The Change Your Mindset Podcast

Welcome to the Change Your Mindset podcast, hosted by Peter Margaritis, CPA, AKA The Accidental Accountant. Peter is a speaker, expert in applied improvisation and author of the book 'Improv Is No Joke, Using Improvization to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life'. Peter's new book, Taking the Numb Our of Numbers: Explaining & Presenting Financial Information with Confidence and Clarity will be published in June 2018.

S3E8. We Need Laughter Now More Than Ever with Brian Walter

Brian Walter is the co-founder of Extreme Meetings Inc, and for over 25 years, he has specialized in transforming meetings from boring to exciting. Brian is also the past president of the National Speakers Association Board of Directors from 2017 to 2018. Brian brings his approach, knowledge, and leadership style into this discussion about leadership during a pandemic, and he has some great advice for keeping a positive attitude even in the face of a crisis.

As we hopefully begin the slow process of opening up our economy, anxiety and stress will still be amongst us until proven therapies and a vaccine have been developed. As a leader dealing with a crisis of any form. we can’t get locked into today — we need to start looking ahead at how our business will change. What do we look like right now in this environment? What do we look like six months from now, eight months from now, a year from now, and going forward? How do we gain focus to look forward and not get caught up in the minutia of today?

Brian works in the live experience business, which has clearly had to make some profound changes. Humans like to gather together — that is never going to change — but what does that look like now? He has had to look less at the experiential side of his business and focus on what the actual value is that he provides: What problems do we solve? What do we make people feel? How do we make things better? Why would someone want to give us money? 

These are the questions that leaders need to ask themselves to navigate the uncertainty and change.

Another aspect of leadership during a crisis is keeping up morale. Now is the time to accept that we need humor. Humor relieves tension. We use humor to express uncomfortable truths. How many jokes about toilet paper shortages have you heard? It takes something that is unsettling and makes it just a little lighter.

There is an escape component to humor and how it makes us feel, but it also helps our body and our psyche. Being in perpetual stress hurts our health and reduces our ability to respond to things. By having humor, crying, laughing, and exercising, we can actually change our mental, physical, and emotional states. Laughter is the most accessible way to change our emotional, physical, mental state, and we should do more of it.

There is a difference between concern and worry. Worry is anticipating all of the worst-case scenarios that could happen — and it can result in being paralyzed, less likely to take action, less creative, or inflexible because you’re too busy thinking of all the things that could go wrong. It’s debilitating.

Concern is still anticipating all the things that could happen, but realizing that there are only so many things you have control over. Concern is being aware of possible negative consequences and keeping in mind what you could do, should the need arise.

Start thinking about the future. What do you know that others will pay for in this environment? Those who can stay in concern mode and not be in worry mode will have more opportunities to contribute and actually get paid than those who can’t. 

Worry will never help in any circumstance, but concern is always appropriate.

One last thing that we all need to remember: Be healthy, practice social distancing, be safe, and implement a couple of tips that Brian gave us in order to help deal with the stress and anxiety that we see in our daily lives.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Brian Walter: [00:00:00] That’s how we see our way through it, that we extend each other grace, and we realize that perfection is not only not an option, perfection is not even pursuit.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:18] Welcome to Change Your Mindset podcast, formerly known as Improv Is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. the Accident Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:03] Welcome, everyone. I recorded this episode on March 31st and waited until April 26th to write this introduction. New York appears to be on the other side of the coronavirus peak, which is good, but cautious news. In Ohio, we’re starting to open up for business on May 1st, but full details have not been disclosed as of this recording. As we hopefully begin the slow process of opening up our economy, anxiety and stress will still be amongst us for an undetermined amount of time until proven therapies and a vaccine has been developed.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:35] This episode, I wanted to focus on leadership as we begin to transition out of the shelter in place order issued around this country. My guest today is Brian Walter, who is the co-founder of Extreme Meetings Inc, providing customized infotainment to make meetings memorable. For over 25 years, he has specialized in transforming meetings from boring to exciting. Brian is also the past president of the National Speakers Association Board of Directors from 2017 to 2018.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:08] Brian brings his approach, knowledge, and leadership style into our discussion of leadership during a pandemic crisis, and how to keep a positive attitude. Brian is based out of the Seattle area, which is one of the first states to deal with the multitude of issues in trying to keep the people of Washington State safe. Here’s some more information on Brian. He is a past Guinness Book of World Records holder for producing the world’s shortest TV commercial.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:38] He hosted the elite certified speaking professional designation CSP from the National Speaker’s Association. And he was inducted into the Professional Speaker’s Hall of Fame in 2013. He is a 20-year member of Meeting Professionals International. He is an award-winning video commercial and podcast producer. And his website is Now, before we get to the interview, just a couple of housekeeping items.

Announcer: [00:03:07] This podcast is part of the C-Suite radio network, turning the volume up on business.

Sponsor: [00:03:15] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritas, LLC, also known as The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a speaker that can bring powerful content virtually, or in person, or an onsite that is memorable and engaging in a way that motivates and inspires your audience? Instead of data dumping and numbing with numbers, imagine your people and teams delivering a financial story to your stakeholders. A story that creates engaging and relationship-building business conversations.

Sponsor: [00:03:48] Would you be interested in learning more about how that is accomplished? How would you feel if the value your facilitator provided to your organization far exceeded the dollar amount on their invoice? Peter Margaritis, CPA and Certified Speaking Professional, delivers all of the above and much, much more. All of Peter’s programs can be done virtually in-person and onsite at your location or at an offsite venue. Send Peter a note at and/or visit his website at to learn more about what Peter can bring to your next conference, management retreat, or workshop.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:37] Now, let’s get to the interview with Brian Walter. Hey, welcome back, everybody. I’m really excited today. I’ve been chasing this guy down for, it seems like, over a-year-and-a-half to get him on my podcast. I think it took a roll of toilet paper for him to agree to this.

Brian Walter: [00:04:53] I thought it was the six-pack, but okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:56] All right. It was a roll of toilet paper and a six-pack of beer.

Brian Walter: [00:05:00] I was hoping for a six-pack of toilet paper, but that’s okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:04] I’ll make sure you get the six-pack of toilet paper. If you don’t recognize that voice, that voice is of Brian Walter. And thank you, Brian, for being a guest on my podcast.

Brian Walter: [00:05:12] It’s fun. Let’s do this thing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:14] Let’s do this thing. Brian’s got a very unique background. And you’ve heard some of it in the intro.

Brian Walter: [00:05:19] Unique is generous. I like that, unique, which is code for strange, or odd, or twisted, but sure, let’s go with unique.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:27] But I wear my uniqueness as a badge of honor because I want to be strange. I want to be odd. It makes us different. And I mean, you’ve got a wide variety in your background, but the thing that really stood out to me was you are the past president of the National Speakers Association Board of Directors.

Brian Walter: [00:05:46] That is correct. Yes. You’re not a liar. Your research is true. Yes, exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:51] Yeah, exactly. And that year that you had as president of the board of directors probably went by quicker than you ever thought it would go by, but you’re always dealing from a board of directors’ perspective, from a strategic planning. What does this association look like?

Brian Walter: [00:06:09] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:10] Five years from now. And correct me if I’m wrong, but you were at the transition between Stacy and Mary Lue.

Brian Walter: [00:06:19] That is correct. That is correct. My wife says, I can’t remember anything. Look at this.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:23] See, there’s at least two right there.

Brian Walter: [00:06:26] I’m good for a while. So, as I think about it, we’re recording this on March 31, 2020 amidst the whole COVID-19 crisis going on. This will air on May 11th. And I want to talk about, as a leader, dealing with the crisis of any type, shape, or form, we can’t so much get locked into today, but we need to start looking out forward, and how does our business change? What do we look like right now in this environment? What do we look like six months from now, eight months from now, a year from now, and going forward? And so, can you put your spin on how you would answer this question on how do we gain focus to look forward and not get caught up in the minutia of today?

Brian Walter: [00:07:16] Yeah, I would say the minutia of today has a power like super glue because it is so compelling because you can actually say, we are literally talking about life or death issues.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:30] Yes.

Brian Walter: [00:07:30] And with that, we have to do both deal with that and compartmentalize it and also say, so how do I provide value? It reminds me of a conversation I had with myself back in 2009. I remember that was at the height of the Great Recession. The stock market was at like 6,000. And I remember asking myself this question, what do I know how to do? What is anything I know how to do that others will buy in this environment? What’s anything that I know how to do that others will buy in this environment? It really comes down to value.

Brian Walter: [00:08:13] And so far, so many of us have said, "Oh, we are speakers, we provide live events and experiences." And right now, that is not what people will buy. I mean, I actually got like humor-shamed at the bank yesterday. I actually got a check in the mail. So, that was a precious thing. So, I actually, physically went to the bank, gloved up, and then, I hand the check to the teller, and the teller looked at the name, there was two, which it was Extreme Meetings, and said, "Extreme Meetings, probably not getting much business, are you?" I mean, the bank teller is laughing at me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:51] Wow.

Brian Walter: [00:08:52] And they were right. They were right that those of us who are in the live experience business have to make a profound change. And what is to come? We don’t know. Now, of course, we know that humans like to gather together, and that is something that’s built into our DNA, and that’s never going to change. There will be some sort of meetings, industry that will reemerge and perhaps even flourish, but it’s going to be different, and we have no idea when that’s going to be.

Brian Walter: [00:09:23] So, now, we have to look less at our experiential expertise. And now, what is our actual value? What problems do we solve? What do we make people feel? How do we make things better? Why would someone want to give us money? And that is a personal leadership and also a collective leadership if you are running a small company that we have to deal with. It’s like, what do we know how to do that people will spend money for in this environment?

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:55] So, I can say back during the recession that we were still trying to sell during that period of time. Today’s environment, it’s much more dire. And it’s almost like, I think of the approach of, I don’t feel it’s right to sell to companies right now because they’re slashing budgets, they’re laying off people, they’re in hard times. But to bring that value, I think that I can bring some value to them, but offered at no charge just to be there to serve the community and the clients. And when we get out of this, maybe this helping out will come back to me tenfold.

Brian Walter: [00:10:40] I would say there’s multiple right answers and even more wrong answers. And right now, it’s like, we’re having a COVID sale, that’s right, 19% off. Okay. That would be clearly wrong. But, yes, our industry especially as we are desperate, and we are scrambling, and living, and just throwing things against the wall. It’s like, I don’t think our clients want to hear from us. And I think that will come across as very tone-deaf. On the other hand, there are businesses who need help. And so, that’s really, I think, the hard part. Can we truly help?

Brian Walter: [00:11:23] And the level to which we can help is that something that they are willing to pay for or simply accept on a volunteer basis. And for some of us, I think, okay, we actually have an expertise and value that businesses, with their limited budgets that they have, will still spend to get advice or to get counsel, or consulting, or support, or execution, assistance, that they will do that. Other times, they would be like, sure, that would be helpful if you want to record a video telling us to buck up, or blah, blah, blah, or if you want to create a free webinar for our people, the seven who could actually watch it to feel differently.

[00:12:10] So, again, really, I think it comes down to the categories. The value that we have at this particular time, is it merely, that’s helpful, sure, sure, that’s better than not doing anything? That probably goes in the category of just offer it and they will remember that. And I think there’s the other category. If it really comes down to we have an essential skill that’s needed by these businesses as they navigate these tricky times, then, yes, they will buy that. How we sell it, we’ll probably decide whether we come across as a savvy professional or as a schmuck.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:52] And that’s a very thin tightrope we walk in doing that. It could either make or break our businesses, more so.

Brian Walter: [00:13:00] I would say, many of our businesses are already broken. And so, it is like, crash them into the ground and grind them up like ground glass or not.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:10] Well, you-

Brian Walter: [00:13:11] Are we going to call this the Chipper podcast? Are we going to-

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:16] Yeah. We will it The Uplifting podcast.

Brian Walter: [00:13:19] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:19] Well, I know a lot of people are struggling because now, they’ve been thrust into their home. So, used an office, as a school, and now, we’ve got the whole family here. I mean, you and Karen have been together, working your business for—so this is no hiccup in your world at all.

Brian Walter: [00:13:35] Yes. This is called Tuesday. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:36] This is called Tuesday. So, for myself, my wife, and my son, who’s 19, apparently, Peter Margaritis LLC picked up two FTEs last two weeks ago. We had a stay-at-home order. And I’ve got to put both of them on morning and performance review because one sleeps too late, and I delegate to the other one. She’s got this other job she’s trying to work. People are really struggling with this balance at home. What advice do you give to a group of folks who are listening, going, yeah, this is—I had a coaching call with the client and he was at his house. And he upfront said, "I’m sorry. My dog barks. My kids and wife will come walking through." And lo and behold, they did.

Brian Walter: [00:14:24] I think that there’s a word that we don’t use very often that I think is the one that will see us through all of these types of things, and that word is grace, that there’s nothing more powerful right now than extending each other grace. And grace, I define like the terms like grace and mercy. Like mercy is I will avoid you getting consequences you deserve. But grace, this is my interpretation, grace is extending favor, or extending patience, or extending kindness to someone regardless of whether they deserve it or not. We are all on edge.

Brian Walter: [00:15:04] It’s like people are saying, our income is either dramatically reduced or it’s vanished, and we don’t know when it’s going to be. It’s like, generally, Americans have not prepared for that type of thing. They thought, well, it’s like, I might have a setback, but they weren’t expecting the zombie apocalypse. So, because of that, it’s like, okay, everyone’s working at home. A lot of people in a very small space constantly together, making noise. So, our rules and our business etiquette get thrown out the window.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:44] Yeah.

Brian Walter: [00:15:44] And so, we just have to accept the grace. It’s like, again, right now, just in a silly, small thing, it’s like, our youngest adult daughter is, yeah, working because she has a studio. And so, she’s working during the day from our house because it’s bigger. So, we’re taking care of her cats. So, we have two cats in a small house. But her cat is like, this is my desk, like all these people, I can walk on top of your keyboard. Is that a door? Why is that door closed? Trying to open it.

Brian Walter: [00:16:15] So, now, again, two months ago, it would be, let’s lock up the cat, let’s give it a sedative, everything must be perfect. The phone will not ring. It was all about the etiquette perfection. Now, we have to give each other grace. We’re going to get this raw, real type of thing. And that’s going to be hard for us, but I think that’s how we see our way through it, that we extend each other grace, and we realize that perfection is not only not an option, perfection is not even pursuit.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:48] I thoroughly agree because my coaching client, he gets so upset when the dog was barking and so upset when the kids came through. And I said, "You told me upfront. You said this is going to happen, so it’s going to happen." To that grace aspect, don’t worry about it. And if you’re on a call with your team or the organization and this happens, you’re not the only one, I bet. The world has changed, to your point. There’s no such thing as perfection right now.

Brian Walter: [00:17:19] Yeah, there’s that. And also, I think the need for us to embrace the stressful transformation that we’re in, like there is no going back to normal. There will be going back to different.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:34] Right.

Brian Walter: [00:17:35] And we, probably as a society, like a lot more of us will work from home after this because we just proved we could.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:44] Yes.

Brian Walter: [00:17:44] And there’s all sorts of changes, again, taking place. But all these changes are stressful. And I think that there’s going to be a lot of marriages and relationships that get a lot better, and a lot of them, as soon as those lawyers’ offices are open, they will get some business, it’s like.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:03] Yeah, one of my colleagues, she has a coaching business. And she has really large clients in the Cleveland area. And when this all happened, she was able to not miss a beat and conduct all of her coaching calls and stuff through Zoom with the client and kept the business moving forward. But then, at the end, she’s going, "By the time I’m done, I’m completely exhausted because I’m adjusting to a new medium here, as well as I have the stress of the family that’s here. They’re always here. Now, they never leave. And the fact that what we’re dealing with this crisis." By the time she’s done, she’s completely wiped out. And I’m like, you know what, you’re right. I am too."

Brian Walter: [00:18:47] Because it’s new. Because it’s new. Years ago, in the ’90s, I worked for a company called the Effectiveness Institute. It sounds almost like a Saturday Night Live skit, but it’s not. It was an actual place. And one of the founders, a guy named Tom Shampoo, he created this concept, this model that he called rotating the iceberg. And so, he said, "Imagine the iceberg at rest." He said, "Now, we all know that’s like 70% or 80% of it is underwater, but it’s almost like a big triangular shape."

Brian Walter: [00:19:17] And he said, "That is like our behavior or personality, the way we normally are." He said, "Now, we can show different sides of it above the waterline by rotating it, but we have to use effort, like, okay, now, I’m going to show this side of it." And he said, "Now, if you’re married, it’s like when your mother-in-law comes over, do you change your behavior? Of course, you do. You’re on your best behavior. And you can do it for about a weekend. And then, as soon as she goes home, you’re like, wow, oh, my gosh."

Brian Walter: [00:19:52] Because rotating the iceberg, showing different behavior, engaging a different style the way we’ve definitely done, we can do that, but it takes energy to sustain us in a place where we don’t normally operate in. And so, that’s with all this Zoom stuff, there’s an intensity of everything is different. We can do these other behaviors, but we have to be aware of, it costs us way more energy than before. And so, people are going to be exhausted, and cranky, and short, and all these things. What’s the solution for that? Grace.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:32] Yes. And how long can we sustain that? Because emotions do come into play, things do happen. And yeah, we’re already seeing a little bit of that here in Columbus, Ohio, on the news about some domestic violence, occurrences that tend to increase over the past week to 10 days since we’ve been in this shelter-to-place type of thing. And I mean, we’re cramped up, and people are stressed out and got to find some levity. I mean, you’re a funny guy. We’ve got to find some levity. You provide a lot of optimism, a lot of humor.

Brian Walter: [00:21:10] Not so far on this podcast though, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:11] Yeah. Really, I’m trying to suck all of that out of you now.

Brian Walter: [00:21:14] Is this the pivot point you’re going for? Okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:17] Well, I’ve been told if I say the word, pivot, I’m going to get shot at, so-

Brian Walter: [00:21:20] Well, I said it. How about I just change it to inflection point? It’s so much better.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:25] Yes. This is the inflection point where we bring the humor out that we’ve addressed all the other stuff. And how do we bring that humor and help folks, help teams, help organizations, help the members of the National Speakers Association?

Brian Walter: [00:21:40] I think part of that is that we accept that we need the humor. And that’s because humor relieves tension, humor acknowledges uncomfortable truths. We use humor to express uncomfortable truths. And we see that a lot. When you think what are the safe things going on now that we’re able to joke about, we joke about toilet paper. You joked about toilet paper right at the front end of this.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:07] Right.

Brian Walter: [00:22:07] In the entire United States, everyone is comfortable joking about toilet paper rather than I’m terrified when I walk into a store and I see empty shelves because I’ve never seen that in my entire life except for right before a hurricane. But rather than do that, we can talk about it, really, it’s like, do you have irritable bowel syndrome because I mean, that’s a lot of toilet paper, I mean, that’s like a five-year supply. So, we can joke about that. We can joke about like, okay, I went to the grocery store and all of the chicken and chips and salsa were gone. Lots of vegetables are still there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:50] Yeah, lots of cans are being-

Brian Walter: [00:22:51] The Oreos are gone, but the garbanzo beans are still in fully stuck. Now, we can joke about that. We joke about Zoom. Everyone is suddenly using video conferencing for the first time. And yes, we see your nostril hairs. You forgot to turn off your camera and you were in the bathroom. And I mean, so all these things start happening. And these are all super-duper healthy things because it gives us something to laugh about. What we’re not doing any humor about, of course, is stuff going on at hospitals.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:26] Right.

Brian Walter: [00:23:27] We don’t do that. Now, we’ll joke about masks, but we’ll joke about the type of masks that we wear, and things that we’re putting on because that can be funny, funny shapes, funny pictures, funny effects, wearing it wrong. Somebody is wearing a mask, and then they have to cough, so they put it down, and then cough, and then put it back on. I mean, like hello. So, those are the type of things that we must and should laugh about.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:55] Yeah. We do have to take a little lightheartedness in our day. I participated in a virtual improv class workshop two weeks ago. And I have an improv coach, his name is Jay Sukow. And actually, I interviewed him for this podcast couple weeks ago. And we were in this improv using Zoom. There’s the cat.

Brian Walter: [00:24:18] There’s the cat. I’ve got to say, this is an audio program, yes? Okay. When you say, there’s the cat, they can’t actually see the cat, Peter, just saying.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:28] Right. But if I happen to put this out on YouTube, would be able to watch it, they can, oh, that’s where the cat jumped in.

Brian Walter: [00:24:35] Yeah. So, thank you for letting me know because I would have shaved had I known that this is going to be a video, but, oh, that’s awesome.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:41] Why would you want to shave right now? I mean, you have the freedom to go-

Brian Walter: [00:24:44] To increase the number of follicles on my head because now, there’s seven.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:51] So, I was in this virtual improv workshop and just having a blast. And after it was done, I went up and was talking to my wife, and she was watching our governor do his press conference around 2:00, and we just had our first death in Ohio. And I went, "I forgot all about this for that one hour. I remove myself from the world, from the situation, from my environment, and went to this place of fun and happiness, and enjoyed it." And as soon as I heard that, I want to go back and say, "Okay, guys, let’s do this some more. Can we do this all day?" Humor is a great way to-

Brian Walter: [00:25:30] But there might be something else you need to do during the day, but yes, more, how about-

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:33] Yes, more, but-

Brian Walter: [00:25:35] Like work that all-value thing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:39] Yeah. It’s just that opportunity to escape. It’s so critical right now for people to be able to have the moment to laugh, and have fun, and binge-watch favorite shows or whatever people are doing. I’ve never really got into binge-watching. I’m not schooled in this. I just watch-

Brian Walter: [00:26:00] It’s a skill you can pick up fairly quickly. The barrier to entry is quite low. You just keep watching, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:08] Just keep watching. Just keep watching.

Brian Walter: [00:26:11] Yes. Next episode in 37 seconds, boom, there it is.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:15] Well, it sounds like you’re a professional in this area.

Brian Walter: [00:26:17] I’ve been testing it. Yeah, really. Well, it’s interesting when you talk about the escape. I absolutely think there’s an escape component and there’s how it makes us feel, but also, it helps our body. It helps our psyche, because, again, I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I know that if we’re in perpetual stress, that hurts our health and reduces our ability to respond to things. And so, by having humor, crying, laughing, and exercising actually change our mental, and physical, and emotional states.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:55] Yes.

Brian Walter: [00:26:55] Those things, generally, like I just wish I could cry more during the day. Most of the time, we don’t think about that. Exercise, exercise. But laughter is the most accessible way to change our emotional, physical, mental state. And we should continue to do more of that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:17] So, how do you keep humor in the house, in your business, with your clients?

Brian Walter: [00:27:21] Well, one, never let it leave, just like tie it up, put it in the corner, sorry, you can’t leave. You kidnap humor and you keep it in your house. You hold humor hostage.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:31] Right.

Brian Walter: [00:27:32] I think part of it is, I mean, there’s people who are just naturally humorous, not that they’re telling jokes all the time, but they have that perspective. So, again, we talked about that rotating the iceberg. For some people, it’s like you just keep being you. For those who are not as naturally humorous or seeking out the things, I think it needs to be more of a conscious act, which is like, okay, like if you’re going to binge-watch, watch more comedies instead of British crime chest or don’t watch, it’s like, Murder Inc, it’s like, America’s Top Predators.

Brian Walter: [00:28:08] I mean, like maybe don’t watch those as much, but seek out comedies. Facebook has made a huge resurgence in that because everyone was like, "Oh, Mark Zuckerberg sucks, I’m going to get off Facebook." And now, we’re stuck at home, "Facebook is my friend. I love Facebook." And I mean, all sorts of great means. There are tons of humor that’s going out there. And we have to filter it because there’s also conspiracy theories that political diatribes going on.

Brian Walter: [00:28:43] So, we have to filter that out, but that was there before anyways. But find the funny, seek out the humor, share the humor. And so, like right now, if anyone listening here, I would say, it’s like, go on to your Facebook group, and find three funny things, and post them on your timeline or actually, this is even better, message them to three people. And that active, it’s like, oh, I’m going to find three funny things, and I’m going to message them, direct message them to three different people, that forces you into a very easy humor task, so it’s not like, oh, my gosh, this is so hard, I can’t find anything.

