The Improv Is No Joke Podcast

Welcome to the Improv Is No Joke podcast hosted by Peter Margaritis, AKA The Accidental Accountant and author of the book 'Improve Is No Joke, Using Improvization to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life'. This podcast series is also available on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.

Ep. 47 – Jody Padar: The Future of Public Accounting

Jody Padar is a radical CPA, the CEO & Principal of New Vision CPA Group, and the author of The Radical CPA: New Rules for the Future-Ready Firm. Later this year, she will release The Radical CPA 2.0. She’s been one of Accounting Today’s top 100 influencers in the accounting profession for 6 years, and in 2015 she was named a Managing Partner Elite.

Jody represents the next generation of accounting professionals; the vanguard of the new movement of “digital CPAs.” She is trying to educate the profession on its natural evolution into the digital age… before they go extinct.

Jody believes in embracing the cloud, social media, bots, and other highly advanced technologies and practices. She wants to alter how CPAs think about firm culture and serving their clients.

So far, embracing technology and looking to the future is going very well for Jody. The average CPA firm grows 4% annually. Her firm, New Vision CPA Group, grew 25% last year – organically, or without acquiring anyone. On top of that, she expects to grow 25% again this year.

Jody’s success isn’t surprising. She’s moving into the future with consumers, because that’s what CPAs have to do if they don’t want their firms to go the way of Blockbuster and Blackberry.

She really doesn’t understand why more CPAs don’t let the technology do the grunt work. CPAs are spending their time doing work that’s not value added, instead of letting technology do it.

Do you want to join Jody on the front lines of accounting?

  • It all starts with a firm’s commitment to doing everything in one way, which is often a problem. The firm’s strategies, technologies, and processes need to be cohesive, from the top down. How each firm does this will vary, but it needs to remain consistent.
  • Invest in yourself and the future. Growth may be a little bit slower in the short term, but if we don’t invest in this change we’re not going to be relevant in the future. If firms don’t make changes, then nobody will want to buy them… including their managers, who they think are going to come in as partners. They’re jumping ship and starting their own firms because it’s so easy to start a firm today.

Jody’s upcoming book, The Radical CPA 2.0., will focus on how you can build continuous innovation into your firm, so there’s no longer change management – it’s just continuous innovation as part of your firm. How do you have that culture of continuous innovation? How do you measure it? How do you manage it? How do you get your team members to do it?

In the meantime, you can learn a lot more by picking up a copy of The Radical CPA or by signing up for her newsletter (where she gives away most of the advice from her books away, for free!).

Download this Episode MP3.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Improv Is No Joke – Episode 47 – Jody Padar

Peter: [00:00:00] Welcome everybody. I’m with longtime friend Jody Padar, and I just want thank you for taking time to spend with me on my podcast, seeing that you’re a tax account and we are in tax season. You must be a better time than I ever was when I was a tax accountant. So welcome Jody. Jody: [00:00:22] Thanks for having me Peter. Peter: [00:00:24] When you agreed that that you would be on the podcast, I was waiting to see any time after April 15th. But January 30th… That would be a great time. Wow. I’ll guess she does own her own firm, so I guess there is privilege to that. Jody, for those in the audience who do not know you, can you give us a little bit about your background? Jody: [00:00:45] Sure. So I’m Jody Padar, otherwise known as the Radical CPA. I am CEO and principal of New Vision CPA group, which is a small firm outside the city of Chicago. However we do service clients globally and nationally. We’re a cloud based firm, so in order to work with our team you have to be in the cloud. A lot more of our customers are actually remote, rather than coming into our office, and the way I know Peter is because we’re both educators and presenters and teachers. And so when I say I’m the radical CPA, I wrote a book called The Radical CPA: New Rules for the Future-Ready Firm, based on running a firm and a whole new business model. So we don’t keep time we don’t track time we don’t build by time. We use the cloud 100 percent. We focus on our customers through an experience and we use social media extensively so we are not a traditional CPA firm. We are definitely radical CPA firm, and I like to teach others how to get radical . Peter: [00:01:51] The blasphemy. You don’t charge time. You don’t keep time! But yes, you’re cloud-based structure that I don’t think too many in the profession are even venturing down that pathm or have ventured into the path. You’ve kind of been a pioneer in this. Jody: [00:02:09] Yeah absolutely. So about seven years ago I got on Twitter because none of the CPA in my area… well I guess I should back up a little bit. I left a mid-sized firm, and because it wasn’t working for me, it wasn’t working for my lifestyle as a young mother, and I came off a really bad tax season and I said there’s got to be a better way. And I actually joined my dad’s firm and I was looking for… I was looking for help in running a firm a new way because I started to utilize these new technologies, and they didn’t even call it the cloud then. And when things would take me two minutes I was like ‘oh my God, how am I going to bill for that?’ Like I had to change my business model. And so like any young entrepreneur did they went to Twitter to find out how to do it. And I found a bunch of other CPA who were all over the country doing the exact same thing that I was. And we kind of figured it out together using social media, and then we ended up meeting up in Vegas and Mark Koziel of the AICPA coined us a movement, as well as Tom Hood. And let’s just say the rest is history. So since then I’ve really been… my passion is really to help other firms learn how to have a life as part of their firm so that they can be gone in January, so they can be on a lovely podcast such as this and not even worry about it. Peter: [00:03:32] Well that is awesome and we’re going to get really deep into your book. But I do believe you left something out of your bio. You’ve talked about your firm. You’ve talked about your book. But I do believe that you’re on the radio as well are you not? Jody: [00:03:45] Oh yes I do have another podcast. My podcast is Let’s Get Radical, and it’s actually for small business owners. So I’ve gone to radicalize the other side now because I believe that, as small business owners demand more from their CPAs, it kind of closes the loop. So I can teach CPAs how to act, but I think small business owners need to know the questions that they need to ask their CPAs as well. So it’s kind of a whole ecosystem of business. Peter: [00:04:14] And that ecosystems is found on Voice America? Jody: [00:04:17] Yes we’re on Voice America on Tuesday mornings at 10am Central or you can download on iTunes or stitcher. Peter: [00:04:25] Cool. I listen to episodes. I really enjoy them, and the one I just listen to prior to this you were explaining how much you love taxes and that your tax geek. You were saying, but you were saying this with so much passion and laughter it was just contagious. Jody: [00:04:41] Well thank you. But I mean you should do what you love. If you don’t, you should get out. Find a different job I think. Peter: [00:04:48] I completely agree with that. Find what you love, do it 110 percent, have fun doing it, smile, laugh. The best part about that is your laughter, your passion, is contagious, which has to resonate through your office, as well as throughout the cloud and your clients dealing with them because I can’t imagine ever having a conversation with you, and I’ve known you for a little time, where you’re not happy, you’re not motivated, you’re not bringing the passion. You probably just go home and collapse. Jody: [00:05:21] Yeah. I mean I do. I would say I do. Peter: [00:05:25] So as an entrepreneur you said I don’t like the way this model is built. I don’t like taking a taxi cab; I want to build Uber. Basically you build the Uber accounting firm that really nobody else had out there. And how is the book going? How do you teach it? Are people starting to grab on to this model? Jody: [00:05:47] Absolutely. So what’s happened is that you know the world has changed exponentially since we started like figuring out this model. So we really started figuring out this model about seven years ago. The book came out two years ago, and since then it’s just exponentially growing because the world keeps changing faster and CPAs already feel the pain. They know their business model isn’t working. They just don’t know how to change. And so by reading the book and really starting to understand the whole idea of the radical CPA, they can make a business model that works for them – and they want it. I mean I really believe CPAs want to change. It’s just they have a hard time in the how and like getting started. So if I can help them do that then that’s awesome, for my selfish world, because I don’t want another CPA to live in that old firm model, which wasn’t very nice to women. And so really that’s my passion… and I say women, but that’s because that was me, but I’ll say even men too. Right. Because who wants to work 12 hour days for four months a year? I mean that’s crazy. Peter: [00:06:59] [laughs] Exactly. It’s funny you should mention that because I was having a conversation with a partner in a firm here in Ohio, and I’ve known him for a long time, and he’s a few years older than I am. So he’s a baby boomer. And he made this comment to me over lunch and we were talking about people, and he said we can’t be mean to them anymore. And we started laughing. I said you know what we shouldn’t have been mean to him back then. Yeah, but we could get away with it. We can’t get away with it now because then they’ll leave. We didn’t know how to leave, or something along those lines. And I went yeah, the world has changed. We are in the people business and I think you recognize that, first and foremost, without good people around us, we have no business. We have no clients. Jody: [00:07:45] Well and more even so… I think that the people’s one piece of it, but the other thing is the technology is there to help you. And what I really don’t understand is why CPA don’t let the technology do the grunt work so that they need less people. So you know everyone says there’s a talent shortage. I don’t think there is a talent shortage. I think, if they use the technology the way they should, that we would have more than enough CPAs to do all the work. And the problem is CPAs are spending their time doing work that’s not value added, instead of letting that technology do it. And so if you look at it from talent, if you look at it from technology, if you look at it from a pricing and from a process standpoint, you put all those things together, there is a perfect firm out there. It’s just too many CPAs are afraid to take the first step to change it up. Peter: [00:08:36] Well, correct me if I’m wrong: CPAs have taken on the technology. They’ve moved from the 10 key to excel. Jody: [00:08:44] Right.[laughs] Peter: [00:08:45] But I guarantee, if you ask a roomful of CPAs if they still have a 10 key (for those of you who aren’t accountants, that’s an adding machine with tape.) They would still say that they have it. And I tell him there’s a support group for them… So so basically you tell me there’s more than just excel out there in technology? Jody: [00:09:04] Absolutely and I think it’s pretty funny because I still have my 10 key. [laughs] Peter: [00:09:18] And you’re the technology guru![laughs] Oh that’s funny. Oh I just called her out. Jody: [00:09:23] I love my ten key. Peter: [00:09:25] I don’t have one is because I could never use it. I could never get my fingers to go that fast and not look down and stuff. But go ahead. Jody: [00:09:35] So one of the things that I think they don’t realize is what really technology can do and when you start applying technology it really forces you to change up your business model, and that’s kind of how the whole pricing thing started. Because if things that used to take you two hours now take you two minutes, how do you bill for that? How do you bill two minutes? And so then it really holistically changes your firm at its core. And that’s what creates the disruption, and that’s the real time ness and the transparency that I think CPAs are afraid of, and so they don’t really adopt it. They adopt it half way and then they run back and hide. Peter: [00:10:11] Didn’t CPA stand for Change Procrastinating Always? Jody: [00:10:17] I thought it was Cut Paste Attach, but remember I still have my ten key. Peter: [00:10:21] You do. I always said the P and CPA stood for procrastination. We’ve never been the most risk savvy individuals. We we like the way we’ve done it. We tend to be a little bit more risk averse. But in today’s business environment. Jody: [00:10:34] Well they’re going to go the way of Blockbuster. So CPAs are going to be just like Blockbuster. Peter: [00:10:40] Right. Jody: [00:10:40] If they don’t start to change. And the real problem is, and this isn’t to scare them, but I’m the person who would buy their firm and I’m not buying it because I can steal their clients without it, because they haven’t kept up and they haven’t done what they need to do. So we grew 25 percent last year. Peter: [00:10:59] Wow. Jody: [00:11:01] The average firm grows 4 percent. Peter: [00:11:05] Well I can do that math. [laughs] That’s awesome. Jody: [00:11:09] And we didn’t we acquire anyone. We didn’t buy anyone. Right. So like all these other firms say they’re growing but they’re just acquiring other firms. We didn’t acquire anyone. It was 25 percent organic growth, and we’ll probably do another 25 percent this year. Peter: [00:11:22] So how are you finding this growth of other clients versus buying firms? How are they finding you? Jody: [00:11:31] Via social media. But you know, CPAs aren’t supposed to be on social media. Peter: [00:11:35] That’s right. That’s always a waste of time. It’s a waste of time. How can you get business from that? Jody: [00:11:42] Right. Right. Right. Via social media. Peter: [00:11:45] Yeah. Betty White calls it the Twitter, so there must be something not right there. Jody: [00:11:49] Right. So I’m out there. Like I blog and I write. I have a podcast. And so people come to me. I don’t even… like I don’t do coffee or I don’t like talk to bankers. Like I don’t even know what a banker is. Peter: [00:12:06] I don’t either. So I want to back up. You said something very powerful there. Basically you’re also a writer. Jody: [00:12:14] Absolutely. Peter: [00:12:14] So you’ve you’ve written the book, and you’ve got another one coming out and we’ll talk about that here in a moment, but you’re also blogging and you also write for Accounting Today and for CPA trendlines, right? Jody: [00:12:29] Yes. For CPA Trend lines. Peter: [00:12:30] And who else? Jody: [00:12:32] Well I’ve been in Forbes, and I get quoted all the time in Inc. or Entrepreneur, or things like that as well. Right. So once you put yourself out there, people react to it and they connect to you. So it’s like PR. It’s like people don’t realize what PR does. Peter: [00:12:50] Right. And when I’ve tried to explain that content marketing, authority marketing, and writing, and getting out there… You ask a CPA would you like to write an article and this is what you hear: No. Jody: [00:13:03] [laughs.] Peter: [00:13:03] I think a lot of people are intimidated by writing because it’s not easy; it’s hard. But the ability to write, the ability to get your content out there in the publications where people can see it. Yes that is marketing, that does drive business, that brings clients to you. Jody: [00:13:21] Absolutely. I forgot to mention that I was – and this isn’t to kind of tout myself – but I was named for the second year in a row the top 10 LinkedIn blogger for money and finance. A nd it was all organically driven by likes and shares. So think about that when you think about a social network. And I have a 124,000 followers on LinkedIn. Peter: [00:13:44] I’m one of them. Jody: [00:13:47] [laughs] I think the funny thing about that is that CPAs get so caught up in the writing piece of it. And one of the best things that I did seven years ago when I started writing was I hired an editor. Peter: [00:13:58] Yes. Jody: [00:13:59] And so I never publish anything without an edit on it, and it gives me the ability to be a CPA and know that I can create content and know that it will get, I’ll say, checked. So I don’t have to worry about misspellings or periods or sentence structure. And yet I still get my ideas out there and I think it’s the best brand building that a firm can do, and they don’t realize that for a couple of hundred bucks a month they can have a delightful blog and it’s not going to cost them thousands and thousands of dollars. And yet they can really put their stake in the ground as to who they are professionally, and they don’t have to worry about it. And so if that’s like a one take away from today, if you want to blog but you’re afraid of blogging then get an editor. Where you’re writing it and the editor’s just like proofing it, so you don’t have to worry about it. Because you shouldn’t be, and I’ll say wasting your time, but you shouldn’t be spending three hours on a blog. You should be spending 20 minutes on it, and then let that editor make sure that it’s all good to go. Peter: [00:15:05] And we’ll talk about technology now, because I do that, but what I end up doing is I use Dragon dictation and I put the headset on and I will just brain dump whatever the idea is. I may have a small outline and I’ll just talk it through, and then I’ll go through a couple of times and just look at it. Pick up some of the easy stuff. But then I too have an editor that I send it to to say make this thing pretty, make this thing nice, make this say what I need it to be, and then I’m off to the next thing. So you know there’s so many different ways of getting our content out there into the marketplace. And for those CPAs who are delivering conferences and speaking at conference: record your conference, record your presentation, and then have it transcribed and turn that into content. There are so many easy ways of doing it – we just forget to do it. Jody: [00:15:54] Well, I don’t even think we forget. Nobody told us because we’re CPAs. We learned excel – We didn’t learn about editing and writing and stuff, and then like the world has changed. Now really we have to think about content as part of our business. We have to think about marketing. And if we’re not, then we’re going to be out of business. Peter: [00:16:10] And marketing is more than just referrals, because referrals is the cheapest form of marketing but there’s other ways that we’ve got to get our name out there into the public, just as you’re doing with Forbes and Inc and General Accountants. I know you’ve been quoted in there. Oh by the way, we said accounting today right? Jody: [00:16:29] Yes. Peter: [00:16:29] So since you won’t tout you, I’ll tout you on this one. How many years have you been one of the top 100 influencers in the accounting profession, according to accountant today? Jody: [00:16:40] So I think it’s six years now, but actually like the award that I’m really really proud of as I was Managing Partner Elite, and there are only 10 managing partners a year that are chosen and you can’t be on the list more than once. So like you can’t be a repeat on it. And I’m like connected. It’s like the same as like the managing partner of top 100 firms, which is crazy to me. I mean you think about how small our firm is, and my managing partner status is just as big as theirs. Peter: [00:17:13] That’s awesome. Wow that’s outstanding. I guess my question to you, if we have a firm listening to this and you’ve got a managing partner who has let’s say five other partners, and they’ve got a firm but the size maybe of about 100 associates. How do they turn in into becoming the radical CPA. How does it mesh into maybe a larger firm versus a smaller firm? Or does it? Jody: [00:17:40] Oh it totally works. So the whole idea of the radical CPA firm, or being a radical, is applying certain principles to your firm because everyone comes into a CPA firm with a certain different technical skill set. So you have to radicalize based on your own technical skill set. But I think the first thing is a commitment, and a commitment to doing everything in one unique way, which is the biggest problem. It’s like they have seven partners doing seven different things different ways, and they’re not really cohesive. So the first thing is to get cohesive on it, and then I think the second thing is to say we’re going to invest in it and we know that it may be a little bit slower, but if we don’t invest in this change we’re not going to be relevant in the future. And again I don’t want to scare firms, but on the flip side if they don’t make these changes then nobody wants to buy them, including their managers who they think are going to come in as partners. They’re jumping ship and starting their own firms because it’s so easy to start a firm today. It’s so easy. Peter: [00:18:46] Yeah technology makes it very easy to do that. And I think a lot of times the firms are reluctant to change because the partners are of we’ll just say my age, and then and then older, and there might be succession planning they’re thinking about, or we’re bringing some youth in that’s going to take over the firm, and maybe at that point is when they retire and the youth come in and take the firm in a completely different direction. But I thoroughly agree with you. Jody: [00:19:18] But they’re not going to pay for it. Why would I pay for your mess? Peter: [00:19:21] No. Right. Jody: [00:19:23] They need to start the journey before I come in and want to buy it. And that, I think, is the biggest disconnect between managing partners and the next gen of staff. Peter: [00:19:33] So I can imagine you have ruffled some feathers in the profession. Jody: [00:19:40] Oh, me?. Peter: [00:19:45] [laughs] But that’s good. I mean the feathers need to be need to be ruffled a bit. Jody: [00:19:53] So I think if our profession really wants to survive, and everyone says ‘oh why are you doing it?’ Because I love our profession. I truly believe that CPAs are awesome, but we need to stay awesome and we need to stay relevant. And if we don’t we’re going to be extinct. So if you take my suggestions or my ideas from a place of love, and to know that I’m doing it because I love our profession, then maybe you can take a first step towards making a change because I really do want our profession to survive. And I’m afraid quite honestly if we as a whole don’t start to make these changes, where will CPA be in 10 years? Peter: [00:20:36] Yeah. Or where will it be in five years, with the way technology is moving, and Watson’s get involved, and Watson is part of the auditing practice. And now I don’t need this whole staff over here. I know you’ve heard this. Jody: [00:20:52] I mean technology is only getting faster, and we need to we need to keep up with it so we can lead our clients and help be part of it. Otherwise we’ll be replaced by it. Peter: [00:21:04] We need to be more consultants. Jody: [00:21:06] Absolutely. Peter: [00:21:07] We need to be looking forward versus being historians, as we’ve been for so many years. And I had Tom Hood on an earlier podcast talking about looking to those trends. What’s out there? What’s changing? What’s the gentleman’s name. Burrus. Daniel Burrus. I believe that we’re starting to see CPAs embrace it because now at AICPA Council, I think it was last year Daniel Burrus first came and spoke to council, and got their attention. And Tom has been trying to get Daniel Burrus to speak to that group for at least two or three years and they wouldn’t embrace it. Jody: [00:21:54] Right. Peter: [00:21:54] Blockbuster. I like that reference. My other one is BlackBerry. Jody: [00:22:05] Blackberry [laughs]. Peter: [00:22:06] Yeah, you don’t want to get complacent. We’re trying to grow firms, we’re trying to do some things. So you’re cloud based. You’ve got clients all over the world. Jody: [00:22:18] Correct. Absolutely. Peter: [00:22:21] What’s your furtherest client? What country? And Cleveland is not a country, even though a lot of people think it might be. Jody: [00:22:28] Well I guess Peru. Peter: [00:22:30] Peru. Wow. How’s your Spanish? Jody: [00:22:34] Not good at all… I don’t know. Is Peru farther than China? I don’t know. Peter: [00:22:42] China’s further. Jody: [00:22:44] I’m not good at Geography. Peter: [00:22:45] Yeah. China is further. To get to Peru it’s not a 16 to 18 hour flight, I don’t think. And you’re based out of Chicago and you’ve got clients all over the U.S. Jody: [00:23:02] Yeah so our clients a lot of them talk to us via Skype so it really doesn’t matter where we sit. Honestly the hardest part of my day is figuring out what time it is and what time my meeting is at. Like scheduling meetings… seriously, if I could figure out the global calendar, I would be in good shape. Peter: [00:23:22] [laughs] Yeah. I use Google Calendar and if I’m on the west coast and I type in I got a 10 o’clock meeting with somebody and it records it in the West Coast time, and I get home and I’m like wait a minute. That thing’s not at one. And so I finally found that feature to keep myself within the right time zone. And yeah, when you travel across different time zones it does get a little bit confusing. Jody: [00:23:48] Yeah, but I mean on the flip side of it, the next generation business owner (typically my client, who’s typically under 40). They’re global right away. There they go right away into new territories, sometimes without realizing the regulatory issues that’s involved with it. But on the flip side of that it’s amazing how much small business is done globally now that I don’t necessarily believe used to be. And so if you’re not serving clients that are global I would be curious as to what kind of customers you are serving because there are so many small businesses that do have global components now. Peter: [00:24:25] Right. Right. And you know him from a speaking perspective, just as technology is. So my podcast my podcast has been up for six months and I just did a report yesterday that I’m in 30 countries, including the U.S. Jody: [00:24:39] Right. Peter: [00:24:40] Seriously? I just went into Russia. I think Putin listens to me! Jody: [00:24:46] [laughs]. Peter: [00:24:46] It could be. [laughs] So let’s talk about 2.0. Jody: [00:24:52] Yeah. So my first book, The Radical CPA, was really about why. Why CPAs needed a change, and kind of the early stages of how. Right. Well so my first book was released two years ago and I’ve learned so much more because the world keeps moving at an incredibly fast pace. I feel like I have such a better handle on how to build continuous innovation into your firm, and so that you’re really doing it all the time. So there’s no longer change management. It’s just continuous innovation as part of your firm, and that’s really what Book 2 is going to be about. How do you have that culture of continuous innovation? How do you measure it? How do you manage it? How do you get your team members to do it? And all that good stuff. Peter: [00:25:40] Do all your team members work out of the office in Chicago. Jody: [00:25:44] So we have an office. We do have a physical presence. However, I have one full time… well she’s permanent.. I guess she’s part-time permanent remote. Now she lives in Chicago but she doesn’t come into our office because it’s like 45 minutes, and why would she want to drive? Peter: [00:26:02] Right. I get that. Yes. Jody: [00:26:07] And she’s always been remote. She never worked in our office. From the day like we hired her she’s been remote, and she’s actually a mom which was one of the things that I wanted to enable, and she works I think during tax season from about 4:00 in the morning to about 9:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. and then she takes a break and then usually you can catch her after 10:00 to about 2:00 or whatever. And then I don’t know. So yeah and it really doesn’t matter. She gets her stuff done and it all works. Plus my team can work remote as well. I mean like they don’t have to come in… but I don’t know. I’m an office person. I can’t work at home. I would get nothing done. Peter: [00:26:51] You have to build something in your basement, and really that doesn’t work all the time either. It is a challenge working from home when you have family and kids and stuff going on. So the 2.0 is continuous improvement, continuous innovation. If Bill Clinton was here he’s say, “Well what’s your definition of continuous innovation? Tony what is that? Could you explain that to me please?” Jody: [00:27:17] [laughs] It means that we have a permanent R&D in our firm. So we’re R&D all the time, and we’re really running our firm like a software program. So like think about how companies create software and how they release things and then they have customer feedback and then they change it and then they add more stuff. And so that’s the way we productize our services. And so we’re always making changes, we’re always taking feedback, and then we’re always improving. So there’s none of this we’re going to do it like this for a year and then we’re going to revisit it. Now it’s this continuous improvement cycle that we’ve just built into our DNA; into our process. Peter: [00:27:58] Well that’s almost like the old Just In Time model. Jody: [00:28:01] Yes. Yes. Or like Agile. Like a lot of people talk about Agile Software. Peter: [00:28:06] Yeah. Jody: [00:28:07] Some of the companies out there have talked about agile firm. So I think I’m really kind of going to talk about what does it mean to be an agile firm. Meaning you’re going to be able to pivot, at any time, because you have your your radar out there as to what’s important. What you need to be moving towards. You can’t wait any longer for someone to come to you and tell you how to do it because you’re already behind. Peter: [00:28:31] Can you give us an example of that pivoting? Something that’s happened to you and you know with this continuous improvement you’ve been able to pivot and not wait. Jody: [00:28:43] So I think the easiest thing is in technology. It always seems to be in technology right. Though you can do it in process in other places, but there’s a lot going on with bots. Do you know what a bot is? Peter: [00:28:59] I do. Jody: [00:29:00] So like the whole idea… Like think about Alexa on Amazon. A lot of people got Alexa for Christmas and what she does is she’s like this little black thing who sits in your kitchen and you can turn on the radio or she’ll play songs for you. You can order things from Amazon. Anyway she’s an Amazon bot, essentially. Right. So they now have bots in accounting. So like Sage has one. I think Zero has one. Intuit is working on one where you can actually talk to it and Facebook and tell her that you had an expense. Peter: [00:29:36] Yeah. Jody: [00:29:36] And then it records it and it gives you a response. So right now we’re not actively putting them out to customers, but we’re playing with them because we want to be there before everybody else has one. So we really want to understand what she knows, what she can do, what she can’t do, and tinker with her. And she may never go mainstream because like I said there’s a few different bots out there, but if you don’t even know what a bot is and you don’t even understand that then how can you even advise your client? And actually my favorite bot is on my phone, and her name is digit savings.

