Episode 499 – Justin Miller

Justin is an Attorney & Music Lover & Author

Justin Miller, a Partner & National Director of Wealth Planning for Evercore Wealth Management, talks about his passion for writing children’s novels, how he realized that there needs to be more in your life than work, his work/life balance, and much more!

Episode Highlights
• Getting into writing children’s novels
• Why it’s important have a hobby outside of work
• Everyone has the credentials

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Justin Miller and The Super Secret Special Powers Club!

Justin Miller and The Super Secret Special Powers Club!

Justin Miller and The Super Secret Special Powers Club!

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    Welcome to episode 499 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.

    If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. It goes more in depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and more importantly, changing the cultures where you work because of it. If you want to hear me read the book to you, that’s right, this voice reading the book, you can get it at What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books.

    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 week is no different with my guest, Justin Miller. He’s a partner and national director of wealth planning for Evercore Wealth Management in San Francisco, and now he’s with me here today. Justin, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Justin: All right. Thank you, John. Pleasure to be here. I love the book. I love the podcast. It’s an honor to spend this time with you.

    John: Awesome, man. Thank you so much. As a fellow author, you know how hard it is. It’s not something that you do on accident. You’ve really got to want to write a book. That’s for sure. Awesome, man. I’m excited to have you. We’ve got these rapid-fire questions. We’re going to get to know Justin on a new level here. I’ll start you out with probably an easy one. Favorite color.

    Justin: Favorite color, easy one, blue. Actually, reminds me of the Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail, where, blue, wait, no, yellow. He falls into the pit. Anyway, blue is my favorite color. Easy question. I think I’m doing well so far.

    John: Least favorite color then.

    Justin: I am not a fan of orange. Look, I get some people like it. I actually grew up, that was the color of my walls at one point in my home, growing up, so maybe that’s what caused it. Not my favorite color. Blue, green, happy with that.

    John: It reminds you of being grounded. It’s like, no. Here’s a tricky one, brownie or ice cream.

    Justin: You can tell how I’m going to answer all your questions. As a lawyer, depends, of course on everything. I’m going to answer both, brownie and ice cream. Put the two together and add sugar to it. Add carbs. I’m going to eat it. I will have one rule and that is no nuts in brownies. It’s dessert. I think it should be illegal. No nuts in brownies, but brownies and ice cream together, perfect combination.

    John: That’s a trick one. That is the only correct answer. It’s brownie ala mode. That is the correct answer. That’s a good one. I might have to add a new rapid-fire question, nuts or no nuts? That’s awesome, man. I love that. How about a favorite actor or actress?

    Justin: Favorite actor or actress, almost depends on what the movie. I’m going to throw out, you’ve got Marlon Brando in The Godfather. You’ve got Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

    John: Sure.

    Justin: If I had to pick just in general, maybe right now, I love comedy, obviously. That’s why I’m a fan of a lot of your work in stand-up.

    John: Thanks, man.

    Justin: I would go with Jason Bateman. I was just speaking with my wife the other day. I know he plays somewhat of the same character, but we love comedy. He just has this dry… He’s funny, but in a dark way. Whether it’s Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses. We’re watching Ozark right now. He just plays that character. His delivery, how he keeps a straight face, I have no idea. I would say Jason Bateman.

    John: Game Night. Game Night’s a movie. It’s still on airplanes, I think. Whoever wrote that is still milking the residuals, so, good for them. Yeah, you’re right, man. He’s fantastic. He’s fantastic. How about a favorite cereal?

    Justin: Favorite cereal. I grew up… You can tell how I’m going to answer all your questions. There’s a story involved.

    John: I love it.

    Justin: First of all, love cereal. I grew up, my dad was a doctor. Back then, there was no problem with sugar, at least the way he was. We weren’t allowed to have salt. Couldn’t eat salt, salt causes… No salt. We didn’t have a salt shaker in the house, but we could eat as much sugar as we wanted. I grew up with six kids in the family. She used to take us to the supermarket. You pick whatever, we had literally in our pantry every sugar cereal you could imagine or want. I grew up, you name it, Honey Combs, Apple Jack, Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

    John: This is glorious.

