Episode 362 – Twyla Verhelst

Twyla is a Head of Accountant Channel & Mountain Enthusiast

Twyla returns to the podcast from episode 196 to talk about how the pandemic has given her time to reflect on herself and determine what’s best for her mental health, as well as finding a new hobby in hiking in the mountains!

Episode Highlights

• Why she is not running as much
• Getting into hiking
• Self-reflection and changing hobbies
• The more human you are, the more opportunity for an authentic relationship


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    Welcome to Episode 362 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett, and 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. My book is out. You can order it on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites. 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 really, really overwhelming to see the impact that it’s making. For those who have been asking, fans of the podcast, the audio version is coming very soon. You can have me read you the book, if that’s what you want.

    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, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Twyla Verhelst. She’s the head of Accountant Channel, as well as the program leader for FreshBooks, and now she’s with me here today. Twyla, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Twyla: John, I am so excited to be back chatting with you. Thanks for having me.

    John: Oh, for sure. This is going to be awesome. I mean, Episode 196, that was only a couple of years ago or so, and a lot has changed. Yeah, I’m excited to catch up, for sure.

    Twyla: Yeah, me too. Thanks.

    John: Oh, totally. I have my rapid-fire questions, things I didn’t ask the first time, probably should have. Here we go. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.

    Twyla: Neither?

    John: Neither. That’s an answer. That’s fair enough, fair enough.

    Twyla: I haven’t read either. I haven’t been into either series. So, I guess that’s my answer, neither.

    John: No, no, fair enough. Fair enough. How about this one, talk or text?

    Twyla: Text. Oh, gosh, text. Please text me first, then we’ll decide if we should talk.

    John: That’s awesome. That’s so awesome. Here’s a good one, summer, winter, spring or fall.

    Twyla: Oh, summer all the way.

    John: Summer.

    Twyla: I like the warmth. Yeah.

    John: There you go. When you travel, planes, trains or automobiles?

    Twyla: Absolutely planes because I live in Canada so if I want to get to that warm weather, that usually means getting on a plane, unless we’re going somewhere in July and August.

    John: Right. That’s awesome. Very good. With my audio book coming out in a couple of months, audio version, Kindle or real book.

    Twyla: I love a real book. I love the look, the feel, the smell. I love all that, but when you’re trying to balance a lot of things like we are this year, I’m going to go with the audio.

    John: All right. Oh, this one’s tricky, rain or snow.

    Twyla: I won’t use the answer neither again because I want to say neither.

    John: No, neither is not allowed.

    Twyla: I will say snow just because you can do things in the snow versus in the rain.

    John: Yes. I hate rain so much. I hate rain. I can’t even tell you how much, and I always have. It ruins everything. There’s nothing fun in the rain. I know somebody right now is tweeting at me, I love rain. Well, good for you. Soak it up, literally, pun intended. No, I agree. The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.

    Twyla: Over, totally over.

    John: Yeah, totally.

    Twyla: It’s not even a question, John. You could stop asking that one.

    John: I guess the cat people are under. I don’t know. I learned that after asking so many people, random strangers on the sidewalk, for the podcast. Yeah, but Episode 196, we talked running and marathon running with a bib on your shirt pinned on. There are pictures and all that. Is running still a thing for you?

    Twyla: You know what, I’ve got a really interesting segment here first to chat about, with running. Because running is still a passion of mine, for sure, but 2020 really has been interesting because although running itself wasn’t canceled, races were canceled. I quickly learned how racing is an important part of my running. Now, just to lay the foundation here, I am not fast. It’s not like I am this super competitive, uber fast runner, but I do enjoy the challenge and the training of a race.

    So, what happened was, I started out in January, keen on my goals for 2020, started training for my next marathon in May, and of course it was canceled. When it was canceled, I found myself in a spot of, alright, I’ve already started training. What do I do? Do I just keep going? With juggling life and juggling a kid at home and remote working and activities canceled, I found training and running a lot. I just found it to be that I wasn’t super motivated because I didn’t know when my next race would be.