Peter: Digit savings.

Jody: Yeah, and what she does is she goes into my bank account every day and she tells me the balance, and then she saves money for me based on an algorithm in my checking account. So based on the balance she may move six dollars or twenty dollars or whatever, and she just moves it to another account for savings. So it’s kind of like this unknown way of forced savings, but if you text her back and you ask her something she tells you how much is there. Or like she just texted me like a little bit ago, well maybe a couple weeks ago, and she goes “make it rain savings like a boss. You now have over two hundred and fifty dollars in your digit account. Spread the love.” And then they have like this crazy GIF there with like money flying around.

Peter: Yeah yeah.

Jody: You may laugh at that or say well like what is she doing, but if my customer comes to me and says hey I downloaded this bot on my phone and it’s telling me to do savings account and asked me that question, and I don’t know that it’s out there, how do I look as a financial advisor? I look like a dummy.

Peter: Right right right.

Jody: So like how do you put these things in your firm so that everybody’s aware of them so that it just makes your collective firm know what’s going on in the world?

Peter: So I have known that bots are now existing in accounting, so I could be sitting here I could open up my my general ledger quick books–

Jody: Facebook. You tell it to Facebook and Facebook puts it in where it needs to go.

Peter: Oh, okay.

Jody: But CPAs aren’t on social.

Peter: That’s right that’s right. Well, no, there’s there’s two: one practicing (that’ you) and one not practicing (that’s me).

Jody: Right. But just think about that. CPAs aren’t on social. And I know that’s a lie and I know I’m really over-exaggerating it because I have a lot of friends who are CPAs on facebook, but think about that. If you can do accounting via facebook now… I mean it’s just crazy. But how are you not even aware of it, and how does your firm look if you don’t know what’s going on?

Peter: right right right. So do you envision a version of Alexa or Google home, a device on our desk, that will be able to answer financial questions that we have based on logarithms that are in there? Or I’ll be able to predict and I got a client and and here we’re just going to upload all this information and then you’re going to spit out some reports and you’re gonna give me some advice and you’re going to tell me some things, and now I need to go converse with the client.

Jody: Yes I think that within five years time bots will be mainstream. Now I may be wrong. I’ve been wrong before. But I think I think it’s going to happen sooner than CPAs realize, because I mean think about nobody knew about Alexa but now everybody has her.

Peter: I haven’t brought her into my house. I’m not allowed because you know I have ADHD and I can log on to Amazon and my wife goes ‘they’re here again? Would you quit buying stuff.’ With Alexa there I’m gonna be bankrupt. But yeah Alexa kind of snuck up on us. Google home kind of snuck up.

Jody: and I think the big thing to think about is is consumer-driven. So it’s not that CPAs are thinking oh I want to use a bot to do my work faster. What’s happening is customers come into your office and they tell you about the bot they’re using, and if you don’t understand what it’s doing how are you going to be relevant to that client anymore?

Peter: Exactly. And as you were saying I’m going Jody I think this is a wonderful opportunity for you to invent a bot.

Jody: [laughs] No. You know what, I’ll let the the technologist invent the bot. I just like to play with them.

Peter: Also we should call it the Padar. But yeah, the way technology is moving… the firm that we grew up in – okay let me rephrase that. The firm that I grew up in many years ago. You’re right. It might not be there in five to ten years.

Jody: But here’s the thing: like there’s an opportunity to change now, but partners have to get on board. They have to realize that it’s time and that they can do it. I mean I don’t want to be like this big debbie downer and say oh my god like you’re gonna be obsolete. I want you to say oh my goodness I need to change. Let me get started so that I do remain relevant. I think there’s such an opportunity here, and I think CPAs can be relevant. I think they’re smart people. But they have to get started, and I think that’s the big thing. The biggest problem is not even doing the work; it’s acknowledging that they need to do the work. So if you can acknowledge it and just start with one foot in front of the other, before you know it your firm will flip because it has to. It’s like you just start moving and then somehow you’re at the end of the marathon. Like you didn’t even realize, or like the training that you’ve done through the beginning of the marathon just gets easier and easier and easier. So it just becomes a muscle. Your innovation muscle just gets developed, and then all this new stuff being thrown at you. It’s not change management. Its innovation.

Peter: So a good place to start, if somebody’s firm is listening to this, I would say good place to start is to purchase your book.

Jody: Well of course. That would be awesome, but but actually you can sign up for my newsletter and get it all for free. I know you’re CPAs. Come on!

Peter: Before we forget, where can they find your newsletter?

Jody: They can sign up… well, on social media, but oh wait… they might not be on social.

Peter: I’m gonna name this episode ‘accountants aren’t on social media and then just put a smiley face texture because we know.

Jody: that is not true. If you go to like or if you go to CPA trend lines you’ll find out like all kinds of information about my newsletter. And again you could buy my book, but you don’t have to. You can just sign up for my newsletter.

Peter: Buy her book too. I’ve been an author. Buy her book too. Get the radical CPA, read it between now and the start of May, and then pick up 2.0 which would be probably coming out would you say maybe summer fall?

Jody: Yeah hopefully July.

Peter: Hopefully July okay. It sounds like building a house.

Jody: Well and I think the thing is, too, that it just takes a small step, right? As long as you get moving, the big thing is just to start. It’s not to flip your firm overnight, but to just get started. Because I think the other thing is, if you get started your younger team members will see that and they’ll help you and they’ll see the energy and they’ll want to help you continue to move forward. I think the biggest problem is the the mid-level managers don’t see the partners wanting to change, and so they’re revolting and they’re frustrated and they’re leaving and all this stuff. But I think all they need is a sign that you’re open to change so that they can like be part of it.

Peter: Yeah because if you begin to change and we get moving in that direction and you employ your younger staff, and I use the term younger in a very broad way, you’re gonna get excitement from them. They’ll be more than happy to walk through a brick wall for you in this transition to the firm of the future.

Jody: Right. Totally.

Peter: Totally. So I don’t take up too much more of your time. So we got 2.0 coming out. We’ve got your book. They can read all about you in accounting today, CPA trendlines. Get your newsletter. You can find Jody. I was gonna I was gonna read her bio… I thought I was busy, and then I read her bio and I went nah, i’ma let her do it. But she’s got a lot of great advice. This is not something she just started 10 minutes ago in her garage. As she said, this came about I would say seven-plus years ago when you said there’s got to be a better way. Boom, and just put the mindset behind it. I don’t have to wish you luck because you’ve got all the luck in the world moving forward. I look forward to 2.0 coming out. I love watching your career just explode and keep exploding. You’re you’re fighting the great fight for the profession. I may not practice in this profession, but I am a CPA and I do love it as well and my big crusade is to convince CPAs that communication skills are important, if not more important, than the technical skills. So we both have our our battles, we will keep fighting them, and thank you so very much for taking time out to be on this podcast today.

Jody: Thank you for having me Peter


Peter: Remember, you can subscribe to my podcast on itunes, stitcher, and google play. If you’d like to purchase a personalized autographed copy of my book Improv is no Joke: Using Improvisation to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life, for $14.99 with free shipping, please go to my website,, and you’ll see the graphic on the homepage to purchase my book. Please allow 14 days for shipping. You can also follow me on social media. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.


Production & Development for Improv Is No Joke by Podcast Masters

Ep. 46 – Spotting Energy Vampires F.A.S.T. & Using the S.T.A.K.E. – with Greg Conderacci


This week we’re talking to returning guest Greg Conderacci, the energy management expert who wrote Getting Up!: Supercharging Your Energy and, at the age of 66, rode his bicycle across the United States in just 18 days.

In episode 35, we focused on the difference between time management and energy management. We discussed tips and techniques for getting the most energy out of ourselves, and how we can generate more energy when we need it. Click here to give it a listen, if you haven’t already.

Today, we focus on the relationship between intellectual energy and emotional energy, identifying energy vampires, and using a S.T.A.K.E. really F.A.S.T.

Intellectual energy can be thought of as the energy that most of us get paid to use, or what you might consider thinking. It’s really the ability to focus. In the 21st century, we value people who have a considerable amount of intellectual energy; people who understand new problems, diagnose difficult situations, and have insight.

Our intellectual energy is, largely, driven up or down by the stories that we tell ourselves – or that other people tell us. Are the stories in your head helping or hurting your energy? The emotional energy (positive or negative) usually comes first, and then the intellectual energy follows it.

When we tell ourselves there’s not enough time, it’s because we don’t feel like there’s enough time – that’s the emotional piece –  so then we tell ourselves a story that it is hopeless – that’s the intellectual piece – and then we give up.

It’s really hard to avoid negative energy once it exists. As soon as we get a big dollop of negative emotional energy we focus, and that’s because of evolution. If there is a saber-toothed tiger, you don’t notice the lily next to you or your buddy down the path – you look at the tiger. It’s survival… but, in the modern world, that often works against us. So we will need to push back against negative emotional energies… and the vampires that drain our positive energy.

You have to be able to spot an energy vampire, and you have to do it F.A.S.T. (even if it’s you).

  • F is for fear, because that’s what being a vampire is all about. They can be afraid for themselves or they can be afraid for someone else, but the vampire begins with fear.
  • A is for avoid. What would a vampire avoid? They avoid any kind of blame or responsibility… or sunlight, frankly. Nobody wants to be seen as a vampire. They want to avoid failure at all costs.
  • S is for what do they say? It’s all the negative words that you can imagine, and vampires say no a lot.
  • T is for what do they think? They think that whatever it is you want to do, or they need to do, can’t be done. They tell themselves that there’s not enough time when there really is (and that’s why vampires have to live forever). They don’t think there’s enough time because their negative story is draining away so much energy that, at their current level of energy, there might not be enough time.

So now we’ve found a vampire… what do we do with it? Use a S.T.A.K.E.

  • S is to speak energy. Don’t attack the vampire. Ask if they realize their negativity is draining other people’s energy, because often they don’t even realize they are doing it. It’s a kinder and gentler way of speaking to employees, and it can make a difference.
  • T is to take away perverse incentives. If you have any kind of a compensation system or HR system that punishes people for making mistakes, for failing, then you have a perverse incentive. Not being afraid to fail is an important part of improv, and failure is the way we learn.
  • A is all about acquiring bunnies, because they’re the opposite of the energy vampires. They will give you more energy all day. You want a culture that breeds energy bunnies.
  • K is killing with kindness. Remember, being an energy vampire is all about fear. Frequently, if you’re good to somebody and they overcome their fear, they will stop being a vampire. What a surprise! Essentially, return negative energy with positive energy. It can be magical.
  • E is, if all else fails, eliminate them. If they’re in your life and you’ve tried all the other stuff, you have to eliminate them. You don’t have to shoot someone, you don’t have to fire someone, but you can change the way you invest time and invest energy into this particular person.

This interview is part two of a three-part series about how to supercharge your physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual energy. Later in the Summer, we’ll part three will focus on spiritual energy.

Until then, you can learn more about managing energy, reducing stress, and balancing your career in Getting Up!: Supercharging Your Energy.

Download this Episode MP3.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Improv Is No Joke – Episode 46 – Greg Conderacci


Peter Margaritis: Welcome to Improv is no Joke podcast, where it’s all about becoming a more effective communicator by embracing the principles of improvisation. I’m your host Peter Margaritis, the self-proclaimed chief edutainment officer of my business, The Accidental Accountant. My goal is to provide you with thought-provoking interviews with business leaders so you can become an effective improviser, which will lead to building stronger relationships with clients, customers, colleagues and even your family, so let’s start the show.


Peter: Welcome to episode 46 of Improv is no Joke podcast. Thank you very much for downloading this episode. Today’s guest is Greg Conderacci. In part two of a three-part series on energy management. Greg is the author of Getting Up!: Supercharging Your Energy and an energy management expert because of two main reasons: first, he’s an author on the subject; and, second, in 2015, he rode his bicycle across the United States in only 18 days, averaging 150 miles a day. Greg doesn’t walk his talk – he rides his talk. If you haven’t listened to our initial interview, it would be well worth it to download episode 35. Now in our interview I mentioned episode 1, and what I meant was the first episode of our three-part series AKA episode 35. Also, this is the first episode that’s being released as a video and you can find it on my youtube channel. Go to youtube and search the accidental accountant. We start this episode with a recap of episode 35, where Greg discusses that, in the 21st century, it’s less about time management and more about energy management. Our discussion focuses on one’s physical and intellectual energy. In this episode, we continue the discussion of intellectual energy and move the discussion into emotional energy. First, intellectual energy, as Greg describes, requires focus, which is one of the principles of improvisation. One of his examples is the New England Patriot’s miracle comeback when in Super Bowl 15. New England was trailing 28 to three with about 8 minutes left in the third corner. As you know, the Patriots managed one of greatest super bowl comebacks and won the game 34 to 28. As Greg explains, that required a tremendous amount of intellectual focus on the part of the entire team to make up a 25 point deficit in a quarter and a half. Part of our intellectual energy conversation takes a turn down the improv path with the discussion of “what story are you telling yourself in your head?” and Yes, And. Greg has some improv training, but his daughter Annie studied improv at Second City in Chicago. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this part of the discussion. Then we ventured down the path of emotional energy, AKA emotional energy vampires, AKA our mothers… but in a good way! Actually, we are our own emotional energy vampires because we are exposed to so much negative energy, which does begin to seep into our heads. Greg gives us some great tips on how to manage those vampires. This episode, along with episode 35, are full of great stories told by Greg that help us make the emotional connection, and makes it easily relatable to his topic. If you have been listening to my podcast for a while, you know one of my goals with his podcast is to help you begin to make changes in your work and personal lives so you can better connect with others and create meaningful relationships. Many people have said it takes 21 days to start a habit. According to Dr. John B Molitor, PhD. that is incorrect. John is a professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University, and the President of NSA Board of Directors. He said that the research shows that it takes 66 days to create a habit. So now we gotta put in some extra work to create that muscle memory. That’s why I created the Yes, And challenge: to help keep these principles in front of you so you can build up your improvisational muscle. To sign up, please go to and scroll down to the Yes, And challenge call to action and click to register to begin building the productive habit of Yes, And and the principles of improvisation. And remember to show your experiences on twitter using the hashtag #yesandchallenge. If you’re unsure of what the Yes, And challenge is all about, I discuss this in detail in episode 0. Go back and take a listen. Remember you can subscribe to my podcast on itunes, stitcher, and google play. If you’d like to purchase an autographed copy of my book Improv is no Joke: Using Improvisation to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life, for $14.99 with free shipping, please go to my website,, and you’ll see the graphic on the homepage to purchase my book. Please allow 14 days for shipping. You can also follow me on social media. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. With that said, let’s get to the interview with Greg Conderacci.


Peter: Hey, welcome everybody. This is a part 2 of a three-parter with Greg Conderacci. This is also the first video podcast we’re doing, and as you see Greg looks like he’s ready to go out for a bike ride. He’s he’s all dressed up at his biking gear. Mr. Energy himself! Welcome Greg. I greatly appreciate you taking time to spend with me again on my podcast.

Greg Conderacci: Great to be here. Thank you Peter. Looking forward to it.

Peter: Our first episode has gone gangbusters. It has it’s right now, for over two weeks, it’s the episode that has the largest amount of downloads. We’ve had over 156 downloads in just two weeks, so that was a very powerful message that you gave us in episode one. If you could, let’s start this episode by giving us a recap of episode one that we did, and then we’ll just move right in. We’ll pick up with the intellectual energy, and then make our way into the emotional energy.

Greg: Okay, sure will. Last time we talked about the difference between energy and time, and my bias that, in the 21st century, what really matters is energy much more than time. The 20th century was the century of time, but now because of the technology and because of the way we live and work… it’s all stretched and weird, and many people keep looking for more time and then they discover, holy smokes, there’s only 24 hours in a day. We can’t get any more time. And so now there’s a huge trend, I think globally, for people to think more about well… I can’t get any more time, and I want to get more done, and I want to have more balance in my life, and I want to control my stress… maybe the secret is getting more energy, and really that was the focus of our discussion last time. Because you can’t get more time, but you can get way more energy. And then part of it is that there are four energy bucket deep inside of us, and they’re all related, but there’s the physical energy, intellectual energy, emotional energy, and spiritual energy. I tell people just think pies – P-I-E-S. Last time we spend a little bit of time talking about the physical energy, which to me is really the least interesting of them all, which people find surprising because they say “wait a minute Greg, you rode a bicycle all the way across the country in 18 days,150 miles a day. That must take in a lot of energy,” and the answer is yes it did… and you’ll notice that I’m an old guy. I was 66 when I did that a couple years ago, and people say “so how’d you do that?” Well, it’s not just a matter of the physical energy. Yes, it takes some physical energy, but that’s really kind of trivial. When I tell people just get enough rest, drink enough water and liquids, and you know… there are lots of books out there that’ll tell you what you could eat shouldn’t eat. My book is clearly not a diet. I don’t have any prescriptions for what you should eat and how you should eat, because there’s plenty out there. So much more powerful, and much more important, are the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual energy buckets. And, today, most of our focus is going to be about the intellectual and emotional energy, and we’ll save the spiritual – which I think is the most important and the deepest bucket of them all – for the last conversation. But you should also know that, when I say spiritual, by the way, I do not necessarily mean religious. I mean we all have a spiritual component, and that affects all of us. But that’s not what we’re going to focus on today. We’re going to focus on intellectual and the emotional pieces.

Peter: Great. I want to say that, just as anything, it takes a while to build a habit, and some days you fall off that habit, but I have been trying to take that information that you provided us in that first episode and I have more energy in the morning, and I’m trying to do more of my writing in the morning. I’m trying not to look at email and that other stuff until around lunchtime, and I am much more productive. I’ve found myself writing more and getting more stuff done during that timeframe, and I’m also taking some naps in the afternoon and it’s getting easier now that my wife is full-time employed again… so it’s much easier to take that afternoon nap. But I do find myself so much more refreshed. Most of the times it’s like a 20 or 30 minutes, and sometimes I don’t realy sleep. I just stop, and give my body a rest, and then I’m able to go back at it… and I’m putting up your book right now for the video people. Buy this book. It’s a really, really, really good read, and those times that you’re sitting there going “oh what did Greg say?” You can find it in here. You can also find it in the podcast, but you can find it in here too. And we will refer to the book, especially one chapter that I found very interesting. I’m sure we’ll talk about that here. But, yeah, lots of great stuff. I’ve seen a change just in myself and my productivity, and I’ve been preaching that it’s not time management, its energy management.

Greg: Right, yeah. I mean, as you discovered, often it’s not so much a matter of time as it is a matter of timing, because at different times of the day we have more or less energy. So if you look at it from the standpoint of timing: when is my energy rich and when is my energy weak? You just can get more done when you have more energy. It just stands to reason. So what you’ve done, very wisely, is said hey look I’m gonna do my best when I have the most energy. It’s a huge problem for us these days, because the technology is always there, it’s always around us, and it’s always distracting us. And sometimes it’s great just to kick back and watch a YouTube video or something like that. No problem. But if you’re doing that, or in your case and in my case kind of answering email and being distracted by all that stuff, when your energy is at its peak… well then later on, all right, now I gotta buckle down and get to work, but you might have much less juice so everything takes longer. So those things that you mentioned are very powerful, and then of course when you’re tired just take a nap. That’s kind of what we’re designed to do… and unplug, which I think is a really, really good idea. We don’t necessarily have to go fast asleep, but unplug from all the noise that’s around us, and then of course consequently all the noise in our head, and we do a lot better.

Peter: [laughs] Yeah, there’s a lot of noise in my head.


Greg: Oh my.

Peter: So tell us about intellectual energy. Define that for me, because I’m trying to get intellectual energy. Does that mean just consuming more content, reading more books?

Greg: Well certainly that’s part of it. The intellectual energy is the energy that a lot of us get paid to use. It’s the energy that, when people think about thinking, as opposed to feeling, they’re talking about intellectual energy. So if I give you a math problem to do in your head, if I say multiply 17 x 24 in your head, the reason that you have that look of agony you pain on your face is, at some level, you know… oh crap, that’s going to take a lot of intellectual energy.

Peter: Right.

Greg: And it, in fact, does. And in the book, and in my courses, I talk about the Wonderlic test that they give all the college seniors who want to go on and play professional football, and it’s a 50-question test. They have 25 minutes to answer it, and really super star quarterback is gonna get like half of them. And what it’s measuring is your ability to bring the kind of intellectual energy and focus that really differentiates the good players from the great players. I mean, if anybody who saw the Super Bowl can see wow, when you look at that quarterback you see focus. You got some intellectual energy going there. Sure, physically good, but to be able to turn the Pats around and do what Brady did.

Peter: Right

Greg: Woah. A lot of intellectual focus. So that’s really what intellectual energy is – it’s the ability to focus. And you gave a good example at the beginning of the podcast when you said when I wake up in the morning and I’m fresh and I really want to tackle that stuff. Well you’ve got a lot of intellectual energy, and and that’s really what you’re bringing to bear. To write, think, to do your work, to work with clients… and often we think about, well, that’s that’s we get paid to do. You get paid to bring to bear your intellectual focus. Especially important in the 21st century. I mean if you’re working on an assembly line, it requires no intellectual focus at all. Just don’t put your hand in the drill press.


Peter: right.

Greg: That’s it. You can just be banging stuff out. You can be thinking about crab grass and the Orioles or whatever. It doesn’t make any difference. But in the 21st century, the kind of energy that we value are people who can really understand problems, who can diagnose difficult situations, who can see the forest for the trees. Whatever trite phrase you want to put together. It says this person is really sharp. They’re on the ball. They understand. They have insight. That’s what intellectual energy is.

Peter: Okay I get it. You were talking about the Super Bowl, and the tremendous amount of focus that they were able to generate, to have a huge comeback, and the amount of intellectual energy that they had to expand. I was surprised they were really able to get up and even be in the parade the next day or two days later, because to do what they they did – with, obviously, some help with the Falcons, who lost a lot of energy, or intellectually they may have thought we’ve got the game and just kind of let off the gas a little bit – but just on a side note, I find it curious. Two years ago, when the Pats came back and beat Seattle, that February they had the most snow in history in Boston, and yesterday there was a blizzard that hit Boston and they had like up to 12 inches of snow.

Greg: wow.

Peter: Which proves God had money on the Falcons.

