about at work? Do people know how into it you are?
Ali: Oh, yeah. In my office, I’ve got my marathon medals.
John: Oh, nice.
Ali: I’ve got a plaque from the New York Marathon. I will say also, we have started at work, at some of our retreats, to have 5Ks. And people know that I and one of my running colleagues, we take it pretty seriously. There’s bragging rights. And I will say also, one of the other things that’s been really fun for me is doing business development, client development bonding over this running, my marathon time.
And I just had — actually this happened last week. A client of ours, who we do some races together, he lives in California. He’s been really focused on qualifying for Boston and has been at it for years and years and has worked through injuries. He sent us an email. He finally qualified for Boston. He sent an email to me and one of my colleagues here because he knew that we would be thrilled for him. There is that piece that you’re able to share with people and it builds real camaraderie both inside of your workspace and with your clients.
John: Yeah. Because he’s not sending you an email about some cool law thing that he just read. That’s like no-no.
Ali: Right. We talk about that stuff all the time.
John: Right. Exactly. But that genuine interest that you each have in each other really takes that relationship to another level.
Ali: You bet. And another — one of our colleagues, she just competed in the national championships for Aquathlon. So there is this group of sharing these personal achievements, athletic achievements that really builds honest, true relationships. Those are the kinds of people you want to work with and for.
John: Yeah, for sure. No, that is really awesome. Is it something that the firm does intentionally or is it just the way you are or you just gravitate towards the people that are like that?
Ali: There’s probably an element to both in that. But I would say the culture of this place and the set of core values that we have foster folks who have these interesting passions and experiences outside of work. And we want you to talk about them, right? We want you to share with them, right? We ski together. We bike together. People do ultramarathons and distance spiking. And that’s perfectly acceptable. It’s not a taboo topic to talk about your hobbies. And that is huge for me, right?
John: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean that’s huge really for everyone. Has it always been that way or is it more of a newer thing?
Ali: I think it’s perhaps become more intentional. I think we are trying very hard. And a lot of the things that I spend my time working on, I run our women’s initiative and I run all of our diversity initiatives for the firm. I’ve led our Summer Associate Program for the past several years. So there has been a real focus on identifying talent and folks who have these outside interests and fostering the kind of environment that recognizes that that is additive to our work environment.
Ali: And that folks who do have those outside commitments that they pursue year over year with seriousness is a marker of someone who is a committed professional. It’s a marker of somebody who’s going to be successful and engaged.
John: Yeah. No. So it’s not, “You have the best GPA or you’ve memorized all the law or whatever.” It’s, “Do you have other dimensions to you that you’re also pursuing that you’re passionate about?” Because you found that that actually in turn makes you a better professional when you’re in the office.
Ali: Yes. And you’re more balanced. You’re more present in your mental space, which allows you to deal with the pressures of this job in a different way over the long term. We do see that. We want to talk about that through our interviewing process. Then we want to be mindful of all of that when we craft policies and benefits to ensure the folks stay.
John: Right. Yeah. Because I mean in so many places, they say that they hire people because of their extracurricular activities and then never give them time to go do those extracurricular activities. It’s like, “Well, what the heck? What’d you expect?”
Ali: Why do you put that on your resume if you don’t want to talk about it or think that there’s value to that?
John: Yeah. Or if you’re interviewing people, why ask them about it if you’re not going to care once they start?
John: So it’s so encouraging to hear that you guys are doing that. That’s really cool.
Ali: It’s a focus of ours to recognize that people are whole people. And you spend so much of your waking time at work. It would be an awful thing to have to sever something that’s so critical to you and to your identity from yourself in order to be present here.
Ali: And to think that you have to do that, it’s unfair and unrealistic.
John: No, that’s awesome. That’s so cool. You should be running this podcast. What am I doing? This is crazy. That’s so awesome, so awesome. I feel like the firm here is doing a lot of really great things. How much do you feel like it’s on the organization to create that culture? Or how much is it on the individual to either, one, jump in or, two, create the little small circle if it’s not already there?
Ali: The firm in and of itself is entrepreneurial, right? It is something that you see the founder’s pictures on the walls, right? That drive, that desire, that hunger to lean forward and figure out what’s next and what’s coming, that sense of entrepreneurialism and engagement that breeds this recognition of the fact that people are people with passions and interests. So I think that is in the water, so to speak. But this is also the kind of place where if you have an idea about how to better this place, right, and how to allow people to be their full selves and their most engaged selves and so that we get the best they have to offer, then you should raise your hand and offer your idea. I think it’s both. We expect people to be thoughtful and be creative about how we can do this better always. But there is something inherent in the philosophy of the founders that permeates what we do and how we do it.
