Gail is a CPA & Movie Buff & Writer
Gail Perry is a woman who can say she has done a lot of awesome things! She talks about how she transitioned from having a music major in college to picking up writing and journalism, to bookkeeping and running her own movie theater! She also talks about how these experiences helped her in her career as an accountant!
• Watching movies as a kid
• Becoming a ghost writer during her time in college
• Getting into bookkeeping & public accounting
• Running her own movie theater
• Why she felt reluctant to share about her hobbies at work
• Writing for the Dummies and Idiot’s guide franchises
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Welcome to Episode 285 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And” those things 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’s being published in just a few weeks. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. 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 culture where they work because of it, and this book will really help to spread that message.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Gail Perry. She’s the editor-in-chief of CPA Practice Advisor Magazine and a CPA with her own tax practice who’s also written 34 books. If she had written mine, it’d be out by now, but now she’s with me here today. Gail, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Gail: Thanks, John. I really appreciate you having me on the show, and I’m looking forward to having a chat with you.
John: Absolutely. It was so fun meeting you in person at the ITA Conference a couple of years ago and glad that we were able to make this happen. You know the drill, 17 rapid fire questions. Get to know Gail in a new level. Here we go. Easy one at first, favorite color.
Gail: I think I would say yellow because it’s really happy.
John: Okay. All right. How about a least favorite color?
Gail: Maybe white because it’s pretty boring.
John: Okay. I see you. I see you. How about chocolate or vanilla?
Gail: I’m afraid it’s vanilla.
John: No, that’s good.
Gail: Not a fan of chocolate.
John: Okay, okay. How about pens or pencils?
Gail: Oh, my God. So, I can only write with a certain type of pen and a certain type of pencil. For pencil, it’s the Pentel 0.5 millimeter, the thinnest of the lead; and for pens, it’s the Pilot. It’s called the Better Ballpoint. It’s a fine tip, and you can’t get it in stores anymore, so I have to buy it by the case.
John: Oh, my goodness. That’s awesome. I love how particular you are. That’s fantastic. Now people know what to get you for Christmas.
John: So there you go, a case of pens. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Gail: Oh, I love them both. Sudoku if I’m in a hurry. Crossword if I have some time to take.
John: Yeah, I could see where you’re the writer and the tax person. You’re a little bit both. Yeah. You should just both hands. I’ve got the right hand, Sudoku, left hand… How about more early bird or night owl?
Gail: Totally night owl. If I have to do something at 6 or 7 in the morning, I just stay up for it.
John: That’s awesome. So great. Okay, this one might be tricky. Star Wars or Star Trek.
John: Okay. All right. How about your computer, more PC or Mac? PC. Yeah, me too. How about your mouse, right click or left click?
Gail: Left click.
John: Okay. Making decisions, I like that. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Gail: Oh, well we did the chocolate-vanilla thing already. I don’t like things in my ice cream, so vanilla — yeah.
John: Oh, so just plain vanilla.
John: Okay. Yeah, we are the opposite. I want all of the calories. I want to chew it.
Gail: Load it up.
John: Which is weird. Yeah, yeah. How about what’s a typical breakfast?
Gail: V8 juice and —
Gail: A hard-boiled egg.
John: Oh, nice.
Gail: Yeah. Or a bowl of potato chips and a bottle of root beer.
John: Okay. Now we’re being honest. There we go. There we go. This will be fun, balance sheet or income statement.
Gail: Oh, income statement all the way. I’m a tax person, so you are what you spend. I got to see the income and expenses.
John: There you go. How about cats or dogs?
Gail: Dog. 100% dog. My dog can eat your cat.
John: All right. What kind of dog do you have?
Gail: She’s a golden retriever actually. She doesn’t eat any other animals, but she has a scary bark.
John: Right. Then she just rolls over and lets you pet her belly.
John: How about a favorite number?
John: Four. Is there a reason?
Gail: There is, yeah. It’s movie-related. The very first movie I ever went to with a boy, I saved the ticket stub. I don’t have it still, but for a long time, I saved the ticket stub. You know ticket stubs have six numbers on them that mean nothing. I averaged those numbers because that’s also the accountant in me.
Gail: The average came to four.
John: Wow. That’s truly amazing.
Gail: It’s the weirdest story ever.
John: No, no. There’s always a fun reason of why they’re favorite numbers. Some people, it’s like, “It’s my birthday.” I’m like, that might be the best reason ever I just heard. How about least favorite vegetable?
Gail: Well, I have legume allergies, so I actually can’t eat peas and lentils and chickpeas, all that stuff, no hummus. I would say they’re my least favorite because I actually don’t even know what they taste like.
John: It’s hard to argue that. That’s a legitimate answer right there. How about more diamonds or pearls?
Gail: I think pearls.
John: Pearls, okay. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Gail: A favorite thing I own, I think, would be my flute.
John: Oh, okay.
Gail: I went to college as a Music major before all this other stuff happened.
John: Wow. Who could tell? Look at this. I had no idea. Do you still play?
Gail: I do some, but it’s been a while.
John: No, exactly. I used to play trombone in a marching band in college as well. However, walked or marched and played at the same time is beyond me. Also just your mouth and the muscles near your lips and everything, they’re shot when you stop playing regularly.
Gail: Marching band was great though. When I went to Indiana University, and they didn’t allow girls in the marching band when I was there, so I just — the little bit of rebel in me that I have, every fall when they would have marching band tryouts, I would show up.
Gail: And make them listen to me even though I knew I couldn’t be in the band.
John: Wow, that is so wild. Wow. Yeah. I mean they probably had no flutes.
Gail: No, they did not. They had piccolos. I was happy to play a piccolo too, but they wouldn’t let me in.
John: Right. Wow, that is crazy. All right. Also, I love the movie reference with the movie tickets.
John: Averaging out all the numbers. People didn’t even notice there were numbers on the tickets. Yeah. So, let’s talk movies. I remember at the ITA Conference, going around the room, and you were like, movies. I was like, what? That’s incredible. Did you grow up going to movies a lot? Or what drew you to this?
Gail: I did grow up going to movies a lot. I grew up in a Chicago suburb, Oak Park, where there were, I think it was five movie theaters within walking distance of where I lived. Walking distance was between one and two miles, but you can walk that far when you’re little.
Gail: And movies were super cheap when I was a kid, so we always saw all the movies, my friends and I. Anytime — it was an era where everybody played outside. You said goodbye to your mom after breakfast, and you ate lunch wherever you were playing at lunchtime, and then you came home for dinner. On rainy days, we’d either camp at somebody’s house and read books, or we’d go to the movie theater.
John: Nice. Yeah. Especially growing up at a Chicago suburb like that where you had access to so many theaters, then, yeah, you’re able to go and see so many. Were there some of the movies that you grew up watching that were some of your favorites?
Gail: I loved that blockbuster stuff, the big David Lean movies, Bridge Over the River Kwai. I loved Lawrence of Arabia and just the big screen spectacles that are larger than life. I think great movies should be larger than life.
John: Yeah. Because some of them, yeah, even I watched and I’m like, well, the end, you’re like, really? Did that just — what just happened? We could have just hung out and watch the wall and talk to each other.
Gail: Yeah, I know. I like movies that you have to see on a big screen.
John: Yeah, I could see that. That’s cool. So then, obviously, as you grew up and now in adult life, still big in the movies. Are you still going to theaters? Or is it more Netflix, Amazon, all that other — Hulu, whatever else is out there online, or a little of both?
Gail: It’s everything. I still, I love movie theaters. You can’t change that movie theater experience, just seeing a movie in a dark theater with the smell of popcorn and strangers all around you and hearing their reactions to the scenes. I remember when The Sting came out. I went with a girlfriend of mine. The Sting, if you recall, has some big surprises at the end, and the audience reactions were, including ours, were so like, oh, my God. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time I sat through a movie more than once, but we just turned to each other and said, “We need to sit through this again just to see another new audience and watch their reaction.”
John: Right. Once you know what’s going to happen and get their reaction.
John: That does add to the experience, for sure.
Gail: Yeah. So having the people there — and that’s not to say I don’t like a theater that’s all mine if I go to a theater especially on a Tuesday afternoon and I’m the only one there. I have a rule about that. My daughter and I came up with this rule that if we go in the theater, there’s usually music playing, if there’s nobody else there, you have to dance.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so good. So if it’s like you and two or three people but it’s your group.
Gail: Well, yeah, that’s my group then we all have to dance.
John: As soon as someone else walks in then it’s like, I didn’t see anything.
Gail: Yeah, exactly.
John: That’s super fun. That just makes it an experience, which I think is a lot of what’s missing nowadays when a lot of things are just two dimensional. You go to the theater and that surround sound all the way around you and plus the audience, and you’re in it together. You’re experiencing a movie as opposed to watching it.
Gail: Then if you have the great opportunity to go to one of the classic movie palaces, then it’s just a completely new experience. You think of the history of that theater. Because they don’t build them like that anymore, but just beautiful theaters that are ornate and housed generations and generations of people seeing incredible films, that’s a great experience.
John: Right. Is this something that you go to, to visit on purpose, or if you’re just in an area, you check it out?
Gail: I will make trips to movie theaters. It’s kind of a bucket list item because I love road trips, and I love classic movie theaters. There are books about all the classic theaters that are still in existence. So, yeah, that would be a dream trip, to just go around and visit all the ones that were built 100 years or so ago.
John: Right. Yeah. I mean just to think of all that, or even maybe the Marx Brothers came through, to do a performance.
Gail: I can’t believe you said that.
John: Things like that.
Gail: The Marx Brothers became the Marx Brothers — I mean they were brothers, and they were acting, but they took on the name, The Marx Brothers, at the theater my husband and I operated in Champagne, Illinois.
John: That’s incredible. I had no idea. Very cool. So then you guys operated a theater as well.
Gail: Yes. The theater was part of the old Orpheum vaudeville circuit. It’s the Orpheum Theater in Champagne, Illinois. When we took it over, we started learning the history of the theater because we were so entranced with this gorgeous place. When it was back in its vaudeville days, lots of — I mean all the Orpheum vaudeville stars came through there. One of the stories we learned was that The Marx Brothers performed there, and they decided, “Let’s call ourselves The Marx Brothers,” while they were there.
John: Wow. Yeah, in Champagne, Illinois, which is — yeah. Most people listening are like, I have no idea where that is. University of Illinois is there.
John: I totally know where that is. Wow, what a small world. That’s super cool. Just the comedy side of me was Marx Brothers. That’s very cool. So then, yeah, when you run your own theater, then you can just watch them all.
Gail: You can watch them all. Yeah.
John: That’s so neat. So neat. Then obviously the writing, I can’t dismiss that. 34 books, you don’t do one accident. I mean doing one is hard enough. Does it become easier?
Gail: It does become easier, yeah. It’s still a challenge. Every time I start one, I think, oh, I’ve got this because I’ve written so many, but then I realize, oh, this is not easy. It’s easier than the first time was.
John: Yeah. Okay. All right. I think that the dovetails with the movies and story and all of this, and you’re growing up with that. Do you feel like that’s enhanced or impacted your writing side?
Gail: Absolutely. In fact, some of the things I write for CPA Practice Advisor are about movies.
John: Oh, wow. Okay.
John: But certainly there’s a creative side of you that’s not all black and white tax.
Gail: Absolutely. Yes. It started, so I went to school as a Music major. Here’s what happened. As a Music major at Indiana University, you couldn’t practice your instrument in the dormitories because you’d drive everyone else out of the dorm. So you had to go practice outside of the dorm. They had practice rooms around campus, and you reserved those rooms. You couldn’t just walk in.
As a freshman, I had last choice. The freshman always had the last choice in getting the room, so my practice time was like 8:00 at night, somewhere way across campus from where I lived which was really uncomfortable on several levels. Not only was it dark and in the winter it was cold, but also all my friends were ordering pizza and sitting around the dorm, doing their homework together and having a good time. Here I was, putting on a coat and trudging off in the dark to practice my flute. I became an enemy with my flute at that point because it was like the flute’s fault that I had to do this.
So after my freshman year, I decided I still wanted to do something creative. As a side note, during my freshman year, I had taken freshman English Composition which was a required course. My professor, who was one of my greatest inspirations, loved my writing, said, “You need to be doing this, and what you need is just lots of practice. Just stay comfortable and just keep pen on the paper, just keep yourself going.” This professor suggested, because every freshman on campus needed to take English Composition and 90% of them hated it, he said, “You could actually make a living doing ghostwriting for all these kids who have to do freshman Comp classes.”
John: Oh, wow. So it’s like you’re still in college forever.
John: That’s hilarious.
Gail: So I started doing this. I actually became the house writer for several fraternity houses on campus.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Gail: Who doesn’t want to write for fraternity boys? So I would write their compositions for them, and they pay me. That was great. That was a little side hustle when I was a freshman. So after freshman year of doing the late night practicing and stuff, I decided I wanted to have the fun in the dorms with my friends. I want homework that keeps me in the dorm, so why not just do this writing instead.
I wasn’t certain what I wanted to do with that, whether I wanted to go into Creative Writing or what, but Journalism seemed like a really good option because then I could write for the paper, or I could figure out what I want to write, and I could get a lot of practical skills. So I changed my major to Journalism and got to do my homework in the dorms which was important.
John: Right, and hang out. Yeah.
John: That’s an amazing story. That’s great that the professor’s like, “Yeah, yeah, go ghostwrite.”
Gail: Yeah. Go help these people cheat.
John: Right. That’s insane.
Gail: It is. Yeah.
John: That’s so funny.
Gail: It was wonderful.
