Meri Amber is an Accountant & Musician
Meri Amber returns from episode 77 to talk about her move to being a musical comedian full-time, some of the awesome comic conventions she has performed at, and how she has continued to perform through the pandemic! She also talks about how you should never ignore a hobby or passion you may have!
• Performing on Twitch
• Some of her favorite events she has performed at
• How her passion as a musician and comedienne helps others
• Live songwriting sessions
• Embracing your hobby or passion
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Welcome to Episode 306 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 to let everyone know that my book’s being published in September. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. Or sign up for my exclusive list, and you’ll be the first to know when it’s coming out.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe 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, Meri Amber. She’s a musical comedian, singer, songwriter, do-it-all awesome person out of Sydney, Australia who also happens to have an Accounting degree, and now she’s with me here today. Meri, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Meri: Thank you so very much for having me.
John: This is going to be awesome. It’s always fun catching up with you. This time we get to hit record, so this will be super fun.
John: Exactly, exactly.
Meri: I love buttons.
John: Right. So I have rapid-fire questions. These are ones I’ve never asked you before, probably should have, the first time, but I didn’t. Here we go, here we go. First one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Meri: Harry Potter. I haven’t watched Game of Thrones. How can I choose it?
John: I haven’t watched it either, so, yeah. Here we go, heels or flats.
Meri: I wear flats almost exclusively. I do love the look of heels, but these, those things are torture devices for the feet.
Meri: If you can avoid them, just get some nice-looking boots or something.
John: The risk-averse accountant in you is still there. I could tell. It’s still there.
Meri: I do love them. I love them. Don’t get me wrong. For my wedding, I wore these heels that were so freaking huge. I looked like a gerbil. I had people commenting. They’re like, “You’re wearing stilts.” I’m like, “It’s my wedding day. I wanted to make sure I’m taller than everyone.”
Meri: Serious ankle-twisting risk going on.
John: That’s very cool. All right, here’s one, brownie or ice cream.
Meri: Ice cream.
John: Okay, all right. When you’re flying on an airplane, window seat or aisle seat.
Meri: Well, to be honest with you, I would prefer the window seat, theoretically, but because I have this amazing insight into the world of planes, I’ve realized they serve endless drinks, but there are not endless toilets. So, the aisle seat is usually more convenient.
John: That’s very funny. That’s funny. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
Meri: Oh, in terms of weather, hot, definitely, definitely. The whole rumor about you can just put more layers on, that’s a rumor. It’s not true. You know what it does? It makes it heavier. It doesn’t make you warm up. There is no warmth involved. I don’t even understand. It’s a lie.
John: That’s so funny, and it’s middle of winter there in Australia right now, so it’s especially bitter. Two more. A favorite Disney character.
Meri: Any of the evil doom lords are pretty good, definitely the evil ones. I’m thinking of the evil witch in Snow White, and I’m like, yeah, it’s pretty good. I like the — what’s the name of the evil one in Little Mermaid? I’m dying here, Little Mermaid. Ursula, she’s fantastic. I love her.
John: Yeah, that’s hilarious. I didn’t know you could be that mean under the ocean. It seems like a happy place.
Meri: Under the sea.
John: Right, right. The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.
Meri: Oh, jeez, I don’t pay much attention to it. I know my husband’s very picky about it because I’ve accidentally put it on the wrong way, according to him. It’s just like, it’s there. It’s functional. What’s the point? He’s like, “We talked about it, like this.” I’m like, “Okay, sorry.” For me, that’s indifferent.
John: Indifferent, that’s totally acceptable. Yeah, so, Episode 77, a couple of years ago, and since then, it seems like you’ve been blowing up in a good way. On your social media, I keep seeing cool things happening. What are some things you’ve been up to in the last couple of years?
Meri: Oh, jeepers, it’s been a crazy few years actually. It’s been nuts, which is fantastic. Last we talked, I wasn’t married. I’d never been to the US before. Now, I have traveled around more. I am married. I did a whole bunch of Comic Conventions which are my main stomping ground in terms of live arts. I got started doing shows on Twitch which has been particularly good now with the pandemic and lockdown because all the Comic Convention shows I had coming up got, obviously, canceled or postponed.
Meri: So, now, I can still continue performing, I just do it online. Community on there is so wonderful. I feel so lucky, so lucky.
John: Very cool. In some of the Comic-Con shows that you had, you were headlining. It’s not like you had a hat out in front of the actual convention and playing as people came in. You were the event. You were on the main stage. That’s so cool.
Meri: It was very, very cool. There was a couple of really, really cool shows that I don’t think I’m ever going to forget for the rest of my life. I’ll never forget doing the Doctor Who show where they put me between Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie and John Barrowman, to do a show. That was very difficult.
John: That’s incredible.
Meri: Very difficult audience, possibly the hardest audience I’ve ever had to work with ever, but it was amazing, obviously, because to be able to say that I did that and to be backstage and see these people of significance, because I’m a massive Doctor Who fan, so having to withhold my inner fan girl which is in a state of constant explosion at that point.
John: And you have songs, Doctor Who songs, which I’m sure you were playing, but that’s awesome. That’s so cool.
Meri: I was dressed as a TARDIS playing on my guiTARDIS.
John: That’s awesome. Was there another show that you were like, was a huge…
Meri: So many of these shows are just wonderful. I tell people, sometimes it’s not even bigger show. Sometimes the smaller shows are so beautiful. I remember one of my first shows in Perth. No one knows who I am in Perth. I did a show, and it was just maybe 20 people. It was this really small crowd, but it was so intimate. I was just like, I’m just going to sit on the side of the stage. I don’t need the microphone. We could just talk and stuff. At the end, we were in a big group huddle, and it was really, really nice. I remember performing in Canberra and having people dancing around my Lego song, all these people dressed as superheroes. That memory is never going to leave me.
John: That’s awesome.
Meri: Who can say I have sung a song about Lego and a huge pool of people dressed as superheroes were dancing around to it? It’s amazing life experiences, and I feel so lucky.
John: Yeah, but the joy that you’re bringing to people is something not to forget about. Your creative side and that art and your music is certainly making people’s lives more joyous. So, the fact that they’re able to share that back with you is really important. Because if you just played in your studio and then put it out there, you wouldn’t even know. By studio, I mean, spare bedroom, I don’t know, but either way.
Meri: I’m going to say, I’ve been doing these shows online recently. I’ve been essentially just performing for my studio, but it’s been just as phenomenal. There’s all these moments from that that are just as amazing. We raised a whole lot of money for charity a number of times. Each time, after it finishes, the next day, I just spin in this euphoric state of we have helped all these people, this community that I don’t even feel like I built it, or I lead it. I just feel like I’m part of it, if that makes sense, and we helped all these people. It’s amazing.
Meri: I spent three hours flailing in a mankini as a reward for reaching a donation goal at one point. Things like that are also pretty memorable. That’s something I’m proud to say I’ve done.
John: Right, or probably will do ever again, but, hey.
Meri: Yeah, it’s done now.
John: It’s done now. Right, exactly.
Meri: It’s on the internet. There’s no going back.
John: That’s awesome. Yeah, but in the Twitch shows, it’s basically performing online, for people that don’t really know, it’s like a live YouTube video, sort of, or a Zoom call, if you will, in the world of corporate speak, but just somebody is able to see you perform, and then you’re able to interact with them from them typing back and forth, I guess, pretty much.
Meri: Yeah. Well, it’s a lot more interactive than people think because, obviously, there is the text chat, but there are ways to interact with the stream in general. For example, almost all the songs I sing for one of my three shows a week are requested by viewers, but even more directly, once a week, I do live songwriting where I literally write a song live on the internet, taken from chat, and we’ve written over 100 songs now. It’s crazy.
Meri: It’s like live performance art. It’s coming together. That’s pretty interactive.
John: That’s got to be pretty hard because it’s not a pretty process. It’s not like, hey, I’m coming with a song I’ve been practicing for the last two weeks. It’s, no, no, we’re making this up right now. I don’t know how it’s going to go. This is going to be maybe not so pretty, the process itself, but then in the end, look what we did.
Meri: Well, some weeks are definitely better than others. We’ve had some pretty good weeks recently. We wrote a song that was The Apology You Asked For. That was recently written, and that was a passive-aggressive apology song where it’s like: I’m sorry you decided to cry. I’m sorry you tripped my foot and decided to fall. It hurt my foot, and you should watch where you walk. Things like that, it was a big passive-aggressive apology song.
John: That sounds hilarious.
Meri: Super fun to write, super fun.
John: Also, just what the general public is throwing out there and what they’re coming up with, and it’s like, wow, I would not have thought of that, but let’s weave that in, sure, sort of a thing.
Meri: Some people are really skilled. Some people have crazy skills. I don’t think they realize how skilled they are.
John: So, I guess, in general, I know that in your past — now, you’re doing this full-time, which is fantastic — I know that you did spend time in the corporate world. Do you have any words of encouragement for people that maybe have a hobby, maybe they’re a musician or a songwriter or something else, but they feel like it has nothing to do with their job?
Meri: Well, I think that, in general, humans are pretty multifaceted. To be properly happy within yourself, you can’t really deny yourself, if that makes sense. You have a love and a passion for something. I was once told that it’s both a gift and a curse. It’s a gift because obviously it means you can do this thing, and you can do it potentially better than others or with a unique twist. It’s also a curse because if you don’t do it, your mind will be clouded with guilt. You’ll constantly feel the pull and the urge to do it.