John: Yeah. I mean from the top down, it certainly helps. And I think that — it sounds like because you share your hobbies and passions so frequently and so open about it that it humanizes people that are at the top. So if somebody has an idea, they can come to you as a shareholder and not be intimidated because you’re not the shareholder in the corner. It’s Ali.
Ali: That’s right.
John: “Let’s go talk to her.”
Ali: I think that’s exactly right. Our founders are still here for the most part. The firm is 52 years old, which means that the folks who are running the firm are not so much older than me. And I think that means we share a lot, right? You share what interests you. We spend time together. They know what’s going on in my life, what race I’m training for, what race my husband’s training for, what races my kids are training for.
John: Right. Nice.
Ali: They know all that stuff. And the same thing with the folks that I work with. I want to know what’s going on in their lives because that’s going to make me a better leader. It’s going to make me a better team member. And it’s going to make the folks we work with more invested in what we’re all driving towards.
John: No, that’s so fantastic to hear. Because I mean a lot of times, especially in places that have charge codes and billable hours and things along that nature, if you have something outside of that, sometimes it’s frowned upon or it’s distraction or in our own heads, we think, “Somebody’s going to think I’m not very dedicated to my job.” What do you have to say to someone that thinks that way?
Ali: It’s all about how you organize it. For me, I organize my day so that I know that I check that box from my time. I get up early. I know that, yes, I probably respond to some work emails when I get up at 5:15. But that’s my time. My kids are asleep. Work hasn’t gone completely haywire yet. And I have that time in the morning where I do what I need to do to make myself feel mentally fit and physically fit. It’s more about fitting it in and taking ownership and saying, “These are all my obligations to myself and to my clients, to my family.” How do you make it work, right? Like an adult, we recognize that we all have a thousand demands on our time. And it’s really just about how you organize your life, right? You respect that people have stuff they’ve got to organize and let them be the judge of how they do that.
John: Right. Yeah. Because it’s so easy to let work just become all consuming.
Ali: That’s right.
John: Like you said, you wake up at 5:15. There’s an email. Then before you know it, it’s 8:00 p.m. and you haven’t done any running. You haven’t exercised. you haven’t had any me time. Then you do that one day. Then you do it two days. Then before you know it, you’re 20 years later. You’re like, “I don’t even remember the last time I ran.” And it’s because you don’t prioritize it or be intentional about making time for that. It doesn’t have to be every day for everyone. It could be once a quarter. Whatever your thing is —
Ali: Whatever it is.
John: — just do it.
Ali: Right. And do it habitually because otherwise, it’s not inherent to you. It doesn’t animate you.
John: That’s a great word right there, animate, because it lights you up. I mean you’re a completely different person when you’re talking about running than when you’re talking about work.
Ali: Yes. That time crystallizes what I have to do that day, how I’m going to approach an argument. It allows me time to test out my strategies of how I’m going to negotiate something. Or if something really, really angered me and I had an emotional response to something that’s going on at work, it allows me to push that piece out and get clarity around how I’m going to attack a big problem or a stumbling block on a transaction or how are we going to bring all these people together, right? I can get my head focused in that time. So my energy when I show up to work is much different. It’s much more focused. I’m much calmer in my chair when I sit down for work.
John: Well, like you said in the beginning, it’s for the sanity of your family and everyone else. That’s hilarious.
Ali: That is true. I will say last year, when I was training for the New York Marathon, my treadmill broke mid-training. My treadmill and I have this really special symbiotic relationship. My husband says it’s two or three days, there’s no treadmill. We do have a gym in the office. There was obviously an outlet, but it wasn’t the same mine that I adore. He just said, “Fix this. This has to be fixed for everyone’s —
John: Just do a kickstarter for everyone that was impacted, pitch in and —
Ali: Just everyone. That’s right.
John: That’s hilarious.
Ali: Yes. “Solve this.”
John: That’s super funny. Yeah. This has been really awesome. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that thinks that they have a passion that no one cares about or it has nothing to do with their job?