John: Yeah. I mean now there’s the Internet, unfortunately, but, yeah, you could be a gazillionaire.
John: That’s awesome. Yeah. You got your writing chops in and writing all different kinds of topics, I’m sure, because everybody had them, which leads into obviously giving you a skill set that you bring to the office.
Gail: Well, and actually, there was an additional thing. My third year on campus, which later became known as my first junior year on campus.
Gail: I needed to really make a living. Years ago, my dad had a business and when I was in high school, had taught me basic bookkeeping skills. So I figured I could actually get a job job doing this instead of just writing papers for the fraternity boys. So I did that. I started working as a bookkeeper and from then on until I graduated, which took six years because from then on, I couldn’t go full-time because I was working. Each semester, I’d see how many courses I could buy based on how much I had saved from bookkeeping, so I had three and half years of bookkeeping under my belt by the time I graduated with a degree in Journalism. So that was how they sort of met, those two pieces of me.
Then I got out of school. I decided I’ll do this some more, some bookkeeping because I already know how to do this as a job. Then I decided to go back to school and actually get a CPA. So I did that and put in my time at Deloitte in Chicago so I could get licensed and actually be a CPA. At this point I’m married, and I’m in Chicago. All I’m doing is going to movies when I’m not working for Deloitte. Married a movie buff, my husband and I were going to movies all the time, many times a week. We got to know some of the movie theater owners in the Chicago area because they saw us. “You were just here yesterday, weren’t you?”
Gail: So got to talking about what it takes to run a movie theater and it just sounded so cool. We thought, well, we’re kind of young, and we could do this. It may not take, but let’s just do it now because we’ll probably never going to get a chance again. My husband was teaching law school, so his schedule was kind of flexible. I decided I would quit my job and do full-time movie theater. We couldn’t get a theater in the Chicago area because the union is so tough up there. Unless you own several, you really can’t make it work.
His parents lived in Champagne, so we thought, let’s just go down there. There happened to be the Orpheum movie theater which was struggling. We talked to the owners of it and said, “You’re having trouble with this anyway, why don’t you just rent it to us?” They said, “Okay.” We knew nothing about anything about running a business except that we loved movies. So we went down that path. We did it for just over a year, but the thing is we ran a business. We ran every aspect of that business. I learned so much about small businesses and payroll and employees and cash flow and building maintenance and how to run a movie projector and all the stuff that goes with it.
That became part of my groundwork for going back into public accounting, and I could really talk on a different level to our clients because I’d been there. When I ultimately started going into writing, I wrote on a level that was conversational and plain English which means I wrote for dummies and I wrote for idiots because that’s where the voice is.
John: Right. Yeah. That’s where most of us are, to be honest. You use all these big fancy words, and now I’ve got to go to the dictionary and look it up, then come back and I forget what page I was on and all this. It’s easier for people to digest as well.
John: Wow. What a fascinating story where, in several of these moments, it feels like absolute chaos. I don’t know which way is up from down and whatever. If you look back now, it’s almost an exact straight line.
Gail: I know. It seemed like a flow. Although some of the early books I wrote, got me out on book tours which was fun. I was on a book tour for The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Doing Your Income Taxes, and I was introduced as this CPA and then they brought me up onstage. I was speaking to an auditorium of people, and I started out by saying, it seems like if you look how I got here, that I just followed a lot of sharp turns that nothing actually goes together, but it actually is completely a flow. I’m not sure anyone could follow that path if they tried to do it on purpose.
Gail: But it all just, for one reason or another, it all just led completely to where I am now.
John: Yeah. It’s similar for me because people ask, “Well how do you get to where you’re — I don’t even know. I don’t even know how to tell you to do this. If you follow in my footsteps, it’s really hard so maybe don’t do that. But you had to go through that to get to where you are now, so it’s like, I don’t know. That’s so cool though and really awesome. Especially to hear how you’re able to take these things and make them more relatable to your clients, whether it’s talking about movies or it’s knowing how to run a small business like the movie theater or it’s writing in a way that people will actually understand.
Imagine a movie where everyone uses just giant words. That would be a terrible movie. I don’t think blockbusters use more than three-syllable words because you want to hear the story. You want to get in. If I’m too busy trying to digest the words then it takes too long to get the story. That’s awesome and so cool. So cool. Did you ever feel reluctant to share this side of you with clients or even when you were at Deloitte back in the day? Or was it, this is who I am, take it or leave it?
Gail: No. Especially at Deloitte, actually, I was pretty reluctant to share because most people who go through accounting school, they do four years of accounting school, which I didn’t do; they take the CPA exam, which I did do; they get into a firm like Deloitte, but they followed a certain path. They pretty much all followed the same path and so their experience is way different from mine.
I felt a little bit like I cheated because my Bachelor’s was in Journalism, then I went back to school. All I did was take accounting courses for a year and a summer and then I sat for the CPA exam. I didn’t go through the whole four-year curriculum that most of them did. Although I’d had experience bookkeeping and running a business, which most of them hadn’t, but I felt that I didn’t follow the right path, so I didn’t talk about my past much.
John: Yeah, yeah, or even just going to the movies or what movie you just saw or things like that. Yeah. Because you just feel like you don’t relate sort of a thing, but then at some point, that teeter-totter obviously tipped, or is it still something that you don’t share as much?
Gail: No, I share it all now. I don’t care.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Gail: It basically tipped when, after the movie theater, my husband and I decided to start a family. I decided I’d go back into public accounting, but I was able to get part-time jobs which, at the time, wasn’t as easy as it is now. I thought I can raise my kids and work part-time in accounting. Basically I worked tax seasons and then a little bit the rest of the year. Then I got into training people in the accounting firm because I was like one step ahead of them in terms of a lot of things. Also, I hadn’t mentioned this, but I had a minor in Computer Science when I was in college too because I just couldn’t resist.
John: Right, mine as well. Right?
Gail: Yeah. This was when computers were just coming in on the scene, so I could learn this stuff really fast because I knew how computers worked and then I could teach it. That’s how training started, and that evolved into writing because I was writing, I mean writing technical stuff because I was writing the training manuals for my classes.
Eventually, I decided I really wanted to be home with my kids. I could take this writing and make it a thing. That’s what I did. I left public accounting and went to full-time writing which turned into accounting journalism. At the beginning that was just writing books. I’d write two or three a year and do some editing. I wrote a column for the Indianapolis newspaper, so I had money coming in from a variety of different sources. It was a splotchy period, but I was doing it from home before being home was cool.
Gail: It was great. It worked out well.
John: Yeah, that’s fascinating. That’s really fascinating. I think we are reluctant at first to share those outside of work sides of us. Why do you think that is? If you would have met a stranger out and about or at a bar or coffee shop and they would have said, “Oh, what do you like to do,” you would have talked movies. No problem. But then you’re in a Deloitte office or you’re in an accounting whatever, for some reason we don’t want to do that, even to this day, a lot of people.
Gail: Yeah. It’s a little bit cutthroat. There’s that. I at least had a feeling nobody else was going to movies, three or four nights a week.
John: Well, certainly. Yeah. I don’t think anyone goes to movies like — but even once a month.
Gail: Yeah, exactly.
John: Even then they weren’t —
Gail: One of the great parts about operating a movie theater was that all my movie expenses were deductible.
John: Totally. Exactly. Because even if you add up, well we’re going to make less money; yeah, but we’re also going to spend less. We can add that, in theory, to our income and be like, wow, we are making so much money.
John: Because you’re not spending three to four days a week buying tickets.
Gail: Yeah. I felt a little bit of this is not serious accounting business, so I kept my personal life to myself when I was working there.
John: Yeah, yeah, but then now that you do share, do you find that it gives you a unique relationship with people or something else to talk about?
Gail: Definitely something else to talk about, yeah.
John: Because that’s what I found too, is it seems like most of the people that are on here, once they do start sharing, they’re like, wow, I wish I had done this sooner. Because people light up, and especially movies. It’s like, wow. Who hates — I’m not even sure if there are people that hate movies. People may be just indifferent or whatever.
Gail: There are people who hate to sit through a movie. There are people who hate movie theaters.
John: Those people are evil, evil people you don’t want to be around. I’m just kidding. I’m kidding.
Gail: I just don’t understand them.
John: Right. Exactly. It’s like, what? It’s probably those weirdos that like chunks in their ice cream. That’s who it is.
Gail: Something like that, yeah.
John: Right, right. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that maybe has a hobby or a passion that they feel like has nothing to do with their job?
Gail: For me, it was almost like in my life, I’ve been sitting in a little boat going down a stream, and I let the current take me. I just think rather than trying to force yourself into a position, just go with the flow. That’s very cliché, but for me that’s worked really well. When opportunities come, I assess them. If it seems like it’s good, even if it’s not a direction I saw myself going in, I’m not afraid to take those chances.
John: Yeah, and it clearly — some of those are driven by your outside of work hobbies and passions and then some of it’s dovetailing with the hobbies and passions, with your job or just in some way not letting that side of you go. That’s what I think is really interesting through all of this is that your relationship with accounting was in and out, hot and cold, if you will, but your relationships with movies and writing was always there. At no point did you ever stop going to movies. I think that that’s really important for us to take away is that these passions and interests are with us through everything. That’s awesome.
Before I wrap this up, it’s only fair that I allow you to now become the host and rapid fire question me since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning. So I’ll let you fire away.
Gail: All right. Do you have a favorite movie or a few favorite movies? If so, why are they your favorites?
John: Well, I went to college in the Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, David Spade, Chris Farley heyday, so, Ace Venture, Dumb and Dumber, and Tommy Boy, just those movies that are like, you can turn it on and laugh within the first two minutes. It’s kind of an escape. On the flip side, I really do like Good Will Hunting, I thought was a really great movie and really deep, and some of those movies that just make you think about things a little bit differently on the flip side. I like super, super shallow and then super, super deep, I guess. I want to be taken somewhere, moved somewhere, in the end. Some of those movies where, you watch it, and I’m like, is there a second half, what happened type of thing. Are we where we first started? This is an hour and a half. I’m not getting that, those kind of thing. Of course, Rudy. I graduated from Notre Dame.
Gail: Oh, yeah.
John: If I even just hear the music, I will start to cry. It’s just like I’m just a baby when it comes to that too. Yeah, a lot of those sports movies, man, I will cry at all of them.
Gail: I love feel-good sports movies. That’s a great genre.
John: So that’s where I’m at.
Gail: One more question. We’re, of course, on behalf of our audience, so I’ll just share the fact that we’re recording this in the time of Coronavirus, so my question is, what are you streaming?
John: Oh, that’s interesting. My wife and I are watching Billions. It’s on Showtime but through stream, catching up on that because we never, never watched that. Yeah, that’s pretty much it and then just movies here and there I guess. It’s hard though because you’ve either seen it or they just took it away or whatever. You’re like, oh, no, type of thing. Where, had we not been going through all of this, then never would have known. Great question. Really great question.
Thank you so much, Gail, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This is super fun.
Gail: Super fun. Thanks for having me.
John: Absolutely. Everyone, if you want to see some pictures of Gail outside of work or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Kevin is an Accountant & Ragnar Relay Runner
Kevin Yeanoplos returns to the podcast from episode 17 to share with us his recent experiences in his hobby of road trips visiting historical musical landmarks and his latest relay run! Kevin and John have a deep conversation on having a passion or hobby in life!
• Seeing James Taylor for the 25th time
• Kevin’s recent road trip
• Completing his 18th Ragnar Relay
• Frisson and what it means
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Welcome to Episode 262 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday, I’m following-up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work, and also hear how this message might’ve impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know my book’s being published very, very soon. It will be available in Amazon and a few other websites so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or sign up for my exclusive list, you’ll be the first to know when it’s coming out.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This Follow-up Friday is no different with my guest, Kevin Yeanoplos. He’s the Director of Valuation Services at Brueggeman and Johnson Yeanoplos in Tucson, Arizona. I visited him in his office before and now, he’s here with me today.
Kevin, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Kevin: John, it’s a pleasure to be with you to spend a few minutes. I’ve always enjoyed our chats.
John: I appreciate it. Ditto, man. Ditto. It’s always fun to catch up. This time, we hit record and let people hear it. That’s pretty fun. Yeah. One thing we never do on the regular calls is rapid fire questions. I’ve got seven for you right out of the gate here, get to know Kevin on another level.
If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Kevin: Well, it would have to be Harry Potter because I think I maybe one of the ten people in the world that have never seen an episode of Game of Thrones.
John: And I’m in the club with you because that’s on HBO or something where you have to spend more money on it. So yeah, I don’t even know anything about it. I just know there’s a blood bath every other episode apparently.
How about more pens or pencils?
John: Okay, all right. I like that. How about oceans or mountains?
Kevin: That is a very tough question. Just expand on it very quickly, I always was around oceans as a young boy and felt that was peaceful to me. But since I’ve been in the mountain west for so long, actually I will tell you, a subset of the mountains basically red rocks is peace to me.
John: There you go.
Kevin: I’d have to say mountains now.
John: That’s fair enough. How about a favorite food?
Kevin: Red beans and rice.
John: Oh, there you go. How about do you prefer more hot or cold?
Kevin: Oh. Have to be hot in Arizona.
John: Yeah. Very, very hot. Two more. How about a favorite sports team? Any sport.
John: Oh, there you go.
Kevin: Since 1962.
John: Right, when they started. That’s impressive. How about toilet paper roll? Over or under?
Kevin: It’s got to be over.
John: On occasion, I get an under. Sometimes, there’s a reason. For the most part, over is definitely the most popular answer. That’s for sure.
