Mark is a CPA/Consultant & Comedian & Piano Player
Mark Menezes, talks about his passions for playing piano and stand-up comedy. He also talks about how easy it is to relate to co-workers through these hobbies whether they share them or not and how the skills from playing music and comedy help with his career!
• Getting into playing piano
• Talking to co-workers about playing music
• How playing music helps with his career
• Getting into comedy
• How comedy translates to his work
• Why it is easier to talk about playing music in the office than doing stand-up comedy
• How an organization and an individual play a role in company culture
• Being a more interesting person in general can help you be a better professional
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Welcome to Episode 407 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want me to read the book to you with this voice, look for What’s Your “”And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. The book goes in more in-depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Mark Menezes. He does strategies and transactions for EY in New York City and is also a career coach. Now he’s with me here today. Mark, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Mark: Good to be with you, John.
John: Yeah, this is going to be awesome. I’m so excited. Finally, another funny person, probably funnier than me, so this is going to be good.
Mark: I’m up to the challenge.
John: Right? 17 rapid-fire questions, get to know Mark right out of the gate here. I’ll start you out with Star Wars or Star Trek.
Mark: Never seen Star Trek, so, Star Wars.
John: Okay, by default, there it is. Okay. All right. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Mark: PC guy.
John: Yeah, me too. There you go. How about your mouse, right click or left click.
Mark: Oh, huge right click guy.
John: Huge right click guy. That’s what opens up all the cool stuff, right?
Mark: Yeah, that’s right.
John: It’s like, what? How about a favorite movie of all time?
Mark: I love Gladiator. It’s something that I will re-watch at least once a year.
John: Okay. Yeah. No, that’s a good pick. Definitely. How about, ooh, this is a good one, rain or snow?
Mark: I was born in Canada, so we’ll go with snow. I do love the snow.
John: Right? Rain is the worst. I hate rain so much. It just ruins everything, except for flowers, I guess.
Mark: Yeah. Yeah, I’m with you there.
John: Rain at night when I’m not outside. How about, accounting background, balance sheet or income statement?
Mark: We’ll go with cash flow here, Statement of Cash Flow.
John: Oh, cash flow, the one that I don’t know how to do.
Mark: Just show me where the money. More challenging one, yeah, that’s right.
John: Every time in Accounting class, I was like, I don’t even know. Let’s just forget about it. You just go in the program. You go to reports, cash flow, and then print. That’s how you do a cash flow statement, I think.
Mark: Sounds right to me.
John: Right, right. Exactly. How about, prefer more hot or cold?
Mark: We’re talking weather?
John: Yeah. Or food or whatever you want.
Mark: I’ll say hot. Yeah, hot. I’ve also live in the South. For most of my life, I lived in the South, so, hot.
John: Yeah, yeah, because you’ve got a little mix of everything.
Mark: Yeah, I got a mix of everything.
John: How about a favorite number?
Mark: Favorite number, 66.
John: Oh, is there a reason?
Mark: I don’t think so, but it just sounds good.
John: I like six. Why not two of them? Because three sixes would be weird.
Mark: Yeah. If one person hears this and says they like 66, that’s a win then.
John: Right. Exactly. There’s another one. Yeah. How about books, audio version, e-book or real book?
Mark: I like audio. I like audios. I like podcasts, so audio books are great.
John: Yeah, yeah. I never realized that until my paperback came out, and then people are like, “Hey, where’s the audio?” I’m like, it’s coming. Now it’s out, so everybody go grab it. How about a favorite Disney character?
Mark: Favorite Disney character. I’ll go with Aladdin perhaps.
John: Oh, yeah.
Mark: I don’t feel too strong about that one. I think we’ll just go, yeah, go Aladdin.
John: Well, that’s a great answer, man. Aladdin’s awesome. Sudoku or crossword.
Mark: I’m horrible at crossword. I’m so bad at that. I don’t understand how people are good at crossword. I don’t get it how people just are, literally, just two letters out of this eight-letter word and just, I know what that is. So, sudoku, for sure.
John: And why that’s fun.
Mark: Yeah, and why it’s fun. I think you have to be over 60 to start doing crossword. I don’t get when people under 60 do crosswords.
John: They also watch Wheel of Fortune. Same people. Same people.
Mark: That’s true.
John: How about a favorite color?
Mark: I don’t know if I have color here, maybe my college football colors, garnet and black. I went to University of South Carolina, so, garnet and black, yeah.
John: Yeah, the good USC.
Mark: That’s right, the real USC, first founded.
John: Yeah. Exactly, exactly. How about a least favorite color?
Mark: I guess, if that’s the case, I’ve got to go with my rival then, purple and orange, Clemson Tigers, would be my least favorite then.
John: There you go. That’s a slam dunk.
Mark: Yeah. Sorry if there are any Clemson fans out there.
John: No, no, they know. How about, ooh, this is a tricky one, pizza or hamburger?
Mark: Oh, pizza, for sure.
John: Yeah. Well, especially in New York.
Mark: That’s right, some great slices around here.
John: For sure. Definitely. How about, ooh, this is a good one, favorite comedian?
Mark: Favorite comedian.
John: Or more than one.
Mark: Yeah, more than one, but I like Louie CK. I think the era we’re living in, to caveat that.
John: Right, his comedy.
Mark: Yes, purely his comedy and how he redefined a lot of it. The self-deprecation and the observational humor, I think, is pretty unmatched in comedy. I think he’s pretty legendary.
John: And so prolific writer. He just churned out specials every year for a while there. It was unbelievable how much material he was churning out. Two more. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Mark: I’m more of a night owl. Yeah.
