Jason is an Accountant & Country Music Singer
Jason returns to the podcast from episode 113 to talk about his recent shows with his band, having clients hear his music on the radio, and how the pandemic has both affected his music and his workplace culture.
• Recent shows
• Writing songs
• Having songs on the radio
• A rising trend in focusing on hobbies and passions
• How the pandemic humanized co-workers
• How his passion for music has helped with interacting with people at work
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
Pictures of Jason Performing
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Welcome to Episode 332 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 that my book is out. You can order it on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. Thank you so, so much. It’s just really overwhelming seeing the positive feedback.
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 and friend, Jason Hastie. He’s the founder of TenjaGo, a cloud-based accounting and bookkeeping firm in Calgary, and now he’s with me here today. Jason, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Jason: Yeah, thanks for having me. It’s great to be back.
John: Ditto, man. It’s so cool to hang out with you again and chat. It’s always a good time. I do have some rapid-fire questions that I probably should have asked you the first time or maybe any other time that we’ve hung out really but never did. Get to know Jason here, new level, just seven though. First one, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Jason: Oh, boy. I’d say Harry Potter.
John: Okay. All right. How about a hamburger or a pizza?
Jason: Oh, these are tough. Seriously.
John: This is a tough one. Hamburger, okay. No, that’s solid, solid. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Jason: Wow. Boy, I’m trying to think. Oh, I know what, because Canadian beverage, Caesar.
John: Caesar, what is that?
Jason: It’s like a Bloody Mary except instead of tomato juice, it’s Clamato juice.
John: Oh, okay.
Jason: Actually, the last few times I’ve been down in the US, I’ve noticed that Clamato juice is actually gaining some popularity. You can find it in some grocery stores now. It was invented actually, the drink was invented right here in Calgary. It’s super, super popular Canadian drink.
John: Very cool. Awesome. All right, how about, cats or dogs?
Jason: That’s interesting because I’d probably say 50-50. I grew in up a farm. I would probably– it’s tough.
John: No, 50-50, I’ll take it, man. It’s all right. It’s a cat that acts like a dog. That would be the ultimate. Since my book is out, do you prefer real book, Kindle or audible?
Jason: Real book, for sure. I tried to do audiobooks, but my mind wanders too much.
John: Yeah, depending on if the author is actually reading it or reading it well or all that. That’s why mine will be out early part of next year and I’m having a coach and a producer because reading a book on that is different than just reading a book to yourself. It’s just all different game. Two more. How about a favorite movie of all time?
Jason: Good Will Hunting.
John: Oh, solid, solid answer. How you like them apples? Such a great movie.
Jason: Oh, so good. The scene in the park with Robin Williams and Matt Damon.
John: Right, where they’re by the pond.
Jason: Yeah. You being an entertainment-type person too, the way it was filmed all one scene…
Jason: It’s incredible acting and the profound things. When I went to visit the Sistine Chapel actually in real life, I thought of that movie.
John: Yeah, that’s cool, man. Wow, that’s awesome. That’s a great movie, really great movie. Last one, toilet paper roll, over or under?
Jason: Over, 100%, one of my pet peeves.
John: Really? Okay, okay.
Jason: If I’m at somebody else’s house and it’s under, I will actually flip it.
John: That’s so great. I love it. That’s so awesome. That’s so awesome. I also know that if I ever come visit you, I’m going to totally switch them all around. You’re going to lose your mind. You’re going to also kick me out right away. All right, man, last time, Episode 113, we talked, of course, country music. It’s cool because you’re on the radio and stuff and done cool stuff with CMT and performed all kinds of concerts as well. Are you still doing that and still recording?
Jason: We had one show in July, a show in September and a show just a couple weeks ago.
John: Oh, nice.
Jason: Yeah. It’s been super cool actually. Very different times, obviously, that we’re living in now.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Jason: The show that we did in July was at a big acreage, so everybody’s socially distanced. We were playing outside of a Quonset onto this acreage, and people were up on the hill and everything. It was super, super cool.
John: That’s really cool.