It’s been a little while since Episode 17 when we chatted, I mean just such cool pictures you were doing from going to concerts and the photography and meeting all these musicians and then also the Ragnar Relays that you were doing. Is this still stuff that you’re into?
Kevin: Oh, yeah. If I had to — you know I’ve been thinking about hobby, my hobby is really living life, trying to be the pebble. I feel like we can change the world if we can change yourselves. That’s what my hobby is right there.
John: I love it, man. That’s great. I mean the way I look at the podcast, it’s just every episode is wiggling away at what people think of the stereotypical professional. Example after example is counter that and show you that this is the new norm. We can actually make a difference by being that example to others as you are. I mean for sure.
But yeah, have you been to some fun concerts recently?
Kevin: You know, they’re all fun. Earlier this year, saw James Taylor for I think the 25th time.
John: Oh, gosh. Yeah, wow.
Kevin: James Taylor was very important to me when I was younger, still is. His music I think is inspiring and everybody has an artist like that that impacts their lives and for me, James Taylor is it. I did some time in Mississippi last week and I think I drove 600 miles on one day.
I started out at Tupelo, Mississippi and went to Elvis’ birth place and then I drove to Clarksdale, Mississippi about two hours away which is where supposedly Robert Johnson made a deal with the devil so he could play guitar so well, and then I drove another hour to Robert Johnson’s grave at the middle of nowhere in Greenwood, Mississippi. Then from there, I went to Indianola, Mississippi which is where B.B. King was born and is buried and it was an epic day and that was better than any of the concerts I’ve been to.
John: Yeah. That’s amazing, man. I mean all of the music shrines of sorts, I mean all within a short drive.
Kevin: All in Mississippi. That’s incredible if you think about that.
John: It really is. Yeah, I didn’t realize that all of them — I mean I knew Tupelo of course with Elvis but yeah, didn’t realize all those other musicians as well. Very cool. Last year, I was able to see The Killers in Milwaukee in Summerfest, and man, what an experience. It’s crazy. The video and the confetti canons. I think I want to incorporate a confetti canon at the end of my keynotes now just after watching that, just like yeah, so it’s been fun going to concerts as well and I do not so much of the running on your part of it, but is that still something that you’re active with?
Kevin: It is. In fact, I just completed my 18th Ragnar.
Kevin: Let’s see. Where was it? Oh, the Bourbon Chase in Kentucky. We ran from Louisville, Kentucky to Lexington. The scenery was fantastic and I was with some good friends that I’ve known for quite a while. It’s always an experience to push yourself physically and emotionally and mentally and you come out the other side. I’ve learned so many good life lessons from doing those running races. I recommend it highly.
John: The Ragnar, for the people that are new to it, how far is that again?
Kevin: Somewhere around 200 miles and you have 12 runners. You each run anywhere from 12 to 20 miles and you run 24 hours. It usually takes us somewhere around 30 but you’re running all the time. You talk about life lessons, I‘ll just tell you quickly. In May, we had a Ragnar that went from Cobourg, Ontario to Niagara Falls. Ontario. Early in the race, one of the runners was alongside Lake Ontario, most of the course was along there. She happened to look off to the left and she rolled her ankle and she rolled so badly that she broke it.
Her husband was running and had to spend time with her in the hospital. Basically, you have two vans of six people. The other van had four people left. We had six and understandably, the other fan was kind of down and wanted to just give up, let’s just quit the race. We all thought about it. We said, here’s what we’ll do. We’ll give you one of our runners. We’ll all run an extra leg so instead of running three legs, we ran four and we’ll finish the race.
I now have a post-it on my computer screen that says sometimes, you got to run with ten. You do what you need to do to finish and it’s just such a great experience to do that. That’s why I said that’s my hobby, living life to the fullest because there are lessons for us every day.
John: That’s incredible, and what a story. I mean you’re running already 20 miles each and now, it’s like you’re attacking on an extra six or eight or whatever because of being a runner or two runners down, so probably even more than that, and yeah, sometimes that happens in work and in life where you just got to get it done.
Kevin: Yup. Very true.
John: It’s not because the other person isn’t good or whatever, it’s just that circumstances happen and that’s really incredible. Have you seen others in the professional world sharing hobbies and passions or are you more aware of it now or is it something where we still have some work to do?
Kevin: John, everybody has something, whatever it. To some people, they enjoy, they really do enjoy working 80 hours a week. Some people enjoy that. I don’t. I never have. I think I share with you that maybe a lot of that perspective comes from some health issues I had a number of years ago when that taught me a big lesson and gave me a lot of perspective.
The things I enjoy about working primarily are interacting with the clients, feeling like I can help. I love now to mentor and teach, that’s really what I like to do. The profession that I spend a lot of time in namely business evaluation has changed a lot and the technical side, I believe we probably get more into the weeds than ever before and there are some people that like that. I try to look at it above the fray. It’s just a different perspective.
John: No. For sure. I mean that’s something were I found in my research that I’m doing that yeah, there is maybe 8% of people where work is their thing and they’re really passionate about it but there’s about 92% of us that have something else that we’re all so passionate about.
Both are I guess okay but for so long that work all the time mentality has bullied us into thinking that if we have something else then maybe we’re not as dedicated to our job or we feel guilty or whatever and so it’s been cool sharing that message with people that no, no. It’s the opposite. It’s okay if work is your thing but it’s also 100% okay if work isn’t your thing and you’re just good at it and it gives you the money to go do the cool stuff you actually love to do.
Kevin: Well, have you ever heard of something called frisson?
John: No. I haven’t.
Kevin: It’s spelled F-R-I-S-S-O-N. It’s actually a French word and it’s French for chills. It’s not rare but not everybody experiences it and it’s something that maybe we hear a song or we read something. Whatever it is, we feel the chills because that particular thing has hit us and really, I mean it arouses something, that maybe is a bad word, but we feel it so strongly. I feel it all the time when I’m listening to music.
I personally feel it when I’m with or talking to certain people, not everybody but I feel it. I think it’s important for us, whoever we are, to try and be so aware of things that we feel that because it’s out there. It’s what are the things that inspire us, what are the things that enable us to feel? We are, as CPAs and though financial professionals, we’ve kind of gotten buried in our head. We think so much with our head, and again, there’s nothing wrong with that.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really, really, really tried to think more with my heart. For me, that’s where I’m comfortable.
John: That’s fantastic because I mean there’s zero emotion typically at work or maybe anger. It’s like the only emotion and there needs to be joy and happiness and caring, love to a certain agree for clients and for coworkers. Get out of our head and more into those emotions and it’s not unprofessional at all. It’s actually more professional. It’s not as black and white as what we want it to be maybe.
Kevin: Well, if we got more time, I would tell you about some of the things that we’ve studied in management class about how impactful relationships can be on success in the workplace. Maybe that’s a good topic for another podcast.
John: All right, all right. But it clearly is. I mean relationships are where it’s at. It’s basically the gist of it. You can’t get relationships by being all up in your head and memorizing all the technical stuff. There’s a lot more to it. That’s great. We’re all capable of it too. That’s the other thing is that it’s encouraging that everyone can do it. It’s really not hard.
Kevin: People are more comfortable with it than others but we absolutely all have the ability to do it.
John: For sure. Well, this has been really powerful. And yeah, we’ll leave that cliff hanger for next time when you’re on the follow-up Friday and then you’ll finish the graduate work and yeah, Dr. Yeanoplos. Who knows, man? It’ll be next level type stuff. That’ll be fun. But before we wrap this up, it’s only fair that I allow you to question me back so if you have any questions you like to ask, we can let it rip.
Kevin: I’m going to turn the tables, John and ask you, if you had a day to do anything, what would you do?
John: wow. Goodness. That’s a deep question. I would probably have some ice cream for breakfast, if we can do anything, I mean let’s be honest. Start the day with that, and goodness, that’s really tough. I mean I don’t know. I mean my happy place is definitely going to a college football game especially at Notre Dame it’s definitely my happy place, bringing my wife and share that experience with friends and family and all that.
That’s definitely middle of October where it’s not cold but it’s not hot anymore. It’s just that perfect 60s type of weather and the sun’s out and yeah, that’s a good day for me. It really is. Then of course they win. There’s that part too I guess if we’re going to do all this.
Kevin: To give you a follow-up, and I’m going to expand it out and say okay, who would you be with? If it could be anybody, would it be for instance, what you described are you sitting there with Knute Rockne. If you could be with anybody for that day to experience it with you, who would it be?
John: Because part of that is those great coaches that you described, part of that is that would be really neat, but on the flipside, I don’t want to ruin the image that I have of you know, because maybe Knute Rockne, he was a great coach because maybe he wasn’t the nicest person. I don’t know. I don’t want to ruin it.
But yeah, I think that would be really cool but I don’t know, I guess I’m just really content with my wife and friends because then I think I could enjoy it more and just be more myself, I guess so I know that’s kind of lame because it would neat to have it be some amazing type of people but then I think I would be a little more myself and be able to enjoy it more than watching the game with some people that know way too much about football.
Kevin: That actually is very insightful because I have met a number of people that would be heroes to me and you have to temper your expectations. Otherwise, you are going to be disappointed. They’re human being. They’re just like everyone else.
John: Yeah. They’re just regular people. Right, exactly. That’s a really great question to ask. Really, everyone to ask themselves. And then why aren’t we doing that? At some point in our life, go do that thing.
Kevin: Very much true.
John: Well, that’s awesome. Well, thanks, Kevin. This has been so much fun catching up with you. I really appreciate you being on What’s Your “And”?
Kevin: Sure. My pleasure.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Kevin out in the world and at his concerts and going to these music shrines and even running or maybe connect with him 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 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.
Randy is a CPA & Music Lover
Randy takes a special interest in getting to know each client and their desired outcomes, as this allows him to deliver the services that helps them accomplish their goals. A native Coloradan, he enjoys being outside with his family all year round – golfing, concerts, camping, snowboarding, and water skiing.
Randy returns from episode 16 to talk about his most recent favorite concert, how he is taking more of an interest in other people’s hobbies, and how ACM LLP is encouraging a culture of sharing passions outside of work!
• Favorite recent concert
• Being more aware of sharing hobbies
• Making business discussions easier
• Taking trips as a firm
• Fun calendar
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Pictures of Randy Enjoying Music
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Welcome to Episode of 244 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-up Friday edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday, I’m following-up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might’ve impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published very, very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or sign up for my exclusive list and you’ll be the first to know when it’s being published.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every Wednesday and now, Follow-up Fridays and this one’s no different with my guest, Randy Watkins. He’s the office managing partner for the Northern Colorado office at ACM. Now, he’s with me here today. Randy, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Randy: Thank you. I’m excited to be part of it.
John: I can’t believe it’s been almost four years, dude. It doesn’t even feel like that long ago when we chatted, but I’ve mixed up the format a little bit here. We’re going to do rapid fire questions up front. Here we go. Get to know Randy on a new level. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Randy: Game of Thrones.
John: Okay. How about a favorite sports team?
Randy: Well, the CU Buffs but it’s been a challenge.
John: Right. It is up and down. Last year, they were so hot and then so not. If a season was only six games long and they would be in a bowl every year. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
John: Cold, okay. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?
John: Yeah, yeah. Very nice. How about this? Brownie or ice cream?
Randy: Ice cream.
John: Ice cream, okay. I know you fly a lot, attending a lot of conferences and vacations and stuff too. Window seat or aisle seat?
Randy: Aisle seat. Long legs. I can’ fit on the window.
John: I agree, man especially when the fuselage curves a little bit. It’s like I’m getting cheated here. I don’t even get a full space. The last one, maybe the most important one. Toilet paper roll. Over or under?
John: Under, okay.
Randy: At one point, there was a cat in the house and they enjoyed playing with toilet paper rolls. If you put it over, yeah, you end up with a lot on the ground.
John: Yeah, then it’s all gone.
Randy: It’s just out of habit.
John: I hear you. I think that’s the only way that you just saved yourself from getting Twitter bombed by everyone.
Randy: I’m going to be fitting a different Twitter bomb, but that’s all right.
John: And the last time we talked, we talked about going to concerts a lot and especially Blues Traveler and hanging out with them. Is this still a passion? Do you guys still — I mean here in Colorado, there’s so many great concerts happening in so many cool venues. Still a thing?
Randy: Sort of, yeah. I have two daughters. One’s almost ten, the other just turned seven and life changes quite a bit when their life start getting busy. Every year, we go to a fun concert out in Palm Springs area called Stagecoach. It’s a big huge country music festival that we enjoy, still a thing I enjoy going to concerts. Most favorite most recent one was the Paul McCartney concert down in Talking in Arizona. My oldest is named Lennon and my youngest is McCartney. You can guess that I’m a bit of a Beatle’s fan as well. They got to see Paul McCartney play which was kind of neat.
John: Oh, and they got to come too?
Randy: Yeah. They were with us.
John: That’s fantastic. Did McCartney like it more?
Randy: She actually slept through most of it which was probably because it wasn’t quiet and it was about a three-hour concert, but my oldest was standing the entire time and actually knew some of the words which I was super proud of.
John: Yeah. So you are winning parenting. That’s for sure. You’re like, my work is done here. I don’t even know what else to do. We’re ten and we know words to Paul McCartney songs. That’s really cool, man. Is this something that you see people sharing their hobbies and passions more now or is it still kind of hit and miss?
Randy: It’s probably a little bit hit and miss. I do probably find myself more aware now and taking a bigger interest in people’s hobbies, particularly if there’s any overlap. I got a lot of friends that also enjoy concerts and festivals. So we’ve got kind of a group that goes on that annual trip every year. I would say I’m probably noticing it more again especially if we share some of the same hobbies.