Mark: Sometimes it changes, weirdly. Different times of year, I suddenly like the mornings. I don’t know. I don’t have a reason for that. Yeah, generally speaking, night owl.
John: The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Mark: Favorite thing I own. I’m not very much a things person, but I have a keyboard. I like playing my keyboard. I’ve had a few different ones over the years. I’d say that’s what I’ve always liked the most is just having a keyboard wherever I live.
John: That’s awesome. That leads right into one of your passions of piano. Obviously, when you’re in New York, you can’t really have a piano in your place, unless you want to sleep on it.
John: This is my baby grand slash bed slash Murphy bed. You just pull down a piano bed.
Mark: I’m sure somebody has done it.
John: Yeah, totally. Actually, that would probably cost a lot more and only happen in New York. Yeah, so did you grow up playing piano? How’d you get started with that?
Mark: Yeah, I grew up taking lessons like a lot of people, taking classical music from a young age. I think I was around five or six. It was your typical parent saying, “Hey, you’re going to play piano whether you like it or not.” That era. I wasn’t a huge fan. I never really loved it until into my teenage years, I started to really like it. I play by ear. Something that I actually have is perfect pitch, which I didn’t really know that until also later on.
Mark: I’m not good at reading sheet music. I’m bad at that. I love playing by ear. If someone’s like, hey, can you just play this song? This is just the beat to a rap song or some or just pop song or a song from movie theme. Generally speaking, if I hear it and listen to it several times, I can play it, so it’s something that I’ve grown to love as I’ve progressed through life, and continue to love playing.
John: Yeah. I grew up taking piano lessons as well. It was like, I don’t like this. Then around junior high, my music teacher’s like, here’s the theme song to Cheers, and here’s Billy Joel’s song. I’m like, all right, now we’re talking. But to play by ear, that’s incredible, man. I can always hear when it’s off, but to just listen and then go play, that’s cool noodle around on. That’s awesome, man. Do you have a favorite kind of music to play? I mean, you would throw out a couple of different things.
Mark: Yeah. No, gosh, there’s no genre that I could even say. It’s anything from Coldplay to a Taylor Swift song to Hans Zimmer music. There can be country music. I don’t know. Any song that has a good melody to it, I can get behind it.
John: Yeah. What a great piano song. Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo, doo-doo. People are like, what? I know that one. That’s awesome, man. That’s really, really cool. Is this something that people at work know about? Because you can’t really bring the keyboard to work, I guess, but it comes up.
Mark: Yeah, it is. It’s something that I definitely share at work. There’s a lot of other people that play instruments when you have these conversations. When I do talk about playing piano at work, everyone seems to have either played an instrument at one point in their life, so they love talking about it. Then you hear so often, oh, I wish I kept it up. It’s like, hey, not too late to keep going at it. A lot of people love to talk about playing music, and a lot of people do. A lot of people actually are professionals, they’re still playing an instrument. They just don’t really play often. It’s more that they’ll spend a time doing it. They may really like it, but they just may not play that often.
John: Yeah. It’s one of those things where it takes practice to be good. I’m sure there’s a part of it too where, I don’t practice as much as I used to, so I’m not as good as I used to be. Therefore, I don’t want to tell you about it, sort of thing.
Mark: Yeah, exactly.
John: Everybody likes music, I would imagine. That’s a pretty easy statement to say.
Mark: One guy in my life that said, “I don’t like music,” and I’m just like, what, no genre? He’s like, yeah, I don’t listen to music. I don’t play at all. I’m like, come on. You can’t say that to people, man.
John: Right? Come on, dad. I’m right here. Yeah, I would not trust that person.
John: Not at all. Do you feel like music at all translates to the office? Is there a skill? There’s definitely that relatability, for sure. I would imagine the numbers and the way that music’s broken down, do you feel like that translates over?
Mark: Yeah, I think definitely just the creative expression of it just, there’s certainly the arithmetic function of playing piano or music. I think that actually does, and I don’t know, I may be not correct on this part, but I believe that just playing an instrument can actually help you in quantitative fields and help you in certain thought processes at work. That’s something that I’ve heard before, and that there are people that tend to play instruments tend to be higher performers in the workplace. I don’t know where I read that or saw that, but I’ve definitely heard that at various points. I don’t know the scientific reasons of why that might be the case, but it does, for sure, translate and can make —
John: Yeah, your brain is different, for sure.
John: Even listening to music, but playing music, for sure, there are studies for that. I would imagine just the practice, sitting down and practicing and making time for that is got to be neat. Because I would imagine if I told you you can’t play keyboard anymore, that you would be like, wait, no, I’m not going to be a very good person at work. I’m going to be pretty angry.
Mark: If it was taken away from me, I wouldn’t know. It’s just been part of my life for so long that it just affects my mood. It can make me in a better mood, if I’m having a bad day. It actually can change my mindset. It’s a really powerful thing for me.
Mark: You’re right, I wouldn’t know what to do. If I had to give that up, I would just say, no, that’s not happening.
John: Yeah, and the piano, the cool thing is, is that “and” has been with you. When you take a different job or you get promoted within the firm or whatever, it’s always there. It’s the other side of you. The work side changes, you have a different logo on the computer bag or whatever, but I’m still playing the piano. That’s always there.
Mark: Yeah, absolutely.
John: Let’s cross over to open mics, doing some comedy. How did that get started? Because everybody wants to know that story. I get it all the time.
Mark: From a pretty young age, I was always just someone that liked to just give a speech or just get in front of an audience or make a joke. It was just always an innate thing for me. Early in my career, I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina at the time. I just saw this opportunity to take comedy classes and then to get to perform at the top comedy club in Charlottesville. I was like, this seems really.