    Justin: Cocoa Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs. I grew up that way. Nowadays, of course, our kids, maybe you can have some Cheerios or something like that. Anyway, I will say any sugar cereal. That’s how I grew up. Now I understand that it’s not only bad for you, we wouldn’t even eat it for dessert, blood sugar. It’s a weakness of mine.

    John: Mine, too. Frosted Flakes. Even if I’m traveling and I’m at a hotel that has the buffet. They’ll have the little box. I don’t even need to eat this, but I’m going to take the box just because. Then on the flight home, I’ll just eat it dry. I don’t care. It’s still good. It’s still good.

    Justin: You’re just like me, John. It’s funny, when I travel a lot for business to see clients, conferences, presentations, the stuff I will eat when I’m out of the house. I would never nowadays go to the store and buy one of these sugar cereals, but somehow it doesn’t seem to count if you’re at the hotel or the conference.

    John: Pretty much.

    Justin: I don’t think those calories count. Clearly, I have no science background, but for whatever reason, if you’re not at your house, it doesn’t count as far as diets.

    John: Right? It was free. Somebody’s got to take it. You feel bad. How about puzzles, Sudoku, crossword or jigsaw puzzle?

    Justin: I do all of them. Puzzles, I rarely do. That’s almost like, if I’m with my family, my wife and children, maybe for fun. We’ll do once a year or during the holidays, we’ll do a jigsaw puzzle. I definitely like crosswords. I’m not very good at. I’m not like solving the Sunday New York Times. If I just say what do I do most often, whether it’s just boredom, on the plane, I’m on my phone, maybe most often Sudoku because it’s just something I can do pretty quickly and easily. You can always finish a Sudoku puzzle. There’s always a solution. That’s probably what I do most often.

    John: Even if the solution is to act like it doesn’t add up, it doesn’t matter. It’s just fine. I got numbers in all the boxes. We’re done. It’s how I do my taxes actually. No, I’m teasing. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Justin: Wow. That is a controversial question. Half the people are not going to like my answer. I’ll start with I like Star Wars. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan, especially a big fan of the earlier, when I grew up, definitely the original Star Wars.

    John: Yeah, the first three.

    Justin: Yeah. Exactly. Empire Strikes Back, brilliant. If I had to choose between the two, I’m going to go with Star Trek because that’s actually personalities, what I grew up watching with my parents, Captain Kirk and Spock. Let’s be realistic. Spock, huge fan, Vulcan, live long and prosper. Let’s think about it really. I’m a tax person. If you have to think, look, if Spock was not on the SS Enterprise, probably would have been an accountant or tax attorney. Who do you want doing your taxes? Spock or Luke Skywalker? Let’s be realistic. I’m going to go with Star Trek.

    John: That’s the best reason I’ve ever heard for Star Trek. That’s hilarious. Maybe this one since you have the law of background, Suits or Law and Order?

    Justin: I never really got into Suits. I saw a couple episodes. I don’t even like wearing a suit. I was so happy when we didn’t have to wear ties anymore. Law and Order, just the music, just the beginning of it, you know you’re there.

    John: Yeah, exactly.

    Justin: I’ll go with the Law and Order over Suits.

    John: That totally works. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?

    Justin: I’m in the corporate world, so we’re all PCs. Don’t get me wrong. Full disclosure, I have an iPhone. I know I work here in San Francisco in Silicon Valley, so we’ve got a lot of tech and engineers that would hate that answer. They’re all Android. Other, though, than the iPads and iPhones, full PC computers in my house.

    John: Me, too. Same. Same. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?

    Justin: Favorite ice cream flavor.

    John: Because I’m an ice cream junkie.

    Justin: I don’t know if you can tell by now my issues with food and sugar.

    John: No. I feel like we’ve been cousins for a long time.

    Justin: I love ice cream. Here’s the irony. I am lactose intolerant, but it doesn’t matter. I will still eat. I’m talking about, forget about those health concerns. I’ll take a Lactaid pill. I love ice cream. It’s sort of a dichotomy. I go the spectrum. As far as my basic flavor, I go to, I’m a vanilla guy. I love Breyer’s Natural Vanilla, just very pure vanilla. On the other hand, I do like some of the fancier flavors. Out here in the Bay Area, we have a place called San Francisco Creamery. They have this flavor. It’s golden or it’s caramel golden Oreo ice cream or whatever. I would never eat a dozen golden Oreos. It’s just there would never be a time, but if you crumble up a dozen golden Oreos and put it into ice cream and add caramel, I will eat that all day long.