John: Yeah, because then I mean it’s something to talk about right away.
John: Right. It’s your job and you still try to avoid it. Imagine everyone else in the general public. I joke when I’m on stage that if someone asks me what I do, and I say I’m a speaker and a comedian, then we’re talking the whole flight. Not a big fan. But then if I say, I’m an accountant, then they put on their Bose noise-cancelling headphones immediately. There’s never a follow-up question or anything.
Do you find that the conversations tend to go on longer and you have a little bit of a different relationship with those people? Not in a better way but just slightly different relationship?
Randy: Yes. I mean obviously, you’re talking about shared passions is more interesting. I guess there’s even times where if it’s not something I’m necessarily personally passionate about and is more interesting than some of the other conversations I’ve had. So yeah, it’s been good.
John: I find that, and I don’t know if this is the case, but where you start with those kind of conversations, and then it’s easier to transition into a business conversation rather than the other way around.
I mean if you start a business and then ten minutes later, be like oh, yeah by the way, do you go to concerts? It’s creepy weird.
Randy: It does lower people’s guard. I mean I think it creates more of a personal connection which makes it, like you said easier to transition into more serious conversations. Yeah, it definitely does help.
John: That’s awesome to hear because we’re still humans. It’s a human to human connection there even though we work for businesses and corporations and firms and stuff like that. Sometimes, we forget that. I know ACM does some cool things that from your position as a leader in the firm that you encourage or I mean obviously you’re modelling it, but is there something above and beyond that that you do?
Randy: Yeah. Since my last call, especially with the girls, whenever we can, one of the things that we as a family started doing more on is travelling. Something our firm did that I think is kind of cool a couple of years ago is we were having a hard time getting people to use their paid time off and getting them to really get away from work and do things they enjoy to do personally.
We created a program where if they would come to us with a plan to spend a week on vacation, it can be a staycation doing things that they enjoy around Colorado, but if there was a plan in place, we would allow them to actually take a week of vacation and also, use a week of vacation converted to pay so cash out a week to help pay for their actual vacation.
We found that that really encouraged a lot of people to get away, to get away from the office to go do the things they enjoy and yeah, it’s been good.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s really cool because so many times, people feel the pressure to meet those chargeability hours or I have to be in the office just in case Randy needs something or someone needs something. It’s like no, no. We want you to get away, we want you to do your passions, go on vacation, take a break because you come back refreshed and you’re just better at your job then. That’s pretty awesome. That’s such an easy way to encourage that.
Do you have any words of encouragement for anyone listening that thinks that going to concerts has nothing to do with my job or whatever their passion is?
Randy: Yeah, I mean kind of to your point earlier, what we do for a living and the jobs we have really don’t define who we are as much as I think the things that we do outside of the timeframe. Even finding groups within the organization where you do have some shared passions or shared hobbies and getting a group to go do those things as a team probably builds better relationships both in and out of the workplace.
I think on the last call, I mentioned we had a fun calendar where people post things they’re doing and other people can see what’s going on. That’s been a great way to develop little almost cliques around hobbies within the firm, things that we’re doing outside of the office and that would just say find people with shared passions and spend time with them and continue to grow those things. Yeah, absolutely.
John: Even if it’s not a shared thing, someone’s singing or they’re performing somewhere or whatever, go support them. Go watch it. Yeah, I’m a terrible singer, but I’ll go watch it. I think in one of the previous podcasts, somebody asked, what superpower would I have if I could have one? I was like singing. To me, that is a super power. Flying or looking through walls. Singing is up there with that to me. That is that level of a skill.
Randy: Anybody can sing. It’s just not everybody wants to hear them.
John: That’s an excellent point. Thank you for that. I’m going to use that next time blood’s coming out of someone’s ears when I’m near them at a concert while I’m singing along. I love how you said that the things outside of our job define us typically a lot more than our job itself. It’s a percentage of who we are as a person. A job is really a small percentage. It’s 100% of our income. But who you are as a person, it’s 20% maybe. It’s important to not let that slide into becoming 100% of us. That’s really great.
Before I wrap this up, it’s only fair that I allow you to question me back since I so rudely came out of the gate coming at you, whenever you’re ready, fire away.
Randy: All right. If you can travel back in time, what period would you go to?
John: Oh, wow. Holy crap. That’s a great question. Wow. That’s hard. There’s so many layers to it. It’s like I’m probably going to be dead by now of the flu if I go back to anywhere before the 1850s.
Randy: See, I don’t even think about things like that.
John: It’s like well, like you know. Yeah, I don’t know. Let’s see here. I guess the ’50s, the ‘1950s, I don’t know why. It just seems like gone madmen. Everything’s cool.
Randy: All right. Nickname your parents used to call you.
John: John R. because my dad is also John. Middle initial is where that popped in. I never went by really anything else. That was pretty much it.
Randy: Not JR?
John: No. Never Johnny, period, to this day.
Randy: I’ll remember that. Back to your super power question, I’m just going to give you choices. Invisibility or super strength?
John: Nice. Yeah, I’m going to go invisibility which sounds like the creepier answer. You don’t need the super strength that they can’t see you but I guess that’s why I’m going to go with that, plus I’m a big fan of just being in the corner and just not the center of everything with sounds weird because it’s the opposite of my job.
Randy: Oh, you’re a public figure. Right.
John: Yeah, exactly. It’s like, I’ll just be over here. Invisible. Those were really good questions. Now my brain hurts, Randy. That was awesome though but thanks so much for taking tie to be with me in on What’s Your “And”? This is really fun.
Absolutely. I drive.
Randy: Cool. Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Randy in action and at the concerts or maybe connect with him on social media, please be sure to go whatsyourand.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing in 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.
Shannon is an Attorney & Car Enthusiast & Musician
Shannon is a litigator practicing primarily in the products liability, toxic torts, government contracts, and financial services spaces. He loves the people he works with and the work is (usually) pretty exciting. However, music and cars have always been his passion. He has been a musician for as long as he can remember. “I was playing ‘drums’ on pots and pans on the kitchen floor before I could carry a tune (or hold my bladder)”. Shannon started working on cars as soon as he “could see under a hood”. He spent the first 10 years after college as an engineer for a Big 3 auto manufacturer, the next few years running a hot rod shop, the next 5 as a professional musician and college instructor, and the last 8 years or so building his legal practice.
Shannon Peters talks about his love for cars, his previous careers in the auto & music industries, and how this experience is applied to his career today as an attorney! He also shares with us his experience with his office discovering his passion in music and their reaction!
• His family’s Plymouth Barracuda
• Working in the auto industry
• Getting into music
• Becoming a part of the house band for Husch Blackwell events
• How his co-workers reacted when they discovered his passion for music
• Standing out in the office goes beyond your abilities at work
• How his time working in the auto industry applies to his current career
• How Husch Blackwell LLP is moving towards a more open culture
• Why all firms should start embracing a more open culture
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Welcome to Episode 231 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and — you’re an accountant and a painter, you’re a lawyer and a musician — those things that are above and beyond your technical skills, and those things are the actual things that differentiates you when you’re in the office.
But first, I’ve got a quick favor to ask you, if you like the show and are listening on iTunes or your favorite Android app, don’t forget to hit Subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes every Wednesday, and now I’ve got Follow-Up Fridays. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. My book is coming out very, very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other their websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details, or sign up for my exclusive list and you’ll be the first to know when it’s hitting the shelves.
This week, it’ll be no different with the awesome stories with my, guest Shannon Peters. He’s an attorney in the St. Louis office of Husch Blackwell. We actually went to high school together. Now he’s with me here today.
Shannon, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Shannon: Hey, John, it’s great to be with you. You should just know that the timer is running, and I’m billing you by the 10th. So that’s how it rolls in the big law. Keep it short and keep it sweet, and we’re going to get this done.
John: That’s awesome. Well, my accounts payable department is on vacation, so the check is coming some time, but that’s awesome though. Now I’m sweating. Okay, we better get to the rapid-fire questions then. Let’s just do this.
Shannon: I’ll do it.
John: All right, first one, favorite color?
John: Blue. Nice. Okay, how about a least favorite color?
Shannon: Oh! Green.
John: Green. Interesting. Okay, and when you fly, more window seat or aisle seat?
Shannon: 12F, baby. I fly only Southwest. 12 is a good row and I’m on the aisle.
John: I know what you’re talking about right there. That’s awesome. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Shannon: You know, it’s got to be Dwayne Johnson because I look so much like him. I get it every day, so like, hey, I might as well watch his movies.
John: I meant to include that in your introduction, Shannon “The Rock” Peters.
Shannon: That’s right. That’s right.
John: My apologies. Would you say you’re more early bird or night owl?
Shannon: What is sleep?
John: Oh, yes.
Shannon: I’m an early bird, a night owl, and everything in between. Yeah.
John: There you go. There you go. More pens or pencils?
Shannon: Oh, pens.
John: Interesting. No mistakes. I like that. All right. Puzzles, more Sudoku or crossword?
Shannon: It had have to be crossword. I don’t know how to do Sudoku.
John: Right. There you go. Since you’re a lawyer, I have to ask, more Suits or Law and Order.
Shannon: Ooh, you know what? Those are both great. Law and Order got me in the profession and lied to me all the way here. Suits is no more realistic than Law and Order, but I think it’s my current favorite.
John: Yeah, that’s a good show. That’s a good show. All right. What about your computer, more PC or Mac?
Shannon: Mac all the way.
John: Wow, fancy.
John: How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Shannon: Oh, man, Moose Tracks, I think.
John: Yeah, that’s a great answer. Solid, solid. Besides the Westland Marching Warriors, do you have a favorite band or musician?
Shannon: Oh man, that’s a loaded question for a musician. It really kind of changes from day to day. Right now I’m listening to a band called Judah & the Lion, which is they’re fun. Yeah, you know what? I listen to all the genres and all the bands. So yeah, the Westland Warriors are, I’ve got to say, close to number one.
John: Right. That’s our role in high school for anyone listening because no one would.
Shannon: No one would.
John: So there you go. How about a favorite animal, any animal at all?
Shannon: A liger, of course.
John: A liger. I like that. I like that. Very good. Prefer more hot or cold?
Shannon: Food has to be hot, but the temperature around me must be cold.
John: There you go. There you go. So yeah, eating warm food in a cold atmosphere. I like that. That’s a good answer. Do you have a favorite number?
Shannon: Seven, maybe.
John: And why is that?
Shannon: You know, it’s cliché, right, with the lucky number seven.
John: Totally. It is the number one answer is number seven.
Shannon: I’m sure it is, right.
John: All right. Since you’re a lawyer, let’s ask, criminal law or corporate law?
Shannon: Oh, between those two, it depends how you define corporate law. You use that as a lawyer or law question, so now you’re in for a long answer.
John: Because I don’t know. I googled it.
Shannon: I would say, in terms of my practice, it would definitely be civil, which I guess you would call corporate. I’ve done a little criminal law, and I hope not to ever do it again.
John: Two more. Favorite cereal from anytime?
Shannon: Oh, man, that’s — woof. You know, I used to like Golden Grahams a lot. I don’t know why, but I did.
John: You know what? Those are good. Those are good. That’s a great answer. And the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Shannon: Oh, man, wow, that’s tough. So I would say have two, I guess, material babies, if you will. My 69 Barracuda, which I had in high school, you may remember, and my Tom Anderson Crowdster guitar which was custom made for me. So those are my two non-human babies, I guess you’d say.
John: Right, right. Absolutely, man. That’s awesome. Very cool. Well, that dovetails nicely right into both of your hobbies and passions. You’ve had them since I’ve known you, which was like 1990, I guess. Holy cow! We’re old. But you still have the same Barracuda?
Shannon: I sure do. Yeah. The car has been in my family since it was new, so 1969, that timeframe, obviously. It kind of got passed to my grandpa. My great-great uncle bought it new. I started working on it when I was 15, 16 in high school. And then eventually it made its way to me, but I’ve kind of had it in my possession since shortly after high school. So it’s still in my garage today.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s really cool. That’s really cool. Then, of course, I know that that automobile passion has gone way past just the Barracuda. You actually used to work in the automobile industry, right?
Shannon: Yeah, yeah, actually, I went to undergrad, actually in SIU Carbondale called Salukis. I’ve got an automotive technology degree and went straight to General Motors to Saturn division and was an engineer there for a number of years, around eight years, and then kind of moved on from there, but that was my first official gig in the auto industry. Yeah.
John: That’s awesome. I mean, especially if you could take your passion and then make it your job, although that’s when it gets weird though because then it’s work all the time sort of thing. It’s fun, but then it’s like, well, you can’t necessarily take off from it sort of a thing. So it does, certainly, it’s cool but then you have to definitely keep it in check. That’s for sure. And then, of course, the music, I mean, we were in the band together. You were always playing guitar and drums and so good at it, but then you took that to the next level as well.
Shannon: Oh, yeah.
John: Just playing music all the time. You actually had a music career.
Shannon: Yeah. As you know, I was in “the band,” the high school band.
John: Right, “the band.” There’s a difference between a band and the band.
Shannon: Band was my favorite class by a longshot. Thanks to Mr. Rodney. So I was fortunate to be able to hop around from the jazz band to the pep band to the marching band to the, you know, whatever band they did at the time, which was great. But outside of high school or outside of school, I guess you’d say, me and several of the other dudes you’d remember from school always had our little heavy metal wannabe cover bands that we would play at teen parties and whatnot. It’s kind of always been something that took up almost all of my time, which explains why it took me so long to get into the law profession because I was not ready for real college after I got out of high school because I didn’t really go to high school much.