Brian Walter: [00:29:27] Well, yes, you can. You can find it very easily. And again, it’s not even hard. It’s like, that’s a funny meme, hahaha, click on it, it’s like share to one of your message contacts, Peter would love this. Peter, oh, my gosh, this made me think of you, click. Do that three times, you’ve added humor to yourself and added humor to three others. Now, what are they probably going to do? Share it with someone else. What are they probably going to do next time they see something funny? They’re going to share it with you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:58] And there’s a lot of funny stuff. I’m getting stuff all the time. But I’ve also challenged a few other people. Now that we’re in this virtual world, these virtual meetings, we all should just get dressed from the waist up, right?

Brian Walter: [00:30:13] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:14] Right. The CEO of-

Brian Walter: [00:30:17] As long as you don’t stand up, but yes. Okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:19] That’s right. As long as you don’t stand up. The CEO of the Maryland Association CPAs posted on Facebook and LinkedIn yesterday that he was, well, jacket, shirt, tie, and then he got up from behind his desk, he had a pair of State of Maryland boxer shorts on.

Brian Walter: [00:30:35] I’ve wondered that because it’s like, I wouldn’t feel comfortable that way. I mean, it’s like sartorial mohawk or something. It’s like, okay. It’s like, yes, I’m wearing this here, but I’m wearing this blah, blah, blah, I’m wearing pajamas underneath. It’s like, do you feel comfortable doing that? To me, I feel like mismatched.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:57] Oh, what I’ve been doing dressed for the waist up is I go in through my closet and finding shirt.

Brian Walter: [00:31:03] All right. Peter, can you stand up right now? Can you stand up?

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:05] Like I’m wearing a pair of scrubs.

Brian Walter: [00:31:08] Can you stand up? Let’s see. Come on. Let’s see.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:12] Hold on. Hold on.

Brian Walter: [00:31:12] I’m now commentating this. He’s now standing up, he’s lurching up here. He is wearing scrubs. He is not a medical professional, people. I don’t know why he has scrubs, but he’s wearing scrubs. Now, where did you get these scrubs? These hopefully weren’t cast off from the local hospital in the burn, do not wear section, oh, my gosh, it’s such a deal.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:36] It was such a deal. No, my sister works in health care in Florida and I was visiting couple of years ago. And she knew when I was a kid, I used to love to wear scrubs, so she got me a pair.

Brian Walter: [00:31:50] There you go.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:50] Now, I was going to start off today in Atlanta State inspired by a guy who I know, I did put on my University of Kentucky boxer shorts, and I was going to go through the day like that, but I got a little uncomfortable.

Brian Walter: [00:32:05] That’s good. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:07] That’s why I needed to put the scrubs on. But just doing something as crazy as that, just add a little levity.

Brian Walter: [00:32:12] Add a little levity.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:13] Just don’t stand up.

Brian Walter: [00:32:15] I’m wearing slippers. I mean, that’s nothing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:18] I guess, of course, are you wearing pants right now?

Brian Walter: [00:32:21] Well, you know what, it’s funny that this day and age, that’s actually not an inappropriate question. As a matter of fact, yes, I am wearing jeans because I was going to like respect you by actually being fully dressed, not shaving, because it was supposed to be audio only. But thanks for that. But yes, I am fully dressed.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:42] Fully dressed. Oh, good.

Brian Walter: [00:32:44] Didn’t take a shower, but fully dressed.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:46] You did take a shower. You did?

Brian Walter: [00:32:47] Well, yesterday, but yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:50] Now, you’re located in Bellevue, Washington.

Brian Walter: [00:32:53] Very good. Bellevue, Washington. That’s right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:55] Yes. Actually, the Washington Society of CPAs is located in Bellevue, Washington.

Brian Walter: [00:32:59] I’ve done work for the Washington Society of CPAs.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:02] So, Brian, Seattle is one of my favorite cities. Bellevue, Seattle, love the food, love visiting, but you guys were one of the first epicenters of this crisis. Has things kind of moderated over time or is it just starting to accelerate as it is on the East Coast?

Brian Walter: [00:33:23] A little of both. It’s like, we dealt with it early and we’re in kind of western Washington. I think there’s the western Washington experience and the eastern Washington. It’s almost like we have two states the other side of the mountains. The east side is a little more like Idaho. It’s much more open agrarian. And our governor was very aggressive early on with social distancing. And we don’t have like Fort Lauderdale beaches. So, it’s not like, not with me. So, I would say, as I said, we embraced it better than most. Not better than anyone, but that better than most. And we’re seeing an effect of it because it was very real to us very quickly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:05] Yes.

Brian Walter: [00:34:06] And I mean, we started like, okay, here is this assisted living center, and they have all these cases, and they have deaths, and it’s spreading. And so, we got into the response early. So, we’re starting to see some positive benefits, but has it peaked for us? We don’t know. Probably not.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:32] Yeah, yeah. And I think that whole goes to the psyche, and the mindset, and thinking about what we do because we don’t know. We have no. well, we had no idea when we’d come out of the Great Recession, but we could go look on history and go, okay, stock market goes up, stock market goes down. These are points, 18 months, two years. And it just adds to the dilemma that all of us are feeling with our jobs, with our lives.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:05] And I don’t know, I’ve just been spending this time trying to figure out how do I transform? How do I make the business look different when we get out of this versus the way it looks now, and trying to use different thought process and stuff, and just trying to keep my mind busy, and not focusing on the outside of this house, just focusing on what I can do on the inside of this house, what I have control over. I think it’s helped me maintain some bit of sanity during this process.

Brian Walter: [00:35:34] To me, one of the things I’m working on is making sure I have concern versus worry. And here’s how I make a difference between that. I said worry is a mental spinning. It is anticipating all of the worst-case scenarios that could happen, and it results in me being paralyzed, like I’m less likely to take action, or to think, or to be too creative, or to be flexible because I’m constantly spinning, spinning, spinning on what could happen.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:10] Right.

Brian Walter: [00:36:10] And worrying is debilitating. Concern is still anticipating. Okay, here are the things that could happen, but realizing, okay, I’m going to focus on what I have control over. So, I’m not going to be obsessing. I’m not going to be debilitated by it, but that doesn’t mean I’m clueless, or tone-deaf, or like, hey, you know what I love about the coronavirus, it’s like I eat whatever I want. Well, yeah, that’s funny, but it’s like, okay, then you’re just sticking your head in the sand, and you’re ignoring the realities.

Brian Walter: [00:36:45] It’s like, and I could be on 80% less income for the foreseeable future. That would be concerning. That would be concerning. But a concern is like, that could happen. I don’t know if that will happen, but that could happen. So, if the government has brought these programs, do I qualify? If I get rejected, can I apply for somewhere else? Can I refinance my house? Can I control expenses? Can I defer things?

Brian Walter: [00:37:09] I mean, there’s ways that action to respond is something, whereas worry is, oh my gosh, the government probably won’t even give us money because we’re in a higher income bracket, and you have to prove it. We haven’t actually lost it yet, but we’ll be losing it. And you spin, spin, spin, spin, and you don’t actually take action. And that’s debilitating. So, to me, that’s what I’ve been focusing on, like, okay, when things get darker or when things get scarier, how can I say, okay, I can have appropriate concern and I take action versus to the extent possible, I’m going to choose not to worry because worry does nothing except hurt me and those I love.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:50] Great advice. It’s, focus on things that you have control versus the things that you don’t have control to some degree. And transparency, I think early on, I went to worry. And I didn’t realize it because it was so new, so fresh.

Brian Walter: [00:38:07] Sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:07] And I’ve gotten myself out of that back into the concerned mindset, but I think my concern is that as this continues to move forward and we’re spending more time at home, and away from jobs, and away from income, that the concern for others may move from concern to worry to spinning out of control, and that’s a major issue, I think, that we will have if people start going into that out-of-control spinning mode.

Brian Walter: [00:38:43] Yeah. And when we start talking about, for future, what can I do? What is anything I know how to do that others will pay for in this environment? Those who can keep their head, those who can stay in the concern mode and not be in the worry mode will have more opportunities to contribute and actually get paid than those who can’t. And I mean, I don’t want to sound harsh, but it’s like, okay, worry will never help in any circumstance. Now, again, don’t get me wrong. Concern, appropriate, proportionate concern, it’s like I am super concerned about what is happening.

Brian Walter: [00:39:26] I am super concerned what is imminent. I am super concerned about what is here. It’s like okay, how do I translate that concern? What can I do? How can I think? How can I behave to minimize, to argument, to circumvent, to take advantage of, to contribute? That’s a different reaction than paralytic worry. And I believe also that being calm is also able to spread. And it’s also able to have influence. Again, in your household, it’s like, how can I be the best partner in my household? It’s like, okay, by spending more time not in worry mode.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:09] Exactly. And we were talking about binge-watching. And I guess if you see your spouse binge-watching Criminal Minds with a notebook handy, you might want to leave the house.

Brian Walter: [00:40:20] But you can’t leave the house.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:20] That’s true. Yeah. But you can’t leave-

Brian Walter: [00:40:25] You self-isolate in the garage.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:28] Yes, you’ve been relegated to the basement. I watch the-

Brian Walter: [00:40:33] When they come back from the grocery store with a shovel, that’s not a good sign. Are you watching Dexter? I mean, what’s with all the garbage bags, it’s like, and the duct tape? I don’t understand.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:46] That’s a good one. Yes. What’s going on here? I did watch pieces of the NSA video with a very Banther and Mary Lue Peck, and I forgot the other two who were on there as well. But when Barry was talking about what you can do, and talking about the bill, talking about what are your fixed expenses, and what are those variable expenses, and what can you eliminate. And I’d already kind of set that up, but I went back and revisited at the end and kind of looking at that, going, okay, oh, by the way, do I qualify for to collect unemployment benefits because I’m a sole provider? It’s just me. And yes, so wanted to go down through that. So, I’m starting to put some of those things in place because that’s something I have control, that’s something I can do. And I guess in this bill that banks are willing to. Allow you to miss payments, mortgage payments, and not affect your credit, I believe. There are some things in place that the programs-

Brian Walter: [00:41:50] They say that, but I don’t believe that. They say that, it’s like, but what I do think is a reality which is tenacity is going to be our friend, meaning like, okay, so was it Saturday or Friday, whatever, not sure, is when they passed the 2.2-trillion-dollar stimulus package. I mean, they call it whatever they’re going to call it here. And they pulled that together and basically a week, and they said, "Oh, and who’s going to administrate portions of it?" Banks. Banks will.

Brian Walter: [00:42:27] When did the banks find this out? Same time you and I heard that. It’s like that. So, they don’t know. I mean, it’s like, all I know is that the money is supposed to go out and get distributed to people. So, my thought is, apply. I mean, Barry talked about this thing. And so, the deal is like everyone who’s listening to this podcast, it’s like no matter who you are, no matter what your job is, especially though if you are a sole proprietor or you have your own business or something like that, apply for this, call the bank.

Brian Walter: [00:42:58] And if they can’t help you, call a different bank because whatever the criteria are, it’s going to evolve and change, because they’re making it up. They’re making it up. There’s no hard-set rules yet, they’re still figuring out, but what is the purpose? The government isn’t giving money to the banks for the banks. That’s a different fund. They’re making money available to somehow in some process to be determined to get to us so that we can make our mortgage payments, and we can buy food, and we can keep up with insurance payments, and tuition, and all these other types of things. So, I thought it’s just, go for it, go for it, and go for it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:41] Absolutely. And by the way, they did it on the week, and it’s only 880 pages.

Brian Walter: [00:43:48] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:48] I actually pulled it up. I was kind of scanning and to your point, there’s a lot of stuff in there they’re going to figure out how to administer and get out. And also, trying to get the checks to those who need it, but only if you have a direct deposit on file with the IRS. You’ll get it in two to three weeks. Otherwise, you’ll get a paycheck or a check. And that could take a month. Yeah.

Brian Walter: [00:44:19] And my deal is like, we’ll still need it in a month.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:23] True. We will.

Brian Walter: [00:44:24] So, it’s not like, well, all I need was one month and I’m good, I’m good, everything’s fine, it’s like okay. So, yeah, I mean, part of the deal is I mean, this is unprecedented, and this is where grace comes in, and like we give patience with each other, and you got to make decisions. Like let’s say you have a cleaning person that comes to your house twice a month. Well, I’m guessing they’re not coming in this month.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:54] Right.

Brian Walter: [00:44:55] So, that person’s going to be tighter financially than you or me, do you still pay them for a month or is that part of your, got to cut all nonessential expenses? And so, those are judgment calls that we’re all going to have to make as we take care of ourselves, but we also try and take care of others, and it gets complicated.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:18] Yes, it is. It’s very complicated. I got two virtual assistants that I’m trying to maintain their hours, but then, I have to have a conversation, that we’ll probably have to reduce some of the hours, not eliminate them, but reduce them as long as I can because I still want to support them, and they’ve been supporting me, and see how long I can go with that.

Brian Walter: [00:45:42] How much do you pay because I might interview for that?

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:44] Okay. Well, it’s about $15 to $22 dollars an hour. You up for some additional side work?

Brian Walter: [00:45:52] Well, it’s safer than working at Amazon, but that’s okay. that’s okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:55] Exactly. Well, I greatly appreciate your time, and your knowledge, and your wisdom, and your thoughts on stuff as it relates to the current environment out there. I mean, it’s so complex. It’s so complicated. It’s so diverse. It’s changing every single day. I know that the information that you provided my audience, they’ll be able to take nuggets of that, apply it to their lives. And if anything, I think the key piece of all of this is be grateful. That’s the one that we all can use that superpower.

Brian Walter: [00:46:32] And let’s kind of fast-forward and mention, I mean, you noted in this that we’re recording this on the last day of March, but the time this is being heard, this is May. Things could be very different by the time it’s going out, so I just want to acknowledge that whatever you and I have said, let’s interpret that in the context of how we are thinking and feeling at the end of March. Things could be getting somewhat better. There could be a light that we’re pursuing. We could have just gone through some pretty scary scenarios with a thousand people a day dying. We don’t know at the point that we’re recording this. So, I hope that all those listening will extend Peter and I some Grace in what we were saying, that this is a moment in time. We think everything we said is timeless, and that it applies, but we don’t know for sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:30] Very good point. And what I’ve been doing with these episodes, they’re due to the team that produces this for me, I write the intro and do it right at the point that it’s due. So, I will put the disclaimer on and recast the landscape as of mid-April, towards the end of April on where we were at the time we recorded this and the current events, and hopefully, that we are getting better, hopefully, that we’re starting to come out of this when this year airs. I guess that’s my wishes, hopes, and dreams.

Brian Walter: [00:48:03] Now, you put it like, Brian now lives in a bunker in Alaska, it’s like, with the supplies that he hoarded over a period of two months.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:16] Exactly. And we haven’t seen Brian, but we did hear that his wife, Karen, was out buying shovels one day, and that’s-

Brian Walter: [00:48:22] Yeah. It’s like, it’s a compound or something, yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:24] Yes, yes. It’s a nice compound. So, I wish you and your family all the health and safety, and that we get to the end of this, and everybody’s well. And there’s a brighter tomorrow.

Brian Walter: [00:48:38] Cheers to brighter tomorrow.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:40] Cheers to brighter tomorrow. Great. Thanks, Brian. I really appreciate it. Beginning with my next episode and moving forward, I will be interviewing with less of a COVID-19 focus. And my next guest is a friend of the show and a friend of mine, Jodi Pasar, who is the VP of Strategy for Botkeeper. Botkeeper combines artificial intelligence and machine-learning technology with high quality of skilled accountants to deliver a full-suite bookkeeping and pre-accounting solution to accounting firms and their clients. Now, I’m going to sign off by saying, please, everyone, be healthy, practice social distancing, be safe, and implement a couple of tips that Brian gave us in order to help deal with the stress and anxiety that we see in our daily lives. Thank you.

Announcer: [00:49:43] Like what you just heard? Because it’s C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

S3E7. The Funny Thing About Stress with Kay Frances

Kay Francis is a professional keynote speaker and the author of the book The Funny Thing About Stress: a Seriously Humorous Guide to a Happier Life. Laughter is one of the best coping mechanisms in dealing with stress. According to an article published by the Mayo Clinic in April 2019 titled “Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke” when it comes to relieving stress, more giggles are just what the doctor ordered.

The article states that the short-term benefits from laughter are that it helps to stimulate several organs, activates and relieves your stress response, and soothes tension. Long-term benefits are improving your immune system, relieving pain, increasing personal satisfaction, and improving your mood. This article describes what Kay believes is the benefit of humor during these times.

We may not realize it, but we are dealing with grief when it comes to COVID-19. Loss of life as we understand it, loss of our freedom, loss of security, loss of certainty. And that’s what happens when a loved one suddenly dies. With the principles of laughter and humor, you don’t laugh your way through something like this. You have to go through the steps of processing that grief. But even in grief, that laughter should be in the toolbox.

And we need those tools now more than ever. As mentioned above, a spirit of optimism and humor can lead to better heart health, a stronger immune system, and a decreased risk of stroke. There is no better time for this to be a focus.

Part of the process of dealing with this stress is how to manage the change in your day to day life. Some people acknowledged what was happening and how bad it was — then put their heads down and got to work on something else. Others froze, uncertain how to proceed in this new world of so many unknowns. They get stuck on our former identity. If we can look at all these changes we’re going through as an adventure, we can learn to adapt to these changes much quicker.

Remember that this is temporary and make the best of it that you can, have fun when you can, and be honest with yourself about your feelings. Finding the humor in a situation doesn’t mean glossing over the painful parts. Just take it one day at a time. Make the best of it. Look at these changes as an adventure. Try to find the opportunities in the adversity.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Kay Frances: It’s vital now, more than ever that we try to at least go in our backyards, get some fresh air. You know, it’s just so important to take care of ourselves now. It really is.

Peter Margaritis: Welcome to Change Your Mindset podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: Welcome, everyone. I recorded this episode on March 25th, and waited until April 11th to write this introduction. The coronavirus appears to have peaked in New York. In Ohio, we’re still under stay at home with the peak anticipated by the time this episode airs. We’re all dealing with the stress of the unknown and being self-isolated for over a month. We’re getting a little stir-crazy, I believe. Well, at least, I know that I am. And thinking about how I can provide an alternative method for dealing with the stress, I’ve decided to reach out to experts to help us all deal with this stress related to COVID-19.

Peter Margaritis: Now, my guest today is Kay Francis and she’s a friend of this podcast. I interviewed her in season 1, episode 97, wow, back at April 9, 2018. Kay is a professional keynote speaker, humorous, and the author of the book, The Funny Thing About Stress: a Seriously Humorous Guide to a Happier Life. Now, we’ve all heard that laughter is one of the best coping mechanisms in dealing with stress. In an article published by the Mayo Clinic in April 2019 titled Stress Relief from Laughter, it’s no joke. When it comes to relieving stress, more giggles are just what the doctor ordered.

Peter Margaritis: The article states that short-term benefits from laughter are it helps to stimulate many organs, activate and relieve your stress response, and soothe tension. Long-term benefits are, improve your immune system, relieve pain, increased personal satisfaction, and improve your mood. This article describes what Kay believes is the benefit of humor during these times. We discussed COVID-19 has existed up to March 25th, and Kay provided sound advice on how to deal with the stress, and she will make you laugh. You just can’t help it. I had a number of belly laughs during this interview. So, before we get to the interview, and the belly laughs, and the great advice, just a couple of housekeeping items.

Announcer: This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up on business.

Sponsor: This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritis, LLC, also known as The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a speaker that can bring powerful content virtually, or in person, or on-site that is memorable and engaging in a way that motivates and inspires your audience? Instead of data dumping and numbing with numbers, imagine your people and teams delivering a financial story to your stakeholders, a story that creates engaging and relationship building business conversations.

Sponsor: Would you be interested in learning more about how that is accomplished? How would you feel if the value your facilitator provided your organization far exceeded the dollar amount on their invoice? Peter Margaritis, CPA and Certified Speaking Professional delivers all of the above and much, much more. All of Peter’s programs can be done virtually in person and on-site at your location or at an offsite venue. Send Peter a note at and/or visit his web site at to learn more about what Peter can bring to your next conference, management retreat, or workshop.

Peter Margaritis: Now, let’s get to the interview with Kay Frances. Hey, welcome back, everybody. Man, when we need a dose of humor, and we need a dose of humor now, we need a dose of some lighthearted, funny, how to deal with all the stress, so I’ve got a special guest for you. My guest today, and she is now a second-time return guest on my podcast, the very funny Kay Frances. And welcome, Kay.

Kay Frances: Hey, thank you, Peter. I’m so happy you’re out here fighting the good fight. I think we should probably tell people the date in case they catch this later. Yeah. What we’re dealing with and-

Peter Margaritis: Right. Today’s March 25, 2020, and we’re in the midst of the COVID-19, the coronavirus, and everything about that. I don’t know. We’re here in Ohio, where the shelter-at-home order.

Kay Frances: Yes, that’s a nice way of saying quarantine, but, you know-

Peter Margaritis: Yes, exactly. That’s a nice way to say quarantine.

Kay Frances: They just want to say, you’re not allowed to leave your house. But oh, Peter, I got to tell you, I did have to go out, and I did have to go get medication, and also the grocery, and maybe the post office. Okay. I had a few things. Maybe they weren’t 100% essential, and I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I am practicing social distancing, wash my hands, all of that. But I pulled out of my driveway and there’s a police officer.

Kay Frances: I’m sure he just happened to be going my way, but I felt like I was 18, and I just had a half a quart of vodka. I was driving. And then, when I pulled into the pharmacy, he kind of veered off the other way, he goes, oh, okay, she’s going to the pharmacy, she’s okay. And I’m sure that he had other things to think about, whether I was out of my house, in my car, but I just got that feeling. But it’s really a mandate for us in Ohio, and the US way.

Peter Margaritis: It is. My wife works in social services, and on Monday, she worked from home. But they said that we’re still essential businesses, and by the way, we’d like you to come in for a few hours. And she did. And when she came, she goes, "I got a letter now, that if I get pulled over by the police, I just show them this letter."

Kay Frances: Wow. Yeah. It really makes me funny. As a funny motivational speaker, I always thought that my work is so important, but apparently, I’m nonessential. You know what, our world doesn’t need me, but I disagree. I think they need not me necessarily, but they need the message that we give probably now more than ever.

Peter Margaritis: Absolutely. And that’s why I wanted to have you on this podcast. And you are the author, The Funny Thing About Stress: a Seriously Humorous Guide to a Happier Life. Well, this is a time we need some funny because we’re all dealing with stress.

Kay Frances: Yes. And, Peter, I have had my own message tested for myself more since this broke. Where are we at, two weeks now?

Peter Margaritis: Yes.

Kay Frances: Then, you know, it’s easy in good times to say that we need to do these things. But when you begin to get scared, you begin to face literal life and death situations for a lot of people. And what the one thing we’re all dealing with is the unknown. And that can wear on you. That can cause so much stress because we simply do not know when we’re going back to work. We don’t know when we are going to be free to move about like we used to.

Kay Frances: We don’t know what’s going to happen with the economy. These are real life and death situations. This isn’t just, oh, gee, I wonder if my 401(k) went down a few dollars. It isn’t that. It’s, people are scared and it’s the unknown that makes it worse than anything. And listen, I’m susceptible to this, the same as everybody else. So, over the past, what is it, 10 days now, we’ve been quarantined?

Peter Margaritis: Maybe. Basically, stay at home this week, but then, we were reduced to maybe no more than 10 people in the gathering. We went from like, yeah, 50 to 100 to 10 to stay at home. Right.

Kay Frances: Yes. So, it’s been a struggle. I mean, I’ll just tell you, my rug was just pulled out from under me like we all are. All of my work for March and April was canceled. May, I don’t even know. And this is our busy season as speakers. But I don’t want to talk about me and my woes. But, you know, the truth is, regardless of the nature of the stress, the ways to handle them are the same. And we’re going to kind of focus on the humor. What we’re going through a similar to going through the death of a family.