Jason: Yeah, loved it. So, try to keep the music stuff going, but my accounting side is getting so busy. The only unfortunate thing with that is that you really have to have that creative mindset. You have to sit down. You have to — for me, anyways, I have to feel relaxed, and that’s when the creativity really comes for writing stuff like that. With the accounting stuff, we’re cloud-based so, as of late, things have been going crazy just because of the virtual world. I haven’t had as much of an opportunity to do the music stuff, as far as writing, but really do need to get back in the studio and do some more of that.
John: Yeah. No, that’s cool. So, the writing, because it’s similar for comedy, I guess, do you wait till the Muse strikes you? Or is it something where you’re like, okay, I need to write a song? Or is it, you just have an idea — like, for jokes, I would have, you know what, that’s really funny. Then I have an Evernote of where a guy runs a stop sign, and then I’ll write a joke about it sometime later or whatever, that sort of thing. Is that similar to you?
Jason: Yeah. I’m sure you’ve heard before when people get up in the middle of the night and then have this great song lyric or whatever and write it down or record it in their phone. I definitely do that, for sure. That is usually the kickoff to what a song is. Might not be the middle of the night, might be — but as long, if I’m feeling calm and I have time to really think, it may not be necessarily that I’m thinking of music or song lyrics, but that’s the time that something will pop into my head. Obviously, when you’re time-stressed and doing a bunch of stuff, you may not necessarily be as open to that. That’s definitely how I work, for sure.
John: Yeah, that makes sense because you’re free, your mind is free from thinking about other things then. It is amazing how our brain gets burdened with the menial tasks and so those higher level creative type of things, they don’t come naturally right away. That’s cool to hear, man. Music, that’s even harder than jokes because I just have to write the words, and they don’t even have to rhyme. It doesn’t matter. You have to make them rhyme and then you have to put music to it. It’s like, good God, I would never be able to do that. Forget it. That’s why all my music parodies are parodies, because the music’s already done. I just have to put the words.
Good for you, man. It’s just cool, and the music’s so great. I’m not a huge country music fan, but you guys are — it’s catchy. It’s fun. It’s upbeat. It’s just really cool, and the videos you guys have shot are really cool, too. It’s really cool to just have you be a part of this as well and then know that — because I remember last time when we talked, clients would hear you on the radio and be like, “Yo, that’s my accountant.”
Jason: Yeah, that’s one of the coolest things, honestly. I mean, obviously, cool to get recognized and stuff when you’re out and about and stuff like that. It is cool when your clients are like, “Jason Hastie is your accountant too?” Everybody’s like, “He’s a country singer, right?”
John: Yes. Right? No one says, “Oh, he’s really amazing at cash flow statements.”
Jason: Right. Oh, he saved me $300 in taxes last year, woohoo.
John: Right? Which you do anyway. Of course, you’re going to do that because you’re good at what you do. It’s that next level stuff type of thing. It’s cool to hear that you guys are still doing concerts as well, which is awesome because live is totally different than the virtual. To be able to give the audience that is fun, but also for yourself, as well.
Jason: That’s where, honestly, I throw it out to my fans because it’s really our fans that are planning events for us and booking things for us. One of our fans has become a really good friend of ours. I’m like, you book us more shows than our manager does.
Jason: That’s the power of having great fans.
John: That is super cool. The internet, as well, where you’re accessible, and they can help you like that. We want to see you. We put this together, just show up and play, awesome, type of thing. That’s cool. That’s super cool. Do you feel like people, in general, in the professional world are sharing these outside-of-work hobbies and passions more now than when we first chatted a couple years ago? Or is it still, I’ve got some work to do, overall?
Jason: Well, one thing that I found early on in the latter part of spring, early summer, was, when the whole pandemic thing hit, I just felt like — my wife and I both said it. We felt a lot more calm, and we were able to focus on things. It really shifted the way that we thought of things. I think that part was a big turning point, but in a lot of ways, a lot has come back to that busyness again.
John: Right. Yeah.
Jason: I feel like it is trending, and we will continue to see that people are doing a little bit more and spending a little bit more time, focusing on the real stuff rather than just work.
John: I think the big thing with the pandemic is we’ve all been in each other’s homes now. These Zoom calls with these teams that we’ve seen what you look like at 8 am and haven’t showered, and your dog’s barking at the delivery person, and your kids —
Jason: You don’t have pants on.
