Episode 284 – Ed Kless

Ed is a Meta-Consultant & Musical Theatre Fan

Ed Kless, Senior Director from Sage, returns to the podcast from episode 92 to talk about his passions for baseball and musical theatre. Ed shares with us how he is getting through the cancelled baseball season, sharing his passions with his kids, and his thoughts on being open about your passions in the workplace!

Episode Highlights

Watching simulated MLB games
Sharing his passion for baseball with his son
Getting his daughter into musical theatre
How he applies his minor in Musical Theatre towards his career
Rapping through a long strategy meeting
You should feel comfortable to be open about your passions

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Ed’s Pictures

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A Scene from Confrontation from Les Miserables

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    Welcome to Episode 284 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday, I follow-up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.

    I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is being published very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or sign up for my exclusive list and you’ll be the first to know when it’s coming out.

    Please don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes of the podcast. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every Wednesday and Follow-up Friday, and this one is no different with my guest, Ed Kless. He’s a senior director at Sage Accountants Solutions, co-host of The Soul of Enterprise podcast and a senior fellow at VeraSage Institute. Now he’s with me here today. Ed, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Ed: Honored to be back.

    John: Yeah, man. I’m excited. I mean we’ve hung out a couple of times in between at conferences, and I’ve got questions that I’ve never asked you that I probably should have before we hung out.

    Ed: Yeah. All right, rock and roll. Let’s go.

    John: Here we go. Here we go. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones? Okay. Yeah, I’ve only seen Harry Potter, so, yeah, I’m with you. How about a favorite TV show of all time?

    Ed: MASH.

    John: MASH, ooh, solid answer. That’s solid. How about more suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?

    Ed: Oh, jeans and a t-shirt, no question.

    John: Right. How about a favorite adult beverage?

    Ed: Ooh, good one. Let’s go with wine. Depends on the day. I’m Irish. I’m equal opportunity alcohol, so we’ll go with wine.

    John: Is it breakfast or dinner? Doesn’t matter. That depends, John. Yeah, that’s awesome. How about oceans or mountains?

    Ed: Oceans.

    John: Oceans, okay.

    Ed: Yeah, I grew up on Long Island, so.

    John: Right. There you go. That makes sense. Two more. Favorite ice cream toppings.

    Ed: Dark chocolate chips.

    John: Oh, okay. Interesting. The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under?

    Ed: Over. Over, for sure.

    John: Yeah. Absolutely. No, that one’s actually… There’s only one right answer. Yeah. Last time you were on, I mean Episode 92. God bless you, man, for being on so long ago. We talked baseball, going to baseball stadiums, bringing your son and all that. Now you have the baseball on your desk all the time as your little fidget spinner of sorts. Clearly, we’re not able to watch baseball right now, but are you still passionate about it?

    Ed: I am still passionate. Funny story, my son is now 14. We’re up to 20 baseball parks, by the way, so that’s an update —

    John: Oh, that’s awesome.

    Ed: — from the previous time. This weekend, my wife went out to socially distant shop and came back home with the PS4 edition of MLB 2020, The Show. A new thing for him and it was on sale, blah-blah-blah. Anyway, so he throws it in. I’m working at my desk. This is Sunday. My office is a little bit down from the game room. He comes running in. He says, “Dad, come here, come here, come here.” I walk down. He’s apparently fired up. One of the things they have on The Show is the ability for you to watch the games that would have taken place that day.

    John: Oh, wow.

    Ed: He fires up the Met game. We’re watching the Met game. I’ve got to tell you, within about 30 seconds, I’m like, oh, I can see how Jake’s going to do today.

    John: It’s a video game, make-believe simulation.

    Ed: I was desperate for baseball that I was just, oh. It was great. The Mets won 6-nothing over the Braves. deGrom won eight innings. I’m like high-fiving.

    John: It’s great. That’s so funny. Yeah, it’s just like we’re so starved for really anything. We’ll watch a simulated video game.

    Ed: I was hooked. I was sucked in.

    John: That’s awesome. That’s so great, but also so cool that technology’s gone that far that it’s what the game would have been that day had baseball been happening. That’s impressive.