Ali: I think my words of advice would be everyone has a passion. Everyone that you run into cares about something deeply. And it is so rewarding to ask them about it and take the time to talk to them about it because you are going to be refreshed. You’re going to be encouraged to engage in your own. There’s time in the day for it. There’s time in the day. And it’ll make your day better to know something about somebody else. And it’ll push yourself a little bit.
John: Yeah. I mean it’s rewarding. It’s rewarding for you. It’s rewarding for the other person. It’s rewarding for the firm. I mean everybody wins.
Ali: Yes. Everyone wins.
John: And it’s so simple.
Ali: It’s really okay to spend that time and talk to people and ask them what it is that they do outside of the office and not in a lip service way because that’s the only way that we’re going to connect with other people.
John: Yeah. No, that’s exactly it. And it’s okay if work isn’t your passion. You’re really good at it and you do it well. But if you have something else that you’re also passionate about, it shouldn’t be frowned upon. Like you said, it makes you a better professional when you guys are interviewing and when you’re looking for people. I mean you found that that actually elevates people. It makes them more productive and better at what they’re doing in the office.
Ali: Absolutely. When you remove those barriers that are keeping people from being their full selves, that’s when you see people really shine.
John: Yeah, in all facets of their life.
Ali: That’s right.
John: That’s awesome, so awesome. So it’s only fair that I offer you the opportunity to rapid-fire question me since I so rudely out of the gate fired away at you.
Ali: How about a favorite sports team?
John: A favorite sports team? That’s an easy one, Notre Dame Football. Yeah, Notre Dame Football. Yeah. I’m a big college football guy.
Ali: Okay. Ski or snowboard?
John: Snowboard only because I hadn’t done any mountain sports since I was in third grade until about two years ago. I had skateboarded in the middle there. Also, when I was much younger but I figured there are more variables on skiing, like the ankles and knees. Where snowboarding, it’s mostly just wrists, I guess. So I just, yeah, snowboard.
Ali: Last one, Kindle or hard copy?
John: I love the real book. I mean that being said, when I travel, I just definitely have it on my phone so I can read the Kindle. But yeah, real books are really fantastic.
Ali: It’s fun to be on this side of the rapid-fire.
John: Right? Isn’t it? Isn’t it? That’s why I only give you two or three because that’s enough. I don’t want to get carried away. No, but thanks so much, Ali, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This is really fun.
Ali: Thank you for having me.
John: Yeah. Absolutely. Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Ali running or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Dan is an Accountant & Runner
Dan Herron, Partner at BFFS Inc., is a simple man who enjoys numbers, eating, running, and movies….not necessarily in that order.
Dan talks about his passion for running and how it taught him discipline and commitment that he applies to his career as an accountant! Dan also shares his agonizing experience of running a 50 mile marathon and why it is not recommended for everyone!
• Getting into running
• Running a 50 mile marathon
• Training for a marathon
• Running to keep a pace, not to be faster
• Doing it for yourself
• Find your lane
• Why he is not keen on openly sharing his running experiences in the office
• Trying to use social media for self-promotion
• Dans experience in transferring to a firm with a more friendly environment
• The skills he has learned from running that he applies to his accounting career
• Running in the dark
• Gain the necessary experience but be happy with what you are doing
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 223 of What’s Your “And”? This is john Garrett, and each Wednesday I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and, like you’re an accountant and a painter or a lawyer and play the piano or an engineer and climb mountains. I mean, it’s the things that are above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book has been published in just a few weeks and will be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com. All the details are there. I can’t say how much it means that everyone is listening and changing the cultures where they work because of this message and sharing it with everyone. It’s really, really cool to see how it’s manifested all over the world really.
Please don’t forget to hit Subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Dan Herron. He’s a partner at Better Business Financial Services in San Luis Obispo, California. Now he’s with me here today.
Dan, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Dan: Thanks, John. I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.
John: I’m super excited to have you on, but you know the drill is we always start out get to know Dan on another level with my 17 rapid-fire questions. So I hope you brought a seat belt and you buckled up, buddy, because this is going to be tricky. So I’ll start you out with a pretty easy one, favorite color?
John: Blue. Nice. How about a least favorite color?
John: Black, okay. Cats or dogs?
Dan: Dogs for sure.
John: Dogs for sure. All right, how about pens or pencils?
Dan: Pens, even though my handwriting is terrible. It doesn’t even matter. So I’m giving either or.