Shannon: I was there, but I was kind of more a social butterfly and didn’t do a whole lot of actual work in high school.
John: Exactly. You were physically there, not necessarily mentally present, and then you still graduate. That’s how high school is, I think. When I hear of kids that are struggling, I’m like, “Come on, man. Like just go.” I mean, that’s really all you got to do. It’s more of an attendance.
Shannon: Oh, yeah, you got a participation prize, for sure, and that was a diploma back then.
John: Right. Exactly. Yeah. I think that’s so fantastic that still to this day you’re playing music, and mostly through your church but also at some of the Husch Blackwell events even. How did that come about?
Shannon: That’s interesting. It actually was kind of surprising for me. I came to Husch right out of law school. I did my summer associate summer here. What drew me to Husch in the first place really was the people that were there. It just didn’t seem like what I anticipated a big law firm to be. It wasn’t nearly as stuffy as I kind of expected it to be. Again, this is from a guy who got into the law profession in his late 30s, right?
So I’ve already had a short music career and all this stuff, but I get here and I find out that there are a number of other musicians that are not really active anymore outside of the office. Well, one of our — he is our chief growth officer now. He is the lead singer of a pretty popular party and cover band here in town. When I say “in town,” St. Louis. His band would play at some of our functions. I even learned that, you know, I played and a few other folks played and sang and said, “You know, why don’t we put these folks together to make a Husch Blackwell Band?” And it was way better than we expected it to be. We really just got together and never practiced once and said, “Okay, guys, learn your parts, show up, and let’s play this stuff.” And it really killed and everybody at the firm loved it. So now we are kind of like the house band for all the Husch Blackwell events. It’s been really fun.
John: That’s awesome, man. Was there any part of you that was like, “Oh, well, if I share this side of me, they’re going to think I’m less of a lawyer or less committed to the firm”?
Shannon: Oh, yeah. So the funny thing is the first time I think anybody outside — well, they found out kind of early that I was a musician because somebody had stalked me on Facebook and found some old pictures of me on stage. So that was a little embarrassing at first and that was during my summer and I thought, well, I’m not going to get this job now. That wasn’t the case at all. But then, as you mentioned, I sing and play it at church, and I go to a fairly large church here in West County. I happen to notice a couple faces in the crowd one weekend that I worked with. Oh, no, this is a whole different world. My world is colliding. How’s this going to work? It was surprisingly a really good response. Everybody was actually that found out, “We like it that you have another outlet.” And they encouraged it. It was kind of surprising to me. But, man, it made a big difference in how I kind of looked at the people I work with and how I interacted with them.
John: That’s so awesome because from all the people that I’ve interviewed on the show, it’s 99.9% in our own head that people are going to judge us or this or that or whatever, and then you let it out. I mean, you’re not shouting from the rooftops, and you’re certainly not not doing your job. But every time, people think it’s cool and that’s fantastic. And not only do they think it’s cool, but they’re like, “Hey, actually play at our events,” which is like next level.
Shannon: What’s interesting and what I found, this has been over the course of — I’ve been with the firm about five years. Pretty early on when we started playing these gigs, people started recognizing the folks who are on the stage, the CEO and the chair of the board, they both know me by name, they walk up to me and say hi and talk to me. I’m a nobody associate especially two or three years ago, right? And I thought, well, you know what? This might actually be a good thing, getting some recognition that has nothing to do with my work product because that’s got to be terrible at this point.
John: No, man, because that’s the thing. We’re all trying so hard to stand out by doing more work, and everyone’s doing good work, all your peers at Husch Blackwell. I mean, plus or minus, you’re doing the same thing. And so to stand out, golly, you’d have to be some savant, just I invented law.
Shannon: And the interesting thing about that is if you stand out with your work product, which again, at a firm like Husch, your work product is assumed to be great. And that’s not to be arrogant. It’s just to get to the level, you have to do that kind of work, right? So the assumption is that it’s going to be really good. So to differentiate yourself that way is really difficult. And you know what? It’s almost like the frog in the boiling water pan. Your clients internally just have to assume, good is that good. They assume that it’s easy for you and you’re no longer special. You’re just another one of those really good lawyers.
To have something that they can talk to you about or you can talk to folks about that has nothing to do with the work product, has nothing to do with the case, I think it’s refreshing on both sides. At least it seems to have played out in my favor. I’ve seen that there are several others of us who, what I like to say, bring your whole self to work, right? Those folks tend to have better relationships in the office, and it seems to work out well for them.
John: Yeah, for sure, because surprise, you know who else has other outside-of-work interests? Your clients.
Shannon: That’s right.
John: They’re people too. That’s so refreshing to hear, and you’re able to see it while you’re in it. Because I remember when I was at PwC back in the day and people would be like, “Oh, what did you do this weekend?” I was like, “Well, I drove to Springfield, Illinois, and did a comedy show.” And they’re like, “Wait, what?” And then all of a sudden, 12 years later, someone remembers me as the guy who did comedy at night and it’s like, I’ve never even met you. We never worked together, and that sort of a thing. I think everyone deserves that. You work way too hard and you’re too good at what you do for someone to just not remember you.
So would you say that either the cars and/or the music gives you a skill set that makes you better at your job?
Shannon: Definitely, I would say both do in different ways. My primary practice is products liability defense, toxic tort defense, and it’s all in the manufacturing industry. My practice group has been manufacturing based. So the fact that I started my career as a dirty hands mechanic, working in shops and building cars and moved up to the engineering world, I understand the clients’ products, I understand the clients’ processes. I can speak their language, and they love that. Of course, I would too. I love that. So that’s helped in that regard.
Honestly, it’s funny but you meet — I just recently brought another fairly large client and our in-house counsel that we report to happens to be a car guy from Detroit. So we hit it off right away. Those are the things. He didn’t want to talk about business the whole night when we took him out to dinner. He wanted to talk about his Mustang and quite frankly, so did I. So the car stuff has that connection. You know, car guys, we’re an interesting sort but sort of like musicians in that we all have this little competitive edge to us. We want our car to be cooler and faster and all that stuff, but we also want to help our car buddies make their cars cooler and faster, right? Musicians are kind of the same way. Musicians, we want to be the best singer, guitar player, whatever, but we want our fellow musicians to rise to the occasion too. I think that kind of translates into how a good, in my opinion, how a good attorney or a team member works. You want to kill it, but you want to make sure your team kills and your clients are able to kill it. I don’t know. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I’ll say it’s working.
John: No, no, I love that. It’s so true it, especially when you’re up there as a part of a band, sure you’re the singer, the lead guitarist, or the drummer or the bassist or whatever you are, but that’s a team. If one is way better than everybody else, then it’s out of sorts. And if somebody’s off rhythm or if somebody is whatever, then, man, it’s terrible. And it’s the exact same thing is when you’re running a team at the firm. That’s such a great parallel that you’ve been doing since you were in high school. So you’re like a pro now.
Shannon: I’ve got experience with these really hotshot trombone players trying to show off in the middle of a —
Shannon: Wait a minute, trombone is not supposed to be lead instrument here. It’s supposed to be flute.
John: You’re talking about me, low brass, everybody. Low brass.
Shannon: Yeah. Maybe a Billy Pemberton tuba would fill in there once in a while.
John: Oh, gosh. The fact that we ever had a straight line ever during a football marching, that’s amazing, totally amazing. Well, that’s so cool. You’re able to share that at work and that everyone embraces that and doesn’t make you feel like eh. You’re clearly very good at your job. Somebody wants to tell me, “Hey, why don’t you just go do that comedy thing? That’s all you want to do.” It’s like, whoa, that has nothing to do with my work product. What I do outside of work is I’m here and I’m delivering what you need.
Shannon: That would be a tough comment to get because, unfortunately, at my old, salty age that I’m at now, I would answer that question and I’d say, well, nobody’s going to pay me this kind of money to do that job, and that’s why I’m here in the first place.
John: Exactly. It’s like the thing that I like to ask me is would you do taxes for free? Would you do engineering free? Would you do law for free every day, not just a charity case? And it’s like, no, of course not. It’s like, well, that’s what you’re doing when you work on your cars or when you play your music or when you’re doing comedy or when you’re running marathons or when you’re whatever. I mean, that’s your real passion. That’s just awesome that the firm embraces that like that. So does Husch Blackwell do anything in particular to get other people to share their passions? You guys are living, breathing examples. So clearly that’s a thing to get things started.
Shannon: I think we’re moving in that direction. It’s interesting the time that I’ve been here, we have an associates committee that they call the next gen committee now because they’re all new age. But I think we’re moving in that direction where we’re trying to get folks to be more well-rounded because I think it’s faired out the numbers. I’m sure there’s plenty of research out there that shows that people who are more well-rounded are better at everything that they do. If you got a laser focus, you can be an expert at something, but you’re lacking something that maybe is undefinable. So I believe they are. I can’t think of any explicit programs that they’re doing, but they certainly encourage and I think you’re right. I think that the idea of even having some musicians hop on stage, some folks who maybe aren’t used to being on stage because there are some other guys in the band who they did play trumpet or something in high school and that’s the last time they played. So they’re getting out of their comfort zone. But at the end of the night, it’s always a positive response.
So I think that helps other folks who have other outside passions to say, you know what, hey, I think the firm can appreciate this stuff and maybe I’ll start doing it. I think we’re moving in that direction. I don’t know that it’s explicit. Yeah.
John: And going back to that research, so there was actually a study done at Duke University that showed that people that have more dimensions to their life are less prone to anxiety and depression, which makes complete sense because if you’re all work all the time and then you’re waiting for a client decision or you’re waiting for whatever, then your anxiety is going to be through the roof. And then if that decision is not in your favor, then that’s 100% blow to your face. I mean, just 100%. Where if you have family and faith and friends and music and cars, it’s like, you know what, that stings a little bit but I’ve got all this other stuff. That’s also who I am. Then you’re able to rely on that for confidence and happiness and joy, whatever, in who you are. So that’s cool, man.
One thing that I like to noodle on, because I’ve got time, is how much is it on the firm to create this culture to have people playing that are members of the firm in a band, or how much is it on an individual to just kind of step up and be like, “Hey, this is what I love to do,” and create that little circle amongst their peers?
Shannon: I think it is on the firm and I think that they, you know, it’s like a ride or die situation. I think that they’re going to all the firms, the large and small, are going to have to start embracing that as we have these generational changes because they’re going to lose good people if they don’t. So I think it’s on them. Now, I think it looks different at different firms with different folks. But quite frankly, we know that our clients also want this stuff. Our clients want world-class work product. There’s no question about that. That never has to waver. But they also want people. They want to work with people. They’re all concerned about diversity in our teams. I think when we talk about diversity, it’s more than just ethnic diversity. It’s diversity in personality. It’s diversity in experience. It’s diversity in thought. So I think that those things are all at this point in our history as a society are becoming more and more important because, like you said, the research is out that it makes people better at what they do, and everybody’s starting to understand that.
John: No, I agree, because when I got out of school and started at PwC, work-life balance was kind of something people said. The idea was just don’t die at work. That was pretty much the concept. It’s like, whatever. Now it’s find out what that hobby-passion balance is because there’s skills that you have, I mean, like you going into manufacturing industry and you’re one of the guys. You can talk to them. You can talk their lingo. You know what’s going on. You’re, oh, that’s whatever type of machine. They’re like, “What?” All of a sudden, you’re not suit. You’re just one of the guys type of a thing. You’re one of us. And that’s a huge differentiator than just any other lawyer that just walks. If I was a lawyer and I walked in, I’d be like, I don’t know what the hell they do here. I have to touch that? My hands are going to get dirty. What? This is weird. Give me some gloves.
Shannon: It will mess up my manicure.
John: Right, right, right. Totally. I can imagine. I think that’s a huge thing. I love that you share that and that the firm embraces that, and it’s really encouraging to hear. So that’s awesome. So do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that thinks, hey, I have this passion outside of work, but it has nothing to do with my job? And there is not a charge code for sharing.
Shannon: I would say, you always have to know your audience. So I mean, in the professional world, one of the things that makes us good at what we do is being able to read a room and speak to that room the way we should. So know your audience, I would say that. I don’t come to work in t-shirts or even shorts. I don’t wear short — because I have tattoos on my arms. I know my audience. But when I’m on stage and my fellow attorneys see me, it’s all good.
So I would say, get to know some folks in your office that you can start to share that stuff with, that you feel comfortable sharing stuff with. And then you will see, you’ll get that confidence because you’ll realize they like it. They like the idea. They can come into your office and talk to you about something that’s not work related because you know what? Everybody in your office at some point needs to talk about something besides these are the balance sheets or something besides the complaint and the responsive pleading. They want to talk to you about something else to feed off their minds. They want to know they have real people working with them.
So get comfortable with a few folks. Then you’re going to realize, hey, you know what? I can do this stuff. And then find strategic places to kind of inject that, those conversations. You don’t walk into the office one Monday morning and you’re a whole new person. But at the same time, yes, bring your whole self to work, quite frankly. Maybe this was the old me talking, but how long do you really want to work for people or at a firm or a location that doesn’t appreciate who you really are? You don’t want to be there. So worst-case scenario, if you bring your whole self to work and they hate it, find a better place to work because those places are out there. They really are.
John: Right, right. That’s the thing, like when I speak, it’s always what’s professional? Because that definition has changed over the last hundred years. I mean, 100 years ago, the largest bank in the UK, you had to get permission to marry from the bank. So it’s like, wait, what? So that’s professional 100 years ago. So I think it’s anything and everything up until you’re interrupting someone else’s ability to do their job. If you bring your guitar in and start just wailing away on some music, it’s like, well, all right, that’s clearly bringing your passion to work, but that’s going to make it hard for other people to do their jobs. But there’s ways to go about that that I think that we just get in our own heads so much. I love that you felt that at first and then it happened and then really cool stuff after that. So that’s fantastic, Shannon.