It is possible to do more than one thing at a time. Obviously, you’re going to have your main focus, but it’s more than possible to do more than one thing at a time. So, if you want your main focus to be your creative output, you can do that, while at the same time, studying, or you’re working part time. Or you could make your main focus your primary job, for example, an office job, while at the same time, working creatively. You’re doing your other passions beside it. I don’t think it’s possible to deny aspects of yourself and be fully happy and fulfilled within yourself.
John: Yeah, I love how you said that. It’s so true. Because even in the book that’ll be out in just a couple of weeks is, where it’s not an or, it’s an and. What’s your “and”? It’s not one or the other or the other. You don’t have to choose. You can be all of these things. You can’t untangle one part of yourself even if you’re in a different setting. You’re still that person with different dimensions to you. It’s just one that happens to be taking the lead.
Meri: Why would you want to?
Meri: It’s one of the things that makes you, you, is that there are so many different parts to you, so many things that you enjoy that come together to create you.
John: That’s so fantastic. So, it’s only fair, since I started out the episode, peppering you with questions which, what podcast have you ever been on where the host rudely fires away at you like that? So, now, it’s the Meri Amber Show, and I feel like this should be on Twitch, just for the sake of it. It’s the Meri Amber Show. You can now ask me questions, and I’m in the hot seat.
Meri: Okay. Prepare yourself, prepare yourself. The first question is, what season, if you had to live in one, would you live in? It’s the only season. There are no other seasons, all year round. Which season would it be?
John: I’m going to go fall or autumn. I’m a huge college football fan. That happens then. The leaves are changing, so it’s pretty, and it’s kind of a moderate temperature most of the time. Yeah, I’m going to go fall.
Meri: To watch the trees all year long, just…
John: Right? Well, no, instead of being green, they would just be red and yellow and orange and whatever, just before they turn brown and gross. Yeah.
Meri: Okay. Now, you mentioned college football, so this next question, I have a feeling this one’s going to get to you. I said, if there was only one season all year, what if there was only one sport in the entire world that you could choose, only one.
John: College football, hands down, and if this doesn’t happen this fall because of everything, I might lose my mind. Yeah, college football, that’s my thing. I’ll watch as much as I can with still being a functional human.
Meri: All right, all right. That wasn’t as hard as I thought. All right, so we were talking about various things you could do beside work, and one of the things, I think, I brought up was studying. If you were to study a degree, starting right now, so right now, you had to enroll in something, what would it be?
John: I don’t know. I guess I’m just curious on sales and marketing because I feel like when I did Accounting, that’s a really great base degree to have because at the end of the day, it all comes down to dollars, no matter what it is, but I feel like that secondary level of sales and marketing is certainly a big piece that I don’t naturally do well. Then again, I’d probably fail out, and it would be like ten years to get the degree but whatever.
Meri: Okay, now we’ve got an ordering question. I want you to order these: Cats, dogs, birds or fish. What order would you put those in?
John: Okay, so dogs are number one. Probably cats that act like dogs would be number two. A dog fish would be number three. Birds, birds are just weird. Birds make me nervous ‘cause they could fly, and I cannot — birds and snakes, it’s like, what are you doing? I don’t get it. You’re way too weird for me. Out in nature, I’m not scared of birds, but birds in homes, yeah, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just jealous. Maybe that’s what it is. I’m just jealous. I see those eagles, and I’m like, argh.
Meri: What about flying dogs?
John: Yeah, they’d probably weird me out. Yeah, that would be weird. So, yeah, that didn’t go as planned, I’m sure, but whatever.
Meri: That’s not the order I expected, dogs, cats that act like dogs, dog fish and then birds.
John: You wait ‘til they jump into your Twitch stream. That song is going to be so messed up.
Meri: Oh, dear. All right, last question, and this one’s relevant to the times right now. Obviously a lot of the world is in lockdown. I’m not sure if you’re in lockdown right now or not.
John: Oh, yeah.
Meri: Yes, you’re in lockdown. Okay, right now, what has been your coping mechanism of choice?
John: I guess wine, wine and ice cream, and way too much of it. Yeah, I’m nervous that my suit pants aren’t going to fit anymore because they’re not elastic. I’m sort of like, that next conference that’s in real life is going to be, we’ll see. I might have to do some laps around the neighborhood. So, yeah, probably that, I guess, and then, of course, finishing the book and getting that all ready to go.
Meri: That book looks amazing, by the way. For those who are listening, I have had a preview, and it looks really, really cool.
John: Awesome. Well, thanks, Meri. Yeah, and actually, pre-sales start mid-August, so, actually, very shortly. Meri, thanks so much for taking time to be a part of What’s Your “And”? This was super fun.
Meri: Yay! Thank you so very, very much for having me on, massively, massively appreciated.
John: Absolutely, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Meri in action or listen to her music or connect with her on social media or get the link to her Twitch channel, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything will be 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.
Gail is a CPA & Movie Buff & Writer
Gail Perry is a woman who can say she has done a lot of awesome things! She talks about how she transitioned from having a music major in college to picking up writing and journalism, to bookkeeping and running her own movie theater! She also talks about how these experiences helped her in her career as an accountant!
• Watching movies as a kid
• Becoming a ghost writer during her time in college
• Getting into bookkeeping & public accounting
• Running her own movie theater
• Why she felt reluctant to share about her hobbies at work
• Writing for the Dummies and Idiot’s guide franchises
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Welcome to Episode 285 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And” those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published in just a few weeks. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and changing the culture where they work because of it, and this book will really help to spread that message.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Gail Perry. She’s the editor-in-chief of CPA Practice Advisor Magazine and a CPA with her own tax practice who’s also written 34 books. If she had written mine, it’d be out by now, but now she’s with me here today. Gail, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Gail: Thanks, John. I really appreciate you having me on the show, and I’m looking forward to having a chat with you.
John: Absolutely. It was so fun meeting you in person at the ITA Conference a couple of years ago and glad that we were able to make this happen. You know the drill, 17 rapid fire questions. Get to know Gail in a new level. Here we go. Easy one at first, favorite color.
Gail: I think I would say yellow because it’s really happy.
John: Okay. All right. How about a least favorite color?
Gail: Maybe white because it’s pretty boring.
John: Okay. I see you. I see you. How about chocolate or vanilla?
Gail: I’m afraid it’s vanilla.
John: No, that’s good.
Gail: Not a fan of chocolate.
John: Okay, okay. How about pens or pencils?
Gail: Oh, my God. So, I can only write with a certain type of pen and a certain type of pencil. For pencil, it’s the Pentel 0.5 millimeter, the thinnest of the lead; and for pens, it’s the Pilot. It’s called the Better Ballpoint. It’s a fine tip, and you can’t get it in stores anymore, so I have to buy it by the case.
John: Oh, my goodness. That’s awesome. I love how particular you are. That’s fantastic. Now people know what to get you for Christmas.
John: So there you go, a case of pens. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Gail: Oh, I love them both. Sudoku if I’m in a hurry. Crossword if I have some time to take.
John: Yeah, I could see where you’re the writer and the tax person. You’re a little bit both. Yeah. You should just both hands. I’ve got the right hand, Sudoku, left hand… How about more early bird or night owl?
Gail: Totally night owl. If I have to do something at 6 or 7 in the morning, I just stay up for it.
John: That’s awesome. So great. Okay, this one might be tricky. Star Wars or Star Trek.
John: Okay. All right. How about your computer, more PC or Mac? PC. Yeah, me too. How about your mouse, right click or left click?
Gail: Left click.
John: Okay. Making decisions, I like that. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Gail: Oh, well we did the chocolate-vanilla thing already. I don’t like things in my ice cream, so vanilla — yeah.
John: Oh, so just plain vanilla.
John: Okay. Yeah, we are the opposite. I want all of the calories. I want to chew it.
Gail: Load it up.
John: Which is weird. Yeah, yeah. How about what’s a typical breakfast?
Gail: V8 juice and —
Gail: A hard-boiled egg.
John: Oh, nice.
Gail: Yeah. Or a bowl of potato chips and a bottle of root beer.
John: Okay. Now we’re being honest. There we go. There we go. This will be fun, balance sheet or income statement.
Gail: Oh, income statement all the way. I’m a tax person, so you are what you spend. I got to see the income and expenses.
John: There you go. How about cats or dogs?
Gail: Dog. 100% dog. My dog can eat your cat.
John: All right. What kind of dog do you have?
Gail: She’s a golden retriever actually. She doesn’t eat any other animals, but she has a scary bark.
John: Right. Then she just rolls over and lets you pet her belly.
John: How about a favorite number?
John: Four. Is there a reason?
Gail: There is, yeah. It’s movie-related. The very first movie I ever went to with a boy, I saved the ticket stub. I don’t have it still, but for a long time, I saved the ticket stub. You know ticket stubs have six numbers on them that mean nothing. I averaged those numbers because that’s also the accountant in me.
Gail: The average came to four.
John: Wow. That’s truly amazing.
Gail: It’s the weirdest story ever.
John: No, no. There’s always a fun reason of why they’re favorite numbers. Some people, it’s like, “It’s my birthday.” I’m like, that might be the best reason ever I just heard. How about least favorite vegetable?
Gail: Well, I have legume allergies, so I actually can’t eat peas and lentils and chickpeas, all that stuff, no hummus. I would say they’re my least favorite because I actually don’t even know what they taste like.
John: It’s hard to argue that. That’s a legitimate answer right there. How about more diamonds or pearls?
Gail: I think pearls.
John: Pearls, okay. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Gail: A favorite thing I own, I think, would be my flute.
John: Oh, okay.
Gail: I went to college as a Music major before all this other stuff happened.
John: Wow. Who could tell? Look at this. I had no idea. Do you still play?
Gail: I do some, but it’s been a while.