Kay Frances: I just read a really interesting article about grief. And I realized that I couldn’t pinpoint what I was feeling, especially those first four or five days, but we’re all feeling lost. Loss of life, as we understand it, loss of our freedom, loss of security, loss of knowing what’s going to happen next. And that’s what happens when like, say, a loved one suddenly dies. So, the principles of laughter and humor, it’s that you don’t laugh your way through something like this. You have to go through the steps. But I’ve always said, even in grief, that laughter should be in the toolbox.

Kay Frances: And when those gifts of laughter come up, because I do believe laughter and humor are a gift, take them and run with you. Now, I’m on social media. I try to post fun and funny whenever I can. And a lot of people are, have you seen more toilet paper jokes in your entire life? And that’s how we cope. That’s how we get through. You know, it’s just no, we’re not laughing every second. But my golly, we’ve got to continually work to keep our mindset on optimism and on keeping our sense of humour absolutely as much as possible.

Kay Frances: And people have been so creative. People everywhere are posting videos of things they’re doing in quarantine, that I mean, just regular folks that maybe aren’t funny for a living are much funnier than what I’ve been able to come up with. And, you know, it spurred people’s creativity, but it’s survival. That’s how we get through this because if we let these negative emotions continue to pull us down, pull us down, first of all, we’re going to get sick because that’s what happens.

Peter Margaritis: Absolutely.

Kay Frances: And now, more than ever, we have to keep our immune system up. And studies have shown that even a spirit of optimism, humor, and all of that, that people that have that over people that don’t have better heart health, a stronger immune system, and a decreased risk of stroke. So, this is science. This is science, baby.

Peter Margaritis: This is science. And by the way, the audience, when I asked Kay if she’d be on my podcast, she said, "Absolutely for two rolls of toilet paper." So, I hope they were delivered in time before the show.

Kay Frances: Well, you know, I think you insured it for like a thousand dollars.

Peter Margaritis: Well, absolutely. Yeah. People find all that stuff these days.

Kay Frances: And, you know, okay, tell the truth, I asked for four. And you negotiated down to two because, you know, I’m not famous, let’s get real here.

Peter Margaritis: And I have a 19-year-old son, so that was not-

Kay Frances: Well, there you go.

Peter Margaritis: And the other thing about it, you know, we are now being asked to work from home.

Kay Frances: Yes.

Peter Margaritis: And when all this happened, you know, so today, I only have one FTE here, my son. And tomorrow, I’ll have two. And by Friday, I’m going to put them both on warning. I won’t have to write them up. I mean, they sleep too late. I delegate. They don’t even do anything. They just sit around in bonbons and watching Ellen. I got to put them on, you know, performance warning, I believe.

Kay Frances: I love that. I love it. And for a lot of us, I mean, we’re speakers. But when we’re not speaking, we do work from home. So, this isn’t terribly new except that we’re in this strange time. The last thing people want to hear from us, "Hey, would you like me speak at your gig?" And they’re like, "We don’t even know there will be a conference. We don’t know." And I let that freak me out for a while, but I have to walk my own talk.

Kay Frances: And really, I seek out whenever I feel my mood starts to dip because I can’t live there. It’s okay to visit there, but don’t live there. When your mood starts to dip, you start to feel sad and depressed. Don’t go eat up your two weeks of rations in one day. That’s a short-term fix that makes you feel worse in the long run. Find some funny people. And it’s so funny, well, you know, when I go on YouTube, and I’m sure it’s true with everybody, they give suggested videos based on what you watch.

Peter Margaritis: Right.

Kay Frances: And I like to watch some news, but I’ve gotten to where I have really stepped away from it because there’s too much we don’t know. We still don’t know. And so, they’re not telling us much. And I have relatives that will text me when the governor does something new. So, how it affects me, I will find out. I don’t have to watch it and get depressed. So, it’s so funny. The YouTube will pop up and be like funny cat videos, the news. And I start weighing out, I go, no, I’m going for the funny cats, you know. That’s a choice that we make you choose to find something that is going to uplift their mood as opposed to something that is going to bring us down. Frankly, it’s probably going to bring you down. And you’re not going to learn anything new, really.

Peter Margaritis: And you are a very funny person and what of this? An idea just came to me, what if a company contacted you or you knew of a company that we’re doing, I don’t know, they finally say,"Yeah, we can get people together on a conference call, and we just want to make it uplifting, and make them feel better. Can we include you in that, and at no cost, write down, and then maybe something will happen after the fact?" Would you jump all over that?

Kay Frances: Oh, well, I hate to put out into the entire world, hey, I’m here, I’m available, and I’m free. No. Listen, this is one way that I can serve. And, you know, when you take your mind off yourself and your troubles—and by the way, let me intervene, I realize I’m not hilariously funny on this thing. And I’m speaking more from how to use humor than being hilariously funny. So, I apologize to your listeners if they thought, you know, that Chris Rock was going to be on this. Yeah.

Kay Frances: So, I’m serving wherever I can. I had a call today at noon. I have a friend, a speaker friend that did a spoof Zoom call. And I played myself, which is Aunt Kay, exaggerated, and what it was, they’re having a business Zoom call discussing using Zoom in business. I pop in with the wrong number. And I’m like, you know, I’m looking at the screen and the buttons. It’s the first time on Zoom. I’m like, "Hey, how you doing, guys? Oh, my God, I can’t see anybody. Where are you? Oh, well, listen, I’ll talk for a few minutes and you guys come in."

Kay Frances: And I just went on and on, just stupid aunt stuff, you know, like, "Hey, I drop some three bean soup off on your porch like a half hour ago, I didn’t knock because I don’t know where your hand has been, I’m not touching your doorknob. But it’s out there. Don’t let it go bad because, you know, supplies are tough these days." I actually am an Aunt Kay, and I am kind of like that with my relatives and my little millennial nieces. And wait, wait. I had a ball with it. And so, it was really fun to kind of do an impostor into somebody else’s Zoom call.

Peter Margaritis: So, will that be on YouTube soon.

Kay Frances: Yeah, she’ll post it somewhere, I will probably post it on my feet as well. So-

Peter Margaritis: Okay. Good. And please, for the listeners, please follow Kay. I follow you on Facebook a lot. Where else are you-

Kay Frances: I do have a YouTube channel. So, if people want to see some truly funny videos. And listen, I say that because I’ve earned it. I started doing stand-up comedy 35 years ago. What I’m not so funny at, sitting here in front of my computer with just my friend here. I am funny on stage. So, if somebody wants to see, I’ve got some songs I do. And so, it’s Kay Frances, and it’s spelled with an E, F-R-A-N-C-E-S, So, you can go to my website. Facebook, I’m very active on, not so much the others. And not because I’m old, it’s just hard to keep up with them all. And I just have gotten the most response on Facebook. So, that’s where I kind of go with. So-.

Peter Margaritis: You posted a really nice blog yesterday, which is kind of what we’re talking about right now about how you struggled at first with this. And we had to walk the talk. And it’s like, you know, we can’t change anything, and we’ve just got to keep moving forward.

Kay Frances: That’s it. And we all know what we need to do, those little things, it’s social distancing, it’s—you know, I’ve always washed my hands. I don’t understand this whole, all of a sudden, this is something new for people.

Peter Margaritis: Apparently so.

Kay Frances: But we know it is. Yeah. You’ve got your Purell there. Yeah. I know. You know, in fact, if you’ve done any health care conferences, you’re in there in the room, in the restroom with nurses, I mean, it takes forever because they’re washing and like scrubbing in for surgery, you know. And, you know, you’re supposed to do it to the Happy Birthday song twice. So, I got really tired of like, "Happy birthday, dear knuckles." I mean, who do you even sing to, you know? And with all this, now, I do the album, [indiscernible], and younger people don’t know that, it’s 17 minutes long. So, just make your your song a little longer.

Peter Margaritis: And she said she’s not funny.

Kay Frances: Listen, if you want to do some new song, oh, I can do Billie Eilish. Okay. I’m a bad girl. So, se, you can do a newer song or you can do Lizzo, I do my hat toss, check my nails, baby, how you feeling? So, yeah, I mean-

Peter Margaritis: Once again.

Kay Frances: Hat toss, check my nails, baby, how you feeling?

Peter Margaritis: Oh, my gosh. And she thinks she’s not funny on my podcast.

Kay Frances: And he will love you anymore. Just walk your fine self out that that door.

Peter Margaritis: And she can sing, who knew?

Kay Frances: Who knew?

Peter Margaritis: Who knew? So, what do you hear from some of your other folks, how they are dealing with what’s happening today?

Kay Frances: You know, it’s interesting. People will deal with stress in so many different ways. I have a couple of speaker friends that it was like, okay, this is awful, this is bad, bam. They put their heads down and went right to work. I mean, they already had things that they were working on, online courses and all this stuff. And like it was amazing, really, just went to work. Other people were frozen, you know, just shell-shocked, what do I do now? And for someone like me that’s a live speaker, I’m not set up for all this Zoom—I mean, I do Zoom calls. I do podcasts, you know.

Kay Frances: It’s not that. I know how to do it. I’m not that technology-challenged, but it’s like when you’re used to doing one thing, you’ve gone all in, it’s hard to make a switch because you can’t just switch that fast, but I’m being forced to. I actually have a virtual conference I’m doing. It was supposed to be May the 8th, and it’s huge, 2,500 people. And it was going to be a closing keynote. Now they’re doing the whole conference a four-day virtual conference. Can you imagine?

Peter Margaritis: A four-day virtual conference?

Kay Frances: A four-day virtual conference.

Peter Margaritis: Are you still the closing keynote?

Kay Frances: I guess so. Well, we have a call on Friday and I’ll learn more about it. But at first, I freaked out a little, and then I thought, I’m going to embrace the challenge here. I will find a way to do this, to get my message across and make it fun and funny and engaging. I’m just going to have to learn, you know, what system they have. Obviously, I don’t have anything where I can host 2,500 people, so I’m sure they’ll have all that in place. And you just make it work. Again, if you look at change as an adventure, that was my mindset, my tweak.

Kay Frances: I was like instead of dreading this and being, but I’m a keynote speaker, I’m this, I’m that, and I’m these ideas, we get stuck about ourselves. If we will just look at all these changes we’re going through as an adventure, and what I’m noticing, and I’m sure you are too, Peter, as are your listeners, those are the people handling it the best, instead of just falling apart over it. Just falling apart. I don’t know what to do. I can’t work from home. I don’t know what’s happening.

Kay Frances: And there again, my goodness, my problems are small when I think of the health care workers that are literally going in there every day, would not have enough equipment in dealing with this. Really, minor, really, first-world problems at this. But they’re my problems, so I think we have to acknowledge our own problems, and maybe be serious about them. But truthfully, I’m fine. I’m going to eat the same tomorrow either way, my lights come on, I’m fine for a while. You know, I’m really pretty fortunate. So, that’s another thing. You know, stopping and counting our blessings and having gratitude about what we do have, that mindset.

Peter Margaritis: Having gratitude and serving others, I think, is important in this time. And we have a voice, we have a platform. We can help serve other people as well as you’re right, count our blessings, and help those who might not have the same blessings that we have. And also, so I’ve self-quarantined myself since I got back from one conference because I had a horrible non-coronavirus, but I was sick for two weeks. I’m a type 1.

Kay Frances: Don’t you love the way we had, and boy, it wasn’t coronavirus, I was sick. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: Because my mother’s listening to this. It wasn’t the coronavirus, but I was sick like a dog for two weeks. And I’m a type 1 diabetic. So, I started social distancing when I started feeling better, and I’d been out of this house twice.

Kay Frances: Wow.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. But I’m used to, at times, working in this environment. I’m comfortable in a virtual world. And that’s how I’ve tried to help serve. I’ve contacted some not-for-profits who have now been forced to do this. And I know they don’t have the budget, but they still have to have these meetings and stuff. And I’m trying to help them navigate with Zoom, so they can have staff meetings, so they can communicate and still be able to connect with people versus being fearful of the technology.

Kay Frances: Yeah, absolutely. And by the way, to answer your question from earlier, I think I kind of went off unintentionally, but yes, I do want to serve. I do want to use my humor and the tips that I can offer. I’m on the path with everybody else. This isn’t me at the top of the mountain saying, hey, I’ve got it all figured out, come join me. The only reason I’m a tiny bit reluctant is I’m just getting all this figured out and getting comfortable with Zoom and all these new tools that I kind of know because I’ve always had Zoom calls and that kind of thing.

Kay Frances: But I’m learning, I’m watching webinars, and that’s another thing. Well, people have more time, learn new things. You know, I have been watching all sorts of demonstrations, again, on doing virtual presentations, and things I’m interested in. I found that for a minute there, I was feeling like, oh, I had to do this, oh, I had to do that, just watching my speaker friend’s online course. That’s that. Well, that isn’t what I do.

Kay Frances: We have to stay within our sphere because it takes time to learn something new and to be good at it. And you’ll get frustrated otherwise. And they’ll go, I do a podcast. I’ll do a Zoom. Well, unless you really dig in—now, you’ve dug into it, made a very good success of this. You are ready before this hits. Look at you, you’re all up and running, got his microphone, his headphones. And, you know, you’ve already done tons, and, you know, you’re all over the world. So, you’re already ready for this.

Kay Frances: But I can’t scramble around and try to throw something together because first of all, that’s panic and fear-based, and I don’t think I’d get a good result from that. So, I kind of go from where I’m sitting. And actual presenting for virtually, I have to do it because I’m being challenged to do it, but it’s fascinating to me. And I think I could use the medium. I just have to learn it. So, I’ve got all this stuff. I have a green screen on order, and lights. Unfortunately, everybody else is, so they’re not going to get here until April 21st. So, you know-

Peter Margaritis: So, I will say this again, I said this in e-mail, if I can help you with any of this technology stuff about Zoom or anything, all you got to do is ask. I’d love to help.

Kay Frances: I appreciate that.

Peter Margaritis: And two, I love that aspect of learning something new because I’m a Greek-American and my Greek is limited to just the bad words, the cuss words my grandmother used to teach me. So, about a month ago, Rosetta Stone had a super offer for a lifetime subscription, and I bought it, and I’ve been teaching myself Greek.

Kay Frances: That’s awesome.

Peter Margaritis: Well, it helps. I spend half-an-hour a day doing it. Like you say, it takes time. I know I’m not going to be fluent and speak at a thousand miles an hour, but I’m not telling anybody. I don’t think my family listens to me anymore on this podcast, they don’t know any secrets. But I started, what else could I do? What can I learn? And I ended up learning more about Zoom than I ever thought. It’s just also a time to soak it all in. So, do things you’ve wanted to do, but never had the time because now, we have the time.

Kay Frances: That’s right. And we’re gripped with fear. And what I went through for those first few days after, which was, I guess, a form of shock, a form of grief. And we go through the grief stages and not necessarily in order. But you finally get to acceptance, where you’re like, you know what, I can’t control this. And this is not to say that I won’t fall back. Again, two steps forward, one step back. I’ll have my moments. I just know me.

Kay Frances: And it’s just something you work on, you know, you have awareness of. But it can be an opportunity in adversity. And sometimes, it’s so hard to see. And again, my problems are not like everybody else’s. It doesn’t matter. The principles are the same. I don’t care how serious the problem is. I have gone through serious things. Not now. I was one of the mother’s caregiver, you know, and going to absolute life and death situations. These principles held more then than ever.

Kay Frances: So, it’s not like I’m, you know, flippant about this, like, oh, I don’t have a big problem, so it works for me. It works for everyone. It doesn’t matter. Ask anybody that works in hospice. Ask anybody who works in health care. Humor, it matters, and keeping your mood up and looking at adversity as an opportunity or finding those little nuggets. And, you know, in these kinds of times, people rise up too. We’ve all seen the unfortunate situations of people hoarding.

Kay Frances: And I just heard something about doctors that are writing out 400 pills of some drug that, you know—I mean, it brings out the best and the worst of human nature, unfortunately. But look for the best. There are people all around doing absolutely heroic things. And they’re amazing and they’re inspiring. You know, some people run out, healthcare people run in. They’re our new heroes. I really am convinced of that.

Peter Margaritis: Right. They run toward the issue, not away from it.

Kay Frances: That’s right.

Peter Margaritis: Well, you know, I rebranded this podcast a while ago to Change Your Mindset. That’s really what this is. We know it’s out there. We know we can’t control it, change the attitude towards it.

Kay Frances: That’s it. That’s all. We can’t control most of the time.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. The space between our ears.

Kay Frances: Yes.

Peter Margaritis: But our bodies are wired that when bad things happen, we tend to have those negative thoughts.

Kay Frances: Yes.

Peter Margaritis: Yes.

Kay Frances: Well, and not only that, I read an excellent study that they did that we are actually wired for pessimism because back in our early stages, you know, say the caveman days, optimists didn’t make it. It was the pessimists going, what are we going to eat tomorrow? Optimists were like, you know, a barrel will come along. I’m not going to worry about it. Really, I mean, if you had a rosy, optimistic view of the world. So, we are wired for survival, which makes us look for the, you know—like in voting, they say where the rocks are.

Kay Frances: So, it’s the same kind of thing. It’s a survival technique. But the problem is we’re not fighting bears. A lot of that, we just invent because it’s in our wiring. So, we have to fight it. We have to say, that’s not something I need to worry about. Keep the focus on things a little legitimate. And they’re, again, unnecessary worry, just weighs us down, find solutions, but make a plan, and then let go of things that don’t matter, for heaven’s sakes.

Peter Margaritis: Right. Even if you take an hour out of your day to watch funny YouTube videos, or do something humorous, or do something to take you away from the stress that’s out there. And I know that we have at least three members in our NSA chapter that I think to help deal with stress and have some time to think, they build jigsaw puzzles.

Kay Frances: Yes, I’ve seen a lot of people doing that.

Peter Margaritis: I see a lot of people building that. And I’m going, jigsaw puzzles, but then someone said, I was on a virtual happy hour last night, and they go, "I love jigsaw puzzles because it takes me away from everything." I can focus on, you know, these thousand pieces and trying to solve this puzzle." And I went, "That’s nice. I can only do six." Doesn’t help. But yeah, it’s just finding different things to take your mind off it. And you said it, turn the news off.

Kay Frances: Yeah. And, you know, managing our stress or whatever we do to keep ourselves sane, that’s a very individual thing. A jigsaw puzzle, my stress level would never be higher. I’m with you, brother. I’m like, really? I mean, I’ll give you an example, I’ve tried gardening one time. Some people, I mean, they’re just at Zen when they garden. They’re in the dirt, they grow beautiful flowers, and fruits, and vegetables. I’m very envious. I tried it one time, and I’m going to tell you something, I’d rather be beat to death.

Kay Frances: Let me tell you, I got in a community gardening program through the Ag Department at our little college here. So, everybody had a four-by-12 raised bed plot. And my stuff just wasn’t growing. Well, I was the newbie, so they stuck me down by the cemetery, and like the animals were like ravaging my stuff. I remember when I had a tomato, it was on the ground, and a deer had taken a bite out of it, and left it. You know, like those family members that take a bite out of the chocolate in the box, and then put it back.

Kay Frances: And I was so desperate for a homegrown tomato. I thought, how dirty could a deer’s lips really be? So, I mean, I thought like that because you see these people, when the tomatoes first come out, they’re on Facebook with a picture, look, my first tomato, like their new grandchild, you know, they go, oh, here I am with my first BLT. Eat your hearts out. You don’t have tomatoes. I have fresh tomatoes. But you could not wrench a tomato out their hands, but you wait three weeks, there’ll be anonymous bags showing up on your porch.

Kay Frances: So, anyway, one person’s stress enhancer can be another person’s stress reducer. We’re very individual in that way. So, you know, like quilting, huh? I feel like I have one quilt in me before I die, but I’ll never start it because of the tedium of it. But other people, I mean, their stress just melts away. Same with golf. Oh, just kill me, you know. Awful. I mean, I’m throwing stuff. I mean, I become a person I don’t even recognize. And other people, they’re all out there with nature and the green.

Kay Frances: So, just an individual thing. So, it’s what works for us. So, we have to nourish our soul. And for heaven’s sakes, during these times, avoid those energy vampires, people that suck you dry. Luckily, with a lot of us doing social distancing and quarantining, we can. But, you know, they’re still going to call, they’re going to text. You know, avoid them at all costs. Our time and energy are limited right now, even though we have tons of it. But still, quality time and energy are limited.

Peter Margaritis: I’m definitely going to put this video on YouTube, and people can go and see-

Kay Frances: I hope I did hair and makeup.

Peter Margaritis: I know. And I’m sitting and laughing so hard, I’m crying. I do know something, how you manage your stress and you get very creative in doing that because you like to work out.

Kay Frances: I do. I do. And, you know, I do. I become one of these people I used to hate, a health nut. And, you know, I mean, I’ve been through it all. I’m 28 years clean and sober from drug and alcohol abuse. I smoked cigarettes 25 years. This is why I don’t judge anybody where they are on the path. We’re all working on something. But I mean, for me, addiction is like a game of whack-a-mole, you know, like, oh, I drank too much, I’m going to do drugs. If this be a drug, I’m going to drink more, I’m going to smoke cigarettes 25 years.

Kay Frances: Stop that. Discover the joy of sugar and carbs. Gain 40 pounds, lose muscle then, start buying shoes online. It never freaking ends. So, I do, I work out. And I tell you, I am one of these people I used to hate. It is air and water for me. So, when my gym clothes, because in our state, it was mandatory, our gym owner opened the gym for one hour, and we were allowed to check out equipment to take home with us.

Peter Margaritis: Oh, wow.

Kay Frances: And I mean, I have a few things around, you know, but I got like three sets of weights, a band, I got a step bench, which I can do step aerobics on. And yes, by all means, get outside. I live right by a bike path, I’m very fortunate. So, on nice days, I get out and walk. And I do my exercises. And so, it’s vital now more than ever that we try to at least go in our backyards, get some fresh air. You know, it’s just so important to take care of ourselves now. It really is.

Peter Margaritis: Yes, it is. And exercise, you know, I love riding my bike. And I haven’t really been, so I brought it in the house. I got a little trainer and I got it sitting up on side of my desk and got on it last night for about half-an-hour, oh, God, I’ve missed my bike. But then, this morning, I got up like, oh, God, I forgot I had those muscles.

Kay Frances: I know, right?

Peter Margaritis: Yeah.

Kay Frances: I know.

Peter Margaritis: But, you know, that’s how I’ve always managed my stress, is to exercise and stuff. And to be-

Kay Frances: Yeah. And also, just slow down and meditate. You kind of touched on this. You know, it’s interesting. I follow Jerry Seinfeld personally, probably more than professionally. And I know that sounds weird, but he’s always been fascinating to me. And people ask him, you know, about your success, this and that and the other. He has a work ethic like you wouldn’t believe. He gets up and goes to work. He takes his kids to school and goes to the office.

Kay Frances: He says, "I’m a comedian. That’s what I do. It’s my job." He’s worth $800 million. It’s not about money with him. But he will tell you things he does. And he says, you know, "People ask me about the secret to success, is that I do this one thing that no one-", they’re like, "Oh, yeah. Okay. But what else do you do? He said, "I really believe it’s the secret to my success." For 30 years, he meditates every day.

Peter Margaritis: Really? I didn’t know that.

Kay Frances: Every day, yes. Twenty minutes. And you can get meditation like songs, you know, where it’s just a song, and it is hard. You close your eyes, your mind’s darting all over the place. And I admit, I fall in and out of it. Actually, I went through a period where I meditated like an hour a day. Well, actually, I nap, but meditate sounds much less lazy, but I fall in and out of it. And I wish I was that [indiscernible].

Peter Margaritis: I’ll leap right into that one. You do an hour?

Kay Frances: Yeah, I know. Well, I nap, but it just sounds less lazy because it’s just that I meditate.

