Episode 326 – Sean Stein Smith

Sean is an Accounting Professor & Creative Writer

Dr. Sean Stein Smith returns to the podcast from episode 121 to talk about his shift in passions from drumming to creative writing and how this passion has helped with communication skills in the office! He also talks about how it’s important to give your brain a break from work to focus on other things!

Episode Highlights

Shifting towards creative writing
How creative writing has helped improve his communication skills
Giving your brain a time-out from work


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    Welcome to Episode 326 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I’m following 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. My book is out. You can order it now on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, Bookshop, 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 really means so much to me. Thank you so, so much for those.

    Please don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Dr. Sean Stein Smith. He’s an assistant professor at Lehman College, teaching courses in Accounting, Economics and Business, and now he’s with me here today. Sean, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Sean: Absolutely, John. Happy to be here.

    John: Yeah, this is going to be a blast. It’s been two and a half years.

    Sean: Yeah, man, that is nuts, two and a half years. It’s amazing.

    John: I know. Partially, that feels like since March, but it’s actually been really two and a half years.

    Sean: Yeah, actually two and a half years, not the 2020 version.

    John: Exactly, exactly. I have my rapid-fire questions. We’ll just do seven here. Get to know Dr. Sean Stein Smith on a new level here. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.

    Sean: Harry Potter.

    John: Harry Potter, all right. How about, do you have a favorite band or musician?

    Sean: Favorite band or musician, there are so many to choose from. Probably my one that’s my go-to is going to be System of a Down.

    John: Wow, I would not have seen that. Awesome. Love System of a Down. Nice. Awesome, very cool. How about, brownie or ice cream?

    Sean: Ice cream.

    John: Ice cream, there you go. How about, do you have a favorite sports team?

    Sean: Favorite sports team, New York football Giants.

    John: Football Giants, there you go, alright. Even though they play in Jersey.

    Sean: Yeah.

    John: Which is where you’re from, so there you go. Now we’re getting technical. My book being out, how about, do you prefer Kindle or real books?

    Sean: Actual books, real tangible books.

    John: Oh, this is a tricky one, New York City area, hamburger or a pizza.

    Sean: That is a tricky one. Burger. Burger.

    John: Burger. Yeah, a good burger, there you go. Do you load it up? Or what do you…

    Sean: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Everything. Jalapenos, onions, tomatoes, ketchup, lettuce, absolutely.

    John: Oh, wow. Okay, okay. The last one, maybe the most important one, toilet paper roll, is it over or under?

    Sean: Over, John. Everyone knows that.

    John: Well, the crazy cat people, they’ve had a strong argument for under, and I’m just going to believe them.

    Sean: Okay, fair enough.

    John: Episode 121, man, it’s so great to catch up. Back then we were talking about drumming, your drum set and all that. Is that still something that you do?

    Sean: Yeah. I am trying to drum as much as possible, and I’m trying to be still plugged into the whole music scene. Actually, more and more. I’ve been interested in this whole idea of actually being interested in trying to create something, the whole creative writing angle of things, over the last, I’d say really, 18 months.

    John: Nice.

    Sean: Yeah.

    John: That’s awesome, dude. So, it’s been like a year and a half now then.

    Sean: Yeah.

    John: What got you started on that?

    Sean: Well, honestly, I was tuning into some people on the internet, talking about movies, bashing them, pointing out all of the items wrong with them, and I thought that it was funny. Then after maybe the first hundred or so of those videos, I actually started to try to think to myself like, hey, could I actually do this? Could I actually create a short film? Then I quickly realized that I didn’t know how to film or edit or light or anything.

    John: Yeah, there are some moving pieces to the filming part of it.

    Sean: Yeah, there are quite a few of them, but I do know how to write right because I do tons of writing anyway, usually on blockchain and crypto topics that are highly technical areas. I’m thinking about, hold on a second, since I’m doing this anyway, how hard is it going to be to try to apply that to this whole idea of creating a story, like an art for the characters and all of that? So, I’ve been starting to put that down onto paper, starting to build up some ideas and some characters and some art. I’m really pumped for it.

    John: That’s really cool. It’s obviously fiction writing. Are you more interested in like, is there a time period? Is it a futuristic thing? Is it current? Are you just working it out, who knows where it’ll go?

    Sean: Well, I think writing anything based on the current era is all flighty because everything’s terrible right now.

    John: Right.

    Sean: I would say that, overall, the time period is going to be modern or maybe like 2030 range. Probably the actual genre area that it’s going to fit in is going to be more that action type of book.