John: No, exactly. I used to play trombone in a marching band in college as well. However, walked or marched and played at the same time is beyond me. Also just your mouth and the muscles near your lips and everything, they’re shot when you stop playing regularly.
Gail: Marching band was great though. When I went to Indiana University, and they didn’t allow girls in the marching band when I was there, so I just — the little bit of rebel in me that I have, every fall when they would have marching band tryouts, I would show up.
Gail: And make them listen to me even though I knew I couldn’t be in the band.
John: Wow, that is so wild. Wow. Yeah. I mean they probably had no flutes.
Gail: No, they did not. They had piccolos. I was happy to play a piccolo too, but they wouldn’t let me in.
John: Right. Wow, that is crazy. All right. Also, I love the movie reference with the movie tickets.
John: Averaging out all the numbers. People didn’t even notice there were numbers on the tickets. Yeah. So, let’s talk movies. I remember at the ITA Conference, going around the room, and you were like, movies. I was like, what? That’s incredible. Did you grow up going to movies a lot? Or what drew you to this?
Gail: I did grow up going to movies a lot. I grew up in a Chicago suburb, Oak Park, where there were, I think it was five movie theaters within walking distance of where I lived. Walking distance was between one and two miles, but you can walk that far when you’re little.
Gail: And movies were super cheap when I was a kid, so we always saw all the movies, my friends and I. Anytime — it was an era where everybody played outside. You said goodbye to your mom after breakfast, and you ate lunch wherever you were playing at lunchtime, and then you came home for dinner. On rainy days, we’d either camp at somebody’s house and read books, or we’d go to the movie theater.
John: Nice. Yeah. Especially growing up at a Chicago suburb like that where you had access to so many theaters, then, yeah, you’re able to go and see so many. Were there some of the movies that you grew up watching that were some of your favorites?
Gail: I loved that blockbuster stuff, the big David Lean movies, Bridge Over the River Kwai. I loved Lawrence of Arabia and just the big screen spectacles that are larger than life. I think great movies should be larger than life.
John: Yeah. Because some of them, yeah, even I watched and I’m like, well, the end, you’re like, really? Did that just — what just happened? We could have just hung out and watch the wall and talk to each other.
Gail: Yeah, I know. I like movies that you have to see on a big screen.
John: Yeah, I could see that. That’s cool. So then, obviously, as you grew up and now in adult life, still big in the movies. Are you still going to theaters? Or is it more Netflix, Amazon, all that other — Hulu, whatever else is out there online, or a little of both?
Gail: It’s everything. I still, I love movie theaters. You can’t change that movie theater experience, just seeing a movie in a dark theater with the smell of popcorn and strangers all around you and hearing their reactions to the scenes. I remember when The Sting came out. I went with a girlfriend of mine. The Sting, if you recall, has some big surprises at the end, and the audience reactions were, including ours, were so like, oh, my God. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time I sat through a movie more than once, but we just turned to each other and said, “We need to sit through this again just to see another new audience and watch their reaction.”
John: Right. Once you know what’s going to happen and get their reaction.
John: That does add to the experience, for sure.
Gail: Yeah. So having the people there — and that’s not to say I don’t like a theater that’s all mine if I go to a theater especially on a Tuesday afternoon and I’m the only one there. I have a rule about that. My daughter and I came up with this rule that if we go in the theater, there’s usually music playing, if there’s nobody else there, you have to dance.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so good. So if it’s like you and two or three people but it’s your group.
Gail: Well, yeah, that’s my group then we all have to dance.
John: As soon as someone else walks in then it’s like, I didn’t see anything.
Gail: Yeah, exactly.
John: That’s super fun. That just makes it an experience, which I think is a lot of what’s missing nowadays when a lot of things are just two dimensional. You go to the theater and that surround sound all the way around you and plus the audience, and you’re in it together. You’re experiencing a movie as opposed to watching it.
Gail: Then if you have the great opportunity to go to one of the classic movie palaces, then it’s just a completely new experience. You think of the history of that theater. Because they don’t build them like that anymore, but just beautiful theaters that are ornate and housed generations and generations of people seeing incredible films, that’s a great experience.
John: Right. Is this something that you go to, to visit on purpose, or if you’re just in an area, you check it out?
Gail: I will make trips to movie theaters. It’s kind of a bucket list item because I love road trips, and I love classic movie theaters. There are books about all the classic theaters that are still in existence. So, yeah, that would be a dream trip, to just go around and visit all the ones that were built 100 years or so ago.
John: Right. Yeah. I mean just to think of all that, or even maybe the Marx Brothers came through, to do a performance.
Gail: I can’t believe you said that.
John: Things like that.
Gail: The Marx Brothers became the Marx Brothers — I mean they were brothers, and they were acting, but they took on the name, The Marx Brothers, at the theater my husband and I operated in Champagne, Illinois.
John: That’s incredible. I had no idea. Very cool. So then you guys operated a theater as well.
Gail: Yes. The theater was part of the old Orpheum vaudeville circuit. It’s the Orpheum Theater in Champagne, Illinois. When we took it over, we started learning the history of the theater because we were so entranced with this gorgeous place. When it was back in its vaudeville days, lots of — I mean all the Orpheum vaudeville stars came through there. One of the stories we learned was that The Marx Brothers performed there, and they decided, “Let’s call ourselves The Marx Brothers,” while they were there.
John: Wow. Yeah, in Champagne, Illinois, which is — yeah. Most people listening are like, I have no idea where that is. University of Illinois is there.
John: I totally know where that is. Wow, what a small world. That’s super cool. Just the comedy side of me was Marx Brothers. That’s very cool. So then, yeah, when you run your own theater, then you can just watch them all.
Gail: You can watch them all. Yeah.
John: That’s so neat. So neat. Then obviously the writing, I can’t dismiss that. 34 books, you don’t do one accident. I mean doing one is hard enough. Does it become easier?
Gail: It does become easier, yeah. It’s still a challenge. Every time I start one, I think, oh, I’ve got this because I’ve written so many, but then I realize, oh, this is not easy. It’s easier than the first time was.
John: Yeah. Okay. All right. I think that the dovetails with the movies and story and all of this, and you’re growing up with that. Do you feel like that’s enhanced or impacted your writing side?
Gail: Absolutely. In fact, some of the things I write for CPA Practice Advisor are about movies.
John: Oh, wow. Okay.
John: But certainly there’s a creative side of you that’s not all black and white tax.
Gail: Absolutely. Yes. It started, so I went to school as a Music major. Here’s what happened. As a Music major at Indiana University, you couldn’t practice your instrument in the dormitories because you’d drive everyone else out of the dorm. So you had to go practice outside of the dorm. They had practice rooms around campus, and you reserved those rooms. You couldn’t just walk in.
As a freshman, I had last choice. The freshman always had the last choice in getting the room, so my practice time was like 8:00 at night, somewhere way across campus from where I lived which was really uncomfortable on several levels. Not only was it dark and in the winter it was cold, but also all my friends were ordering pizza and sitting around the dorm, doing their homework together and having a good time. Here I was, putting on a coat and trudging off in the dark to practice my flute. I became an enemy with my flute at that point because it was like the flute’s fault that I had to do this.
So after my freshman year, I decided I still wanted to do something creative. As a side note, during my freshman year, I had taken freshman English Composition which was a required course. My professor, who was one of my greatest inspirations, loved my writing, said, “You need to be doing this, and what you need is just lots of practice. Just stay comfortable and just keep pen on the paper, just keep yourself going.” This professor suggested, because every freshman on campus needed to take English Composition and 90% of them hated it, he said, “You could actually make a living doing ghostwriting for all these kids who have to do freshman Comp classes.”
John: Oh, wow. So it’s like you’re still in college forever.
John: That’s hilarious.
Gail: So I started doing this. I actually became the house writer for several fraternity houses on campus.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Gail: Who doesn’t want to write for fraternity boys? So I would write their compositions for them, and they pay me. That was great. That was a little side hustle when I was a freshman. So after freshman year of doing the late night practicing and stuff, I decided I wanted to have the fun in the dorms with my friends. I want homework that keeps me in the dorm, so why not just do this writing instead.
I wasn’t certain what I wanted to do with that, whether I wanted to go into Creative Writing or what, but Journalism seemed like a really good option because then I could write for the paper, or I could figure out what I want to write, and I could get a lot of practical skills. So I changed my major to Journalism and got to do my homework in the dorms which was important.
John: Right, and hang out. Yeah.
John: That’s an amazing story. That’s great that the professor’s like, “Yeah, yeah, go ghostwrite.”
Gail: Yeah. Go help these people cheat.
John: Right. That’s insane.
Gail: It is. Yeah.
John: That’s so funny.
Gail: It was wonderful.
John: Yeah. I mean now there’s the Internet, unfortunately, but, yeah, you could be a gazillionaire.
John: That’s awesome. Yeah. You got your writing chops in and writing all different kinds of topics, I’m sure, because everybody had them, which leads into obviously giving you a skill set that you bring to the office.
Gail: Well, and actually, there was an additional thing. My third year on campus, which later became known as my first junior year on campus.
Gail: I needed to really make a living. Years ago, my dad had a business and when I was in high school, had taught me basic bookkeeping skills. So I figured I could actually get a job job doing this instead of just writing papers for the fraternity boys. So I did that. I started working as a bookkeeper and from then on until I graduated, which took six years because from then on, I couldn’t go full-time because I was working. Each semester, I’d see how many courses I could buy based on how much I had saved from bookkeeping, so I had three and half years of bookkeeping under my belt by the time I graduated with a degree in Journalism. So that was how they sort of met, those two pieces of me.