Peter Margaritis: So, my question about meditation, and since you meditate, maybe you can help me with this, is my mind, as in Blazing Saddles, my mind’s a raging torn, flooded with three minutes of thought, cascaded into a waterfall of creative alternatives. Otherwise, it’s always going. An to stop it, I don’t-

Kay Frances: I don’t know that you’re supposed to stop it, you’re supposed to let them go by. You let the thoughts go by. I mean, read up on it. It’s fascinating. And it’s hard, I mean, at first. The times I’ve been able to sink into that state, I’m going to tell you, it puts you in sort of a state of calm and perspective for the rest of the day. It really can set the tone. So, why do I fall out of it? I have no idea. Why do we not do the things we know work? Why? We get out of habits. You know, I’m very disciplined in some areas and other areas like that. In fact, that’s going to be my new, my golly, I’m going to commit right now, I’m going to go back, I’m going to get the meditation CD out and start doing it again.

Peter Margaritis: Okay. You should post on your Facebook page, day one of meditation, I’ve committed back it. I’ve got an audience of people out there.

Kay Frances: I fell asleep again, you know.

Peter Margaritis: Exactly. And actually, I will read up on meditation.

Kay Frances: It’s interesting.

Peter Margaritis: I’ll use this analogy. When Dan Thurmon came to our chapter and he started juggling, I hadn’t juggled in years. So, after that, I was motivated to juggle, and I juggled every single day. First time, I think my first day, I was able to keep 26 balls in the air consecutively. At one point, I was up to about 350 rotations.

Kay Frances: Wait, 350 balls?

Peter Margaritis: No, no, no. Rotations. Three balls, rotation. Oh, God. No.

Kay Frances: Peter, you’re in the wrong profession, 350 balls in the air at once.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. No, that’s my day job.

Kay Frances: Yeah, right? Yeah. That’s what we’re talking about.

Peter Margaritis: And I was doing it every single day, every single day, every single day, then day 92 came and I forgot to do it. And I haven’t been able to get back into the habit again.

Kay Frances: Interesting.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. I mean, I took my juggling balls on the road with me, traveled with them everywhere, doing 4:30 in the morning, and I was committed to it. And then, well, I think complacency hits.

Kay Frances: It’s so easy to break patterns. That’s why, really, once you get serious about something, I think it should be in your calendar just like going to a doctor’s appointment. That’s one thing I do at the beginning of the month. I schedule all of my workouts because I do classes at 5:30. This is when I’m in town. On the roads, little more of a challenge. And I’m getting better at that, too. And I will schedule those and I’ll take the clothes. I’ll say, you scheduled a workout. So, a lot of times, what I do, like say I get to a hotel at 4:00, when I go in there, I do not sit down.

Kay Frances: I might unpack a little bit, I don’t sit down. If I sit down, it’s over. I go straight to those workout clothes, put them on, go down to the gym. I can’t if I’m down, I just know if I sit now, I’m done. I’m not going to feel like it, I’m going to put it off, and it’s over. So, you have to be strong enough to know your weakness. With some people, like when we are working in offices and so forth, they can’t go home first. They got to go straight to the gym. Don’t think about, just go.

Kay Frances: So, you have to find something you don’t hate. You might not love it, but at least you don’t hate it. You have to find something you, you know, can live with. Hopefully, if you do it long enough, you’ll grow to love it. And then, again, it will become like air and water. That’s my philosophy on exercise. But it takes a long time. Most people don’t have the patience because you go through—it’s horrible. Those first few months, you gain weight. I mean, to go through all that, because you’re gaining muscle, probably, you know, and it’s demoralizing. It’s terrible.

Peter Margaritis: Your appetite increases.

Kay Frances: All that time. And you’re not seeing results. And it’s torture to go through and you feel terrible after, but to hang in, just hang in long enough. And usually, for most people, it’s six months, then it’ll turn—it will begin to turn around. You won’t hate it. You’ll tolerate it. Then, you’ll like it. Then, you’ll love it. Then, you won’t be able live without it.

Peter Margaritis: Then, you’re addicted, but that’s a good addiction.

Kay Frances: Yeah. You become one of those people that you used to hate.

Peter Margaritis: Oh, yeah. I’m a reformed smoker. I think I quit 15, 20 years ago. And I actually can’t stand the smell of cigarettes. Absolutely cannot stand to smell of cigarettes.

Kay Frances: Oh, yeah, I know, right?

Peter Margaritis: One of the worst. Well, yeah.

Kay Frances: Oh, the worst. I know.

Peter Margaritis: Right. Right. But it took a while, but dealt with cold turkey. But it’s got to be something that through this time that we focus our mind on that’s good for us, that’s good for our families. You know, we try to have at least one or two nights a week here to have gin rummy night unless my son wins too much, then we can’t put up with his ego, his confidence, then we go, okay, we have to find something else to do. We’ll have a movie night, but just something to take our mind off of everything else that’s going on, and just give it a rest.

Kay Frances: Distraction is a wonderful tool. It can be overdone if we’re using distraction too much to where we’re not getting things done that we want or need to do. But as a coping tool, yes, distraction is wonderful. And it sounds like you’re doing it beautifully. And that’s great advice.

Peter Margaritis: Well, here’s the other piece of advice. We will fail. You said, you know, we will fail. And yesterday was a failure day. I just kind of walked around here, lost a little bit. And I had my to-do list and stuff, and I found about everything else in the world to do except what I was supposed to do. And then, I woke up this morning, I called BS, and I got everything done from yesterday, got everything done from today. Okay. I’m going to have those days.

Kay Frances: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a new day, just start over. It’s a new day. That’s all. I mean, same with exercise. You fall often, you get back up, you know. Maybe you fall off for a month, life gets in the way. Just get back up. Just keep getting back up on that horse. That’s what it is. And I think, too, people have to be gentle with themselves and be patient. No, new skill comes overnight, you know. If you want to learn to play the piano, you think you’re going to sit down and play Bach the first time? Nope. You’re going to learn scales. Oh, here’s a better one. Guitar. You play guitar. Your fingers are going to bleed. You’re going to get blisters.

Kay Frances: I mean, I don’t know that people who don’t play the guitar realize that it’s going to hurt. It’s going to really hurt. Takes a long time to build those calluses. And then, if you don’t play for a long time, you’ll lose them, and you’re kind of going to start over with that, but it’s day-by-day, step-by-step, moment-by-moment, and you just have to ride through. When you hit a wall, maybe take a few steps back, but then, just go around or over that wall, you know, and proceed. That’s really what it’s about. It’s easier said than done, for sure, as are all these principles.

Peter Margaritis: Right. And the part that I want everybody to remember is it is easier said than done; you will fail, but tomorrow’s another day, get up and try it again.

Kay Frances: Yes.

Peter Margaritis: And start with one thing. I’ve talked to some folks, well, I mean, I’ve always wanted to play the guitar, so I’ve got a guitar, I’m going to play that. Also, I’m going to try to learn the language. Excuse me, that was my brother in a conversation today, the three or four things that he’s going to do. I’m like, "Dude, just pick one."

Kay Frances: Right.

Peter Margaritis: You’re not going to do all three.

Kay Frances: That’s right.

Peter Margaritis: Just pick one.

Kay Frances: Yeah. You know, sometimes, you have to kind of take one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is completely overrated, I think. And I don’t think we have the ability to do it that we think we do. Literally, mentally, you really can only focus on one thing. You can do muscle memory and talk, you can crochet and talk, you might jump from one thing to another, and it’s very fast, but you’re not really multitasking. You’re doing one task, another; one task, another. So, you know, you lose your rhythm and this doesn’t really work. I mean, that’s what the science tells us.

Peter Margaritis: So, as we wrap up this interview, you’ve given a lot of advice and a lot different things out there for them to do. So, could you put that in a little package with a nice little bow and tell him the one thing to stick with to do to try to adhere whether we’re locked indoors for the next three weeks or the next month-and-a-half to help them deal with the stress?

Kay Frances: Remember, it’s temporary. It’s temporary and make the best of it the best you can, have the most fun you can, be honest with yourself about your feelings, though. Again, I don’t think people should gloss over. I find myself doing that. It’s like the grief process. You try to gloss over a couple of the steps. You’re going to have to come back and revisit or come out in another way through unhealthy habits or bouts of rage or depression, any of that. Just day at a time. You know, it’s a simple advice. It’s the stuff our moms all told us, but it’s so true. Just take it one day at a time. Make the best of it. Look at these changes as an adventure. Try to find the opportunities in the adversity. And I guess that would sum it up.

Peter Margaritis: So, I love having this conversation with you, but you just said something that’s very powerful, that struck me right between the eyes, is don’t gloss over your feelings.

Kay Frances: Yes. I believe we’re keeping it real. Be honest with yourself.

Peter Margaritis: Don’t compartmentalize them. When you’re feeling a certain way, and you can feel what was in your body, share it with your family, share it with your spouse. I have two dogs and they listen to me all the time. They just think I’m the smartest person in the world.

Kay Frances: Right?

Peter Margaritis: But just even talking to them some time—so, before this all happened, it was just me and the dogs when I was home, at times, I would talk to my dogs. So, they listened, but it’s getting it out.

Kay Frances: Sure.

Peter Margaritis: That’s definite.

Kay Frances: Wait, hold on a minute.

Peter Margaritis: Hold on. Uh-oh.

Kay Frances: She just walked by. Where did she go? I don’t have a dog. This is who I live with.

Peter Margaritis: I know. And her name is?

Kay Frances: Seisan.

Peter Margaritis: Seisan, that’s right.

Kay Frances: Hi, Seisan. Can you say hi to the people?

Peter Margaritis: Hi, Seisan.

Kay Frances: She is so over me. I think she’s really hard on me being in her territory. That’s my girl though.

Peter Margaritis: She goes, mom’s one of those FTEs I heard about a little a while ago. I’m going to have to put her on a warning. Oh, well, thank you so very much. I always enjoy the conversation. You always make me laugh. So, this has been my therapy for today, is a conversation with you, you making me laugh and also giving some great advice. And I can’t thank you enough for taking time out of your day to spend with me.

Kay Frances: It’s absolutely my pleasure. And, Peter, keep doing the good work you’re doing. This is a wonderful thing you do, and you’re really helping people, and just keep fighting the good fight. That’s all we can do.

Peter Margaritis: Thank you very much. Now, I’m just going to sign off by saying, please, everyone, be healthy, practice social distancing, be safe, and implement a couple of these tips from Kay today to help ease your stress.

Announcer: Like what you just heard? Because it’s C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

S3E6. How to Recover from Disaster Faster with Jennifer Elder

In times of heightened stress, one way of coping is to reach out to the experts that know how to deal with disasters effectively. One such expert is Jennifer Elder, the self-proclaimed “Diva of Disaster” and author of Faster Disaster Recovery: A Business Owner’s Guide to Developing a Business Continuity Plan. We talk about what we can do to change our mindset, change our approach, and change our attitude in dealing with this global pandemic.

Under the current conditions, we can’t keep doing the same things we’ve always done the same way we’ve always done them. The one question we need to ask ourselves is, “How can we be a part of the solution?” 

Rather than trying to fit what we’ve always done into this new scenario, take the opportunity to look at things with a new mindset and a new perspective. There are ways to do what you do in a slightly different way that becomes part of the solution to what’s going on.

This is where the improv mindset comes into play. Use the “Yes, And” philosophy to move through ideas and figure out how you can do something new. And that means planning ahead for when things do return to normal. What can you do today that will set you up for success when the world opens back up?

One of the mindsets you really need to adopt is patience. We have to be patient towards our family, our coworkers, and people at the grocery store. We are all going through this situation together. What’s hard for you is hard for everyone. If we can show a little patience and compassion towards someone else, we can make this a little easier for everyone else.

That is the best that we can possibly do. Find the positive, become part of the solution, and make this better for everyone else. If all of us contributed just a little of our resources and our energy to others, we would all be better off and pull out of this much sooner.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Jennifer Elder: [00:00:01] Right now, we all have a great opportunity to give first give to other people, help them with their troubles, and this will come back tenfold over.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:24] Welcome to Change Your Mindset podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant, and he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:11] Welcome, everyone. I recorded this episode on Wednesday, March 18th. And I’ve wait until March 23rd to write this introduction. The corona landscape has changed and will continue to change by the time you’re listening to this episode. Social distancing, stay-at-home orders, what’s an essential versus a nonessential business are things that we’re having to deal with on a daily basis. In Ohio, we’re on our stay-at-home order beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, March 24th. You know, we’re all dealing with the stress of the unknown.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:45] Yeah, I know the hard times sometimes dealing with the stress, but I do maintain my improvise mentality to help me get through, as well as rely on friends, experts, getting their advice in helping myself, as well as wanting to help you deal with this stress. So, that’s what I’ve done. I decided an alternative method of dealing with the stress, is to reach out to the experts that I know to help us all deal with the stress related around COVID-19.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:18] My guest today is Jennifer Elder, CPA, and she is a certified speaking professional, one of only 53 CPA, CSPs in the National Speakers Association. She is also the self-proclaimed, The Diva of Disaster. Jennifer authored the book titled Faster Disaster Recovery: A Business Owner’s Guide to Developing a Business Continuity Plan. And that is the essence of our conversation today. And it centers around what can we do to, pardon the pun, change our mindset, change our approach, change our attitude in dealing with this global pandemic. She provides a variety of simple tips that you can employ during a time of stress. And I hope you enjoy our interview.

Announcer: [00:03:10] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:17] Before we get to the interview, I would like to suggest after listening to this episode, you go listen to Season 2, Episode 35 with Dave Caperton titled Using Humor to Open People Up to New Mindsets. This episode is extremely relevant to dealing with the stress of COVID-19. Now, let’s get to the interview with Jennifer Elder. Hey. Welcome back, everybody. Today, I have a good friend, otherwise known sometimes as my office wife, who now has a new title, The Diva of Disaster, Jennifer Elder, with me to talk about our current environment out there as we relate to COVID-19. And Jennifer, welcome to the show again. Thank you for the taking time to help my audience.

Jennifer Elder: [00:04:11] Thank you. Happy to be here, Peter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:14] So, let’s just get right to it. What’s the one big tip that you can give to my audience? And the title of the podcast is to change their mindset. What’s the one big tip that you can give the audience to help them, off the bat, to begin to change the mindset as we begin to go through this daily dealing with this pandemic?

Jennifer Elder: [00:04:37] Well, you just stole my big line, is that that is the one big tip, is you have to change your mindset under the current conditions. We can’t do the same thing the same way under the new abnormal normal and expect the same results. So, you have to change your mindset and it’s hard right now. Everybody is—you know, we’re—how do we keep normal when there is no normal? We don’t have any routines anymore. Our business process is kind of blown up on us when everybody’s working from home. So, the one question, I think, we all need to be asking right now is how can we be part of the solution? What can we do differently that makes things better? Rather than trying to do the round peg into a square hole, you know. Let’s do the same thing that we’re doing, but it’s weird.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:36] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:05:38] What could we do differently? Where’s the opportunity? So, for example, here in New Hampshire, and you told me in Ohio, too, the restaurants are now not allowed to have dine-in.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:51] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:05:53] This is horrifying for restaurants. You can wallow in the horror or you can start thinking about what could I do to be part of the solution? Well, there are a gazillion people working from home who still need to eat. So, what if you offered lunch delivery service? What if you offered to make meals for senior citizens at a reduced cost? There are ways you can figure out how to do what you do in a slightly different way that becomes part of the solution to what’s going on right now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:34] Because we’re going to lose—we’re all losing money in our businesses, period.

Jennifer Elder: [00:06:39] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:39] So, look at from the, how can I serve my audience? How can I serve my community in a way that will benefit them and still provide something to the solution of the current situation?

Jennifer Elder: [00:06:56] Yes. So, no, we don’t want to price gouge, but, you know, we’re all—like you said, we’re all losing money. There’s an economic impact to everyone right now. Even those that are doing well are still, you know, giving discounted services. So, a lot of the web service providers, the virtual meeting providers are offering free software right now to be part of the solution. So, we’re all losing money, but if that’s the case, are there places that we could make money but still do good for the society? This almost goes back to the definition of sustainability, which is that you can do well by doing good.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:43] Right. And which makes me think about, so think about your clients, think about the people who you’re doing business with. And if you know that they’re in hard times, cut the costs.

Jennifer Elder: [00:07:55] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:57] At least cut some of that costs so they can maintain their service with you and you can restore it when we get back to normal, but provide some relief to those around you.

Jennifer Elder: [00:08:10] Yeah. Or if you are a manufacturer and suddenly, you’re being hit with your customers canceling orders, what if you called some of your good customers and say, you know what, instead of canceling that order, how about we defer it? How about we delay it? And if you give me a small deposit, then as soon as you’re ready, I will hop on it and get you exactly what you need when you need it. So, there’s a win-win in there because once demand does come back, oh, some people are going to find out that they can’t get the supplies that they now need because everybody’s coming back at the same time. So, think about—again, restaurants are easy right now. When the ban on dine-in is lifted, every restaurant is going to be scrambling to fill their restaurant with food, their freezers, their shelves. And so, the grocery suppliers are going to be swamped. So, I’d rather give a deposit to somebody so that I know the minute I need my stuff, they’re there for me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:26] Right. Right. Once we get past this panic thought process, that we’re scared, and now, I have to work from home, I’ve got a laptop, and I’ve got, you know, my kids jumping on my head, and both spouses are in the house now all day at all times. This is a new normal that they’re uncomfortable with.

Jennifer Elder: [00:09:52] Yes. And so, we are going to have to be creative in our solutions. And, you know, you mentioned our customers, our clients are in pain right now. Touch base with them. We all need an outlet right now. So, if you were upset at work, you could just walk into the lunch room, grab a cup of coffee, and there’ll be somebody in there and you can go bitch. Right now, we’re all stressed. We got issues, and there’s nobody to talk to.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:29] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:10:29] You know, the dog, yeah, they wag their tail, you think everything is wonderful, but we don’t have that opportunity to have an outlet for the things that are bothering us. Yes, we can call some of our co-workers, but I’ve heard from a lot of people that, "Well, I don’t want to bother them. There’s already enough going on. They have their kids at home, their spouse at home. I don’t want to pile on." So, people are keeping it in. So, why not call your customers and just say, "How are you doing? What’s going on?" Find out what their pain points are, and then have a brainstorming session with your staff and your team, "What can we do to help?" Now, I know, Pete, you’re all about improv. I think this is where it’s going to come into play.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:19] Absolutely.

Jennifer Elder: [00:11:19] How can we do things differently right now? How do you pivot? Now, use your "yes, and", we got to be mindful of this when people go, "Yeah, but we can’t do that." Oh, no. Let’s just keep going with, "Yes, and how could we do that?"

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:38] So, as I saw a lot of my business fall off and realized that it’s probably going to continue for a bit, I went into, "So, what can I do?" I’m not going to sit here eating bonbons and watch Ellen all day or binge-watch or anything like that, maybe binge-drink, but no, that will come later. And I went, "So, I’m used to working from home. I’ve been doing this for 10 years. I’m used to a remote work force. I’m used to doing virtual presentations. I know how to operate Zoom. I can work with GoToWebinar." And I went, "Do you know how many small nonprofits have no idea how to use this stuff?"

Jennifer Elder: [00:12:20] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:20] So, I contacted the Ohio Society of Association Execs, the CEO, Jarrod Clabaugh, and proposed that, "Let me help your members. Let me help you. If any of your members have issues or they want to learn more about how to use Zoom or how do you conduct—no charge. You’ve got my time. You’ve got my—I’ll even help you do this stuff." And it’s just—and I’m not expecting anything in return. I just want to help serve so when things do come through, everybody’s in a better spot than they were, and then maybe they’ll remember that I helped, and they will help me at that time.

Jennifer Elder: [00:13:00] Exactly. Exactly. So, yeah, I’m doing the same thing, was talking to some nonprofits, sending out emails to my newsletter list and saying, "Hey, if you’re not used to doing virtual meetings or don’t know how to do it or don’t have the ability to host, I’m here to help, and at no charge."

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:27] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:13:28] And I think this is where you become part of the solution, and you’re making an investment in other people, they will remember this. You know, you and I both talk about networking, and one of the things we both talk about is how you have to give in your networking before you can get. And I know all of your listeners, this will resonate with them, how many times have you gotten a LinkedIn request to join my network, and you say yes? You have no idea who they are, but you say yes anyway. And 30 seconds later, "Now, let me tell you about my special one-time-only offer, Can I call you right now?"

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:14] No.

Jennifer Elder: [00:14:16] Unfriend. So, that’s how not to do networking, that’s how to take before you give.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:23] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:14:23] Right now, we all have a great opportunity to give first, give to other people, help them with their troubles, and this will come back tenfold over. It’s not karma. All right. If you believe in karma, it’s karma. If you don’t believe in karma, it is a—you know, it’s like you put money in the bank, and there’s interest growing on it. This is putting virtual money in the bank.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:53] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:14:53] And you will earn interest on it. And when things do come back to normal, we’re going to remember the people who helped us out.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:01] And also, it goes, so we’ve lost our sense of community a bit since we’re not in the work force, we’re not having that face-to-face contact. And I don’t know if you had the same issue, but when you took the business, home-based business for the first time, I didn’t know what to do. The refrigerator and I were best friends. The refrigerator would call me and the pantry will call, "Hey, come on up. I got some good stuff in here. Come." So, I put on about 20 really easily. But the only way—then, I said, "You know what, I can’t do it here", so I’d go to Starbucks and Panera. Well, those, they’re out right now. So, I ended up—you know, so I went to that phase where at one point, I said, "You know what, I have to develop a schedule, a discipline to do day in and day out."

Jennifer Elder: [00:15:46] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:46] And we still have to do that in coping with this. We still have to have some type of—and just to be transparent, I’m working on this with the family upstairs, and having a little bit of an issue with a 19-year old, realized that this is just an extended spring break.

Jennifer Elder: [00:16:07] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:08] But you need people on a schedule again.

Jennifer Elder: [00:16:10] That’s huge right now. When your world gets turned upside down and you have so little control over what’s going on, you need routine again and you need to control what you can control. So, people who start working from home right now, they’re probably, you know, in the last week or two, three, four, however many they’ve been working from home, but that first couple of weeks, it’s awful. You have no routine, everything is an interruption, everything is a distraction. So, you have to decide for yourself, you’ve got to change your mindset, that this is my new normal. What does my new work life look like? Now, for some people, they have a home office, others don’t. I’ve seen some really creative solutions for creating a home office, a standing desk that you’re used to at work. I’ve seen people use ironing boards as a standing desk.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:15] Nice.

Jennifer Elder: [00:17:15] People are working from the dining room table, the kitchen counter, they are—from a laundry basket. You know, they’re having to figure out a space to work from. You should also set some new hours, and set some boundaries with your family. So, in my house, I’ve been working from home for a while, but with being The Diva of Disaster, had all kinds of requests to help, which is fabulous. Happy to help, and happy to help your listeners, too.

Jennifer Elder: [00:17:56] But I’ve had to set ground rules with my spouse so that if I’m in my office and the door is shut, that means I’m working, don’t even think about coming in, don’t interrupt me. Previous to that, it really—I didn’t need it. But now, we’re doing so much work virtually, this podcast, we do virtual meetings, you’ve got to set those boundaries. Home is not home anymore. Home is now home and an office.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:28] Yeah. And we can get isolated during this time, and I would recommend, I have no affiliation with Zoom, other than that I use it or Facetime or Skype or whatever you use, but when you want to call, when you want to talk to a friend or family member, use that feature on there just versus the phone itself because now, you’ve got a human that you’re looking at, that-

Jennifer Elder: [00:18:56] We need face-to-face feedback.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:58] Yeah, we do. We do.

Jennifer Elder: [00:19:00] It’s so important now, families can set up group calls with their families, so everybody can be on at the same time. And, you know, it’s not the same as getting together for the holidays, but it’s better than being isolated and by yourself. And I think it’s very important—you made a really good point that it’s important to reach out. I think there are going to be a lot of people who are going to become even more isolated.

Jennifer Elder: [00:19:37] Because, particularly people who are usually positive, when they’re feeling anxious or concerned, they don’t want to share that with other people, they’re used to being the positive one. So, they’re not going to reach out when they’re upset. So, if you haven’t heard from somebody for a while, reach out to them. They’re not ignoring you. They just don’t want to impose their bad mood on you. But really, we all need to be able to get it out of our system right now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:07] Right. Right. And so, if I have any superpower and I’ve seen this superpower really come to use of this last week because I love making people laugh, and I’m probably taking it too far at times, but, you know, little bunny Foo Foo running to forest. I mean, cringy stuff like that, but it just makes people—just that that laughter just helps.