    John: That’s funny. I never thought of that before. If you took all the parts out of the ice cream and set them all out, and we’re like, you’re going to eat all of this. What? I would never eat any of that. Put them all together, totally. I’ll have the biggest pint you’ve got. What are we doing? That’s awesome, man. I love that. How about your first concert?

    Justin: First concert. Oh, that takes me back. First real big concert as a teenager I went to, was Rush.

    John: Wow.

    Justin: I put classical guitar as my main instrument. I also used to play electric bass, jazz, rock, funk, you name it, just because I use both hands and fingers, not a real pick guy. A big fan of bass, Geddy Lee, Rush. I don’t know if there’s any bass fans listening to this, but opening for Rush was Primus, Les Claypool of Primus.

    John: What? Oh, my Lord.

    Justin: If anyone’s a fan of bass, this was the bass lover’s dream. Anyway, that was my first big concert, Primus opening up for Rush. Neil Peart doing his drum solos was incredible. I will add though, just because you brought it up, concerts and first ones, but I’ll also share just because it’s sentimental for me. First concert with my wife actually was, we met while we were both at Berkeley together, undergrads, and our first concert together, this was back in ‘94, ‘95 at the Greek Theatre, open theatre in Berkeley; Dave Matthews Band. They only had one big album at the time. They basically played their album and just jammed, jammed for the entire time, just holding a few songs. That might not have been my first concert, it was my first concert with who is now my wife. That was probably my favorite concert.

    John: That’s super cool. I’m a huge concert guy as well. They’re so great. So great. Primus, that was like, My Name is Mud, right?

    Justin: Yeah. Jerry Was a Race Car Driver, Tommy the Cat. What he was able to do — don’t get me wrong. He’s not for everyone. If any of you are not bass players, promise, you might judge me for that. What he was able to do with bass, let alone sing over it. He didn’t just strum, the tapping, really legendary in the world of bass.

    John: Absolutely. How about a favorite Disney character?

    Justin: Wow. Especially now there’s so many to choose from.

    John: Or any animated character really, I’ll take. It doesn’t matter.

    Justin: It’s funny. Off the top of my head, you bring up Disney, I would say there’s the classic Mickey Mouse, of course. I’m sure everyone, probably, just that’s the first thing I think of Disney. I’m actually probably more of a Donald Duck guy, if I really think about how I grew up classic now. What I will say though is, if you would probably ask anyone else what they thought about me and who my favorite character would be, you ask family or friends, you know me from Twitter and Linkedin; I bet you most people would guess Goofy. There’s a reason.

    John: Also good.

    Justin: There’s a reason I’m not a stand-up comedian or entertainer. My jokes, full disclosure, not the best jokes. They’re mostly somewhat related to tax, but Goofy.

    John: It doesn’t matter. It’s all relative, man, and you’re having fun. That’s all good. It’s all good. How about, since you have the accounting background here, balance sheet or income statement.

    Justin: That’s easy for me. Once again, I know accountants may have a different answer, especially depending, tax or audit. For me, balance sheet. That is the first place I start with every single client, from a wealth management perspective. The reality is every company should have a balance sheet. That’s a given. As far as I’m concerned, every individual, every family should have a personal balance sheet. What are your assets? What are your liabilities? What’s your net worth? From there, we can build out cash flow and income and portfolio. It all starts, for me, balance sheet, first place to start from a wealth and financial planning perspective.

    John: That’s awesome, man. Very interesting. How about, we’ve got four more, more of an early bird or a night owl.

    Justin: My wife would tell you. I’m an early bird. I wake up in the morning. Sometimes my alarm doesn’t even need to go off. 5:30, I just pop up. I’m ready. I get going. You brush teeth. Do a quick little workout. I’m off to work. I’m going in the morning. 8:45, 9:00, I just start falling asleep. By the way, I wasn’t always like this. This is me close to 50. In college, my excuse, I’ll give you my excuse. This is the way I explain it. Went to law school in New York; got my LLM, JD, both from NYU; great experience in New York. By the way, this is back in the late ‘90s. I haven’t been really back other than some short visits. I don’t think I ever adjusted to the three-hour time change.