Then I got out of school. I decided I’ll do this some more, some bookkeeping because I already know how to do this as a job. Then I decided to go back to school and actually get a CPA. So I did that and put in my time at Deloitte in Chicago so I could get licensed and actually be a CPA. At this point I’m married, and I’m in Chicago. All I’m doing is going to movies when I’m not working for Deloitte. Married a movie buff, my husband and I were going to movies all the time, many times a week. We got to know some of the movie theater owners in the Chicago area because they saw us. “You were just here yesterday, weren’t you?”
Gail: So got to talking about what it takes to run a movie theater and it just sounded so cool. We thought, well, we’re kind of young, and we could do this. It may not take, but let’s just do it now because we’ll probably never going to get a chance again. My husband was teaching law school, so his schedule was kind of flexible. I decided I would quit my job and do full-time movie theater. We couldn’t get a theater in the Chicago area because the union is so tough up there. Unless you own several, you really can’t make it work.
His parents lived in Champagne, so we thought, let’s just go down there. There happened to be the Orpheum movie theater which was struggling. We talked to the owners of it and said, “You’re having trouble with this anyway, why don’t you just rent it to us?” They said, “Okay.” We knew nothing about anything about running a business except that we loved movies. So we went down that path. We did it for just over a year, but the thing is we ran a business. We ran every aspect of that business. I learned so much about small businesses and payroll and employees and cash flow and building maintenance and how to run a movie projector and all the stuff that goes with it.
That became part of my groundwork for going back into public accounting, and I could really talk on a different level to our clients because I’d been there. When I ultimately started going into writing, I wrote on a level that was conversational and plain English which means I wrote for dummies and I wrote for idiots because that’s where the voice is.
John: Right. Yeah. That’s where most of us are, to be honest. You use all these big fancy words, and now I’ve got to go to the dictionary and look it up, then come back and I forget what page I was on and all this. It’s easier for people to digest as well.
John: Wow. What a fascinating story where, in several of these moments, it feels like absolute chaos. I don’t know which way is up from down and whatever. If you look back now, it’s almost an exact straight line.
Gail: I know. It seemed like a flow. Although some of the early books I wrote, got me out on book tours which was fun. I was on a book tour for The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Doing Your Income Taxes, and I was introduced as this CPA and then they brought me up onstage. I was speaking to an auditorium of people, and I started out by saying, it seems like if you look how I got here, that I just followed a lot of sharp turns that nothing actually goes together, but it actually is completely a flow. I’m not sure anyone could follow that path if they tried to do it on purpose.
Gail: But it all just, for one reason or another, it all just led completely to where I am now.
John: Yeah. It’s similar for me because people ask, “Well how do you get to where you’re — I don’t even know. I don’t even know how to tell you to do this. If you follow in my footsteps, it’s really hard so maybe don’t do that. But you had to go through that to get to where you are now, so it’s like, I don’t know. That’s so cool though and really awesome. Especially to hear how you’re able to take these things and make them more relatable to your clients, whether it’s talking about movies or it’s knowing how to run a small business like the movie theater or it’s writing in a way that people will actually understand.
Imagine a movie where everyone uses just giant words. That would be a terrible movie. I don’t think blockbusters use more than three-syllable words because you want to hear the story. You want to get in. If I’m too busy trying to digest the words then it takes too long to get the story. That’s awesome and so cool. So cool. Did you ever feel reluctant to share this side of you with clients or even when you were at Deloitte back in the day? Or was it, this is who I am, take it or leave it?
Gail: No. Especially at Deloitte, actually, I was pretty reluctant to share because most people who go through accounting school, they do four years of accounting school, which I didn’t do; they take the CPA exam, which I did do; they get into a firm like Deloitte, but they followed a certain path. They pretty much all followed the same path and so their experience is way different from mine.
I felt a little bit like I cheated because my Bachelor’s was in Journalism, then I went back to school. All I did was take accounting courses for a year and a summer and then I sat for the CPA exam. I didn’t go through the whole four-year curriculum that most of them did. Although I’d had experience bookkeeping and running a business, which most of them hadn’t, but I felt that I didn’t follow the right path, so I didn’t talk about my past much.
John: Yeah, yeah, or even just going to the movies or what movie you just saw or things like that. Yeah. Because you just feel like you don’t relate sort of a thing, but then at some point, that teeter-totter obviously tipped, or is it still something that you don’t share as much?
Gail: No, I share it all now. I don’t care.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Gail: It basically tipped when, after the movie theater, my husband and I decided to start a family. I decided I’d go back into public accounting, but I was able to get part-time jobs which, at the time, wasn’t as easy as it is now. I thought I can raise my kids and work part-time in accounting. Basically I worked tax seasons and then a little bit the rest of the year. Then I got into training people in the accounting firm because I was like one step ahead of them in terms of a lot of things. Also, I hadn’t mentioned this, but I had a minor in Computer Science when I was in college too because I just couldn’t resist.
John: Right, mine as well. Right?
Gail: Yeah. This was when computers were just coming in on the scene, so I could learn this stuff really fast because I knew how computers worked and then I could teach it. That’s how training started, and that evolved into writing because I was writing, I mean writing technical stuff because I was writing the training manuals for my classes.
Eventually, I decided I really wanted to be home with my kids. I could take this writing and make it a thing. That’s what I did. I left public accounting and went to full-time writing which turned into accounting journalism. At the beginning that was just writing books. I’d write two or three a year and do some editing. I wrote a column for the Indianapolis newspaper, so I had money coming in from a variety of different sources. It was a splotchy period, but I was doing it from home before being home was cool.
Gail: It was great. It worked out well.
John: Yeah, that’s fascinating. That’s really fascinating. I think we are reluctant at first to share those outside of work sides of us. Why do you think that is? If you would have met a stranger out and about or at a bar or coffee shop and they would have said, “Oh, what do you like to do,” you would have talked movies. No problem. But then you’re in a Deloitte office or you’re in an accounting whatever, for some reason we don’t want to do that, even to this day, a lot of people.
Gail: Yeah. It’s a little bit cutthroat. There’s that. I at least had a feeling nobody else was going to movies, three or four nights a week.
John: Well, certainly. Yeah. I don’t think anyone goes to movies like — but even once a month.
Gail: Yeah, exactly.
John: Even then they weren’t —
Gail: One of the great parts about operating a movie theater was that all my movie expenses were deductible.
John: Totally. Exactly. Because even if you add up, well we’re going to make less money; yeah, but we’re also going to spend less. We can add that, in theory, to our income and be like, wow, we are making so much money.
John: Because you’re not spending three to four days a week buying tickets.
Gail: Yeah. I felt a little bit of this is not serious accounting business, so I kept my personal life to myself when I was working there.
John: Yeah, yeah, but then now that you do share, do you find that it gives you a unique relationship with people or something else to talk about?
Gail: Definitely something else to talk about, yeah.
John: Because that’s what I found too, is it seems like most of the people that are on here, once they do start sharing, they’re like, wow, I wish I had done this sooner. Because people light up, and especially movies. It’s like, wow. Who hates — I’m not even sure if there are people that hate movies. People may be just indifferent or whatever.
Gail: There are people who hate to sit through a movie. There are people who hate movie theaters.
John: Those people are evil, evil people you don’t want to be around. I’m just kidding. I’m kidding.
Gail: I just don’t understand them.
John: Right. Exactly. It’s like, what? It’s probably those weirdos that like chunks in their ice cream. That’s who it is.
Gail: Something like that, yeah.
John: Right, right. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that maybe has a hobby or a passion that they feel like has nothing to do with their job?
Gail: For me, it was almost like in my life, I’ve been sitting in a little boat going down a stream, and I let the current take me. I just think rather than trying to force yourself into a position, just go with the flow. That’s very cliché, but for me that’s worked really well. When opportunities come, I assess them. If it seems like it’s good, even if it’s not a direction I saw myself going in, I’m not afraid to take those chances.
John: Yeah, and it clearly — some of those are driven by your outside of work hobbies and passions and then some of it’s dovetailing with the hobbies and passions, with your job or just in some way not letting that side of you go. That’s what I think is really interesting through all of this is that your relationship with accounting was in and out, hot and cold, if you will, but your relationships with movies and writing was always there. At no point did you ever stop going to movies. I think that that’s really important for us to take away is that these passions and interests are with us through everything. That’s awesome.
Before I wrap this up, it’s only fair that I allow you to now become the host and rapid fire question me since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning. So I’ll let you fire away.
Gail: All right. Do you have a favorite movie or a few favorite movies? If so, why are they your favorites?
John: Well, I went to college in the Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, David Spade, Chris Farley heyday, so, Ace Venture, Dumb and Dumber, and Tommy Boy, just those movies that are like, you can turn it on and laugh within the first two minutes. It’s kind of an escape. On the flip side, I really do like Good Will Hunting, I thought was a really great movie and really deep, and some of those movies that just make you think about things a little bit differently on the flip side. I like super, super shallow and then super, super deep, I guess. I want to be taken somewhere, moved somewhere, in the end. Some of those movies where, you watch it, and I’m like, is there a second half, what happened type of thing. Are we where we first started? This is an hour and a half. I’m not getting that, those kind of thing. Of course, Rudy. I graduated from Notre Dame.
Gail: Oh, yeah.
John: If I even just hear the music, I will start to cry. It’s just like I’m just a baby when it comes to that too. Yeah, a lot of those sports movies, man, I will cry at all of them.
Gail: I love feel-good sports movies. That’s a great genre.
John: So that’s where I’m at.
Gail: One more question. We’re, of course, on behalf of our audience, so I’ll just share the fact that we’re recording this in the time of Coronavirus, so my question is, what are you streaming?
