Episode 318 – Clayton Oates

Clayton is an Accounting Technologist & Gardener

Clayton Oates returns to the podcast to talk about how he is satisfying his travel bug through the pandemic, his gardening, helping small businesses, and taking time for yourself!

Episode Highlights

• Places he visited in the last couple of years
• Traveling locally
• Getting into gardening
• Becoming more aware of other people’s hobbies
• Shifting focus towards helping small businesses
• Finding an And for retirement
• Taking time to be still with your own thoughts


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    Welcome to Episode 318 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’ve impacted them since we last talked.

    I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is out. You can order it on Amazon, Booktopia, IndiGo, barnesandnoble.com, and a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for more. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. It’s just so overwhelming to read those. Thank you so, so much for that.

    Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Clayton Oates. He’s the founder of QA Business in Australia. Now, he’s with me here today. Clayton, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Clayton: Good day, John. Mate, it’s awesome being here. It’s always fantastic catching up with you, mate. So yeah, thanks for inviting us back.

    John: Oh, for sure. Absolutely. You were in the book, you were part of the book launch team. I just appreciate you being a friend for so many years and being a part of this, so that really means a lot.

    Clayton: Oh, mate. My pleasure. And yeah, just being a part of this project with you is awesome, the way you sort of brought people together and sort of it brought their stories to life and actually so that others can actually experience and share and learn from what we’re all sort of doing outside of our professionalism and keeping it weird as you’d say, so that’s fantastic.

    John: Right? I mean, for you and me, it was already weird, so it doesn’t matter. We got this. But I have seven rapid fire questions to ask you here really quick, things I’ve never asked you before and I probably should’ve before we hung out the first time now that I think about it, but here we go. All right. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?

    Clayton: Oh, I’ll go Harry Potter, mate.

    John: Okay. All right. How about a favorite band or musician?

    Clayton: I’ve been listening to a bit of Journey lately. So yeah, I’ll go Journey right now.

    John: Yeah, writing a book was definitely a journey as well. How about this? A tricky one. Brownie or ice cream?

    Clayton: Brownie with ice cream?

    John: Oh, okay. I see. That’s actually the right answer. That was a trick. That is the right answer. Combo. How about a least favorite vegetable?

    Clayton: I would have to say — is cucumber — is that a vegetable or fruit?

    John: Yeah, cucumber. It counts. I’ll take it

    Clayton: Yeah, I can’t stand it if. It’s been anywhere near a salad or anything I’m about eat, for some reason, I am so allergic to cucumbers.

    John: Okay, how about pickles? Do you do the pickles or –?

    Clayton: No. Nothing. They’re in the same family, I believe.

    John: No, it’s actually pickles or cucumbers that are just pickled. But yeah, some people are — one’s behind but not the other. I think that’s funny to me.

    Clayton: Can we hang up now? I think I’ve just learned something.

    John: Right. It’s almost like you read my book. You’re like, oops, my brain hurts. How about Kindle or real books?

    Clayton: Real books. I’ve got a stack of them. But I’ve also — using Audible quite a bit as well.

    John: Oh, audio. Okay, nice. Yeah, mine will be probably in about six months or so. For everybody listening, that’s like, “We like his voice. It sounds like Super Dave Osborne.” Well, there you go. All right. Here we go. Chocolate or vanilla?

    Clayton: Chocolate. I am an absolute chocolate addict. It’d be chocolate.

    John: There you go. This is an important one. Toilet paper roll. Over or under?

    Clayton: Just on the side, actually. Have you seen those?

    John: Right. Where they’re sitting up.

    Clayton: I haven’t taken a lot of notice. I do know that you’re talking about this recently, and I think over because that’s the way my wife makes the house work.

    John: Yeah. That’s the right answer also.

    Clayton: I dare not change that.

    John: Yeah, dare not change that. That’s awesome, man. Well, you were Episode 160 which is just awesome to have you back. We were talking world travel and how you grew up not really traveling even for a long time, and then all of the sudden in the last like 10, 12 years just going through passports because they’re filling up. Since we talked, are you still doing some travel? I know you were because we hung out in Denver, which was super fun.