John: Either or, right. How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Dan: Crossword I want to say, just because I think that the questions and the actual figuring it out is a little bit more interesting.
John: That’s true. There’s a whole other level there. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Dan: Keanu Reeves.
John: Nice. Okay. All right. He’s actually a really, really amazingly great guy like in real life. Now how about more suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt.
Dan: Jeans and a t-shirt. Does it even have to be jeans? Can it just be like shorts?
John: You can go shorts. You’re all California. You do that, man. Here’s a twist, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Dan: Oh, God. Okay, so everyone is going to kill me on this one. Game of Thrones. I’m probably the only person in the world that finds Harry Potter kind of boring.
John: Okay. At least you’re honest. Everyone, tweet at — no, I’m just kidding. I’m just joking.
John: No, no, absolutely. How about when it comes to your computer, more PC or Mac?
Dan: Mac because for me, since I’m not tech savvy, I like to be able to point and go. I feel like PC just every day has some sort of update that I don’t even get.
John: How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Dan: Oh, man, so this is a tough one. Okay, it’s not technically ice cream. It’s Talenti gelato.
John: Oh, yeah. Okay.
Dan: Blueberry pie because not only does it have blueberry, but it also has the pie crust in it.
John: Oh, wow. And it’s healthy because it’s fruit.
Dan: Exactly. Yeah, something like that.
John: Good answer, man. Good answer. How about a favorite Disney character?
Dan: I don’t even know if I have one. Let’s see. Okay, how about this? I’ll go the opposite direction. I will go villain. The villain in Aladdin.
John: Ah, okay. That counts. That’s a Disney character.
Dan: Wait, I’ll take that back. I will go with Darth Vader.
John: Okay, I see how you’re leaning. I see how this is. All right. All right. How about a favorite band or musician?
Dan: Okay, ’80s, Phil Collins. I’ll even go a step further. “In the Air Tonight” is probably my favorite jam.
John: There you go. There you go. That builds and it just — I mean, it’s just like ah at the end.
Dan: Really, it’s played in every major sporting event.
John: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. How about — since you’re an accountant, I have to ask — balance sheet or income statement?
Dan: Oh, God! Can I just go cash flow statement?
John: Fancy pants. I don’t even know how to do a cash flow statement.
Dan: It’s probably one of those statements where people basically don’t know what’s going on anyways. And since everybody only talks about the balance sheet and income statement, I’ll go cash flow just for the sake of it.
John: Nice. I love it, man. I love it. How do you prefer more hot or cold?
Dan: Cold. If I could literally live in the fog or in the winter year round, I would do it. I’m probably in the wrong place of California. I should probably be in Alaska
John: I was going to say, “What?” They won’t let me leave. I’m not amazing. They got me here. Oh, this is an important one, toilet paper, roll over or under?
Dan: I haven’t even thought about that. That’s a good one.
John: Okay, all right. All right. Two more, favorite number?
John: 12. Is there a reason?
Dan: That’s my number way back when when I actually could be able to play.
John: There you go. Okay, all right. And the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Dan: Favorite thing I have, I would say probably my companion which is Chunk. She’s my four-year-old silver Lab who is literally one of the best things that ever happened to me.
John: That’s fantastic, man. Very cool. Yeah. And silver Lab, it’s not often that you hear that. I mean, there’s always chocolate and yellows.
Dan: Imagine the color of a Weimaraner, and that’s what she is.
John: Ah, there you go. Okay, very cool. That’s awesome, man. So let’s talk running, man. Is this something that you were doing from when you were a kid, or did you get into it later on in life?
Dan: Oh, God, no, man. I mean, when I was growing up, it was volleyball, basketball, and everything that everybody hated was running, right? I always thought of it as a punishment because naturally it is because no one really likes doing it. I mean, everybody you talk to goes, “Oh, you’re a runner? I couldn’t even imagine doing that. Like running a mile, it sounds terrible.” I didn’t like it at first, but long story short, when I got my first job out of school, I was working in market hours. It was one of the things where I could get off work at a reasonable hour, and it’ll be sunny outside and I can actually go do it on my own because everybody was still working till five, six, seven o’clock at night. It did the natural progression. I started out at 5K, worked up to a 10K, half full, and then I even ran a 50-miler once, which was awful. I never recommend anybody do it.
John: Wow, 50 miles.
Dan: God, you’re 12 hours of grueling punishment. It was the worst thing I’ve ever done. But I’m glad I can do it for, I guess, humble bragging rights.