    I caught myself in this really interesting spot of, alright, so running itself isn’t canceled, but in my mind running was canceled. Now what do I do? What do I do to still pull in the things that I was trying to get from running, but doing something else? Usually my go-to would be, okay, I’ll go to hot yoga. Hot yoga classes are canceled. My next go-to would be, I’m going to travel. I’m going to get on that plane. I’m going to travel. Traveling was canceled. I kept going through all these different things to figure out what is it that I’m going to do.

    I got really exploratory with things that were more local but that were more what I needed in a time of a global pandemic when life is just challenging. Because one of the things I love about a race and training for a race is the challenge. I like the mental challenge that’s required in order to train for and finish your race. When I say mental, some people would say, what are you talking about? It’s physical. You have to run. It’s your body. I find that, because I’m not an elite runner, really running is me versus me. Running is you versus you when you’re out for a run, and then you’re wanting to train for something.

    What I love about that is that it’s you who set the expectation of training and then running and finishing. There’s nobody at the finish line to say, you have to get here. It’s not a team sport. There’s nobody that’s like, pass me the ball, or I need you to do this, so I can do this. It’s just not like that. Nobody cares if you stop your training or didn’t put in your effort. Nobody cares if you literally pull out partway through a race. It’s this mental fortitude that you develop in running that is like this challenge of getting through something even though there’s nobody counting on you to get to the end of it. I just find it’s this different skill set.

    I found though, in 2020, when life was challenging enough, it’s like, I don’t need that right now. Because races started to go virtual and I could have gotten myself motivated for something like that, but it just wasn’t it for me.

    John: How about I told you, I ran it, and then we’re good?

    Twyla: Just write down this time. I did it. I promise.

    John: Right? Send me the T-shirt and the pretend medal.

    Twyla: Yeah, exactly, exactly. So, yeah, it just wasn’t motivating to me to sign up for something virtual. It created this opportunity to be really exploratory with what’s next and what do I want, to have more mental health as opposed to mental challenge. Because life was challenging enough, I need a balance, not more challenge added to my list. I started to then — like I said, I tried yoga, canceled. I tried thinking about traveling somewhere, canceled.

    It got me thinking about what’s closer to me that I can still do that isn’t canceled that still is feeling grounding, balancing, outdoors. That became the mountains for me. I spent a lot of time in 2020, whether it was by myself on a little day trip, if that’s what I needed, or with my family. We spent weekends out there and even a week out there in the summertime, just to enjoy the mountains, which are a 45-minute drive for me. When you said planes, trains or autos, here I am saying planes, planes, but 45-minute drive and I get into the beautiful Rocky Mountains, which I do find very uplifting and grounding all at the same time.

    You can do a variety of things out there, whether that’s hiking or still going for a run that’s not as competitive, how fast can I go, but just a nice run where you’re taking in the scenery more than anything. I took my laptop out to the mountains and just even did some creative work out there. No judgement here. Sit and enjoy a glass of wine, looking at the mountains, it all is just what I needed.

    John: Just one glass? Come on now.

    Twyla: I can’t tell you all my secrets, John.

    John: Right, right, right. But that’s so true, just getting into nature and unplugging, literally and figuratively, can really do wonders for you. I love how you said that of the running was just as much mental as physical, which it is. There have been studies done with the Navy Seals and all that, where your brain tells you to stop before your body can actually stop. It’s a lot of mental. I agree with you totally. We don’t need more mental challenges in 2020. We need less. I love how you you came to that realization and then took action on it, which is great because you’re just in a better place. You’re a better professional because of it, which is great. It’s not more work and more, more, more. Sometimes it’s, take the foot off the gas a little bit. That’s so great to hear, and that’s so awesome.

    Twyla: Yeah, what I love about being able to explore that and get to that spot is it’s not like I’m giving up running. I still go for runs. I’m just not training aggressively for anything. It’s not that I’m saying, running is a thing of the past for me, and I’ve moved on to something else. That’s not the case. It was just, especially last year, it was a not right now, not a not forever.

    I just got really real with what it is that I needed in order to be the professional that I need to be, be the mom, be the wife, and more so now, needing to be the daughter, because my parents are getting older. They’ve moved in with us recently as a result of COVID, and my mum being faced with some mental challenges around COVID and how difficult it is. So I need to be able to be all these things.