    Clayton: Yeah, in February. Well, actually my passport expired in April. I haven’t renewed it yet, because who knows what their passport’s going to actually look like post-COVID. It filled up, John. I sort of went back and counted the trips and 32 trips in ten years. It’s just been incredible from none before that. I’ve had this burst of 32 in ten, and then obviously, the last six months or so, you know, none. I’m still passionate about that, and that’ll come again at some later stage, but right at the moment, yeah, that passion is on hold. It’s in hibernation right at the moment.

    John: Exactly. It’ll happen again, for sure. It was just so fun having you in Denver. I mean, you messaged me, and you’re like, “Hey, I might be coming to Denver.” I’m like, “When?” You’re like, “Tomorrow.” I’m like, “You live in Australia.” Like what? You had already been in the U.S., you just grabbed a flight to Denver, which was super cool, and we got to hang out. That was awesome. It was your first time here, yeah?

    Clayton: It was, and I absolutely loved it. There’s a lot of other people that listen to this podcast, and they’ll go, yes, he’s done exactly the same thing to me. Look, if you’ve traveled and you’ve gone somewhere, and you know you’re in the area or in the vicinity of someone that you know, why not take that little extra step to just reach out to them? Well, a lot of times, especially corporate travel and so forth, we tend to sort of in and out, you know, I’m there for this purpose and, “Hey, I’ll catch up with you next time,” or maybe you don’t even message them.

    But what an amazing ability to be able to go part way around the world, know that someone that you know lives nearby, even if it’s a flight, in that case, and just say, “Hey, I’ve been thinking I’m coming there, how about we catch up?” The fact that you just said, yeah, let’s do this. I think that’s just a real special part about being able to travel.

    John: Yeah, for sure, because then you get to hang out in person, and you get to see the city, you get to feel it and smell it and touch it and all that. It’s just so much more fun. Then I can give you a gentle hug as opposed to the big pick you up bear hug that I gave you in Boston that we still talk about. I cracked a rib.

    Clayton: It was worth it.

    John: Lawsuit pending. Hopefully, there’s statute of limitations in Australia.

    Clayton: I think we’re good.

    John: Okay, good, because then I can visit and not get arrested.

    Clayton: Totally.

    John: But no, that’s so awesome. Were there other places that you visited in the last couple years since we talked?

    Clayton: Yeah, U.S. a couple of times. Bora Bora was one in the South Pacific, which was sort of this, I’d like to thank Expensify for that, actually, they were the guys that brought a heap of us together over there. That was an absolute bucket list, dream come true moment. But probably since COVID, really, I’m still traveling a little bit around our local area, being in your own backyard, in our state, for example. We’re pretty much locked down here at the moment between states. So yeah, sort of discovering just the road trips, and being able to visit places in your own area is — it’s calming, actually, it’s sort of this, you’re bringing a little bit more sort of order and stillness to your life.

    I haven’t necessarily missed the international travel. I do love it. I’m really looking forward to when it happens again. I love 14 hours on an airplane by myself, which is fantastic, because it’s just this totally selfish sort of me time, which is if you go for 20 hours, I’m totally happy with that. I’ve learned to like it and really enjoy it. But yeah, at the moment, jump in the car, go and explore some areas, have weekenders away in our local area with the family, so it’s been great.

    John: Yeah, that’s really cool, man. Really cool. Also, some gardening as well. I see it on your social media anyway, and some other hobbies that you’re picking up since travel’s not as much.

    Clayton: Yeah, I mean, we’ve got a few acres here, we’re so fortunate to have a bit of space around us, especially at this time, so I feel incredibly blessed about that. But we’re in a sort of sub-tropical area where everything grows. In fact, it’s raining outside at the moment. I’m here in shorts and T-shirts, so sort of subtropical, rich, red volcanic soil, so everything just jumps out of the ground.