    Ed: Yeah. It’s kind of cool. The announcers are awful. I don’t want to say it. The Met announcers happen to be real favorites of mine. The guy who does it, Gary Cohen, who’s been around forever. Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez who are both great star players for the ‘86 Mets, and they are just the most fantastic announcers. Even the Yankee fans, that’s the one thing that they will admit, that the Mets have better announcers than the Yankees. So, that’s a real fun thing.

    John: Did they have those announcers on the game, or is it —

    Ed: No. Actually, I think it’s Alan Michaels, which is good. At least it’s not Joe Block. I am an anti-Joe Block. I detest —

    John: I’m not sure who does like Joe Block.

    Ed: — Joe Block.

    John: I’m not even sure Joe Block likes Joe Block.

    Ed: Yeah, if Joe Block listens to your podcast, I’m sorry to break this news to him.

    John: I’m sure we’re not the first ones that told him anything like that.

    Ed: Joe, what’s your “And”? Because it’s not really working out for you. You’re…

    John: Right. Yeah, go do cricket or something. Do something else. That’s super funny. That’s super funny. But that’s cool, Ed. It’s still a passion of yours and that you’ve passed it onto your son and that you can still explore that passion through video games even at a time when baseball isn’t happening. That’s kind of fun.

    Ed: Yeah, it is kind of cool. Like I said, he’s 14. He’s possibly going to be trying out for the freshman team in high school next year. We live in a highly competitive school district so even making a baseball team would be amazing at that point, and kind of fun. It’s almost to a point now where I won’t let him throw full speed to me.

    John: Right.

    Ed: I’m 53. My reaction time, not anywhere near as fast as you can throw, so.

    John: Right. Yeah, or you put a glove inside the baseball mitt to help pad.

    Ed: I used to catch myself, so I’m pretty good at making sure that I catch between the thumb and the forefinger. I’m just worried about just flat out missing it and hitting me square in the face.

    John: Right. That’s hilarious. Yeah. But there is a point, yeah, where it’s like, whether it’s us getting older or just them getting better, you’re like, whoa. Hey, okay. Yeah, you guys throw amongst yourselves, get a friend or something. This is the moneymaker. You can’t mess this up. Come on now.

    Ed: That’s right.

    John: That’s super awesome. Also, too, I know musical theater is something that we’ve talked about as well in the past. We kind of glanced on the first time, but, yeah, didn’t really talk about too much.

    Ed: That’s my relationship with my daughter. My daughter has now gotten into doing a lot of musical theaters. She is ten or 11, I’m sorry, and is doing all kinds of great stuff. I’ve just had a great time watching her evolve in that area. Look, we’ve talked about What’s Your “And”? I minored in Musical Theater, and I got to tell you, I use that more than I do any of my other business classes in terms of doing what I do for Sage.

    John: That’s interesting. Yeah, because you’re onstage at conferences, doing the podcast, creating relationships. Even Mark Cummins came out and said that the Liberal Arts majors have better skills for business these days than the Business majors, and I believe it’s true. Yeah.

    Ed: I know you participated in this too, just like improv and comedy. That’s a huge skill to be able to do that and interpret that, come up with things off the cuff. Really, I can’t thank my Theater professors enough for what they were able to teach me. Not that I didn’t learn anything in my Business classes, but that stuff tends to go a little bit stale over time. The Humanities and the Arts don’t.

    John: Yeah. That’s an excellent point. That’s actually really interesting. Yeah, because the business stuff is always changing, and it’s always morphing. Sure, the technical stuff is there, but how much do you actually use that as you move up the ranks? When you’re not in the bottom two levels anymore then you’re not really in the trenches doing the debits and credits or whatever.

    Ed: To that end, I think there’s a lot of people who go to school too, for, say, Accounting, and I’ve heard this from a number of people that I’ve interacted with, is, I didn’t really learn accounting until after I got my first job. It’s like I didn’t learn how to drive until after I got my license, that cliché. I didn’t really understand — and a lot of people are not taught operational accounting at all. You walk in. What do you mean accounts payable, accounts receivable? They didn’t talk about this. Out of pay checks? I just want to know what the T-accounts are. I’m sorry, that’s not how operational accounting works.

    John: Exactly. It’s not the real world. Is there a multiple choice for what I’m supposed to do here? No, there is not. That’s so true. Because when you get out in the real world, it’s not the academia bubble that we were all in, but in theater, it kind of is. It’s still that same — it’s real life.