Greg: [laughs] Maybe. But you know you gave a great example right there. One of the key parts about intellectual energy, which is the story that you have in your head. So the story that the Falcons head during the first half is we got this. They’re done. On the other hand, the Pats clearly had the story “We can win this. The game’s not over. We can win this.” And that makes a big difference, because we’re all carrying stories in our head – thousands of them – and the big ones are health and relationships and family and work, and we all have an idea about that, and and part of it is are those stories that we’re carrying around in our head… are they giving us energy or are they taking energy away. One of my favorite examples is Lon Haldeman. He’s a good friend of mine, and Lon is like the ultra distance cyclist Mickey Mantle. He, at one time, held all the records for riding across the country. He was one of the founders of race across america. He held the record for riding all the way across the country, and riding all the way across the country and back, if you can believe that! As well as the record for tandem riding cross country, and on and on, and he is an amazing guy. And he told me that, after he finished one of those competitions, he would be intellectually exhausted for weeks. Physically not so bad. I mean he was in great shape. He recovered after maybe a few days to a weak, but intellectually… because when you’re doing something like that, that we requires that much physical and intellectual effort, you’re always focused. He says I’m always thinking can I go faster? can I go slower? how much time to the next point? what do I need to do in this stretch? He says I’m always thinking, and so he literally conditioned his brain to tell him he could do this, and that’s enormously powerful. So as someone who has ridden across the country myself, I can tell you that if you’re out there on the bike, like in the middle of the plains, you can say “oh my god it is so hot and my butt is sore and these corn and wheat fields they just go on forever and ever and I’m never going to do it,” and that’s a story… and you know what, there’s a lot of truth in that story, but it’s not a high-energy story. Equally good, and equally true, is a story that says it’s beautiful out here. I’m going across the country, I had no idea it was so vast… what a wonderful and amazing experience. I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren about this, and the heat it really is hot, but boy it’s good for my joints, and you know it’s much better than if it was cold, and pretty soon I’ll be in a nice hotel enjoying the air conditioning so it’s not gonna be that bad, and look there’s no traffic out here… and so all those things are also true! But that story gives you energy. That story gives you juice, and if you’ve got that story running in your head, instead of the other story running in your head, you’re going to make it. The example that I use in the book, and frequently, is in 2006 I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, with a group of really great guys. None of us professional mountain climbers, and I was privileged to be climbing with a guy who an eminent physician here in Baltimore. A really good guy, great climber, very good shape. And we’re making the final assault on the peak, and when you do that what happens is, of course, you did up at one o’clock in the morning and it’s pitch dark and you’re already at 15,000 feet, so there’s not a lot of oxygen, and it is cold as all get out, and the wind is blowing, and it’s probably one of the most inhospitable places on earth. And you’re sort of winding your way up the mountain and all you can see is sort of in your headlamp you can see the guy in front of you, and so we’re working our way up and at about 16-17 thousand feet he turns to me and he says “Greg, I’m third spacing my water,” and for those of us who are not mountain climbers, what that means is, instead of the water being in your stomach or in your bladder, which is where it belongs, it could be in your lungs or in your head, which is where it doesn’t belong, and in either of those places it can kill you. The generic term is called mountain sickness, and what it means is that if it builds up in your lungs you can’t breathe, and if it builds up in your head… you can imagine what happens there.

Peter: right

Greg: and so obviously this is a terrible story to have in your head as you’re trying to climb a mountain, and if you believe that’s true you’re in real trouble. Fortunately, although I’m not a doctor, but I turned to him and I say well are you having trouble breathing? And he says no, and I say okay well do you have a headache? And he says no. Okay, now you’ve got the layman diagnosing the doctor, but both of those conditions are clear symptoms of mountain sickness, and if you don’t got them you probably don’t have the problem. So I asked him what made him think that he was in trouble, and he said well I haven’t gone to the bathroom in a long time. And you would go pretty frequently if you were hydrating properly, but what he missed there is that Kilimanjaro is an Arctic desert. Even though the mountain is on the equator, it’s at such an altitude that it’s enormously dry, because you’re above the clouds, and so even breathing costs you a lot of moisture. So he’s probably fine, he was just breathing out his liquid instead of other ways. So I turned to him and I said I think you’re okay, and he agreed. I mean he just needed someone to change his story, and the two of us summited and he was fine and he’s fine today and we still we still laugh about it, but the truth is there also is turning around and going down, which is the only cure if you have mountain sickness. It would have been enormously dangerous and difficult in the dark, which is where we were, so even though it’s ridiculous for me to diagnose the doctor, the marketing guy in me said you really need to change your story. And changing that story gave him and me the energy to make it all the way to the top together, and it gave us obviously a great story to tell, but also an important lesson. What are the stories that are that are rattling around in your head, and are they helping you or are they hurting you, from an energy standpoint?

Peter: As you’re describing this, and I wrote down the story that you have in your head, and a lot of time that story that we have in our head, we have somebody else in our head called our inner critic who’s telling us all this stuff. “You shouldn’t do that.” And we all want that critic there, at times, because it’s there to protect us. If I’m gonna go skydiving and I’m about to jump out of a plane and I don’t have a parachute, I want my inner critic going “Pete, don’t do this. Don’t jump out, because skydiving without a parachute is a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

Greg: [laughs] Right

Peter: but then, so now I’m gonna have a little fun, I equate all of this, and you even address it in my favorite chapter in your book, chapter 18 about MacGyver. It’s improv! It’s Yes, And versus Yes, But or No, Because. It’s about yes and, and I guess I heard it this past week… I was at the White Castle leadership conference. I was doing the closing keynote, but the opening keynote was Marilyn Sherman, whose business is Front Row Leadership. She mentioned about the story in your head and how you craft that story, where instead of being up in the balcony you come down to the front row, and I think that and this really tied it in… what story are we telling us in order to achieve our goals? And that ties up with a physical energy and that intellectual energy, that Yes, And approach of getting through tough times.

Greg: mmhmm, yeah, absolutely. Well I think one of the points you’re making, which is so critical, is the voice in your head is saying no, it’s not saying Yes, And.

Peter: Right.

Greg: The voice in your head, which in my head sounds a lot like my mother.

Peter: Same here.


Greg: is there, as you say, to keep you safe. And that’s why the first word that we learn is no. I mean, when you’ve got the car keys and you’re three and you’re going over to see if they fit in electrical outlet, your mother says no! So we learn no, it’s the first word, and we learn it for our safety, but that’s way different than Yes, And.

Peter: right

Greg: and I’m sure that, in the super bowl, there were a lot of – I call that voice the critical advisor – there were a lot of critical advisors screaming in the Patriot’s heads: “no no you’re not going to make it,” and their ability to say Yes, And we are is, I think, what makes the difference. And so I think those two words – Yes, And – which I tell people is kind of the new designer But.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: Say Yes, And instead of but – see how it works!

Peter: yeah

Greg: But with Yes And, I think it’s an enormous tool, and it begins a lot of great stories, and that’s where the power for intellectual energy is.

Peter: And you have some training in improv, and actually your daughter, as I learned in the book at two o’clock in the morning (I almost give you a phone call because I’m learning this from a book) studied improv at Second City in Chicago.

Greg: Yes. Well my daughter has been a rigorous student of improv. She’s taken, I think, every course that Second City and Improv Olympics, and some of the other improv schools in the area, taught. She could teach it, and and she often finds herself teaching her dad too.


Greg: That ability to find the good piece, and I think one of the things that’s powerful about improv is that you have the ability to make up a story, and often it’s a true story. We just choose not to select the true story – stupid us!

Peter: yeah

Greg: And we select a negative story, for the reasons that you describe – the voice of the critical advisor – and that forecloses all the other options. And one of the key learnings of improv is that there are so many options out there, if you just say Yes, And instead of No. And that’s a powerful intellectual energy tool.

Peter: And the ability to accept the risk and the failure, because you know that not everything is going to work out… but you still move forward. I mean, I still have that inner critic in my head. Yesterday it started yelling at me before my keynote, and I finally get some duct tape out right around his mouth. Just kept doing that, get that negative energy out and turn it into positive energy through Yes, And. And it it does work, but to your point, and I never heard it put this way, our go-to is no. Our go to in our head is no. It’s been programmed. So it is my mother’s fault! Mom, if you’re listening to this, you should have said yes to me more often than no!

Greg: [laughs]

Peter: And I’m gonna make sure she downloads this one. But I can see that, and it takes work to create that habit, just as it takes work to create the habit of I’m going to get up in the morning and I want to tackle all my tough stuff, with the with the physical energy as you were talking about in episode one. It takes creating that habit to do that.

Greg: Yeah, I mean I have had the privilege of watching one of Annie’s improv teachers, from second city, work with his four-year-old son, and he’ll ask the boy so do you want some soup, and the son says no. The father says “what do we say?” and the little voices “okay, um, yes, and maybe later.”


Peter: Smart kid.

Greg: That kid is going someplace. No doubt about it. [laughs] So I think it is exactly what you’re talking about. And the trick in all this is not to lie to yourself. I mean some people think, well, you know, I want to make the story but it’s going to be a lie. No no no no, because you’re not going to believe that, but the beauty of improv is it makes up many many true stories, and that’s an enormously powerful intellectual energy tool.

Peter: Right. As you said, it’s got to be something believable in yourself. I don’t care if everybody else doesn’t believe me, but I have to believe it in order to make it work.

Greg: Right

Peter: So, in your book, you wrap up this whole intellectual energy piece with this MacGyver chapter and your discussion about improv, then you move into the emotional side.

Greg: Right. Yes.

Peter: So let’s let’s go open a casket and see if there’s a vampire in there.

Greg: Yeah. Of all the stuff that I talked about, the most popular energy subject is this idea of emotional energy, and especially emotional vampires. The energy vampires are the people who can suck the oxygen right out of a room, out of a meeting, out of a career, out of a company, out of a marriage. You name it. And what I tell people is that these energy vampires are not bad people. They’re good people, and in fact, reflecting on the discussion that you and I just had, probably two of our biggest energy vampires were our moms.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: And obviously I love my mom. If she’s listening, god bless you. We will talk and she’ll say what are you doing today and I say well I’m going for 100 mile ride. She’s like ah, why would you do that, you know it’s so dangerous. You’re going to be tired, at your age you shouldn’t be doing this, and and all of that is well meaning. None of that is comes from a bad spot in her. But understand that that is an energy drainer, and what that does is it goes immediately to the emotions of, yeah, maybe I don’t feel like it, or maybe it will be hot out there, or maybe there will be a lot of traffic, and I don’t want to be alone, and all those all those kinds of stories. And those are all emotional drains. So what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to say we don’t want to be an energy vampire for anybody else, and also not for ourselves. Full disclosure: I tell people I am my own biggest energy vampire. People say “what do you mean, Greg? You’re pretty positive!” Yeah I know, but I spend more time with me than anybody else.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: So little bits and pieces of negative energy, which are all around us all the time, they get in, and they accumulate, and you kind of have to shake the dust bin out of your head every once in awhile because you’ll pick these up. And just as you say, Peter, that critical advisor voice is in there and it’s not just spinning an intellectual story. It’s spinning an emotional story, as well. And that’s really what you have to watch out for – it’s that emotional story, because often it’s the emotional energy that drives the intellectual energy, because often… I mean, you had this experience because we all had. I know I had many a time, and that is we get a feeling and then we make up a story to justify the feeling. So, often, the emotional energy, positive or negative, comes first, and then comes the intellectual energy.

Peter: When you talk about emotional energy, I think it falls kind of in the same genre of “we make decisions based on emotions.”

Greg: yes

Peter: So if I’m trying to sell you a TV, and I tell you all the facts and figures and everything related to that TV, you’re not going to buy it. But if I said, by the way, Cal Ripken was in here the other day I bought this TV.

Greg: [laughs] There you go.

Peter: That emotion… you are more likely to act on that emotion. Same thing in delivering financial information. If you’re just up there spewing facts and figures and data, then you’re gonna start sounding like Ben Stein and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But once you can put some emotion and a human factor to that, the likelihood that they’re going to stay awake, the likelihood that they are going to pay attention, the likelihood that they’re going to act on it increases dramatically. That takes it to the intellectual energy that said, hey, let’s do this, versus just facts and figures and so on and so forth.

Greg: Yeah, I mean, Mother Teresa was probably one of the greatest salespeople of all time. Used to say you give me all the statistics you want, but you show me the face of one kid and I’m much more likely to get involved, to give, to support that. It’s the type of thing that we are just not wired to be able to absorb, especially on the emotional level: the data. What we’re wired is to absorb the experience and to have the feeling, and then to work outward to the data. That’s huge, and that’s exactly the way we work. So in a lot of places people talk about culture change and here are the 17 reasons why… culture is about emotion: how people feel and how they treat each other and how they act toward each other, and then you can make the logical argument.

Peter: Yeah, exactly, and to us, this just recently happened to me, and I think I shared this with you, and I put it in a blog posting on New Year’s Day. We found out that my son was a type 1 diabetic, like myself, and I’ve got a close friend who, a couple months ago, he shared a story with me that they discovered daughter she was a type 1 diabetic. There’s no diabetes in the family. They didn’t know the signs, but I saw my son and he was clearly demonstrating some signs: excessive thirst, excessive urination. I took his blood sugar, took him to the emergency room, and he and I were talking and we both had this emotion of, you know, parents don’t see these signs. What can we do? We want to carry that bandwagon to open eyes, and we came up with the idea of doing a TED talk, both of us, doing a TED talk to help take that emotion and turn it into intellectual energy to help raise awareness. And as you were describing it, that’s exactly what he and I… and I interviewed him earlier in one of my podcasts. Jamie Richardson is the vice president shareholder and government relations at White Castle. I mean you can just see this emotion in both of us as we discovered that would be a way to get this message out there. But you know, I’m a type one but I got it at an older age, and I said why didn’t I have this champion thought when I was diagnosed? And over the past 10 or 11 years, when it hit my son, that whole thing changed just like right on a dime.

Greg: Right, and I think that’s really powerful and that there are many inflection points over the course of our life. How we bring intellectual and emotional energy is enormously powerful. Whether you get that diagnosis that you talk about or whether you’re halfway up a mountain and you suddenly think, well, maybe there’s another story. All of that stuff has to do very powerfully with emotions, and if you have the right kind of emotions… I mean you probably know better than I that there are many many successful people, successful athletes, superstars, and so on and so on who are type 1 diabetics. It doesn’t have to be as debilitating as maybe it used to be or some people think it is, but that emotional level… I’m sure your son’s ability to roll with that and, in fact, treat it positively probably rubbed off from somebody else in his family. I don’t know who. [laughs]

Peter: Probably the dog. [laughs] Yeah. Actually, he has done an outstanding job. Even the nurse. school and his doctors and they said he’s adapted and accepted it because he’s been watching it for 10 years.

Greg: Yeah, and so in a sense your example to him has been, really, a gift that’s helping him through this, and that’s a really powerful concept in terms of emotional energy. Because if we get a big dollop of emotional energy, it wipes out all our alternatives. We stop thinking, we stop seeing, and so your idea of why don’t other people see this? Why don’t we do something to help other people see this? I think that’s a great idea because negative emotional energy starts to shut down all your other options. I mean the way we’re wired, as soon as we get this big dollop of negative emotional energy we focus, and that’s because of evolution. I mean there is a saber-toothed tiger. Alright, I foreclosed all other options. I don’t notice the lily next to me or my buddy down the path – I look at the tiger. It’s survival, but in the modern world, that often works against us. So we will need to push back against negative emotional energies.

Peter: So you were mentioning something about changing a corporate culture… say you work with some companies, can you give some examples on that, as you’ve worked with companies, to create that positive emotional energy in order to manage change?

Greg: Yeah, okay. Heh… This is kind of a strange example, but one of the things that I also do is I do a lot of volunteer work in the community, and I was working with, of all things, a bunch of people in a homeless shelter. And at this particular shelter, many of the employees themselves had been just recently homeless. I mean they’ve kind of decided to turn their life around and now they’re working and they have a job and there are good role models for other people who can look over there and say oh look if you can do it maybe I can. So we did this whole thing on vampires, and the director, who is really an inspired lady, said “oh, wow, his is huge, because obviously many the homeless people come in with these huge vampires sitting on their shoulders, metaphorically speaking, or riding on their backs,” and so she made up a bunch of vampire dolls. She has him all over the office, and if somebody says something that’s negative she hands of a vampire doll.

Peter: [claps]

Greg: They’re small enough that you can throw them around. It’s the vampire dolls from Sesame Street. Remember, there was a vampire.

Peter: Yeah.

Greg: So that’s an example of an effort to change that. I do a lot of work with organizations who are in a merger or acquisition position, because that often has a lot of negative connotations. I mean you’re out there and we’ve done it our way for 25 years, and now we’re going to have to do it their way, and I don’t think their way is right. I think my way is right. Why? Because because because because… and so I do a lot of work with companies who are going through those type of changes. It’s very difficult, and I’ve had the privilege (and I use that term loosely) of being part of a number of mergers and acquisitions myself, and often it’s the emotional energy, not the intellectual energy. Because usually there’s a good reason for the merger and we’re all going to be better off and if we all pull together everything’s going to be super.. But, no, I don’t feel like it. That’s when I tell them you have to be able to spot a vampire, and you have to do it fast. F.A.S.T. What do I mean by that? Well F stands for fear, because that’s what being a vampire is all about. You’re afraid, and you might be afraid of blowing your keynote or you might be afraid of going down the double mobile run or you might be afraid of something else, but you are afraid. And so people who are vampires are afraid. Now they can be afraid for themselves or they can be afraid for you, but the key thing to understand is that vampires begin with fear. That’s what it’s all about. Okay, then the next thing is A. What would a vampire avoid? Well, what they avoid is any kind of blame or responsibility, or sunlight, frankly. Nobody wants to be seen as a vampire. Nobody wants to be called a vampire. But if you know someone who is negative, often what they’re doing at work and in organizations is they don’t want to take the rap if it fails. They want to avoid responsibility. “I didn’t do this. It wasn’t my idea.” We see that all the time. There are lots of people out there who think that they’re gonna make their job better by making it smaller, so they avoid doing any kind of work that they might fail at. Your point about failure is huge here because they want to avoid failure at all costs, which of course I say well there’s a great way to avoid never being in an automobile accident… never getting in a car. So there’s the avoid. And then the next thing is S stands for what do they say? And it’s all the negative words that you can imagine. Vampires say no a lot. And then the final thing, which is T, is what do they think? Well they think that whatever it is you want to do, or they need to do, can’t be done. That’s what they think, and what I like to say is one of the biggest reasons they think that is there’s not enough time. And that’s why vampires have to live forever. But you can imagine, if it’s the last Super Bowl, the Pats were thinking “well, there’s not enough time.”

Peter: Right

Greg: It wasn’t a matter of time. There was enough time. The lesson of that is also hey, you know what? They’re never was an over time in a Super Bowl before, but now there is. And, often, one of the things that vampires tell themselves is there’s not enough time when there really is, and one of the reasons they don’t see think there’s enough time is that their negative story is so draining away their energy that, at their current level of energy, there might not be.

Peter: Right.

Greg: But if you have energy, there might be plenty of time.

Peter: If you remember, during the playoffs, the Cowboys were playing the Green Bay Packers and the Cowboys came down and scored to put ahead, and they left 35 seconds on the clock. And then Green Bay came down and, ultimately, won that won that game. In the post game interview, they asked Aaron Rodgers a question: what did he think out when the Cowboys scored? And he said they left too much time on the clock. That 35 seconds. That’s true. I mean, time this come into a lot of that thought process, like 35 seconds. Years ago, my father went to a UK basketball game. They were playing Kansas in Lexington. I guess they were getting blown out, and I was at home watching the game and, all of a sudden, he comes in the house. What are you doing? “Aw man, we were getting blown out.” I said dad, they’re they’re just about to win this game, and he could not believe it. He could not believe it. He missed, probably at that time, probably one of the greatest comebacks ever… and he just said there’s no way, there’s not enough time for them to come back and win this game. There’s always time if there’s time on the clock.

Greg: Yeah, exactly. I think the lesson there, which is powerful, is that we tell ourselves there’s not enough time. So we don’t feel – that’s the emotional piece – like there’s enough time, so we tell ourselves a story – that’s the intellectual piece – that it is hopeless, and then we give up. And, again, it’s all about energy. It’s not really about time. Now sometimes, obviously, it is. I mean if they only left two seconds on the clock, they wouldn’t have been able to back. So it’s not that time is irrelevant… it’s just that we so often focus on the time when we should be focusing on the energy.

Peter: That’s an excellent point, and that’s probably gonna be one of my biggest takeaways because I know sometimes I say I just don’t have enough time to do this… and I have to go wait a minute, you can find the time, you can make the time. Sometimes I keep thinking too much in the past. What else would you like to close with, as it relates to emotional energy?

Greg: Well, people say what do you do with a vampire? And I say, well, you pull out the stake.

Peter: I thought you must put the stake in.

Greg: Yeah, well we’ll talk about that. We had something for F.A.S.T., and there’s something for S.T.A.K.E. The first step is is really to speak energy. Oftentimes, in in the corporate world, if you just speak energy, instead of saying to someone “why are you slowing everything down here? what’s the matter with you? why don’t you get with the program?” you can say “do you realize that, when you made that negative comment at me, you drained off everybody’s energy?”

Peter: Yeah.

Greg: Or did you realize that you didn’t get the report in on time, or we just showed up 20 minutes late, and many people will say no I didn’t I didn’t realize that. And that’s really a powerful idea. It’s a kinder, gentler, different way of speaking to employees, and I think it makes a difference. The T is, well, let’s take away the perverse incentives, and what do you mean by that? If you have any kind of a compensation system or HR system that punishes people for making mistakes, for failing, then you’ve got a perverse incentive. Because, as you pointed out, not being afraid to fail is an important part of improv, and failure is the way we learn. So if you have perverse incentives, either somewhere in your company, the way it’s organized, or the way people are rewarded or compensated, then you want to get rid of those. The A is all about acquiring bunnies, because there’s the opposite of the energy vampires and that’s the energy bunny. There are people who I ride with who I can ride all day and all night if I’m riding with him or her, and there are other people were oh my god just going around the block is painful.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: So, really, what you want to do is you want to acquire energy bunnies. And then the K on STAKE is killing with kindness. Because, remember, being an energy vampire is all about fear. So, frequently, if you’re good to somebody and they’re not afraid, they stop being a vampire. What a surprise! So be kind, nice to people… essentially what I’m saying is return negative energy with positive energy. And that is magical. Finally, the E is, well, in the end, you kind of have to eliminate them. If they’re in your life and there’s no hope and you’ve tried all the other stuff, you kind of have to eliminate them. Well you might say “Greg, how are you going to eliminate your mother?” And the answer is I’m not, but there might be other ways. You don’t have to necessarily shoot someone, you don’t have to fire someone, but you could say look I’m going to just change the way I invest time and invest energy in this particular person. So I’m going to eliminate that person from from my company, from my life, from whatever, as much as possible. Often times, people are vampires just because they’re a bad fit, and they get fired and both the company and they are better off. So part of it is the last step, and I stress it’s the last step, is to eliminate the vampires… but at some point, if you don’t, then well you got this little cancer running around in your company, and and that ain’t gonna be good.

Peter: Exactly. You make a very strong point, and I’m going to tie this back to a previous podcast with Karen Young, where she talked about how we tend to hire fast and fire slow, and we’ve all made bad hires. We should reverse that, and during the hiring process we should really vet them. And even if we vetted them and they start working for us, it still might be a bad fit. Then we need to fire fast. Don’t drag our feet… we’ve taken the steps necessary to see if we can correct that behavior. But if it’s just not working, just address the issue, get the vampire out of the building, and let’s keep moving forward. It’s truly better for both, as you said, the company and the the employee itself.

Greg: Very much the case. Also, to follow up on that, if you interview with energy in mind, that would be a different interview than interviewing with the other stuff you might have in your head. So you know you might ask somebody, well, how do you spend your time? Well, okay, you’re going to get a different answer if you say, well, how do you spend your energy?

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: You might find that different questions give you not only different answers, but better answers as well.

Peter: “Excuse me, what do you mean by energy? Aren’t you supposed to ask me how I spend my time? What do you mean how do I spend my energy?” Well I think you just got your answer right there, because he can’t answer the question.

Greg: Exactly.