Jennifer Elder: [00:20:29] Yes. Or if somebody is, you know, panicking over COVID-19, I will go, "Oh, my God, the sky is falling. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God." Then, yes, I’m making fun of them, but I’m making fun with them, too. I’m making fun of myself. And we do need to laugh. It’s so important. With my family, we’ve started a group text where every day, people are posting goofy memes, small jokes, just something so that we can all smile. And even if you go, "Oh, that’s stupid", you’re still laughing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:14] Yeah, somebody sent me one of a video of a guy in a car, stops and this shady-looking kid there, and he calls him over and he says, "You got the stuff." Was it, "You got the money"?

Jennifer Elder: [00:21:23] I sent that to you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:24] Yeah. And then, it takes on a lot of pondering-.

Jennifer Elder: [00:21:27] It’s a drug deal.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:28] Yeah, it’s a drug deal, but it’s really, "Here’s some toilet paper and some hand sanitizer."

Jennifer Elder: [00:21:34] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:35] Yeah.

Jennifer Elder: [00:21:35] Yeah. And you know what was the funny part about that, is like three days later, there was a kid who was suspended from school for selling squirts of hand sanitizer.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:48] Hey, that’s an entrepreneur.

Jennifer Elder: [00:21:50] I was like, "Oh, my God. It really is happening." We’re having drug deals every hand sanitizer.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:56] Hand sanitizer. And, you know, I’ve had conversations with a lot of, I don’t get the hoarding of toilet paper. I don’t think I’ll ever understand it unless they’re trying to TP a bunch of houses. You know, it’s like, "Stay calm."

Jennifer Elder: [00:22:13] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:14] Here’s my concern, though, this is going to air around April 13th, as I believe, if my memory serves me correct. And this—and today is March 19th. So, we’re a month from now. We don’t know what that’s—the landscape is going to change. We know that.

Jennifer Elder: [00:22:33] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:33] Because well, you just did a webinar for the Maryland Association of CPAs on the COVID-19. And it was aired over maybe a-week-and-a-half, and they’ve asked you to re-record it because the landscape has changed.

Jennifer Elder: [00:22:48] Yes. Landscape is changing every day at the federal level and at the state level. And for business owners, business leaders, they have to stay on top of employment law changes, and that really is changing daily. So, no, a month from now, we’re not going to know what the landscape is, but I can tell you, being able to change your mindset, being able to pivot, being able to stay positive is going to be crucial regardless of what our landscape is.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:25] Right. Doesn’t matter. You know, we’re going to see numbers increase, that’s the forecast. We’re going to see this—you know, we’re not at at the peak now, and the anticipation is sometimes between now and I guess, next three to four weeks, I don’t really know, but as we say in improv, don’t focus on the things you can’t control. Only focus on the things you can control, and that will help with your sanity.

Jennifer Elder: [00:23:52] And you can control your reaction.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:55] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:23:56] And one thing that we all have to be mindful of right now is psychologically, humans are hard-wired to pay attention to the negative because your body is designed to keep you alive. Negative can hurt you, so your brain instantly latches on to anything negative.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:16] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:24:16] The issue with that is for every negative thought, it takes three positive thoughts to get back to zero, just to get back to even.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:26] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:24:27] So, it’s really important for everybody’s sanity to forcibly change how you look at things, don’t—I mean, yes, we can’t help but lament over the things we can’t control, but then focus on the things that you can, focus on your reaction, and at least be mindful. You know, I’ve been wallowing in "the sky is falling" mentality, let me go take two minutes, five minutes, let me go to YouTube, and watch goofy dog and cat videos, just something that makes you laugh.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:08] Yeah, just something. So, now that the world has turned around and what I’ve decided to do is in my day, between 4:00 and 4:30, no more working past that, and then go spend time with the family. So, I’ve moved that time up an hour, hour-and-a-half because it used to be 6:00 or 6:30 at times. Now, I want to take the time and like tonight, we’re going to play—well, I asked Steven if he wants to play Rhyme, he goes, "Sure, as long as you guys don’t mind getting beat."

Jennifer Elder: [00:25:48] Yeah, I mean—

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:48] And then, we’re having a family dinner. But it’s-

Jennifer Elder: [00:25:51] Yeah. So, you know, think about, again, changing how you look at things. The opportunity here is you have time to spend with your children, your spouse, take advantage of that. And for some people, you may have to change your work hours. So, if you have smaller children at home, they’re up early, they’re bored to tears, they’re going to need a lot more of your time, so you may need to adjust your work hours. You may not be able to work from 8:00 until 4:00.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:26] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:26:26] You may need to wait until starting your workday at 3:00 in the afternoon or you may need to alternate with your spouse. And your spouse takes the morning shift, you take the afternoon shift, but we’ve got to figure out some way of dealing with this. The people I’m actually worried about, Peter, are those that do not have good family relationships.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:49] Yeah.

Jennifer Elder: [00:26:49] And now, they’re forced to be around each other 24/7.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:54] Yeah.

Jennifer Elder: [00:26:54] And this is going to be stressful.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:57] Yes.

Jennifer Elder: [00:26:57] People with teenagers, this is—you know, teenagers get stressed, they’re hormonal, they’re going to be snappy, not in a good way, and how do you deal with that? You know, one thing we haven’t mentioned yet is one of the mindsets you really need to add in here is patience. We have to be patient with each other. And that’s with your family. It’s with your co-workers. It’s with people at the store. I was out doing my normal grocery shopping. If I was panic-buying anything, it was two cases of beer.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:44] Only two?

Jennifer Elder: [00:27:48] But it was bizarre. I mean, the store had been wiped out. Canned goods, yes, toilet paper, paper towels. I bet there were just swaths of the store that the shelves were empty. And there were a couple of people that I saw in the store that were running around in a frenzy with their cart and they’re bumping into people, and getting mad that they ran into somebody. It’s like they’re trying to go around somebody, but they bumped them, and then they’re like, "What are you doing?" And then, they go to find something that’s not on the shelves and there’s a string of four-letter words that are coming out. They have to understand we all need to be a little bit more patient.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:37] Right. So, I’m purposely wearing this t-shirt because of this podcast. And by the way, because I wanted Jennifer to kind of be in a happy mood. I know she’s in New Hampshire and I know she loves to ski, I’ve got a virtual background of a snow-covered mountain for her that have that calmness to it, but my shirt reads, what does my shirt say?

Jennifer Elder: [00:28:58] Be good to people.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:59] Be good to people.

Jennifer Elder: [00:29:01] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:01] As simple as that. Be good to people. And it’s, take care of people. It’s about us, but then it’s also about the people around us. It’s also about checking on our neighbors. It’s also about checking on our elderly parents. It’s also about checking on each other. And actually, I ask Steven every day, you know, "You can talk to me about it. If anything’s bothering you about what’s going on, you can talk to me about it."

Jennifer Elder: [00:29:30] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:31] "Right, Dad. Oh, by the way, can you fix me something to eat?" We’re getting there, slowly but surely. But it’s also-

Jennifer Elder: [00:29:37] It’s just giving the opportunity.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:40] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:29:40] Saying you’re there for them, "If you want to talk, I’m here to listen." I shared this with a friend of mine, I said, you know, "If you want to talk about this-", because a friend of mine now, there’s a possibility that she was exposed. Not a big possibility, but still, it’s a possibility. So, I said, you know, if you want to talk, I realize there’s nothing that we can do, there’s nothing we can fix. But if you just want somebody to listen, I’m happy to just sit and listen to what you have to say.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:15] They were appreciative of that offer.

Jennifer Elder: [00:30:18] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:19] Of course, yeah.

Jennifer Elder: [00:30:19] And actually, what was kind of funny, when she said, "No, I think I’m good. I appreciate the offer, but I think I’m good." And then, 30 seconds later, she’s talking about it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:33] Yeah.

Jennifer Elder: [00:30:33] I let her go. I just listened. And then, she came around after a couple minutes and said, "I said I didn’t want to talk, didn’t I?" And then, realized that she had just been talking for five minutes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:50] I’ve got a good friend who this doctor believes, and this was before they freed up how to test, this doctor believe that he came down with it, that he has it. And he self-quarantined himself at his lake house in northeast Ohio. And ever since I found that, every day, I just send him a text, "How are you doing today?" And we’ve just been having this conversation every single day. You know, it was getting worse, "Not feeling well." And I go, "Okay." So, I, "Hey, do you have Netflix? Hey, I just watched this movie on Netflix", and just give him suggestions and stuff. And then, yesterday, he said for the first time, "I think I’m starting to get past this thing."

Jennifer Elder: [00:31:31] Nice.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:31] But it’s just making that contact, and especially if you know somebody who—because, you know, I’ll talk to him after it’s said and done about his thoughts while he was dealing with COVID-19 on a daily basis, on an hourly basis.

Jennifer Elder: [00:31:48] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:49] Yeah. It’s-

Jennifer Elder: [00:31:50] Because the impact is from one extreme to the other, so I can’t imagine the thought that somebody has if they have been diagnosed, worrying about themselves, worrying about their family, their co-workers, I’d worry about even people I ran into at the supermarket, you know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:11] Yeah. And as you know, when we got back from one of our conference, I got to speak with a non-coronavirus and I kept going, "Oh, my God, I hope not everybody that I came in contact with, but nobody who I was around was sick over this period of time." And so, I must have caught it in an airplane, but even just that little bit of uncertainty there for a while was, "Do I have this? Do I not?" with that. And I’m a Type 1 diabetic, your thoughts start running. And I had to say stop. Yes, and you don’t have this. You probably don’t have this.

Jennifer Elder: [00:32:51] Well, two things my sister always talks about, and you’ve heard this—many people have heard this before. Fear is an acronym of false expectations appearing real.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:08] I’ve never heard of that.

Jennifer Elder: [00:33:09] Fear, very often, what we worry about, what we’re afraid of never actually happens, and we spend a lot of our time worrying and stressing. My sister’s variation on that is worry when the time comes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:28] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:33:29] So, you can worry, "Did somebody else get sick?" I’ve got no control over that. I can’t do anything about it. If somebody that I came into contact with does get sick, now, I actually can do something. I can apologize or I can, you know, share what I did. There are things you can do. When something happens, now, you have control. You can actually do something to react to it. But the worry, there’s nothing positive you can do about it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:04] Exactly.

Jennifer Elder: [00:34:04] So, there’s another change in mindset.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:07] So, as we wrap up, everything that you said has been spot on. What’s the one last thing you want to leave them thinking as they’ve listened to our conversation?

Jennifer Elder: [00:34:22] I will end with right where we started, Pete, which is find the positive, find where you can be part of the solution. That works for the people around us, and it works for us personally.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:38] First, thank you very much. And two-

Jennifer Elder: [00:34:40] Oh, no, no, thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:42] And I hope you and Sam stay safe, stay healthy. We will keep in contact. And The Diva of Disaster, thank you, and my audience thanks you as well. I’m going to sign off by saying, please, everyone, be healthy, practice social distancing, be safe, and just implement a couple of tips from today’s episode, as well as the episode with Jay Sukow to help ease your stress. Be safe.

Announcer: [00:35:24] Like what you just heard? Because it’s C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

S3E5. An Improviser’s Approach to COVID-19 with Jay Sukow

Friend of the show Jay Sukow is an improv coach, and although improv is probably not the first thing you turn to or think of in a crisis, he has some great tips for dealing with our current situation.

We are all dealing with the stress of the unknown circumstances regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Improv has always been an incredibly impactful way to deal with the daily stressors of life and — in the midst of this global situation — is more useful than ever in helping to cope with overwhelming levels of stress.

Finding our new normal

The improviser’s mindset is not to hold on to anything too dearly because everything is changing all the time. You have to be willing to let go of what doesn’t serve you anymore and move forward with new information. We are constantly being updated with new information right now.

“One of the things that helps me in these situations,” Jay says, “is reminding yourself to stay present, stay present, stay present.” You have to take inventory of what is an immediate threat right now. Look at each situation individually. Rent is due eventually, but is it due now? Don’t ignore that it’s going to need to be paid eventually, but train yourself to take in each thing moment to moment.

Breathwork is another thing that’s going to help you stay present. Put down your phone, breathe in for four seconds, and breathe out for four seconds. You’ll be amazed at what this can do to calm your system.

Getting out of your head

Stress isn’t doing us any favors. If you’re crawling up in your head, it’s hard to get back out. If you can think of your worries as two big, heavy suitcases, imagine that at the end of the night you are putting them down and letting go of all those worries.

Another thing to be aware of is how much screen time you are having right now. Whether it’s social media or the news, you’re bound to be exposed to more and more stress. Limit your time to just a few minutes a day. You can still catch up on all the news without worrying over every update.

When you’re feeling those heavy feelings, it can be helpful to figure out what the truth of the situation is right now. How are you feeling? When you can start naming your feelings, it helps you get out of your head even more.

The world needs improv

The world needs improvisers now more than ever, whether it’s your mindset, the focus on the group, or just to bring laughter to a situation. This is very serious and people are being affected by this, people are dying, and there is sadness and anxiety around that. But improvisers can bring empathy to the situation and look at it as an opportunity to share that empathy and to share that joy and that hope and that love. That is something the world can’t get enough of right now.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Jay Sukow: [00:00:08] I mean, we need to laugh now more than ever.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:11] Right. Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:00:13] And like a friend of mine said, you know, this self-quarantine doesn’t have to mean self-isolation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:19] Right. Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:00:21] And that’s something, you know, you got to kind of just look at it as like you’re establishing a new normal.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:27] You think like that? I think like that. Most the population doesn’t think like that. Adaptability and trying not to use the word pivot because it’s being overused now in this situation, but the ability to adapt to a changing landscape is very, very difficult for a lot of people, period.

Jay Sukow: [00:00:47] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:48] Us, we can do it on a dime.

Jay Sukow: [00:00:52] Well, it’s also, you know, for us, in addition to the improviser mindset, it’s also your life and how long you’ve been freelancing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:04] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:01:05] And, you know, this whole terminology now of like the gig economy, it’s like I’ve been doing the gig economy for almost 30 years. And so, in this situation, it’s like that’s kind of prepared me. You know, you’re in—we’re in a state of fear because it’s also—it’s not just fear of this unseen enemy, it’s fear also of the unknown. And, you know, if you sit down and you list out all the concerns, they’re very valid and real, it’s like, "What am I to do for work?"

Jay Sukow: [00:01:38] What if you’re someone who’s a—you know, you work at a fast food restaurant or you work at a coffee shop or you’re a driver of some sort and you can’t go out, it’s not like—you know, there are some people who can’t transfer their work online. So, how do you keep that mindset? And they’ll look at this as like, you know, to accept—I think it’s you accept the fact that, yeah, everything is very scary right now, it’s very uncertain. Whatever happens, there are going to be some pretty cool opportunities that come of it.

Jay Sukow: [00:02:11] Now, you might not know what it is right now, and that’s the thing. If people knew right now, I think they’d feel a lot better. But because you don’t know, you’re dealing in these unchartered waters. I mean, literally, in at least our lifetimes and recent human history, this is unchartered. I mean, this is something that went from, you know, what is this thing that doesn’t affect me, too? Now, I’m quarantined.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:36] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:02:36] And now, how do you deal with it? How do you keep up your sanity? How do you keep up your spirits? How do you keep up staying outside of that? That could be easily be falling down that spiral, into that abyss of like, "Oh, man, I don’t know how I’m going to pay rent, I don’t know how I’m going to survive. I mean, those are very real concerns.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:03] Welcome to Change Your Mindset podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believe that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:50] Welcome, everyone. I’m recording this episode on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020, to be released on March 30th. And I’m aware that the coronavirus landscape will have changed and we may be dealing with the peak of this pandemic in the US at this point in time. We’re all dealing with the stress of this unknown. And think about how I can provide an alternative method of dealing with this stress? Improv, as always, helped me, my family and my friends in our daily dealing with the COVID-19 stress, as well as dealing with everyday stress with that, the coronavirus.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:30] So, my guest today is Jay Sukow, who’s also my improv coach. And Jay’s going to share some tips on how to deal with our current situation. Jay will gladly talk endlessly about how much better the world would be if everyone just took one improv class. Jay began teaching for Second City in 2010 and teaches in both the improv and conservatory programs. He’s also a facilitator of Second City Works, teaching improv to business professionals in order to drive behavior change.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:02] Previously, he was on faculty at the Second City Chicago, IO Chicago, and Comedy Sports Chicago. He’s performed professionally for over 25 years and get his start on stages of the Second City Northwest, where he spent two years performing both original and archive material. He’s also been seen on several improv and sketch comedy teams, too numerous to mention. He has taught and performed improv and sketch comedy throughout the world, including big IF4, Copenhagen International Improv Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Del Close Marathon.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:40] He’s been on several podcasts, including Tales of the Teachers Lounge, Improv Yak, Improv Nerd and ADD Comedy, and was featured in the improv documentary, Weather the Weather. Jay’s a great guy. He’s got great information. And I hope this episode will provide you some new ways or new ways to think about how we deal with our current stress levels in dealing with this coronavirus pandemic.

Announcer: [00:06:11] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:18] Now, let’s get to the interview with Jay Sukow. Welcome, everybody. My guest today is, and he’s a repeat offender on this show, Mr. Jay-.

Jay Sukow: [00:06:31] I keep coming on.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:32] Keep coming on. I love it when you come on, Jay Sukow. And Jay is a professional improviser, as you’ve heard already in his bio that I’ve included at the introduction of this podcast. And actually, we’re going to get right to the conversation. And so, first, Jay, welcome. Thank you.

Jay Sukow: [00:06:50] Thanks.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:50] I’m sitting on the beach in Malibu and Jay is hunkered down somewhere in LA. My backdrop is the actual beach in Malibu. So, I’m trying to, you know, have that kind of mindset, that kind of emotion coming out, just to—versus looking at the back of my wall, just have some calmness out there for you. Jay, welcome. Thank you very much. Looking forward to this conversation, buddy.

Jay Sukow: [00:07:14] Peter, thank you. And look at that. It’s just—you’re right up the street. Look at that background. The blue skies, the birds, the water. Oh, wonderful. At home.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:27] And there’s nobody on the beach as well.

Jay Sukow: [00:07:29] No. I mean, that’s pretty accurate.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:31] It is pretty accurate.

Jay Sukow: [00:07:31] Everyone’s inside. Thanks for having me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:36] Oh, thanks. Thanks for taking the time. I know you’ve got a lot of going on in trying to figure out our new normal as it exists. But as an improviser for 30 years, I’ve learned so much from you and our interactions over this past year. How can we help my audience in dealing with this new normal? And it’s not even new. I mean, it’s new, but it hasn’t become that normal because it’s rapidly changing.

Jay Sukow: [00:08:11] Yeah, I think that that’s the key phrase right now, it’s like new normal. And, you know, as improvisers, we have a mindset that like don’t hold on to anything dearly because everything changes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:23] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:08:23] And you have to let go of that which doesn’t serve you anymore, and then move forward with new information. And we are constantly being updated new information right now. And so, I think one of the things that helps me in these situations is, you know, reminding yourself to stay present, stay present, stay present. What’s happening right now? What is an immediate threat to me right now? You know, I look at something like rent. It’s like, "Well, do I have to pay rent right now?"

Jay Sukow: [00:08:55] Right now, I don’t, Now, let’s not ignore the fact that it’s going to happen, but if you could stay present and you just—you’re trying to train yourself to take things moment to moment. So, moment to moment, realizing everything’s going to change. And another way to do that is to, you know, focus on breathing. Sometimes, I just take a moment, you know, turn off your computer or your phone and just breathe in for a four count, and then breathe out for a four count.

Jay Sukow: [00:09:23] And you’ll be amazed at what that does. It also keeps you in the moment, which is one of the biggest things right now because there’s so much uncertainty. There’s so much—if you thought your life was uncertain before, now, it’s like, oh, man, now, it’s not just uncertainty of things you can do, but it’s uncertainty of things that are happening all around you. So, I think take a breath. Another thing that can help with this is, you know, find those people who will bring you joy.

Jay Sukow: [00:09:49] I had a friend and he said, you know, this whole self-quarantine doesn’t mean to isolate yourself. You know, it’s not a self-isolation. So, take a moment. And I got a call from my friend, Dave, last week just saying, "Hey, how you doing?" And it was such a wonderful gesture of him to reach out and just go, "Hey, I’m just checking in", especially when you’re in the similar boat, if you’re both freelancers or if you’re both accountants or if you both work in an office or you have the more shared experiences, then the more you could just let out what your fears and concerns are.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:22] And I’ll be transparent with you, Jay. I’m really good about being present and being in the moment and trying to focus on the things that I can control, but I slipped yesterday. I got out of being present. And I went down this path. And-

Jay Sukow: [00:10:38] It’s fun, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:39] No.

Jay Sukow: [00:10:39] It’s a bit fun.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:40] Not one bit. I love following the fear.

Jay Sukow: [00:10:43] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:44] But this was getting outside of I think just getting, all of a sudden, caught up in this rush of—and it wasn’t a good thing. And the only way I could get myself out of it and you just shared, I said, "Take a breath, dummy."

Jay Sukow: [00:10:58] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:58] "Just breathe", because I wasn’t breathing.

Jay Sukow: [00:11:01] And you—and it’s so hard to get out of it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:03] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:11:03] You know, you have to—it’s, you know, what we’re trying to do as improvisers, is we’re always trying to get out of our heads.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:10] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:11:11] And once you get up in there and you climb up in your head, it’s hard to get out. And you’re very smart, so you will—your brain wants to always be right. So, your brain wants to say things like, "Well"—you know, like your brain doesn’t want to say, "Hey, man, everything’s going to be fine. You survive. You’re a survivor. Things are going to look different, but you’re going to be okay." Like you start now looking around to it. There are examples of—I think in general, humanity wants to take care of itself and wants to protect the herd.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:45] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:11:45] And so, there are examples happening all over. There was a guy on Twitter who said, "Hey, you know, F the coronavirus. If you have a bill you aren’t able to pay, post it here, give me your Venmo." And then, that started the chain of he started paying people’s bills, and then people would follow him, and then people would say like, "Oh, I got that bill for you." So, people started helping each other out. There’s a lot of resources as well that you can reach out to in your city or county or state, where you can find ways to help, you know.

Jay Sukow: [00:12:16] So, I think things are slowly starting to change. I think there’s becoming—there are certain landlords as well that are saying, "Hey, can you—if you can only pay me half or maybe not this month", like—but what you have to realize with that as well is like all those people have mortgages that they have to pay. So, I think there are these examples where we’re starting to slowly take care of ourselves, but it’s going to take a while. This was something that, you know, people didn’t take seriously for a while. And now, all of a sudden, it’s like, "Oh, man, now, it’s here."

Jay Sukow: [00:12:50] So, that’s adding to the nervousness. But yeah, like you said, if you could take a moment and take a breath, sometimes it’s—I remember I had a therapist who said, "Imagine you have two big—visualize two big suitcases, heavy, heavy suitcases. At the end of the night, visualize your—just say to yourself, ‘I’m done’, and visualize putting them down." And then, that represents all the burdens you’re carrying in the day. Just go, "I’m done. I’ve done enough today." And it’s something that really has helped me, where I go, "All right. I’m spiraling. I’m thinking about all of what’s happening right now." I’m only focused on the bad because, you know, it’s just my brain’s way of focusing on surviving.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:34] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:13:35] But if I can say, "Hey, wait a minute, let me put these down right now, these heavy thoughts. I’m going to put these down." And another thing is, you know, how much screen time are you having? Because the more I go on social media, especially Twitter, or the more that I see all this stress and anxiety pop up.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:56] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:13:56] So, like another thing is can you limit your amount of time you’re on social media because that just accelerates the anxiety?

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:05] And for old folks like myself and older baby boomers like myself who’s still stuck to like TV in the morning, watching the news and stuff, I did that this morning, I said, "I’m going to watch the first 10 minutes of the Today Show and that’s it."

Jay Sukow: [00:14:20] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:20] I’m going to work.