    Ed: It’s the same thing. It’s just, if you learn how to act, if you do a show in high school or college, the next level is, it’s more intense. It’s the same it’s just instead of three hours a day, it’s eight hours a day. That’s what you do.

    John: Yeah. So when you were in college or even growing up, were there any theater shows that you were in that were your favorite?

    Ed: Two off the top of my head that were my favorite, first I had the opportunity in college to play Riff in West Side Story.

    John: Oh, nice.

    Ed: Yes, which was proving that what I — and this is how I build myself. I am an actor who can sing.

    John: There you go. There you go.

    Ed: I’m not a singer. I’m an actor who can sing, and I’m even more of an actor who can, I won’t even say dance. I will say I smile and get the last two steps right.

    John: There you go. Stick to landing.

    Ed: That’s right, stick to landing. Everybody’s, “Oh, that guy, he did good at the end. Tripping over himself the whole rest of the time, but that’s alright.” The other one that I did, and this was an off-Broadway production of Pippin. I got a chance to play the title role in that, which is also one of my all-time favorite shows.

    John: That’s awesome, man. That’s really cool. That’s exciting times. To be able to perform in those kind of people, that does give you the skills to then, when you’re speaking at a conference, it’s like, yeah, whatever. It’s really even easier because no one knows what I’m supposed to say.

    Ed: Yeah. The guy who directed the production of Pippin went on and he wrote and won the Academy Award for Birdman.

    John: Oh, wow.

    Ed: Alex Dinelaris. Shout out to Alex. There you go.

    John: Nice. That’s very cool. That’s very cool. Are these things that you share with colleagues and coworkers? Do they know these sides of you?

    Ed: Oh, sure. For a very brief period of time, I was the interim vice president for Sage Accountants Network. Stress on the interim because I did not want the full-time thing.

    John: Okay, okay.

    Ed: Because that’s an administrative position, and I would want to shoot myself. I did do it because I was the most senior person, and I had a couple of opportunities, one where we were presenting a strategy. This is the middle of a six-hour meeting. I’m like, okay, we’ve got to do something different. So, I’m about to present my strategy, and I’m like, I’m giving you a beat. I, impromptu, invented a rap for the strategy thing that we were going to do. Everyone was like, “That was real nice. Okay, next person.” It was great. No questions.

    John: Right, because they were afraid.

    Ed: They’re like, oh.

    John: What song is he going to come up with next? That’s funny though. Yeah, but I’m sure they listened to that as opposed to some of the other ones, six hours in.

    Ed: Yeah.

    John: Where it’s like, yeah, you’ve got to mix it up. There’s got to be a pattern interrupt there.

    Ed: It is, yeah. It was fun, and I think it worked out okay, so that’s so good.

    John: Yeah, clearly. I mean you’re still at Sage.

    Ed: I didn’t get fired. Yeah, why not.

    John: Yeah, but I mean has there ever — because I know a lot of people that I talk with, there’s a part of them that thinks that people are going to judge me for what it is that I love to do outside of work. Or they’re going to think I’m not very good at my job. Was that ever something that crossed your mind?

    Ed: Never for a second.

    John: I just tell people I was too dumb to know that we weren’t supposed to tell I guess. You asked me, so I told you.

    Ed: Yeah. No, I never for a second. That’s just how I was brought up. I don’t know if that’s New Yorkish or just my parents, but we’re just, well, this is what it is.

    John: Yeah, take it or leave it.

    Ed: Take it or leave it. That’s why I never bought into this whole social media. So many people have their Twitter for their friends and then their Twitter for their profession.

    John: Yeah, it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to remember, which one did I post it to? Yeah. Or even who did I tell that I like to, whatever, that I used to do musical theater or whatever? It’s just weird. Especially with the whole quarantine thing, I think it’s a huge collision of our professional life and our real life are now on display for everyone. These Zoom calls and things like this. I mean these are real people. You have to recognize that you have real people that are working with and for you.

    Ed: Well, in fact, to that end, on the musical theater and just even being in front of the camera and doing all that, I’m even coaching colleagues on things like, “Hey, you know what, let’s get a good microphone. This is not going to be the last time that we’re going to be working from home. I’m just telling you.” You can hear people so much better when they have a higher quality microphone. It’s not even close. The second thing is when you’re on these Zoom calls, and I tell them, “Okay, you want your eyes about a third of the way down the screen.”