So before I bring us in for a landing though, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and let you rapid-fire question me. And I’d also like you to stop the clock on the billing.
Shannon: Oh, all right.
John: Because this is now — I’m billing you.
Shannon: All right, let’s do this. What do you think? First rapid-fire question, foreign or domestic?
John: Oh, all right. You know what? I’m going to go foreign.
Shannon: Oh, I see like a Honda.
John: I’m not made in America.
Shannon: All right, automatic or manual?
John: You know, let’s go manual.
Shannon: Sweet. All right, you’re back. You’re winning me back. All right. Rock and roll or rap?
John: Rock and Roll.
Shannon: Oh, maybe. You like steak or chicken?
John: Steak, for sure.
Shannon: Yeah. You’re from the Midwest, man. You got to like steak better.
John: There you go. There you go.
Shannon: All right. You have experience about East Coast or West Coast?
John: I’m going to go East Coast. I’m going to go East Coast, just because you get what you get, like you don’t have to gas. East Coast is I get back to you tomorrow and then six months later, you have to call them. It’s like, come on, man.
Shannon: All right, I got one more. What was better to you, your 20s or now you’re 40s so far?
John: Probably the 40s just because I think, I don’t know, you start to learn what’s actually important instead of what you think supposed to be important or what people tell you is important.
Shannon: Yeah, that’s more accurate.
John: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. Well, this was awesome, Shannon. Thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? It’s so much fun.
Shannon: I appreciate you having me on. You’ll be getting my bill shortly. So it’s all good.
John: Awesome. Perfect.
Everyone, if you want to see some pictures of Shannon on stage or in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click the 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.
Ingrid is the Priestess of Profits & Writer & Musician
The Priestess of Profits, Ingrid Edstrom, returns to the podcast from episode 54 to tell us about her recent professional achievements and her journey of shifting her business towards consulting.
• What sparked her business shift
• Top 40 under 40 in the accounting industry
• Writing a book
• Fighting the ‘Imposter Syndrome’
• Getting rid of the ‘Zero Sum Game’ mindset
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 228 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday I’m following up with a guest who’s 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 has impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited let everyone know that my book is being published very soon. It will be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details, or sign up for my exclusive list and you’ll be the first to know when it’s coming out.
Please don’t forget to hit Subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes of this podcast every Wednesday and now with Follow-Up Fridays. I love sharing such interesting stories each week. This Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Ingrid Edstrom. She’s the Priestess of Profits at Polymath in Ashland, Oregon. I love the alliteration. That’s off the roof. Now she’s with me here today.
Ingrid, thanks so much for taking time to be with me with What’s You’re “And”?
Ingrid: Thanks so much for having me again, John. This is a lot of fun to be able to come and catch up with you.
John: Oh, totally. I mean, so much fun. I remember hanging out at QuickBooks Connect several years ago, and then you’ve been on the show and then all that. So it’s just cool to catch up again from episode way back in the day when you were on Episode 54. That’s crazy, crazy.
Ingrid: I didn’t know you were writing a book. That’s so exciting. I can’t wait to learn more about your book.
John: Yes, it’s coming out very soon. Yeah, it’s basically this message just blown out in a book form. I think that’ll help spread as well. So people read it, and they’re like, “Hey, you got to read this” type of thing. So people that haven’t met me or see me speak, help spread the message above and beyond the podcast world.
Ingrid: It’s such an important message. Thanks again for having me today.
John: Oh, that means so much. Thanks, Ingrid. But yeah, we start out, before we get into the fun, it’s super fun with the rapid-fire questions right out of the gate. So here we go. Seven, I got seven for you. First one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Ingrid: Oh, I think Harry Potter because I haven’t read the book series yet, but Game of Thrones, the last season, just didn’t — it didn’t end well for me. I was like, you know, they kind of dropped the ball there.
John: Right, it ruined it all. What’s a typical breakfast?
Ingrid: Protein shake or eggs.
John: Protein shake. Okay. Okay. Do you have a favorite food, any food at all?
Ingrid: Oh, man. Probably chocolate.
John: Nice. That’s a good answer. That’s a good answer. That leads me right into the next one, brownie or ice cream?
Ingrid: It depends on the day, but brownie with ice cream on it is like the best thing ever.
John: That’s a completely fair answer. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
John: Cold. Okay. Two more. You travel a fair amount. When you’re on an airplane, window seat or aisle seat?
Ingrid: Window, always.
John: Nice. Okay. And the last one, maybe the most important one, toilet paper, roll over or under?
John: Over. Okay.
Ingrid: Yes. So the only people who aren’t crazy that do it underhanded like that are the ones who have cats that will unfurl the toilet paper roll. My cats don’t do that, so I don’t have to worry about it. But if you do it under, the pictures are facing the wrong way.
John: Right, right. That’s awesome. Very cool. When you were on three years ago, we talked incredible, fire breathing, playing in an Irish band, and then, of course, Penny, the puppet, if you will, that you do a lot of shows with and webinar type things with online. So are those still pieces of your life and things you’re doing outside of work?
Ingrid: Yes and no. I mean, there’s such a variety always, and there’s things that kind of go in and out of our lives like seasons. I’m not playing at the local pub anymore. My friends sold the bar.
John: Oh, no!
Ingrid: But I do still play at festivals occasionally. So I’ve got a gig coming up actually in a couple of weeks playing music at the medieval fair in Northern California. That’s a fun thing. I get to go dress up in costume and play Irish music with my husband and my friend Earl the Bard, who is our fantastic hurdy-gurdy player.
John: Very cool.
Ingrid: Oh, that’s the cool thing. Fire breathing I still do on occasion, playing with fire mostly just with friends at a festival, that sort of thing, but it’s a hobby that’s once in a while. If for no other reason, then it’s not very good for me. So it’s a lot of chemicals and things. Ask a Bookkeeper is still happening, and people can learn about that at askabookkeeper.com. That is our puppet show where we are working to create for small business something like what Bill Nye does for science, taking the big intimidating ideas that scare people away from following their dreams and making them more approachable, digestible and fun. It’s like Sesame Street for small business owners.
Penny is now not alone. We have a new character which is Procrastinator Gator. Procrastinator Gator is like Super Grover in that he goes to this transition over the course of his story. He owns Gator’s Bayou tours, and he takes people out on his boat. He loves being out of the water with his customers, but he’s not so good at keeping up on the business stuff like emails and payroll. So over the course of his story, he learned that he doesn’t have to do all of those things himself, and he becomes the delegator and learns how to delegate the things that are not his forte, not his passion. It’s a really fun, cute story and a great way of helping our clients see that they don’t have to be the only person doing things in their businesses, that there’s other ways of going about that if they’ve got roadblocks there.
John: I love that. That’s awesome. Very cool. And you do such a great job of, like you said, explaining it in simple terms for everyone to understand, not just coming in with all this corporate accounting speak jargon and acronyms and stuff that I don’t even think ever even accountants and bookkeepers totally know.
Ingrid: Our clients need us to speak their language.
John: I was going to ask, how important do you think it is to deliver it in client speak?
Ingrid: I think it’s really, really important. If, for no other reason, we need to get back to the core why of what we’re doing. It’s not just about money and success and power. We do what we do because it makes a difference in the world. It makes a difference in people’s lives. And it’s all really about connection. It always amazes me when accounting professionals take on as many clients as they can, and they bill by the hour to just turn out tax returns or get the compliance accounting done. And they don’t end up really connecting with their clients and not really getting to see what it is they’re building and the impact that’s having on the world.
I’ve made a lot of changes in my business, and I’m not doing it that way anymore. Now, it’s all about the connection for me and really focusing on that impact and making sure that my clients feel heard and that their questions are getting answered and that their business is going in the direction they want it to go. In order to do that, we need to have the right client relationships. We can’t just take all commerce. It’s got to be a fit.
John: Yeah, I love that. And what sparked that change?
Ingrid: I was hearing that we needed to specialize. Part of it is just the practicality of the accounting profession has become so complex and diverse at this point that we can’t be a specialist in everything. There are too many different software platforms and especially industry specific software that we can’t take all commerce anymore. There are so many industries that need specialists. So an example is here in Oregon, a handful of years ago, cannabis was legalized, and so now there’s a lot of accountants that are specializing in cannabusiness. The rules changed so quickly that if you’re going to even think about touching cannabusiness in your practice, you have to specialize in it. It’s the same if you work with attorneys, if you work with medical professionals. My specialty that I have become exclusive in at this point is working with tours and activities companies. I am the safari accountant.
John: Nice. There you go. And that goes back to your days before that when — yeah, I remember you had some experience in working with animals and stuff like that as well, right?
Ingrid: Yes. I’ve got a biology degree.
John: Yeah, that’s right. Okay. I did remember. See, boom. Yes. Because I remembered us talking about that and seeing some pictures of you with big animals. That’s awesome. So that has to tap into a little bit of that as well.
Ingrid: Yeah. Working with the people that I resonate with and specializing in their software, specializing in seasonal businesses that need to operate in multiple currencies, but there are so many ins and outs and ups and downs, and there’s been a lot of changes in my business since the last time you and I spoke, lots and lots of changes.
John: But it sounds like it’s all in the way up. I mean, everything’s really, really good.
Ingrid: It is and it’s not. That’s one of those things where success is messy, and I think that that’s an important thing to communicate here. So we can normalize some of these ideas and share with your fantastic listeners that whatever their experience, ups and downs, they’re not alone. They talk about how comparison is the thief of joy. Well, it’s also the thief of validation. And just recognizing our own experience as being valid and real and authentic, we spend so much time comparing ourselves to others and thinking, “Oh, I’m not successful, if I don’t have this, this, this and this,” and it’s not working.
Over the last six months, I have completely turned a whole lot of things upside down because of some major disruptions in my business. Some of those things can be seen as good. Some of them could be seen as not so good. I’m going to do the latest thing, and then I’m going to go back to the beginning. So it’s a little bit ironic to me that just this week, I was recognized for the third or fourth time, something like that, by CPA Practice Advisor Magazine as one of the top 40 under 40 in the accounting profession. This is my last time getting that recognition because I am 39, so I won’t be under 40 anymore.
John: Well, congratulations. That’s huge.
Ingrid: Thank you. And the weird thing is that with that kind of recognition, and I’ve got some other recognitions, I think we talked about last time I was on your show, most powerful women in accounting from the future, those kinds of things, there comes a lot of imposter syndrome. I am not a CPA. I do not have an accounting degree. I have a biology degree. I taught myself how to do this stuff. And every day I see posts on social media and things like that. Yesterday, someone from an enrolled agent who specializes the legal stuff in the representation, and she was saying that some organization or something like that wasn’t recognizing her as doing what she was doing because she’s not a CPA, that there was something saying that she couldn’t do that thing, that she didn’t have the credential. She’s like, “This is so frustrating to me because most CPAs can’t do what I do, and they don’t teach this stuff in school. Why do I need to be a CPA to do this thing that I’m doing?”
It’s same thing with what I’m doing with my clients. At this point, I’m not doing a whole lot of the background management accounting. I teach people how to fish. And if they don’t want to do the fishing themselves, I teach them how to delegate that to someone on their team or to someone that they can delegate the day-to-day stuff that doesn’t want to do the bigger picture, 30,000-foot view stuff that the big brainstorming things that I love doing with my clients. So I am actually no longer billing myself as an accounting firm. I’m billing myself as a consulting firm.
The big thing that shifted that was about six months ago, I was on vacation in Australia with my husband and woulda, shoulda, coulda seen it coming years before my fantastic business partner, Vanessa, who I’ve worked with for five years, ended up having some big personal things going on in her life that she needed to take a big step back from everything. It resulted in some upheaval, not between me and Vanessa but just in Vanessa’s life where I was watching my business basically burst into flames from literally the other side of the world. It’s one of those disruptions where it was just me and Vanessa for quite some time and recognizing when we were in that position of, okay, this is life. We’re going to roll with it. We’re going to figure it out. She needs to step back. I wish her all of the wonderful health and blessings. I love Vanessa so much. It’s not about blame. It’s not about fault. There are things that I can see looking back where I could have seen some of this coming a couple years ago. It was like being a frog in slowly heating water, ignoring some of those red flags and signs. If, for no other reason, then — I adore Vanessa. I love working with her. I had often said, what if something happened to you? I don’t know if I’d want to do this anymore in the same way that if something happened to my husband, I don’t know if I would want a two-acre farm with goats and chickens. Those are the dreams that he and I have together.
So when my business partner, my work wife, had to leave, I completely had to reevaluate everything. I realized, you know what, I don’t want to do the back-end management accounting stuff anymore. That was Vanessa’s favorite thing to do. I really enjoy the automation and streamlining those processes. I want to develop deeper relationships with fewer clients and just focus on the strategy, advisory services. I’ve been turning my business upside down focusing a lot, but I also felt like there was something I was missing.
This is a really big shift for me because just in the last handful of months, I basically put Polymath, my business, somewhat on autopilot. I’ve got a couple of clients that I’ve kept that I don’t know if I could ever part with them because I love them so much, but I’m not really taking on a lot of new clients right now while I’m taking a bit of a sabbatical on writing a book.
John: Good for you. Look at you.