    I think for me, you know, the gardening side, it sort of was born out of necessity to maintain the space. But interestingly, I’ve sort of found that sitting on a ride on lawn mower, mowing a few acres of land, it takes it to a Zen state. And I think there’s only a couple of other, you know, moments in your life when you’re in that sort of creative Zen state. I think there’s only a couple of other moments in your life when you’re in that sort of creative Zen state. It’s like you’re doing something, but you’re also nice and relaxed, and then you’re able to think and think creatively.

    I found that also, in taking long drives on country roads, which probably isn’t a great thing. You should be concentrating, you’re driving.

    John: No one else is coming the other way, so you’re fine.

    Clayton: I say also, maybe having a shower, your thoughts pop into your head in that state, and maybe sit in the bathroom. It’s like, well, I should take a notepad. Well, most people take their phones these days, so you can easily take notes.

    John: Yeah, and it’s just cool to hear like, there’s a finished result at the end.

    Clayton: Yeah, love that.

    John: It’s an immediate result of boom, there it is. I did that.

    Clayton: It might be a guy thing perhaps, but I’ve got a lot of hedges and I’ve got this petrol hedge trimmer and some of these are now 15 feet high, actually. Here I am on these trestles, and, oh, they’re going to go a bit higher, trestle on a trestle, not a good look, that’s for sure.

    I’m in the office here now I’m looking around and I can see these hedges and look, the accountant brain in me, I fest up to my OCD, that’s for sure. They’re all nicely lined up, they’re at the right height, and they look fantastic. What I need now is just some sort of hedge growth retardant that actually sits them at that level. I think the British comedy guys, The Goodies were trying to introduce something like that in the ‘70s, so anyone that can come up with that, I think it might be these days, plastic, but if that could be done, oh, wow. I’d be a very happy guy.

    John: That would be amazing, yeah, because I mean, two days later, something’s going to pop up. You’re like, I got to get it, because you can’t just have one.

    Clayton: It’s a bit like your inbox isn’t? It’s like, I think I’m inbox zero. Hang on. Here’s another one. I’m inbox 11,000. I don’t really care about that.

    John: I’m way up there as well. I have a friend of mine that tried to brag about his inbox zero. I’m like, well, how do you — he’s like, well, I have a folder that is things that I’ll get to, but that’s just your inbox.

    Clayton: That’s cheating.

    John: That’s cheating. It’s totally cheating.

    Clayton: I think we need a serious audit on these guys that call this. But yeah, that gardening thing has been great. I think you just refer back to that, you know, the ancient Roman, Cicero, I think talked about this, what you need is a great library and a great garden for sort of peace of mind. The library site is, you know, probably reading and gardening I think my go-to things since sort of the COVID happened, and since the international travel has been put ice at the moment.

    John: That’s awesome, man. That’s so cool to hear. Do you feel like people are sharing their hobbies and passions more, or maybe you’re more aware of it?

    Clayton: I think I’m more conscious of actually exploring what other people are doing in that space. I mean, your book actually talks about what these guys are doing outside of their work, and probably our conversation has triggered that curiosity in me for sure. I probably wouldn’t have thought about it much if we didn’t speak about it, and you didn’t actually bring attention. Particularly at the moment, you sense that people have gone from one of two directions, they’ve either gone all work or all sort of not chilled out, but all sort of concerned about the future.

    They’ve probably forgotten a little bit, and I had. I certainly had. I sort of took a while to find Santa in this new world that we’re finding ourselves at the moment. Whilst work, you know, for me too, I also did find myself back into my work a bit as well, more the roots just to where I’ve come from, and actually helping small business. I lost touch with that a little bit, and learned to teach. I think there’s been so many changes in the last number of months around the world with government support programs, and how to help small business and the money side of things, and the compliance. I decided to learn a lot of that in Australia, Australian conditions, and teach it.