    So, that was getting just really honest with, alright, what do I need to keep myself centered and keep myself really grounded and really balanced while still having the opportunity to do something physical, but it’s something that’s really fulfilling and not an extra thing I’ve got to do each day.

    John: No, that’s awesome. Yeah, because last year, yeah, it’s just a lot. When we first talked, these hobbies and passions and interests were a way to create connections with others and connections with clients and skills that we can bring to work and all this, but in 2020, it was, what can I do for my own sanity? That’s where your “and” is just as important for that also, so, kudos to you for doing that. That’s awesome. Is there a place in the mountains that you guys always went to, or just a variety of places?

    Twyla: No, because it’s so close, you can go to a variety of places. There’s a town called Canmore, which is just outside of Banff that we often visit. It’s just a little bit smaller and a little bit quieter. That said, 2020, it was quieter than general because there were less tourists coming to the park, but, yeah, it depends on what we’re going to go do there. Where we wanting to just go and go for a little run around town and along the river and take in the views and then go for a nice little lunch? Which of course looked different, it was more takeout lunch and go sit on a bench, but is that what we wanted? Or was it like, well, we’re just going to go to — a couple of weekends ago, it was like, we’re just going to go do snowshoe for the morning and come back. So then you can go to a different spot. You don’t need to go into town. So, just depends what you’re going to do there, but it’s all within a 45 to 60-minute drive from us.

    John: Do you find your almost, as a local tourist, discovering things? Oh, I didn’t even know this was here. Or I forgot this was here. I came when I was a kid or something like that.

    Twyla: When it comes to hiking, it’s literally a playground that you can just keep exploring as long as something’s not too wildly steep. I am, in my older age, I’m getting to be a little bit wimpy when it comes to the steepness, but there’s just so many opportunities to check out, new places and see — even just seeing something in a different season looks different in the mountains. There’s a thing of the fall that’s got the pretty colors. There’s winter that’s obviously clearly different. Then there’s going out in the summertime when — we had a really warm summer last year, so it was quite hot for the mountains, where at the end, you could pop your legs into the river, which was quite cool and refreshing. It just looks and feels different each time of year.

    John: That sounds so awesome. Do you feel like, since we chatted a couple of years ago, people are sharing their hobbies and passions more? I know you are, a ton. You’ve done a lot of videos and challenges with people on LinkedIn and social media, on Instagram or what have you. Do you feel like people are sharing their passions more?

    Twyla: I feel like when you start to open up more, they start to open up more. It’s like you’ve opened the door for a safe space. I do think that inside of my new role with FreshBooks that I’m working for a global tech company that’s really predominantly been focused on software and a user experience of the software versus I’m creating an accounting professionals program. So I’m thinking very much about human experience.

    What I would say that I’ve really learned since we last spoke is that the more human you are with somebody, the more opportunity there is for a deeper, authentic relationship. I think about that daily inside of this program. I think about that daily when we’re talking to our colleagues over remote Zoom chats and trying to do everything virtually. I used to think about that when we had clients, but you just think about it even more so now, with the changing time and the lack of opportunity to get together, face to face.

    I do think that sharing more and being a bit more of an open book has created the opportunity for people to do the same and reciprocate that. It’s really quite interesting when you learn about somebody who, they’re a runner too. My initial boss at FreshBooks, I had no clue, but he is a runner. So then I quickly jumped onto my pictures. I was like, check out this one. Because he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I probably showed him one of those pictures that I shared with you a few years ago, and said, “Here is the run that I did across the Golden Gate Bridge.”

    You just quickly can connect with somebody when they do share the same passion or interest. It’s like, bingo, this is an instant connection. There are times that they’ll share something about a hobby that you’re like, you do what? You can just be really curious about what it is that they’re up to, and maybe it’s something that you become interested in. Or maybe it’s just something that you learn more about, and you actually challenge that part of your brain instead of challenging the part of your brain that’s all work, work, work, or balancing your life right now. I think it just paves that way, when you open up more, that they share more, and you just get to learn so much more about one another.

