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
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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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- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
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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