    John: You’re still East Coast.

    Justin: I’m still East Coast time. Waking up at 5:00, I feel like I’m waking up pretty late. By 9:00, that’s midnight in New York. That’s the reason maybe I’m an early bird. I just think, after that New York experience, I never adjusted back to West Coast time.

    John: That’s funny. On New Year’s Eve, you’re like, we’re just going to do the New York New Year’s Eve and then call it midnight, and we’re going to bed.

    Justin: I wish. If I could. I love watching the ball drop at 8:59pm, West Coast time. That is actually the one time of the year that, my wife asks very little of me, she’s the best, but very little, and just the one thing she asks for is stay up with her on New Year’s Eve. At least stay up. I can go to bed at 12:01. She’s totally fine with that. I prepare. I take a nap.

    John: I was going to say, yeah, there’s that.

    Justin: I get an afternoon cup of coffee. I’m ready to go. I’m pumped up every New Year’s Eve. That’s all she wants is company, all the way to the real West Coast midnight.

    John: That’s awesome, man. That’s so great. How about a favorite number?

    Justin: Favorite number. This might be the last time I’m invited back. I’m going to bring up, are we talking irrational number, rational?

    John: You know what? I’ll take any number.

    Justin: I’ll answer both.

    John: Let’s go irrational. I love it.

    Justin: I’ll give you both. My favorite irrational number, we’re going to have to go with PI, clearly back to my eating and bad diet theme. I love pie. No. Certainly, I just think it’s really cool number. It just keeps on going 3.1415926, on and on and on. Irrational, we’re going to stick with PI. Rational number, very, very close. I’m a big fan of three, my lucky number. If you do any research on it or really think about it, you’ve heard the saying, good things come in threes, or the rule of three. Thatt goes back to Latin and all that stuff. The reality though is three really is, to me, the perfect number. I do a lot of presenting and tax. How do we break things down for clients, for accountants, for attorneys? If you have a PowerPoint and you want to make a point across, you really should limit it to three bullet points. People can remember three. You can count to three. The reality is, after an hour, if you can have three takeaways, it’s very, very successful. Just think of where three comes up. We’ve got the Constitution, life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. Those are three things. We’ve got Goldilocks and how many bears? There weren’t four or six. There were three bears. What about how many little pigs were there? There were three little pigs. How many wishes do you get with the genie? It’s three, three wishes.

    John: Unless you wish for more wishes, then you get.

    Justin: Oh, but there are always those rules. Even, look, by the way, I think it’s actual. I’ll give you my conspiracy and universal theories. Where is the Earth in relation to the sun? We are the third planet from the sun. I think there’s some cosmic universal reason why three is my favorite number.

    John: Yeah. You have convinced men. That’s solid, man. Three legged stools, all that stuff. That’s impressive. How about when it comes to books, audio version, e-book or real book?

    Justin: Let’s see. I have two answers to everything. You can tell this is training as a lawyer. I really like real books. I’m old school. I love the feel. That’s the way I was brought up. It’s tradition. It feels better. There’s just that sense, but the reality is, in this day and age, I do read a lot, and it’s electronic books. I have a Kindle, or iPad so you can read it with the Kindle app.

    John: Sure.

    Justin: It’s so easy to do electronic. I can just load up a few books. I don’t have to worry. Oh gosh, I travel a lot. I think of the olden days when I used to have a big heavy hardback book or something like that that I took out. I had to bring out a bigger suitcase just to fit in my book. Now I can have my book I’m reading. I have the next book. If I go on vacation, I can have two or three. Definitely, the electronic is my go-to. I miss real books. Audio, I haven’t really gotten into audio. I see the appeal, but for me, I prefer reading.

    John: Absolutely. Same, same for me. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.

    Justin: Favorite thing I have, well, favorite thing I have is probably a family, very close family.

    John: Oh, sure, just in case they’re listening.