    I’ve run a lot of webinars, a lot of the free informational webinars for small business. It’s turned out that there’s a reach, our database, if you like, or our business reach has doubled in the last six months, and it took just 25 years to get to the first part. Then in six months, the reach was doubled, because we’ve focused really on helping other people try and navigate their way through this situation that we’re finding ourselves in.

    A lot of professionals have that opportunity, you know, because the stuff that we sort of take for granted, or maybe we found a little hard to learn, why not teach it, and actually share it with others in a way that’s simple, and that others can then relate to it because there is a lot of concern, there’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of pressure and stress out there. What can we do to actually relieve that pressure cooker situation? That’s been incredibly fulfilling for me, and partnering with others doing that.

    John: Yeah, no, that’s really cool. At some point, you get out of the fire, if you will, and then let’s create that relationship as two humans on what is your “and?” What do you like to do? Who are you as a person, because then you could actually serve them for real, as opposed to just giving them financials and a bank statement that’s balanced or something.

    Clayton: Oh, absolutely. It’s so relevant to you know, my business world has been accounting, bookkeeping, consulting and technology companies. Taking the moment to sort of find out when you’re working with a small business owner and operator, why are you doing this? Instead of maybe that straight up question, talk about their “And,” because it’s probably an easy way to have a conversation, what do you do outside of work? What do you enjoy doing? What would you wish you could do more of? Suddenly you then can help connect some dots to actually help them or enable them to achieve more of that.

    We don’t get up in the morning and go great, I get to go to work today and I get to sort of you know, a timesheet or whatever. No. We’re doing it because we want this. It’s sort of a pathway to get through to get to something else. But the reality is if we can combine both and keep both happening at the same time, and then you’ve got your “And” all the way through anyway.

    John: Right, and it’s an “And,” it’s not an “Or.” You can do both, and you should have these other dimensions to who you are.

    Clayton: I mean, imagine working your whole life and you get to the R word, which I don’t like to talk about, of the end of your working career, and then you’ve got to find an “And.” That’s sort of a 50-50 hit and miss. Oh, my gosh, if I do or I don’t, It’ll be all over pretty quickly. There’s a great book that I’ve just finished reading called the Second Mountain. David Brooks wrote it. Hugh Jackman actually recommended off the back of a podcast I was listening to.

    It talks about the first mountain that we tend to all climb is sort of this achievement, goal- orientated, work-related, I get to my pinnacle of my career, maybe achieve business success, it could be financial freedom, whatever that is. But then there’s a valley pretty much after that, and then there’s this second mountain. A lot of people maybe don’t even get to experience the value until end of working life.

    Getting to experience that earlier on, if you’re having a valley at the moment. That’s okay. This is normal, because then there’s another mountain, and it’s not the same mountain as the first one. It is different. This might be around fulfilment or purpose, more purpose, and so helping others, so forth. You hear people talk about this all the time. You think, why would they be talking about that? Because they’ve gone through this first mountain achievement, deep valley, aha moment. There is another mountain.

    John: There’s another mountain. Just keep going. Yeah, I love that man. Well, there goes my second book idea. I’m going to write the third mountain. That’s what I’m going to write, it’s going to be — what’s that mountain? I don’t know.

    Clayton: It’s a range.

    John: It’s the one when you turn at the wrong sign. Somebody switched the sign up, then you go the wrong way, so you miss the second one. But that sounds awesome, man. That’s exactly what it is, and then talking to people with the consultancy that I’ve done and stuff is a lot of people like, I’m going to go retire and I don’t know what I’m going to go do or you have these “Ands” along the way, because it makes work better, but it also makes retirement better too.

    Clayton: Oh, absolutely. Taking the time to sort of be still, you know, pause and reflect. I’ve read so many books. I’m an avid reader anyway. But this time has given me more time to actually read. Stillness is the Key, Ryan Holiday. Any Ryan Holiday book is awesome. Also, James Clear, Atomic Habits is a great book. But the Stillness is the Key, you know, sort of the stoic philosophy or most around just taking time out to be still in your own thoughts, is something that we tend to run from or we’re not geared to do, particularly in the corporate world. It takes discipline, and discipline will give you freedom, basically.