    John: Exactly.

    Ed: You don’t want to be down — just at the top of somebody’s head which is like…

    John: No, it’s so hilarious. Or it’s like just their nose and mouth. You’re like, um, this is weird. I could tell you had pizza for lunch, and I don’t want to —

    Ed: Right. Or you have the people who have the dual screen and they’re constantly looking at the other screen. I’m like, you know what? You can actually move your stuff to the screen that you’re looking at so that it doesn’t look like you’re a complete dork and looking at the other screen.

    John: Right. It’s just simple things, but it makes communication better. It makes the relationship better, all those little things. I feel like, especially now that you can’t be in person, to create that connection through hobbies and passions and stuff is even stronger and more important now than it ever was, type of thing.

    It has been an interesting journey. That’s for sure. Yeah. I’m just glad that when my book comes out, it’s not about something that was two months ago, before all this. It’s still something that applies. Because I should make the subtitle, “How to Survive a Quarantine,” and then bestseller. What?

    Ed: Put COVID in there somehow.

    John: Yeah, exactly. Two stars. Never mention Coronavirus. Yeah. Do you have any encouragement to others that are listening that maybe have hobbies and passions or think that people are going to judge them because it has nothing to do with their job?

    Ed: Well, two things on that; one, I think you should let it out, and two is if you’re afraid of your situation where people are going to judge you for what it is that your hobbies are, you probably are in a situation you shouldn’t be in anyway. I mean that in all sincerity. Life’s too short to be working with people that you can’t trust with a hobby of you — I’m hoping that your hobby is not building nuclear weapons to blow up…

    John: It’s something that’s legal and not super controversial.

    Ed: I think that kind of thing can and should come out. It is about building trust. You probably heard this a million times too, but connection before content.

    John: Especially in technical speakers and executives that are speaking to their people, whatever, it’s just content. There’s not even a connection attempt. Yeah, and I love how you said that, connection before content. That’s what I’ll tell people that are nervous about speaking or whatever. I’m just like, well, how do you want them to feel? Just, how do you want to make them feel? Because if you don’t make them feel anything then they’re not going to learn anything or even remember anything that you tell them, so just don’t even go up. Lunch is early. See you. Yeah, it’s insane to me, but I love that. Yeah, I love that. That’s awesome.

    Well, Ed, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and let you rapid fire question me and let you now host the show, which you host several other podcasts, so this is just regular seat for you, but rapid fire question me if you want.

    Ed: What I’m going to do is underrated or overrated. You’ve got to tell me if the thing that I say to you is underrated or overrated. If you want, you can give an explanation, or you can just say underrated or overrated.

    John: Oh, I’m so nervous right now. This is going to be awesome.

    Ed: Okay. Underrated or overrated, Dave Chappelle.

    John: Oh, underrated. That dude’s amazing. You could never — yeah, that guy’s amazing.

    Ed: Underrated or overrated, the Payroll Protection Program.

    John: Overrated. Oh, my goodness, insane.

    Ed: Insanely overrated.

    John: Yeah, overrated. I mean the attempt was good, but I’m not even sure if it was a foul ball. I mean it was a whiff. You tried to swing hard, but I’m not even sure if you tipped it. Yeah. It was one of those where it’s a foul tip but the catcher still catches it. The catcher didn’t even have to move. It was like, that was a foul tip but he still got it. You’re out.

    Ed: All right. Underrated or overrated, Notre Dame football.

    John: I see where you’re going here. I see where you’re going. You know what? Underrated. Underrated. The most NFL draft picks of all time, tied with a certain school in Los Angeles that’s not good but, yes, underrated. There’s no way I could say it otherwise. I know that everyone’s disagreeing who hates them, but that’s fine.

    Ed: All right. Thanks, John.

    John: Including Joe Block, probably Joe Block.

    Ed: Including Joe Block.

    John: He’s probably like… Right. No, but this has been so much fun, Ed. Thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Ed: Happy to be here.

    John: Everyone, if you want to see some pictures of Ed in action or maybe connect with him on social media and also get the links to his other podcasts, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.

    Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.


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