    Justin: My wife, if she hears this, and kids, put them in that as well, parents, sisters, all that. No. Favorite thing I own, it’s funny, we’re talking right now in the morning. I’m looking at my coffee mug, and my coffee is probably pretty high on my list. No, but actual thing I own, I’m probably going to have to go with my iPhone. The reality is when I think of, what do I use the most? What do I keep with me for work purposes, for personal purposes, if I were stranded? Certainly a laptop is important. I can log in, but I can do think so quickly, most of my job, personal, all that stuff that I can keep in contact. I would be lost, I think, without it. I’ve had it before where I accidentally dropped my phone, and it broke. Oh, panic sets in. I have my own psychological issues. I can maybe make it a couple of days without a laptop. I can borrow. I can login from someone else’s. My phone, I live off that phone.

    John: No, that’s a solid answer. Solid answer. Let’s talk writing children’s novels. The one that just came out, The Mysterious Mystery Man, which of course was the follow up to The Super Secret Special Powers Club, which is a mouthful. Kids are going to be really good at tongue-twisters, that are fans of Justin Miller’s writing. What’s your favorite book? Well, you’ve you got to be able to say it before you can actually get it. How did this come about, just the writing side of you, the children’s novels?

    Justin: Oh, gosh. How did it really start for me? I have two children. My daughter, at this point, she’s a freshman in college. She’s going to UCLA. My son’s, now, he’s in high school, but this was all the way back when my daughter was in first grade. She was just getting into reading. My wife and I, we both love reading. We wanted to share that and encourage her. Up until that time, I volunteered. Even before she was in first grade, one of the things I do for volunteer is go to schools, often inner city schools, Read Across America and other programs, where I would go into the schools, and I would read books to the students. It was something I enjoyed. I think the students enjoyed it. The teachers liked it. Someone in a business suit coming, and it’s just somebody new. It gets the kids energized.

    One of the things I realized though, especially around first grade, second grade, is that I was reading some of these books to the children and then I was reading the books that my daughter was just starting to read. These are your first real chapter books. You’re first, second grade. You’re getting to your real long books with chapters, no more picture books. The problem was I didn’t like a lot of those books. I was thinking, to be honest, no wonder she wasn’t excited about reading. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of great books. The problem was, and here’s where I saw the problem when she was in first grade, and that is, she had seen all the movies for Harry Potter. She loved Harry Potter. You’ve got Percy Jackson and Richard Riordan and all that, and JK Rowling. The problem was, as an early reader for your first chapter books, she wasn’t at the level to read a Harry Potter or a Percy Jackson, but she could appreciate the movies. In first, second grade, you can certainly watch a movie and love it, but it’s too hard to read.

    One of the things I wanted to do, and that’s what inspired me was, you know what? I’m going to write a book. I’m going to try to write a good story, but I’m going to write it at a level that someone in first or second grade with the dialogue, with the — and maybe that’s just my verbal language skills and grammatical ability is pretty much the first or second grade novel writing, but without using too big of words. We can keep the words somewhat simple, so I started writing. Ever since my kids were little, I used to just make up stories at night, and they used to love it. I said, I’m going to just start writing these down. In first grade, that’s really where I got started. It was to get her interested and excited in reading.

    John: Good for you, man.

    Justin: I give my wife all the credit. She’s the one. She’s like, you’ve got to make this into a book. Put these stories down. Of course, I have a full-time, more than a full-time job, very, very busy, but getting back into your book and podcast, What’s Your “And?, we all need hobbies in life. We’ve got to do something other than just work all the time. That’s when I started writing it down and actually putting it on paper. Eventually, it became my first book, Super Secret Powers Club.

    John: I love it, man. I wanted to write something that I liked, for my kids. Good for you. Good for your wife to encourage you to publish it. Why not? Get it out in the world. Let other people read it to their kids or other kids being able to read it. That’s going to be super rewarding when you just throw it out there. Then people you don’t even know are reading the book now and writing their Amazon review or things like that. We were joking earlier. No one gives you a review on your tax returns or your wealth management work. Here’s five stars.

    Justin: At this point, I’ve written dozens, dozens of tax articles. I’m very proud of them. A lot of lawyers and accountants, maybe even some clients have read these articles, and they’ve been in Trust and Estates Quarterly, Tax Notes, California Tax Lawyer, in California Trust and Estates. You name it. They’ve been published all over, but, like you said, nobody’s ever come up to me and said, Justin, can I get your autograph? Can you sign? This thing on non-grantor trust was just brilliant. Oh, my God, we’re reading it together as a family. Oh, I should, full disclosure.

    John: Reading it together as a family.