Ingrid: Well, this was something that as I was trying to figure things out, when Vanessa was having to leave, it’s so interesting to see how these things happen and the timing of them. I don’t believe in coincidences. All of this stuff came down right on the spring equinox. So here we are just after the fall equinox recording this. So six months ago and I said, you know what, I’m going to give myself a season to figure this out. I’m going to give myself three months, which is actually really perfect timing because in June, I’m speaking at the Scaling New Heights Conference, and that’s my last big commitment. I taught five classes at Scaling New Heights this year, and it was a blast. I loved it. It was a huge, huge undertaking to teach five courses at a conference in one go.
So that was the last big commitment that I had that I needed to wrap up before I could really figure stuff out. So just kind of working through what needs to change and figuring things out, I was seeing a business coach at that time and looking to sort some of this out with her. At one point, I was looking at all of this stuff that I had to do, not really knowing where I was going, feeling like things were totally up in the air.
This is part of where the imposter syndrome comes in. Here I am one of the top 40 under 40, and I have no clue what I’m doing. I’m going to put that right out there right now. None of us have any clue what we’re doing. We’re all making this up as we go. And if anyone says otherwise, then life’s about to hit them with the “Yeah, you think so.”
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally. Right, square in the face.
Ingrid: So anyone who’s feeling unsure, you’re doing great. Just keep swimming. We’re doing great. So here I’m trying to figure this stuff out. I’m looking at my website and my marketing and the stuff that I’m doing for clients and the classes that I’m teaching. The conference is coming up. I’m feeling totally overwhelmed and like it’s all ineffective and having no idea what the priorities need to be because I have no idea if I’m going to keep doing any of this or if I just want to throw in the hat and help my husband with his business, just figuring all this stuff out. I was talking with my buddy business coach, talking about marketing and clients and do I need to find more clients and networking with colleagues and finding that people who want to collaborate, make awesome things like podcasts and stuff like that, and trying to figure out what the priorities are.
We were talking about the idea of the one thing, the book The One Thing, which I haven’t actually read yet, but I’ve seen the TED Talk, and trying to figure out, what’s the one thing that by doing that, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary? Sheryl, my coach, asked me, “Well, you’ve talked about your client avatars, what they have in common. But what are the colleagues that you want to network with? What do they have in common?” And I realized there’s one thing. .The people that I want to collaborate with, the people that I want to work with, like me, want to create a rising tide that raises all ships. We don’t believe in a zero-sum game. And I realized that the people who do believe in a zero-sum game and who are operating in a zero-sum game mindset, that there’s really no point in playing with them because they’re always trying to win at somebody else’s expense, and that’s not how I roll. It’s win-win or no game.
John: Right and yeah, because not only is it a, you know, there’s only one winner, but they want to be the winner, which is not good for anybody.
Ingrid: There’s always something weird and underhanded. There’s something trying to take advantage, and it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. So I realized that I needed to start every conversation I have with new people I meet moving forward with ways to find out whether or not they’re operating in the zero-sum game mindset. So that was the first thing. But then this idea kept percolating in my mind over just the next like 15, 20 minutes.
I started thinking about it in the context of Shirzad Chamine’s fantastic book Positive Intelligence where he talks about the saboteurs. We all know the saboteurs, those voices in the backs of our heads that say all these negative things to us and cut us down. They just get in our way, and they pull the wind out of our sails and make it so that we don’t have the energy to do the things that we need to do and it’s because of these niggling voices. He talks about how the judge is the lead saboteur, and that there’s a bunch of accomplice saboteurs like the victim and the pleaser and the avoider, hyperanalytical, hyperrational, hypercritical. There’s all these different things, but they’re all rooted in judgment, judgment of ourselves, judgment of others and judgment of circumstances. As I was thinking about this in context of the idea of a zero-sum game mindset and for anyone listening who doesn’t know what zero-sum game means, now that I’ve said it a million times, it’s the idea that in order for someone or something to win, something else has to lose.
So I realized that judgment is the saboteurs as zero-sum game thinking is to pretty much all of our human limiting beliefs. When I realized that, I realized that I kind of cracked the code, that by realizing this, by focusing on getting past zero-sum game we can do a much more effective job working with our clients and try to bring things back to a win-win collaborative conversation there, working with our families, our spouses, and our friends and finding ways to create win-wins, focusing on our common interests rather than opposing positions. But also within ourselves, those niggling voices in the backs of our heads that cut us down are based in a zero-sum game mindset that make us think that in order to be happy, we have to sacrifice something, that somehow we don’t deserve to be happy and that is ridiculous. It is so ridiculous. And since then, I’ve been seeing this everywhere. It’s just like the movie 21 where, you know.
John: Yeah, with Jim Carrey. Yeah.
Ingrid: Right. I’ve realized that creating not just a nonzero-sum game but a positive-sum game, so focusing on those win-wins is how we can create infinite potential in our lives. We just have to find the people who want to collaborate on those ideas with us, and we can do things like stop taking more resources than our planet can give us. We see things on the bigger picture, on the longer game, and we focus on what’s the real win. And that I realized was pretty much the biggest message that I could communicate to people. That is what I’m focusing on with my book is how to do that, how to communicate it in simpler words to be able to reach people.
I think that that could very well be the vaccine to what is plaguing the human race right now, why we don’t listen to each other, why we have political disruption and economic disruption and environmental disruption. Let’s listen to each other and try to find those win-wins.
John: That’s awesome. What a huge takeaway for everybody too. If you shut down that judgment inner voice, then the other inner voices have no conduit to let anything out.
Ingrid: Well, and it took a major business disruption.
John: Really awesome, Ingrid. Holy cow! Lives are changed right now, mine anyway. I mean, golly, this is awesome. Awesome.
Well, before I wrap this up, though, it is only fair that I allow you to rapid-fire question me.
Ingrid: I have a couple for you.
John: Yeah. And after all that deepness, I don’t know if I’m ready for these. Here we go, though.
Ingrid: I bet you can find deep existential answers to these rapid-fire questions, if you would. They can be quick and easy and simple silly or they can go deep if you want. If you could be any animal, what would you be?
John: Oh, man, that is pretty deep. Pretty deep. I don’t know, for some reason, I think dolphins are cool. They’re wicked smart. They’re super fast. They can do all kinds of cool stuff. Plus, you have the whole ocean to go play in. And then people are nice to you. They don’t want to hunt you. I don’t know. It’s like everyone’s your friend. But yeah, so I don’t know. I guess the dolphin. That would be kind of cool.
Ingrid: That’s a great answer. Love it. Okay, and here’s the other one. If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?
John: Oh, man, I feel like being able to sing is a superpower to me because I’m terrible at it. That would be a good one. If I could just sing, that would be fun. But yeah, I don’t know if that’s a superpower, but it is to me because people that can sing well are, yeah, I don’t know how you do it because I cannot.
So awesome. Well, this was so much fun. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Ingrid: My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me again, John. It’s so great to reconnect with you and say hello to all your fantastic listeners and catch up a little bit.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Ingrid in action or maybe 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 wherever 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.
Kristen is a Consultant & Singer
Kristen also considers herself a ‘recovering CPA’, having spent 10+ years in public accounting. Around the same time she got back into singing, Kristen started Viaggio Partners, a remote staffing company focused specifically on connecting accountants with fulfilling remote career opportunities, while helping CPA firms address their work compression and talent acquisition and retention challenges.
Kristen talks about rediscovering her passion for singing and how her confidence as a person and a professional grew along with her confidence as a singer!
• Getting into singing
• Gaining confidence in singing and other aspects of her life
• Taking classes in singing and getting back into it
• How singing re-energizes her
• Talking about singing in the office
• John’s go-to karaoke song
• The moment she started labeling herself as a singer
• Her previous passion in wine
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 219 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and, like they’re an accountant and a cyclist or a lawyer and a painter or a consultant and a musician, you pick whatever the and is. It’s those things that are above and beyond your technical skills that actually differentiate you at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is being published in just a little bit and will be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show, sharing it with everyone, and changing the cultures where they work because of it. Please forget to hit Subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes every Wednesday and also with Follow-Up Fridays now because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week.
This week is no different with my guest, Kristen DiFolco. She’s the founder and CEO of Viaggio Partners. She started that after spending several years in public accounting, and now she’s with me here today.
Kristen, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Kristen: Thanks so much for having me, John.
John: Oh, this is going to be so much fun. You got your espresso ready to go?
Kristen: Oh, I totally do.
John: We’re rolling. So this is going to be so fun. But before we get into the really fun stuff, I have my rapid-fire questions right out of the gate. So we’re going to get to know Kristen on a new level here. So here we go. First one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Kristen: Game of Thrones, all the way.
John: Oh, okay. All right. On your computer, more PC or a Mac?
John: Oh, really? Okay, you’re one of the cool kids. All right. I cannot relate. I don’t know how that works. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Kristen: Ooh, mint chocolate chip.
John: Oh, yeah, solid answer. Solid answer. Going back to your accounting days, balance sheet or income statement?
Kristen: Oh, I totally want to steal from Rachel here and say trial balance, but I will go with balance sheet.
John: There you go. There you go. You can have your trial balance. That’s fine. That’s fine. Yeah, you need all of it. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
John: Hot, okay. Do you have a favorite number?
John: Oh, wow, why is that?
Kristen: I don’t know. It’s just the number that’s kind of always popped up in my life, throughout my life.
John: It is, look at that.
Kristen: I didn’t know that until you’ve mentioned it.
John: You are freaking me out right now, like totally. Holy cow! Heebie Jeebies everywhere. Okay, let’s get back to normal, favorite adult beverage.
Kristen: Adult beverage, wine, red wine.
John: Red wine. There you go, all right, espresso would have counted too, but red wine in the espresso.
Kristen: Exactly. Stuck in wine all the time.
John: Yeah. How about a favorite band or musician?
Kristen: Zac Brown.
John: Oh, nice, okay, okay. This is an important one, toilet paper, roll over or under?
Kristen: It never made a difference to me until I lived with someone who liked it over, and now I am trained even though I don’t live with that person anymore, to put it over.
John: That person was right. I’m just kidding. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Kristen: Probably, Sudoku.
John: Okay. How about pens or pencils?
John: Pens, no mistakes. Nice. Do you have a favorite color?
John: Oh, nice. Okay, how about a least favorite color?
John: Interesting. Very interesting. Cats or dogs?
John: Favorite actor or actress?
Kristen: Tom Hanks.
John: Ah, solid answer. Solid answer. Diamonds or pearls?
John: I feel like there was twinkling in your eyes when you said that. And the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Kristen: My uncle’s record collection.
John: Ah, very cool. About how many records are in that?
Kristen: We kind of sifted through the stuff that I didn’t really want anymore, but I probably have a good like 20, 25 from like 30 or so years ago. Actually, those are like back east with my family stored for me. The ones I have with me, my sister actually went on Pinterest and figured out how to melt records down and shape them. So I have these two cool like butterfly cutouts of each of his records in my room.
John: Oh, wow. That’s awesome.
Kristen: So those are probably the coolest thing I own. Oh, yeah, really, yes, she did that for me for Christmas one year and they’re really special.
John: That’s really awesome and so unique as well. Plus, it means something. It’s not just record. Really awesome and actually how did dovetails perfectly into your passion with singing. Is this something that you’ve been doing since you were little?
Kristen: Not really. What’s really strange is I’ve actually — my sister and I always say, this is totally just coming back to me as I’m telling you this, total free flow, but we thank so much that we literally had a rule at the dinner table, no singing at the table.
John: That’s funny.
Kristen: It was ridiculous. I don’t remember ever singing that much that it was a problem, but apparently we weren’t allowed to sing at the dinner table. So yes, I’ve been singing all my life but never really got into it seriously until high school. I played piano, xylophone, drums, clarinet, but I got into singing in high school, did it for four years and loved it. And then it kind of went dormant when I went to college. I always said I wanted to pick it back up when I got out of school and started in public accounting but never had the time and never made time for it, and it really got lost. After 13 years, I finally picked it back up again and went back to just part-time college just taking classes to kind of get comfortable doing it again. It’s just reignited the passion inside me. So it’s really cool to have it back and be part of my life.
John: That’s really powerful actually, just hearing that. So is there a difference from the Kristen that was just out of school in public accounting and not singing and the Kristen now?
Kristen: There’s so much. It’s ridiculous. I’ll spare you all of the details. I was also young then, so I was still kind of figuring myself out. I’m totally going to reference what you said on your 200th episode now is I felt that I kind of had to leave parts of myself outside the office because that’s what you’re trying to do. You come into the corporate setting, and they literally teach you professionalism. I remember sitting there and somebody presenting slides on how to dress, what to wear, what was okay, what wasn’t okay. So that piece of self-expression just kind of gets lost. What I found is that I feel like it gets lost in different ways, and it’s not necessarily just in how you self-express through clothing but also through your voice.
So that’s what I’ve been finding is just as I’ve become more confident with my voice singing, I’ve also become more confident speaking, sharing my opinion. I have my own company now, but it’s clearly super casual. It’s completely remote. I do not even own a business suit anymore. I’m super proud of that.
John: That’s awesome. But that is interesting how you said how places inadvertently are trying to do the right thing, but they’re creating some really bad culture because of that in the way you said that of just self-expression is lost, and then it’s just a bunch of drones. It’s sad because there’s a lot of talents and a lot of skill there, you being Exhibit A, that people aren’t able to really harness —
John: — because of that. That’s interesting. So you went back to school to reignite the — because you were like, “Hey, if I’m going to do the singing, it’s not just a karaoke. I’m going to be good, and we’re going to do this.” Is that pretty much what you were thinking?