    John: That’s so encouraging to hear that this isn’t like Harvard case study bubble world. This is the legit thing that, within the last several months, you put into action, like with FreshBooks, starting there, the person that you’re reporting to, and like, here are pictures of me running. We connect over running, so much stronger than something else, even if it’s not the thing, like you said.

    I had somebody just a couple of weeks ago, I was just talking to, and they said that they like to play pickleball. I was like, I don’t even know what that is. Now I need to Google it. What is this? What? Where has this been all my life? There are no pickles involved at all. I’m so disappointed. Yeah, but it’s cool because it’s interesting, not only about them, but just to learn something new even, type of thing. That’s super cool to hear. Do you have any encouragement for others listening that maybe they have a hobby or a passion, maybe it’s pickleball or running, that they think no one cares about, or maybe it’s piggybacking even on the steps you’ve taken to take care of yourself first?

    Twyla: I think my my biggest advice would be that is to get curious, but that can be about yourself and about the people that you are in relationships with, whether that’s work relationships or client relationships or what have you. I am on this real desire to make sure that I’m always being curious, and that doesn’t necessarily just mean about myself. There’s always lots to learn about yourself and we know that, but then getting curious about other people and what they’re up to, and just continual curiosity. What is this? What does this mean? What’s inside of this for me? What’s inside of this for my clients? What’s inside of this for our company or our firm or our growth? There are so many things.

    Sometimes when you get curious, it can be like, what you learned is maybe something that you’re really not that comfortable with. At least you learned it, and you moved on from it, or that you learned it — some people would say, well, you gave up running, and you could beat yourself up around like, oh, I really should get back out for a run. Gosh, I haven’t had my running shoes on forever. Depending on your personality, you can actually really be quite down on yourself by letting go of something that you used to be really passionate about.

    I think getting curious is understanding that’s okay that you’ve let go of that. Now you’ve embraced something different that you need more right now. That’s the curiosity that I love. If you can extend that beyond yourself into other people, you’ll start to see that other people probably have some other type of habits like that, too. It can be even an opportunity for you to learn more about them as to what is it that they’re drawn to. Why are they drawn to painting versus something highly aerobic? Or why are they drawn to pickleball?

    Pickleball is a completely different challenge than squash or tennis. Why that? It could be my why to that is because I’ve got friends who play, and now I’ve got somebody to play with. It could be squash is indoors, and they want to be outdoors. There are all these different things. You can learn, well, they obviously are an outdoor person, not an indoor person. There’s just so much learning inside of just somebody saying, “Hey, this is what I do.” It’s like, hmm, interesting. I wonder why you like to knit versus you like to play pickleball.

    John: Then, too, companies can use those talents and that mindset in a certain way. If somebody is in a band or does musical theater or whatever, well, they like to be in front of audiences. If somebody likes to knit or do jigsaw puzzles, probably doesn’t like to be in front of people. So, choose wisely when you have a presentation to give, type of thing, or what kind of clients they’re doing or all that stuff. Such wise words, for sure. It’s only fair though, before we wrap this up, because this has been super, super awesome, is to turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Twyla podcast. Thanks for having me on.

    Twyla: Thanks for joining me, John.

    John: Right, absolutely. I kind of poked myself.

    Twyla: Alright, I got two questions for you, not rapid-fire. I’ll let you think about them and give us a good answer. Have you, John, taken on any new hobbies in the last year or further embraced any hobbies that you already had?

    John: Oh, wow. Okay, you’re going to make me think now. This is going to hurt. This is going to be painful. For me, I guess having the book come out was a good amount of work, so that took up a lot of my time and energy, for sure, which is definitely work-related. For me, college football is one of my big hobbies, passions. That happened, which is huge, because I was, literally, like, I don’t know what I’ll do if that doesn’t happen because I can’t go to concerts, the ice cream places are all closed.

    I did, actually, I picked up rowing. Running, every time I run, I’m just thinking of everything else I should be doing besides running. I don’t know why, but my brain can’t just enjoy running. I’m literally like, there’s 100 things I should be doing besides this. Rowing, I can — and I just got the basic. It’s not super at all. It’s less than 100 bucks rower, but put on a YouTube video with the training, and so I can watch that and then row and do that as well.