John: Right. So then when you’re on the podcast and I’m like, “What’s the farthest you ever ran?” You’re like, “Oh, 50 miles.” I’m like, “What?” That’s close to like San Francisco and back? I don’t know. That’s far, I mean 12 hours.
John: Wow. That’s impressive, man. Where did you do that?
Dan: First of all, it’s not impressive. It’s just plain stupid. But kudos to the people that continually do it and even do the hundred milers. That takes a ton of effort and determination. But I did it actually in the mountains — or not the mountains, I guess, the hills. We don’t have mountains here, in San Luis Obispo. So yeah, literally out and back, round and round around in loops. Yeah, it was terrible.
John: That’s amazing, though. What are you thinking like as you’re training to get up for it? I mean, how long do you train for that?
Dan: Oh, I mean, luckily, I had a buddy who did it with me, my buddy Dylan. There were days where we would go run 25 miles on Saturday and the next morning around 25 miles on Sunday just to be able to get used to that pounding that your body takes. It’s a kind of different mentality, though, because you’re not running for time necessarily. You’re running just to keep a pace that you can maintain for 50 miles. There’s a lot of walking uphills and that kind of stuff. So that’s why it takes a little bit longer.
John: Yeah, no, I mean, I would walk the whole thing. And even then, I would just take a nap. I would be like, “How long did it take you to run that?” You’re like, “Twelve miles.” Yeah, 12 days. Every couple miles, I just took a nap and then I’ll get around to it. But that’s such a great mentality of you not running for time. You’re just trying to maintain a steady pace which is really interesting. I mean, for the other runs, is it running for time as well, or maybe when you were earlier on, pretty competitive on that?
Dan: Yeah. So I mean, back in my 20s, when I actually run at a reasonable rate for somebody that’s my size, it was gearing for time because everybody, okay, first of all, if you ever get into marathon running and you’re starting to take it really seriously, everyone’s trying to go to mecca which is the Boston Marathon, right? So for somebody in my age group back then, you had to run basically a sub three-hour-and-five-minute marathon which equates to, I think, a little bit under seven minutes.
Dan: Yeah, it sucks. It hurts. If you’re not built for it, it’s a lot of dedication and time that you put into that. But I would say that as I’ve gotten older and I haven’t been able to really run as fast as I used to anymore, I would say that it’s kind of transitioned to more of running for you and just completing the race itself. I think that it’s definitely hard as somebody who’s always been competitive, it’s been frustrating when I’m running and homie comes running past me. I might do that full as like literally 300 pounds, like why is he running faster than me? There’s that competitive instinct that kind of kicks in. But you just got to realize, man, as you get older, things start taking longer, you start slowing down, and you just have to kind of take it in perspective.
John: Yeah, I could totally hear you on that. I could easily say I enjoy running, but it’s hard to say I’m a runner, for some people, or whatever their hobby is. I love that mindset. I wish we had it earlier on in life of you’re doing it for you, and you’re just doing it to complete it. That’s what it’s really all about. Because let’s be honest, you’re not going to become a professional runner and get sponsored. That’s when it, okay, now you should care about your times because this is how you’re making money and this is your livelihood, but you’re actually paying money to go run.
John: While you’re doing that, who cares? It doesn’t matter.
Dan: You’ve touched on some pretty good points because I think that as you grow up, I don’t know, especially maybe my generation is a little bit different. I’m on the back end of the millennials, so I’m like almost, what is that? Gen X kind of dynamic?
Dan: It’s funny because I grew up and it was so competitive, right? Every weekend was club basketball tournaments, trying to get better to beat the next person next to you. Even just think about college where everybody has to have like a 5.0 GPA now.
John: Yeah, exactly.
Dan: I think there’s an unnecessary amount of competition that’s grilled into us in society. I think that if everybody kind of just took a step back and go, you know, reality, I just got to worry about me and not really care about what everybody else is doing in terms of being able to compete against them, I think we’d be better off and actually people are probably a lot happier and a lot less stressed out.
John: Yeah, for sure. Everyone has got their own lane. Just do your best within your lane. Some people have certain abilities that are better than others or that whole parable story of the fish on the first day of school, they taught swimming and the fish is like, “Oh, I’m amazing, I’m the best at everything.” And then the next day it was tree climbing and it’s like, “Oh, I’m failing and I’m miserable.” Find your lane and just live that. Don’t judge others for what their lane is and vice versa.