Jay Sukow: [00:14:21] That’s great. That’s great. I think like, first, you know, if you want to do the first—you know, set a time like the first few minutes in the day or at the end. You can go online at the end of the night.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:31] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:14:32] And you can get a recap of everything that’s happened in a very short amount of time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:36] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:14:36] So, there are things you have in your control of things you can do to kind of limit your exposure to that anxiety.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:44] Well, the one quote that you said, I’m giving you credit for it because I think it came from you in one of our conversations, "Improvise the scene you’re in, not the one you wanted to be."

Jay Sukow: [00:14:57] Yeah. And that’s, you know—any of the quotes I say, as you know, are not mine. I don’t have a single original thought. I heard that from someone. Well, I mean, a lot of these, like I’m sharing from other people I know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:10] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:15:10] And it’s true. That’s the one—that’s a great philosophy of life. It’s not the time we want right now, but it’s the time we’re in. And it’s all to do with, you know—and I’ve been thinking a lot about acceptance. And for a lot of people, acceptance might equal weakness. And it’s like, no, acceptance is a very brave and strong thing to do. It’s like I’m accepting the situation I’m in. Once I’ve accepted it, then I can make decisions based on it. But when I’m not accepting the reality, I’m just struggling.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:39] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:15:39] When I don’t want to accept what’s happening, it’s like, well, that gets me in trouble. But if I can accept it now, I can respond to it. And I think we’re in this constant state of just being in response to.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:50] Yeah. And I will admit that every—since this started, "Improvise the scene that you’re in, not the one that you wanted to be", Is what I said at the very beginning of my day. And to your point, when I put the suitcases down at the end of the day. And just to route in order to—okay. So, apparently, I had a problem yesterday because it helped keep me present and focused on how am I dealing with this and not getting stuck, like you said, up in your head. And-

Jay Sukow: [00:16:16] And with that, be compassionate for ourselves. Like this is all a huge, very steep learning curve. And so, if something happens during the day and you get frustrated with yourself, whether it’s like I wasn’t present or I didn’t handle things a certain way or I wish I could have, you know, the old phrase like, "You’re should-ing all over yourself", like, "I should have done this, I should have done that", you know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:42] I’m glad you verified that.

Jay Sukow: [00:16:44] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:45] You’re should-ing-

Jay Sukow: [00:16:46] You’re should-ing all over yourself, man. What my friend says, "You’re practicing the art of must-urbation." Like, "I must do this, I must do that." It’s like if you can let go of those and you say, okay, I shouldn’t have done anything, I did what I did. Sometimes, if the opportunity presents itself next time, I’ll change my response. But what I did, I have to accept that that’s what I did. And now, it’s time to continue to move forward and build this momentum.

Jay Sukow: [00:17:14] And sometimes, you know, I had a therapist once who said, "Jay, if you’re depressed, be the best depressed you can be." And I was like, "Man, forget you." But what? And I was like, "I don’t want that." And I went, "Oh, right. That’s the problem. I don’t want to sit in this emotion. I don’t want to feel this. I want to be happy all the time. I feel like I’m entitled." And it’s like, no, that’s not the way it is. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or you’re feeling depressed like it will all change, but you just sit in it and you go, "Eventually, this, I’ll ride this out."

Jay Sukow: [00:17:52] You know, the friend of mine once told me like, "Just tie a knot and hold on." And sometimes, that involves other people. You know, when it’s very hard for people to reach out, it’s very hard for us to reach out sometimes. And I’d say like, "Hey, I need help" or like, "I’m not feeling well" or—but you’re just like in an improv scene, you’re just calling out what the truth is. And those scenes are always more fascinating when someone says like, "Hey, you look sad", rather than we’re trying to hide what’s going on. It’s like, "What’s the truth that’s happening right now?" versus, you know, in improve scenes, we talk about truth and fact, where it’s like, the fact is we’re at the Starbucks, but that’s not the truth.

Jay Sukow: [00:18:30] You know, the fact is we’re in the situation where there is now becoming a lot more like a self-quarantine and we don’t know what’s happening, like that’s the fact, but what’s the truth? Like what are you feeling? Like when you can start naming those feelings, you start getting out of your head even more, you know, get out of your head, into your heart. Like, "How are you feeling right now?" And another thing that helps my friend and this, to me, goes a lot with improv is playing from a sense of gratitude.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:56] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:18:56] When I improvised with people and I walk into a scene like I’m very grateful to have this moment with you right now. Like, if you have—if you change that mindset, and it’s very difficult. But if you change it to like this is a sense of gratitude, I don’t know why this is a good thing right now, but I’m grateful for this situation. And then, you know, you look at it and you go, "Maybe now is the time I get—I’m finally forced to do this thing."

Jay Sukow: [00:19:22] Like I wonder how many people are going to try to really learn guitar now. I’m thinking about that a lot. How many people have guitars and they’re like, they’ve been trying, they’ve wanted to learn it, wanted to learn it. And now, finally, they might find themselves with some free time. You know, another thing that helps with this is establishing the new routine. You know, treating the day like it’s still a workday.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:46] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:19:46] Like for me, it’s still a workday. Most of my time when I’m like, let’s say I’m looking for work or I’m reaching out to people, I’m kind of doing the schedule anyway. So, establish what your new routine is, even if you just write it down. Like writing things down, it’s amazing because a lot of times, those things happen once you write them down, but you put them in the light and you’re like, "Okay, now, I can look back to what’s my routine."

Jay Sukow: [00:20:10] And, you know, maybe—and everything changes. Everything is going day-to-day so that the improviser is able to be more flexible because that’s what our instinct is or we’ve been trained to do, is like, "Okay, everything is—what’s happening today, not going to be the same tomorrow." I’m undergoing some training with one of the theaters I work with and they’re always saying, "This is for today."

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:32] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:20:33] And everything’s going to change. And, you know, now, we’re trying to teach improv online. And I’m finding it fascinating because for years, I always thought I’d love to be able to improvise with someone who’s not in my city, a friend of mine who moved away. It’s how—and it’s like, how can we make that happen? And now, we’re forced to make it happen. So, for us, it’s—in a way, it’s scary, but in another way, oh, this is really exciting because also as a teacher, how fun is you don’t have to leave your house and you can still affect people and you can still teach people. And now, you just—you know, it’s forcing you to be more creative and innovative. I mean, this is forced innovation right now in my area of business. It’s the same for you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:13] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:21:13] Same for like anybody, this is like forced innovation. And you look at it and you go, "Okay, I need to do this. This is what I’ve been doing. Is there a way I can adapt or change this to fit what this new world is?" And right now, the new world is going into these virtual meetings. Now, I think once things settle a little bit, we’ll get back to having these in-person needs, but I think this is a valuable tool set that we can have to say, "Okay, now, here’s another offering I have, which I didn’t have before."

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:46] And to a sense of gratitude, and improviser is very good at doing that, to the fact of, "Okay, I’m pretty proficient with them, in virtual meetings, and I’ve taught online courses and I’ve built-"

Jay Sukow: [00:21:57] Look at your background.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:59] I know, seriously.

Jay Sukow: [00:22:00] Green screen monster.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:02] Exactly.

Jay Sukow: [00:22:02] And it’s great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:03] So, I contacted an association and said, "Hey, how can I help you and your members? This is my expertise. And your members are being forced into a virtual environment that they’re not accustomed to. Utilize me. I’m not charging you. I’m not asking for any money. I’m here to help you and your members."

Jay Sukow: [00:22:27] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:27] And it was very quick to move to that mindset. It was almost—I mean, I was brainstorming with a few of my speaker friends and someone made a comment, "Perfect. I love it. Let’s do it." I mean, that’s the thing.

Jay Sukow: [00:22:40] Right. Because they’re improvisers. Whether they’re performers or not, they have the mindset.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:44] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:22:44] And it’s changing that mindset to saying, "Yeah, let’s do it." And not just, "Let’s do it, but how can it work?"

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:51] Yeah. And another thing you said about playing the guitar, thank you for placing that in my head. But actually, three weeks ago, when I realized my business was beginning, to things were canceling, my mother and family have always wanted me to learn Greek because I only know the dirty words.

Jay Sukow: [00:23:09] Those are the best words.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:10] Well, the best words and my grandmother taught them to me. So, I went out and got a lifetime subscription to Rosetta Stone at a one-time cost. And I’ve been—now, I got to let the secret out. I’ve been teaching myself Greek on and off of the last three weeks. Who knows what’s going to happen in like another three months?

Jay Sukow: [00:23:29] I think that’s a great example, where you’re looking at, this is like—these are acknowledge the fear, acknowledge the anxiety.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:37] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:23:37] Be like, "Yeah, absolutely. I’m very anxious."

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:39] So, for some people, it’s writing this down. Some people is just thinking it, some people is saying it out loud. Once you’ve acknowledged it and you say, "Yeah, there’s a lot of uncertainty, I’m very scared", now, you move into, what can you do? What actually can you do? And you’re a perfect example of like, "I’m going to learn Greek. I’m going to do this. I’m going to purchase this. And I’m going to be of service." Like I have a scoop that I’m going to share with you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:05] Okay.

Jay Sukow: [00:24:05] It’s that—and I’m going to reach out to some people I have as far as like people that I coach or clients or things like that, and it’s until this whole thing settles, I’m going to start offering free sessions to be like, "Hey, we’re all in this together. If it’s a situation where you can’t pay, that’s fine." Like—and I’ll just start reaching out to the improv community and say, I want to have these one-on-one sessions with people and say, "What do you really need to work at? Let’s do that", right? And like, "Let’s spend this time doing it." It’s going to help me—I mean, it’s—in a way, it’s a selfish reason because it’s going to help me become more comfortable with online teaching.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:38] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:24:39] But in another way, it’s like I want to be able to be of service and that’s something I learned in improv is you’re of service to the show, you’re of service to your scene partner. How can it be of service right now? And what you said when you reach out to the associations, perfect example. It’s like, "Let’s be of service to each other right now." There are things we can and can’t do. Like right now, a lot of my friends and myself and you as well, a lot of people are seeing their incomes dry up. So, you go, okay, that’s the reality of situation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:08] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:25:08] If I self-isolate, it’s going to be a lot worse. I’m going to feel a lot worse. And it’s going to be on top of everything that’s happening now. It’s going to be harder for me to get out of that crevice. It’s going to be harder once I’m in it. Once I’m in my head and once I go, "Oh, man, this is it, it’s the end, I’m not going to survive", it’s so hard for me to get out of that. But if I can maintain this momentum and still do things and say, "Hey, you know, I’m very grateful for this opportunity."

Jay Sukow: [00:25:36] Now, I think you’re still accepting what’s happening, but I think it’s changing that mindset, you know, which is like one of your big focuses, like how do you change that mindset? And it’s a muscle. You know, you’re also dealing with X amount of years of thinking a certain way, whether that’s X amount of years of like I come into this office every day, this is my job and I’m rewarded for it. Like that’s your mindset then, it’s all changing now. So, you can hold on to it or you can let go of what that is because it doesn’t serve you. Now, I move on to something new.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:09] Right. It’s just being adaptable to a very changing landscape. And I will say this, I’ll offer this up, I’m intrigued by taking improv online to bringing it as a function of an online-so, if you need to collaborate with me about online environments, I’d love to help you guys with that because that’s fascinating to me.

Jay Sukow: [00:26:32] I also have a friend, too, who’s like she does online, like online universities.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:38] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:26:38] So, I had mentioned something. She goes, "Yeah, I’m interested, too." So, it’s like, okay, you know how it works that way. Now, reaching out to you, Peter, to be like, okay, how does it work with like the interaction, like having that discussion? And I think it’s forcing people to move in that direction and to go like this, you know—and I think the issue for years for us improvisers is you have to change how you look at it. You can’t look at it like how do we adapt these games that work well live into this format. You have to look at it, no, how do we adapt this—use this format? This is the format. What can we do knowing that here are the formats and here are the limitations? But here are the things that we couldn’t do in person that we can do now based on technology. It’s a very exciting time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:25] It’s funny you should say that because a friend of mine who’s a CPA and an improviser, Kristen Rampe, when I met her about three years ago, we were talking, you know, "We should kind of get, you know, an improv troupe together of accountants." We’ll be like two of us or five of us, it’s not that many. And we know people around the country, but we did know—and we’re not in the same city. And we kept—we should do this online. And we kept trying to think through how would we—how would this work?

Jay Sukow: [00:27:55] You know what you do?

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:57] And we weren’t forced into it. But now that-

Jay Sukow: [00:27:58] You’re not forced into it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:59] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:28:00] And you know what you do is you just, it’s Nike, Just do it. You do it and you go, my buddy, Will Hines, has written a couple of great improv books. So, if you’re looking to nerd out improv-wise, one is like, How to Be the Greatest Improviser—I think it’s, How to Be the Greatest Improviser on Earth?

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:20] Okay.

Jay Sukow: [00:28:20] It’s a—and he’s just a very funny guy. And then, one is like—I think it’s called Pirate Robot Ninja, which differentiates you into different types of improvisers.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:29] Okay.

Jay Sukow: [00:28:29] But, you know, I’m in the midst of I’m trying to write this book on improv and he goes, "You just can’t accept the fact that the first draft is going to suck."

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:39] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:28:39] It’s going to suck, because you just got to get out there. And the same with what you’re talking about. It’s like, how do you do it? I don’t know. You get together and you try it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:46] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:28:46] Like Google Hangouts, we’ve done a couple of shows there and it’s starting to happen. My friend, Amy Gurlitt does e-improv and she’s been doing it for a while. And it was kind of, she put it on hold for a little bit and now, she’s starting it back up again, which is like, how do we do improv online? And I think it’s the same thing of our get together in a Google Hangout, try it. If you think about years ago, like when wireless phone was—when she was creating a lot of these improv gigs, she created the gigs out of a sense of there was a problem, how do I solve it?

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:18] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:29:18] So, it was like there’s a language barrier. Instead of set—you know, I have students from all—who don’t speak English at all. They all speak different languages. How do I still get to them and affect them? She didn’t go, "It can’t be done." She didn’t sit there and go, "Well, here are the problems." She went, "Huh? What if we had them create a language that they all share called gibberish?" And that’s how gibberish came out. So, a lot of the gigs she did wasn’t for performing, it was for helping solve problems.

Jay Sukow: [00:29:52] So, when you look at what you’re doing, it’s like, okay, cool, we’re not in the same space, but we have the internet. We have this online capability. We have the connections there, right? So, now, let’s just get up and play. Let’s—you know, it goes back to—it reminds me of my old days when I first started improvising, when nobody knew what improv was, you know, when a handful of people on earth had ever heard like a form called the herault, which is pretty prevalent now throughout the world for improvisers.

Jay Sukow: [00:30:23] But a lot of people back in that, they had no—you were like, "Well, what it’s like Saturday Night Live, but you make it up." So, they—like people didn’t have a reference to it. So, it was the excitement of just getting together and sitting in a classroom somewhere and saying, "Oh, Peter, when you walked in, Pam left." So, what if we do, every time someone walks in, someone leaves. And what—and you just kind of—you got very excited about creating this because there was no blueprint at that point.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:53] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:30:53] And I think the same thing for online.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:54] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:30:54] It’s like, I don’t know, let’s give it a try. Get six accountants who are improvisers together in a Google Hangout, don’t even necessarily do it for an audience, but like the more you do something, the better you get. It’s just reiterations, improve. So, do it, sit, and that’s how we would work on forms as well. It’s like, "Oh, here’s an idea for a form." We go through it and you go, "What?" Don’t talk about the things that didn’t work. We all know that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:21] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:31:22] What are the moments that worked? And let’s build on the moments that worked.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:26] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:31:26] And I think that’s the thing as you continue to move forward is like we’re all going to make mistakes, we’re all going to be stressed out, but each day, keep focusing on what worked, what worked for me yesterday, and then celebrate. You know, there was a—I forgot who it was, but I heard there was a family who would have family dinners once a week and the whole like once a week, they would celebrate their failures. Somebody would say, "I did this", and everyone would clap and go, "Hurray." And I think the same thing is like you could celebrate the failures but build upon what’s been working. I mean, that’s what is really a good improv scene and a good life scene is like. What worked for you? What got you to this point? Build on what’s working.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:10] I like this idea. I mean, I’ve got like 14 ideas from this conversation on how to help others and how to stay engaged and stay creative in this time of uncertainty even much more so than I began this conversation with. And it’s—you’re the guru, I keep telling you. The improv guru.

Jay Sukow: [00:32:30] These are—I’m just the conduit of other voices. I just have an ability to remember things. And I’m passing it along. You know, this is the information, too, if like you were talking about, take this as an opportunity to pass along the information you know. That’s how you keep it, is you got to give it away.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:46] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:32:46] So, if there’s something you’re good at, you know, go online, do a Facebook Live thing and, you know, do a—send out an email, reach out to people. What is it that you are good at? What is it that you can offer? And people, you know, a lot of times don’t—they’ll be like, "Oh, I don’t have anything to offer except." No, that’s not true. There are things that we all do that people don’t have experience in. Like your knowledge of accounting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:12] Easy there. Easy now.

Jay Sukow: [00:33:14] Well, no, but I have zero knowledge.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:16] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:33:17] And I remember, too, my friend, Tony Llewellyn once. I was at a theater and they gave us a brand-new curriculum, like completely changed everything. And I was like studying this thing. And I’m like, I talked to Tony—and Tony is one of the most in the moment people I’ve ever seen.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:35] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:33:35] And I go, "Tony, man, how do you feel about this new curriculum?" And he just looks to me, he goes, "I just got to be one week ahead of the students."

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:45] It’s true.

Jay Sukow: [00:33:46] It’s like, same thing, like so your knowledge of accounting is so much more adept than somebody like me. So, that’s an opportunity to say like, okay, I am this, if anybody wants to share, you know, I have this information. And you’ll be amazed people at this point, now, too, they’re dying for information. They’re dying for information to improve themselves. You want to learn Greek. So, you’re like, "This is an opportunity I’m going to take to get that subscription."

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:12] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:34:12] And so, there are these opportunities and we have to—if you’re looking for opportunities, it’s going to help change your mindset, too. But if you’re looking if you find people to commiserate with how bad things are, absolutely, but it’s not going to improve anything. It’s not going to improve anything. All you’re going to be doing is you are just going to be focusing on that negative with someone else who’s co-signing your BS, as I was told once. It’s like, "Oh, yeah, they’re co-signing your BS." See? And again, none of these are my thoughts. I’m just like a storyteller, I’m just passing along what people have said.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:47] Well, yeah. And I like to pass on the same thing. I like to be a conduit as well. And by the way, for those of you who aren’t watching this, he was just handed a coffee cup. I’m not sure what’s in the coffee cup.

Jay Sukow: [00:34:58] It’s tea.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:58] It’s tea?

Jay Sukow: [00:34:58] It’s tea. It is tea.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:01] I thought that—it looks like Irish whiskey.

Jay Sukow: [00:35:04] Hey, man, whatever gets you through.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:04] I thought that was yesterday.

Jay Sukow: [00:35:04] No, that’s yesterday.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:08] I mean, great information. And it’s just—I think it improvises them to stay positive more than most and calm. But-

Jay Sukow: [00:35:20] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:21] Because, you know, we focus on the things that we control, have control and we don’t focus as much on things we don’t have control.

Jay Sukow: [00:35:30] It’s just wasted energy.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:32] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:35:33] The same with like at a certain point, two things happen for an improviser so they continue, one is you realize, "Oh, that scene we just did, I don’t have to think about anymore because we’re not going to do it again. So, I don’t have to focus on it." Focusing on what I could’ve done better in that improv scene is useless. The other is, as you continue, when you first start improvising, you’re so afraid and you’re so convinced the scene is going to be bad, the show is going to be bad. As you continue, you just assume it’s going to be good. You just assume it’s going to work out and you go, "Man, if it doesn’t, if this show isn’t good, of all the shows I’ve done, that was one of them. Of all the shows I’ve done, that was the most recent.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:21] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:36:21] And you move on. And it’s something that you are constantly practicing. I’m better at it only because I practice it more than maybe other people do. But there are people who’ve never taken an improv class who have this mindset already. And you’re like a born improviser and they might never be on stage, but you deal with people in your life. There are people that they always seem to like take things in stride or when, you know, everything hits the fan, they take a breath and they go, "Okay, here’s how we deal with it" or they make you feel heard.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:52] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:36:52] Another thing is people, it’s very important right now for people to feel heard. So, sometimes, it’s just calling somebody and saying, "How are you doing?", which might be a follow the fear thing. Like think about those people that you’ve—you’re like, "I’ve got to reach out to them." And each week it gets harder and harder because you have it. This is the perfect excuse to do it, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:11] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:37:11] This is like—it’s a hard reset of society, man. This is a hard reset. And you go, I can use this whole coronavirus as an excuse to reach out to somebody and go, "Hey, you know what, I haven’t talked to you in a while. I feel bad. I wanted to check in. How are you doing? Because now, also, you’ve got something to talk about.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:28] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:37:29] And if you’re afraid of what am I going to say to somebody, which we all have that fear of, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:33] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:37:33] There’s a simple trick, you just say to them, "How are you doing?" Could we just focus on them? Everybody’s going to talk about themselves. You know, it’s like, when you walk into a room, you’re always scared of what like people are looking at you, talking about you, I got news, man. They aren’t. We’re all thinking about ourselves. Rarely is it like, "Oh, everyone’s-", no, they’re not. We’re all thinking about ourselves. So, you can use this opportunity right now to say, I’ve been meaning to send an email to somebody, I’ve been meaning to reach out to somebody or, hey, I just haven’t checked in with that person, how are they doing? And you’ll be amazed at the impact it has on them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:07] Absolutely. That’s good advice. And I have been using that.

Jay Sukow: [00:38:10] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:11] In a podcast that’s sort of after yours. And I had a friend who his doctor believe he did contract the coronavirus, but it was during the testing period that he couldn’t get tested because he didn’t meet some of the criteria that he wasn’t out of the country or he did not become in contact.

Jay Sukow: [00:38:29] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:30] But he self-quarantined. And every day, I send him a text, "How are you feeling? How’s it going?" "I’m feeling bad. It’s terrible." I said, you know, "I’ll keep checking in." "Hey, by the way, I watched the Knives Out last night on Netflix, love the movie, might want to watch it." Oh, I watched, you know, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." So, I would just give them, you know, these movies and stuff that I was watching and just, "Oh, man, I really like that movie." So, I’m trying to help lift the spirits. And last check, he’s doing better.

Jay Sukow: [00:38:59] That’s huge.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:00] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:39:00] I mean, I don’t think you’re going to understand the impact until later, what you had on him. Just a text saying, "How you doing?", is huge. And then, given those suggestions. I mean, that’s something—that’s a great example of what we can do to people in our circle and how we can affect them in our circle. And you look at it like, "It’s not that I’m not going out because I’m afraid of getting it, I’m not going out because I’m afraid I’m a carrier." I think that’s how we have to shift it to, be like, "I’m going to hurt people."

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:29] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:39:29] Like, it’s not that I’m afraid I’m going to get it, it’s like, you have to assume you already have it. Like, that’s part of the change in mindset. But you just got to assume you’ve had it or you—because then, you’re really making your choices based on other people like yourselves.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:42] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:39:42] You know what I’ve got, I’ve got so many wonderful, talented friends like my buddy, Bill Cut, does this live jive thing on Facebook. And he’s utilizing that time to say like, "I’m going to do some characters" or "I’m going to share some comedy. If you want to tune in, great. Tune in and watch that." And it’s—you’d be amazed at the amount of people that it affects, you know. You don’t, like I went on, I will follow the Fear Friday, where I post something on social media and it’s like, "Hey, fault. What are you going to do to follow the fear today?"

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:11] Oh, yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:40:11] And last Friday, I just went live on Facebook. And I was like, "Hey, let’s talk about it." And I was amazed that—I remember thinking to myself, maybe a handful of people tune in. And I was amazed how many people sat and watched that. And then, it started the conversation for people as well. So, I think if you do something where your focus is on helping other people, you know, try to do either of these ones, too, try to do something good and get away with it.