John: Oh, that’s interesting. My wife and I are watching Billions. It’s on Showtime but through stream, catching up on that because we never, never watched that. Yeah, that’s pretty much it and then just movies here and there I guess. It’s hard though because you’ve either seen it or they just took it away or whatever. You’re like, oh, no, type of thing. Where, had we not been going through all of this, then never would have known. Great question. Really great question.
Thank you so much, Gail, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This is super fun.
Gail: Super fun. Thanks for having me.
John: Absolutely. Everyone, if you want to see some pictures of Gail outside of work or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Erin is an Accountant & Writer
Erin Kidd talks about how she found her passion for writing when she first started at Thompson Greenspon and how she found it to be a great way to communicate and relate to clients! She also talks about her passion for supporting fellow military spouses!
• Getting into writing
• Communicating and building trust with clients through writing
• Writing articles for Thomson Reuters
• Being a military spouse and talking about it in the office
• The Seasonal Military Spouse Remote Preparer Program
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 277 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and,” those things above and beyond your technical skills and the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published very, very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and changing the cultures of where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Erin Kidd. She’s a Tax Individual Program Manager at Thompson Greenspon in Fairfax, Virginia. Now, she’s with me here today. Erin, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Erin: Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
John: Well, this is going to be awesome. You know the drill is 17 rapid fire questions out of the gate. Get to know Erin on another level.
Here we go, first one. Oceans or mountains?
Erin: Oh, ocean, I guess.
John: How about a favorite actor or actress?
Erin: Oh, that’s so hard. Sandra Bullock, I’d have to say.
John: Oh, that’s a good answer. Very good answer. How about a favorite color?
Erin: Ocean blue.
John: Oh, okay. All right. All right. How about a least favorite color?
John: Orange, yeah. I hear you on that one.
Erin: It’s not my fave.
John: Yeah, yeah. How about are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Erin: Oh, I’m definitely not a night owl. I’m an early bird by default, but I’m probably in bed by 7:30 on Friday. That’s an exciting Friday night for me.
John: That’s awesome. That’s hilarious. How about more pens or pencils?
Erin: Probably pencils actually. I don’t like to make a mistake. I like being able to correct it quickly and maybe nobody notices, right? That’s one.
John: Erase, and there you go. Okay. How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
John: Sudoku, yeah. That’s how I do my tax returns. I probably shouldn’t have told an enrolled agent but whatever.
Erin: They’ll be fine.
John: Whatever. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Erin: Probably Star Wars.
John: Okay, all right. On your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Erin: PC all the way.
John: Yeah, me too. And your mouse, right-click or left-click?
Erin: Right-click? That’s where all the cool stuff is. Open up all the options.
John: How about do you have a favorite animal? Any animal?
Erin: Probably a cat.
John: A cat, okay.
Erin: Yeah. I mean they’re just kind of — they don’t really care about what you got going on. They’re pretty independent, but occasionally, you get lucky and they want to bless you with their presence.
John: I feel like that’s a bit of your spirit animal a little bit.
Erin: Yeah, it might be a little bit.
John: That’s awesome. How about a favorite place that you’ve been on vacation?
Erin: Oh, Anna Maria Island in Florida. I go every year with my mom and my sister. We go in May. It’s what I look forward to after tax season so yeah. We got a Mother’s Day weekend. We’ve gone like the last four years. It’s fantastic.
John: Yeah. That’s really great, really great. How about when it comes to tax returns, more corporate or personal?
Erin: Oh, personal definitely. That’s what I specialize in. I look at the other stuff, I’m like, I don’t want to deal with it.
John: Right? Too many loopholes. How about diamonds or pearls?
John: Diamonds, okay. We got three more. How about a favorite number?
John: Eleven. Is there a reason?
Erin: January 11 is my wedding anniversary. Most people say they like even numbers. I like the odd number because there’s one in the middle and it’s even on either side. I don’t know. I just like it.
John: Okay. No, I hear you. How about a favorite movie of all time?
Erin: Wonder Woman.
John: There you go. All right. Very cool. Last one. The favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Erin: Actually, the favorite thing I own now is 14 acres on the side of a mountain in West Virginia.
John: Oh, nice.
Erin: That’s why I struggled with your mountain versus ocean kind of thing. It faces west and it’s our retirement property. We’ve got two payments left and then we just need to you know, put a driveway and a house on it.
John: That’s fantastic. That’s very cool, very cool. It faces west so you get the sunset?
John: There you go. Yeah. Hopefully, you’re up late enough for when the sunset happens.
Erin: You know, maybe in the winter.
John: I’m teasing. No, but that’s so great to get to know you.
So yeah, let’s talk. I mean the writing. How did you get into that? Is that something you’ve been doing since you were younger or you got into it later in life?
Erin: Well, probably a little later in life. I mean I always kind of wanted to be a writer. I love to read. That’s kind of my favorite thing to do. I love to read, and I wanted to — but I found I can’t write fiction. So non-fiction is kind of where it’s at. I’ve been doing a few things, and then when I start my job at Thompson Greenspon, I specialize in individual taxes. There’s a lot of down time when you first you know, particularly when you come on board somewhere, right? You’re kind of in the middle waiting for things to happen.
We had a blog but it wasn’t very robust. I started kind of just filling my time doing that and you know, other accountants, they don’t care to write so they like that.
John: You’re exactly right. I mean writing isn’t necessarily the forte, really communicating for some reason, not really the forte. So good for you because I mean yeah, it takes all kinds to make that happen. That’s interesting.
Erin: I don’t know. I just found it’s a way particularly for clients, you’ll find that you’ll ask the same questions over and over again. If you can write something that communicates with the client and answers those questions, those are things they’re going to reach out for and look for and kind of build that trust with them.
I’m also the credit financial counselor. I just collect acronyms for name. I just look for things to do. That was another way that I kind of found things to do writing, that I can help communicate some of that basic you know, personal finance type activities.
John: Right, right. Most of it’s for the firm blog and things along those lines like technical expertise writing, if you will?
Erin: A lot of it is that but I try to write it you know, we write in layman’s terms. You have to remember your audience. That’s the hardest part I think for folks who are in our industry trying to write is remembering who their audience is.
We try to make it very conversational and it’s something that’s acceptable for clients to eat in little bites. I started a little bit and actually been able to write a couple of articles for Thomson Reuters.
John: Oh, nice.
Erin: Yeah, that was kind of a big bucket list item I was super excited about that. I really like the actual practice management type stuff. That’s a little bit different than what we write on the firm’s blog or for yeah, some military spouse type places that I’ve been writing for.
John: Yeah. It keeps you busy. I mean it’s that creative side that balances out the income tax side, if you will. Plus, yeah, there’s a lot of time when there’s not income taxes happening, and so yeah, like you said, it fills that time.
Erin: I love to get people like a checklist or an item or you know, something that they can take away with them. It drives me crazy when I see these things on you know, this is how you do this but they don’t really tell you how to do it, but you explain the concept and not a checklist or like okay, the mechanics of this is what you do, so trying to put that information out there, I think is helpful. I mean I like it so I figure at least one other person out there is going to look for it, right?
John: Totally, totally. Because I mean yeah, if you’re always trying to just create something that other people like, then it’s not going to be good. It’s going to be something that you also like and care about for sure. That’s fantastic. You touched on it briefly, but the military spouse, I mean obviously, that’s something you’ve been doing maybe even longer than the writing?
Erin: I’m a third-generation military spouse so evidently, we like the uniform. I’m not really sure. What’s going on there? We don’t learn. My husband was active duty for 22 years. My dad was 20 years. My grandfather was 20 years in the military. So it’s kind of all I’ve known and that’s kind of sometimes, we hold that close to our military spouses because unemployment for military spouses is a pretty rough topic or underemployment, so we do a lot of those gig type things. We just fill it in; the writing, the whatever, lots and lots of volunteering, that kind of stuff. So yeah, kind of who I am.
John: I believe it, because I mean I never thought about that because my father was career Air Force, which I don’t know if it counts as military but it’s the Air Force.
Erin: He was just smarter than everybody else.
John: That’s also funny for the other people in the military. But yeah, he was career Air Force and yeah, it’s got to be so hard because every two or three years, we were moving and yeah, so to have a job or to interview with a place where they’re going to ask you right away, are you leaving in two or three years, and they might hold that against you which is crazy because even civilians can move in two or three years. I mean it doesn’t matter if you’re military or not. If you have the skills, you should be hired there type of thing.
I think that’s great, the stuff that you’re doing advocating for that, and the team that you’ve built there for you, do you want to tell people about that? I think it’s really fantastic.
Erin: It’s probably my favorite thing about our firm is that they were willing to embrace this opportunity. We were in the Metro DC area. We’ve got a huge military spouse population but we don’t just work with them. Most accountants know you’ve got compression during tax season, right? You’ve got pretty much eight weeks where you’re trying to get as much done as you can.
In order to deal with that, we ended up creating this seasonal military spouse remote prepare program. They are employees. I recruited them from my credit financial counselor group on Facebook, military spouses and you know, are you interested in this? Have you done taxes before? What are you doing? And so we’ve built a team. This is our fifth year.
We’re addressing an issue that every accounting firm has. Everybody has this compression problem. Not that there’s anything wrong with outsourcing overseas or doing that kind of stuff, but we’re outsourcing military spouses who are sharpening their skills or who have done this before, for other firms. It has been a great opportunity to continue that.
John: Yeah. Everybody wins. I mean everybody, like you said, I mean the firm has a need and so you’re going to outsource it to whether it’s local or it’s overseas or whatever, but then because of you sharing this is a passion of mine and this is who I am as a person, then you’re able to weave those two together which I think is really magical and had you not shared that side of you or they didn’t care about that side of you, then who knows where that work would’ve gone?