John: They’re not judging you. Everyone’s celebrating you. They want you to do the run. Because I have to imagine, is this something that you share with coworkers throughout your career?
Dan: Not necessarily. I’m kind of one of those people that doesn’t. Initially, I didn’t ever really shared because for me, I’ve never been one of those people of like, “Oh, dude, I did this totally awesome thing. I ran a marathon this weekend.” But always there’s that friend who goes, “Oh, Dan ran a marathon this weekend,” and everybody ask you about it, right? And it’s always kind of embarrassing. You turn bright red because you’re like, “Oh, yeah, you know, I did that.” No big deal, whatever. I think there’s a level of — I’ve never been a very, I don’t know, social media outgoing person with that kind of stuff. I guess the humble bragging, if you want to call it, that’s never really been me. I think it’s funny because a lot of people are like, “Dude, you should share that. That’s rad.” I’m like, “Well, I just care about it. I don’t worry about other people caring about it.” I share with my parents because you share everything with your parents and my girlfriend, but that’s pretty much it, right?
John: Right. Yeah. No, I completely understand you on that because I’m pretty similar. It’s just with my job, I sort of have to share more things.
Dan: Absolutely, I get it.
John: But it is, not something that comes naturally in person, let alone on social media. And you’re not running these races to put on social media. You’re running the races for yourself.
Dan: My Twitter handle is actually started by one of my good friends because he’s like, “Dude, you got to promote yourself. Get out there,” whatever. I was like, “Okay, I guess we’ll see what this is all about.” I started doing it and it’s fun. You get a lot of attention. You get a lot of likes and retweets because I was predominantly doing it on Twitter. But there’s always in the back of my mind, it wasn’t necessarily who I was as a person. I think what actually also helped too was I wasn’t necessarily fast enough to be able to become those ambassadors or whatever you want to call them or the product managers or whatever.
So it’s funny enough because eventually I kind of stopped doing it, and then I kind of started doing more of finance and Twitter which is a totally different realm in itself. But I think it was good for me because I think that the lack of attention that I started getting was actually beneficial for me because it kind of made me realize like, hey, this isn’t really who you are and probably you should take a step back and maybe reevaluate it.
John: Yeah, because all social media does it just magnify whatever you really are. So it’s obvious that that’s not a person or that’s not who someone really is. Nowadays especially, people can sniff that out from a mile away if that isn’t real.
Dan: Oh, sure.
John: Did it ever cross your mind that someone’s going to judge you or think that you’re not very good at your job because of these outside-of-work interests?
Dan: Not necessarily. I think, if anything, running and accounting kind of go hand in hand. Each of them take a certain amount of discipline and dedication that you have to do. I guess it depends because originally when I started in accounting, I started at the typical stuffy accounting firm. You go to the bigger firm to get the kind of experience and everything like that. I guess everybody kind of saw that as you show up, you clock in, you do your work, you clock out, and no one was really wanting to share any of their experiences that they had. I think once I actually transferred over to Better Business Financial Services where it was more of a family, friendly atmosphere, that’s when I really started to kind of share what I was doing in terms of my running and so forth.
So I think there’s definitely an impact of the environment in which you are trying to share that has an influence on whether you can really show the person that you are or you just kind of have to keep to yourself that’s kind of the environment that you decide to go into.
John: Right, yeah. How much do you think it is on the tone at the top, if you will, of this is how the culture is, or how much is it on the individual to be like, well, you know what, I’ve got three really good friends and we genuinely care about each other type of thing and know what each other’s passions are? Is it a top down more, or do you think it’s an individual can make a difference?
Dan: I think that the top-down approach definitely sets the tone in which you can be your own individual self because at the partner level, if everybody is straight up boring or doesn’t have a personality or that kind of dynamic where it’s like, okay, I’m just going to be a cog in the wheel here, I don’t think you let anybody’s real individuality really shine and show versus if you go to a place where you have, like where I’m at right now, where there’s two other people that have great personalities, do a lot of different cool things and like kind of push you go find something that you want to do, I think that actually helps you and feel more comfortable in sharing your experiences that you have as an individual.