Peter: Wow, and I think this whole thing with mergers and acquisitions… I do believe that you and I both share a client, in Norfolk, Virginia, who’s going through a merger and acquisition. I don’t know if you’ve been there already or you’re going there, but that’s a lot of what they’re going through. You’re bringing two different cultures, even though you’re selling the same product line. But you’re bringing two different cultures together into one, and yes you’re right. There is a tremendous amount of emotion involved, and you see this all the time in mergers. You see it right now with the with the US Air and American Airlines merger, or the United and Continental merger. Mergers are a tough hurdle to get over because of so much emotion in that.

Greg: And often it is the emotion, and not the logic, that derails it. It’s ego. it’s all that kind of stuff. When everybody plays nice in the sandbox and there’s a good energy all the way around, you have a world leader company.

Peter: Right. There was a Harvard Business Review article a couple years ago, and basically it said if you can take the emotion out of the conversation you’ll get to a solution faster. As soon as you throw emotion into the conversation, it’ll get derailed and it’ll go sideways on you. And I equate that to the opening scene of the movie bridesmaids, when the two main characters (Vince Vaughn and Owen) are mediating a divorce, and the couple is just going at each other. I wanted to use that clip in some of my presentations but I think the language got a little salty there… but then I think Vince Vaughn said “At one time you loved each other, but then you got married,” and that statement just took that emotion right out of the room and then they were able to come to some type of solution.

Greg: Exactly.

Peter: So that’s cool, and this is great stuff. I mean, I did the first episode, now this episode, and we’ve got one more to go, which will be spiritual, which we will record here in a few weeks. And this will be coming out late April, as a lot of my audience is looking and going “oh that’s what the sun looks like,” as we’ve been buried in either corporate financial reporting or in taxes, but this this will help you get past that and get ready for the the rest of the year. Greg, I cannot thank you enough. You inspire me and you give me a lot of energy. I wish I could ride my bike as far as you do. Actually, you inspire me so much that, prior to our first conversation, I mentioned how much I miss riding my bike in the winter because I don’t like the cold, and you mention about the trainer piece for your bike. Well I got it, it’s in there, and I’ve been riding my bike when I’m home at least three or four times a week, for about an hour or so. Very inspirational. I’m looking forward to our next conversation, and thank you so very much. I’ve greatly appreciated your time.

Greg: Oh thank you too, Peter. It’s been great.


Peter: I’d like to thank Greg again, for taking time out of his schedule to give us his thoughts on energy management. The last episode of this three-part series will focus on spiritual energy. Greg writes in this book that spiritual energy is embedded in each person’s mission – his or her life’s purpose. This episode will be airing later this summer. If you’d like to buy a copy of Greg’s book,Getting Up!: Supercharging Your Energy, you can find it on Amazon. Well worth the investment! In episode 47, I interview Jody Padar, who is the radical CPA – and that’s the title of her book that she published in 2015. We have a wonderful discussion about the future of the accounting profession and focus in on the future of public accounting. Remember, you can subscribe to my podcast on itunes, stitcher, and google play. If you’d like to purchase a personalized autographed copy of my book Improv is no Joke: Using Improvisation to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life, for $14.99 with free shipping, please go to my website,, and you’ll see the graphic on the homepage to purchase my book. Please allow 14 days for shipping. You can also follow me on social media. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. Thank you again for listening and remember to use the principles of improvisation to help tap into your intellectual and emotional energy.


Production & Development for Improv Is No Joke by Podcast Masters

Ep. 45 – Rosemarie Rossetti: 5 Lessons for Adapting to Adversity & Living With Conviction


Today’s guest, Rosemarie Rossetti, is an international speaker, consultant, writer, and publisher who walks her talk. She’s also the most adaptable person I have ever met. We have an inspiring conversation about overcoming adversity and living with conviction, and why she built the Universal Design Living Laboratory.

Rosemarie’s life was transformed on June 13, 1998. There was no wind, no rain, no clouds. It was a beautiful Saturday, and she was celebrating her third wedding anniversary with a couple’s bike ride. Then, suddenly, there was a loud noise and she was engulfed by a three-and-a-half ton tree.

She was paralyzed from the waist down with a spinal cord injury, but Rosemarie looked deep into herself and found new strength and resolve. She had invested too much into her life to give up.

In her keynote speeches, Rosemarie shares the lessons she has learned since that fateful day, and demonstrates how to rise above adversity and live life with conviction.

  1. Do something new every day.
  2. Focus on a hopeful future instead of your self-pity.
  3. Believe the impossible just might be possible.
  4. Allow more time to get things done, and be patient with yourself.
  5. To lower your stress, lower your expectations of other people.

This moment also changed her career path. In addition to motivational speaking, Rosemarie speaks and consults with a focus on universal design housing, or making homes that are both livable for a lifetime and sustainable.

Rosemarie and her husband want to start a discussion about the home of the future, which will marry universal design, green building, a healthy home, and technology.

They built a national demonstration home and garden in Columbus, Ohio: the Universal Design Living Laboratory. It is the highest-rated universal design home in North America, earning three national certifications. They have 217 sponsors that contribute products and services necessary to build the home, either at no cost or reduced cost.

You can take a virtual tour of their house on (bonus points if you can spot their cat).

You can also pick up the first chapter of Rosemarie’s upcoming book, The Universal Design Toolkit, for free. It’s a listing of the universal design features, room by room, in the house.

Download this Episode MP3.


Disability insurance saved Rosemarie’s life. She recommends everyone in the audience purchase their own policy.

  • If you are employed by another company, you need to talk with your HR people and learn if disability insurance is part of your current benefits, and what it covers.
  • If you are self-employed, start contacting your financial planners and financial representatives that sell disability insurance, and get an individual policy. has a disability insurance calculator that will help you estimate the income you need to maintain to your current standard of living, which will help you in purchasing a policy.


Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Improv Is No Joke – Episode 45 – Rosemarie Rossetti


Peter Margaritis: Welcome to Improv is no Joke podcast, where it’s all about becoming a more effective communicator by embracing the principles of improvisation. I’m your host Peter Margaritis, the self-proclaimed chief edutainment officer of my business, The Accidental Accountant. My goal is to provide you with thought-provoking interviews with business leaders so you can become an effective improviser, which will lead to building stronger relationships with clients, customers, colleagues and even your family, so let’s start the show.


Peter: Welcome to episode 45 of Improv is no Joke podcast. Thank you very much for downloading this episode. Today’s guest is Rosemarie Rossetti, who is a powerful, internationally-known speaker, consultant, writer, and publisher who walks her talk. Rosemarie and I have an inspiring conversation about dealing with adversity. Rosemarie’s life was transformed on June 13, 1998, when a three-and-a-half ton tree came crashing down on her. Her life was changed in that instant. Paralyzed from the waist down with a spinal cord injury, Rosemarie looked deep into herself and found new strength and new resolve. In her keynote speeches, she shares the lessons she learned since that fateful day and demonstrates how to rise above misfortune and live life with conviction. During our conversation, Rosemarie shares the five lessons that you learned from this life-changing event: the five lessons are, one, do something new every day. Two, focus on the hopeful future instead of self-pity. Three, believe the impossible. Four, allow more time to get things done and be patient. And five, lower your expectations of other people. We also discuss the personal mission her husband are on, and that is to increase the awareness and discussion of the home of the future. They built a national demonstration home and garden in Columbus, Ohio: the universal design living laboratory. Their home is the highest-rated universal design home in North America, earning three national certifications. It received a Silver LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and a gold rating on the National Green Building Standard Program. They bring the discussion about marrying universal design, green building, healthy home, and technology to the forefront. You can take a virtual tour of the house by going to the website, and clicking tours on the menu bar. I did spot their cat three times when I took the tour. We wrap up a conversation with a discussion on disability insurance. Rosemarie developed selling disability income insurance with conviction using her own case study. In this program, Rosemarie discusses the value of disability income insurance and motivates insurance professionals and financial planners to sell more policies. Rosemarie was selected as the national spokesperson for disability insurance by the Life Foundation in 2011. Our conversation is very inspiring and I believe it will have you thinking differently. If you have been listening to my podcast for a while, you know one of my goals with his podcast is to help you begin to make changes in your work and personal lives so you can better connect with others and create meaningful relationships. Many people have said it takes 21 days to start a habit. According to Dr. John B Molitor, PhD. that is incorrect. John is a professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University, and the President of NSA Board of Directors. He said that the research shows that it takes 66 days to create a habit. So now we gotta put in some extra work to create that muscle memory. That’s why I created the Yes, And challenge: to help keep these principles in front of you so you can build up your improvisational muscle. To sign up, please go to and scroll down to the Yes, And challenge call to action and click to register to begin building the productive habit of Yes, And and the principles of improvisation. And remember to show your experiences on twitter using the hashtag #yesandchallenge. If you’re unsure of what the Yes, And challenge is all about, I discuss this in detail in episode 0. Go back and take a listen. Remember you can subscribe to my podcast on itunes, stitcher, and google play. If you’d like to purchase an autographed copy of my book Improv is no Joke: Using Improvisation to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life, for $14.99 with free shipping, please go to my website,, and you’ll see the graphic on the homepage to purchase my book. Please allow 14 days for shipping. You can also follow me on social media. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. With that said, let’s get to the interview with Rosemarie Rossetti. [Music]

Peter: Let me start off by saying welcome, Rosemarie, and thank you for being a guest on my podcast.

Rosemarie Rossetti: Well thank you for inviting me Peter. It’s my honor.

Peter: I’m looking forward to our conversation. I know, and I may have said this in the intro, I know Rosemarie from the National Speakers Association, the Ohio Chapter, and she has just been an absolute delight to get to know. I know you guys who listen to this are going to walk away in awe – trust me on this. Rosemarie, can you tell the audience about who you are and what has transpired in your career?

Rosemarie: Well, I’m a speaker, I’m a writer and author, a consultant, last component of my career, and my current focus is on accessible housing, universal design housing, or making homes livable for a lifetime, and that is a result of an accident that I had in 1998. So, before that, I had been on the faculty at Ohio State University teaching courses in public speaking and teaching methodology. I also had a very long career as a horticulturist, both as a teacher of horticulture and working as an interior horticulturist. I also wrote a book about keeping plants healthy indoors. So I have a diverse background, and my educational training is in education, specifically in agriculture. I had a dual major, as an undergraduate, in horticulture with agriculture education. I started a career asked to teach at the high school vocational level, and then teaching at the university level, and then working as an interior horticulturist for a while. Then I started my speaking business, full time, after leaving the University after an 11-year stint on their faculty… and that’s about the time when life changed in an instant, Peter. And you have seen me and and know a little bit about me. There was a life before June 13, 1998, which was a very academic life and following a career to be a speaker and a trainer for public speaking, and then suddenly on June 13, 1998, while riding my bicycle, suddenly a 7,000-pound tree fell on top of me and instantly left me paralyzed from the waist down.

Peter: Oh my god I didn’t realize you were on a bicycle at the time.

Rosemarie: Yes. No wind, no rain, no clouds. Just a beautiful Saturday on a beautiful rails-to-trails bicycle route, in Granville, Ohio. My husband and I were celebrating our third wedding anniversary, having a wonderful day, when all of a sudden Mark heard what he thought was a gunshot and he slowed down and started looking, and that’s when he saw the tree halfway down. He tried to stop me, tried to warn me. He was screaming at me, but there was nothing I could do. I was totally engulfed by this 80-foot tall tree, and the live power lines that fell on top of it.

Peter: Oh my… rarely do I get speechless, but I believe I am experiencing one. I’m so very sorry. I knew there was an accident and a tree, but I didn’t realize you were out on your third anniversary and riding rails to trails. Wow. That was a very big day, and from that day, as you said, that was a life-changing moment. The rehab that you had to have gone through, how long was that?

Rosemarie: It was two years, three days a week. It was like a part-time job. That’s what I did three days a week: I went into physical therapy and occupational therapy all day. My initial surgery was excruciatingly long, where they had to do a spinal fusion. I had a broken neck and a broken back, a spinal cord injury, broken ribs, broken sternum. So after the surgery, intensive care for five days and then transported from downtown Columbus, from the grant Medical Center where the surgery was performed (thankfully, the helicopter flew me in very quickly from the bike trail and they did everything they could to restore function). Then, after the intensive care, it was a very slow ambulance ride to the Ohio State University, to the medical center, where they put me on on a bed… and there I was in Dodd Hall, at the rehabilitation center, an inpatient. I spent, basically, the summer of 1998, five weeks, there, trying to figure out now what? How much function would I get? At that time I couldn’t even hold a pen, I couldn’t feed myself, I couldn’t comb my hair, I couldn’t brush my teeth. I couldn’t move in bed. I was in a neck brace and a body brace, just laying there, wondering now what? It was just a total shock to say I am totally paralyzed at this point, but fortunately, over time, I was able to hold a pen and hold a fork and hold a hairdryer and hold a toothbrush. Things got better, over time. I was discharged in July from the rehabilitation component, as an inpatient, and then went home, where then three days a week I had to be transported back to Ohio State University, for the two-year period.

Peter: Wow. I know you have a program speaking on coping with change and dealing with adversity, but I just now realized… the title of the program is “Just Like Riding a Bike.” You went through more change in more adversity than one person should have to deal with. So many people would just give up, or maybe turn to self-pity, or why me. What what was it that kept pushing you forward? What was it that said I’m gonna comb my hair, I’m gonna figure this out, I’m going to do something?

Rosemarie: I realized I had a lot invested in my life, Peter. At the time, I had a PhD. I had my own speaking business. I also had a publishing company. I had released the book The Healthy Indoor Plant. I had a wonderful husband, and that’s the biggest key, in that I had a loving relationship with a wonderful man, Mark. Being married to him, at that point, for three years… I just knew I had to move on. And when you think about the catalyst for motivating you, you think about love and you think about what other people go through and you think about all those people who do love you, and they are depending on you. My mother was still alive at the time, in her 80s. She depended on me to be her caregiver in her elderly stage of life. I had a brother with a developmental disability. He needed my assistance and caregiving, as he aging with this disability. I had another brother that was six years older. He depended on me too. So I had lots of people who loved me, supported me, and very much I wanted me to get going with life, and pick things up, and when I looked back at the investment that I already had put into my life, in education and training and building businesses, I said to myself “There’s just so much here. I’ve got to figure out, now, what can I do with what I have?” And the book Man’s Search for Meaning made a huge difference. It was a real turning point, reading Viktor Frankl’s book. I read it very early on after coming home from the hospital, and I remember, with a box of Kleenex at my side, reading that book. He was a survivor in the German concentration camp, and that message of love came through with his book. That was what got him through, to know that there’s hope on the other end, and that the meaning for life is love.

Peter: What a very strong and powerful message in dealing with adversity. You have a wonderful team that is around you that supported you; that helped you get through this personal crisis that you are having. They kept you see an end game her, and not giving up, and that in itself… a lot of people can’t achieve in a lifetime, but you achieved it in a very short period of time. You’ve written number of books, a publishing company, professor at The Ohio State University… but then everything changed. How did your speaking business change at this point? Because it took a different focus.

Rosemarie: Well, at that point, I couldn’t even get out of the house, so there was a very little speaking. Interestingly enough, one of our fellow National Speakers Association members in the Ohio Chapter, his name is Randall Reader.

Peter: Yeah

Rosemarie: He was also a faculty member when I was on the faculty, in the College of Agriculture. He’s an agriculture engineer. So we knew each other as faculty members, and since I was at the Ohio State University for my rehab, of course, he came over to visit me just about every day, and he would do a report and send emails to all the other National Speakers Association members in Ohio to give an update on my status as I was at the rehabilitation center. In one of those visits he said to me, Rosemarie, I have a speech in September. Now this was in June when I got injured… he already has planned for me my first speech, in September. It was in Columbus, and he had the audience and he had the topic. It was going to be getting over your fear of public speaking. That was the topic.

Peter: [laughs]

Rosemarie: So he said “you’re gonna do this program with me. You’re going to come in your wheelchair and you’re gonna deliver the program just like you would have before your injury,” and he just continued to try and plan this program with me, in my hospital bed.

Peter: [laughs] That’s wonderful. So were you able to?

Rosemarie: I was. I was able to. I had a personal care attendant, at that time. She worked for me during the week. So she came to my home every day, and that continued from the time I got home in July until May the next year. That’s how long I needed a personal care attendant.

Peter: wow.

Rosemarie: To get me out of bed, to get me dressed, to get me showered, to get me out of the house, to put me in her car to take me anywhere. So, at that time in September, my personal care attendant Yolanda took me to the speaking engagement, and I had an audience and, for the first time, I delivered a presentation in a seated position. It was just pretty different to not be standing and delivering, but to be sitting and rolling around with this audience, and explaining to them that this was the first time for me to be out speaking again. And the irony was the location for this speech: the location was the Berwick Party House here in Columbus. This was a well-known place for people to come and celebrate major holidays and wedding receptions, and I had been at the there many times. In fact, the last time I had been there was that previous New Year’s Eve, where my husband and I went with a lot of family to a New Year’s Eve party and dinner at the berwick party house. Now that was in January. Of course, January 1. Here I am, in September, back in that party house in a wheelchair. They had me speaking off of the dance floor – that’s where they had this program. So here I was, back on the dance floor, doing a presentation in my wheelchair, and I started crying. I started to remember how fun it was to dance, how fun that night was, how I never would have imagined on New Year’s Eve that I would be paralyzed from the waist down. And so I shared that thought with the audience, to let them know how moved I was by being there with them on this experience.

Peter: There couldn’t have been a dry eye in that audience after that.

Rosemarie: Yeah. It was an emotional time for everyone. I mean, I’m holding them back right now, quite honestly. Wow. That’s wonderful, and it’s a surreal type of story. I can’t even for myself and even fathom the strength that you have to, one, get back up and do a presentation months after an injury like that and, two, go back into a place that you have very fond memories of from few months earlier, and have those memories come back and maintain composure, and and see it to the end. But I can just imagine that, when you finish it, that had to have been so gratifying. That you got back up and you did it.

Rosemarie: Yeah, there was an interesting conversation when I got home. My caregiver had never seen me in a professional environment. She only seen me at home, and in physical therapy, and she came up to me at the end of the day and she gave me this big hug and she goes, “Girl, you haven’t lost it! You still got it! It’s just like riding a bike!” And I looked at her and I said Yolanda, why would you say that to me? That’s why I’m in this wheelchair. She just started laughing and she slapped her cheek and continued laughing, and that’s where the phrase “it’s just like riding a bike came from,” and my fellow members of the National Speakers Association in Ohio heard me tell this story, and one of the members stopped me and said, “Rosemarie, that’s going to be the name of your memoir. That’s going to be the name of your presentation: it’s just like riding a bike.”

Peter: And it is. Wow.

Rosemarie: It is.

Peter: Wow. So, now you’re back up, you’ve gotten past that hurdle, but today, in your speaking business, are you still training about how to become a better presenter, better public speaker, or has it moved into a whole different direction?

Rosemarie: There has been a major transformation, and the first one was to talk about the injury. So I started speaking to audiences really soon. A lot of people were asking me “can you come and tell your story? Can you tell us what lessons you’ve learned?” And because I started a memoir right there in the hospital, I started a tape recorder immediately thanks to another NSA Ohio member, who said “Rosemarie, you’re going to want to know what you’re going through and some lessons learned,” so Mark brought me a little tape recorder and I started my memoir right there. For two years, every day, I was recording into this little tape recorder. I’m having tons and tons of information, so I could use that to write the memoir, to write my book Take Back Your Life, and to formulate what would be the keynote that I would share, and what five lessons were most important that I wanted to give the audience. So, Peter, yes my business transition and focus really took a shift to be more of a motivational speaker, to share what I had been learning, so that it could help others to set and achieve goals and redefine possibles and take small steps and turn them into big leaps and embrace change, get out of slumps. Live with conviction is really the message. The first lesson I learned was from physical therapy: do something new every day. So when I would arrive to my physical and occupational therapist, I would challenge them: what are you going to teach me new today? And they were just like, what do you mean? and I said I want to do something that I didn’t do yesterday, so focus on a new activity or a new amount of weight on the equipment that I was using or more repetitions of exercises. We were doing a lot of exercises to strengthen my hands, to strengthen my arms, to teach me how to use a wheelchair in the community, to teach me about getting in and out of bed or moving in bed. It was everything! So that was my mantra: do something new every day, and then when I’d return home, usually, in the evening I would call my mother and I’d tell her what I did new that day. So I could see progress. I could see, when I took my very first step, when they finally got me up on my two feet to see could I take my first step – I could take one step, and then I could sit down in the wheelchair and say “there, I did one step.”

Peter: [laughs]

Rosemarie: Then the next time, let’s see if you can do a couple of steps, let’s see if you can do five of them this time, and then go sit down. And then each time I would go I’d say well I want to go farther, I want to go farther; let’s see how far I can walk. Pretty soon, I’m walking the length of a football field, only a few weeks later. So that was number one: do something new every day. Number two is focus on a hopeful future not on your self-pity. Now I learned this lesson a year before my injury. It was June of 1997, when Christopher Reeve was in Columbus, on the main stage, at the state fairgrounds doing a presentation. I was in the audience. I was not injured at that time, I was a sitting in the chair listening to him, and that was his message: to focus on a hopeful future and not on self-pity. So I took that lesson from him, a year later, and put his picture by my bedside, when I was in the hospital, to remind me: when my thoughts went to negative thoughts and oh poor me and why did this happen to me and I’ll never be able to amount to anything and my life is wracked so why even live, I had to change my thoughts just like changing a station on a radio, and just stop thinking that way, and let’s turn my thoughts into hope and not self-pity. That was number two. Number three: believe that the impossible just might be possible. I learned that through the many years of physical and occupational therapy, as I was starting to see things that I thought I could never do – never ever imagined that I could do. So when the therapist would ask me “what kind of sports did you used to do?” And I said well I was an avid bicyclist, I love to snow ski, and she was telling me, well, there’s adaptive sports. You could bike again, and you could snow ski again, and you could play golf. And so, when I started realizing the world of adaptive sports, I was just amazed at the equipment that’s out there. So they brought a bicycle call over to me, a three-wheeled recumbent bike, and they put me in and said go ride. And there I was, riding a bike again.

Peter: Wow.

Rosemarie: And then then I went to a ski resort here in Ohio with the adaptive sport coalition here, and they put me in a mono ski and said now go ski, and there I was skiing again, from a seated position. So I learned that the impossible just might be possible with recovery and adaptive equipment. Number four, I learned that one by being home and being very impatient. The number four rule is to allow more time to get things done and be patient with yourself. I was just so frustrated by not being able to reach things in my home, not being able to roll on the carpet, not being able to access the laundry facility, not being able to dress myself, or to take my own shower. So I had to realize that I was being impatient, and that slowly I would learn how to do things differently, and that this is how it is for now but things would change and I would get better. So allowing more time to get things done and be patient with yourself is number four. And my final one: to lower your stress, lower your expectations of other people. I learned that by working with my husband Mark: to realize I could not ask him to do everything. Because of all the things I normally did, I was putting that responsibility on him and that wasn’t fair. If you’ve ever had a to-do list from your spouse or partner, you’ll all understand.

Peter: [laughs]

Rosemarie: Imagine, if your spouse or partner had all day to write a to-do list, what that would look like when you came home.

Peter: [laughs] oh my gosh.

Rosemarie: funny thing: he told me about that. I’d have these lists and explain I want you to take the chicken out of the oven that Yolanda put in, I want you to take the clothes out of the washer and put them in the dryer, you need to go the drug store before they close at 7 (I have a new prescription to pick up), the dishwasher seems to be unloaded, and you might want to mow the grass. It’s like all these things for one night. So he knew he couldn’t get that done and he was stressing out, and so he would take that list and he would go upstairs to his office and he would he would cut that list in two pieces: a small top piece, and then a large big piece. And then he would take that large big piece and he’d put it in the shredder of his office, never to be seen again.

Peter: [laughs]

Rosemarie: That was his way to relieve his stress. He thought well I’ll just kind of decide on the most important things, and then the rest of them forget it. I said, well, how could you do that? You knew that things were important to me, and his reply was “If that was important to you, I knew it would be on the list tomorrow.”

Peter: [laughs] oh that’s funny. But he did come home every night?