    To be still in your own thoughts, to take time to do that, whether it’s just getting up half an hour earlier in the morning, and there’s a lot of people who meditate, some people just start reading, or just pin thoughts, journaling, for example. I think, as a society or humanity, we’re starting to sort of shift more to that sort of direction, even though our mainstream media might not be portraying that, I think there’s a groundswell of the masses that are getting this.

    John: No, that’s awesome to hear, man. That’s so awesome. This has been so much fun catching up with you, and man, now I’m learning like, holy cow, man. This is awesome. Now I have books to check out too. This has been great. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that maybe thinks no one cares about my hobby, or it has nothing to do with my career?

    Clayton: It probably doesn’t even matter whether someone cares or not. It’s what you think, and what’s going on in the conversation between your ears. Just pause and reflect. If you don’t have something, no one’s going to check up on you. No one’s going to sort of say, “Hey, you need to have this, you should do this.” They’ll just get benefits from having things outside of there’s one dimension of life, and probably looking and prioritizing too, you know, I think, talking about this COVID time, it’s like, what are our priorities? More perhaps going back to our family, friends connection with others, personal development perhaps, and getting in touch with ourselves more. I know, it sounds like airy-fairy off with the pixies, and I do live in sort of an alternative part of the country.

    John: Right. No, but you’re right. I mean it’s for sure. It’s what matters. I think that this really threw on the parking brake, as we’re going down the interstate at 90 miles an hour or whatever, to what really matters, and who are you as a person, because worker B is not who you are, you’re more than that. Really getting to realize that, and understanding that the work will get done, and there’s always more work to get done.

    John: I think just having blind faith. Things will work out. They will work out and whatever that work out is, it is. I know this is hard to fathom when you’re writing amongst a crisis, or either self sort of inflicted or existential crisis of some sort that’s out of your control perceivably, but things will work out. I’ve got a timeline and just remove our expectations around anything other than that. It’s sort of frees up, sort of clears some blockages perhaps along the way that we might be holding ourselves back.

    John: Very true. That’s awesome, man. Well, it’s only fair that before I wrap this up that I allow you to question me since I started out the episode peppering you with questions. This is now the Clayton Oates podcast. I’m your first guest. Thanks so much for having me on, man.

    Clayton: Well, welcome, John. I really should’ve prepared. Well, I suppose one thing to ask you is — and referencing probably to the COVID time right now, we’ll get through that pretty quickly, is what’s changed in your world in the last six months?

    John: Everything. I mean, yeah, I would be on airplanes flying to conferences, speaking on stages in front of live audiences. Now, you know, not so much, or not at all really. Some virtual things. I’ve also found that with my comedy background as a professional comedian for years and Emmy nominations and things that people want that. They want a distraction, they want some funny they want just, hey, our people are really buried right now. Can you just give them some relief? Sort of a thing.

    I’m also finding that the What’s Your “And”? message applies even more now to this where people before were a little bit skeptical or whatever, now they see, “Oh, wow. Yeah.” Because I didn’t actually have a real relationship with the people I worked with. I passed them in the hallway, “Hey, how are you?” “I’m fine, you’re fine.” Okay. But now that we’re virtual, we’ve been in each other’s homes, we’ve seen the art on the walls, or the kids yelling, or the dogs barking. I don’t have anything to talk to you about, because I don’t really know who you are as a person. It’s really just getting cultures to be built around people’s outside-of-work interests. I think the need is even more now.

    Clayton: Wasn’t a question I had written down or anything was, what is your “And,” and how has it changed?

    John: That’s a great question. My end is definitely college football, and ice cream. They’re still making ice cream, so we’re good on that. They almost didn’t have college football, but they’re having it, especially Notre Dame is playing. That’s my school. I’m excited. They have their games already, and so yeah, I’m just excited for the season and see what happens. About two-thirds of the schools are playing, and then about a third or half aren’t. I know that that doesn’t add up to one, everybody listening, but that’s why I’m not in accounting anymore. There you go.