John: The Comedy Zone?
Mark: The Comedy Zone. Yeah, you’re familiar.
John: Yeah, been there.
Mark: I was like, this seems really cool. I like comedy, and I do it informally, but I said, I’ve never really actually performed. So, did a bunch of classes and learned how to write and learned how to perform and then performed. I invited some coworkers and friends to that performance, got really good feedback, so I was like, yeah, this is really fun. That’s how I initially got into it. I never thought, okay, is this going to be a hobby, long term? A couple of years later, I moved to New York City, all work-related, but there was just such a huge comedy scene here that was just a big byproduct of living here. I was like, wait a minute. There are open mics, opportunities everywhere here, so I was like, I’m going to absolutely continue to do this. That’s what I’ve been doing. It’s like a great bonus for me, living in a city like New York, to have a lot of opportunities to do open mics. Not talking about in the last year of the pandemic but.
John: Sure. Obviously.
Mark: In general, it’s a great city for that, and it’s given me the ability to do these.
John: It’s easily the capital of stand-up comedy, for sure. LA is more acting. Chicago is more the improv. New York is stand-up. That’s where the best are. That’s super cool. Also that you invited coworkers to that first show, which might be the best show of your life.
Mark: I was a little hesitant about it. It was like, in the thought process, should I really do this? I was pretty self-deprecating during that time, but it worked out well. Because it’s one of those things when you talk about doing comedy in the professional side, you get certain people that will raise their eyebrows. Most people think it’s really cool. At the same time, it’s like, oh, what, you’re doing this as a hobby? You’re doing this regularly? Some people can be a little judgmental of that at times.
John: Totally. Or they hear stand-up comedy, and they think it’s really foul or vulgar or whatever. It’s like, no, it doesn’t have to be.
Mark: It doesn’t have to be at all.
John: It just has to be funny. That’s all it has to be, and there are so many of us that aren’t that. That’s cool, man. That’s cool that you invited, I mean, I remember doing that. When you’re new in comedy, it’s just like when you’re new playing the piano, except for your kids, people are like, well, it’s a kid, whatever. When you’re doing stand-up, you’re new, you’re not good. No one is. Even Louie CK and Chris Rock and Ellen and all those people, they were terrible at first, but you don’t see those tapes.
Mark: Oh, sure. I’ve had my share of open mics that have just been crickets. I was like, this joke will kill, for sure, and just absolutely no reaction. I was like, well, maybe not, maybe not. It’s funny. You have this expectation sometimes, and your jokes can go completely just lopsided.
John: Well, soon enough, you’ll reach the point where that actually becomes funnier than when a joke lands properly. When you completely miss, you’re like, actually, that’s hilarious. That’s so funny.
Mark: That’s right.
John: You’re like, whatever. There’s got to be skills that translate over from that to work, in some way.
Mark: Oh, for sure. I didn’t really think about it actually until I started listening to your podcast and thinking about it a little more, how some of your hobbies can translate in the workplace. For comedy, for one, I think there are two aspects to it. There’s a performing aspect of just public speaking performing part, which that certainly translated into whether you’re running a meeting, facilitating a meeting, or being a spokesperson. Any kind of speaking capacity, function you might have at work, I think it has a direct translation to being a stronger employee.
Then I think there’s the more connecting with your audience aspect to it, of constantly, in comedy you think about what works and how will this be perceived. You have to think about that at work, too. It’s like saying things a certain way with certain types of employees, with certain types of bosses or clients. That certainly helps. You’re a little bit more thoughtful about your messaging or how you might communicate with people. I never really thought about that. I just took it for granted. It probably has helped in a lot of different work settings over my career, but I just probably haven’t even really fully reflected on that. I’m sure there have been times when it certainly has.
John: Yeah. It’s a cool, accidental byproduct. I remember my first time, first open mic went well. The second open mic the next week, I thought, well, I can go off on tangents like you do with your friends. The thing is, strangers don’t do that. They’re like, get to the joke, get to the thing. Your communication is so much leaner, after doing comedy, and I just get so frustrated with people that just ask a lot of questions. Because especially in comedy, when a comedian’s like, has anybody else had their car stolen? I want, one time, for the whole audience to just yell, no. Because you’re going to do the joke anyway, why do you ask that stupid, just do the joke.
Mark: Yeah, that was what I was taught when I took these classes. It was, you’ve got to get to the funny. People don’t want the whole story. They’re there to laugh. They don’t want the whole backstory or these unnecessary setups. It’s just like, hey, make us laugh.
John: Yeah, pretty much. It’s the same at work. It’s like, look, I don’t have time for this. Get to it. What are we doing? What’s up? Sometimes you make it stretch just a little bit to make that punch hit, but you know when and why. That’s cool, man. It’s definitely a skill that, and plus that you get a thick skin when you’re up there onstage, throwing jokes, and nobody laughs.
Mark: Oh, yeah, you’re in a really vulnerable spot. When you’re trying to do comedy, you’re being judged for everything.
John: Literally every, before you even say a word.
John: This guy? Really? You haven’t even heard me talk. Come on, man. It definitely makes you a lot better. Before you got into comedy, talking about piano was definitely something that you would share. Was there ever a part of you that was like, maybe I shouldn’t tell them that I play the piano or tell them that I do comedy because they’re going to, who knows what?
Mark: Yeah. Piano was never a concern because it didn’t give this perception that I’m taking time away from my work hours to do this thing. It’s, let’s just presume, let’s just presume that, hey, you can play piano pretty easily. I think comedy, when you say you do that, it’s like, wait, so that means this is a fixed time that you do these things where you attend these shows or do these open mic, that means that, you can’t just do that for 20 minutes like you can with piano. If you went to a venue, you did this, and you were there for a predetermined time. I think that’s a little bit becoming like, oh, how serious of a professional are you if this is important to you or if you really like this is? What do you care about more, is a perception that you might get from certain people, and certainly not everyone. That is something that can happen in certain conversations.