John: Yeah, no pants on, totally. We’ve seen the art on your walls. We’ve seen what your home is like. The one positive from this is, I think, it just completely ripped the Ban-Aid off of being human and realizing that your people are also human and just really breaking down that barrier. Because when we would go to an office, when we would go to a networking event or go to a conference, we would show up as this super polished individual. Now, not always the case, and that’s okay. It’s super okay.
Jason: Yeah. Well, even as a comedian, I’m sure you can appreciate this, when Saturday Night Live, did you watch any of the episodes —
John: Oh, yeah, when they were doing the home — yeah.
Jason: It was so raw and revealing and kind of crazy, right?
John: Yeah, like they didn’t really practice, and you’re not even in the same state. Some of them live in Connecticut. Some live in New York City. Some are in Jersey. Yet we’re doing a scene together. It’s just hilarious. Yeah, and it just shows just the humanness to a lot of what we do. The work gets done. I think just being a little more gracious and the work will get done.
Jason: Totally. I think that’s the biggest part of it, honestly, yeah. That’s how I always was when I was traveling and when we were going on a vacation. Because you plan a vacation and you’re like, it could be three days or whatever, and you can step away from your office for those three days. When you’re at home and stuff, it tends to not be as easy to do, but you know that you actually can do it because when you go away, it’s possible, right?
John: That’s such a great point, such a great point. That’s exactly it. What’s it, you’re at vacation at home, just tell yourself that, type of thing. You don’t have to be checking emails or calling in or whatever, all the time.
John: The work gets done, and trust your people, that sort of a thing, too. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that — because you’re a perfect example of somebody that has an outside-of-work passion that seemingly would have nothing to do with accounting and bookkeeping, but it does in a way. Do you have any encouragement to people listening that have a hobby or passion that they feel like either no one’s going to care or it has nothing to do with my work?
Jason: Yeah. For yourself, I think everybody needs to fuel their fire, right? It adds to their own persona and your own happiness. I definitely, I can truthfully say that we’re not doing music as much as I used to, doing more accounting, and I definitely, I need that music aspect. So, you’ve got to keep it going, for sure, and really honing in on your passion. For me, in a way, I feel like it’s always been easy because music has been my passion, so I can identify it very easily. Whereas, somebody like my wife, she’s not a music-type person. Exercise is her passion. For her, honing in on that, doing different things — we haven’t gotten it yet. It hasn’t arrived, but we just bought a Peloton.
John: Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah.
Jason: She is so super pumped about the Peloton classes. Because it’s not just about the bike itself, right?
John: No, no, it’s…
Jason: Attending the classes.
John: … A community of sorts, I think, yeah.
Jason: Yeah. She sometimes looked at me. She’s like, “Oh, you’ve got your passions. You’ve got this.” I was like, “Well, no. In a way that fuels you just as much, it’s exercise.”
John: Even simple things can be those passions, and you don’t have to do them every week. It could be, twice a year, I do a walk for charity. Awesome. That’s your thing. Just intentionally setting time aside for that. I love that you said that, fuel your fire. I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’m going to say, very few times have you said, “I really, really need the accounting side. I really, really need to do that more.” You just said, “I really, really need the music.” Because the accounting is going to happen. It’s going to happen.
Jason: Yeah, but the part of the accounting that fuels my fire is chatting with people, helping out small businesses, helping people getting to know their business, that part of stuff. So, even within the accounting stuff, even if it is your job, per se, finding little things like that.
Jason: And just having the music passion, that’s what really taught me about interacting with and identifying with people. Because, in a sense, I’m extroverted, obviously, to a degree, but I am also an introvert as well.
John: I’m the same. Onstage, okay, but offstage, I prefer groups of four or less. I don’t want to be the center of attention. I’m not onstage right now. You be the funny one, go nuts.
Jason: That’s so true, and I think a lot of people don’t understand that or just don’t know that about performers or people that are in front of others, that you do have that. You can have that aspect of it.
John: Yeah, totally, because I think a lot of performers, or me, anyway, and a lot of comedians that I talked to, the audience becomes almost one, as opposed to 400. It’s 400 individuals, but it’s also one audience, and it’s exhausting giving a little piece of meat to 400 individual people. So, when you’re done, it’s like, man, I am really spent, and that one-on-one is comfortable, type of thing, because it’s one-on-one audience.
