Tony is an Accountant & Skier & Lifeguard Coach
Tony Nitti returns from episode #100 to talk about his shift in hobbies from professional mountain bike racing to lifeguard coaching, how the pandemic has affected the industry, and why its so important to have interests outside of work, especially when working remotely!
• Why he stopped mountain bike racing professionally
• Coaching lifeguards
• How having outside interests can help your career
• Battling burnout
• How the extended tax season affected him
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Welcome to Episode 300 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday I’m following up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago, to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published in September. It’ll be available on Amazon, Indigo, Bookshop and a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details, or sign up for my exclusive list, and you’ll be the first to know when it comes out.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Tony Nitti. He’s a partner with RubinBrown, and now he’s with me here today. Tony, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Tony: John, good to be back. I think it was all the way back at Episode 100 when we last got together.
John: Exactly, man, yeah, and then we’ll have you back for 500. You’re the hundreds. You’re the aughts, I guess.
Tony: Keep the round numbers going for me.
John: Yeah, it’s just easy to remember. It’s easy to remember, but now I do the rapid-fire questions upfront. So, I’ve got seven, probably questions I should’ve asked you the first time but didn’t. First one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Tony: Game of Thrones. I’ve never seen a moment of Harry Potter yet, so this is almost by default.
John: Okay, okay. This is a tricky one, oceans or mountains.
Tony: Well, we’ll get into this, but I got to put my answer right down the middle. I love them both, equally.
John: Okay, fair enough, fair enough. How about a favorite cereal even when you were a kid?
Tony: I’m a Captain Crunch guy, through and through, as what Americans should be.
John: Right, right. I think the red blood is at the roof of your mouth when you eat Captain Crunch. That’s the… Okay, this is a tricky one too, suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt.
Tony: You know, I’ve gone back and forth in my career through this, but I’ve been gravitating to a suit and tie lately, so I’m going to pick that.
John: Yeah, because when we hung out in Denver at the conference last year, you were looking dapper, man.
Tony: I did.
John: Nice suit. All right, this is a good one, East Coast guy, a good hamburger or a good pizza.
Tony: Good pizza.
John: Yeah. Two more, favorite Disney character.
Tony: You know, that’s interesting. I don’t know if anyone’s given you this response before, and I’ll probably take some heat for this, but I’ve always been a fan of Aladdin. When I say Aladdin, I mean, actual Aladdin and not the genie from Aladdin.
John: Chris Ekimoff just gave me Aladdin, actually, just a couple weeks ago, because he was wearing — he likes the vest, and he was wearing a fleece vest at the time. It was just — yeah, but Aladdin, that’s a solid answer, man. It’s a great story and good music. Yeah. That’s a great character. All right, the last one, this one may be the most important one. Toilet paper roll, over or under.
Tony: Well, with my two kids, I would just be happy with either. As soon as I’ve trained them to start using toilet paper then we’re heading in the right direction. For me, it’s overhand or it’s nothing.
John: Right, right. There you go. There you go. Well, yeah, like you said, Episode 100, God bless you for being on that early. We talked mountain biking. We talked — I mean, that skiing where you hike up and you’re the only one that’s ever been down this trail of skiing. Is that still stuff that you’re actively doing?
Tony: It is. I stopped racing professionally, cross-country mountain biking, in 2018, and probably for reasons that will come full circle in our conversation today. I really burned myself out. I was 43 years old, racing against 23-year-olds, and it took a real toll on me, physically, for obvious reasons.
I had worked so hard towards a goal, and this is something I’m sure your listeners can connect with on a variety of levels, but I’ve worked so hard towards a goal that eventually, someday, you look up and say, I’m not sure this even makes me happy anymore. My body’s taking a beating, but I enjoyed it. I liked being good at something but, at some point, you got to move onto the next thing.
I still ride all the time when I’m in Colorado, which is most of the year, but it’s still not quite a bit. Once or twice a year, I’ll pop into a race just to get the blood flowing again. I still backcountry ski quite a bit, although my forever favorite backcountry ski partner, my yellow Lab, Macy, is now 13, so she can’t be my partner anymore. That definitely drains some of my enthusiasm for the sport.
Yeah, so I am still just as passionate about those things, but going back to your your rapid-fire question, oceans or mountains. Just through a twist of fate in my life at this point, the way things are going for me is I spend the school years in Aspen and then I spend the summers with my wife and kids on the Jersey Shore. I’m sitting there, right now, about a block and a half from the ocean. I am just as passionate about playing in the ocean as I am in the mountains.
I do some selfish things. I surf quite a bit. I swim in the ocean. We’ll get into this, but I have a long connection with the ocean lifeguards in this township, a little town called Surf City. I lifeguarded for a long time. There’s been a Nitti on the Surf City Beach Patrol for, I think, since the mid ‘80s, from my brothers, to me, to my niece, so, yeah, we’ve got a long history down here.