John: Do you feel like that’s been the case? Or is it mostly in your head?
Mark: I would say mostly in my head. I think most people, if you tell them you do comedy, actually that’s one of those hobbies that people think is really, really fascinating and cool. They just immediately say, I want to hear you.
John: Right. You’re like, ah.
Mark: Yeah, exactly. Then I immediately start almost pushing back. Yeah, in a few years more.
John: Yeah. Right. Wait till I’m at Gotham, and then I’ll invite you.
Mark: Yeah. There are these certain types of employees that are the judgmental type that really just don’t, I don’t think that’s cool that you’re doing something outside of work. That’s taking time away from work you could be doing. I would not call that the majority, but there certainly are in any organization.
John: Yeah, and they’re going to judge you, no matter what it is that you do. They probably judge that you, what, you play the piano? Why aren’t you reading more FASBs? What? It’s crazy sometimes, but it is so much in our own head because you’re worried that everyone’s going to be like that. Actually, 99% of people are like, what? That’s awesome. I want to come. When’s your next show? All that. Yeah. You’re like, I got laryngitis. I can’t do it now. That’s funny. How important is it that an organization creates that space for people to be able to share intentionally, this is the thing we do? Or how much is it on the individual just to start that conversation of, hey, I play the piano, what instruments do you play, or things like that?
Mark: Yeah. I certainly think it’s a two-way street there. Organizations, for sure, could do a better job of encouraging people to have something that’s not everything they do has to be work-related. That would be great to have that encouragement from people’s bosses, from teams, setting that expectation that, hey, this is okay. I think people will start feeling more comfortable that it’s okay to have this hobby or passion. I do think you’re right, that it’s also incumbent on the employee to try their best to go ahead and do this thing. If something is really important and gives you more satisfaction and makes you in a better mood every day, then try to do those things.
I was having a conversation with a former coworker, a couple days ago. She’s just like, you know that sounds great, but I have three kids, and my job is so demanding. I don’t know where to start. I don’t even spend time watching TV or doing anything. I don’t know. To me, I don’t necessarily have an answer for everyone. In a broad spectrum, I absolutely think everyone should strive. Then I get conversations like that. I’m like, let me get back to you. Let me think about what you can do when you have that just completely packed up schedule.
John: Yeah. Because it’s not something that you have to do every day or even every week or even every month. It’s just like, once a quarter, I block out time to do something that lights me up.
John: It’s going to make you better, like you said earlier. It just makes you happier, and that’s going to make you better at work. In all the research I’ve done, if your outside-of-work is chaos, then your inside-of-work is never going to be good. The more that leaders in organizations can nurture the outside-of-work, then inside-of-work will happen. You don’t have to force them to do this side. They know why they’re getting a paycheck.
John: That’ll happen. It’s just they don’t necessarily take care of that, which is a shame. What’s really scary is people just forget. For that lady, I would just ask, well, what did you use to like to do before you had three kids and before work was demanding? Well, it’s probably still there. That little fire is still there. Let’s just fan it a little bit and build it up. Do you have any words of encouragement to anybody listening that maybe thinks, I have this hobby, but no one’s going to care because it has nothing to do with my work?
Mark: Yeah, I would say that, absolutely, pursue a hobby even if it’s in small doses because sometimes people have this idea that’s floating around, I want to try this or do this. Maybe it’s that they need to try a few different things. Maybe if they try something, they try a hobby or a passion, and that’s not maybe the perfect answer, so they try something else. I would say, in general, to explore different options. Don’t be necessarily hung up on just one thing that you think is going to be the answer for you, outside-of-work, but I would say to be open-minded about what a hobby or passion could look like for you, things that you’ve never tried before.
If there is something that it is, for sure, the thing you want to do, I think the idea of being 5, 10 years down the road and not having done it, can lead to a lot of regret. That’s something that I would not want to have, to watch years go by. I’ve definitely talked with employees that are in their 40s or 50s. They say they wish they’d focused more with, whether it’s trying to create better balance for themselves or ability to be able to pursue something that is not professional-related. I’ve definitely seen it, seen the regret happen. I’d say that that should drive someone to pursue that, to avoid having that regret down the road.
John: Yeah. What’s super scary is, I had a client, this was several years ago, when they had mandatory retirement at the leadership role. The guy’s like, I have to retire in three years, and I don’t know what I’m going to go do. It’s like, what? That’s crazy. You’re not even really that old. You have a ton of money. You don’t know why you’re going to get out of bed every day? That’s wild. Yeah.
Mark: Yeah. I think that it is as bad as people feeling guilty about having a hobby. It’s almost that bad with some people that they feel like it’s a crime to have this thing. No, no, I just already ruled that out. That’s just not going to be in my life. Maybe someone else’s life, but not mine.
John: Right? My research has shown, studies at Duke, studies at Northwestern and other places, that it just makes you a better professional, hands down. I will fight anybody on that, for sure.
Mark: Yeah, and I think it goes to just being a more interesting person, in general, can help you be a better professional and connect with people better too. Whether you’re in the business of trying to find new clients or whatever it is you do, just developing relationships with people, if you have these things that you can talk about, I think you’re just naturally a more interesting person and more interesting conversationalist. That’s going to end up probably driving business, if that’s the pillar, and whether it’s your business development, whether it’s your relationship with your coworkers or counterparts.