    Clayton: Look, another thing I’d need to sort of touch on is your book. I loved it. It’s fantastic. It’s a great read. I commend you on putting pen to paper there. What have you learned through the book writing experience? I know there’s a lot of people out there that are probably thinking, I’ve got a book in me. I know, this could be a podcast in itself, or a whole series of it. But you know, someone’s thinking, I’ve toyed with the idea, maybe they’ve lost a bit of confidence, perhaps they thought their story isn’t worth telling, or they just feel as though they’ve put it on the shelf. What would you say to someone that’s thinking, I’ve got it in me, or I had it in me, can I reignite it?

    John: Yeah, well, first of all, thank you so, so much for those kind words, because when I’m on stage speaking, I can adjust on the fly, and make things happen for that audience that I’m in front of in the moment. But on a book, I’m not sitting there with you as you read it to be like, oh, wait. Skip the next five pages, you’re not going to like that part type of thing. That’s what was really hard was just writing it that way to make it approachable for everyone.

    I guess for me, I wrote the book, because as a speaker, a lot of people don’t really give you credit for coming up with your own ideas or your own concepts or your own philosophy. I wanted to have the book to be like, no, no, here it is. This is the Bible of sorts of here’s my stuff. Read it. That’s what I talk about is my thing. I’m not giving a book report of what other people wrote in their books, they can speak on that, because that’s stealing if you talk about their stuff.

    You really got to want to write it. I mean, it’s hard. It’s a journey. Everything gets thrown in your way from the universe to stop you from writing this. There’s a great book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s for creatives. But I love that book. I kind of look at my book as the war of art for professionals. It’s just a no nonsense, just micro chapters, here it is, boom. In that book, it just talks about how there’s going to be just obstacles nonstop if you’re actually creating this really great thing that should be out in the world.

    You just have to believe in yourself, and then just write a little bit every day. It’s a momentum thing. Don’t even give yourself a word count, just write. Some days, I would write one chapter and be like, all right, that’s it. That’s all I got. Then other days, I would just be firing away, just like I’m in the zone and whatever, but you have to sit down and write every day. It’s also write twice as many words and then it edits down. It’s like cooking spinach maybe, where you start out with a big heaping pile of it, and then by the time that it’s in the pan for ten minutes, it’s all of a sudden, where’d it all go? It’s all just wilted down. Just write and write and write and write. Also, there’s so many books. Why is yours different? And lean into that.

    Clayton: I love that message that. One word you sort of touched on, there was the authenticity, it’s authentically you. I suppose for anyone listening, whatever you put down, it’s going to be you in there. There’s a methodology and a process and all of that, that sort of fits around the creation of something like this. But the fact that this is probably why there are so many books, there’s so many people and so many stories to be told, and someone is going to benefit from hearing your story.

    John: Exactly. Yours isn’t going to be the worst one, trust me. I’ve seen some terrible books. Write it and then, but know why you’re writing it and to become a famous author is not the answer. It’s because I have this story, and I need to get it out there. Okay, great. Jeannie Ruesch, who I had on the podcast, who’s a fiction writer —

    Clayton: She’s awesome.

    John: And she’s awesome. She told me the greatest advice is once you’ve written it, your work is done. It’s on the readers now. It’s on you guys. If you like it, awesome. Thank you so, so much. If you don’t like it, also awesome, because I still wrote the book that I wanted to write. You just have to be confident in that. So yeah, no, that’s awesome. Well, your book’s coming soon, Clayton. You know what that means. There we go.

    Well, it’s been so much fun catching up with you. I really appreciate you being a part of What’s Your “And”? for sure.

    Clayton: Thanks, mate. It’s absolutely awesome always catching up with you, so I look forward to seeing you in person soon enough.

    John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Clayton in action, or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re there, order the book. Clayton says it’s good. While you’re on the page, please click this big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.

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


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