    Justin: I will give full disclosure, my books have nothing to do with tax. The word tax is not even mentioned. It is completely different than anything I do during my day, totally just a side project. Nothing to do… The reality is I do have a lot of friends. I have clients, clients that their kids or their grandkids, and they’re so excited. It’s not, we’ve done this brilliant wealth plan, and our investment returns are amazing; but the conversation might turn into how much their grandchild is enjoying. They might even be reading the book to the grandchild. In a meeting, they’ll take pictures with me to show their — nobody has ever asked for a picture of me in a tax conference.

    John: It’s so great though. It humanizes you. There’s another dimension to you. There’s a lot of people that can give wealth management advice and tax planning and things like that, but to do that and write these books, is cool. You’re the only one or there are maybe three. I don’t know. Someone else listening, no, I do too. Okay, good. Come on. It’s just a cool thing. It’s gotta be, I don’t know, a more interesting conversation or a more energizing conversation.

    Justin: It’s funny you bring that up. I know you covered in your book as well. When you have an “and”, when you do something outside of work, and I’m no different than most people; at first, it wasn’t that I was embarrassed to share it. This was my little pet project. It was something I did on the side. I was brought up old school. We all learn from our mentors and boss, and they learned from their mentors and their — when I started as an associate straight out of school, you want to give the impression that your entire life is just working. The way you’re trained was clients and prospects. They don’t want to know that you do anything else other than their work, not even other people’s work. All you could do is work.

    The reality is I do work a ton. Morning through night, I work weekends. I’m passionate about it. I love what I do. I love tax. Fortunately, I get paid for it as well. I do work a lot, but the reality is, exactly what you just said, is, it’s not enough to just be good. In fact, I would even say at this point, you need to be excellent. There are a lot of good wealth managers, good accountants, good attorneys. You need to be excellent at what you do. I would start with that as a premise. There are a lot of excellent advisors out there. What makes you different? It’s that humanizing element. It shouldn’t be something that you’re embarrassed about. Get clients, prospects, they should know you as a person. They have their own hobbies and passions, even if it’s just hanging out with your kids, watching softball games, whether it’s knitting, whether it’s baking. For me, it’s writing children’s novels.

    Now nobody is going to question that I’m dedicated to my job. You can look at my credentials and resumes and how much I work. Clearly, this is my job. Just a full disclosure, I get about 72 cents a copy from my books. Maybe I can buy half a cup of coffee. I’m not retiring and leaving my profession to become a children’s novelist. I love to do it. It’s a pastime. It’s something I do on the side. It’s a conversation topic. Similar to some of the stories I’m sure you have, where, that’s where clients and prospects, they’ll remember me, not just as, oh, this brilliant tax guy I met in this wonderful wealth management firm, but not only do they know that I have a side project, that I have a passion outside of work, that I’m human.

    I’ll give you the secret to success really is we approach everything as a team. We’re very team-based organization. It’s the model I like that, it’s not just me as the tax person. We have a dedicated portfolio manager, dedicated wealth advisors. Not only do we work really hard, we’re passionate, we really take pride in client service like other people, but I also know the “ands” of the other people on my team. It shows that we know each other. We like each other. I can say, So-and-So, they just spent this last, they love sailing, and someone over here, they do X, Y or Z. Even if the client or prospect has totally different passions, it gives us something to talk about. It establishes a connection. I think that is so valuable. Number one, I’d say you still have to be excellent at what you do. That’s the premise. First priority, be excellent at what you do, but this is a differentiator. Be human.

    John: I love that so much, man. Because we’re all good at our jobs. Especially computers have leveled out the playing field a lot. You work hard. You get these degrees. You pass the bar. You pass the CPA exam. You walk in. You think you’re all that, and everyone’s, well, welcome. We all have that too. Oh, crap. I worked this hard to get to where everyone’s already at? What? Then all of a sudden, these little things outside that are just fun, that just light you up, that bring you joy, and you talking about them also brings joy. Talking about work is sometimes joy, but sometimes it’s work. Talking about music or children’s novels, always awesome. It’s never not great.

    Justin: It’s such a hard transition, especially young people that are just getting started and even some of the older old school way of looking at it. Like I said, my premise is you’ve got to be excellent at what you do. The other thing is you’ve got to make it clear that this is a hobby. This is something for fun. Oftentimes, not only are you not making money off it, oftentimes these things cost you money.