What I do now that, honestly, I think brings me more joy than probably any of the outdoor pursuits I’ve had is, every morning, I get up early, and I go out and coach the next generation of ocean lifeguards. We have what’s called a Lifeguard-In-Training Program here in Surf City, and we’ve got 30 10-to-15-year-old kids that, every morning, go out there. We put them through the ropes and learn how to make rescue, do CPR and read riptides and use a paddle board, and it’s so freaking fun.
John: That’s awesome.
Tony: It certainly keeps you fit, but just the kids, the energy of being around kids and how stoked they get when they figure something out or something clicks for them, it’s just the greatest feeling in the world. It doesn’t hurt that my 11-year-old boy, Ryan, is in the program, right? It’s more time I get to spend with him.
There are a few things, John, that’ll keep you feeling balanced and young and waking up in the morning, throwing some zinc oxide on your nose and being an idiot and going out, playing in the ocean for a couple hours and teaching the kids how to ride waves on their knees on paddle boards and stuff like that. It’s just so incredibly fun.
I don’t know how I got to this point. It took me a long time to figure it out, but I am in a great place where, whether I’m at 8,000 feet in Aspen or at sea level here in New Jersey, I’ve got a lot of things around me that keeps me super balanced and fulfilled and really happy again.
John: And can bring you energy. The ocean itself, and the mountains, nature is so powerful to just be around and just be grateful for being alive and what you have, type of thing. That’s cool.
Tony: It is, man. It sounds a little hokey, but like this morning’s round, I’m out there on my surfboard by myself in the morning and a pod of dolphins will swing by. You’re like, this is pretty damn cool.
John: Right, totally.
Tony: Today, I was out there, and seven pelicans dive-bombed and started swooping up some bunkers that were swimming near by me. It’s just like, yeah, that type of being immersed in nature is what I love. It’s what I love about the ocean, and I’m just super grateful to have both.
John: That’s awesome, man. Yeah, at any point, do you go, “Hasselhoff has nothing on me”? At any point, were you —
Tony: Yeah, for a couple hours down, full Hasselhoff right now. My son is mortified, but part of coaching the program is to keep it light and make the kids happy, so, yeah. Like I said, I’m the one with the zinc on the nose and under the eye. I’m the one teaching the kids in a moment of levity that, look, nobody’s going to remember the rescue, but they’re going to remember is how good your hair looked when you exited the water.
Always make sure you keep it tight. My son spends half the time, mortified by it, but I’ve got a long time, making rescues on the beach. Like I said, I know what’s really important, and what’s important is how the sun glistens off your shaved chest as you run down the beach to save them.
John: Right. Different angle, I got to go back, hold on.
Tony: Hold on a minute, let’s do that again.
John: Are you really drowning or just kind of? Because I got to go — hold on. That’s awesome, man. That’s really cool, really cool. Especially now, with everything that’s happening in your world, the tax world, there’s extended tax deadlines, people working from home or kind of, whatever, trying to hold it together. How important do you think it is these hobbies and passions are to sanity?
Tony: It’s really cool that you asked that because when you and I talked a couple years ago now, we were focused on really, in an industry where I am, public accounting, tax law, and an industry where, sometimes, having balance or being well-rounded is almost viewed as a detriment to career growth. We were talking about how, no, no, no, we shouldn’t be looking at it that way. Having balance, having outside interest, they should help you in your job. They should help you at your firm. They should help you attract clients and maintain clients because people see you’re a real human being.
None of those things have stopped being important. They’re all important, but right now, I think you nailed it. I think, right now, we need to have balance. We need to find things we’re passionate about because if we don’t, we’re going to crack. I just mean mentally forget what it does for your firm, forget what it does for your clients, what it does for you because what I’m seeing right now around the industry is a historic and apocalyptic level of burnout. It’s completely justified, John, when you think about it.
Let’s think about the last few months. We started busy season in the end of January, thinking it’s just going to be like any other busy season. We’re going to crank out returns for three months, but then it’s going to be over, and we’ll get a nice long break. Then March comes around, and tax season gets delayed ‘til July 15th where, hey, maybe an outsider looks at that and says, okay, well, the tax industry got to shut down from March until July. That’s the exact opposite of what happened.
The reason tax season got delayed, obviously, is because of a global pandemic. That global pandemic caused a lot of legislation to be passed here in the US, and a lot of that legislation is driven by the tax law. So, yeah, our tax returns that we had to file weren’t due right around the corner, but all of a sudden, we had to grasp 800-page pieces of legislation —
Tony: — sometimes in a matter of days to make sense of it before clients started knocking down the door to say, “What does this mean to me?” So, I will tell you that I went through a one month stretch from the middle of March to the middle of April where, quite honestly, I worked more hours than I had any point since I was a 22-year-old kid working for Arthur Andersen, right?
Tony: It was insane. Then when that kind of, sort of lessens up about a month ago, you go, wait a minute. Now that July 15th deadline has come home to roost. So, pour back into that and then as soon as July 15th is done, the extended deadline is only 60 days away, so it’s not like we get any reprieve.