    John: That’s awesome, man. That sounds great.

    Sean: Yeah, putting it together, putting it on paper.

    John: Yeah, man, and then when it comes out, we’ll do a buy-one-give-one. I’ll give my book with your book.

    Sean: Hey, absolutely. Yes, sir.

    John: Yeah, then we can hang out at all the cool author thing.

    Sean: Tear it up. Never see us coming either, though. I have to wear a hat, shaved and fake nose.

    John: Right. Is that Groucho Marx? What?

    Sean: Is that Charlie Chaplin over there? What’s he doing here?

    John: Right? No, I love that, man. That’s so cool and also just very different than everyday work.

    Sean: Yeah. I honestly think that being able to have that two-tiered approach or a dual approach to things is actually really, really important, both as a person and in the workplace. Because if you aren’t able to communicate and articulate your ideas in a way that’s interesting and engaging, it’s awfully hard to get folks to actually listen to you.

    John: Oh, man, you nailed it. Exactly.

    Sean: All right, podcast is over. Done. Now then.

    John: The whole show is done.

    Sean: The whole show is over.

    John: This is the last.

    Sean: This is it.

    John: No, but that’s exactly it because, yeah, you can have the best technical skills ever in the history of whatever your profession is, but if you can’t communicate that to coworkers or clients, then what good is it?

    Sean: Yeah, absolutely.

    John: That’s fantastic that you’re exercising that muscle outside of work in a fun way. That’s super cool, man. I love it. I’m excited for you. That’s really neat.

    Sean: Thanks, man.

    John: Yeah. Do you find that people are sharing their hobbies and passions more now? Or maybe you’re just more aware of them?

    Sean: Well, I would say both. I would say that, honestly, you and your podcast and your books have had a big impact on that. There are CPAs out there right now who are going by names of The Rapping CPA.

    John: Right, Drew Perry.

    Sean: Yes, sir.

    John: He’s been on.

    Sean: Yeah, absolutely. There are all kinds of other people working in accounting who are really more open about talking about their lives outside of work. Whereas if you had asked me, two or three years ago back, the last time I was on, it probably was a little bit different. There was still almost like a bias towards being, well, I’m a CPA, so I have to always be buttoned up. Doing that’s not really healthy for the individual or for the firm because all of us are people. All of us have all these wide range of interests, from powerlifting, rapping, writing, all kinds of other interests. Really, that’s what makes the person whole.

    John: That’s exactly it. I feel like, growing up, we have what we think we’re supposed to be in our heads, but in reality, that’s not it. You’re the professor. Are you acting like what a professor is supposed to be?

    Sean: Oh, Jeez.

    John: No. You’re the professor. Just be you. Or if you’re a manager or if you’re a partner or if you’re a first-tier staff, you’re the person.

    Sean: Exactly.

    John: Be that. It’s just cool to have you on to encourage people to hear, you’re a whole person, and it matters.

    Sean: Absolutely. That idea of actually being the whole person, as you said, it applies equally to anybody, as an intern, as a first-tier, as a manager, if you’re in public accounting, even if you work in audit, who are always the coolest people out there.

    John: For sure, hands down.

    Sean: Hands down, obviously. All across the board, it’s important to understand that but to also do it. To have that confidence to be like, hey, I can also do other stuff outside of work. I don’t go home at 5:30 or at 8:30 or at 10:30, then I just power down until the next morning.

    John: Right, like we’re robots or something, where it’s like, no, I just go home and plug in.

    Sean: I charge myself like a Tesla.

    John: Yeah, right. Yeah, it’s like you’re a Tesla. Then I come back to work the next day, and I’m just so excited to come back. I wish I could just do this 24 hours a day. It’s so sad I have to plug in. On the flip side, it’s not hate your job. I mean, like your job. For you, creative writing and drumming is always fun. Work is sometimes fun, but sometimes it’s not fun.

    Sean: Exactly.

    John: But drumming and creative writing is always fun. If you’re able to have that energy and that passion and that interest and then talk about it at work; well, people are going to light up, and it’s going to be fun.

    Sean: Absolutely. Also, having those interests and those attitudes and those activities outside of work also gives your brain a timeout from only focusing on work issues and work problems. Your brain has to rest too. You have to activate the other parts of it. By activating those other parts, those more creative parts or the more physically active parts, it actually helps you analyze topics and questions and problems from alternate angles.