    John: Totally.

    Justin: Whether hiking or sailing. You’ve got to make the client comfortable you’re not going to leave them to try to give up your job and pursue this. It does make you human. The reality is, actually even with not just clients, prospective clients, other advisors, this could even be with some of the more senior people you work with. Frankly, it should be on the senior people getting to know each other on a personal level. One of the partners I work with, he plays keyboard in a band. That’s so cool. I’m bass and guitar. He has a life out side of the office. I think young people coming up need to know it. These people that seems so scary, these partners and managing directors, they have lives too. Yes, it seems they’re working all the time, and a lot of them are. Really the ones that don’t have an “and”, the ones that don’t have a passion, that’s where you see a problem. How are they ever going to retire? How do they ever transition? It’s important. It makes you a better person, a full complete person. I think that it makes you better with colleagues and with clients.

    John: I agree totally, man. Thank you so much for recognizing that and seeing it in the real world. Because it’s not just my little make-believe bubble, Utopia world where it’s, but it’s true. The fact that these people have these outside-of-work hobbies and passions, and then letting people see that side of you, especially co-workers and colleagues. It’s hard to remember when you were 22 and coming out of school, scared about everything and just modeling whatever behavior’s in front of you. I guess that’s what I’ve got to do to be successful. Oftentimes it happens, I find, across horizontally, like a partner group. Yeah, we all know each other. Yeah, but does the staff or the senior associate know you? It’s gotta go vertical as well. Because I think it’s important that people see that we’re working so we can live. We all are. If anyone says that they’re not, they’re lying. They’re lying to themselves. They’re lying to everyone around them. You’re working so you can live. That’s why you’re doing this.

    Justin: I agree in general with you, but if you talk to my wife, she’d probably say, Justin, he’s doing what he’s doing for free. I’m a weird guy, clearly. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I was five years old, and I want to be a tax attorney one day. Now that I’m doing it, I certainly love what I do, but the reality is there are things I love, other than work. There are things I enjoy. The other thing, and it’s a really hard thing even for me to overcome that world, especially being mentored and knowing the people that came before me, of being able to be public and sharing those kinds of things and opening up to people, which has been great. Something that you cover in your book, What’s Your “And”?, it’s also something my wife has coached me on, over the years.

    My default for my office, especially now that we’re on Zoom where people can see your background. Before it was just, you’re in your office and you do conference calls, and maybe some co-workers see what’s in your office. You’d have your deal toys and your awards and your certificates and credentials. Don’t get me wrong. At this point, I’ve got diplomas and all kinds of honors. I could fill up a wall with it. Really from my warped sense of how I was brought up in the professional world, that’s how I was planning. Oh, I’m going to put up 12 different frames behind me. What a cool Zoom background. Then I have, you covered in your book, and my wife came to me and she said, “Justin, this isn’t a dentist’s office. They’ve already seen your bio. They’ve already realized. You’ve proven yourself. There’s no doubt of what you do, with your background and experience. They don’t need to see that behind you. You’ve got all these other things you’re interested in. How are you going to connect — and whether it’s their passion or a different passion, why not share some of you?

    One of the things we came up with, I still have my awards up on a shelf and that kind of stuff, but it’s a shelf. Instead, I put up one of the things — I love, music, so I took some of my favorite records. We got a little frame for them. Behind me, instead of having these certificates and awards and all that, we’ve got some awesome cool frames. I don’t even know if a lot of people know what records are nowadays. My kids certainly do. That’s how I was brought up, with music. That’s how I first started listening. I still have some of those original records. Not that I listen to them on the record player anymore, although I do like records, but now I got them framed. It’s a conversation piece at least. Even if you don’t like the same music as me, now we have something to talk about and connect on, beyond tax.

    John: Also too, when you’re not on Zoom, you see them, and you’re like, oh yeah, that brings me joy. Those are cool things. It’s a can opener for someone to be like, hey what are these? What’s this all about? No one’s asking about your degrees. What certificate is this, or what award is this? No one has ever asked that ever. You get questions on the other stuff. That’s so cool to hear, man. It’s great that you did that. You didn’t get fired. No one looks down on you. No clients are leaving. All the lies that we tell ourselves. If I show some of these, what’s going to happen? Well, the sky is going to fall. No, the opposite happens. Awesomeness. I love that. That’s so cool. I feel we should wrap this up, but I feel it’s only fair that I turn the tables, since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning of the episode, that we make this the Justin Miller podcast. It’s all yours. Whatever questions you’ve got, man, I’m all ready for it.