    I also enjoy that because it’s like 20 minutes, 30 minutes, bang. You get a pretty good heart rate up and all that, where running is an hour. I don’t know what. It could be shorter, I guess, but I just feel like it should be longer. So I did pick that up near the end of the year. I’ve never rowed. I’ve never thought of rowing. I guess I’m a little bit tall, so I can hang out with rowers. I don’t know.

    Twyla: You feel like you’ll fit in there.

    John: Yeah. So I do it about five days a week.

    Twyla: Nice.

    John: Yeah.

    Twyla: That’s awesome.

    John: Yeah. I’ll probably, at some point, upgrade to the real rower thing. Yeah, we’ll see if I keep going with it.

    Twyla: That’s awesome. I love it. Now, maybe rowing machine companies will, all of a sudden, have this spike in sales, and you could say, you’re welcome.

    John: Right?

    Twyla: My next question for you, which may be your answer might still be rowing, is, what are you doing for your mental health? I’m going to just tell you why I’m asking you this and why this is different than the hobbies one. I find that many of us, myself included, are really starting each day at the subconscious level of residual stress. We’re starting at below our norm, whether we know it or not.

    I feel like there’s just numerous ways that we can all cope with this stress and this pressure, and I just honestly feel like the more ideas we all have in our idea bank, then we can just pull from these ideas when we need them. Or look at, well, that might work for me. If John’s doing that and it seems to be helping him, I’m going to try that. So, I would love to know what it is that you are doing for your mental stress when we’re going through this global pandemic.

    John: Sure. So, outside of a glass of wine…

    Twyla: Just one. Just one.

    John: Don’t judge me. I didn’t say how big the glass was.

    Twyla: Sure.

    John: I was at an Italian restaurant the other day, and the owner of the restaurant was like, we have these glasses that can fit a whole bottle of wine. I was like, I don’t believe you. They don’t even look that big. I was like, I don’t believe you. Sure enough, he had an empty bottle, filled it with water, brought it over, and I was like, that is amazing. Anyway, one glass of wine. No, but rowing is good.

    My wife and I have taken — we went to Cancun for Thanksgiving, US Thanksgiving, because we needed something to look forward to, so we booked it in like July or August. It came, and we were like, well, we’re going. It was just similar to you, where it’s going to the mountains or just getting out of your normal environment is so crucial because the work for everyone else now is — I mean, for me, it’s in my home anyway, but for everyone else, it’s also now in your home. It’s not just like a laptop that’s in a bag or your phone. It’s your whole setup is there. For some people, it’s their dining room table because our homes weren’t built for all of this, spouses with offices, kids with a school room, and your bedrooms and a living room.

    Getting away from that physical space, I think is huge for taking that break or even making connections with others. When we go back to the offices, go for a walk or go out to lunch or something. For me, it’s just getting away. I have a dog, take him to the dog park. It’s like a 30-minute, 45-minute break, but it’s outside. The sun’s shining and a little bit of exercise and fresh air. Let him run around. Sure, subconsciously, I’m still thinking because it’s really hard to turn that off, but not actually doing the work, and I’m not in that in that environment.

    That would be my biggest tip would be just get out of the house somehow, go for a walk around the block or something. You’re not going to get COVID from taking a walk a couple of blocks. You’re outside.

    Twyla: Yeah.

    John: But you’re right, there is a residual stress that’s there on all of our brains. That does take some mental toughness to get through. We’re not all in this together. We’re not all in the same place with the same experiences, with the same situation, so we’re not.

    Twyla: I completely agree.

    John: This has been great. Now you got me thinking and all of that stuff. My smoke alarm in my house is getting ready to go off.

    Twyla: You’re going to have to take one of those walks outside.

    John: Right, exactly. Exactly. Thank you so much, Twyla, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? This is awesome.

    Twyla: Thanks so much, John. It was so much fun catching up with you. I hope that you enjoy those walks. Keep rowing, and we’ll chat again soon.

    John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Twyla out in the mountains or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to check out the book.

    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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