We have been, as an industry, in this extended mode of fight or flight. We’re busy, we’re busy, we’ve got to figure this out, we’ve got to get this done, we’ve got to figure — there has been zero downtime for most tax professionals since the end of January, and it’s really hard to maintain that kind of pace.
John: Totally. It’s like layers on top of layers because not only is there that work part, but then there’s just a hectic, helter-skelter — everyone has to work from home now, but you’re not working from home alone because your spouse is working from home. Your kids are home-schooled. It’s just layer upon layer of just added difficulty, I guess, and so hard.
Tony: Let’s think about that. I would argue that the extended tax season, the workload that I just explained, yeah, that’s tough, don’t get me wrong, but, as you said, it’s a perfect storm where we have that sense of obligation and constant pressure, coupled with this new reality of working from home. Okay, working from home, I’ve been working remotely since 2006. I’m no stranger to working remotely, but as soon as the whole industry went remote in March, I was on a podcast, Damien Martin, Simply Tax.
John: He’s been on the show. He’s amazing jazz pianist.
Tony: I know.
John: Amazing jazz pianist.
Tony: I think he’s a Music major undergrad.
Tony: We were talking about what to expect and I — listen, my long and glorious history as a sports bettor will prove that I have no skills at prognostication. This particular one, I got right, John. I nailed it. I said, “Damien, people got to be careful what they wish for.” Everyone likes the idea of working remotely, but here’s what happens.
When you work remotely and everyone at your firm worked remotely, trust me, it doesn’t take long. What happens is there ceases to be any delineation between when your workday starts, when it ends; or even when your workweek starts and when it ends, because what happens is everybody’s going to choose the periods of work that’s best for them.
Maybe for you, it’s 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Okay, great. You work diligently during that time, but your coworkers and your team, their best time is from 1:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. They’re going to work that time. So, you shut down your day, so to speak, but now you start getting pinged with emails, left and right. If you ignore those emails, you wake up the next morning to start your day, and you feel behind before the day even starts. You’re overwhelmed with emails.
Over time, you’ve got to remember, obviously, we didn’t suddenly go to remote working because the industry of public accounting had an epiphany and thought it was the way to go. We did it because there’s a global pandemic, and nobody left their house for three months. Well, when nobody leaves their house, what happens? Again, everybody chooses the workday, the workweek that’s best for them, and they have an expectation that, hey, I’m housebound, so you must be housebound.
This really happened to me. Someone will ping me on a Sunday night at 7:00 and say, “Can we jump on a call?” Now, that would never happen in the normal tax season, right? Normal tax season is terrible, don’t get me wrong, but when you walk out the door at 8:00 at night, 9:00 at night, you can pretty much well trust that you’ll be left alone. Sundays, you can more or less trust that you’ll be left alone.
Reality is everybody kind of accepted pretty quickly in the pandemic that days don’t matter anymore. How is Sunday afternoon any different than Tuesday morning? So, all of a sudden, I’m doing conference calls on Sunday nights and at 7 am and whatever it may be. I made this kind of joke with Damien, and it totally came to fruition where everyone goes remotely. What will happen to the Accounting industry is that basically we’ll be like 7-11. We won’t always be doing business, individually, but you’ll always be open. You’ll always feel like, I can never shut down. I can never know that my workday is over. I can never know that, oh, I’ve got some time to myself.
That, when you take that, when you talk about a heightened fight-or-flight instinct, like I said, when you don’t know when your workweek starts or your workweek ends or your day starts or your day ends, you are constantly in a state of just, anxiety, expectation. What is going to be asked of me next? When do I get to sneak away? It’s too much, man. It’s too much to handle.
I referenced earlier in our conversation here that I eventually worked so hard at trying to be a mountain bike racer that I lost the joy for it and burned out. I just think that as an industry, right now, with what we’re dealing with, the combination, the perfect storm of a seven-month extended tax season, coupled with this new reality of working from home and never knowing when it’s okay to relax and shut it down because your next email is always right around the corner or your next Zoom meeting is right around the corner; I think around the industry, we are going to see, as I said, historic levels of burnout if people can’t take the one real positive of working remotely.
Why did people long to work remotely? So they could embrace what they’re passionate about. They could have flexibility. So, people have to, I mean, have to make it a priority to say, “I understand that there’s no delineation anymore, but I’m going to carve out the time that I need in my day to do whatever it is that makes my soul flourish.” Because if you don’t, if you don’t, like I said, people are going to just wane out of this industry because you can only answer so many PPP loan questions —
Tony: — peruse the SBA website and try to keep up with new guidance from the IRS. It’s too much to ask.
John: You’re totally right. Actually, a study that I have in my book, from Duke University, talks about how people that have more dimensions to their life are less prone to anxiety and depression because it’s not all one thing. So, if you have these other things then — and I think leaders of companies and firms need to allow their people to have time or even explicitly say, “You have to take time to do this,” because, yeah, mentally, you’re going to burnout.