Erin: We have that conversation a lot, military spouses. Do I tell them I’m a military spouse? Do I not? Do I keep it hidden? You know, it’s a big part of your life to kind of not share with the people you work with, right? This is your everyday life.
Being able to share that with them created this great opportunity and they were willing to do it. It doesn’t hurt that we have a large government contracting practice. So now, this is kind of you know, we’re also supporting this other piece of the military life. It definitely has created opportunity, people look for it every year, I get emails. Are you still hiring? Are you going to do this again? People talk about it. They’re great, the folks that do it, we have people in Oregon, we’ve got people in Alaska, we’ve got people in Georgia, Delaware, I mean we’re in Virginia. We’ve got some in Tennessee this year.
If I can get any of those no tax states or payroll folks like that, I don’t know. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity. It’s a great way to address the need that we all have.
John: I love it. I think it’s so fantastic. Is there a thing that you shouldn’t share? I mean maybe if it’s illegal, but something like being a military spouse is such a big piece of who you are. You can’t unwind the two. We can’t just have Erin and Erin. Erin’s a military spouse. It comes with you, and why not share?
Erin: And it was always a struggle before. We’re not a protected class. People are going to say, are you a military spouse? You’re like, I don’t think that’s relevant. It’s difficult. We talk about how to address those things. Like you said, civilians change their job every two years. You’re going to have that staff. They move all the time. But I’m here. I’m flexible. I’m adaptable. I have resources. I can do these things. If you get me, you’re getting somebody who’s committed to doing a great job.
So being able to sell that is really important and sharing that, but sometimes, it doesn’t work. People don’t want to hire military spouses or you end up being underemployed which is the other problem. You’re always starting over entry level. You’ve left every time. I ended up staying at home for 14 years writing piecemeal, working on my masters, collecting letters to go after my name.
John: Other certifications.
Erin: There’s nothing to do, and working seasonally, or a lot of folks go into entrepreneurship. They end up working for themselves because they can take it with them.
John: Right, right. But it’d be the same as if somebody were to ask you in an interview, are you a writer?
John: Yeah, that too. I mean these are all facets of who I am as a person and they’re hiring all of you, not just the accountant part. It applies to every single person that’s in that office, and other professions as well. I mean it’s not just an accounting thing, for sure. I think it’s great that you do share. Not only that, but you’re embracing others across the country that are in similar position that you were in.
Erin: Absolutely. Anybody who wants to build a similar program, wants to work on that, I mean I’ve talked to several different people, different firms, would love to help them try to implement something on their own to be able to do it as well. I think it can be a great thing and everybody’s out there. We’re looking for work. I want to do it.
John: But I also believe that I mean in your specific case, that the relationship that you have with those people is next level, I mean right away because you both get each other, and even if someone has a different passions, interests, or life, then at least they get who you are but in this case, I mean everyone’s lived the same life. It’s like yeah, we know what it’s like.
We get this. We know the acronyms. We know whether the guard’s going to salute us or not, whether we’re going on base, we know all these things. That’s got to be really fun and make work a little bit more engaging for everyone.
Erin: It’s great to be able to speak with them. We speak the same language. Not only do we speak this tax jargon that we’ve got going on, but we’ve got this other sets of acronyms and jargon that we all know as well. I was just thinking like the OPTEMPO, right? The operational tempo of the military has been just insane for the last 20 years.
It is completely different than when let’s say my dad was in the military and that impact that it has on families and being able to address that and understand that we can do this remotely. We have the flexibility. The world is small. Being able to know and saying you know, I understand that you’ve got whatever or your spouse is TDY, on temporary duty somewhere and you can’t work, they just calm down.
John: No, I know what you meant.
Erin: So you need to work at night rather in the morning, or you know, so we don’t have these iron-clad core hours for our remote team. We give them the opportunity to create their hours. We just want to know when we should expect you or how long we should expect you.
John: Exactly, yeah. If that communication is there, then why not? I mean as long as the end-product gets done, maybe it’s a little bit more difficult to manage because then it’s not just hammering everyone flat, everyone do the same thing. It’s you know, we need this done by this time, and then whatever you’re doing, I don’t care, that type of thing.
Erin: Get it done.
John: Yeah. If you’re having some problems, then let me know, type of a thing. I think that those relationships are huge and you have people coming back like you know, telling their friends. Hey, you got to get in on that. Clearly, that’s important because they’re not in on it because it’s tax prep work, they’re in on it because I get to work with other people that also care about me, and I care about them to another level.
Good for you. I think that that’s really powerful and something that I think that as professionals, we sometimes forget, or we let it slide I guess, whether it’s on purpose or accidental, I think it’s fantastic.
It’s crucial. It’s really, really important. How much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create that culture where share those other sides of you or how much is it on the individual to maybe just you know what? In my little circle, I’m going to do this.
Erin: I think it’s maybe a little bit of both. You have to feel safe, or the whole part is that you’re in this relationship and this culture that you feel safe, to share the authentic pieces of you. I’ve heard something the other day which was great. You don’t necessarily need to bring your whole self to work, just bring your authentic self to work, who you really are, but maybe leave a little bit at home, which I thought was great because I was like, oh, yeah, maybe I should not talk about some of those things.
But being able to share things that are important to you, things that touch you, things that move you that are important, you spend way too much time at work to not do that. In particular, when you’re working on 60-70 hours a week, maybe during the busy season, and people worked — not just accountants, other folks work these crazy hours too. Attorneys have cases or you know, whatever. And being able to have depth in your relationships, that creates trust, those small moments create trust. That’s what creates you know, a great support network.
John: That’s exactly it right there, because I mean especially in the accounting profession, everyone wants to now be called a trusted advisor but if you’re not creating this depth, and if you’re not being vulnerable and if you’re not opening up and sharing these other sides of you, then you’re not a trusted advisor, you’re an advisor-advisor.
Erin: Right, or historian, right?
John: There you go. That’s exactly it. Why do you think it is that our default mode is to not share?
Erin: Maybe we’ve been burned or we’ve been told, oh, people don’t need to know that. They’re not your friends. They’re just people — you know, and okay, maybe they’re not your friends-friends, but maybe they are or maybe they can be, you sit all the time with these folks, and I think having an understanding of one another that allows you to have a real life.
Our firm really works on work-life balance and knowing that you have a real life outside of preparing tax returns or audits or whatever it is that you do. I think having those relationships make it happen.
John: No, for sure. I mean it makes business better. I mean even from one department to the other, I mean if somebody has a smaller client that you do both the audit and the tax, well, instead of just sending an email to the tax department and getting angry when they don’t get back to you. Instead, it’s well, I’ll just go Erin. We’re friends. We talk about normal life things, type of a thing. It makes everything better.
Plus, I think, people want to work where people care about them and more than just a work product. Like you’re doing with that group that you have, I mean people care, and you care. That’s an emotion that’s not always in the professional world unfortunately.
I guess does your firm do anything specific to encourage people sharing? Or is it just more of a tone at the top sort of a thing?
Erin: I think it’s really just kind of a tone at the top. When we talk about young staff and mentoring them on how to become professionals or learn their way in the world and what they’re doing, we tell them don’t just look for board opportunities wherever, or don’t just look for volunteer opportunities wherever. If you’re interested in animal welfare and you want to just volunteer whatever the humane society, then do that, and just having those conversations or you work at the PTA, you don’t have to be the treasurer of the PTA.
Erin: Or just having the volunteer activity and being able to do that, that’s going to make you more likely to build a connection to build a relationship and somebody’s like, oh, what do you do? Oh, I’m an accountant. Oh, you know what? My neighbor was just talking about blah, blah, blah. That’s where those referrals come from, where that working connection comes from.
John: Yeah. I mean business comes from it.
Erin: Yeah, absolutely.
John: That’s an excellent example of join boards, volunteer at organizations that you are passionate about, not whatever the firm spins a wheel and tells you, you have to go do this one. It’s like well, I don’t care about that, then don’t do that. And yeah, you don’t have to be the treasurer for the love of god. Tell them you don’t do math after 5:00 p.m.
Erin: Right? If there’s a distillery, and you happen to be interested in that, you know, hey, go look and see what they’re doing. Go find out.
John: Exactly. That’s fantastic. That’s really awesome. Before I wrap this up, do you have words of encouragement for anyone listening that thinks that you know, my passion or interest has nothing to do with my job?
Erin: Just don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to be real. Be authentic. Be yourself. Get it out there. Be a good person. Do the right thing. That’s going to take you a really long way.
John: It’s so simple but yet so foreign.
John: But such great advice. I mean just don’t be afraid and just be you. This has been so much fun, Erin. But before I bring it in for the landing, it’s only fair that I allow you to rapid fire question me if you’d like since I rudely started out the episode peppering you with questions so you’re now the host. Here we go.
Erin: Fantastic. I’ve got three questions for you. Favorite food.
John: Favorite food. Wow, yeah. This is hard. I don’t know. I mean a really good lasagna is always good. I’m going to end up eating half of the pan. That’s always — just not salad, or I mean salad’s good but like yeah.
Erin: Something with lots of cheese and carbs.
John: Yeah. Meat and yeah. You’re supposed to have a heart attack while you’re eating it, something like that.
Erin: Perfect. Movie or escape room?
John: You know, I’ve never done the escape room.
Erin: They’re fantastic. You have to do it.
John: Escape room. There we go.
Erin: They’re amazing.
John: I don’t think I’ve been to a movie theatre in a long time. I mean they’re just on the TV. Netflix and Amazon and yeah. So escape room.