Jay Sukow: [00:40:40] Trying to do something good for someone else and get away with it, like that, again, changes your mindset to, I’m not there to do it for a reason other than I’m just putting it out there. So, I’m going to steal that, what you’re talking about. It’s like reaching out to people and just saying, "Hey, how you doing?" or like, "I watched this movie", like giving people—you know, our job as improvisers, too, is to give people hope and bring comedy and laughter.

Jay Sukow: [00:41:06] We need it now more than ever. The world needs improvisers now more than ever, whether it’s your mindset or the focus on the group or to make sure to look good or just to bring laughter or just hang out. You know, I have a class that I teach and I was like, "Oh, we’re not—we’re going to go dark and not have class." And they’re like, "Well, can we just do a Hangout?", where we do a Google online Hangout. Because for some people, that’s the only interaction they’re going to have that day with another human being.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:31] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:41:32] We have to remember that. And check in on those people. Check in on the people who are more susceptible. The people that are in their, you know, 65 and older because they don’t want to be inside. They don’t want to do this.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:42] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:41:42] So, now is the time to check in.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:44] It is. And it is the time to check in, but not just by phone.

Jay Sukow: [00:41:48] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:48] But by FaceTime.

Jay Sukow: [00:41:50] Exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:51] By this. By Hangout. But it is having a face-to-face, seeing that other person goes a long way. Our NSA Ohio chapter’s doing a virtual town hall meeting tomorrow from 12:00 to 1:00 to our professional members and just asking them, "How are you doing?"

Jay Sukow: [00:42:10] And it’s perfect.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:13] Because we’re isolated. Those who are in a gig economy, those who are so open doors were used to working alone, but also used to get in a plane, also used to getting out of the house. But now that we’re—we tend to get isolated, we’re realizing that. It was like, how can we help our members? So, we’d start out to be—you know, through a conversation, we’re not going to do it once, we’re doing it every week.

Jay Sukow: [00:42:35] That’s great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:36] Every week of virtual town hall meeting. Let’s get together. If you show up—and, you know, something might branch out, maybe I’ll take groups, say, "Hey, I’m going to do an improv piece on this and help", and whatever. And have that other type of meeting just see what we can—see how we can serve.

Jay Sukow: [00:42:55] Opportunity.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:57] Opportunity.

Jay Sukow: [00:42:58] You know, not downplaying the fact that it’s very serious and not downplaying the fact that people are affected by this and people are dying like that is—accepting that, like that is true. And there is sadness and anxiety around that. Absolutely. There’s also, improvisers can bring empathy to the situation and look at it like an opportunity to share that empathy and to share that joy and that hope and that love. And you know me, for me, improv is about the love, too.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:26] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:43:26] It’s like, when people are like, "What do—what advice would you give to improvisers?", I’m like, "More love, more scenes that involve love, more sharing of that." Like that’s something I would tell people. It’s like you can’t get enough of it right now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:40] Right. You can’t. You know, we just need to keep doing that. I need to respect your time because we’re getting up to about 1:00. And I think you had something going on.

Jay Sukow: [00:43:48] Respecting my time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:53] What?

Jay Sukow: [00:43:56] What?

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:56] Yeah. Because we did—you did tell me you had something going on at 1:00 and we’re butting up against that. I don’t want to mess up your day.

Jay Sukow: [00:44:04] You tell me what you need.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:06] I need more of your time. Not doing the podcast, but, you know, I love having these conversations because you give me a lot of ideas. And I’m serious, let me help you, however I can help you, just ask, it’s there.

Jay Sukow: [00:44:18] No, that’s great. Thank you. And I think one thing is like as we’re continuing is there are going to be a ton of these online improv shows popping up. And so, I think what would help is if people tune in and watch those. And if you just—you know, I’m sure if you go on social media, you’ll see it. But I think that’s one way, it’s like, you know, support people and local artists. Support like there are people that are having a hard time paying rent, so they’re offering some services, either discounted or maybe a barter or something of that. So, if you see an opportunity to do that or throw a kick-starter.

Jay Sukow: [00:44:52] You know, for my birthday, I did a fundraiser. Facebook said, "Do you want to do a fundraiser?" I’m like, "Sure, why not?" And I did it for Room to Improv, which you know, I mean, I like Kahana and you’re wearing a Room to Improv shirt right now, which I love. And I’m like, "Hey, if you’ve got a couple bucks, throw it up there." And I think we raised $1,200, which I was blown away by, was like—and it was people that also I knew there were people that didn’t have the money to share that did it. And I knew then, I was like, "Oh, my God, I can’t believe people." That’s why I go, we have to keep that thought that humanity, overall, is good. They are looking to help other people.

Jay Sukow: [00:45:28] So, if there’s a way that you can help, you know, reach out to your local restaurant or bar and say, "Hey, you’re hurting right now, is there a way I can help out?" And even sometimes, it’s just they might say share this post or something, but I think to be of service and to look to help other people, I think that’s the best you can do. And a lot of my people because I’m in a circle with a lot of artists and a lot of my artist friends are really hurting right now and very scared. So, if you wanted to take a voice lesson or learn how to sing, now’s a great time to reach out to, you know, a local singer or voice teacher and say, "Hey, I want to do a couple one-on-one sessions." So, there’s always opportunity to help.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:10] Absolutely. Great advice. And because of everything that’s been going on, completely slipped my mind, but you just reminded me of something. Was it March 15th was your birthday?

Jay Sukow: [00:46:22] March 14th, the same birthday as Albert Einstein.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:26] Oh, that’s what it is. And so-

Jay Sukow: [00:46:28] That’s right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:29] And you are going to have this big party in LA for, you were turning what? 40 or something like that.

Jay Sukow: [00:46:37] Oh, you’re so kind. I’m not going to say I was turning 50, but I’ll take—yes. It is my big 5-0, buddy, the big 5-0.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:44] Welcome to the club. Well, you know, a big old happy birthday to you, Jay. And I’ll have a little barbecue in your honor tonight and wish you a happy birthday, because, you know, with everything going on, just slipped my mind, but, you know, it did jug my memory. Happy birthday, buddy. And-.

Jay Sukow: [00:47:04] Thank you, man, my friend. That means a lot.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:07] Cool. And do me a favor, at least initially, when you know that these improv shows are coming online, send me a note.

Jay Sukow: [00:47:15] Sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:15] Just send me a quick note and say, "Look for this." And then, once I get that into my routine, then I’ll be able to do it, and I’ll share that out as well.

Jay Sukow: [00:47:23] Oh, perfect. Yeah. Oh, when I’ve got it, I’ll drop you a line, for sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:28] Perfect. I appreciate everything that you’ve done, everything you continue to do, and I look forward to it the next time we have time to spend together again.

Jay Sukow: [00:47:35] I appreciate you, my friend. Thanks for having me on. This is great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:40] I’m going to end this podcast in a different way. I want to sign off by saying, please, everyone, be safe, try to stay healthy and just implement one or two tips from this episode today. And I hope it helps all of you in dealing with the current situation related to the coronavirus pandemic that each and every one of us are dealing with. Be safe.

Announcer: [00:48:14] Like what you just heard? Because it’s C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

S3E4. Being an Authentic Leader with Christopher R. Jones

Christopher Jones speaks, coaches and advises leaders to become the type of leader others want to follow — as he calls them, authentic leaders. Over the past 30 years, Christopher has held leadership development positions and consulted leadership teams at world headquarters of Fortune 500 companies and multiple industries, including information technology and advanced education as well as leading nonprofit executive boards through capital fundraising campaigns. He also hosts The Authentic Leader Show podcast, where he interviews CEOs, executive directors, and occasional celebrities.

The very first time Christopher was put into a leadership position he failed miserably. He had thought before getting that position, “How hard can this leadership thing be?” He had worked with great leaders and terrible leaders beforehand, and those that were great made it look so easy. But once he got into that role, he realized it’s just so much more complicated than it looks on the surface.

The very best leaders are those leaders who you would do anything for. The first leader Christopher worked for was a pool manager where he used to be a lifeguard. He would do anything for him because the manager was doing all the same work he was asking others to do — he wasn’t telling them to do anything that felt beneath him.

Christopher has identified seven disciplines of authentic leaders, characteristics that are essential to being the kind of leader that people want to follow:

  1. Self-leadership: If you are trying to be a better leader, you can (and should) get started before you are even in a leadership role. Being a better leader starts with learning to lead yourself well. That means being clear about your aspirations, identifying goals, actually achieving them, and having discipline about how you conduct yourself.
  2. Leadership statement: Get clear about the type of leader you aspire to be and paint a picture of what it will look like to get there.
  3. Goals: You are very clear about your goals but you are also very effective at helping your team identify their personal and professional goals.
  4. Decision making: You are good at making effective and appropriate decisions, and also letting your team know how to autonomously make their own decisions.
  5. Communication: Teams rarely complain about their leader over-communicating… but if you do start to get complaints, that means you’re probably right on the mark!
  6. Delegation and accountability: You have a methodology and approach to consistently and appropriately delegate, and also a way to hold people accountable for doing the things they have been assigned or have accepted without being confrontational.
  7. Relationships: You need to have strong relationships with everyone you are working with. Have recurring one-on-one meetings with each member to learn more about your team members.

Strong leaders ask for help

If you are in a leadership position, you need help. That’s why you have a team — you can’t do everything on your own. Too often, we see leaders trying to know it all, trying to do it all, and acting as if they don’t need any help. They need to let go of their ego and let their teams know that they need help.

We are still struggling to see this kind of leadership style go mainstream in our culture. If someone recognizes they need help, it’s a lot easier to get them asking for help. But if they don’t want to be a better leader, or they think they are already an excellent leader, they may not be open to learning more. But even fantastic leaders can still get better.

The common thread

The biggest thing that most leaders struggle with is delegation and accountability. One thing leaders can do to improve, though, is to think about the phases of delegation based on how much you trust your employees. You start off by giving out a very specific task, with explicit instructions on how to do it and a rigid timeframe expectation. From there, you work slowly up to the point where the task becomes a full part of their job and the employee barely even notices it happens anymore.

Delegation takes time before the benefits pay off. It takes more time and more work up front, but it ends up paying dividends in the long run. You have to invest that time knowing that it will work out.

It’s so important for people to do a self-evaluation and check themselves. Those who have a strong ego in their leadership don’t realize or want to admit they have a strong ego or have room to grow, but those leaders who feel like they aren’t as good as they can be and need to be better — those are humble leaders who will become even better leaders in the future.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Christopher Jones: [00:00:01] Those leaders who are terrible leaders I find and I certainly have learned that most of the time, they’re not trying to be a terrible leader, they just don’t know any other way, which is why I was failing as a leader, I didn’t know any other way. So, it comes down to the very best leaders I ever worked with are those leaders who I would do anything for.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:28] Welcome to Change Your Mindset podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:15] When you hear the words authentic leader, what is your first thought? Who do you picture? What is the definition of an authentic leader? How does one become an authentic leader? And what are some of the characteristics of an authentic leader? Well, my guest, Christopher Jones, will answer those questions and more during our interview. Christopher speaks, coaches and advises leaders to become the leader others want to follow. In short, authentic leaders.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:49] Over the past 30 years, Christopher has held leadership development positions and consulted leadership teams at world headquarters of Fortune 500 companies and multiple industries including information technology and advanced education, as well as leading nonprofit executive boards through capital fundraising campaigns. He also hosts The Authentic Leader Show podcast, where he interviews CEOs, executive directors and occasional celebrities.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:19] He goes deep with his guest into their journeys of leadership and personal effectiveness. Christopher has served on the boards of the Richmond Christian Leadership Initiative and the Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce. And in 2017, Christopher was named the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce Member of the Year. I hope you enjoy this episode. But before we get to the interview, let me take care of some housekeeping issues.

Announcer: [00:02:42] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:49] And now a word from our sponsor.

Sponsor: [00:02:52] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritis, LLC a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat or workshop. Contact Peter at and visit his website at By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:41] I have put in the show notes the various ways you could connect with Christopher through social media along with the link to his podcast, The Authentic Leader Show. Now, let’s get to the interview with Christopher Jones. Hey, welcome back everybody. I’m real excited about my guest today because I mean, we go back, I think now, a very long period of time of probably three, maybe four months now.

Christopher Jones: [00:04:11] Yeah. We go back months. We really do. Months and months.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:13] Months and months. And that is the voice of Chris Jones who is a man of many talents. I’ll just start off with that. A man of many talents. He is, first and foremost, a leadership person. He understands, trains, helps, promotes one’s leadership to take that leadership to that next level. He offers a variety of services around. And those services are coaching. He’s also a podcast host and a speaker, so let’s put two and two together. Yes, I was on his podcast The Authentic Leader podcast show. Did I pronounce that correctly?

Christopher Jones: [00:04:57] You did, The Authentic Leader Podcast show. And you are a fantastic guest, I must say.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:01] That’s another $20 I have to give to Chris. Geez.

Christopher Jones: [00:05:04] I’ll take it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:04] I’ll be broke. It was a lot of fun. And we met at my very first NSA chapter event. And I came to the Virginia chapter and did a program on improv to improve your speaking business. We got into a conversation afterwards. So, I had a blast on his, so he set the bar high. Hopefully has a blast on mine. And, Chris, thank you so much for taking time to spend some time with me and my audience on this podcast.

Christopher Jones: [00:05:34] Well, it’s an honor to just spend some time with you. Every time I talk with you, I have fun, so I’m expecting to have fun today. And if people can learn something at the same time, even better.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:43] Even better. Exactly. And for those of you who are listening, if you want to visit my YouTube channel, I’ll be posting on social media a raw unedited version of this video out there because you need to take a look at Chris’s office. And the most unique thing in his office right now as I’m looking at it, he has one of those very old, very, very old telephones. And I’m not talking like a flip phone. I’m talking his phone that they used back in what, the 1920s?

Christopher Jones: [00:06:16] Yeah, or even earlier. I looked it up one time, it was like 1915 or 1919, something like that. It’s a very old phone my grandpa gave me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:25] And I can’t remember the last time I saw such a cool phone. And that’s such a great piece to hang on the wall. That’s really cool.

Christopher Jones: [00:06:34] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:34] So, Chris, tell us about your business. Tell us about what you do and how you have an impact on other people through your leadership programs.

Christopher Jones: [00:06:44] Yeah. Well, it all goes back to the story I tell when I very first became what I call a titled leader. And a titled leader, I call, a leader who like in your title is an expectation that you’re leading a team. So, I think people kind of get what that is. But I had my very first team and I was leading and I failed miserably. I mean, it was very different on the other side of leadership than it was before you get into leadership. I remember thinking before I was formally a title leader, how hard can this leadership thing be?

Christopher Jones: [00:07:15] And I’ve worked for some great leaders, I’ve worked for some really terrible leaders. And I just didn’t get it. And those who were great leaders, they made it look really easy. And those who were terrible is almost like they were trying to be a bad leader, right? I think if people can appreciate that, probably, maybe they work for the same boss as me. And it frustrated me because then, once I became this titled leader, I started to realize, actually, leadership is much more difficult than what it looks like on the surface.

Christopher Jones: [00:07:46] And those leaders who were really good and look natural, they had to become that leader. Leadership is rarely just natural. You have to become a natural leader. And those leaders who are terrible leaders, I find and I certainly have learned that most of the time, they’re not trying to be a terrible leader, they just don’t know any other way, which is why I was failing as a leader, I didn’t know any other way. So, it comes down to the very best leaders I ever worked with, are those leaders who I would do anything for, right?

Christopher Jones: [00:08:18] And I think we probably have all had leaders like that. The first leader I ever worked for was a pool manager where I used to lifeguard. And he was just one of those where you would just do anything for him because he was doing all the crappy work, too. And when he’d ask you to go clean some toilets, well, yeah, we all just jumped on it because he wasn’t asking us to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself.

Christopher Jones: [00:08:40] And it took me about a year once I started this business to come up with this concept. It’s like, gosh, you’re just leading so authentically. Wait a second. He’s being an authentic leader. And ever since then, it just has stuck. And I’m so proud, I guess, of coming up with that concept and then, for people to really kind of get what that means. So, I’m not sure if I totally answered your question but it’s how like the early days, how it came about.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:09] Right. And you did and you said something very key right at the beginning of that, you failed as a leader.

Christopher Jones: [00:09:16] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:16] And then, you went on to say—basically, listening to your story, you were promoted without having any leadership training or any leadership—anybody teaching you. You’ve got the technical stuff. You’ve got this other stuff that you’ll be fine, you’ll learned that on the job, but that doesn’t fly anymore.

Christopher Jones: [00:09:34] No. I see so many people promoted to a leadership role because they were fantastic contributors, right? They created great results and then, all of a sudden, oh, well, if they’re great, you know, producing results, they’re going to be great as a leader, too. No, no, not necessarily. The biggest thing with my leadership clients is if they’re getting ready to promote someone, like, "Please just talk to me first", right? So that we can make sure that we set up this person you’re getting ready to promote up for success. We want them to be successful in this new role. And many times, they are not set up for success.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:07] Right. The old Peter Drucker, the Peter Principle, we’re going to promote you to your level of incompetence.

Christopher Jones: [00:10:11] Yeah. Right. We’ve seen it too often, it’s a shame. That’s where my passion is, is I want to help others to avoid what I had to go through.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:22] So, thinking about that, can you give me an example of kind of wish I had known this before I got it, I was promoted into this role, what skill set that was lacking at the time that you got, God, I wish somebody would just take me aside and said this?

Christopher Jones: [00:10:37] Sure. Well, you know, what I did realize, I talk about this thing called the seven disciplines of authentic leaders. The very first of those seven disciplines, it’s self-leadership. And I think this is something you can do whether you’re in a formal leadership or titled leader role or not. I wish I would have been better at leading myself well before I became a leader. And what that means is just getting really clear about my aspirations.

Christopher Jones: [00:11:06] Where is it that I see myself going and how might I get there? Being clear with identifying goals or writing them down and then, actually achieving those goals. But also, just having discipline in my day, having discipline about how I conduct myself. One of the most powerful things, I think, that leaders and really non-titled leaders alike, anyone can do, is to not only follow through on commitments that you make to other people consistently, be known for that. But additionally, do the things—follow through with commitments that you make to yourself, especially when no one knows.

Christopher Jones: [00:11:44] Because I’m sure as you’re thinking of leaders who you admire and you think that they are just fantastic leaders, you’re probably also thinking, there’s something about them that just makes them so attractive. And what it typically is, what I found is that they’re making commitments to themselves and they’re following through on those commitments. And then, again, especially when no one knows they’re doing it because you can just tell there’s an aura around those kinds of people. So, I think that’s a secret weapon.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:11] You said, aura around those people. And it just—you know what just pops into my head when you said there’s an aura on these people saying they’re authentic and that’s why you saw me jerk back, well, yeah, that aura, you know they’re being extremely authentic in their leadership style. So, you mentioned the seven disciplines.

Christopher Jones: [00:12:29] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:29] So, you’ve hit on the first one.

Christopher Jones: [00:12:31] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:31] Let’s go down this path. What’s number two?

Christopher Jones: [00:12:36] Okay. Well, number two—and many these are not going to be a surprise to people, but I found that if you stitch these together, again, you’re set up for success, I think, as a leader. So, it’s your vision or mission or what I really call like your leadership statement. Just being clear about the type of leader you aspire to be. Getting clear about what does that statement look like. Almost really painting a clear picture.

Christopher Jones: [00:13:00] Once you get there, here’s what it looks like to be that type of leader. This is number two. Number three are our goals. You’re very clear about your goals, but you’re also very effective at helping your team identify their personal goals, personal and professional, I should say. And then, setting them up for success to actually achieving those goals. Giving them opportunities. Giving them experiences that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Christopher Jones: [00:13:26] Also, they’re very good—authentic leaders are very good at number four, which is decision making. Making effective decisions, but making appropriate decisions. Many times, those decisions are need to be made by the people on your team and knowing how to appropriately help them to make their own decisions because that’s really the epitome, right? Because you want your teams making their own autonomous decisions, on their own, without needing you to be involved with every decision.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:54] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:13:54] So, that’s number four. Number five is communication. Authentic leaders, they are effective communicators. I find that most teams rarely complain about the leader over communicating, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:07] Yeah.

Christopher Jones: [00:14:07] And if your team is complaining about you over communicating, then you’re probably right about on mark, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:16] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:14:17] And I would go a little further. I’d communicate it even a few more times.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:20] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:14:20] So, that’s number five. Six is they’re very effective at delegation and accountability. They have a methodology and an approach to consistently and appropriately delegate, but additionally, to hold people accountable to doing the things that they’ve been assigned or that they have accepted in a way that is not confrontational. Too many people will avoid delegating work or they avoid holding people accountable because they want to avoid the confrontation that goes along with it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:51] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:14:51] When done right, you can actually avoid that confrontation, but hold people accountable. I think your team, they want to be held accountable. They want to receive delegated work. And when done in the right way, man, you’ve got a team that, again, they want to follow you. And then, the last one of the seven disciplines is number seven, which is, it’s all about relationships. It’s a very high priority for authentic leaders to have relationships with everyone they’re working with, but especially their team. And to do that through one-on-one meetings, having dedicated scheduled recurring time one-on-one with each member of their team to learn about things they could not learn otherwise if they didn’t have these one-on-one meetings.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:34] So, I’ve asked leaders about their teams and I go, "Do you know their birthdays?"

Christopher Jones: [00:15:42] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:42] And eight, maybe seven out of 10, "Well, no. Why?" "Don’t you want people to know your birthday? Did you say like happy birthday to them?" Just that little—I mean, you are getting to know them. I mean, if they’re a part of the team and helped to build that level of trust and cohesiveness, we have to learn more about the people that are on it. We spend more time with them than we do with our families.

Christopher Jones: [00:16:09] Right. And it’s not one of the things where you can just go out, "Okay. Go find out everybody’s birthday", right? Because that would actually be inauthentic. "I want you to know I’m checking this off because I know I need to go to everybody’s birthday." No. It’s having those regular recurring times when you’re meeting one-on-one. In time, you’re going to learn that because you are, and not to plug, but I mean, you’re authentically having conversations with them. And those things you need to know about your team, they will come to the surface at the right time without it being forced.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:39] Right. Well, it goes to the relationship. What type of relationship are you building with your team? And I’m just taking it further, your stakeholders.

Christopher Jones: [00:16:51] Sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:53] It’s all about relationships.

Christopher Jones: [00:16:55] Yeah, you better embrace your team because if you didn’t have the team, they wouldn’t need you, right? Your job is to lead your team but you better really appreciate them because the results that they produce is a direct result of how you lead them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:12] And appreciation goes—there’s so many ways of giving appreciation as a boss, as a leader and even comes from the tone of your voice.

Christopher Jones: [00:17:25] Oh, yeah. You know if it’s real.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:28] Right. And, you know, I was raised by the Olympic yeller. My father could have been a multi-gold medal yelling, he was an athlete, he was outstanding. So, I’m trying to break some of those habits because nobody gravitates the yelling. Nobody.

Christopher Jones: [00:17:49] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:50] Kids, adults, nobody. It’s just, "Okay. You made a mistake. Okay. So, let’s fix it. How are you going to fix it? What are we going to do? What do we learn? And let’s move forward."

Christopher Jones: [00:17:59] Yeah, yeah. It’s your job to create that environment, right? And that’s not, again, something you do overnight. Over time, you create an environment where it’s safe to make mistakes. And as you said, too, let’s learn from this so that we can now prevent it from happening in the future. Nothing wrong with making mistakes. The very unfortunate thing about life is that the very best way to learn is to make mistakes. Unfortunately. I wish that wasn’t the case. And believe me, I am a master black belt in making mistakes. I’m really good at that. So, I’m a genius because-

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:34] Oh, my God. That was hilarious. It was so funny. Thank you so very much. I mean, I was-

Christopher Jones: [00:18:40] To make Peter Margaritis laugh, now, that is something that I can put that on my wall.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:45] Oh, my God. That was even—no, that was more than a laugh. I had a slight tear coming out of my eyes, I was laughing so hard because I wasn’t expecting master black belt boom. Yeah. Making mistakes. That was—yeah. But, you know, unfortunately, in today’s workforce, a lot of cultures are, well, it’s punitive if you make a mistake.