John: Yeah, definitely. I’ve done some speaking or even consulting with some organizations where you walk in and you’re like, “Holy crap!” It’s like black and white. Is there even oxygen in here? No one looks up or even looks you in the eye and you’re like, “Wow, you guys work here on purpose?” It’s nutty. I mean, it can certainly help open some things up. I think that relationships just go deeper. When it comes to attracting and retaining talent, that’s what people are looking for because there are options out there that are giving them that. It’s an easy switch. It’s not that hard.
One thing that I’m curious about is just — because some people think these passions that are outside-of-work interests are distractions or whatever. Do you feel like it gave you a skill set? Especially when you said that running and accounting go hand in hand, do you feel like running gave you a skill that you were able to bring to the office to make you better at your job?
Dan: Oh, totally, man. I think that because running, you know how you become a better runner is you run. You have to have the dedication and the mindset that you’re going to be out there for two, three, four hours, and it’s a grind, right? Because the only way you can get better is more reps and you put more practice into it. I think that happens with accounting, especially on the tax side, right? As a first year staff accountant, you are literally probably green, right? If didn’t have an internship and —
John: I mean, come on, let’s be honest, the internship is basically ice cream sundaes and all the cool stuff. “Hey, let’s go out to the client,” and it’s like the most amazing client ever.
Dan: Yeah, right and you’re like, “Let’s go to Disney.” You’re like, “Awesome.” But then when it’s not your internship anymore and you’re actually a full-time person, you’re like stuck in a cubicle.
John: Right, right, that does happen. That does happen for sure.
Dan: Full disclosure, I’ve never worked at a Big Four, so I don’t know if that’s necessarily how it is. But for my friends who have, that’s what I’ve heard it’s like. I would say that the grind and getting used to that is something that really is going to help you in the long run just because, I mean, let’s get real, accounting, especially if you go into tax, that’s how basically we do, we don’t do any audit. Six months out of the year, you are stuck to your desk. You have to be able to sit here for 10, 12 hours a day and just grind it out. I think that’s definitely something running has taught me as an individual. I just prepare.
John: I completely understand that. And that’s why it’s always fascinating to me of every interview I do here is just there’s a way that your passions make you better at your job. It’s always cool to hear it because at no point in your business school education did anyone ever tell you to go run 50 miler.
Dan: Oh, no, man. Not at all.
John: Yeah, the people that tell you to do that hate you. That’s who tells you to do that. You know what? I don’t like Dan very much. Go away for 12 hours.
Dan: Yeah, that’s right.
John: Honestly, it’s impressive that you did that. It’s great that you did it together with someone. Do you ever see colleagues or clients out running or do some runs with them on occasion in your career?
Dan: So here’s the problem that I have, man. So I’m one of those guys that gets up at like 4:00 a.m. I’m one of those that if you’re driving out on the road at five o’clock in the morning, I’m the dude with the headlamp running.
John: Oh, my gosh! Yeah, you’re intense. That’s intense.
Dan: Yeah, I don’t know. I think I’m a little nuts when it comes to that dynamic. But I’m one of those that just likes get it over with and plus too like outside it’s a different vibe when you’re running in the dark. It’s actually like almost your senses get heightened when you’re running in the dark as opposed to when you’re running outside, it’s kind of like tu tu doo tu doo . But I don’t know, you kind of have to be on your game and your mindset, and your focus has to be better in the dark because let’s get real, you can either be running or you can be sleeping. So 99% of people are going to pick sleeping. There’s definitely a different mindset when it goes to getting up and being dedicated.
I’ve always been one of those — or actually, no, I haven’t. When I started my market hour gig, when I transitioned to a different job, I kind of just stuck with getting up at 5:00 a.m., and I just decided to go exercise at that point.
John: Ah, rather than having to go to work, yeah, I’ll just do the exercising now and then get out of the way. Man, I love it. I think that’s great. That’s really great.
So before we wrap this up, do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that thinks that, oh, well, no one cares about my thing, or whatever my passion is has nothing to do with my job, so I’ll just keep it to myself?
Dan: A couple of things. I think that, A, as you get older, or if you get started at a younger age, really find a place that fits you the best in your personality only because I think that granted there’s always, if you go to the bigger firms where they maybe not have as much personality as a smaller one, for example, you’re going to get a lot of experience. But once you get that, you need to be happy in what you’re doing. I think that if you go to a firm where if you have people at the top who are very interested in what you’re doing and very personable and are in the jeans and the flip flops and that’s what you’re comfortable in, go there. Be happy in what you’re doing.