    John: Yeah. Man, that’s so good. That’s so good. It’s almost like you wrote my book. It’s amazing. It is our message. It’s a collective thing, and you’re spot on. It refreshes you. You’re invigorated.

    Sean: Yeah, absolutely.

    John: That’s awesome. The skill, I love how you pointed out earlier that, that skill of creative writing makes you a better communicator as a professor or as a coworker. That’s super cool. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that thinks that, well, I have a drum set, but no one cares, or it has nothing to do with my job?

    Sean: Talk to me, first of all, and talk to you right after.

    John: Yeah.

    Sean: Honestly, you aren’t going to ever know if your coworkers or your manager is interested, or actually could have the exact same hobby as you, if you aren’t open about it. Now, I don’t mean to show up in your AC/DC t-shirt on Tuesday morning to the Board meeting, but it’s important to be confident enough to bring up these things, to bring it up, to not have it be a deep and dark and covert thing. It’s important to be open about it and to also understand and to acknowledge that every single person out there, you, me, anybody tuning in right now, all of us have hobbies and interests outside of work. All of us were other people prior to being the current version of ourselves. I have a doctorate. I teach, lecture, but that wasn’t always like this. I wasn’t always this jock.

    John: Right.

    Sean: All of us have interest and hobbies and other facets of ourselves that honestly are commonly the most interesting part of us. By being able to talk about these things, bring them up and to find out what the people you are working with are interested in, it actually makes you a happier employee, a better employee and a more well-rounded person.

    John: That’s awesome. That’s so perfect. Yeah, you weren’t always like this, and there are other parts of you that are still there. That’s great, and they should be. That’s so fantastic, man. It’s been so fun catching up with you, Sean. This is a blast. I’m excited to see where your creative writing journey goes.

    Sean: I am too.

    John: It’s a journey, man. Trust me. It’s a journey. As long as you enjoy it, who cares where it goes. That’s awesome. It’s only fair, since I started out the episode asking you questions, that I turn this into the Dr. Sean Stein Smith podcast, first episode.

    Sean: Nice. First episode, Episode One and the ending episode too.

    John: Yeah, we’re going to have some System of a Down intro music for you.

    Sean: Oh, nice, nice.

    John: There we go. Yeah, so if you have any questions for me, fire away.

    Sean: Okay, question number one, what’s your new favorite food, John, since you moved out west, and you’re all kinds of hippie people out there? From everything that I’ve read and ever seen, guys are all having kale and Quinoa stuff. So, what’s your new favorite food?

    John: I would eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day if I could.

    Sean: Hey, you know what? That isn’t the worst thing ever. I have two more for you. What part of the public transportation system here in the NYC area have you missed the most?

    John: Do I miss the most.

    Sean: Mm-hmm, subway, ferry, buses, which are always a pleasant time.

    John: Right. The part that I miss the most. Man, this is a tricky one. Well, I guess, not feeling like the weirdest person ever because you just — while you’re waiting for the train or you get on the train, you’re like, oh, well, I’m not the most weird person. There’s that.

    Sean: Perfect answer.

    John: And reading because when you’re on the train, there’s so much time to read. I definitely miss that part as well.

    Sean: Awesome, awesome. Fair enough. My third, final question, this is all for you. What’s your favorite show to binge-watch? It can be old. It can be new. It’s basically a warm blanket that you go to, to binge-watch when you’re just ready to unplug for a couple of hours.

    John: The one that we just finished binge-watching is Yellowstone, the Kevin Costner show, and it’s really good. It’s along the lines of like the Breaking Bad or Ozarks. It’s not drugs-related. I love that, and as a creative writer, you don’t tell the audience who’s good and bad. I have to decide. Like in Breaking Bad, which I also love, is Walter White a good person or a bad person? He’s dying of cancer and trying to make money for his family so he can get the therapy, or he’s killing —

    John: You have to decide. One episode, he’s a great, nice person. The next episode, you’re like, man, this guy’s terrible. He’s a terrible character. Yellowstone is the same way where there’s just a lot of characters that are doing what they do. It’s up to you to decide who’s good, who’s bad, whose side are you on, and it changes. So, that’s been a fun show to watch.

    Sean: Awesome stuff. Fascinating. That’s all that I had for you, so, to wrap up Episode One of the Dr. Sean Stein Smith podcast.

    John: Right, there you go. I just appreciate you being a part of What’s Your “And”?, man. It’s been so fun catching up with you.

    Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Sean in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. Don’t forget, you can order the book. It’s good, I promise. 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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