Tony: Well, I’ll make a confession. I am someone who’s very prone to anxiety and that self-imposed pressure that I think a lot of people in the industry feel. When you take someone that’s predisposed to those things and put them in the environment, like we’ve had for the last four or five months, it’s a dangerous cocktail because, again, for me, I feel the weight of expectation at all times. Oh, my God, did something get announced today by the SBA or the IRS that I should be writing about or that I should be communicating to my firm or I should be preparing to teach about? It weighs on you because, again, you feel like you’re in a 24-hour cycle of work, and that’s too much for anybody to reasonably sustain for a period of time.
So, I really needed what I was handed recently which is, again, to switch gears, leave the mountains, come to the ocean and hit the reset button and just put something back into my life that was as far removed from PPP loans as you can get. Quite frankly, teaching 12-year-olds how to body surf is probably about as far as you can get from that stuff. It’s a small part of my day, but it allows me to approach the rest of my day with the type of motivation that I would like to. Whereas, I was heading down a dangerous path in March, April, May, of, again, the weight of expectation and pressure just becoming too much.
John: No, that’s awesome to hear. That’s awesome to hear. Plus, you grew up in that area, so that’s just a cool thing. That’s a really cool thing. Well, this has been really powerful, Tony. I hope that people listening understand, before, yeah, hobbies, passions, whatever, it’s really, really crucial. It’s not a joke. It’s not a joke.
Tony: Now, more than ever. I know we said that, but I just want to stress it one more time. We’re working remotely. It may be the new normal for a while. I know that working remotely can feel, like I said, like it’s a 24-hour cycle and you can never just escape, but it is the one positive of remote working is that given a 24-hour day, there’s no reason you can’t find an hour two to go do what you need to do to unplug and just, again, disconnect from what we do all day and find something the polar opposite that just makes you feel alive and revitalized and go do it. Because if you don’t, it’s not sustainable. You’re not going to last.
I’m living proof of that, John. We’ve joked about this in the past. I haven’t burned out in the industry yet. I’ve come dangerously close a couple times. I’ve taken on athletic pursuits and things like that in my life where I have started out loving them and then got so singularly focused and obsessed with them that I grew to hate them and burned out and quit. I just see people right now all around the industry, and I’m one of them, being forced to be so singularly focused and so, again, so constant in fight-or-flight mode about the job and the performance and what’s expected of them that the same possibility exists that they just grow to hate what they do every day. Nobody wants that.
John: Nobody wants that. Engagement goes down, people start to become completely not even attached to the job and just leave, leave the profession, which is terrible. I think this applies to so many other professions as well, lawyers and engineers. Maybe the tax season is an added bonus, but all of them are — I mean, it’s a lot on a human being to have to handle.
This is great, Tony. It’s only fair that I allow you to rapid-fire question me, if you would like, since I so rudely started peppering you in the beginning. So, if you have two or three questions you want to ask, it’s now the Tony Nitti Show, here we go.
Tony: Okay, I’m going to give you a couple of yes-or-no questions, and I’m genuinely interested. Ready? Come fall, will there be NFL football?
John: Maybe. This is my prognostication, my Nostradamus moment.
John: Yeah, I think there will be.
Tony: Will there be Division One — well, they don’t call it Division One anymore — FBS, college football?
John: College football, there better be, yes. Because if not, that’s where I start to lose my mind. That’s mine. The bad thing about that is if college football doesn’t happen, there’s not money for all the other sports the rest of the year.
Tony: Those are the two questions — I know you’re a big Notre Dame fan — those questions that my brother and I kick around every single day because we just can’t imagine the reality of fall without football. That’s a very real prospect right now. It’s just hard to envision a scenario where 90,000 people are packed into the University of Michigan State.
John: Well, first of all, that’s a terrible example. No, I’m just teasing just as a Notre Dame fan. I think that there will be reduced attendance at the stadium, like maybe a quarter capacity. I do think that as long as the games are happening, then at least there’s some semblance of normalcy.
Tony: Do you think there’s any scenario where fall football is pushed to spring?
John: I did read that. Yeah, I think there is a scenario where that could be. Yeah, I don’t know. That’ll be weird just because now there are two football seasons, six months apart. Then the draft, with the combine, is right after the season. Kids get injured then they just lost tens of millions of dollars, and maybe they just don’t play then. It’s weird. It’s a weird thing. Or maybe they find a treatment, and we can all just go back.
Tony: That would be lovely, definitely. Trust me, I want more than anything for football to be back. One thing I do find really fascinating is if this season, college season didn’t happen at all, what that would do to the NFL draft next year. These teams would be forced to draft on two years old information. That’s confrontation for another day, Mr. Garrett.
John: That’s awesome. Well, thanks so much, Tony, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? It’s so much fun.
Tony: All right. Thanks, John. I’ll see you on Episode 500.
John: Awesome, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Tony in action or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, 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.
Seth is an Accountant & Swimmer
Seth is a Tax partner with Carr Riggs & Ingram in Dallas, TX. He has two kids and a wife who teaches yoga and meditation that helps keep his house calm and peaceful. Seth enjoys spending time with his family and exercising.