John: Yeah, you’re exactly right. Because clients and customers also have outside-of-work interests and other dimensions to who they are, so it definitely can be a good thing. Mark, this has been super awesome, but I feel like it’s only fair, before we bring this in for a landing, that I turn the tables because I very rudely peppered you with questions in the beginning. We’ll make it the first episode of The Mark Menezes Podcast. Thanks for having me on. Here we go. I’m your guest. I’m all yours.
Mark: All right. Well, I believe that you are a Notre Dame guy, so my rapid-fire question is either who is your favorite Notre Dame player, coach or your favorite Notre Dame football moment, anything Notre Dame-related?
John: Easily, my favorite Notre Dame football moment was nine years ago, the 2012 undefeated season. We were playing Stanford at home, and it started to rain in the second half, fourth quarter especially, raining, as much as I hate rain that I established earlier. It’s pouring rain, and you’re to the bone drenched. It was a goal line, fourth and goal in overtime. Manti Teo stops the linebacker at the one-inch line. We win on fourth down, place goes nuts. Everyone’s pouring onto the field. Because in college football, you don’t know when, it’s going to happen or not, and, boom, here it is, fourth and goal. That was awesome. That was a really cool game.
Mark: Really cool moment, yeah.
John: Favorite player probably, all time, I don’t know, the Rocket was pretty awesome. Rocket Ismail. He was before my time, but he was pretty awesome to watch. Definitely, yeah, college football in general, but Notre Dame especially.
Mark: Yeah, cool. Now I understand that you know Lou Holtz or had a history with him, which is awesome. We got him at South Carolina, and then he started not being a good coach once he came over there. Or we’re just not, we just can’t, I mean.
John: It happens, man. It happens. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. Lou Holtz is easily my favorite coach, though.
Mark: They all have their moments when they they’re going to slip, eventually.
Mark: The only other question I can think of is, what year will the first human be on Mars?
John: Oh, wow. That’s a good question. That’s a good question.
Mark: Given a ten-year window to be, if you want to just —
John: I think it’ll be in ten years. I think it’ll be in ten years. Elon Musk is all over it.
Mark: Well, he wants to potentially die on Mars.
John: Yeah. I think I’ve read something where it was like, hey, look, we need people to go, and you might not come back. People are signing up because I think after 2020, they’re like, you know what, whatever gets us off of this one, I’m all for it because they don’t have COVID on Mars. Or maybe they do. I don’t know. Maybe that’s where it came from. Yeah, I bet in 10 years. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that happens.
Mark: That’s aggressive. That’s much more aggressive than what I thought, but, hey, only time will tell.
John: Exactly. We’ll have to revisit this. Yeah, we’ll have you back for the follow-up. You’ll be like, John, I’m on Mars. I’ll be like, what?
Mark: I’ll give up piano, give up comedy. I’ll just take trips to Mars back and forth.
John: Right. That’s my “and”. I go to Mars on weekends. All right. That’s cool.
Mark: Bars are great there.
John: Right. That’s awesome. Well, this has been so much fun, Mark. It’s really cool to have you be a part of What’s Your “And”? Thanks so much.
Mark: Thanks, John. It was great to be with you.
John: Awesome, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Mark in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Damien is an Accountant & Pianist
Damien returns to the podcast from episode 114 to talk about teaching his kids how to play piano, having John on his podcast, and overcoming the fear of feeling vulnerable!
• Teaching piano to his kids
• Why there is a pressure for perfectionism
• Overcoming the fear of being vulnerable
• Never stop your hobbies
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 334 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited my book is out. You can order it on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for more. Thank you so much to everyone who has read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. It just takes this message from the podcast, and it’s so much deeper, a lot more research. I think that’s really cool, the feedback that I’m getting from people.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Damien Martin. He’s a tax partner in BKD Chicago office and the host of the Simply Tax Podcast, and now he’s with me here today. Damien, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Damien: No, thank you. It’s an honor to be here, especially after your new book. Congrats again on that.
John: Thank you so much, man. It’s been a blast having you along for the ride and being a guest on your podcast as well. It’s been cool. It’ll be fun to catch up here.
Damien: Absolutely, it will. Again, I guess I’d remiss if I didn’t say thanks for coming back on, on the Simply Tax Podcast, great conversation about the books, some insights. I know I just really enjoyed the conversation. I think I told you that. It was one of the most fun conversations I’ve had in a while. Yeah, that was great.
John: Well, I appreciate it. Well, now we can recreate the magic here on my show. I have some rapid-fire questions though, up-front, things I didn’t ask you the first time. Maybe I should have, now that I think about it, but…
Damien: We’ll see. Wait for the answers and then we’ll see.
John: Let’s see. Let’s see. Here we go. First one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Damien: Harry Potter.
John: Harry Potter, yeah.
Damien: Yeah, mostly because of the kids. I have kids who are just getting into Harry Potter, so maybe it’s a justified answer, perhaps.
John: No, totally, totally. How about a favorite TV show of all time?
Damien: That’s really tricky. You kind of stumped me here. What’s odd is, and the reason I say this is I used to watch a good amount of TV. I don’t watch it as much anymore. I’m kind of like, the all time, I don’t know. I’m kind of a live TV, news, sports kind of guy. If that counts then we’ll go there.
Damien: SportsCenter, there we go, landed on it. I was thinking… Yes, SportsCenter.
John: That counts as a TV show to me, man.
Damien: It does, yeah.
John: It totally counts. I could binge-watch that. That’s for sure. Here’s a tricky one, pizza, New York or Chicago deep dish.
Damien: I’m a Chicago guy, so, clearly Chicago.