Kristen: Honestly, it was so out of it. When I sang in high school, it was always in choir. So this was kind of an exercise to find my own voice and sing solo. So that’s what I did. I took a couple classes. I took my third class this past spring because I was only taking one class a semester. It was totally just for fun. And the first one, I was like, I’m just going take this intro class just to get comfortable singing in front of people and that was it. I was like, I have to take every single class there is. So I just took the performance class this past semester. So it culminated in a performance at the end of the semester which was really cool.
John: Oh, that’s great.
Kristen: Yeah, yeah. So I’m getting there. I have a friend that I met in class who weirdly has the same birthday as me, and he plays guitar. So we perform together. We did our song together at the end of the class. So many friends have said, “Oh, you guys should totally do do this on the side.” And we’re like, “No.” We actually decided that — he’s traveling now, but when he gets back, we’re going to do an open mic night somewhere and kind of see where it goes.
John: That’s fantastic because even if it doesn’t go to multi-platinum records, who cares, right?
Kristen: Exactly. Yeah. For me, it’s just a way to express myself. Even when I’m having a bad day, I’m big into meditating, but on top of meditating and working out, singing is the one thing that always gives me energy. It just puts me in the right mindset. I don’t think I’ll ever not have it. Now that I found it again, I’ll never ever lose it.
John: That’s really huge. And it’s so great that you remembered it and that you went back to it. Just to hear the energy that you’re getting from doing it and the happiness and the contentment and the confidence, that’s huge. That’s so huge.
Kristen: Thank you.
John: Oh, you’re welcome. Absolutely. Was that show your coolest, most rewarding type of story from your singing besides not being allowed to at the dinner table growing up?
Kristen: One step further, I guess, that we took with it and it didn’t go anywhere, not that I expected it too, but it was pretty cool. The song that we did was a really obscure song. I mentioned Zac Brown was my favorite songwriter. It’s actually a duet that he did with another woman. Really only diehard Zac fans know about the song. So nobody in our class knew it. My performance partner didn’t know it. I just said to him, I was like, “Hey, do you want to try this?” But the music isn’t really available and it’s on piano, so he had to figure out the chords for it on guitar.
I happen to have friends that know the guitarist in the band. So I was like, “Hey, do you know if we might be able to figure out how to get the music?” So they asked him for it. He wasn’t able to get it, but days before the performance, they were coming to see me saying — and days before the performance, my friend Dave was like, “Hey, is anybody recording it?” And I was like, “Well, no, it’s not being recorded, but anybody that’s there can record. And I would love for you to record it because my parents couldn’t be there.” He’s like, “Okay, sounds good and I was like, “I’m sorry, what?” So I didn’t really go anywhere from that, but apparently seeing the performance which is pretty cool.
John: That’s really great. No one’s asking you to videotape anything accounting and, hey, like they want to see you look at this trial balance. Nobody wanted to see that video. That’s really neat. That’s really neat. So do you feel like this is something that you talk about now more?
Kristen: Oh, so much more. I think because I was so like self-conscious of it and I hadn’t done it in so long, I would sing every now and then at karaoke or something and people would be like, “Oh, my God!” I was like, “Yeah, I can sing.” I literally used to downplay all the time and say, “Oh, yeah, I can hold a note.” That’s all I would say because I would never want to be put on the spot. And now, I’m so much more comfortable. So I’m able to own that and talk about it and not be like freaking out that somebody is going to judge me, or it’s just this weird — I don’t know why I was just not confident in myself, but I think that was also something like a function of my age also and then as I grew, I got more comfortable of who I was and then get back into the music. Now that I’m used to singing and doing it every week, it makes a total difference.
But it absolutely leads into my professional life now. I am more willing to talk about it. I think that other form of I harp on self-expression probably this whole time, but because if you’re allowed to fully express yourself in any area of your life, it’s going to encourage you to do it in the other areas that you haven’t done it yet. So yeah, I absolutely dovetailed into further growth for me which was really cool.
John: Yeah, that’s really, really cool. One thing that I’ve noticed in talking to people is that people are sometimes reluctant to give themselves a label like “singer” like you did. You used to downplay it. You’re like, “I don’t know, I’m okay.” My go-to karaoke song is Milli Vanilli or something silly, so no one has to know that I can’t sing because I’m terrible where you’re like an amazing singer. At what point did you cross that hump to where it’s like, “No, no, I am a singer”?
Kristen: I remember the moment. I have a friend who actually did the branding for me for my company. I met him through another contact that I had, and he’s a songwriter. He’s actually in town this weekend writing some music with a friend of his. I remember having this conversation with him last September where he said, he was like, “It’s really weird like I’m writing these songs, but I’ve never considered myself a songwriter.” I was like, “Oh, my gosh! I feel the same way. I’ve never actually said that I’m singer.” He was like, “Yeah, I’m finally getting used to saying it.” At that moment, I was like, I totally need to do the same thing because that’s where I’m going. That’s where I want to be. It doesn’t mean I’m ever going to do it professionally. It was like this weird role to step into and be like, “Yeah, I sing.”
It’s kind of weird because I think as a kid too, you see performers, celebrities, sports players, whatever it is, it’s kind of like the half percent of people that get to do something like that. So it’s kind of weird to put that label on yourself. It also helps living in LA where there are so many people who are actors and singers and all sorts of performers where you’re like, “Yeah, I could totally moonlight at night just like you do.” So that helps.
John: Yeah, even if it’s not you’re making a living at it or even if you’ve never even been paid, if it’s what you’re doing and you’re working towards it and you’re perfecting that craft, then what’s the difference? type of a thing. So good for you for getting over that. It’s hard. When you were in public accounting, did you feel — I know that the self-expression maybe wasn’t there, but was there something else that you bonded over or talked about other than work?
Kristen: Wine was my passion.
John: Wine. There you go. Okay.
Kristen: Wine, yep. First firm that I worked at was they’re very into it. We had like a wine cellar, literally, in the parking garage. So I got into it because of that firm. I was drinking white wine at the time, but then I got into red when I was there. I had this one bottle of — I don’t know, if you’re into wine, but The Prisoner. It was like a 2007 bottle before they sold out. I had that bottle, and I was just blown away by it and ignited my passion for wine. So I was kind of like the go-to person for wine, like everybody would come to me with suggestions for pairings and stuff like that.
Sonoma State has an online wine business management course that qualifies you for their wine business management, MBA. And I took that course so I could potentially apply to take the MBA courses there, but I decided at that point that I just wanted to be — that was kind of like a huge transition in my life where I didn’t know what I was doing. So I decided against that. I decided on LA instead of Sonoma. I don’t really drink a ton anymore either, but yeah, wine was probably my passion.
John: I imagine that the people that liked wine, you had a different relationship with them than you did maybe just everyone else.
John: Even though everyone’s doing accounting and everyone’s doing the same thing because that was okay to self-express, but the singing was different.
Kristen: Exactly, right.
John: That’s a little too far. That’s a little too far. Yeah. And I wonder how much of that is sometimes in our own head that we put up those barriers.
Kristen: I completely agree. Well, it’s like you have this perception of yourself compared to the perception of the other people around you even though that may not align with their perception of you. So it’s kind of like this ever-evolving understanding of — well, now I’m getting super deep into spirituality here, but just learning yourself and also acknowledging that having that bias conversation of what assumptions are you making about the people around you? They may actually be super into something that you are. And if you don’t actually say it out loud, you’ll never know.
John: Absolutely, because there are times where I’m speaking in front of an audience, whether it’s for a firm or a company or maybe it’s a conference, and it goes from a room full of 250 or 400 people that are all accountants or lawyers or whatever. By the end, it’s a room full of people that I actually want to hang out with because you find out what that other side of them is and you just ask. It’s not hard. It’s just that it’s not encouraged. There isn’t a charge code for it. I’ve heard every answer under the sun.
Kristen: Exactly. Oh, my God! Yeah.
John: And it’s just putting a little bit out there. How did you go about, like with the singing I think is a little bit different this time of your life and with your own company and stuff like that, but with the wine, how did that get out, I guess, if you will? Or how did that come up in conversation?
Kristen: I think at the time I was just — I don’t even know how it came up in conversation. I think that’s a great question. You’ve stumped me and I apologize.
John: Probably like smaller circles. No, no, it’s fine. I just think I’d ask.
Kristen: Yeah, and that’s probably what it was.
John: You struggled with that of “Well, I don’t know how to bring it up”?
Kristen: Well, also in accounting, you’re going out to team dinners and stuff like that. So once people knew that I was really into it, I remember one time the partner literally handing me the menu and be like, “You pick the wine.” It was my favorite too. I love that. And to this day, I’ll still sit down at a restaurant with a friend, and they’ll order a cocktail and I would be like, “I need to decide what I’m eating first. I’m so sorry.” I’m just wired that way or it’s just like I need to know what I’m eating first so I can enjoy my wine with it.
John: Yeah, it’s such a great example of that partner might not have even known your name had it not been for the wine. It’s like, oh, another CPA that’s really good at auditor tax or whatever, right? We got a bunch of those. Instead, it’s “Hey, I know Kristen. Here’s the wine menu. I trust you to pick the wine for the table.” Like, what? That’s crazy.
Kristen: Exactly. It’s so true. I remember the first trip that I took to wine country was in 2009, and I went back in 2012 up to Napa. One of those partners, like I had a couple of friends from work, a couple family friends, and one of those partners who were like, “Yeah, if you find any good bottles, let me know. Buy a case and I’ll buy in with you.” So we ended up literally shipping probably like nine cases home from Napa to split with friends and coworkers and all because they knew that that’s what I was doing.
John: Yeah, that’s such a great example for everyone to hear as well, which is really awesome, really encouraging to hear. So do you have any words to share with people that maybe think that their hobby or passion has absolutely nothing to do with their job?
Kristen: Yes, you never know, I’m like, yes, I would like to share this because it’s so important.
John: Would you like to share those?
Kristen: Even for my business now, like what I love to do with the people that I’m working with, helping find positions is understand who they are, because it’s so much more than just finding some work to do. I want to help you find meaningful work. I also want to learn who you are as a person. I have one person I’m trying to place right now. She’s in Texas, and she only wants to work 10 hours a week because she runs a ranch on the side with her husband. And so that’s her passion, and that’s what she wants to do. That leads into how I help you find that position.
So to me, on a larger scale, it’s like the human experience. It’s getting to know other people and understanding who they are. You never know if you mentioned something that’s super obscure, you may not find anybody in the room that likes what you do, but they might know somebody who does and they’re like, “Oh, my God! My husband enjoys that.” It’s still a connection point, and you don’t know it when speak up. I think that’s one of the things that I’ve just learned over the years is something I’m still working on. It’s probably my life’s biggest work is using your voice. It’s so important. It’s the only way to build the connection. It’s not the only way, but it’s the primary way to build connection.
John: Yeah, I love it. I absolutely love it. Yeah, or the deepest connection. That’s for sure. And that’s really awesome. And when I speak, I always ask, what if the bottom of your resume is the most important part? Because I find a lot of people who are recruiters and are telling people to leave those personal things off and I’m like, “No, no, like, put them at the top. Why are they at the bottom? Put it up there, like I run a ranch.” Wow, you’re cool. I have so many questions for you right now.
Kristen: You can ask those questions. It allow them to understand who you are, but it also the second you drop into that place where you’re talking about something that you’re passionate about, they can feel that energy, and that’s so important.
John: Absolutely. This has been really awesome, Kristen. Thank you so much. It’s only fair, though, before we wrap this up for me to let you rapid-fire question me. So I got my seatbelt on. I’m ready to go.
Kristen: So my first question is, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?
John: Oh, my goodness gracious! Oh, this is so hard. This is so hard because I already have all of the superpowers, so it’s hard to have another one. I guess I would like to be able to sing. I don’t even know if that’s a superpower, but I would just like to be able to sing and dunk a basketball.
Kristen: Oh, that would be cool.
John: Maybe at the same time.
Kristen: That would be even better.
John: That would be great. Those seem like superpowers to me. That’s where I’m at in my life.
Kristen: Oh, my God ! I love it. And then this is actually the friend that I mentioned who’s the songwriter. He calls them TPQ, thought-provoking questions. I totally stole it from him. If you could tour with any performer or band, who would it be, past or present, and what would your job be?
John: Oh, well, I would probably say The Killers. I’ve seen them twice. They put on the most amazing shuttle ever in the history of ever. I want to close out keynotes now with a giant confetti cannon that just litters the whole audience. Just their shows are off the charts. The music is great, but the performance side of it is through the roof. And they just seem like fun, genuinely nice guys to hang out with. I guess my job would be I would write jokes for them to say on stage.
John: I guess that would probably something I’m actually qualified for. That’s the only thing I’m qualified for.
Kristen: What if you’re qualified for anything? It doesn’t have to be that you’re qualified.
John: I think that would still be good because then people be like, “Man, The Killers, they’re hilarious.” People stop talking about their music, and they start talking about how funny they are.
Kristen: I love it.
John: That would be the goal.
Kristen: That’s awesome. All right, then I have one more question because I love The Killers too. What’s your favorite Killers song?
John: Oh, wow, yeah. I think the “Are we human” song.
John: “Or are we dancers?” which is pretty deep, because it’s do we have feelings, and are we real people or are we just robots in this whole thing, marionettes? Yeah, I love that song, for sure. So I don’t know. Hopefully, I passed and we can hang out one day.
Kristen: Totally passed.
John: Okay, good. I was worried. Pressure was on. Pressure was one. This has been so much fun, Kristen. Thanks so much for taking time to be on What’s your “And”?
Kristen: Same here. Thanks so much for having me.
John: Oh, no, you’re awesome. Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Kristen outside of work and maybe on stage 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 that I have going.
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