Seth talks about overcoming shingles at the age of 35 through swimming and how he promotes a culture of sharing experiences in the office as a partner at his firm!
• Getting into swimming
• Skills Seth has learned overcoming shingles
• Working out with co-workers
• Creating a culture of sharing experiences in the office
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 229 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and, you know those things that are above and beyond your technical skills, the things that you really love to do outside of work, and they really differentiate you when you get to the office.
I’m so excited to let everyone know my book is coming out very, very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone is excited for the book and listening to the show and then changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit Subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Seth Margolies. He’s a partner in the Dallas office of Carr, Riggs & Ingram. Now he’s with me here today.
Seth, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Seth: Thanks, John, for having me. Thanks for inviting me. I’m super excited to do this podcast. I listen to several of your podcasts. I just hope to be as great as some of the others, entertaining.
John: Oh, no, man, you’re going to be awesome already from the phone call we had a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, I’m just excited to share your story. But before we get into that, you know the drill, rapid-fire questions right out of the gate.
Seth: I’m ready. Let’s do it.
John: Here we go. Here we go. I’ll start out with a pretty easy one, I think. Favorite color?
John: Nice. Okay, how about a least favorite color?
Seth: Least favorite color, how about brown?
John: Brown. That’s a good answer. That’s a solid answer. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Seth: That’s easy, Star Wars.
John: Oh, there you go. There you go. And your computer, more PC or a Mac?
Seth: Definitely a PC. Walking in the Mac store and I don’t know what to do.
John: No, no, they don’t even let me in. So I’m with you. I’m not cool enough. I’m way not cool enough. So then your mouse, right click or left click?
Seth: Right click.
John: Right click. Okay. That’s where the exciting stuff is. I like it. Okay. Do you have a favorite band or musician?
Seth: You know, I don’t know if I can come up with a favorite band or group. But while I’m working. I love to listen to just kind of classical music.
John: Oh, yeah, there you go.
Seth: It’s a nice distraction. But I won’t lie, every now and then, the hip-hop station comes on and it just depends upon what hour it is. In the morning, it might be classical. If I need something to get me going in the afternoon or later at night, it might be a little hip-hop.
John: There you go. There you go. That works. That works for me. Would you say you’re more balance sheet or income statement?
Seth: Definitely income statement. I think the balance sheet is more for the auditors.
John: Right. That’s true. That is true. Actually, from a tax perspective, they have no clue. Do you have a favorite animal, any animal at all?
Seth: I have two dogs, two foster dog. Sometimes they drive me a little crazy, but I’ll have to go with dogs.
John: Dogs. That’s a good answer, man. That’s a really good answer. How about do you prefer more hot or cold?
Seth: Hot. I’m a big tea drinker, so I’m always drinking tea.
John: There you go. That’s my next question, sweet tea or regular tea?
Seth: Half and half.
John: Half and half. Okay. I see what’s going on there. That’s interesting. All right. Do you have a favorite number?
John: Seven. That’s the most popular answer. Is there a reason?
Seth: I don’t think so. I think just seven just growing up. Again, I feel like everybody’s favorite number is seven.
John: It is, man. It’s It’s by far the most popular answer on here. For me, it’s sports related, but yeah, for sure, for sure. This is an important one, toilet paper, roll over or under?
Seth: You know, John, I never understand why this is a real question. I mean, there’s only one answer. It’s over. I think under is just for like lazy people, like you put it on and it goes on there. You just don’t want to change it.
John: Right, right. You know what’s wrong, but you’re too lazy to change it. That’s awesome. We’ll run out in a week or so, it doesn’t matter. Yeah, right. That’s great. Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Seth: I’d go with Sudoku. Man, this crossword puzzle, so tough.
John: No, I agree. I agree. And when you fly, more window or aisle seat?
Seth: Definitely an aisle. Claustrophobic.
John: Definitely aisle?
John: Okay, okay. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Seth: You know, John, I don’t really have a favorite actor or actress, but I am obsessed with movies. I love to go to movies. I don’t really dislike or love one more than the other. I just love going to the movies.
John: No, that works, man. Movie actors and actresses, that works. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Seth: I am definitely an early bird.
John: Okay. Okay. And the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Seth: The favorite thing I have is I have to go with a great family, two kids, a wife.
John: That’s a great answer. Plus, she might listen. So good job you, man. Good job you. That was great, man. Really awesome. So let’s transition into the swimming and the exercising and all that. How you get into this? Since you were little or more of a late bloomer on that?
Seth: No, I was probably no more the swimmer than anybody else. Back in the day, I probably –again I’m not a big sports fan. I was never really into sports. I played soccer, just probably no different than most people. But I’ve always worked out and weights, had a trainer. I was always just very active. Again, I was early bird so I was always doing something in the morning. I was always doing boot camps. I’d run to the gym in the morning at like 5:30 and do boot camp outside and loved it. My wife did it too. It was great. And it was about eight years ago that I got shingles.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Seth: You know anybody that’s getting shingles at the age of like 34, 35?