John: Yeah, I won’t even ask you which one because then that’ll start real wars. How about, more oceans or mountains?
Damien: I’m an ocean kind of guy. I like the ocean.
John: Since my book’s out, are you more Kindle, real books or audible?
Damien: Audible, actually, and maybe it’s the podcast thing. I enjoy the real books, but the practical reality I came to a long time ago was I don’t read them as much, but I will listen to them. While I read your book in paper copy, which I enjoyed, I do tend to find myself on Audible more frequently.
John: Yeah, yeah. The audible version of mine will be out early part of next year, so that’ll be cool. How about, brownie or ice cream?
Damien: I will be honest that, lately, I probably have been passing on both, but historically, I’m more of an ice cream guy.
John: Ice cream. Okay, okay. Good for you. The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under?
Damien: I don’t know if it’s fair to say that I’m cool with either as long as there is one, I guess.
John: That’s actually the most —
Damien: Just one, not over or under, yeah.
John: As long as it’s within arm’s reach.
Damien: Exactly, then I’m happy. Make it simple here.
John: With the Travelogue, the bathrooms will be so big where it’s like, I can’t even reach. It’s like, who designed this? I’m a tall guy. I can’t reach this? This is crazy.
Damien: Think about a guy like me. I don’t quite have the stature here as you, so maybe happens a bit more frequently, perhaps. I don’t know. It’s just like, this doesn’t make any sense. I’m right there with you.
John: Priorities, people, priorities.
Damien: That’s right. We’ve got to be practical. I understand the aesthetic. Let’s work on the practical here.
John: Exactly. The CPA in both of us is excited about the practical.
Damien: Exactly, exactly.
John: Yeah. So, Episode 114, we talked jazz piano. You’re really good, and it’s awesome. It’s just so awesome. Are you still able to play and practice in the last couple years since we chatted?
Damien: I am, but I’m going to be completely honest, and I think even our conversation that you and I had on the Simply Tax Podcast even gave me the mental permission to almost share it, just to say that I haven’t done as much with it as I would probably like in the last couple of years, being completely honest with that. Like you said, sometimes you end up doing other things. I still have, so I guess maybe where I again maybe hold myself more accountable and think, oh, I’m not doing what I want, is I’m not performing externally like I used to. Right?
Damien: I still do use it for stress-relief and to play at home. So, it’s a yes, but I guess I would look at it as like, oh, I don’t even know if I would want to come on these Follow-Up Fridays. Am I worthy of this? I’m not really doing it like I used to. That’s not cool. But like I said, our conversation earlier kind of gave me that, well, yeah, but that’s maybe not the point. I still have an “and” and it still is an “and”.
John: Yeah, and you enjoy it. Even if it’s just noodling around for 20 minutes on the piano at home, it’s not performing for an audience or what have you, it’s still a piece of you that you’re not cutting off altogether. Even a little bit at a time still counts.
Damien: Absolutely. No, I agree. I think that’s the thing, again, giving myself the permission to be okay with that, even when there were periods of time where I didn’t do that as much. What’s also been cool, and I’m talking other kids’ story here. I guess I’m always cognizant of mentioning the kids stories because I can remember, especially early on, I worked with somebody that was like, I feel like all we ever did was talk about the kids. I’m like, I don’t have a kid. I can’t really relate to this.
John: Kids are awesome.
Damien: They are, and it totally changes your way of thinking. It’s like this whole pandemic experience. I almost can’t go back to my way of thought there. I almost can’t go back to my mind of thought before kids. It happens throughout, constantly. I guess there are two things here. One is that I’m a big phase of life guy. I always say that. It’s almost like my saying, I feel like maybe I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s okay, phase of life-wise, you can back off on the accelerator a little bit.
What’s been kind of cool though, with the kids, is I’ve been able to take the piano and actually sit down and start to teach them how to play. They just turned six. Again, I think they’re awesome, but it is a little bit of a different skill set to teach six-year-olds how to play the piano and make it interesting. That’s also been a challenge, and it’s got me playing a lot more, and just demonstrating to them. So, that’s been cool. I have a little captive audience there too, to the extent I can keep them sitting next to me when I start playing.
Damien: It’s been kind of cool. It’s taken on a different shape, for sure, but it’s kept me going. It’s also, I find, it’s driven me even a little bit further to revisit things I haven’t thought about for years, which has been a very, very cool and rewarding experience.
John: Yeah. No, that’s awesome to hear. Because it’s still a piece of you, it’s just manifesting itself in a different way, and it’s even more rewarding when you’re able to pass it along to others, let alone your children, then it’s cool. They could start to see the magic and feel some of the same feelings of why you’re so passionate about it as well. That’s got to be awesome.
Damien: Yeah. Actually, it was a recent episode of your podcast, What’s Your “And”? podcast, 331, I think it was, with Greg, and he was talking about how he taught, I think it was someone in his neighborhood, how to play the drums and how that kind of came back full circle. Again, I think, it is. It doesn’t have to be a kid. Maybe this is my segue over to the non-kid side of it. That feeling and the ability to take something like that, that is a part of you, and then be able to at least light that fire in somebody else or get them down that road; that’s a really, really rewarding feeling. It transcends even just the benefits of playing the piano, I guess, I’ll say.
John: That is awesome. Yeah, Greg Tirico and his drum set.
Damien: Yeah, yeah.
John: Why do you think it is that we’re so hard on ourselves like that? Why is it that it needs someone like me to almost come along and just be like, no, no, it’s still awesome? We always aim for straight A’s and pass the CPA exam with all 100s, the first time, or whatever. Everything’s got to be perfect and blown out to the max. It’s like, sometimes, like that old adage of good’s better than perfect, type of a thing. It’s just weird. Why do you think that is?