Also, be yourself. I can’t tell you how big of a relief it was when I finally transitioned from the suit and tie to the t-shirt and jeans and flip flops, how much happier you are at your job. Quite honestly, a lot of times the clients that you’re meeting with, especially the ones that I meet with, are wearing board shorts and flip flops. You feel more comfortable. You’re not sitting there in a suit and tie, thinking that you’re my dad’s accountant. You’ve been doing this for 50 years and you have a pocket protector. I think there’s a level of comfort that people get when you are yourself because I’ve been in meetings where I haven’t been, and you can hear crickets chirp. But once you start realizing who you are and you become more comfortable in your own skin, I think you can have better actual overall interactions with clients and just people in general.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome. Rather than trying to play a part in a movie, Keanu Reeves method style, if you will, as comeback to the beginning, look at me, everybody.
Dan: Oh, my God. Full disclaimer, the reason why his movies are so much better is because he’s such a bad actor that it’s almost hilarious watching it, right?
Dan: He’s the same dude in every single movie and it’s so bad, but you can’t stop watching it.
John: Yeah, it makes you feel like you could be an actor.
Dan: Yeah, exactly.
John: But it’s so true. Everyone, they come out of school and they try and be what they think they’re supposed to be rather than themselves. I don’t even think that the size of the organization matters, to be honest, because there are plenty of smaller companies that don’t have a great culture or really care genuinely about their people. So it’s just find the place that fits you, you’re happy and you feel like you belong and they care about you and vice versa, you care about them. Then that reciprocity is real. So that’s really great advice, really great advice.
So it’s only fair that I do turn the tables and let you rapid-fire question me like I did in the beginning. And if you ask me favorite actor, I’ll say Keanu Reeves just to make you happy.
Dan: These questions are a little bit more involved and I apologize, but what would you be doing if you weren’t doing this research?
John: Oh, wow. Gosh! Man, I don’t even know. Yeah, I’d probably be at some chuckle hut in the middle of Iowa or some comedy club, just getting ready to do a show. I just got really fortunate that I was at a conference. A guy who had remembered me from 12 years prior at my first PwC office, a guy who I had never worked with ever. I’m pretty positive I never met him. He saw the list of speakers and said, “Oh, I know John Garrett. That’s the guy who did comedy at night.” That’s kind of been the seed that has started all of this. Yeah, I’d probably still be going down the comedy route and trying to make that happen.
Dan: Sure, yeah. I think honestly, for what it’s worth, you’ve been doing a great job at kind of breaking the shell of the stereotypical accountant. I think all of us are going to appreciate what you’re doing.
John: Well, thanks, man. Wow, no pressure on me. It really means a lot, honestly. Thank you.
Dan: You’re welcome. Last one, what would it take to make you go back to PwC?
John: Oh, actually, they just brought me back like a couple of months ago to do their promotion day.
Dan: Oh, wow.
John: Yeah, we did this whole PwC’s Got Talent. It was awesome. There were six different people who showcased their talents. One was a classically trained violinist. One does yoga like crazy yoga. Actually Natalia, she was just on a couple of weeks ago. So we had this whole showcase and I got to tell people, this is normal. This is the stereotype. The people that are going to come up here, this is the stereotype. But as far as to go back every day to PwC, yeah, I’m pretty sure — Jake Johannsen had a funny joke about this. We were talking once and he’s like, “Yeah, not only can I not get back on the bus, I don’t even know where the bus stops anymore. I’m so far removed. I would have to go back to college. I’m like 400 hours behind on CPE. I would just have to start over just like John just start over.”
Dan: Yeah, man.
John: But I mean, I do love impacting organizations from this side. So it’s kind of cool to be able to touch so many more people this way. But yeah, it’s fun to go back in that capacity and just bring some of that to the event because I always approach every corporate event as what do I want to see if I was in the audience because I literally used to be in the audience. So it’s that boring cookie cutter reading every word off of every slide, it’s just not going to work. Nobody wants to see that. Yeah, so that’s a funny little twist to your question that you probably weren’t anticipating.
Dan: Actually, that’s what I was looking for. But, yeah, I’ll take it for what it is.
John: Exactly. No, but this was so great, Dan. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Dan: I appreciate it, man. Thanks for having me.
John: Yeah, that was so great. Everyone listening, if you’d like to see some pictures of Dan running or outside of work or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big green button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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