    Justin: Now we get to open it up to the world of John Garrett. Here are random questions to throw at you. Clearly, if you’ve seen any theme throughout this, I’ve got a food problem, especially junk foods. I’m going to turn it over now to, John, what’s your favorite dessert?

    John: Oh, man. That’s impossible. All of them, the sugary ones. I’ve seen you at the meetings. We’re both in Sugars Anonymous or whatever it’s going to be called. Favorite dessert, man, ice cream is solid, but it’s got to be with a brownie or chocolate cake as well. It’s like chocolate cake, probably cake with ice cream is always good. Cake, here’s the thing. When I grew up, we only had cakes at birthdays. All of a sudden, you become an adult, and you’re shopping in the grocery store. I look over at a box of cake mix is three bucks. You could make a cake every week for five bucks, all in, icing, eggs, whatever. Every house, if I run for any office, political, it’s every house gets free cake every week. Then we all have all the diseases that come with it. But cake, it’s so good in ice cream. That would be my favorite dessert. I combine them, but I feel it comes on a plate.

    Justin: You don’t even have to bake it out of the box. You can go to the grocery store, and they have slices. You just pick it up fully baked.

    John: You’re right. Actually, you don’t even have to make it. That’s a good point.

    Justin: I’ve never met a carb I didn’t like. Actually, this is what’s nice about, let me tell you, getting back to in-person conferences, because one of my biggest complaints about these Zoom conferences is the snacks. Where are snacks? Where’s my carb? I might have to buy a new belt once we start get back to in-person conferences.

    John: Totally. Totally. Get that elastic waistband suit pants like the jeans, stretchy jeans.

    Justin: If we have time, how about one more question?

    John: Absolutely.

    Justin: Here we go.

    John: It’s your show man. I’m just the guest.

    Justin: I’ve taken over. Final question for the John Garrett. We know you’re an entertainer, comedian. You’ve done so much stuff. I’m going to guess it’s a comedy in here, but I could be wrong. What is your favorite TV show or movie?

    John: Oh, wow. Yeah. Probably, Rudy is going to be up there, just because the Notre Dame connection.

    Justin: You should give that full, guess where John went to school. Notre Dame.

    John: Even if I just hear the music, I’m going to get emotional. Probably Dumb and Dumber is always good. You don’t even have to watch the whole thing. You can jump in the middle and then catch a scene or two and then leave, and it’s still hilarious. It’s not like you have to catch the good part. Dumb and Dumber, or Ace Ventura, also so good.

    Justin: You’re clearly a Jim Carrey fan. I’m seeing a pattern here.

    John: I love Jim Carrey. I love Jim Carrey till the end of the world. Then probably Goodwill Hunting is also a solid one, if I had to go semi-drama, I guess. Those would be, if I had to pick movies, it would be, all right, those are all pretty solid.

    Justin: I’m with you. Great choices.

    John: Okay. Good.

    Justin: You passed, John. You are great on your own show. Let me tell you. You’ve been a wonderful guest, John. Thank you.

    John: Now back to John. Here we go. Justin, thank you so much for being a part of What’s Your “And?” It’s been so much fun having you be here. Thank you.

    Justin: All right. My pleasure. I can’t wait to hear this and all your other podcasts. Once again, for those of you that haven’t read the book, I really mean this. It is a fantastic book. We should all try to incorporate this into our lives, into our professional and personal lives. What’s Your “And”? by John Garrett. Such a pleasure to be with you today. I hope you enjoyed the podcast.

    John: People listening, if you want to see some pictures of Justin outside of work, his book covers, maybe connect with him on social media or the links to the book, especially the new one, The Mysterious Mystery Man, all the links are at whatsyourand.com. You can go there and get everything. While you’re on the page, please click the big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to check out What’s Your “And”?, as Justin said, on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or all the other sites where also Justin’s books are.

    Thanks again for subscribing on Apple podcast 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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