Damien: I think — and maybe it also depends on kind of your industry, so I’ll speak to mine — I think there definitely is a drive, all the people you find yourself surrounded by, tended to have the same sort of thing. You’re always trying to put the best image of yourself, almost like the social media phenomenon, where it’s like, you have to have this really great, perfect picture. I don’t know if I can exactly nail it down. I know there is some deep-seated psychological thing there. I’m fairly certain, but I’m not going to go down that road. I’m a tax guy. I can’t do all the psychology stuff here.
Certainly there is just this need to be able to always look like you’ve got it all pulled together. I have absolutely found, and it does, it takes maybe somebody to nudge you a little bit, like you coming along. That’s why I think your message is so fantastic and your book is so fantastic because it does, it gives you the permission to do that, or the nudge to do that and say, “Yeah, you know, you’re right.” Because I find, especially myself, and I’ll speak to my own personal experience, I am my hardest critic, by far, and I think that’s what it is.
I think there’s also some element of — again, it depends on your industry probably and the group that you work with — there is some sort of an element of, everything is this way and you’re trying to fit into whatever that everything is this way is, if that makes sense. This drive to try to almost conform is there, but all of the times, again, and I’m repeating myself because I have said this before, that, all the times I’ve done it, it’s just been rewarding. It’s deepened the relationship, and it’s helped, in more ways than one.
John: You’re right. It’s almost like we don’t want to share it for fear of being ridiculed or made fun of, or we’re in seventh grade again, type of a thing, of, did you hear Damien’s piano? It’s terrible? Why does he even say that he does it because no one wants to hear it? Or that painting is ugly. Why would someone share — I think the phrase that’s really powerful is just, I enjoy.
In your case, you’re great. You don’t have to sweat it. If somebody’s just noodling on the piano and just playing some Mary had a little lamb, once in a while, sweet. That’s still fun. I enjoy playing the piano. Am I good at it? Kind of. It doesn’t matter though because I enjoy it. I’m not doing it for your approval or your permission or your judgment, type of a thing. I think that that helps take a lot of weight off of the alphas that are out there, like us, and typically in the white collar nerd professions that we swim in, for the most part.
Damien: I think that there’s some element of — it’s almost like a weakness or something, to say, or you’re almost opening up the door, like you said. You get stuck in the seventh grade mentality. You were there, right? Seventh grade boys are, they can be —
Damien: They’re rough, right?
Damien: I will tell you, not once — brutal is the better word for it.
John: Yeah, absolutely.
Damien: Not once have I ever been ridiculed. I’m sure somebody has said something or whatever. Everybody has their opinion. Again, I’m not doing it for them. I think, once you get over that, in some element of your life, and I think that’s maybe where the performance and music has really helped me, you’re able to do that in other areas of your life. Whether it be hosting a podcast or doing a presentation or whatever it is, there’s always going to be somebody that thinks something. Not that I don’t care, because I do take the feedback, and I want to always improve, so it’s not I don’t care. I’ll stop myself from saying that. I don’t let it kind of seep in or I try not to, but there is something like a protectionist thing that you create the shell that like, I can’t show this to you because you’re going to find the thing that’s wrong with it, when really, I’m the only one that’s doing it. Maybe it almost gets a little bit, I want to say exaggerated, or it grows a bit on you even, where something like — my case, I used to play so much more and then you do — and I’ve heard this from a number of people. I had a mentor that once told me, said, “You can’t ever stop because you’re going to lose it, and you’re going to really regret it later if you do that.” Not doing it every day, you’re not as sharp as you used to be, right?
Damien: It’s a skill. You’ve got to practice. You’ve got to maintain it. So, I think there is an element of that too, of when you had a level of something at a certain point and then it slides back from that, you start to, I found myself in particular, really shying away from it because I just — I almost didn’t want to even admit that, oh, yeah, I can play the piano, I think, for that reason because then someone’s going to want to compare it to what I used to be or something.
Damien: Like you said, it’s just not the point.
John: That’s so true though because I’m the same way. When I’m now switching to a lot of these virtual events, I bring a lot of that TV background and the comedy background to it, and so if I get involved, there’s going to be some production value now. There’s going to be intro music. There’s going to be different camera angles. It’s going to be a TV show. I’m going to bring a 10. If it’s not going to be a 10 then I’m like, oh, because I know what it can be, but sometimes that seven and a half is amazing to everyone else.
I’m also my harshest critic and very similar, where it’s, well, why even do it if it’s going to be half good? But sometimes our half good is really great for others. It’s just, give it your best shot. If it’s something that you enjoy doing, then it’s great, and keep doing it. I love how your mentor said that, just don’t ever stop because then it’ll go extinct. That’s what I found from people is, you just stop doing it all together. Then you forget, and then decades later, you’re like, oh, yeah, I used to like to play the piano, I think. It’s scary.
Damien: It is scary. I’ve seen it to an extent. That’s that extreme because it’s dusting it off at times. Especially with with the kids, because that’s really — I found like another outlet for it, like I said, and it’s keeping me doing it more regularly because I want to keep them going and progressing and teaching them. That is so true and is just more of a reason to tell yourself, I have to keep that “and”. Whatever it is, whether it’s the piano or whatever the skill is or the passion is, you’ve got to keep it going because you need it. You need it for yourself and something to be proud of, at least for yourself, even if not for other people.
John: Yeah, I love that, man. I love that. This has been so fun catching up, man. This is really great. It’s so encouraging to hear so many great nuggets in here for everybody to go listen again because Damien’s dropping some knowledge bombs here. It’s really cool, and it’s firsthand experience. It’s just being vulnerable and just sharing. Hey, this is what happened. So, a lot of people listening that are — you’re not alone. I’m very similar, and I think they are too, so I appreciate it, man.