John: No. Yeah, typically, it’s like grandparents’ friends or people like that.
Seth: Yeah, I guess I’m the oldest 35-year-old.
John: Right. You also like to play bingo and watch Wheel of Fortune.
Seth: That’s right. So that was like eight years ago, I got the shingles. It was during tax season too. So it’s absolutely terrible. It’s basically like a kind of a nervous system disease, illness, whatever. It probably didn’t show up till months later, but I got muscle atrophy in my left shoulder. They couldn’t figure out what it was. It turns out it related back to shingles. But long story short, my muscle and my left shoulder just literally disappeared. So I couldn’t really do anything with my left shoulder. I had to drop out of boot camp. I really couldn’t exercise. Yeah, I was doing physical therapy. When I would hold a glass of water with my left hand, it would shake like I couldn’t. I would have to use my right hand.
John: That’s super scary too.
Seth: Oh, it’s absolutely terrible. You can’t really do anything. When you’re used to being so active and then you can’t hold a glass of water, it’s terrible. So I did the physical therapy. It didn’t really work. I just kind of threw in the towel. I’d say my body just kind of went mush a little bit. I’ve always been like kind of the same weigh. I was pretty light. Never been heavy. When I tell people my weight, they’re like, “I was that weight in seventh grade.”
Seth: So years later, well, I’d go to the gym every now and then but nothing really because I was just getting neck pain and shoulder pain. It was just terrible.
John: Oh, man!
Seth: So years later, I was like, let me try swimming. So I called up and got a swim coach. I know how to swim, but when I would try and swim on my own, my neck would kill. So I was like, let me get a swim coach. Funny story actually. So they have a big pool there and then they have a small kid pool. He gets into the kid pool and I’m like, “What are we doing?” He’s like, “Well, before we go into the big pool, I need to make sure that you’re safe in the small pool.” I think back in that story and I’m like, oh, my God. So I literally had to get into the small pool, and I had to go on my back and he had to make sure I wasn’t going to drown. “Listen, we’re good. I’ll sign some papers.”
So I had that swim coach for like a year and it was great. It was kind of like, I have to say, like water aerobics, but it was swimming laps and just kind of doing that stuff that you did as a kid, just teaching the breathing techniques and the pedals and the fins and this and that. I don’t remember what happened but that coach left or whatever. So I called up and said, “Hey, I need a new coach.” And they said, “Great. Show up at noon.” I got another coach and I showed up, and I saw this guy and I was like, “Oh, my God.” I know who that guy is. He’s basically just like an insane athlete. He trains swimmers all across the country. I’m like, “Hey, I just want to just have a little fun. Just get my shoulder back.” And my shoulder was feeling much better. Well, a perfectionist again teaching all these crazy athletes.
I did that for like a year and then I would go like three times a week. I would see like this master’s class. It’s like 40 and up and they do all this stuff and he does the class. It’s like just insane swimmers. I remember thinking to myself like looking over those lanes like after I would swim, man, would be really neat to do. I just, at some point, maybe it was the year later, I was like, I think I’m ready to throw in the towel on these lessons and go right in to the master’s.
So I did that. I did like two to three days a week. I would try and swim in between. My shoulder was much better and it was great and I loved it. It was awesome. I mean, that’s really how I got into swimming. I love it.
John: Yeah. When I was a kid, I was a part of a swim team for like, third, fourth, fifth, sixth grade. In the summer, I was super, super brown and my hair would turn almost white from the sun and the bleach and you’d wear that awkward Speedo. But it is such a great workout, total body and you’re breathing deeply. It’s a really, really great workout. They say it doesn’t cost as much impact, right?
Seth: Yeah, that’s the reason I did it. So you sound excited about it. I think you’re going to go swimming out tonight.
John: Right. You know what, I think I’m not ready for that coach yet because he’ll just get angry at me.
Seth: He’s going for perfection. I’m like, “Can we just get to like 85? Let’s just do 85%.
John: Yeah, right. Exactly. That’s my motto in pretty much everything. I’m not going to lie.
Seth: I just need that 75.
John: Tut that’s cool. So you were doing like races or…?
Seth: No, I wasn’t doing races, but they have a bunch of drills and say there’s eight lanes, the slower lane will go to the right, and the fast line will be number eight. So I started off in lane one, and then you can move yourself to two, three, four. It was great. It was just a lot of fun. I just love swimming. You know you said like the breathing thing, like my wife teaches meditation. It’s really like when you’re swimming and it really is like meditating, just finding that breath and just being consistent and flowing through the water. It’s really a great form of meditation and exercise or rehabilitation. It’s great, overall great exercise. I love it. I just did all that, and I haven’t swum in a while.