Erin: Escape room. Yeah, you really should. Highly recommend. It’s awesome. Fiction or non-fiction?
John: You know, non-fiction, I’m kind of a nerd like that on those kind of books but yeah, I think more non-fiction is more my thing. I guess I mean by definition, it’s more real. So there we go.
John: Surprise. As I was getting ready to say, of course it is, it’s called non-fiction, you moron. But anyway, no. But this has been so much fun, Erin. Thanks so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Erin: Thank you.
John: Totally. For anyone who wants to see some pictures of Erin outside of work or maybe connect with her on social media, and see some of her writing, make sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends, so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Ingrid is the Priestess of Profits & Writer & Musician
The Priestess of Profits, Ingrid Edstrom, returns to the podcast from episode 54 to tell us about her recent professional achievements and her journey of shifting her business towards consulting.
• What sparked her business shift
• Top 40 under 40 in the accounting industry
• Writing a book
• Fighting the ‘Imposter Syndrome’
• Getting rid of the ‘Zero Sum Game’ mindset
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 228 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday I’m following up with a guest who’s been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work, and also hear how this message has impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited let everyone know that my book is being published very soon. It will be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details, or sign up for my exclusive list and you’ll be the first to know when it’s coming out.
Please don’t forget to hit Subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes of this podcast every Wednesday and now with Follow-Up Fridays. I love sharing such interesting stories each week. This Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Ingrid Edstrom. She’s the Priestess of Profits at Polymath in Ashland, Oregon. I love the alliteration. That’s off the roof. Now she’s with me here today.
Ingrid, thanks so much for taking time to be with me with What’s You’re “And”?
Ingrid: Thanks so much for having me again, John. This is a lot of fun to be able to come and catch up with you.
John: Oh, totally. I mean, so much fun. I remember hanging out at QuickBooks Connect several years ago, and then you’ve been on the show and then all that. So it’s just cool to catch up again from episode way back in the day when you were on Episode 54. That’s crazy, crazy.
Ingrid: I didn’t know you were writing a book. That’s so exciting. I can’t wait to learn more about your book.
John: Yes, it’s coming out very soon. Yeah, it’s basically this message just blown out in a book form. I think that’ll help spread as well. So people read it, and they’re like, “Hey, you got to read this” type of thing. So people that haven’t met me or see me speak, help spread the message above and beyond the podcast world.
Ingrid: It’s such an important message. Thanks again for having me today.
John: Oh, that means so much. Thanks, Ingrid. But yeah, we start out, before we get into the fun, it’s super fun with the rapid-fire questions right out of the gate. So here we go. Seven, I got seven for you. First one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Ingrid: Oh, I think Harry Potter because I haven’t read the book series yet, but Game of Thrones, the last season, just didn’t — it didn’t end well for me. I was like, you know, they kind of dropped the ball there.
John: Right, it ruined it all. What’s a typical breakfast?
Ingrid: Protein shake or eggs.
John: Protein shake. Okay. Okay. Do you have a favorite food, any food at all?
Ingrid: Oh, man. Probably chocolate.
John: Nice. That’s a good answer. That’s a good answer. That leads me right into the next one, brownie or ice cream?
Ingrid: It depends on the day, but brownie with ice cream on it is like the best thing ever.
John: That’s a completely fair answer. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
John: Cold. Okay. Two more. You travel a fair amount. When you’re on an airplane, window seat or aisle seat?
Ingrid: Window, always.
John: Nice. Okay. And the last one, maybe the most important one, toilet paper, roll over or under?
John: Over. Okay.
Ingrid: Yes. So the only people who aren’t crazy that do it underhanded like that are the ones who have cats that will unfurl the toilet paper roll. My cats don’t do that, so I don’t have to worry about it. But if you do it under, the pictures are facing the wrong way.
John: Right, right. That’s awesome. Very cool. When you were on three years ago, we talked incredible, fire breathing, playing in an Irish band, and then, of course, Penny, the puppet, if you will, that you do a lot of shows with and webinar type things with online. So are those still pieces of your life and things you’re doing outside of work?
Ingrid: Yes and no. I mean, there’s such a variety always, and there’s things that kind of go in and out of our lives like seasons. I’m not playing at the local pub anymore. My friends sold the bar.
John: Oh, no!
Ingrid: But I do still play at festivals occasionally. So I’ve got a gig coming up actually in a couple of weeks playing music at the medieval fair in Northern California. That’s a fun thing. I get to go dress up in costume and play Irish music with my husband and my friend Earl the Bard, who is our fantastic hurdy-gurdy player.
John: Very cool.
Ingrid: Oh, that’s the cool thing. Fire breathing I still do on occasion, playing with fire mostly just with friends at a festival, that sort of thing, but it’s a hobby that’s once in a while. If for no other reason, then it’s not very good for me. So it’s a lot of chemicals and things. Ask a Bookkeeper is still happening, and people can learn about that at askabookkeeper.com. That is our puppet show where we are working to create for small business something like what Bill Nye does for science, taking the big intimidating ideas that scare people away from following their dreams and making them more approachable, digestible and fun. It’s like Sesame Street for small business owners.
Penny is now not alone. We have a new character which is Procrastinator Gator. Procrastinator Gator is like Super Grover in that he goes to this transition over the course of his story. He owns Gator’s Bayou tours, and he takes people out on his boat. He loves being out of the water with his customers, but he’s not so good at keeping up on the business stuff like emails and payroll. So over the course of his story, he learned that he doesn’t have to do all of those things himself, and he becomes the delegator and learns how to delegate the things that are not his forte, not his passion. It’s a really fun, cute story and a great way of helping our clients see that they don’t have to be the only person doing things in their businesses, that there’s other ways of going about that if they’ve got roadblocks there.
John: I love that. That’s awesome. Very cool. And you do such a great job of, like you said, explaining it in simple terms for everyone to understand, not just coming in with all this corporate accounting speak jargon and acronyms and stuff that I don’t even think ever even accountants and bookkeepers totally know.
Ingrid: Our clients need us to speak their language.
John: I was going to ask, how important do you think it is to deliver it in client speak?
Ingrid: I think it’s really, really important. If, for no other reason, we need to get back to the core why of what we’re doing. It’s not just about money and success and power. We do what we do because it makes a difference in the world. It makes a difference in people’s lives. And it’s all really about connection. It always amazes me when accounting professionals take on as many clients as they can, and they bill by the hour to just turn out tax returns or get the compliance accounting done. And they don’t end up really connecting with their clients and not really getting to see what it is they’re building and the impact that’s having on the world.
I’ve made a lot of changes in my business, and I’m not doing it that way anymore. Now, it’s all about the connection for me and really focusing on that impact and making sure that my clients feel heard and that their questions are getting answered and that their business is going in the direction they want it to go. In order to do that, we need to have the right client relationships. We can’t just take all commerce. It’s got to be a fit.
John: Yeah, I love that. And what sparked that change?
Ingrid: I was hearing that we needed to specialize. Part of it is just the practicality of the accounting profession has become so complex and diverse at this point that we can’t be a specialist in everything. There are too many different software platforms and especially industry specific software that we can’t take all commerce anymore. There are so many industries that need specialists. So an example is here in Oregon, a handful of years ago, cannabis was legalized, and so now there’s a lot of accountants that are specializing in cannabusiness. The rules changed so quickly that if you’re going to even think about touching cannabusiness in your practice, you have to specialize in it. It’s the same if you work with attorneys, if you work with medical professionals. My specialty that I have become exclusive in at this point is working with tours and activities companies. I am the safari accountant.
John: Nice. There you go. And that goes back to your days before that when — yeah, I remember you had some experience in working with animals and stuff like that as well, right?
Ingrid: Yes. I’ve got a biology degree.
John: Yeah, that’s right. Okay. I did remember. See, boom. Yes. Because I remembered us talking about that and seeing some pictures of you with big animals. That’s awesome. So that has to tap into a little bit of that as well.
Ingrid: Yeah. Working with the people that I resonate with and specializing in their software, specializing in seasonal businesses that need to operate in multiple currencies, but there are so many ins and outs and ups and downs, and there’s been a lot of changes in my business since the last time you and I spoke, lots and lots of changes.
John: But it sounds like it’s all in the way up. I mean, everything’s really, really good.
Ingrid: It is and it’s not. That’s one of those things where success is messy, and I think that that’s an important thing to communicate here. So we can normalize some of these ideas and share with your fantastic listeners that whatever their experience, ups and downs, they’re not alone. They talk about how comparison is the thief of joy. Well, it’s also the thief of validation. And just recognizing our own experience as being valid and real and authentic, we spend so much time comparing ourselves to others and thinking, “Oh, I’m not successful, if I don’t have this, this, this and this,” and it’s not working.
Over the last six months, I have completely turned a whole lot of things upside down because of some major disruptions in my business. Some of those things can be seen as good. Some of them could be seen as not so good. I’m going to do the latest thing, and then I’m going to go back to the beginning. So it’s a little bit ironic to me that just this week, I was recognized for the third or fourth time, something like that, by CPA Practice Advisor Magazine as one of the top 40 under 40 in the accounting profession. This is my last time getting that recognition because I am 39, so I won’t be under 40 anymore.
John: Well, congratulations. That’s huge.
Ingrid: Thank you. And the weird thing is that with that kind of recognition, and I’ve got some other recognitions, I think we talked about last time I was on your show, most powerful women in accounting from the future, those kinds of things, there comes a lot of imposter syndrome. I am not a CPA. I do not have an accounting degree. I have a biology degree. I taught myself how to do this stuff. And every day I see posts on social media and things like that. Yesterday, someone from an enrolled agent who specializes the legal stuff in the representation, and she was saying that some organization or something like that wasn’t recognizing her as doing what she was doing because she’s not a CPA, that there was something saying that she couldn’t do that thing, that she didn’t have the credential. She’s like, “This is so frustrating to me because most CPAs can’t do what I do, and they don’t teach this stuff in school. Why do I need to be a CPA to do this thing that I’m doing?”