It’s only fair that before we wrap this up though, that I turn the tables since I rudely peppered you with questions. It’s the Damien Martin podcast, Simply Tax version whatever. You host your own show, so I don’t need to coach you through it. Thanks for having me on. Whatever questions you got for me, fire away.
Damien: Well, thanks for being on today, John. It’s great to have you, some really esteemed guest here. I really would like to ask you, and I’ve heard you talk a little bit about it at times, but that first time that you really went out there and did the comedian thing and the comedy thing, and you kind of held yourself out there, what’s the insight there that maybe you would share?
John: Okay, yeah. It was the Funny Bone in St. Louis. It was in Westport Plaza, I think is the name of it, St. Louis Funny Bone. It was open mic night. I went the week before to watch because I was like, I’m going to do this. I went and watched and then I was like, okay, I’m not going to be the worst person that’s ever done comedy, so we’re good. Then I put my name on the list. I went back the next week. My parents came. I had quite a few high school friends that came. They were going to say my name, so I was going to go up. People are like, well, were you nervous? You’re nervous when you write your name down. That’s where the nerves happen, because after that, it’s all going to happen. So, you think it through, steps before walking onto the stage.
It was so funny though because the night before, I went over to my parents’ house for dinner, and my mom, they’re like, you know, it’s not just you up there. I mean, it is just you up there. It’s not your friends. You’re not able to play with other people’s comments and be witty like that. I said, “Well, no, I’m well aware. I’ve researched this.” Then I brought out a legal pad of paper where I’d written down a bunch of joke concepts. So I just ran through all the joke ideas. Now, in my parents’ defense, I didn’t do the punch lines to a lot of them, but they laughed at none of them. The only response my dad said, “We didn’t raise you that way,” to one of my jokes, and my mom said, “You can’t say that.” Those were the only two reactions I got to probably 40 ideas that I had.
I freaked out, drove over to my friend’s house. We hung out. We mapped out what it was going to be the next day or the next evening, go onstage, and I had a little index card that I had cut to fit in the palm of my hand with my set list. I still have it actually, to this day. Then went up, my parents videotaped it, camcorder. We’re going back to 2000. We were so amateur that we didn’t know that you put it on a tripod. So, my mom’s holding the video camera, laughing, shaking the camera. I could hear my parents laughing. I’m like, where was this last night when we did a dry run?
It was cool. The first time actually went really, really well, especially given it’s your first time. It was quite a thrill to have just a roomful of strangers laugh when you say words. It’s a crazy thing. It’s got to be similar when you play the piano that people sing along, or they clap afterwards. It’s just a cool feeling to bring some joy into people’s lives that you might never talk to ever again, type of thing.
Damien: Yeah. No, absolutely. There’s probably a common ground there between making people laugh and listening to music, trading this element of joy, bringing an element of joy is definitely, yeah, that feeling is fantastic and definitely keeps you coming back for more. No wonder you kept going, and I’m glad for it because you’re obviously good at what you do. You’re a funny guy.
John: I appreciate it.
Damien: Yeah. Well, thanks for being on the show. I guess one last question.
Damien: I forgot you here. I’ll ask you one more. How about the podcast, what was the experience there, the first time you went down the road of, I’m going to do a podcast? I know it’s taking a different angles from there, but we’re going with a theme here, John.
John: This is hilarious. No, totally, strip it down, man. I don’t listen to podcasts. I never have. I don’t consume podcasts. I know that there are people that do listen to 20 or more. So, I didn’t know what podcasts were out there. I actually Googled top business podcasts because I was like, well, I’m going to do this show where I’m interviewing people where they talk about their outside of work thing, so let’s see what’s out there. What’s the “competition,” even though it’s not competition, but just what’s out there. So I listened to probably two or three episodes of the top 10 business podcasts that are out there, this was going back five years ago or more, and just wrote down, well, I really like this, or, man, I hate that, or this is what I like about this, and how can I make it my own? What do I want it to be? After being like, okay, this is what’s out there, all right; you just jump in, and you just start. You just have an idea of a plan.
If you listen to Episode One with Nancy McClelland, the dancing accountant, and then you listen to a more recent episode; clearly, it’s changed. It’s tightened up. The concept is still the same, but your skills get better over time. You really hone in. You can only read so many books or listen to other podcasts or whatever, before you just have to just jump in and do it. I think that that’s with a lot of things is you can study as much as you want, but you have to actually, at some point, the rubber meets the road and you have to do it. That’s where the real learning happens. So, yeah, that’s how it all started, was just me wanting to share people’s stories, wanting people to hear that you’re not alone. There are other people out there who also have hobbies and passions, just like you, and I don’t know, let’s see where it goes, type of a thing.
Damien: That’s so great. Because I do get that question a lot and I guess that’s why maybe I’m both of those. Getting the ball rolling, I think, is the hardest part for a lot of people. There’s a lot of people that say, “I want to do a podcast. How do I do it?” I will share my two cents, and I will say, “This is just my two cents of how it happened for me.” Now I’ve got your two cents as well. We can say, hey.
John: We almost got a nickel.
Damien: Yeah, there we go. Man, it’s really going up here. We’re riding up. I love it.
John: That’s awesome, man. Well, thank you so much, Damien, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? So cool to have you back.
Damien: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you, and we’ll see you around.
John: Everybody, if you want to see some pictures of Damien in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Also, check out Simply Tax Podcast, the link will be there too, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. Don’t forget about the book. It makes a super great holiday gift.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this podcast 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.