Rosemarie: He did come home every night. We stayed married. We did have counseling, however. There was so much grief, on his part and mine. It was so much depression. For a full year we had counseling. Don’t think it was easy – there was just too much to lose, with our relationship and the my physical loss and his sense of “oh my gosh I’m overwhelmed,” with all the financial responsibility, the businesses that I was running at the time, and his world of being in sales, working as an outside salesperson, and his income falling. Fortunately, I had disability income insurance, which I hope all your listeners have. It’s an income replacement insurance, and mine kicked in immediately. So I started receiving monthly income from my disability insurance policy.

Peter: Well, that’s very, very good advice, for everybody, and especially those who are entrepreneurs and self-employed, and the business kind of lays on their shoulders to keep it going. So I want to go back to your five things here, and number four is standing out to me. Allow more time to get things done, and be patient. Is that what, also, took your business in a different direction, as it comes to designing of your house and a lot of things that you’re speaking on today?

Rosemarie: Yes, that was the frustration I was totally frustrated not being able to get into my house independently, not being able to roll on the carpetm not being able to reach anything beyond two feet high. So that created huge frustration for me. We tried to make some modifications, we moved furniture around, we took doors off. We tried what we could, but there was nothing that was going to be a permanent solution in that house to be wheelchair friendly.

Peter: So what did you do? Is this where you built the house out in Gahanna?

Rosemarie: Right. The new house is just a mile out of Gahanna, on the northeast part of Columbus in Jefferson township, over on Clark State Road. So, as a result of the house being not wheelchair accessible that we lived in at the time, we decided to embark on a new journey, and that’s to say could we find a house that was already built, or did we have to build something new? And as we started that journey, another turn of events is a group of NSA speakers formed a mastermind group, and when I met with the mastermind group for the first time in Orlando and told them that Mark and I were planning to build a new home, and it would be wheelchair accessible, and that we’d like to share what we’ve learned with others. Because we’re not the only ones needing wheelchair accessible homes. We thought, well, maybe we could share our home with other people to learn, and it was this mastermind group that gave us the idea to build a national demonstration home and to get it sponsored by corporations who wanted their products in the home. They also said make it green, since green was a very important component of housing. So my head was spinning, Peter, when this group of other speakers had this brilliant idea. Mark and I were sitting there listening to them telling us “oh yeah she should build this your home and make it a national model and and have tours available for the public and invite corporations to participate with you and get volunteers to help you and you can do this and you can speak about this and this could be your your new horizon,” and I’m like what are you talking about?

Peter: [laughs]

Rosemarie: It was just totally bizarre. The the biggest, hairiest idea I could ever imagine, and I left that weekend with Mark with the notes that he had been taking, and I’m like where do we start? They’re serious. They want us to build a new house.

Peter: Oh wow! There’s something to be said about the power of a community, and I love this this phrase: “the collective knowledge outside of your office far exceeds the collective knowledge inside of your office,” but I can I can imagine…. So where did you start?

Rosemarie: Well, we thought real hard about breaking it down and asked them to continue phone dialogues with us. I said don’t just leave us to go back to Columbus. You guys have to help me, because I don’t know what the steps are. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do to get sponsors. I have no clue. So they said “well, you’re going to have to hire somebody that knows about getting sponsors,” so we called the National Association of Homebuilders. It was one of the first calls that started us down that path to find someone to lead us to figure out how to get sponsors. And fortunately they gave us an answer: they said there’s only one man in this country that we would even consider recommending to you. That’s his specialty, and his name is Robert August. He’s in Denver. Give him a call. And so thankfully he took my call and really got excited about working with us, and he’s been with us ever since helping us, teaching us, coaching us, opening up his network, introducing us to these major corporations in the building industry that wanted to be involved, helped us write letters, helped us with our phone scripts, helped us by being on calls with us, helped us by going through the international builders show the next year and taking us with them to meet some of these potential sponsors. It was a monumental task to get 217 sponsors to be contributing, either at no cost or reduced-cost, the products and services to be able to build our home.

Peter: Wow, what? Yeah, that is a big, hairy, audacious goal. Wow. How long did that take?

Rosemarie: Well, it took several years and it was before we started the design, as well as during the construction, which was 32 months, and while it was under construction. Then, after we moved in, which was May of 2012, we had to finish the landscape and the basement, so we needed more sponsors for that initiative. So it was a major, major enterprise over several years.

Peter: And during this time, you weren’t able to do any additional modifications to your current residence?

Rosemarie: No, it would not be anyway approachable, with a two-story home that had no elevator and rooms that were just too small and counters that were too tall. No privacy in the bathrooms. I mean, we looked at that as a possibility and said no, that’s not financially feasible. We can’t make this house work long-term. However, we did live in that house from the time of the accident till the time we moved into a small apartment, during the construction of this house. We were there 15 years, in total, so we had the experience of the frustration.

Peter: Well, I got to see your house first hand a couple weeks ago, maybe a month or so ago, and it is a very, very beautiful home.

Rosemarie: Thank you, thank you. We invite all of your listeners to take a tour. We have a website with a virtual tour that you can take, thanks to our partner Google. They took over 700 photos of the home and stitched them there together, so you can actually take a virtual tour on our website, which is simple: the initials So if any of you are interested in taking the tour of our home, it’s pretty cool. Going into the front door and going through the house, you can actually zoom in and zoom around the ceilings and the walls and the floor. You can read the labels on the Campbell’s soup cans in the pantry. You can go out the back door from the great room into the patio area and see the landscape. You can go downstairs into the lower level, where we have a classroom, another bedroom, a bathroom, an exercise room, and storage area. So it’s a great tour and it’s a neat game to play. I tell people that, if they would like to look very closely while they’re on tour, we have a cat. Her name is Kiko. Now Kiko is a beautiful orange tabby cat that we we got from the rescue shelter, but Kiko is the photo bomber.

Peter: [laughs]

Rosemarie: They continued to get into the picture when the photographer was here. So I tell people, if they want to play a game, as they’re going through the tour look for Kiko. She is in that tour somewhere.

Peter: Oh, that’s great. I also want to take a moment and read something off your website about your home. It says since this home is the highest rated universal design home in North America earning three national certifications. it receive a silver LEED certification from the US Green Building council and a gold rating on the National green building standard program. Okay, that’s real impressive. Your story is to me is just so fascinating! How it has transformed and moved in in different directions, and quite frankly in my world of improvisation and talking about improvisation, you are the most adaptable person that I think I’ve ever met, and you have such a wonderful Yes, And attitude not No, Because or Yes, But to help drive you forward. It’s just amazing, your story, and to go out and get all those sponsors, to basically build your house, and you said that you want you’re not the only person. So how are you, today, trying to make an impact on on the housing industry, with your design and your home?

Rosemarie: Well, one is through our website, which is of course global. So it’s been promoted throughout the entire world so that people can go and learn from us and borrow some of the ideas. We also have a free chapter of my new book that is at, and that’s a great tool. It’s a listing of the universal design features, room by room, in the house. So that’s a great checklist to look at why you’re going on tour. If you’re not familiar with universal design, let me help explain it: as you look at this house, you’re going to recognize that the doorways are wider, you’re going to recognize there’s no steps to get into the home, you’re going to recognize that there are multiple heights of countertops (in the bathroom, as well as the kitchen), you’ll recognize that under the sink and under the cooktop there’s space for someone in a wheelchair for their knees, and these are all universal design features. These are design features that accommodate the majority of the population, without any specialized design. It’s just good design, and so that’s one way that we’re promoting. The catalyst for change is to have this website. We have over a hundred articles, we have the virtual tour, we have video tours, we have webinars, and we have the new book. The new book that I wrote is The Universal Design Toolkit, and it will be sold as an electronic book complete with a Learning Library System. So it’s got a series of webinars and videos that have never been seen on our website before, so it’s a whole package that people can purchase. If they’re really serious as a professional or as a consumer, if that they really have a need to know what they should do to make their home more livable for a lifetime, or to accommodate an aging population or a population that has a disability. So, Peter, that’s one way we’re working: through our website, through the resources there, through the Universal Design Toolkit, and all of the other wonderful pieces that are there. On another front is the personal tours. We do schedule, by appointment, groups to come in. So far we’ve had 2300 people touring our house, and they usually stay about an hour and a half or two hours. We invite consumers, builders, realtors, interior designers, the medical profession, students from elementary school, middle school, high school, and college, physical therapists, occupational therapists. Anyone who can benefit and that would like to see this house in person just needs to call me with a group and we’ll arrange that. I speak for a living, nationally, so I do keynote programs at conferences. I also deliver webinars. Those are more particular for the professional organizations that would like to have me deliver things. And I write lots of articles for professional and consumer-based magazine. So Mark and I are very involved. We work together full-time, as a team, to be the catalyst.

Peter: That’s wonderful, and I just took a little tour of the house, because I was on the website. I didn’t see the cat, but I’m gonna go back after this and see if I can find it. I do have to ask this one this question: are you solely speaking on this universal design, or are you also speaking the motivational speaking about your accident and and the five things that you learn from that accident?

Rosemarie: I do speak, still, as a motivational speaker, in addition to speaking about the house, but there’s a third element and I kind of hinted at it earlier when I talked about disability insurance. I’m also a national speaker for insurance corporations and organizations. They bring me in to motivate those financial planners and representatives and agents who are selling disability insurance. They don’t usually get to here from a claimant, from someone who’s had an injury to realize how important that disability insurance is to that family. So I reveal my story. I share with them the data, in terms of the cost of having the disability and all the things that had to factor in to make me able to be able to live at home and then to regain the ability to start working again. So I teach them about how to sell it and I teach them about its importance.

Peter: Wow. So I have to ask this question: being an entrepreneur, how does one find this type of insurance?

Peter: Well, you as a person who’s employed by another company need to talk with your HR people. If you’re working for another corporation, it may be part of your benefit. Now it may be included in your salary, as it was with mine. I had disability income insurance as a faculty member at Ohio State University through the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio. So that was a benefit that I just took for granted. It was just part of my benefit package. Fortunate for me, when I left the university, that policy followed me for two years so I could start the business and still be covered. I was injured a year and a half after I left the university, so that policy was still in effect. So that’d be my first inquiry, for those of you working for a corporation: find out from your HR department what is the group policy, and is it enough or do you need something as a gap to buy individual insurance? And for those of you who are self-employed, you really need this policy. As you heard my story, life would have been so much different if I had no income. I would have been bankrupt, lost the house, Mark and I would have had major stress and turmoil. Who knew what would happen to our marriage as a result of that fiasco? So please start contacting your financial planners and financial representatives that sell disability insurance, and get an individual policy. That’s great information for my audience because, in all honesty, I don’t think I ever really, when I was working for a company, ever paid that close attention to it. I can’t tell you if I had it when I was at the last three or four employers, and I probably didn’t give it, really, a second thought. But I’m giving about five thoughts right now, because being self-employed… yeah, I think I know what I’m doing when we end this. I’m making a few phone calls.

Rosemarie: Mhm!

Peter: But I would have never, one, thought about it and, two, I think a lot of people in my audience have probably never thought about it and will be thinking a lot more about it because, yeah, if we didn’t have that, who knows where your journey would have taken you? And it all may have worked out, but then again that’s what they have insurance.

Rosemarie: Right, and there’s lots of good resources out there to learn more. There’s also calculators that are available, and so I might recommend something. There’s one website that I often recommend, it’s It has various insurance topics, of which one of them is disability insurance. So just go there and click on the calculators, click on disability insurance, and that might help you as you’re looking at, well, how much do I need? In terms of what percent of my income do I need to protect, and how much can I get? It’s going to be individual for everyone, in terms of their ability, even, to qualify for a disability insurance policy based on their health. Someone who is in really bad health is going to, possibly, have to have a rider or a wait time to wait and see how they’re going to recover from something like a cancer diagnosis.

Peter: Okay, that’s good information. And just so my audience knows, if you want to read Rosemarie’s bio on her website: Her bio, and she’s she’s really laid out most of it through the story, but as I’ve read through it there was a few things that jumped out at me, and one: she holds the title of Miss Wheelchair Ohio 2004?

Rosemarie: [laughs] Yes, it is true. I bet most of your listeners have no idea what that is.

Peter: I sure didn’t, and the other one that I was really cool. In 2002, she carried the Olympic torch in Columbus, Ohio, on its way to the winter olympics.

Rosemarie: Yes, that was one cold January night, but what a proud moment to have that flaming torch in my arm as I wheel down High Street, down near the campus here at Ohio State University, surrounded by my friends, family, and community. They were all there cheering me on.

Peter: Well you are a very special lady who just has an incredible amount of will, drive… I’m so in awe of this conversation, and it’s been a pleasure getting to know you a lot better than I have through our conversations at the Ohio Chapter of NSA meetings, and that time we were at your house for that seminar. I can’t begin to thank you for taking time. You have such a powerful, wonderful story that… I don’t care who you are in my audience, this applies to all of us, and I hope you take it to heart. I’ll put her website and all the the references that she made in this podcast in the show notes for you to download, and everybody go look into your disability insurance. Rosemarie, thank you so very much.

Rosemarie: Oh you’re very welcome. Thank you Peter. It was a pleasure.


Peter: I would like to thank Rosemarie again for taking time out of your schedule to give us her thoughts on dealing with adversity, the home of the future, and disability insurance. You can learn more about Rosemarie on her website and book her to come out to speak to your organization. Also remember to go to and take a tour of her home. In episode 46, this is part two of my conversation with Greg Conderacci, who is the author of the book Getting Up!: Supercharging Your Energy, along with being a marketing and energy consultant, speaker, facilitator, trainer, and teacher. In episode 35, Greg and I discussed physical and intellectual energy. In episode 46 we finish our discussion on intellectual energy and then discuss emotional energy. You don’t want to miss this episode. Remember, you can subscribe to my podcast on itunes, stitcher, and google play. If you’d like to purchase a personalized autographed copy of my book Improv is no Joke: Using Improvisation to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life, for $14.99 with free shipping, please go to my website,, and you’ll see the graphic on the homepage to purchase my book. Please allow 14 days for shipping. You can also follow me on social media. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. Thank you again for listening and remember to use the power of adaptability and Yes, And in dealing with adversity.



Production & Development for Improv Is No Joke by Podcast Masters

Ep 44 – How to Pursue a New Career With Passion, Purpose & Yes, And | with Courtney Kirschbaum


Courtney Kirschbaum is a human development and high performance expert who specializes in helping young professionals choose the right career and achieve mastery in it. She also successfully completed her own career transition later in life when she left the corporate accounting world to found CK Consulting.

Now she is launching a new project, Job Hunt School, to impact even more young professionals.

We discuss how pursuing passion and purpose help during career transitions, how the principles of improvisation will help you during the interview process, and the stress epidemic in the U.S.

“They’re still not teaching the things that you are really going to need to know when you walk into the job, and not only on the first day but even before that.”

Courtney started consulting because she saw a leadership and development gap. Students in college aren’t being properly trained to transition from a collegiate environment to a corporate environment, or any other business environment.

She attempts to fill those important gaps:

  • Expectations in a corporate environment, and how to fulfill them.
  • Office politics, and how to navigate them.
  • Empathy for business owners, and how to develop it.
  • The value of feeling like you have a stake in your job, and how to attain that.

Consulting is great, but her impact is limited to the number of people she can work with on any given day. She’s reaching more young professionals through Job Hunt School.

Job Hunt School is a program for recent graduates who are spinning their wheels and going through the motions, who feel like they’re doing everything they were taught, but aren’t gaining any traction. You know how to play the game, you went to the career center and learned to write a resume, but you haven’t mastered the game.

Courtney’s program will offer the last 10% you need to master the game, and that last 10% can make a 100% difference in your career.

If you’re interested in securing your spot in Job Hunt School, or you know someone who will be graduating soon, head over to The doors open in April 2017!

Download this Episode MP3.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Improv Is No Joke – Episode 44 – Courtney Kirschbaum


Peter Margaritis: Welcome to Improv is no Joke podcast, where it’s all about becoming a more effective communicator by embracing the principles of improvisation. I’m your host Peter Margaritis, the self-proclaimed chief edutainment officer of my business, The Accidental Accountant. My goal is to provide you with thought-provoking interviews with business leaders so you can become an effective improviser, which will lead to building stronger relationships with clients, customers, colleagues and even your family, so let’s start the show.


Peter: Welcome to episode 44 of Improv is no Joke podcast. Thank you very much for downloading this episode. Today’s guest is Courtney Kirschbaum, who’s a human development and high performance expert who specializes in helping young professionals choose the right career and achieve mastery in it. Courtney grew up in a small town with only two stoplights and now she’s an international speaker and presenter who works with future thought leaders helping them to transition into and build solid foundations in their careers. Courtney has a tremendous amount of energy, which is contagious, and she is funny too. Some of her analogies are hilarious. For example, early in the conversation we started talking about using social media to promote yourself at conferences where you will be speaking. I give her high praise on our social media skills and she replies “I don’t think I’m very good because I keep comparing myself to 14 year olds and they’ve mastered social media by the age of six.” Well I guess it’s funnier when she tells the story. Courtney discusses the transition from college to the workplace, which I referred to as from backpack to briefcase. College students are attending classes in their pjs one day and having to show up to work at a professional job the next day, and no one has explained how to bridge that gap. What are the expectations? What is the significance of office politics in your career? Questions like those. Courtney founded CK Consulting to fill the leadership and development gap and train people to work in their core competencies and become leaders and high performers. She trains and coaches Millennials, helping with him transition into and build solid foundations in their careers. Courtney’s straight-talking style helps her connect with the audience by combining compassion, humor, and real work experience to provide tools and techniques so they’ll be able to be successful and productive in their careers. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Courtney was the closing speaker at TEDx Edmonton in 2014, and was selected as one of eWomenNetwork’s top five speakers in 2013. You’re going to enjoy this episode because Courtney’s energy, as I’ve stated earlier, is very contagious. If you have been listening to my podcast for a while, you know one of my goals with his podcast is to help you begin to make changes in your work and personal lives so you can better connect with others and create meaningful relationships. Many people have said it takes 21 days to start a habit, which I learned is incorrect from Dr. John B Molitor, PhD. John is a professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University, and the President of NSA Board of Directors. He said that the research shows that it takes 66 days to create a habit. So now we gotta put in some extra work to create that muscle memory. That’s why I created the Yes, And challenge: to help keep these principles in front of you so you can build up your improvisational muscle. To sign up, please go to and scroll down to the Yes, And challenge call to action and click to register to begin building the productive habit of Yes, And and the principles of improvisation. And remember to show your experiences on twitter using the hashtag #yesandchallenge. If you’re unsure of what the Yes, And challenge is all about, I discuss this in detail in episode 0. Go back and take a listen. Remember you can subscribe to my podcast on itunes, stitcher, and google play. If you’d like to purchase an autographed copy of my book Improv is no Joke: Using Improvisation to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life, for $14.99 with free shipping, please go to my website,, and you’ll see the graphic on the homepage to purchase my book. Please allow 14 days for shipping. You can also follow me on social media. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. With that said, let’s get to the interview with Courtney Kirschbaum.


Peter: Welcome, Courtney, to my podcast. Thank you very much for being a guest and taking time out of your busy schedule.

Courtney: You are very welcome. It’s great to be here.

Peter: It’s great to see you. Just so the audience knows, I’ve known Courtney now probably going on three yearsish. I am terrible with time. it could be three days, I think is like three years.

Courtney: I think you got it. It’s three years.

Peter: We met because she does some speaking for the business learning institute, and we met I believe it was at the NABA, national association of black accountants, conference. It was our first time that we met and you were preparing for your TEDx presentation at the time.

Courtney: That’s right. Boy, that takes me back a little bit.

Peter: and my wife says I can’t remember anything haha

Courtney: She is wrong. Nailed it.

Peter: and I’ve kind of gotten to know you over the last three years, a lot through social media because I follow you you follow me. One thing I love is, when you would arrive to a city, you take out your smartphone and video yourself and put it out there on your social media. “hey I’m going to be at this conference, I’m doing this, hope to see you all.” It just yet brought that energy and I have to believe those meeting planners just absolutely love that.

Courtney: I feel like I’m not very good with social media because I’m always comparing myself to people who were 14 and 15 who were absolute you know masters at it and have been since they were six, but I kind of started realizing that I know what I like to see and what kind of would connect to. So that was like I was so proud of myself when I did that, and I know exactly what you’re talking about. I was at a conference in New York when I did it and I was in Las Vegas, at the NABA conference, and when you’re at conferences people sometimes don’t feel like they can come up to you, or they wouldn’t even have a reason to, but I think that the thinking is “well if she’s taking a video of herself and putting it on her facebook page, I can go chat with her,” and they feel like they maybe they already know you. So that’s a definite benefit. If you’re thinking about it and want to bite the bullet, it opens the door for people to connect.

Peter: and that’s great advice. Actually, I did try it, but I learned a very important lesson: you have to stop and record yourself, you can’t walk, because I mowed over three or four people trying to record myself walking, trying to be cool walking through an airport. So I now pull myself off to the side to record.

Courtney: Good call. Good advice.

Peter: Let’s start our conversation by letting the audience know a little bit more about who Courtney Kirschbaum is.

Courtney okay, I’ll try to keep it brief. I think things really got exciting in my life when I left my career. The one that I thought would carry me through the course of my life, and that kind of now is an old-school, conventional way. I’m out of a small town, with like two stoplights.

Peter: oh really?

Courtney: Yeah, and anybody who’s from a small town that’s what they’re thinking in their head. Then I went to college in a larger city, and I really always wanted to see the world. So I took a very conventional route. I got a desk job and then I got another desk job with the goal of getting overseas and living an exciting life, and I was lucky. At some point in my 20s, somebody turned me onto personal development, and my first thought was this is great. This is everything I need to know about work. Why didn’t they teach me this in college?

Peter: [laughs]

Courtney: and I really was like this is this is everything you need to know. I mean it was about confidence and self-esteem and how to think like a winner and how to be successful. So I kind of used that to get to move forward in my career, and my career consisted of working for big four accounting firms. I started with KPMG and spent really most of my career with them, and then their their spin-off which was BearingPoint, and when you start you don’t know anything. I think anybody who’s even been in the work world for a few years kind of recognizes “oh this isn’t like it is on TV.” Did you have that experience?

Peter: Yes, and actually it seemed, for like the first two or three years, that I was kind of like in a fog. I just want to remember where the bathroom was, and then everything else would figure itself out.

Courtney: I’m glad hear you say that, because was everyone as kind of like unprepared for the shift from academic life to professional life? It’s a whole new ruleset.

Peter: yeah

Courtney: and I’ve worked in my family business… I mean, as soon as I could be seen over the counter I was in there. So it wasn’t it like I didn’t have any work experience, but I worked in that career and I figured it out. I had a development book checked out from the library from roughly 1997 to today. I just continued to kind of use these tools, and what astounded me was how few other people did. I would look around and I would think “so how are you feeling about the pace of progress here?” And most people seem to be okay with it and I really wasn’t, and I thought God if I gotta wait 15 years until I get the corner office and have my parking spot near the door, whatever the perks were… that, I think, was kind of what that paradigm was like. This is this all there is paradigm, I think, is what kind of stayed with me even right up to the end. Once I felt like I really got it and was doing a great job and getting what I wanted out of my career, it just seemed like there there was a better way.

Peter: Well, you were working for an accounting, and I think still to this day they still have that same kind of pace, that same kind of that energy within the firm, which was one of my challenges when I worked for Price Waterhouse. I had all this energy and the pace was so slow and things were in structure, and I got into the profession late in life. I was 30. I tell everybody I’m Greek. I grew up in restaurants. I grew up in customer service. I was a banker, and then I went into an accounting firm and… I see your energy and I can imagine you were feeling a lot of the same way that I was at the time.

Courtney: Yeah, you said it perfectly. I had all of this energy, and the fact is that bureaucracy and really constructed environments don’t know what to do with that energy. And I have to be honest, I didn’t know what to do with a lot of it myself, in many cases. They just said work hard and you’ll get ahead, and I I have to confess I didn’t have any of the finesse. You pick that up as you go. You know, life changes you. You’re not the person at 35 that you are 25, and as I kind of matured and got some perspective on the environment I was I drew a couple of conclusions. First of all, I’m kind of frustrated here. I’m getting my work done and I’m doing a great job, but this isn’t all that rewarding or satisfying, even on its best day. I feel like there’s something missing. And so everyone else kind of felt that too. I felt I can remember hearing more than once “you know this isn’t really my passion, but it’s a good job.”