Jason: Exactly. Yeah, energy, in a sense, right?
John: Yeah, exactly, exactly. But it is, it’s what lights you up. It’s fuel that fire. I love that. That’s such a great analogy for it. So, it’s only fair, before we wrap this up, Jason, since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning, how very American of me to fire questions at a Canadian like that, and I didn’t even apologize. I’m going to turn the tables. Welcome to the Jason Hastie podcast, Episode One. Thank you for having me on as your guest. You really have no choice. I did it myself. So, any rapid-fire or any questions you have for me, I’m all yours, man.
Jason: Well, being that you’re American, I’m Canadian, Canada or US?
John: Oh, that’s a trick. That’s a trick.
Jason: Yeah, it’s loaded.
John: That is loaded because I’m going to piss off half of the people.
John: I’m going to pick America because Canadians are so nice. They’ll just hug me. So, I will pick the US but in a close race.
Jason: You’re already forgiven.
John: Exactly, and I’m sorry.
Jason: Yeah, we’re probably sorry that you didn’t pick us.
John: We’re actually sorry that Jason asked you that question. You shouldn’t have.
Jason: Exactly. Now they’re turning on me.
John: Right. No, no, no, do not turn on Jason. He’s a great guy.
Jason: All right, mountains or water.
John: Oh, that’s a great one, and that’s sometimes one that I ask people. That is hard. Maybe because I’m spoiled since I live in Denver, which is the Calgary of the US, if we’re going to be honest, so the mountains are here. I get them all the time. I’m going to say ocean, beach just because I have to get on an airplane to go there. It’s like a treat.
Jason: That’s why you’ve got to hang out in Vancouver. They’ve got both.
John: That’s true. The mountains go right into the lakes there. Yeah, that’s true.
Jason: Well, my rapid-fires aren’t as good as yours. Being that we’re coming up on winter, too hot or too cold.
John: Oh, too hot is the worst. I would always have too cold. Too hot, you can’t take off your skin. There’s only so many layers you can take off before you’re like, oh. Just waiting for the subway in New York City where there’s no anything, and the humidity is at, I don’t know, 400%. It’s super-hot August, July, and just the sweat, just you could feel it run down your chest. There’s nothing you can do. You’ve just got to take it. It’s gross. Yeah, too cold is always better. You could put on more layers, those heat packs, always that. Maybe I should have picked Canada in the beginning. Maybe that’s actually —
Jason: You’ve got Denver though. That’s close.
John: That’s true. That’s true. That’s true. It’s close.
Jason: I know my wife’s Australian, but she would prefer cold versus hot.
John: Okay. Yeah, I’ve always been that way, always been that way.
Jason: I had another — Oh, I know what it was, city or country.
John: Oh, yeah. I grew up very small town. My dad was in the military. We moved a lot, but we were always probably 30 minutes outside of a big city, but it was always a small town, like 3,000 people. I grew up very small town but going to the city. Now, since I’ve become an adult, I’m pretty sure I’ve lived downtown of every city I’ve worked in, where I’ve lived. I lived in downtown Milwaukee. I lived downtown Indianapolis. I lived in New York City. Now I live a mile from downtown in Denver. We’re in the city. So, I guess, now, I’m going to say city, but, man, those small towns, there’s something to be said. I definitely appreciate that, for sure.
John: I don’t forget where I came from, I guess. If there’s a word, I would say that. Just selfishly, I don’t feel like driving 30 minutes. I want to drive five, so we live downtown.
Jason: Yeah. We live three minutes from downtown Calgary, but I grew up on a farm near a small town.
John: Exactly. No, we’re very similar, except you actually grew up on a farm and woke up early and did work.
Jason: I didn’t live in New York.
John: Well, that too, but whatever. It’s all good. We’re even. We’re even.
Jason: We’re even.
John: This has been awesome, Jason, having you be a part of this again. Thank you so much for taking time to be on What’s Your “And”? It’s always cool to catch up.
Jason: So awesome to chat with you, can’t wait till the next time.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Jason onstage or connect with him on social media, definitely check out the music, Jason Hastie and the Alibi. You can go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and buy the book. I promise it’s good.
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.
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!
(click to enlarge)
- 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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