Back in January this year, I was swimming and again doing the master’s class. And there was just one day where I was swimming and we had the pins on. I was going back and forth. I looked over at the coach, and everyone else looks like they’re passing me that I’m just exhausted. I looked over the coach and I said, “Should this be that hard?” And he said, “Well, this is the only thing you’re doing. Yes, of course.” I think at that point, I realized that I needed to do something else, like the swimming was great for my shoulders and back. But I’m a fast swimmer, but I felt kind of like I was a weak link when it came to the other things, the fins and the pat and this and that.
I just realized, what am I going to do now? I went from not being able to hold a glass of water to be able to swim with a bunch of crazy athletes. My shoulder wasn’t like 100% perfect, but it was pretty darn good. And so I just kind of just went on like a little journey to figure out what can I do to gain some weight and build some muscle mass and get stronger and kind of get back to where I was like eight years ago. So boot camp and this crazy stuff and pushing trucks and flipping tires and all that fun stuff at 6:00 a.m.
So my wife, she was on — do you know what ClassPass is?
John: Oh, yeah, yeah, because you can go to different gyms, whatever gym you want.
Seth: They have all these different gyms and take this class. She got me on that and it kind of helped me figure out what I want to do. Do I enjoy this type of class, like all this extra cardio? Maybe that’s not what I need. I need to build some muscle. I don’t want to burn too many calories. So you just kind of find that perfect fit. I ended up getting a trainer who again just kind of got my shoulder a little bit better, and I was able to get a lot stronger. And now I just kind of have my favorite things and just kind of a little bit more in tune to what my body needs. It’s great. I just love it. I just love waking up 5:30, 5:45 and going to do something, or maybe it’s during lunch, I’m going with a coworker to the gym, to ClassPass or going downstairs or whatever it is. So this is great. I just feel back to where I was eight years ago, much stronger, faster, just able to kind of overcome all that. I just keep my fingers crossed
John: Yeah, man. I mean, that’s so scary but so encouraging to hear how you fought through that and got back. Now you feel like you’re really close to where you were eight years ago, which is great. Clearly, something you talk about at work, the exercising and swimming and going to the gym. You said you sometimes go with coworkers. Yeah, it’s not something that you feel like you need to hide or not share.
Seth: Yeah, it’s fun when you go with a coworker. Sometimes you talk a little bit about work but not necessarily, about just sweating or running laps or whatever you’re doing, running up stairs and it’s just a great bonding activity actually.
John: Totally. And especially when it’s out of the office, I think people tend to let their guard down a little bit more.
Seth: Yeah. We talk a little bit about family or wherever it is. I agree.
John: Yeah, just life in general and create like those meaningful relationships as opposed to those superficial ones that exist in a lot of the business world. Just out of curiosity, would you say that any of this gives you a skill or a mentality that you feel like you’re able to bring to the office?
Seth: Yeah, I’ve heard some of the other podcasts you’ve had and be like, wow, those are great people with these awesome skills. What has the skill, what has this ability to overcome this illness been able to do for me? I feel like I can just relate it back to many other things whether it’s again like passing the CPA exam, that thing is hard as you know. I remember way back when like I had such a tough time. I was at E&Y working all those hours. It was tough adventure, eventually kind of hit rock bottom and from start to finish was about five months before passing the exam. But even back here overcoming those obstacles and whether it’s an employee leaves and you need to figure out how we’re going to get that done, hire new employees and post, yeah, and all that, or just driving through a big tax deadline, how am I going to get it done and the planning, just the overcoming and just overcoming obstacles. But also just feel so much better as well.
If I compare this year to last year and this year just feels so much better physically, mentally. I just think that overcoming that challenge has just done physically and mentally just so much better.
John: So you kept this regimen going even through busy season and all that.
Seth: Yeah, even through business season. I think if you take a break, it’s just like so much harder to get back into. A lot of people go for an hour or two, whatever. If you can just get at least 30 minutes in, it makes life so much better.
John: That’s great, man. That’s really cool. Really cool to hear that, yeah, I mean sticking with it and even when there’s a ton of work to be done, still carving out time intentionally. To do this passion of yours made you so much happier than in prior years. So how much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create this culture where people are allowed to share or encouraged to share versus how much is it on the individual to just step up and be like, hey, this is what I’d like to do, maybe in a small circle?
Seth: You know, I’m in charge of a human capital in my office, so I interview almost everyone, for Dallas at least, intern program and every single person asked, tell me about your culture. It’s fascinating. So you talk about culture and how important it is. I think that it is important for the office organization to create that culture to allow individuals like myself or the officemate to be able to share those experiences. Again, like you mentioned, just being able to go to the gym with somebody or whatever, just to be able to share that extra conversation, that’s really what helps build that culture.
John: Oh, totally.
Seth: It’s not going over review notes and balance sheets and profit and loss statements. That’s for sure. It’s all that extra stuff. It’s very important for the organization to allow that work environment. Just like your podcast, people just have to share.