Peter: [laughs]

Courtney: and a lot of people feel that way, and it’s so common that it’s become the norm and people are like… you know, this is good enough, and at some point it just stopped being good enough. I think this was… I had that moment where I’m like there’s no way I can do this until I’m 55 or 65. So I had that like uh oh I’m in trouble. I quietly ignored that for a few years, until I got lucky. Because the economic downturn actually kind of freed me. I don’t think I would have quit a good job. I think a lot of people wouldn’t walk away from a good situation, and when the economic downturn was kind of like a shadow being cast across the land I thought “I can take a break now,” and BearingPoint basically kind of got chopped up and sold off, and they laid off everyone that didn’t kind of go to another place. There are a lot of people who were laid off and I took that opportunity to take a year off and regroup, and I think everybody should have the opportunity to do that. If I ruled the world, everybody would get their year to figure it out, and that really began a different journey for me.

Peter: It’s funny you say that, because I was working Victoria’s Secret catalog, as you remember, not as a model but thank you for thinking of that. And I got downsized, reengineered, restructured, laid off. I didn’t have a year, but I had three months, and after the first few days people would talk to me and all I hear is wah wah wah wah wah. I don’t have a job. And then a couple days after that I went you know what this could actually be the best thing that could happen to me, so I’m going to try to figure it out. I didn’t, but it gave me time to realize what ifs and kind of build a plan on the what-if, and it works.

Courtney: It does work, and I’ll tell you the metaphor I thought of when you said that, with what happened to you and what happened to me maybe even greater degree, you’re separated from the herd.

Peter: yeah

Courtney: I think an animal’s like uh oh this can’t be good, I’m separated from the herd. When I watch those nature shows on TV this is when something bad happens, and that’s how you feel. Just to give you an example of how long it took me to retool. I, in the first three or four months, got my ACSM personal training certification, I took a wilderness first responder class… I mean, I couldn’t do nothing.

Peter: right

Courtney: It was like I have to do something, so I took all these classes and I continued to get certifications. Now part of that was in an effort to figure out okay what am I gonna do next. I thought I’ll be on ski patrol, because I had just moved to Colorado and I took the wilderness first responder, which is what they require you to have. And I was like… I don’t want to do this, and I loved it. I absolutely loved every minute of it, but I knew that wasn’t for me. And then I got my personal training certification. I’m going to be a personal trainer and I’m gonna help develop people a little bit more literally, and then I was like nah. But the point I want to make from that is people try things… and they’ll say you’re just all over the place, and is that such a bad thing? It’s not, but I do think there is a stigma attached to it. I mean, I didn’t do that when I was young. My mindset was good and right and the image I want to project is somebody who’s got it together, and the person who’s got it together gets a job and gets on the path, and by the time I was in my 30s I’m like okay, some of that was BS, and now I’m doing it my way. And also, just to make sure you get all of my missteps in here, I also thought about becoming a lawyer. Now if my lawyer is listening to this, he’s either like fainted or he’s dying laughing.

Peter: [laughs]

Courtney: But I think realizing what you don’t want to do is just as important as realizing what you do want to do. Just acknowledging okay this is not for me and I’m gonna keep looking.

Peter: Oh yeah, I completely agree. At one time, I wanted to get my certified financial planning credential and I went no… that’s not it, and I tried a number of things until I kind of, well, fell in love with teaching. But yeah, you have to try a lot of stuff and you have to be able to fail, in order to figure out what you’re doing. But as you said, it takes time.

Courtney: Yes

Peter: So thinking about your business, and we’ll start talking about that, but you’ve been there done it, and you’re working now with the younger generation. Part of what you do is help them transition into the corporate world.

Courtney: Absolutely. I mean my I think my whole purpose in life is I’ve been where you are and I know how awkward it is, I know how confusing it is, I know the mixed messages you’re getting, because it hasn’t really changed all that much. And if you had asked me, even five years ago, what will you be doing… this is not what I would have said. But what what happened for me is I left the corporate world and I thought I would be a one-on-one coach.

Peter: I could see that.

Courtney: I kind of had this hazy vision of it, you know how it is, but I was very certain that I wanted to take my life in a new direction. So I leave the corporate world and I’m like, I’ll be a coach. And I realized, as much as I love helping people, that’s not kind of the platform that I want to do it in. And I had begun speaking. I was at Lake Louise in Canada. I was at a really great conference there for young women. Most of these young women still in college, the University of Alberta, which is a very good school, and the women at this conference were like the top of the top. Super high performers, very engaged in school, all of it. And I gave two sessions at that conference, made a lot of friends, and some women came up to me afterwards. These young women intimidated me they had their stuff; they had it together so well. If I had my act together as well as you do in college… God knows where I’d be today. They just had it all going on, and everyone I sat down with was anxious and concerned and worried. I don’t know what to do and how do I do this and how do I do that, and I thought nothing has changed. You are the exact same person I was at 20, except you know how to use a smartphone and you have better grades. But I thought this is ridiculous. They’re still not teaching the things that you are really going to need to know when you walk into the job, and not only on the first day but even before that. And another thing I noticed was, at the conference, I was the only independent there. I was the only entrepreneur. Because I was beginning my career, I had gone up there as a loss leader. I had an opening and I’m like I’m there, I’m there, whatever it takes I’ll get there. Every other person there was a corporate executive. They had paid to promote the conference, so sponsored it, and then spoke, and what they had done is monopolized this market of young talent, and the only perspective that the young women there got was a corporate perspective. I have to say that got my hackles up a bit. These women need to hear another perspective, and they’re really kind of not getting it, and they definitely weren’t getting in colleges. That kind of made me think you can go back and and really change the experience for a lot of people. This is unnecessarily hard. There are some lessons in life that that you have to learn. There are gonna be challenges and you benefit from them, but I believe wholeheartedly there are some things that don’t need to be difficult that are kind of made difficult just because there’s nothing there to show them, kind of, this is how it works, and give them a perspective of someone who’s been there. These are the challenges you’ll face, and this is normal, and this is kind of how you can prepare for this. So that’s kind of what got me on this path. A couple conversations with some really bright women, who were a bit scared of kind of going out into the world after graduation.

Peter: Can you give me a for example of that.

Courtney: I can. I sat down for coffee with this one young woman, and she had applied for a job and been rejected. She described the whole situation and I’m like, wow, you sound perfect for that job. Just right off the top she’s an excellent student, she’s already traveled all over the world. She just has everything going for her, and she said a friend of mine works there and she goes “I feel bad saying this, but I almost feel like my friend is jealous with me or maybe doesn’t want me to get a job there,” and and you could tell it really upset her. She didn’t want to sound egotistical, but I’m like that’s a reality. People competing with each other at work, yeah, it’s a reality, and I said don’t feel bad about saying that. That happens in the workplace, and people become jealous of each other, and maybe they’re not as supportive as they would like to be… so it’s not just like how do I write my cover letter in my resume. It’s more of the kind of political issues, or how people really interact. There’s an image and then there’s the reality, and often times, particularly if you’re kind of in the community, you don’t want to acknowledge some of the more unpleasant aspects of how we work together (or don’t work together) well. You want to go along and get along. As my corporate friends used to say, just drink the kool-aid.

Peter: [laughs] yeah

Courtney: So I thought that was a really obscure thing, but it’s like yeah that is some of the reality. Not everybody’s gonna want to want to see you get ahead. Another woman told me you “I’m worried about something silly.” She didn’t have a job. She had worked and worked and then she took a summer off, and she’s like “I’m not supposed to have gaps in my resume.” And I thought… says who? She was in pain over this, and I thought you really don’t need to worry about it, but everything seems to be riding on it, and this is true for anybody. You’ve been successful and you want to continue to be perceived as successful, and when that’s threatened… I mean you talked about losing your job. It’s not just a data point. There’s a real emotional impact to that. We have a incredibly strong emotional attachment to… it’s like a triangle: our jobs and our security, but also our self esteem and self respect.

Peter: right

Courtney: And I guess that’s the Puritan work ethic, and you know that goes back literally hundreds of years… and I think sometimes people just need to be put at ease, and a lot of what I do and, in addition to teaching and helping people kind of find their direction and also the practical strategies and tactics of getting in and being successful, and being happy. It’s just a little bit of compassion and empathy. You don’t have to be perfect. You can actually be a human. Everybody else is, but you can relax and enjoy the ride a little bit more.

Peter: So what’s lacking?When a college graduate goes from backpack to briefcase, what’s the biggest challenge? What’s lacking that they’re not teaching in the universities, but god they need it in the workplace?

Courtney: I really think what is lacking is a simple primer on, up until this point in your life, it’s been a completely different paradigm. What they need is a transition. This is the difference between what you’re expected to do and how you’re expected to think and behave in an academic environment, which you spent your entire life in up to that point. Even if you’ve worked, you’ve probably not worked in the same… maybe you were a knowledge worker, but you could be anything. You could have been you know leading tours with outward bound or something. Everybody comes to it from a different place. I was on the phone interviewing a millennial and he said I would have just like liked just one semester of job hunt training. How you really go and, you know, interview practice I was playing tennis one day with somebody who’s a really really good tennis player, an actual pro, and he said, “Courtney, tennis is an easy game to learn, but it’s a hard game to master.” So I feel like they’re kind of being told these things, but they’re not given the finesse: here’s how you write a cover letter, here’s how you write a resume… and those are easy things to write, but they’re hard things to master, and it’s the same thing with with the office politics. Here’s a perfect example: I had a boss tell me once, “Courtney, when I make a decision in this company, I make it based on what would I do at this moment if it was my company,” and that’s a very simple statement but I was like, of course, that gets right to the heart of the matter. The best decision is dictated, and I’m sure there are ethically and morally sticky decisions, but when you’re talking about business the best decision is dictated by if it was me, if it was my company… would I be so liberal with my expense account, whatever the case may be. I think, when you go into that world, you’re still thinking like a student. You don’t have a clue, and you do figure it out, but a course in entrepreneurship, I think, would probably help. Because that makes you think like a business person, and then you have empathy to like the bigger animal that you’re a part of rather than just, okay, go make these copies. You don’t see how the bigger machine works. I worked in Amsterdam for a while, with KPMG, and the guy running the whole show there was actually a very good leader, and we were talking one day and he said “what do you suggest to engage people like at your level a little bit more with what’s going on here?” And I said, you know what would really open people’s eyes to what what the bigger picture is? If you invited someone and included them in your executive committee meeting, because we don’t know. I mean you go in there and you have your Conclave and you come out and there’s a new pope or whatever, and we don’t get it. We’re thinking and we’re trying to solve problems on your behalf when you turned the ship three meetings ago and we we don’t know, and I think a lot of that is driven by people protecting their turf and all of that corporate stuff that goes on. There is a great deal of insight, and what I saw was the old dog saying “these young pups, they’ll figure it out the hard way like I did,” and if I had to figured out the hard way then you’re gonna figure it out the hard way. That’s not changing. And to me I looked at that and I just thought this is ridiculous, and it really did drive me to move out because I thought there’s so much talent here, there are so many smart people who started young and said the way to survive is to fit into this mold. So they remoulded themselves in the corporate image, and then kind of were trained out of bringing their talents to the foreground. It’s like I don’t have time to do that because I have to get this work done and drive their issues forward, and I think that’s a part of the conflict.

Peter: Yeah, I agree with you with that, and as you were describing that it takes me to a conversation I’ve had with a number of partners. When we’re talking about new hires, I say you got them in a cube and they’re doing this work, but they don’t know nothing about how this business works. And you don’t really know until maybe you get to be between manager and senior manager, and so why don’t you take these kids and say this is your cube, you’re hanging your shingle here, your area has to be profitable for the firm and I’m going to teach you how the firm maintains its profitability, I think there’s so much more ownership that would be taken on by that new staff vs yeah I’m working for this company and I’m just doing what they’re telling. Versus yeah my area is profitable, this is what I’m doing, and this is how I’m doing it. And to your point, yeah, let me have some information that’s coming from the meetings. What’s management thinking? I’m not going to give them all the dirty details, some of that stays up top, but some of some of the day in and day out information should be shared. I think that gets emotional ownership and that emotional equity into the organization.

Courtney: I completely agree. I think it’s the difference between teaching people to think like workers and teaching them to think like they have a stake, and one of the big things that I do and I work with anyone is entrepreneurial mindset. I think people are a little bit too submissive. It’s like I’ll do anything to get the job, I’ll be anything you want me to be, and sometimes without even realizing they’re doing it and it’s no good for them and it’s no good for whoever they’re gonna work for, because they’re never gonna reach their potential if they’re just like well just tell me what you want me to do. The big thing is vision. I think, if you’re driven by a big picture of how you want things to end up, even if that changes (and it always does) that is one of the most clarifying, motivating things any individual can do. What’s the big picture here? Where are you ultimately going? Maybe you’re gonna go through KPMG or a couple of other big four firms before you get there. Have a bigger plan, and wherever you’re working at any given time should be kind of part of your plan, not just you being part of their plan.

Peter: And having that plan, but being very adaptable, because the landscape does change, and sometimes we we have that plan and we may be so rigid in that thought process that we’re not willing to maybe take a chance and go into a different direction.

Courtney: I completely agree. Or we’re stigmatized because we think, well, I committed to doing this and I’m supposed to be doing this. I was talking to someone a few years ago and they said that their daughter was in the final year of med school and she was like “I don’t want to do this… I don’t. I just know that I don’t want to do this,” and her parents were like well you have to finish… and ten years ago I would have thought, well, yes she has to finish, but now I wouldn’t. I’d be like this person has realized that this career is not for them, and yes they’ve made an enormous commitment… and, ultimately, she became a doctor, but she stopped. She was a doctor for a number of years and she got out and she went and did something else. I think she actually stayed in that kind of a medicalish profession, but I kind of thought… I get that there’s this commitment to finish, closure, and all of these things… and you shouldn’t quit, but the fact is sometimes you should quit.

Peter: Right, right.

Courtney: I think we need to give people a little bit more space to quit in, and that is not something most people think is right or want to hear but there’s a place for being able to say this isn’t working, this isn’t right for me, and I’m going to move on.

Peter: Because, when you stay, in that situation, it becomes a detriment to your health and to your mental stability, at times. We can get trapped and we’ve got a mortgage, and we’ve got three kids, and they’re all in braces, and all of that… but it does take a toll on your health, and I’ve got a number of friends who work in very stressful jobs and I hear it all the time. “If I can just make it past this point…” and I’m thinking that shouldn’t really be the phrase that’s coming out… it’s like I love my job that I love going in, but now I just got to get past this point and then I can maybe retire do something differently. And I’m going maybe you should take the jump sooner.

Courtney: I cannot tell you how many people I’ve seen deteriorate, and myself included, as work stresses them out. And any doctor will tell you that there is an epidemic of what they call nonspecific inflammatory disease, and its people showing up in doctors offices saying I don’t feel good, I’m sick, I have all these symptoms… and it’s stress, and it has literally become epidemic. At the moment, I’m looking up a word on my phone because I want to leave this with your listeners. I was, again, somehow being good at attaching to some kind of media, and they were talking about an epidemic, which is increased from 2000 to now, of death by work in Japan.

Peter: death by work?

Courtney: Death by work. I’m not making this up. It is an epidemic in Japan. It’s called Karōshi. In Japan… I lived in Tokyo for a year, and it is an amazing place with incredible people… and everyone there is committed to work in a way that makes the Puritan work ethic look like Dazed and Confused.

Peter: Right.

Courtney: It is incredible, and they will work themselves to death. I can remember. I would walk from where I lived to a subway station, and you would see people sleeping in their cars, business people, because they had worked so late or so hard that they didn’t have time to drive home. So they slept in their cars and they were just going to get up and go do it again. That wasn’t at all uncommon, and you know we’re not far from it. It’s frequently suicide, and I mentioned doctors earlier, and it is not uncommon. This is taking a bit of a dark turn, but I feel like people need to talk about this… because I know they’re thinking it. It’s not uncommon for doctors, when they’re not yet fully practicing but they’re in the emergency room and they’re working these incredibly long shifts… the suicide rate among those doctors who are working these marathon shifts actually spikes, and it’s over work. It’s all this pressure to deliver, and it’s so common in japan they’ve actually come up with this name for it, Karōshi. So I can’t help but think… how far are we from the point where our dignity and who we are is so tied to our work performance that we will literally sacrifice one for another, like they are in Japan? And they’ve actually started to address it, and some businesses are doing something they call premium Friday, where they send workers home on Friday. They’re kind of pushing them out the door to say, yeah, we recognize we have a problem here. It’s gone too far… and that’s sobering.

Peter: That is. One of my jobs in victoria secret, I was international circulation manager, and we were trying to open up the japanese market. So this is mid 90s and, yes, I can attest. I saw that work ethic. I didn’t think it was very efficient, but they would work hard, work long hours (12 14 15 hours), and then the stereotypical Japanese businessman would still want to go out to the wee hours of the morning. You can’t go at that pace, and I would say that maybe the Millennials are helping us to get out of this because there’s more… I don’t like this word: work-life balance. I always got work life management, because the only time we’re in balance is when we’re dead, or university professor. Outside of that, there’s no balance. I think they are helping us to see that there’s more to life than just the job.

Courtney: Let me tell you, I love Millennials. I need to be an honorary millennial. I think they are really going to save us from ourselves, in many respects, for that very reason. They are not willing to sacrifice their well being for their work success. They bring, I think, a great and refreshing attitude. The optimism… and I know I hear people who work with Millennials say “Well these Millennials…” and I’m like, okay, that’s not a millennial characteristic. Any 20 or early 30 year old – you, me, anyone – is gonna do that. That’s just part of being at that age, and I think that’s an important distinction. Every 20-year-old in history had a lot of stupid tickets, which they played, including you. We all need just give them a pass there. I think they bring optimism, incredible discretion about what they’re willing to be subjected to, which is not karoshi, and just a new way of working. I’m inspired. I am absolutely inspired. I was giving a talk a few years ago. I don’t know how I got into this, but I was speaking to the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.

Peter: oh!

Courtney: I know. It’s not where I would have expected to be, but it was great. It was a wonderful group of people and they asked me to come speak about getting good talent to join police forces. They’re really struggling to get the right people in there, and it’s about community policing. It’s about communicating a new message around policing, and I do a lot of research for this because this isn’t a field that I’m familiar with, and I learned a lot. I interviewed a Colorado State Patrol officer and he said there are so many great things about Millennials in terms of community policing, and he said but I can’t get them to work overtime. I said well what do you need? And he said “I need somebody to sit in a patrol car at a construction area on the interstate to kind of make people aware, slow it down, behave yourselves.” All they have to do is sit there. It’s the easiest job in the world, and he said it’s an overtime kind of thing, and he said he can’t get anyone to do it. They want to have their lives and they want their time, and I sympathize with his predicament but I thought… isn’t that how it should be?

Peter: right

Courtney: I mean it was a good thing. Isn’t that the other end of the spectrum from karoshi, where you’ve worked herself, literally, to death.

Peter: Yeah, I hold the same thoughts about the Millennials. Working with seniors when I was at the University and pushing them out the door… that was one of my favorite things to do, and I would always tell them that you guys got the world by the tail. Just go a little slow. Just just back off the pedal just a little bit in those early years, but you guys are great. As you’re describing this, I’m thinking that’s the problem right now, in the accounting profession, with succession planning. Because they see these partners working themselves to death, and they don’t want to have anything to do with it. It’s incredible. These guys are coming out of college, they’re going to work for the big four, and they’re leaving after three years, which is kind of typical back in the day. But what we’re seeing is, when they leave, they haven’t taken the CPA exam, nor will they take the CPA exam. They’re going to do something simpler like brain surgery or something… no you guys are nuts!

Courtney: [laughs]

Peter: I can’t work like this! There’s no balance. It’s just all work-driven at that karoshi amount.

Courtney: Yeah. I was gonna mention that the number of recent graduates taking the CPA is in decline, and it’s because they don’t want to grind away and study and study and study… and they see it. And honestly you say they look at the partners and they’re like I don’t want to do that. That’s exactly one of the main drivers of why I got out. Of course, I had to bring another element to it. As a woman, I looked at the path for women and I looked at the women who were partners, who were directors in the firm, and my exact thought was ‘no way, no how, is that at the end of the road I’m on. it’s just not worth it.’ So I have to applaud them for having… whether it’s foresight or intuition or whatever they’re bringing to bear to say “no, I don’t want to be on this road if that’s where this road leads.” And I think one of the last companies I was working with told that one of their benefits was a year-long sabbatical, when you make partner or director (depending on the path you were on). You could opt to take a year off, and things like that really make me think that companies do get it. So I see some responsiveness. It’ll be interesting. I read something last night that said by 2025, seventy-five percent of the workforce will be Millennials.

Peter: Yeah

Courtney: I can’t wait for that! In a blink, we’ll be there.

Peter: Yeah, because we’ll be a lot older. When I do talk about the generations with audiences at times, I say yeah we all complain at times about the Millennials. Remember, you baby boomers out there, you’re the ones that raised them.

Courtney: [laughs]

Peter: And they’re all going “no, not my kid.” No. You all raised them. The baby boomers raised them, so quit complaining about them.

Courtney: It’s on you, that’s right. You put them out there into the world, now let’s work with them. They take a lot of heat for it, but I hope their optimism will lift us all, and I think it will. I really do.

Peter: I do too. I saw something, probably over a year so ago, on CNBC that millennials contribute over 2 trillion dollars in consumer spending. Now, you’re gonna laugh… I stated that stat and one of my presentations and somebody said “Was it their money or their parents money they were spending?”


Peter: It was their money. And when you think of millennials we have this picture, but I try to shape that picture a little differently and say one person’s name: who’s a millennial, some guy named Mark Zuckerberger?

Courtney: Mark Zuckerberg, yeah.

Peter: Zuckerberg… he’s a millennial.

Courtney: He’s like the ultimate millennial.

Peter: right

Courtney: Like upwards of seventy percent of Millennials want to be entrepreneurs, and I think Mark Zuckerberg is like the ultimate entrepreneur, right? He spun up his business in college and now he’s he’s iconic.

Peter: And they can do it because of the way technology has changed. I mean technology… whenever I got to Panera or Starbucks the laptops out… and they’re all working.

Courtney: I mean but isn’t that kind of wonderful? I could remember sitting in my cubicle, longer ago that I’m gonna admit to, and you had your radio and you had your DOS-based screen (now I’m really dating myself). Now you could set at the coffee shop and get the same thing done.

Peter: Right. You could work on your phone, you can read on your phone. I officiated a wedding for my goddaughter last year, and and she’s a millennial, she’s in the mid-to-late 20s, and we were talking about the vows. I asked if they had written their own vows, and they went yes. So when it came time for the wedding, they both took out their phone, and they had the vows on their phone… which made me really feel old because I was officiating using an iPad on like a 30 font so I could read. And they’re looking at these little letters without glasses. I’m going Wow! But it was it kind of cool. That was really kind of sobering in a lot of ways, but yeah.

Courtney: I would give anything to have a picture of that: you with your iPad and them at their phones.

Peter: Uhhhh I bet you I can get it to you.

Courtney: That’s a modern wedding.

Peter: I have not seen all the pictures, but I will text my goddaughter and see if she can send me that one, if it exists. I’m sure it does.

Courtney: I mean it really does capture the times, doesn’t it?

Peter: Yeah, it really does. So you present at a lot of conferences, you work with a lot of groups as relates to this career path, the consulting side of your business, but you’ve got more than just that out there. You are about to launch something you’ve been working on for quite some time now, I believe. You’re about to launch The Job Hunt School. Tell us about that.

Courtney: Ah, Job Hunt School! This is my baby. That’s the metaphor I’m using. Job Hunt School was born out of, actually, my first program, Original Experience, which is a program kind of to help people figure out their vision. What do I want to do? I’m out of school, I’ve tried some jobs, I’m kind of not sure which way to go. So when I was working with this group of people in Original Experience – I called him the originals – they would call me or text me or message me or facebook inbox me and say, “Hey I’ve got a job interview tomorrow. What do I do about this? Will you look at my cover letter? Will you look at my resume? Should I include this? They want to know what my salary is, should I tell them?” and I kept having the same conversation over and over again. Last December, I was home in Virginia with my family and I had one of these. Eleven o’clock I get a message and I just thought you have to address this, because every single person you know in this age group, sooner or later, comes to you with these questions. Again, it’s that anxiety. I really want this job, it’s perfect for me, but I have no idea how to get from where I am to the desk in that office. Or I do, but I’m still insecure and unsure and I don’t want to blow this, so they’re under ton of pressure. I grabbed a cup of coffee, I sat down with the legal pad, and I started making notes. And I had a name for it, I guess, by January, and I naively thought I would have it out by June… but nevertheless, and it just morphed into this idea. The purpose of job hunt school is to have something for that person recently graduated, up into their 20s, who is spinning their wheels and is going through the motions and doing all the right things… but again, they know how to play the game but they haven’t mastered it, and they’re suffering for that. So from soup to nuts, that’s what Job Hunt School offers.