It’s same thing with what I’m doing with my clients. At this point, I’m not doing a whole lot of the background management accounting. I teach people how to fish. And if they don’t want to do the fishing themselves, I teach them how to delegate that to someone on their team or to someone that they can delegate the day-to-day stuff that doesn’t want to do the bigger picture, 30,000-foot view stuff that the big brainstorming things that I love doing with my clients. So I am actually no longer billing myself as an accounting firm. I’m billing myself as a consulting firm.
The big thing that shifted that was about six months ago, I was on vacation in Australia with my husband and woulda, shoulda, coulda seen it coming years before my fantastic business partner, Vanessa, who I’ve worked with for five years, ended up having some big personal things going on in her life that she needed to take a big step back from everything. It resulted in some upheaval, not between me and Vanessa but just in Vanessa’s life where I was watching my business basically burst into flames from literally the other side of the world. It’s one of those disruptions where it was just me and Vanessa for quite some time and recognizing when we were in that position of, okay, this is life. We’re going to roll with it. We’re going to figure it out. She needs to step back. I wish her all of the wonderful health and blessings. I love Vanessa so much. It’s not about blame. It’s not about fault. There are things that I can see looking back where I could have seen some of this coming a couple years ago. It was like being a frog in slowly heating water, ignoring some of those red flags and signs. If, for no other reason, then — I adore Vanessa. I love working with her. I had often said, what if something happened to you? I don’t know if I’d want to do this anymore in the same way that if something happened to my husband, I don’t know if I would want a two-acre farm with goats and chickens. Those are the dreams that he and I have together.
So when my business partner, my work wife, had to leave, I completely had to reevaluate everything. I realized, you know what, I don’t want to do the back-end management accounting stuff anymore. That was Vanessa’s favorite thing to do. I really enjoy the automation and streamlining those processes. I want to develop deeper relationships with fewer clients and just focus on the strategy, advisory services. I’ve been turning my business upside down focusing a lot, but I also felt like there was something I was missing.
This is a really big shift for me because just in the last handful of months, I basically put Polymath, my business, somewhat on autopilot. I’ve got a couple of clients that I’ve kept that I don’t know if I could ever part with them because I love them so much, but I’m not really taking on a lot of new clients right now while I’m taking a bit of a sabbatical on writing a book.
John: Good for you. Look at you.
Ingrid: Well, this was something that as I was trying to figure things out, when Vanessa was having to leave, it’s so interesting to see how these things happen and the timing of them. I don’t believe in coincidences. All of this stuff came down right on the spring equinox. So here we are just after the fall equinox recording this. So six months ago and I said, you know what, I’m going to give myself a season to figure this out. I’m going to give myself three months, which is actually really perfect timing because in June, I’m speaking at the Scaling New Heights Conference, and that’s my last big commitment. I taught five classes at Scaling New Heights this year, and it was a blast. I loved it. It was a huge, huge undertaking to teach five courses at a conference in one go.
So that was the last big commitment that I had that I needed to wrap up before I could really figure stuff out. So just kind of working through what needs to change and figuring things out, I was seeing a business coach at that time and looking to sort some of this out with her. At one point, I was looking at all of this stuff that I had to do, not really knowing where I was going, feeling like things were totally up in the air.
This is part of where the imposter syndrome comes in. Here I am one of the top 40 under 40, and I have no clue what I’m doing. I’m going to put that right out there right now. None of us have any clue what we’re doing. We’re all making this up as we go. And if anyone says otherwise, then life’s about to hit them with the “Yeah, you think so.”
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally. Right, square in the face.
Ingrid: So anyone who’s feeling unsure, you’re doing great. Just keep swimming. We’re doing great. So here I’m trying to figure this stuff out. I’m looking at my website and my marketing and the stuff that I’m doing for clients and the classes that I’m teaching. The conference is coming up. I’m feeling totally overwhelmed and like it’s all ineffective and having no idea what the priorities need to be because I have no idea if I’m going to keep doing any of this or if I just want to throw in the hat and help my husband with his business, just figuring all this stuff out. I was talking with my buddy business coach, talking about marketing and clients and do I need to find more clients and networking with colleagues and finding that people who want to collaborate, make awesome things like podcasts and stuff like that, and trying to figure out what the priorities are.
We were talking about the idea of the one thing, the book The One Thing, which I haven’t actually read yet, but I’ve seen the TED Talk, and trying to figure out, what’s the one thing that by doing that, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary? Sheryl, my coach, asked me, “Well, you’ve talked about your client avatars, what they have in common. But what are the colleagues that you want to network with? What do they have in common?” And I realized there’s one thing. .The people that I want to collaborate with, the people that I want to work with, like me, want to create a rising tide that raises all ships. We don’t believe in a zero-sum game. And I realized that the people who do believe in a zero-sum game and who are operating in a zero-sum game mindset, that there’s really no point in playing with them because they’re always trying to win at somebody else’s expense, and that’s not how I roll. It’s win-win or no game.
John: Right and yeah, because not only is it a, you know, there’s only one winner, but they want to be the winner, which is not good for anybody.
Ingrid: There’s always something weird and underhanded. There’s something trying to take advantage, and it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. So I realized that I needed to start every conversation I have with new people I meet moving forward with ways to find out whether or not they’re operating in the zero-sum game mindset. So that was the first thing. But then this idea kept percolating in my mind over just the next like 15, 20 minutes.
I started thinking about it in the context of Shirzad Chamine’s fantastic book Positive Intelligence where he talks about the saboteurs. We all know the saboteurs, those voices in the backs of our heads that say all these negative things to us and cut us down. They just get in our way, and they pull the wind out of our sails and make it so that we don’t have the energy to do the things that we need to do and it’s because of these niggling voices. He talks about how the judge is the lead saboteur, and that there’s a bunch of accomplice saboteurs like the victim and the pleaser and the avoider, hyperanalytical, hyperrational, hypercritical. There’s all these different things, but they’re all rooted in judgment, judgment of ourselves, judgment of others and judgment of circumstances. As I was thinking about this in context of the idea of a zero-sum game mindset and for anyone listening who doesn’t know what zero-sum game means, now that I’ve said it a million times, it’s the idea that in order for someone or something to win, something else has to lose.
So I realized that judgment is the saboteurs as zero-sum game thinking is to pretty much all of our human limiting beliefs. When I realized that, I realized that I kind of cracked the code, that by realizing this, by focusing on getting past zero-sum game we can do a much more effective job working with our clients and try to bring things back to a win-win collaborative conversation there, working with our families, our spouses, and our friends and finding ways to create win-wins, focusing on our common interests rather than opposing positions. But also within ourselves, those niggling voices in the backs of our heads that cut us down are based in a zero-sum game mindset that make us think that in order to be happy, we have to sacrifice something, that somehow we don’t deserve to be happy and that is ridiculous. It is so ridiculous. And since then, I’ve been seeing this everywhere. It’s just like the movie 21 where, you know.
John: Yeah, with Jim Carrey. Yeah.
Ingrid: Right. I’ve realized that creating not just a nonzero-sum game but a positive-sum game, so focusing on those win-wins is how we can create infinite potential in our lives. We just have to find the people who want to collaborate on those ideas with us, and we can do things like stop taking more resources than our planet can give us. We see things on the bigger picture, on the longer game, and we focus on what’s the real win. And that I realized was pretty much the biggest message that I could communicate to people. That is what I’m focusing on with my book is how to do that, how to communicate it in simpler words to be able to reach people.
I think that that could very well be the vaccine to what is plaguing the human race right now, why we don’t listen to each other, why we have political disruption and economic disruption and environmental disruption. Let’s listen to each other and try to find those win-wins.
John: That’s awesome. What a huge takeaway for everybody too. If you shut down that judgment inner voice, then the other inner voices have no conduit to let anything out.
Ingrid: Well, and it took a major business disruption.
John: Really awesome, Ingrid. Holy cow! Lives are changed right now, mine anyway. I mean, golly, this is awesome. Awesome.
Well, before I wrap this up, though, it is only fair that I allow you to rapid-fire question me.
Ingrid: I have a couple for you.
John: Yeah. And after all that deepness, I don’t know if I’m ready for these. Here we go, though.
Ingrid: I bet you can find deep existential answers to these rapid-fire questions, if you would. They can be quick and easy and simple silly or they can go deep if you want. If you could be any animal, what would you be?
John: Oh, man, that is pretty deep. Pretty deep. I don’t know, for some reason, I think dolphins are cool. They’re wicked smart. They’re super fast. They can do all kinds of cool stuff. Plus, you have the whole ocean to go play in. And then people are nice to you. They don’t want to hunt you. I don’t know. It’s like everyone’s your friend. But yeah, so I don’t know. I guess the dolphin. That would be kind of cool.
Ingrid: That’s a great answer. Love it. Okay, and here’s the other one. If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?
John: Oh, man, I feel like being able to sing is a superpower to me because I’m terrible at it. That would be a good one. If I could just sing, that would be fun. But yeah, I don’t know if that’s a superpower, but it is to me because people that can sing well are, yeah, I don’t know how you do it because I cannot.
So awesome. Well, this was so much fun. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Ingrid: My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me again, John. It’s so great to reconnect with you and say hello to all your fantastic listeners and catch up a little bit.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Ingrid in action or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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