John: That’s the thing is when I was with PwC back in the day and it wasn’t necessarily encouraged or modeled, and we’re also going back 20 years, it’s just all of a sudden, you find out that, man, everyone’s doing something and no one’s really talking about it or sharing it. Because of that, you assume, oh, well, I guess no one else does anything. And then you find out later like, no, no, my studies show that 92% of professionals have a hobby or passion they regularly do outside of work. I mean, I’m going to be the auditor here and round up to 100 and say immaterial difference. So everybody does something. So that’s the thing is just finding that out because every accounting firm reviews work papers like you were saying, but not every accounting firm has somebody with your story or other people’s stories that are there with you at Carr, Riggs & Ingram, and it’s getting those stories out there more is really what’s going to make you different than every other firm that’s out there.
Seth: And being able to connect with those stores. Just a few people that employee exercising or swimming, I could go swimming with somebody, but whatever it is, photography or charity or something, somebody else here probably does it or enjoys it or wants to know more about it. If they do it together, that really just helps the culture.
John: Even like me, I’m not a swimmer, but hearing your story and hearing about it, it’s like, wow, that’s freaking really interesting and fantastic. I mean, it’s great.
Seth: Not that you’re going to pull up that Speedo. You’re going to go in the pool.
John: Right. I’m going to scare everyone. My wife’s going to be like, “What is going on?” And I’ll be like, “I talked with Seth Margolies,” and that’s it. It’s over.
Seth: Just take out the floaties.
John: Yeah, right. Exactly. I’ll have the thing that goes around your waist. I’ll go all in, man. Like it doesn’t matter, like snorkel, like what’s up? Should you be wearing a helmet, John? It feels like it. But no, that’s really cool that that’s what’s, you know, and that you’re living it there as a leader of the firm of the office, as a partner, someone that people look up to, that you’re showing it by example, which is really great. Because I find that sometimes people are so driven by the billable hour and charge codes and all this that sometimes leaders forget that there’s people under them, like real humans.
Seth: Yeah. If you don’t have all the bots, you’ve got humans in your office.
John: Right, exactly, exactly. And even when the bots come, the humans still have to do a lot of the work anyway and still create those connections with clients and with each other.
Seth: And it’s important to encourage those to get outside of the office, even if it’s busy season, working. I don’t really like when people work seven days a week. They need to go home, be with their families, go do that, and… Everybody has and if you don’t have that and, you need to take that day off or two days off and go find it.
John: Go borrow somebody else’s and or something like that.
Seth: Yeah. I’ll lend you my floaties.
John: There you go. That’s all in, man. That’s all in. I love it. So do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that maybe has that passion or interest outside of work but thinks that it has nothing to do with their career?
Seth: Yeah, I mean, again, sometimes you see people that you can tell that they just need to get out more. They’re just working seven days a week or whatever. We just kind of need to encourage them to go out and keep that passion going, whatever it is that they enjoy, because again that’s just going to make them happier. It’s going to keep them hopefully at the firm longer, put the best attention in themselves, they’ll be happier. It’s also good just looking forward. They’re fast forwarding to retirement. What do you do when you retire? Hopefully, you still — and your and might change, but that one and might lead to a different and. We got to start somewhere.
John: Yeah, I love that man. I love that. That’s so great. Such great takeaways. So before we wrap this up, though, it’s only fair that I turned the tables, let you question me now since I fired away at you right out of the gate. So I’m ready.
Seth: All right, let’s do it. Favorite type of taco?
John: Oh, wow, that’s a great question in a very, very Texas question. Mild. We’ll get that out of the gate right now, like the mild salsa or whatever. I guess I’d go steak probably.
Seth: Yeah, one of my other questions that I was thinking about asking you, jalapenos on your nachos or on the side, I already know the answer to that.
John: Yeah, on someone else’s nachos.
Seth: Paper towels, the regular size or the kind of the choose your own size?
John: Yeah, the choose your own size for sure.
Seth: Yeah, save the planet.
John: No, I’m just lazy.
Seth: Wait a second, are you under the toilet paper?
John: No, no, I’m definitely an over. I will change that.
Seth: Don’t hold me against it. That’s your question. Room temperature water or ice water?
John: Room temperature. My teeth, for some reason, when I was little, I was in a big wheel accident. It’s a long story, but I broke out some of my teeth. And for some reason, they’re very, very sensitive in the front. So like I see people bite ice cream or drink really ice cold water and I’m like, oh, man, I’m cringing right now thinking about it.
John: Yeah, room temperature, no ice. Yeah.
Seth: And then the last question is when you listen to a podcast, what speed do you listen to the podcast?
John: Oh, double speed, double speed, webinars, YouTube stuff —
Seth: Times two, really?
John: Times two, man. If the person speaks quickly, then I might one and a half, but typically double. And it’s really funny when I see them in person and I’m like, wow, they are so slow in real life.
John: Yeah, I know. Those are really great questions. That’s really great.
Seth: That’s all I got.
John: No, man, that was awesome. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me here on What’s Your “And”?
Seth: Well, perfect. Thanks for having me.
John: Yeah, this was great. Everyone listening, if you like to see some pictures of Seth outside of work or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.