Peter: So let me ask you, does Job Hunt School address this issue: I had an earlier podcast, a woman by the name of Brette Rowley, who’s a career coach. She talks a lot along the same lines that you are, but she made a comment that she works with the same type of group, primarily women, about negotiating salary.

Courtney: Oh yes.

Peter: And she made a comment about “there’s so much money being left on the table because we don’t negotiate salary,” which can be very intimidating to that job applicant, especially if they’re going into a senior role, a more senior role, and the salary range is going to jump pretty substantially. How can I negotiate? How can I? And I’m going you can because you have to think about the level that it says. I’ve got a little bit of an HR background because that was part of my undergrad. I’m going you have to look at the compensation matrix. You want to come in probably around the middle, which gives you a place to grow, but they might be trying to bring you in at the bottom… so yeah, you should negotiate.

Courtney: It’s like anything. You’re intimidated by anything you don’t how to do or that you’ve never been trained in, and I think what compounds everything in this part of your life is, collectively, people kind of expect you to know what to do. So there’s this feeling like I’m supposed to know how to do this. You know when you’re sitting around and everybody’s looking at each other because nobody knows what the person who’s talking is talking about, and you’re like is it just me? Am I the only one who zoned out? And then it becomes, and this is the word, it becomes like you’re a little bit of shame that maybe you don’t know something you should know. So you’re just going to shut up and take what they give you and it’ll all be good, but take that same person and set them down and say I’m gonna train you how to do this. It’s just like tying your shoes or riding a bike. It’s just like anything else you’ve learned, but it’s like once you get into the work world we’re all in competition so let’s not share our secrets because that money you negotiate for may be money that could have been mine!

Peter: right

Courtney: So there’s this competitive atmosphere, and they just need to know how to do it. Nobody tells him the rules, nobody tells them the little secrets – let me tell you what’s going on backstage, let me tell you how HR thinks, let me tell you kind of how all this is set up. They just know what they saw in the movies or what they picked up from their parents, or if they had an internship somewhere. When you have to do anything and you’ve never actually been sat down and said okay, here you go, negotiating 101… you are going to feel awkward and uncomfortable. They talk about women having more difficulty negotiating than men. Whatever your default point is, it’s something that could be taught and that’s that was the whole point of the program. Just to pick the things out that caused the most anxiety. For example, rejection. Everyone flips out when they apply and they don’t hear anything.

Peter: [laughs]

Courtney: There are some reasons for that, but it’s part and parcel of the game.You kind of have to have the right mindset about something like that, but all of these things that are so familiar to you and I know, because we’ve been up and down this road many many times, many many things around the track, when you begin it’s hard to remember what you didn’t know, and that’s what I that’s what I want to step in and help them with. It’s like, yeah, you went to the career center and here’s your resume and here’s your cover letter. Let me take you the last ten percent of the way there, and that last ten percent is the difference between your resume going in the bin and your resume getting on the short list to get a phone screening, and that’s when you’re like okay I’m making progress now, and that’s what I want to give through the program.

Peter: That’s great, and that’s a lot of knowledge to pass on because it might be the last ten percent, but it could be a hundred percent of that career.

Courtney: absolutely

Peter: So you said you’ve been working on this for a while and you’re getting close, the baby’s about to be birthed.

Courtney: yeah

Peter: When do you think this thing will be launching?

Courtney: April.

Peter: April of 2017?

Courtney: Right, yes.


Courtney: I’m glad you asked because, believe me, I heard somebody tell me once, it was only recently, they said the last ten percent of your product program, project, whatever will take as much effort as the first ninety percent, and I thought to myself “hmm, I really hope that’s not true, because I’m supposed to have this out in January.” That was my pulled out of thin air deadline, and it absolutely is true, but it’s been a great learning experience. I have loved doing it. It has been a labor of love. I mean a baby and a birth is all the right metaphor because I have really enjoyed talking to people about the challenges, like interviewing Millennials about the challenges they face, and I’ll tell you I came across this question recently. Somebody said if you really want to know what you are about, or what somebody you’re interviewing is about, ask this question: tell me about your best day at work ever, and I had to think, okay, what was my best day at work? It really gets you thinking just kind of about everything. Was it when you made a big sale, was it when you helped somebody? Just what was your best day at work ever? Did something come to mind?

Peter: Oh, when you just said that… I mean, I try to make every day one of the best days because I love what I do. I don’t think I’ve worked a day since I started this business, but I work all the time, but I would say the most recent one is when I did the closing keynote in February for White Castle, for the general managers conference, and I took some words from, and I gave her credit, from the opening keynote of Marilyn Sherman. I don’t know if you know Marilyn or not, she’ll be a future interview on my podcast, but she said “the best day ever, let’s have the best day ever,” and that keynote… okay, I’ll pat myself on the back, I kicked it. I mean that was probably one of the best… I took stuff from the whole conference, tied it all together, had interaction, and it was the best day ever. So I can think about that, and the other thing I think about it is part of my excitement for every day is when I get to do this. When they get to talk to the Courtneys of the world. I love the conversation. I’ve got another one this afternoon. Two of these, I’ll be mostly exhausted by the end of today, but once again best day.

Courtney: That is absolutely beautiful, and you’re doing it. You didn’t pluck some point from way back in history. You’re living. You’re doing that now.

Peter: Yeah. Other than maybe the day that I got the job offer from Victoria’s Secret catalog. I mean, come on, seriously. That was almost the most wonderful day in the whole wide world. [laughs]

Courtney: [laughs] That is so… because that magazine ended up being a catalog ended up being so representative of ike a point in time. That is hysterical that you worked for them.

Peter: Yeah that was interesting times. Doing do what I do, anytime and I get in front of an audience, that I can make them laugh, but I can get them to have that look that go “uh-huh, I get it,” or that big aha moment. That’s best day ever.

Courtney: Good for you. Do people ever come up to you after your talks, and by after your talks I mean even email you or contact you months later, and maybe refer back to something they learned and say you gave me something there and I just want to let you know you changed something for me, or you helped me in some way.

Peter: Yeah, and it’s becoming more and more, and at times it just really catches me off guard. But yes, I’ve had some that really have touched me quite profoundly. That my book had this impact on somebody so much that it’s just… yeah. It’s a great feeling, and I can only imagine how many of those you get.

Courtney: I’ve been fortunate enough to get a few, and every time I get that it’s always a surprise, it’s out of the clear blue sky. You get an email and somebody tells you their story, and I had one recently. This young woman emailed me, and you you speak and you look at the audience and you have some people, and maybe there’s some people you don’t have, but you go and it’s over. It’s like you have that moment with this group of people, and usually a few people come up afterwards and you connect with people that way, but I had a woman email me and she said I saw you speak last year for an international women’s day event in Canada and you talked about your TED talk, and you talked about… one of the things I do with people is to if you’re stuck or you’re not happy where you are, just set a breakthrough goal. Set one thing that if you achieved it would transform your life, and for me that actually was that TEDx talk… and she said “on that day you gave your talk and you asked us to speak up and you asked us to share our breakthrough goals and I didn’t, and I didn’t come up to you afterward, and she said but I set a goal to give a TEDx talk on that day because of you, and in two weeks I’m gonna give one. I just wanted you to know you know thanks, and this was my goal I want to finally tell you what it is.” It’s better than the day at the office. It really is. You realize it was like the guy walking down the beach throwing starfish in the water. Whatever your work is, you can’t save them all. You ever heard the story?

Peter: No.

Courtney: Thousands of starfish have washed up on the beach and they’re all up in the Sun and they’re gonna die, and this one guys walking down the beach and he’s picking up starfish that he’s just throwing her back in the water. He meets somebody coming in the opposite direction. The guy says, “What are you doing? That’s stupid. You can’t save them all. You’re not gonna make a difference,” and the first guy picks up a starfish and he chucks it in the water and he said, “Made a difference to that one.”

Peter: Wow, love that!

Courtney: It’s a classic. It’s been around for ages, but if you know that you’ve made a difference, whatever you’re doing, for one person…

Peter: Yeah, it makes what we do because what we do, at times, can be kinda lonely. But we get in front of an audience and we can see that we are making an impact. That just keeps that fire burning. That just keeps keeps that drive going.

Courtney: It does.

Peter: Courtney, I can’t believe that this has been… it feels like it’s only been five minutes.

Courtney: I know, this has been good. You are so great and we go along and you’re cracking a joke and I’m like, this guy’s funny.

Peter: This has been a blast. I know my audience is gonna take so much away from this, but tell the audience how they can find you.

Courtney: The best place to find me probably is That will direct you to pretty much anywhere else you need to go. On my social media, I’m pretty active on Twitter and Facebook. Would love to see you there, and if any of your audience members are getting ready to job hunt, or know someone who is, right now we have a splash page up for Job Hunt School and you can sign up. So when that launches, if you want to see what that’s about or you know someone who might benefit from it, sign up and you’ll get the word and you can check it out for yourself.

Peter: That’s great. Thank you so very much. I will put all this information about job hunt school, all8 the links and stuff, in the show notes, and Courtney it’s been an absolute pleasure.

Courtney: Same here, Peter. Thank you so much.

Peter: Thank you.


I would like to thank Courtney again for taking time out of your schedule to give us her thoughts on assimilating into the corporate world from college, as well as dealing with all the office politics. You can find out more about Courtney on our website,, or email her at Courtney (at) Courtney Kirschbaum (dot) com. In episode 45, I interview Rosemarie Rossetti, who is a compelling speaker who transformed her tragic experiences into life lessons. Through her keynote presentations, she helps her audiences discover their inner strength. Her core message is focused on success strategies and life lessons that can provide the tools to live life with conviction. Remember, you can subscribe to my podcast on itunes, stitcher, and google play. If you’d like to purchase a personalized autographed copy of my book Improv is no Joke: Using Improvisation to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life, for $14.99 with free shipping, please go to my website,, and you’ll see the graphic on the homepage to purchase my book. Please allow 14 days for shipping. Thank you again for listening and remember to use the power of adaptability and Yes, And to grow your career.


Production & Development for Improv Is No Joke by Podcast Masters

Ep 43 – Cathy Fyock – The Biz Book Strategist


Cathy Fyock is an author of eight books and a book coach, and she hates to write. In spite of that, she wrote most of her books in just six weeks!

In this episode, Cathy shares a number of excellent and actionable tips for writing your nonfiction book, getting started when you’re struggling, and the benefits of publishing a book for you and your business.

Her most recent book, Blog2Book: Repurposing Content to Discover the Book You’ve Already Written, is also the title of a seminar that I attended in February 2017. I really connected with what she said and, in large part, that is because she identifies with the pain of struggling to start writing, or struggling to get the words out of your head and onto the page.

Before you even start the writing process, you have to prepare.

  • Get hyper clear about why you want to write this book. Is it just because you have always wanted to write a book, or are you writing a nonfiction book around your area of expertise as a way to establish your thought leadership, get more clients, more business, or as a revenue stream? There can be a number of reasons that you may want to write. They’re all legitimate, but your reason may inform how you go about writing the book.
  • Get hyper clear on what this is book about. A lot of people get stuck because they know a lot, and they could potentially write several books, but you can only write one book at a time… and even that is sometimes tricky. What is your thesis statement? What is your 30-second commercial?
  • Establish your target audience. Who is that reader? Get very specific about who that target market is, and then start to think about what it is that you really want a reader to know. What is it that they have questions about? What are the issues that they would want to have addressed in a book on this topic?

Here’s a hot tip: To help her clients get clear on what their books are about and learn more about their audience, Cathy has “Ask Me About My Book” buttons. These are a valuable research and motivational tool because answering questions about your book will reveal what is compelling about your topic, if you have honed it properly, and get you thinking about the project more often.

Now you are prepared with an outline, a reason, and a business plan. How do start writing a book, even if you hate writing?

  • A lot of people make the mistake of starting with the first chapter, but that’s one of the hardest chapters to write. Start with whatever chapter in the middle is calling to you. The first and last are the hardest to write because you need to have that big vision of where you’re going and where you’ve been. Just start with a page – it doesn’t matter which one.
  • After you have something written (and that first win!), continue to write out of order. You just want to create momentum. You want to create energy and excitement for yourself, because this is a big and arduous task.
  • Don’t get hung up on editing. You need to write the book first, then you can edit it. Writing and editing are two different brain functions, so trying to do them both simultaneously is exhausting. Just get it all out there, raw, and polish it later.
  • Learn when you write best. Early in the writing process, set timed writing sessions in the morning, afternoon, and late at night to assess when you are most productive. You may not be a morning person but still do your best writing in the morning.
  • Learn where you write best. Try writing in different environments to see where you are the most productive. Some people thrive in a hectic environment (like the coffee shop or a restaurant), but others need to be in a cave.
  • Use writing prompts. Just google the term, use an app, or think about something weird. The most different writing prompts can sometimes produce the most creative results, because thinking about two disparate subjects can result in lateral thinking.
  • Practice time blocking. Schedule the times that you will write, put them on your calendar, commit to actually blocking off that time, and be very detailed with your plans. You don’t have to finish a whole chapter. Give yourself one small, but achievable, goal with each time block so that you can continue racking up wins.

Another way to chunk out the writing process, and the premise of her most recent book, is to write a blog first. You still need a plan and a theme, but writing 500-1000 words once or twice a week is much easier to chew than a whole book. By the end of the year, you will have a great outline for your next book, and you can use the blog to market the book throughout the process.

After you are done writing, publishing a book offers distinct benefits for you and your business. It can increase your authority in the eyes of your clients, customers, and prospects and differentiate your business from the competition.

Your book is your new business card. If you give someone your traditional business card, more likely than not it’s going to end up in the trash can. However, no one throws away a book. It can sit on a desk, on a shelf, or anywhere.

People can see your book, and every time they do you’ve made another impression in their mind… or, worst case scenario, they give the book to someone else. Another touch point.

If you are thinking about a book, don’t know where to start, or lack clarity, get in touch with Cathy for a complimentary strategy session. She wants to help you get started!

Download this Episode MP3.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Cathy Fyock: I think there is something really significant about momentum, and building that momentum – that snowball effect. Start where you can create impact. Start at those easy sections, and then keep track of your word count. See it build… because that is exciting!


Peter Margaritis: Welcome to Improv is no Joke podcast, where it’s all about becoming a more effective communicator by embracing the principles of improvisation. I’m your host Peter Margaritis, the self-proclaimed chief edutainment officer of my business, The Accidental Accountant. My goal is to provide you with thought-provoking interviews with business leaders so you can become an effective improviser, which will lead to building stronger relationships with clients, customers, colleagues and even your family, so let’s start the show.


Peter: Welcome to episode 43 of Improv is no Joke podcast. Thank you very much for downloading this episode. Today’s guest is Cathy Fyock, who is the biz book strategist. As she states on her website, she is your possibility partner providing you with intensive support you need to get your book done. Her most recent book, Blog2Book: Repurposing Content to Discover the Book You’ve Already Written, is also the title of her seminar that I attended on February 3rd of this year. Her workshop was so powerful that I had to get her on my podcast so she can give you tips about writing blogs to articles, and a book. What grabbed my attention were two things: first, Cathy wrote a book in six weeks. That’s right – six weeks, and it was around 150 pages. Secondly, she hates to write because it’s hard work! However, this does help when Cathy is coaching her clients because she understands the pain points and can relate to what her clients are experiencing. That’s a sign of a great coach. In this episode, she provides a plethora of writing tips to help you find the motivation to become a writer. Now we’re talking nonfiction business books here. We discuss the business benefit to writing, which is it increases your authority, your expert level, in the eyes of your clients, customers, and prospects. It will differentiate your business from your competition. The thing about writing a book, about your business, is now this book is your business card. If you give someone your traditional business card, more likely than not it’s going to end up in the trash can. However, no one throws away a book. It can sit on a desk, on a shelf, or anywhere, so in a variety of times they can see your book, and you’ve made another impression in their mind… or worst case scenario, they give the book to someone else. Another touch point. If you’re thinking about writing in book, then you’ll enjoy this interview. As you are listening to the interview, see if you can pick up on some of the principles of improvisation. I’ll give you these hints: focus and Yes, And are the big two. Keep these in the back of your head while you are enjoying our conversation. If you have been listening to my podcast for a while, you know one of my goals with his podcast is to help you begin to make changes in your work and personal lives so you can better connect with others and create meaningful relationships. Many people have said it takes 21 days to start a habit, which I learned is incorrect from Dr. John B Molitor, PhD. John is a professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University, and the President of NSA Board of Directors. He said that the research shows that it takes 66 days to create a habit. So now we gotta put in some extra work to create that muscle memory. That’s why I created the Yes, And challenge: to help keep these principles in front of you so you can build up your improvisational muscle. To sign up, please go to and scroll down to the Yes, And challenge call to action and click to register to begin building the productive habit of Yes, And and the principles of improvisation. And remember to show your experiences on twitter using the hashtag #yesandchallenge. If you’re unsure of what the Yes, And challenge is all about, I discuss this in detail in episode 0. Go back and take a listen. Remember you can subscribe to my podcast on itunes, stitcher, and google play. If you’d like to purchase an autographed copy of my book Improv is no Joke: Using Improvisation to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life, for $14.99 with free shipping, please go to my website,, and you’ll see the graphic on the homepage to purchase my book. Please allow 14 days for shipping. With that said, let’s get to the interview with Cathy Fycok.


Peter: Cathy, welcome to my podcast and thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to have a conversation with me today.

Cathy: I’m really glad to be here today and talking with you Peter.

Peter: Cathy and I go way back. Today is March 2nd. Wow… I met you a whole month ago.

Cathy: I know. One whole month. Wow. [laughs]

Peter: Wow. And I met Cathy here in Columbus. She did a seminar called Blog to Book, and immediately she grabbed me. She was just telling us about herself, which I’ll have her do in a moment, but I left that three-hour seminar, with my with my friend Jay Young, and I asked him this question: Jay, was it worth it? Oh my god, I can’t believe how much it was worth it. And I said good, cuz I feel the same way. And she gave us these buttons to keep, as a reminder about writing a book. It says “ask me about my book.”

Cathy: I love the fact you have yours on. That’s great.

Peter: I’m wearing mine, yeah.


Peter: That’s one of her, I guess, motivating factors. To wear this when you’re out and stuff to keep you motivated to write that book, because we all know writing is such an enjoyable task that a lot of us do every single day (that’s sarcasm.)

Cathy: Right. [laughs]

Peter: And that’s what this conversation is about. I was so enamored with her message, and how to motivate to write. First, I”m going to let her tell her tell you a little bit about herself.

Cathy: Okay, well, for many many years I was a human resources consultant. I was an author, consultant, speaker. I was on faculty for the society for human resource management, and loved working in that field, but I think there comes a point in all of our years where we become just a little burnt out and we’re ready for something new and we want to reinvent ourselves, and that’s where I found myself back in 2013. About this time I got a call from my chapter of the National Speakers Association, and they said, “Cathy we understand you wrote one of your books in less than six weeks. Is that right?”

Peter: [laughs]

Cathy: And I said, actually, I wrote four of my five books, at the time, in less than six weeks. And they said “oh my gosh, do you do you have a process?” I thought that is the most interesting question. Nobody has ever asked me that question before. So I had to think about it. Do I have a process? And I thought, yeah, I do. He said, “Well, would you be willing to talk with us about your process?” and I said yes, absolutely, and he said but before you say yes… we have two of our chapter members who are working on their books. Would you be willing to coach them using your process, and then give us the report? Then present to the chapter? And I said okay – you had me at give our presentation, and I’m still hooked. Because I thought, I know I know it works for me, but I’m curious does it work for other people. I don’t know, I don’t know. So I coached these two women, and during the coaching process they said to me, “Cathy, have you ever thought about being a book coach?” And I had to say no because I’d never even heard of a book coach before. So I got to thinking about it and I thought you know this could be the perfect reinvention, and after I gave my program to the chapter my friends came up to me and said “Cathy you could be you could be a book coach. You should do this.” And I thought this is it, this is it. So that was in the spring of 2013, and by January of 2014 I was in business as a book coach.

Peter: Wow. I’m still getting my mind… you said you wrote a book in six weeks.

Cathy: [laughs] that’s right.

Peter: Some some people it’s taken six years, some people it’s taking them 16 years. Some people still have it in their head and just have a hard time getting it out, and I think you said in the seminar something like you really love to write?

Cathy: Hahaha… not! No. Truth be told, I hate to write. I think it is hard, hard work… and I say this as an author of eight books now, and as a book coach. I really do hate to write. So I get it when my when my coaching clients come to me and say I need a book, I want a book, I really really got to get this thing out of me… but I’m not a fan. Because, really, all my clients pretty much do not like to write. Because what I found is if you’d like to write, you’re gonna write it and it’s gonna be done. So I primarily work with folks who really don’t like the writing process, or find that it’s really intimidating or really hard to get started or they’ve been stuck… and those are my clients.

Peter: Then you have a lot of clients.

Cathy: I do! [laughs] I do.

Peter: What what a great niche. So you don’t like to write, but you’re a book coach, and that’s when you had me when you opened up at the center and said that. I went okay, she knows the pain, and even my buddy Jay Young, who has his PhD and wrote a dissertation, and he was all in. That was the big connector for us. I think it was the big connector for everybody in the room, even though you had a lot of people in there who had written a number of books. Yeah, it is tough. So what is the biggest tip on getting past or getting started, or getting it out of your head and onto the paper?

Cathy: Well, I think one of the first things is to be really clear on your purpose, like what do you want to do with this? Is it just because you have always wanted to write a book, or are you writing a nonfiction book around your area of expertise as a way to establish your thought leadership? As a way to get more clients, more business, as a revenue stream? There can be a number of reasons that you may want to write. They’re all legitimate, but that may inform how you go about writing the book in a very different way. So I say that’s that’s maybe one of the first things. Get really, really clear on what it is you want to do with this book. If it’s going to be the cornerstone of your business, for example, if you’re gonna build a consulting or coaching business around this book… well then it needs to be linked to your business’s strategic plan, and you need to have a plan for how you’re going to to implement it and use it and execute with it. So that, I think, is one of the most important things: getting really, really clear on your purpose. Beyond that is to get really, really clear on what this is book about. I think a lot of people get stuck because they know a lot, and folks who are around my age (who have been around the block a time or two) could write several books, potentially, but you can only write one book at a time, and even that is sometimes tricky.

Peter: [laughs]

Cathy: So that is why it is so important to get focused on…. not your topic, that’s a little too broad. It’s about your thesis statement. What is your 30-second commercial? And that’s why I love my my buttons, my magic buttons, and you were talking about the fact that I love to give these to my clients and to folks who attend my sessions, because it really is a magic button. First of all, it’s magic when you just put it on and you wear it in public because you are making a statement. Yes, I’m claiming the fact that I’m working on a book. I’m going in this direction and nobody can stop me. Then the second thing it does is, when you wear this button, people will ask you… I don’t know if you’ve experienced this yet, Peter, but people will ask you, “So tell me about your book,” and you’re gonna have to say something. [laughs]

Peter: Right.

Cathy: It will really help. I know I just did a presentation for my NSA Kentucky chapter Monday night, and someone posted on Facebook that she wore her button to the Walgreens that night, after the meeting, and she said two people asked her about her book. She said she was so excited and she was talking about her book, and it was the first time she’d really been talking about her book. That’s magical because you are gaining information from the potential readers about what resonates with them. What is compelling about your topic? Have you really honed it properly? have you have you focused your topic, substantially? So those those things are really important, and I think probably even more than purpose, getting really really clear on what is your book about may be the most important part about writing a book.

Peter: If I translate that, and it’s not a big translation here, but I guess I haven’t thought about this way and I think you really clarified it for me… ultimately, if I’m gonna write a book to help the business and establish a thought leadership, then I really need to come up with a business plan for the book.