Christopher Jones: [00:19:07] Well, yeah. It’s risk-adverse culture. It’s so dangerous. A quick story actually, I had done some executive coaching at nuclear power plants for a period of time. So, I was traveling to nuclear power plants and doing face-to-face executive coaching. And one of the problems of one of the plants we’re working with is that they had a risk-adverse culture so much that they were not getting anything done.

Christopher Jones: [00:19:32] It gets, "I’m too afraid to stick my neck out and to do something needs to be done because if I make a mistake, man the hammer is going to come down hard on me." And they were not making progress. They were not moving forward because they had too much of a risk-adverse culture. Now, you can imagine that’s a very hard balance at a nuclear plant. I mean, you’ve got to be safe. Yeah, I guess, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:54] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:19:54] But not to the detriment of growing the business in and growing the culture, so you’re learning from these mistakes. It’s that low-risk mistakes are okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:07] So, that behavior had been learned at some point in time by someone that, "I made this mistake. I took a risk, I made a mistake and it was very punitive." And as that leader was probably going to their team, "No, no, no, don’t make that. Don’t do that." They’re not allowing them, "Don’t go up those ladders or whatever because something bad is going to happen." And it just—and now, it creates several subcultures within the organization.

Christopher Jones: [00:20:37] Yeah. And let’s be honest here. Those types of cultures and those type of mindset, it all comes from the top. There’s no other place. The responsibility for that type of culture is from the top.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:51] Yes. And it’s the wrong culture to have. I get being safe. And recently, I was at a company that supplies some of the stuff to nuclear power plants and builds these things. And they had a very safe environment. But they are not all risk-adverse. They’re allowed to take risks or allowed to lean into those things. So, it just—and it also empowers, inspires new ideas.

Christopher Jones: [00:21:28] Sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:28] And right now, that’s the key. And leadership is the ability because I’ve said this before on this podcast, and I may have said it on yours, that the collective knowledge outside of your office far exceeds the collective knowledge inside your office.

Christopher Jones: [00:21:42] True.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:43] So, how well you are utilizing your team, how well you are helping them to help you solve your problem versus, "I’ve got all the answers."

Christopher Jones: [00:21:52] That’s old-school thinking. The fact that the leader has to have all the answers, that’s gone. That does not exist anymore. There’s not a requirement of a leader anymore.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:02] But we see it.

Christopher Jones: [00:22:03] I know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:05] We see it and there’s still some companies that are operating that way.

Christopher Jones: [00:22:10] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:10] And you kind of wonder, "Oh, hey. Wait a minute. I’m going to get shot for this one." But leadership styles and things, Macy’s department store, just recently said they’ve been closing 125 stores.

Christopher Jones: [00:22:22] I saw that. Including their headquarters, I think, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:24] Headquarters in Cincinnati. It’s been a long-standing building. And then, you’re thinking about, "Okay. Is that also leadership?" And then, you go, "Okay. Let’s look at Kmart and Sears and GE." And how—maybe that thought process is what has driven them out of business versus that new leadership thought process, which is just the opposite. But as you well know and you can attest to, this doesn’t come overnight.

Christopher Jones: [00:22:55] No. Well, you know, one of the things that I tell leaders and one of the most powerful things I think a leader can say is, "I need help." Because your team, they’re waiting for you to ask. I know a lot of leaders will think, you know, "I’m the leader. I have to have all the answers. I feel like I look weak if I ask for help." Think about this. The fact that you have a team is proof that you need help.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:19] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:23:19] Because if you didn’t need help, you wouldn’t need a team. They’re doing all the things you can’t do, but they’re waiting for you to say, "I need your help. And I don’t have all the answers."

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:30] And I think you just described a leader being vulnerable.

Christopher Jones: [00:23:35] Yeah, that’s key. Don’t pretend like you are this fantastic leader because your entire team knows that you’re not, right? Have you ever worked for a leader that are pretending to have it all together and they know all what they’re doing, but you know that they don’t, like just admit it, "Just admit you don’t and we’ll help you." But the fact that you’re pretending like you have it all together, you know everything actually is eroding your effectiveness as a leader.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:00] Exactly. But what’s getting in the way? What’s stopping that from happening for the person who thinks they know it all? Their ego.

Christopher Jones: [00:24:09] That’s exactly right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:11] Their ego is so overdeveloped, it’s eating itself.

Christopher Jones: [00:24:15] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:15] And I had a situation not too long ago and of course, I was teaching and a gentleman walked in on, "Oh, it’s that guy again."

Christopher Jones: [00:24:22] Oh, gosh.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:23] The I’m the smartest guy in the room and nobody can say anything because I have all the right answers and all this information should appeal to me. And then, we go on, "How do you-" And he manages a team. I just sit there and go, "I’m not sure. I wonder what the turnover rate of that team is."

Christopher Jones: [00:24:43] I know. Well, I tell you, it’s higher than others that aren’t acting like that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:47] Well, right. But then, we look we look at these leaders out there and they set the tone, they set the culture, but the business doesn’t grow. Now, how do we get this new leadership style to be more—it’s getting better, but there’s still that resistance. How do we get it to become more mainstream? How do you work with your clients to get them to change their mindset?

Christopher Jones: [00:25:18] Well, that’s a real struggle in my business. It certainly is. It’s very difficult, if not impossible for me to be assigned someone to coach as a leader. I’ll tell you a quick story. Actually, one of my first coaching clients I worked with at the nuclear plant was with this guy. He’s called the shift the shift manager. Now, when I think of shift manager, I think of when I worked at a grocery store, there was a night-shift manager and a day-shift manager.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:49] Yeah.

Christopher Jones: [00:25:49] That’s not what we’re talking about here. At a nuclear power plant, the shift manager, they are ultimately responsible for everything that happens at the nuclear plant while they’re on shift, including the site vice president. They have to—anything he says needs to be done, he’s accountable for it. So, in other words, if something really bad happens at a nuclear plant, they’re the ones going to prison. So, this guy has been a shift manager for 30 years. And I will tell you, nuclear plants are scrutinized beyond belief.

Christopher Jones: [00:26:22] You would not believe—they have laborers of the day coming and all the time trying to fix them and trying to—so, I had one of my early coaching sessions with this leader. And of course, he had an attitude. And he’s like, you know, maybe the second or third meeting with him, he said, "Chris, I got to tell you, first off", this one-page plan thing which we helped them put together, their leadership plan, he said, "that leadership plan, that’s really good. I can see myself using that with my team, so that’s a great tool. But this whole coaching thing, I think it’s a waste of time. I think it’s a waste of money. I really don’t want anything to do with it."

Christopher Jones: [00:26:57] It’s one of those kinds of out-of-body experiences where I don’t know where the words came from, but somehow, these words came through me and came out. And what I said to him was, "First off, thank you for sharing with me that you think this is a waste of time and money. I can appreciate that. And I’d rather know than to not know I’m banging my head against a wall, like, ‘What the heck? Why am I not getting through?’ So, I appreciate you being transparent with me and sharing with me."

Christopher Jones: [00:27:22] And I went further on then say, "Now, I’m being paid to be your consultant and to be your coach, what I’d like to suggest is that why don’t we continue to meet? I’m going to share with you the same concepts and tools and ideas that I’m sharing with the other leaders I’m working with here so that when you go to a meeting, you’re just not caught off guard. But I’m not going to expect you to do anything. I’m not going to ask you to do anything. I’m not going to ask you to do any homework. I’m not going ask—I’m just going to give you all of the information I’m sharing with everyone else."

Christopher Jones: [00:27:51] He looked back, he’s like, "Well, it’s hard to argue against that one. I guess let’s try that. We’ll try that for a while." He ended up being one of the very best leaders I ever coached because I disarmed him, right? And I said, he’s an adult. I mean, he’s seen every flavor that they go through. I totally get it. I can never make a leader do anything. All I can do is present to them some concepts or ideas or some suggestions and really quite honestly, help them to discover the answers that are already inside them. Most of the time, the answers are right there. I just help them to discover on their own.

Christopher Jones: [00:28:27] And if they discover on their own, they’re way more likely to actually do it. So, to go back to your original question, you know, I have a hard time when I get assigned to someone to work with as a coach. I have much more success if the leader recognizes they need help and they come to me for help. So, that’s where most of the leaders I work with are those who recognize that. So, if someone does not want to get better as a leader, it’s very hard—you cannot really force them to. Except to help them have that aha moment like, "Maybe I could get a little better." That’s what I love about great leaders. I mean, some of the most fantastic leaders you know, they know they still can get better.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:07] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:29:07] It’s never over for them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:09] So, when you’re working with these folks that want to become better leaders, is there a common thread that all of them are struggling with? That-

Christopher Jones: [00:29:20] Yeah. No question. It’s actually the delegation and accountability one is I think what most leaders struggle with that is pretty consistent with just about every leader I work with. So, I work with them and help them understand new ways to think about how to delegate. One of the things I shared with them is what I call phases of delegation where when you’re delegating something, you just don’t throw it over the wall and just expect them to do it.

Christopher Jones: [00:29:49] It all depends on the amount of trust they’ve earned with you. So, it might be, "I’m going to give you a very specific task. I need you to go do this. And this is exactly how you do it. Go do it right now." Like that’s phase one, right? And it goes up through four phases. And ultimately, the ultimate delegation is where it’s now a full bona fide part of their job and you barely even know it happens anymore.

Christopher Jones: [00:30:13] But there are steps to go through between this. So, you have to decide at what level or what phase the delegation is appropriate for what you’re asking them to do and then, delegate at that phase. So, I help leaders with understanding and thinking about delegation differently in ways they don’t think of otherwise. Because most people don’t get really an education and delegation in how to do it effectively.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:35] Right. And what I hear most people say is, "So, I can get it done quicker and better and right. It’s going to take me much more time to do this." And then, I go, "Well, yeah, but is this task that you—is it still in your job description or is it in that person’s job description?" Because if it is in your job description and you’re doing it, you can’t complain for being there for 12, 13, 14 hours, that’s you. But there’s some folks, and I know a few and I’ve recognized myself, I was one of them, who had a little bit—they’re control enthusiasts in certain parts of their business, in certain parts of the leadership that I’m the only one who can do it. Well, you know what, I got to just let go.

Christopher Jones: [00:31:23] Yeah, you do. Was it—Mark Victor Hansen I think said that he delegates absolutely everything he possibly can except for his genius. What he’s really saying there is that he’s very clear about what are the things that only he can do and no one else can. And if there’s anything that anyone else could possibly do, he delegates it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:50] I love that. And as a solopreneur who’s had this business now—this is my 10th year and I’ve just now delegated some—and I’ll do it—I’m following your approach. I’m not just going, "Do this."

Christopher Jones: [00:32:09] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:09] Well, I know it’s going to be a six-month curve for me and them, but I’m now starting to push stuff off that I need to be focusing on the genius aspect of it and continue to work on my platform skill, continue to work on my craft, invest more of my time into that versus the administrative side. But it does take time. But I’ve noticed that, okay, all of a sudden, this time subject free up, all of a sudden, more things are getting done. I just had to—well, is it the movie Frozen, let go? Is that the song or something like that?

Christopher Jones: [00:32:40] Yeah. Something like that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:41] It’s something like that. Yeah. Yeah.

Christopher Jones: [00:32:43] Yeah. The unfortunate thing about delegation is yes, you’re right. It does take time. And it’s not quick. As a matter of fact, it can take more time to delegate than it does to actually just do it. But as you were saying, it’s an investment that pays you dividends in the long run. So, you just have to invest that upfront knowing that it’s going to pay dividends way, way down the road.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:06] And it doesn’t happen overnight.

Christopher Jones: [00:33:08] No. I wish it did.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:09] And it’s—yeah, I wish it did, too. I wish I can hit a switch. And it becomes even more challenging when you’ve got remote employees that you are trying to delegate to, as well as lead.

Christopher Jones: [00:33:23] Which means you have to delegate even more. I mean, it’s even more important you’re delegating this the most effective way possible.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:31] Exactly. Because you empower the team, you get more out of them in the long run, but it takes a while to build up trust. And that’s the key. You know, I worked for some really terrible leaders and I’ve worked for some really great ones. And one of them was to this day, I’ve learned more from—she had this little edge about it, but I loved it. And she called me a human being one day and no leader ever called me a human being. Have you ever been called a human being by some of your own leaders?

Christopher Jones: [00:34:05] I was called an FTE one time. More than one time, actually.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:10] Well, yeah. That’s probably the ultimate insult, but I had made a pretty large mistake and I thought she was going to like just shoot me upside down or the other and she didn’t until she asked me what’s my solution. And I had none. Then, she did that. But when she was done, she said, "Look, I expect you to make mistakes because you’re human."

Christopher Jones: [00:34:35] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:35] "Well, I also expect you to come in here with a solution. Now, get out of my office. Come back in an hour with a solution to the problem."

Christopher Jones: [00:34:44] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:44] I shared that in a lot of my presentations. And you wouldn’t believe how many leaders, managers would go, "No, I just take care of that. I don’t-" They come in with their problems. I go, "It’s just eating up your day."

Christopher Jones: [00:34:59] Well, back to what you’re saying before, that’s ego right there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:02] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:35:03] I get to solve the problem. I get to be the firefighter that puts out the fire. And that that feels really good, but it’s not what is healthy for your team and your organization. As a matter of fact, when you’re a leader you hardly ever get credit when done right. If you’re getting credit for being a leader, you’re doing it wrong. Your team should be getting all the credit for all the great work that they do.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:26] Right. Exactly. And I use this example. And I pulled up the article recently NFL, the Arizona Cardinals are playing the Seattle Seahawks. Game ends in overtime tied 3-3. Both kickers missed field goals, this game-winning field goals. And during the press conference, Bruce Arians, coach of the Arizona Cardinals just basically through his kicker under the bus, said, "We pay him to kick the ball.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:55] He’s supposed to kick the ball through the upright." And so, you can hear the muzzle, thump, thump, thump, thump, as he just—Pete Carroll said, "I love my guy, Christopher is my guy. I love Christopher. He had a bad day. He’ll do better next time. But I have my faith and trust in him." And two days later, Inc. magazine and I think Fortune both came out with articles on that leadership style.

Christopher Jones: [00:36:19] Yeah. Oh, my gosh. There’s abuse of power. That’s a powerful contrast between the two. I love that story. You got to tell that story every time. That’s a really good one. Aha moment.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:32] I will send you the article. I did pull it, save it to my evidence. I’ll find it and send it to you, but it was. And I actually watched the game. And then, I heard about it and I went, "Wow, there are two different styles of leadership." Two days later, man, they will write it up big time. So, this about three, four years ago.

Christopher Jones: [00:36:50] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:51] But we see that dichotomy in leadership.

Christopher Jones: [00:36:54] What’s that kicker thinking on the Cardinals team the next game? And when the press is really on, what’s he thinking?

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:02] He better not miss it but he’s going to miss it because now, he’s overthinking it.

Christopher Jones: [00:37:06] Oh, absolutely. Oh, my gosh. I do not want to hear the wrath of the coach here. But now, he’s spending all this cycle time and energy on not getting chewed out rather than I’m just going to do my job and kick the ball. I’m going to do my very best right now, which is what the Seattle kicker is doing. "I know my coach is behind me. He’s going to support me no matter what. I’m just going to focus on doing my job and doing the very best."

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:31] "And I’m allowed to make a mistake."

Christopher Jones: [00:37:33] Yes, yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:34] "I’m allowed to have a bad day." I don’t—I should research this. I don’t believe that kicker was with the Cardinals very much longer after that. I don’t know if he made it through the end of the season or they didn’t pick him up the next year, but I would please somebody else to take me.

Christopher Jones: [00:37:54] Please. I know. Anybody.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:56] Anybody but this team right now. And leadership, it’s like you said, it’s not easy, but why do people think you it is this? Why do people think they can come to you for coaching and want you to leave, "Oh, I’ve got it all. I could go or come to a seminar. Oh, now, I’m a leader." No, you’re not. You’re starting to become the leader.

Christopher Jones: [00:38:21] Yeah. It’s a lifelong development. It’s a lifelong learning. And unfortunately, those who are really good leaders, like we said earlier, they make it look easy, but it’s taken them maybe 20 years to make it look easy and natural. You just don’t see what it took for them to get there. Most have learned through hard knocks.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:40] Exactly. Through a lot of hard knocks. And the other aspect of it is I don’t believe people take the opportunity. I believe that not everyone wants to be a leader.

Christopher Jones: [00:38:52] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:52] I also believe that there’s people out there who do, but they don’t look for the opportunities to learn early on.

Christopher Jones: [00:38:59] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:59] In volunteering, I learned a lot of my leadership style through what volunteers of the Ohio Society of CPAs. The CEO, Clark Price, who, I mean, I learned more from that gentleman in the leadership than I have in many other organizations. But I would volunteer for committees, I would chair committees. I would put myself and yes, I would fail and I would screw up, but I learned. But I think that those other opportunities other than what’s inside the building. We’re shortsighted in ourselves and that training, that learning.

Christopher Jones: [00:39:33] Yeah, it’s a great place to practice, right? Practice your leadership. You said another thing that not everybody wants to be a leader and I hope people listening to this will hear that. It’s okay to decide not to be a leader. Not everybody is meant to be a leader. And it’s perfectly fine and okay to decide, "You know what, I’m not just going to be in a leadership role. It just does not like get me excited." Fantastic. You can still have a hugely successful career without having to be a leader. So, don’t think that being a leader equals being successful in your career.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:09] Right. And perhaps something early on that, you know, we get these folks who are very competent in their job and they get promoted in the leadership positions and they fail. Two years ago, there was an article in Harvard Business Review, you know, high-performing people don’t make the best leaders or something along the title. And they talked about these highly technical individuals, these very competent, but they don’t want to become leaders. They don’t want to manage people. They don’t like talking to people. They just want to do their job. But when we shove them in those roles, they fail and then, they have to leave. And that knowledge is walking out the door. Find a way to keep these people in your business, make them happy, create new job titles for them.

Christopher Jones: [00:41:01] Yeah. Embrace them, love them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:03] Love them for their technical and their knowledge, but just recognize not everyone’s a leader. Don’t try to keep putting that square peg in a round hole.

Christopher Jones: [00:41:12] So true.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:13] So, you remember the National Speakers Association. You’re in the Virginia chapter. How long have you been a member, professional member?

Christopher Jones: [00:41:20] You know, I just joined this past summer, actually. Over the past probably two years or so, the speaking part of my business has really grown actually without me trying very much. So then, I realized, maybe I should put a little more effort into this whole speaking thing because obviously. I got a lot of people asking me to speak. So, I just put that on the back burner for so long as I was trying to build my business. And then, when everybody’s coming to me asking me to speak, that was my message, saying, "Chris, it’s time to make that a bigger part of your business now." So, I just joined this past summer, actually. And it’s a great group.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:55] So, you’ve just joined and you’re a professional member of NSA and the Virginia chapter and Mary Foley.

Christopher Jones: [00:42:02] Oh, I love Mary Foley.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:03] I will have to tell you, I love her to death, but I have to give her a call because—well, maybe, let me ask this question. Are you now on the board?

Christopher Jones: [00:42:13] I am not. I believe she’s looking for board members at the moment, actually. It’s time to fill those gaps. I actually saw a video from her recently.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:23] It’s funny because I mean, when I joined the Ohio chapter, they caught wind of my experience. I’ve been on the board from the Ohio Society of CPAs and so on and so forth, that, you know, "We have a new member. Oh, he’s our new board member, too."

Christopher Jones: [00:42:39] That’s a way to get a board member right there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:41] Exactly. And actually, a couple chapter meetings that goes, someone said, "Yeah, we have some new members. Hey, welcome to the board." And everybody started laughing and they had this look of terror on their face.

Christopher Jones: [00:42:57] That’s funny.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:57] But I tell you, leadership in NSA does create or develop new leadership skills. Immediate past president of our chapter, I’ve learned a lot added stuff that I didn’t have there before through that process of spending time as the president. And Mary has doubled that by spending two years in the role as president.

Christopher Jones: [00:43:26] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:26] She’s going to go off and into the sunset here coming up and probably sit on the porch and just sip some nice red wine.

Christopher Jones: [00:43:34] I tell you—yeah, I’m sure it’s some red wine for sure. She’s so amazing. Seriously, I don’t know there’s anyone better in that role as president right now for where the chapter is at the moment. She’s just—truly, I’m such a big fan of Mary Foley. She’s just a terrific person and she’s doing a great job for this chapter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:53] If she’d just be a little enthusiastic, don’t you think?

Christopher Jones: [00:43:56] I know. She’d maybe explode actually if that were to happen.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:00] Right. Yeah. Mary has a ton of energy. Love her energy. Love her passion. And she epitomizes what a true leader can be. And to your world, an authentic leader because everything about her is extremely authentic.

Christopher Jones: [00:44:14] She is. You know, I’ve had her on my podcast as well. Since we’ve talked about her, we should probably tell people how to reach her because there’s enough interest, I’m sure, people—I think it’s if that’s okay to plug someone that’s not on this.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:27] Absolutely. And her e-mail is Website is She’s a wonderful leader, high energy. I’ve known her now for two or three years. And I have a question sometimes, call her up, send her an email. I mean, she’s all over it. She’s wonderful. And now, she’s going to have to buy us cocktails at Influence because we really helped increase her brand out there.

Christopher Jones: [00:44:55] She has my favorite website when you first come to the very first picture that shows up of her and I won’t say any more about it so that we can tease people to go check out her website. The picture she has on there is so 100% Mary Foley. And you’ll get what I mean when you look at it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:11] Yes. Yes, you will. And as soon as you said that, I had the picture of her home page, it’s very powerful. I absolutely love it. Now, we cannot end this without you plugging your website, your business. How can folks get in contact with you?

Christopher Jones: [00:45:29] Yeah. The best way to reach me is We talked before how there are a lot of Chris Jones’s in this world. So, the best way to be in the unique is I’m Also, I live a lot on LinkedIn. So, LinkedIn is a fantastic way to reach me. I post a lot of things on LinkedIn. I do a lot of commenting on there. So, I would definitely encourage people to check out my LinkedIn page. And then, try to think even what—probably, on your show notes page, you’ll have a link to it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:01] Yes.

Christopher Jones: [00:46:01] I think it’s something like I am Christopher Jones or something. I can’t remember exactly what the name is. But additionally, I use Instagram. And Instagram is kind of a behind the scenes of Chris Jones. I post on stories there and it’s typically not necessarily where my clients see, but if you want to kind of see what’s Chris doing day-to-day and what’s some of the weird stuff that he does and where is he right now, Instagram Stories, I’ve been posting on there pretty frequently.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:32] Oh, cool. I follow you on all social media. I didn’t realize you’re on Instagram. I will connect with you there as well. So, as a parting word or parting piece of advice to the audience, what would you tell them on this topic of leadership?

Christopher Jones: [00:46:46] I should be better prepared for this question. I think it’s just so important that people do a self-evaluation and just check yourself. Unfortunately, we talked about this earlier that those who have a strong ego in their leadership don’t realize or want to admit that they have strong ego, but those leaders who feel like they aren’t as good as they can be and need to be better, I mean, those are humble leaders.

Christopher Jones: [00:47:12] And those are the leaders who are going to be even better leaders in the future. My strong encouragement is to just be recognized as the kind of leader that your team would follow you anywhere. They would do anything you ask for. And it’s because, like I mentioned before, that you would do anything that you’re asking them to do. And if your team is following you, because they want to, it has nothing to do with your title, you’re a very effective leader.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:38] And with that, we’ll call it an end. Thank you so very much, Chris, for taking time. I’ve enjoyed our conversation. I look forward to crossing paths with you soon.

Christopher Jones: [00:47:45] Me, too. You’re a fantastic interviewer. Thank you, Peter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:50] I’d like to thank Christopher for taking time to share what it takes to be an authentic leader. Now that you know what an authentic leader is, what changes in your mindset do you need to employ so that you can be calm and authentic clear? Something to ponder until the next time you listen to my podcast. Thank you again for listening. And if you enjoyed the podcast, please take a moment and leave a review on iTunes or whatever platform you download your podcast from. Also, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Make today and every day your best day.

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