Cathy: Yeah!

Peter: In essence of, okay, what’s the mission of the company, how does this align with what I wanted to do… and I can see kind of laid out really just like a business plan, but I’ve never thought about it. Well, we didn’t do that with my first book, or we did and I just wasn’t that clear about.

Cathy: [laughs]

Peter: I just had to get this thing out of my head. I had no idea what would come up, and I had no idea what would come of it. I like that because then it helps you, me, whoever’s listening to wear the button… because, in all transparency, I haven’t worn the button because, if somebody asked me to tell them about my book…

Cathy: What are you going to say?

Peter: Yeah, and I don’t have that clarity to it, and then I would revert to, well, let me tell you about about the book I wrote two years ago… and also listening. By wearing it and by talking to people, you’re doing some additional research.

Cathy: Yes, you’re doing research and you’re getting clarity in your own head. It’s helping you on a number of different levels. Plus, it’s starting to create the buzz about your book because I think one of the hardest things about writing a book is selling a book, and getting it out there, and so you have to start marketing your book as you begin writing your book, and this is one of the ways to do that.

Peter: I can see that. I’ll share a story with you: I remember when I had 200 copies, when my book was done and showed up, I brought it into the house and I just looked at them. My wife asked, “Aren’t you excited?” But I was thinking, now what the hell do I do?

Cathy: [laughs]

Peter: I cleaned it up for my podcast, but…

Cathy: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

Peter: And I think the marketing part of the book has been, probably, the biggest learning experience I had in my business over the last two years. Different ways of marketing a book. And and some have said that these thought leadership type of books are really just business cards, in essence, because they’re opening up a door. And the great thing about a book is, to use it in that marketing thought process, you can give somebody business card and that business card can end up in a trash… but nobody throws a book away.

Cathy: No, they may give it to somebody else. They may not open it, but it stays either on their shelf or on somebody else’s shelf. You’re right. So it’s a powerful marketing tool, but only if you plan it in the way that that you want to use it. So, for example, with my books that are about writing, and I have two books now about writing, they really are the foundation for my coaching programs. That’s what I build my coaching programs around, so that that serves as the curriculum for going through and working with me. You have to start with that end in mind, for sure.

Peter: And then you kind of work your way back into a project management type of type of work.

Cathy: You sure do.

Peter: Okay, so I’ve got my business plan. I’ve got some clarity. I may not have a title, but that will come. So now I need to start.


Cathy: Oh my gosh, where do you start? Because so many people get so overwhelmed. Well, first of all, before you even get to the starting to write, I think it’s important to also get clarity on sort of the whole the whole business plan for your book, which includes not only the purpose, not only the the thesis statement, but also your targeted reader. Who is that reader? And it’s not everybody. It’s some specific audience. So getting really clear on who that target market is, and then starting to think about what it is that I really want this reader to know. What is it that they have questions about? What are the issues that they would want to have addressed in a book on this topic? And creating the outline. I believe you don’t ever start a book just like randomly start, and you just write. No, you carefully craft that outline first, and that creates your structure then so that you can begin writing.

Peter: Yeah, I remember going through that process of creating that outline and I think I created it using Post It notes, just trying to see how this all worked. Once we had that, it gave clarity. Now I’m not gonna say we stuck to it exactly, but it pushed us in the right direction.

Cathy: Absolutely. One of my biggest tips for starting on your book is that most people think, “Oh you start with chapter one.”

Peter: [laughs]

Cathy: [laughs] I think that’s the hardest place to start. I would never start with chapter one. I would start with whatever chapter in the middle is calling to you. Generally, the first chapter sort of sets up and is the premise for the whole rest of the book. Your last chapter is the summary chapter. So the first and last are the hardest to write because it really requires you to have that big vision of where you’re going and where you’ve been, so I think it’s smartest to start in the middle. Somewhere where you just know that content backward and forward, and you can just jump in and write it. Now, obviously, fiction is a whole different animal, but I’m really talking about nonfiction here.

Peter: Right right right right, and that was told to me a long time ago by a friend of mine who’s a journalist. Because I was going through writer’s block or something and I ask where do you begin? She goes “in the middle.” That’s exactly what I do. I begin in the middle, the meat of what I want to talk about, and then I build it out.

Cathy: Mhm. In fact, a lot of times what I end up doing (not only for me, but also the authors that I’m working with) is we will find that sometimes the beginning is really not where you start writing. A lot of times I think I’ll maybe even be starting from the beginning, but really it’s more powerful to start in the middle of a story, or in the middle of your example, or as action is continuing, so that you pull your reader in, and then continue on. So I think writing out of order is one of the best tips that has been given to me, and that I’ve shared with my clients. My very first coaching client, that woman that I coached for free at my chapter, she said “Cathy that was awesome. That was life-changing for me, just to be able to start in the middle and then go from there,” because the other thing is you want to create momentum. You want to create energy and excitement for yourself, because it is this big, long, difficult, arduous, task. So you want to create the momentum and feel like “oh yes I’ve got a chapter done,” and that’s why starting in the middle, or on whatever is inspiring you to write, that’s where you start.

Peter: Also, I remember something that you said about small wins for big gains, or something along those lines. It sounds like I don’t have to sit down today and write the whole chapter.

Cathy: No, you do not.

Peter: Just sit down and write, maybe, what you think will be on that first page

Cathy: or the middle page.

Peter: That’s right, I’m a slow learner!

Cathy: [laughs] Yeah, but just a page. Again, it could be anything that is sort of speaking to you and saying I know exactly how I want to tell this story, or I know what I want to share about this secret or this idea or this tip, and that’s where you start.

Peter: I’m gonna take it in a little bit of a different direction, but still on the same topic. So if somebody my audience is going “I don’t like to write,” whatever, and a book might be too big of a first step… but they want to start writing more articles for publications, or whatever, on their topic, or they want to start their blog. That was part of the conversation we had last month: how do you take a blog, your blog postings, and then take that into a book.

Cathy: Yes. I love the whole idea of starting with a blog because it’s something so doable. It’s such an easy little chunk. Typically, when we’re talking about blog posts, we’re talking about anything from 400 words to 800 words. Typically, mine average out around 650 words. Some authors do longer, some do shorter. It really doesn’t matter. Whatever works for you. But it’s a short and nice little chunk of writing, and the whole idea of writing something that is 650 words… that’s so doable. You can sit down in an hour and and get that done, and that is what is so empowering for a lot of folks: knowing that, if I construct this right, if I am gonna write a blog to book (as is the the title of my newest book), if I just write a blog post a week, and I do it consistently under the same umbrella (under the same theme), and I work with an outline, then at the end of the year I have the content for a book. Now there may need to be some revisions, some changes, or some editing, as there will be in any book, but it’s a great and easy way to chunk out your writing in very doable kinds of steps, so that you can have that book at the end of the year.

Peter: I love that, because that was one that one of the reasons why I went. I’ve had a blog now since, I think, 2014, and I’ve gone back… and, to be transparent, I’ve not completely done my homework because I haven’t gone through and organized, as you were talking about in the seminar. I just went back to look at all the different categories and stuff that’s out there, and okay I can see going through and doing some additional writing this year to tie a book together by the end of the year.

Cathy: Mm-hmm.

Peter: And it goes back to what you also said: small wins, big gains. Just these little small wins. But I think that most people… you know, I’ve got it on my calendar today at eight o’clock that I’m going to sit down and write for an hour. I can have it on my calendar, but that doesn’t mean I’ll do it.


Cathy: this is one of the biggest challenges for so many of my clients, because they’re busy people. I mean, we’ve got we’ve got busy jobs, we’ve got busy personal lives. We’ve got a lot of stuff on our plate, so how do we get it done? Well, first of all, I do think it’s important to put it on your calendar. It’s much better than your to-do list, by the way, because your to do list essentially is a list that we work by urgency…

Peter: [laughs] yeah

Cathy: And your book, while important, will probably not be urgent unless you have signed a contract and you’re gonna get the second half of your advance. You know, then it might be urgent. But, otherwise, your book isn’t ever going to be urgent, so therefore it needs to be on your calendar… but then the challenge becomes how do you honor your commitment that is on your calendar? That is really the hard question. One thing I encourage my clients to do is, if you if you have it on your calendar and you have to cancel, and that’s very understandable… I mean, even our favorite lunches that we have with our best buds, we sometimes have to cancel those appointments, but generally if we cancel one of those appointments what do we do?

Peter: reschedule

Cathy: Reschedule, yeah. So it’s a matter of honoring the importance of that commitment and then honoring it, either then at that moment or at some point in the near future.

Peter: Yes, and I think that is a challenge. Don’t think of it as your rescheduling a dentist appointment. Think of it as your rescheduling an appointment to write this book that you want to accomplish. I am a CPA, and I think the P in CPA, for a lot of us, is procrastination.

Cathy: [laughs]

Peter: I think I’ve turned it into an art form over the years… but it is daunting, writing. You were saying sit down and write for an hour. However, you’re not done.

Cathy: Well, let me go back to this one point. I’d like to just elaborate just a little bit more. Writing your book is not something you have to do – it is something you get to do. And I told that to my one of my clients. We were talking about it she goes “you’re right. I’m really writing this for me/ This book is important for me, so it’s not something I have to do – it’s what I get to do.” So what she did was create a worksheet, and basically she does two things: first of all, at the top of the page, it says “I get to,” and and she has then work on her book. And then what she has are are little time blocks for the next time block that she’s going to be working. So she has it identified, and she also has identified what it is, specifically, that she is going to do. So it’s not just being sort of vague and work on book. No, it’s finish the characters in chapter 2, or finish that little vignette in chapter 3, or I need to do some more research for chapter 6, so let’s do that research. It’s very specific kinds of what she needs to do, what she gets to do, during that time block.

Peter: I like that. I don’t have to… I get to write this book. That’s great, and I think I wrote it down. “I get to.” That’s gonna go on the top, and I am gonna start scheduling in more detail… I’ll go back to what I was saying. It’s not done in a night.

Cathy: No. [laughs]

Peter: The attitude, I think, is the hardest part.

Cathy: Oh, well some of my clients want to go there first. In fact, I just scheduled a call with a client. She’s been working on her book for some some time now, and she’s she’s made good progress. I think she has over 15 thousand words, so she’s making good progress, and she had a whole list of questions to go over with me. We started going through them and I said this is an editing issue. She goes “oh really? Okay. I’ll put off that off until editing.” We went to the second issue, the third issue… they were all editing issues. She’s getting way ahead of herself. I said first you need to write the book, then you edit, and that is such an important thing that everyone needs to understand. We are wearing ourselves out if we try to edit and write simultaneously. They are separate brain functions, and if we’re editing as we write we’re switching between brain functions, which is exhausting. It is absolutely exhausting. So if you feel tired after you’ve been writing, it’s probably because you’re not just writing, but your writing and editing. You want it to be just perfect. You want every word just to be a little gem stone, and the fact of the matter is you should just slop it out there, let it go, and then clean it up. Go back and do the editing later. That is a separate function only to be done when you are done with the first write, the first manuscript.

Peter: Yeah, I kind of learned that by just… I’ll put a dictation feature.

Cathy: Dragon naturallyspeaking?

Peter: Yeah, that or the function on the mac, and I’ll just talk it out. I just just talk, and it’s just a little bit quicker doing that, and then I’ll walk away from it for about a day or two, and then I’ll come back to it and put on the critical eyes and run it through grammarly, a software program, to catch it. Because I I’m not a “trained writer.” I’ve learned a lot, but I even take my writing one extra step, and a few people mentioned this at the workshop, that even after I’ve gone through my editing I send it off to somebody else to go through and do their editing as well.

Cathy: Absolutely. You cannot really edit your own stuff. Now, time will help you do a better job, time away from the project… but we tend to read as we’re editing what we intended to write, not what we actually wrote.

Peter: Mmm

Cathy: Which makes sense. I mean, that’s the way our brain went. That’s what we thought we said, but that’s maybe not what we actually said. That’s why it’s important to either give it space and time, or better yet let some other eyes look at your at your writing.

Peter: Let me ask this question, because I use this a lot of times when I’m teaching presentations, public speaking… as you’re sitting there and you putting your PowerPoint together, and if you’re sitting there editing it, looking at it at your desk… don’t do that. Say the words out loud, and I’m seeing that you should do that as well with this book. As as you go through the editing, talk it out. I think it helps you catch things like quicker.

Cathy: Yes, you do. So reading it, printing it and then looking at it, printing it in a different font, looking at it from bottom to top instead of top to bottom is another strategy. So that you’re looking at it with fresh eyes. You’re wanting to catch things that you didn’t see before, so these are all techniques that you can use.

Peter: I never thought about changing the font, or the font size, and looking at that that differently.

Cathy: Whatever works for you. The whole notion, though, is look at your writing with fresh eyes. So anyway you can do that. I think the best for me is that I need to print it and really look at it that way. In fact, I just wrote a blog post for my newsletter that’s coming out on Monday, and it’s something I’ve done as a presentation but I’ve never written it. So I typed it up and then I printed it, and now I’m looking at it today and seeing that there’s some awkward things in it. It just doesn’t read quite well, but that’s all I needed to do to kind of spruce it up and clean it up and have it be ready for publication.

Peter: I got asked to write, with a friend of mine, a white paper for the AICPA on how to present data. Like financial storytelling, and I decided I was delivering an hour and a half presentation on that topic, so I mic’d myself with my handheld digital recorder and recorded the whole thing, sent it off to be transcribed, and once I got it back…. man, I had so much content to play with that I just started moving things in, putting in place, and then it was like playing around with a puzzle. For those of us who get in front of an audience and every time we speak, we should be recording what we’re saying because that’s articles. That could be the basis of a book.

Cathy: Absolutely. That’s content, yay! And I’m a big believer in the whole notion of repurposing content. So you give it as a speech and that becomes a blog, your blog becomes an article, your article becomes a social media post, your social media post becomes a workbook page. There’s all kinds of ways that you can repurpose the writing that you’ve done so that you are using that same content in new and fresh ways, because it’s too hard to write that we shouldn’t get maximum value from every time we have all of that sweat equity in our writing.

Peter: Right, and I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Repurposing stuff over the last three four years that I’ve been writing.That’s really helped a lot. You put a lot of sweat equity into, you might as well get every ounce out of it.

Cathy: Absolutely, absolutely. One of my authors asked me one time, because we were talking about the fact that she was gonna be doing a weekly blog, and I said, well, you’ll have your book at the end of the year. And she said, “isn’t that cheating?” [laughs] and I said no, not at all. Not at all. I did a webinar yesterday for author learning center and we were talking about this, and someone asked the same question. Is it ever not okay? And the only time it’s not okay is if you have assigned rights. If you’ve written for a publication and they require exclusive rights or first time publication rights, or something such as that, then you have to honor those rights. Otherwise, unless you have assigned rights, it’s yours. You own the copyright for what you have written, so therefore you can use it in all of these different forms and formats, and I highly encourage that you do.

Peter: Exactly. I do too, and whether you’re an engineer, whether you’re an accountant, whether you’re a salesperson, whether you’re an entrepreneur and have your own business, the more you write and the more you get that content out there, it raises your level of authority, as well as when you put things out on blogs and out on the internet. It raises your SEO and you become more visible when people are searching, okay, I need a specialist in this. Your writing will help in increasing your visibility.

Cathy: Absolutely. Well said.

Peter: Thank you very much. Now can I write instead?

Cathy: Yeah


Peter: What’s another common challenge people have with writing?

Cathy: One of the things I suggest people do is find their happy time and happy place to write, and it’s not always what you think it might be. So that’s why I encourage my clients, when they’re starting out writing, to do some little tests and to do some timed writing. So do some timed writing in the morning, first thing. Do a timed writing at lunchtime. Do a timed writing in the evening, late at night, and see when you have your highest productivity. Even though I am not a morning person, and I want to emphasize I am not a morning person, it’s just amazing. I find that that is my time to write. Maybe because I am nonverbal!

Peter: [laughs]

Cathy: I can’t say it, but I can write it. So that works for me.

Peter: Oh man! I am a morning person, but I don’t like to talk much in the morning at all and I love that.

Cathy: The other thing is to find out where you tend to do your best writing, because some of my authors like to go to their starbucks, their Panera. Its craziness, it’s busy, there’s noise, and they can write like crazy in that environment. Even though I am extrovert and I love to brainstorm when it’s kind of crazy and busy around, when I’m writing I need to go to the cave. So knowing what suits you and your style is is really important as a writer. If you’re going up for a book and you’re writing a book, you’re going for the long haul. This is like training for a marathon.

Peter: mm-hmm

Cathy: So we got to think about it like a marathon. We got to think about upping our productivity. We got to think about how we can get those training times in, and one of the ways we do that is to figure out how we can up our productivity. So if it means that I can write twice as fast in the morning in my cave, then I need to be sure I’m blocking time in the morning and in my cave so that I am producing at my highest output.

Peter: Yeah, I don’t think I could do it at a starbucks or panera. I’m the same way. I have to be in a quiet area that I can just kind of turn email off, turn all the distractions off, and just kind of focus on it. Because, once distractions start coming in, then I get distracted… thus the name distractions!

Cathy: [laughs] Yeah, that whole distraction thing, which kind of leads us back to that conversation we started around productive procrastination. Because that is a huge issue for almost all the authors that I work with, and only you know if it’s truly procrastination because sometimes we can fool ourselves by saying “oh my gosh, I got everything on my to-do list checked off,” but you know you didn’t do the most important thing, which was your writing.

Peter: Right.

Cathy: So it’s important that you analyze. With the author that I was meeting with yesterday, she said “oh I’m doing this research and it’s very very interesting,” and all of this, and I said but is it just productive procrastination, really, in the guise of research? And she said “oh…” She said “busted.”


Peter: Yeah, I’m good at productive procrastination. I should have a trophy for that.

Cathy: Yeah, the clean desk award, and getting all those things done that you had been meaning to do for so long. That’s when you know that it’s kicking in. So beware.

Peter: I’d like to go back to when you were talking about these timed writings. In the workshop, you would put up a picture and you told us you have two minutes. Start writing. I believe you you prefaced it by saying look at this picture and how does it relate to what you do, and then after two minutes stop. So you might have maybe a paragraph at that point in time, but it forces you into this writing. Or I think you said use current events.

Cathy: Mm-hmm. You can use your own prompts. If you google writing prompts, there’s a ton of stuff out there. You can subscribe, there’s some apps where you can get a prompt a day. There’s all kinds of stuff out there that that, if you need prompts, and lots of writers do, I found it very helpful. One of the fun ways that you can do prompts is to go to… oh, I don’t remember the exact name of this website, but it’s basically calendar days or something like that, and if you want to know like what today is, and today might be cheesecake appreciation day or something bizarre.

Peter: Okay.

Cathy: And use that as your prompt. Sometimes the most bizarre prompts will get you thinking in a really creative way. I was just talking with a thought leader in critical thinking, and she said it’s called lateral thinking when we relate this new topic or this picture or whatever it is to our current topic. It creates lateral thinking, which which fires up a whole a whole bunch of other synapses and good stuff in your brain so that you’re really thinking creatively.

Peter: Hmm, that’s interesting. I’ll have to look up when national Maker’s Mark appreciation day is.

Cathy: There you go… I think it’s tomorrow.

Peter: I think it’s every day in the state of Kentucky.

Cathy: I think so [laughs]

Peter: and being a Kentuckyian at heart, because I lived in Lexington for 20 some odd years, yeah that’s every day… at least for most of my friends it sure seemed like it was. But that’s great advice on using prompts with lateral thinking, because it does help with the synapses, but also I think it helps in remembering stories.

Cathy: Mm-hmm.

Peter: and stories are critical in all parts of your writing. How do you tell a story, and this was my challenge. How do you tell a story that’s not chronological? What’s the overall theme, and how do you you craft that into a story that grabs the essence of the message that you’re doing, so that it’s powerful but not chronological.

Cathy: mm-hmm. If you look at a lot of great journalism, great journalism usually starts in the middle of the story. It starts with something alarming, something interesting, something provocative, so it pulls you into the action. In fact, look at great literature. Typically, great books don’t start with some boring setting… no, it pulls you right into the story, and that’s what we all need to do in telling our stories: pull that reader right on in, which means we may need to start at the middle of the story.

Peter: I’ve heard that somewhere before, about started in the middle. [laughs]

Cathy: Mhm, yeah, where was that? Somebody brilliant said that, I think.

Peter: I think so too. Any last thoughts or advice on this topic for my audience?

Cathy: Well, I think there is something really significant about momentum, and building that momentum – that snowball effect. Start where you can create impact. Start at the easy sections, and then keep track of your word count. See it build… because that is exciting! Because if you start you have no words, and then and at the end of an hour oh gosh, I have 500 words, or 600 words, or maybe even a thousand words… and then you start seeing that build over time. One of my clients put a thing on her refrigerator. She had one of those marker board things that you can put on your refrigerator, and she would put her word count. So she would show, every day, how she was she was upping her word count for her book, and that is really thrilling to see. Yes, it’s growing, it’s becoming a book right here in front of my very eyes. So capitalizing on that notion of momentum.

Peter: So, to bring this as a full call back to an earlier conversation, when you wrote the book in six weeks

Cathy: mm-hmm

Peter: How many words a day did you average?

Cathy: I don’t even know, because sometimes I repurpose. I have always repurposed my writing, so it doesn’t all have to be new, creative writing. In fact, for Blog2Book, my most recent book, when I started I thought I probably had at least a third of the content already written because I’ve been blogging about this for the last three years. So I went through and I pulled and I started building the content because I’d pull from this blog post or this chapter or this training session I’d done, and all of a sudden I saw five thousand words, ten thousand words, and then before long I realized that I really had, I don’t know, like over eighteen thousand words already written, and it was a matter of identifying the holes that needed to filled, and then focus on those things. So that makes it go fast.

Peter: Yes, yes it does. Before we leave, I can’t not ask this question. I understand that, in your spare time, you like to sing.

Cathy: I do.

Peter: And you’ve sung professionally with the Kentucky opera company, and also in a one-woman show titled “Dream It, Achieve It,” and in a comedic presentation “Aging Sucks.”

Cathy: [laughs] you know, because a couple of my books were around aging and I thought that would be funny. I did it for my NSA chapter several years ago and it was it was a lot of fun. We did parodies… instead of “I could have danced all night,” I did “I could have slept all night.”

Peter: [laughs] Oh, that’s fun. Do you do either of those any more?

Cathy: No, I don’t, but I do still sing with my church choir. In fact, I was at choir practice last night. So that’s my one singing outlet that I really still enjoy.

Peter: Oh that’s that is so cool. I’m glad you put that on your website because I do love when I’m researching and I can find these little things. So how can people find you?

Cathy: Okay. They can go to my website, which is You can email me at Cathy (at) CathyFyock (dot) com. I’d love to hear from folks. I love to do a complimentary strategy session with folks who are thinking about a book, maybe they don’t know where to start, or lack clarity. I’m happy to sit down and talk with you, and I did one with a woman in Africa through zoom or through skype, so I’m happy to meet with folks from wherever so that we can get their books started.

Peter: Well that’s good information, and please take up her offer because, when we hang up, I’ve got to get scheduled for my session that I failed to answer that question in the email about this. I realized, as I was preparing, that I never gave you that answer and the answer is yes.

Cathy: Good!

Peter: and we’ll talk when we finish.

Cathy: Sounds good.

Peter: So once again, that sounds good. Cathy, thank you so very much. I thoroughly enjoyed it. You gave some great advice, and those in my audience… hopefully this inspires you, even if it’s just one person, to start this process (but I hope many others do). So once again, thank you so very much.

Cathy: Thank you


Peter: I would like to thank Cathy again for taking time out of your schedule to give us tips on writing a book. You can find out more about Cathy on our website at In episode 44, I interview Courtney Kirschbaum, who is a human development and high performance expert who specializes in helping young professionals choose the right career and achieve mastery in it. Remember, you can subscribe to my podcast on itunes, stitcher, and google play. If you’d like to purchase an autographed copy of my book Improv is no Joke: Using Improvisation to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life, for $14.99 with free shipping, please go to my website,, and you’ll see the graphic on the homepage to purchase my book. Please allow 14 days for shipping. Thank you again for listening and remember to use the power of Yes, And to get your book done.


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