Episode Number 97

Your Work & Your Life with Carl Smith

Jun 27, 2013 @ 11AM MT

Special guest Carl Smith of nGen Works joins the show to share his experiences and tips for prioritizing your business, family and personal life. We talk about focus, time, money, goals, priorities and how to make them all work for a more satisfying career and life.

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interviews
carl smith
business
career satisfaction
quality of life
expressionengine

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[Music]

Lea Alcantara:  You are listening to the unofficial ExpressionEngine Podcast Episode 97.  Today we’re talking to Carl Smith about shifting your business mindset from a focus on money to a focus on your needs, personality and lifestyle.  I’m your host, Lea Alcantara, and I’m joined by my fab co-host …

Emily Lewis:  Emily Lewis. 

Lea Alcantara:  This episode is sponsored by EE Coder, the EE experts who play with others.  Do you sometimes wish you had a trusted partner for your projects?  EE Coder brings over 40,000 hours of EE experience to companies with needs like yours.  Let’s chat, contact eecoder.com.

Emily Lewis:  The ExpressionEngine Podcast would also like to thank Pixel & Tonic for being our major sponsor of the year.  [Music ends] Hi Lea, how are you?  I missed you on the last podcast.

Lea Alcantara:  I missed you too.

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  But I’ve been crazy, crazy busy.  I’m sure people on Twitter kind of saw some hints as to why.  Long story short, I’ve moved to Seattle.

Emily Lewis:  You’re in America!

Lea Alcantara:  Yes.  America.  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  Yeah, so that was literally one week ago.  I flew in on Saturday last week and it’s been kind of a whirlwind ever since, and yeah, even though it’s been a whirlwind, I somehow managed to squeeze in the Seattle EE Meetup.

Emily Lewis:  Oh, now, is that your first meetup outside of like the EECI conference?

Lea Alcantara:  Yeah, yeah.

Emily Lewis:  How was it?

Lea Alcantara:  It was actually pretty awesome.  So the EE Meetup in Seattle is run by Matt Fordham from WINTR who was one of our guests a couple of episodes ago, and he had himself and the other speaker, his name escapes me, but he works for one of the outdoor companies here in Seattle and he did a talk on caching and Matt did a talk on how he launched the Sasquatch Festival site and had it not crash for the first time apparently in seven years.

Emily Lewis:  Oh, right.

Lea Alcantara:  So it was a really successful launch and he talked about like why was that successful and all that fun stuff so it was a really amazing meetup.

Emily Lewis:  So was it all new faces, or did you know some folks from previous EECIs?

Lea Alcantara:  I saw Leslie…

Emily Lewis:  Oh, Flinger.

Lea Alcantara:  Doherty.  Yeah, I had to pause there because I was about to say Leslie Flinger, but her real name is Leslie Doherty.  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  Doherty.  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  Yeah, so I was like yeah.  So I saw Leslie, and of course, there was Matt that we’ve met in Austin for EECI, but everyone else, I wasn’t really familiar with so that was cool.

Emily Lewis:  Nice.  So you’re already starting to make some connections in your new hometown.

Lea Alcantara:  Yeah, yeah.  I mean, Seattle has got such a huge tech and web community, so it’s really nice to meet up with a few familiar faces, or at least familiar names based on their Twitter handle.  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  Now, I’m sure you’re not completely settled in, but it feels like a good move for you in terms of quality of life?

Lea Alcantara:  I’m okay with trading in some rain and moving away from ridiculous winters.  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  Because my husband makes jokes that like we are a huge Game of Thrones fans and he talks about how Edmonton is like the Wall, the other side of the Wall.  [Laughs] 

Emily Lewis:  Oh right.  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  So I’m looking forward to the milder weather.

Emily Lewis:  Now, speaking of extreme weather, I heard some news that there was some flooding in Alberta?

Lea Alcantara:  Yeah, yes.  A little bit ironic since everyone talks about how Seattle has a lot of rain and things like that, but the rain here is pretty mild.  Alberta weather is very extreme so like when we get rain, we really get it like raining and pouring.  Unfortunately, in my home province in Alberta, that went way more extreme than it’s ever been in history.  There has been a huge flood in Calgary.  That’s not my hometown.  It’s three hours away from Edmonton, but they’ve just been devastated in the core there. 

So for those that are listening and have heard about the floods and the issues down in Calgary, the way you can help is by donating to the Canadian Red Cross because they are one of the first responders to help all the victims of the flooding so just visit www.redcross.ca.  For those in the area or those in Canada, some of you guys must have heard about the Calgary Stampede, and I just heard that they are still hopeful that they are able to still put on a show this year.  So it happens every year, the Calgary Stampede with cowboys and a whole bunch of like fun fare stuff.  So if you can attend, please attend because that would be great to support the community.

Emily Lewis:  Okay, great.  Now, let’s shift a little bit to talk about a little bit of EE news.  So Ryan Ireland recently posted on EE Insider about his upgrade from EE 1 to EE 2, and frankly, I was aware he was on EE 1 because we do post the podcast announcements.  But what I liked was he explained why he stayed on EE 1 for so long, and I think it really echoes what some of our clients may be experiencing that sometimes you don’t fix it unless it’s broken or when you just need something more that you can’t get with EE 1.

Lea Alcantara:  Yeah, absolutely.  It’s one of those things where at least for me personally from my clients, the moment they are like, “Oh, I want this to be done,” and it’s just extremely difficult or impossible in EE 1, but there’s already like a fully featured add-on for EE 2. It’s just like, “yeah, you need to move.  You need to upgrade.”

Emily Lewis:  Yeah, so we’ll include a link to that post in our show notes.  It’s definitely worth the read.  Another bit of news, sort of, is that at the recent Engine Summit, it was just about two weeks ago, EllisLab’s James Mathias joined the event and hinted at a forthcoming EE 2.6 release as well as some changes he’s been working on to the control panel interface.

Lea Alcantara:  Oh.

Emily Lewis:  I know, it sounds pretty interesting.  So we’ve reached out to EllisLab and we hope to get them on our schedule soon so we can share more details with our listeners.

Lea Alcantara:  Awesome, I’m looking forward to that.

Emily Lewis:  I know, me too.  All right, so today though, today we are going to talk about how to shift your business focus from money to quality of life with Carl Smith.  Carl is the owner and founder of nGen Works, an unconventional distributed company that works with businesses to define their identities and ideals.  Welcome to the show, Carl!  Thanks for joining us!

Carl Smith:  Oh, thanks for having me.

Lea Alcantara:  So Carl, can you tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself?

Carl Smith:  Sure.  I was actually a theater major. 

Lea Alcantara:  Oh wow.

Carl Smith:  … no clue about business, and then after 14 years in a full service agency, I started nGen Works with some friends and we started as a Flash shop which is kind of hilarious, and then a few years in, we had I guess an intern or somebody who came in, Travis Schmeisser. And Travis started telling us all about the ways we needed to do things and web standards, and he got us involved actually in ExpressionEngine way back then.  It was funny, even then we weren’t completely happy so Travis and Fred Boyle came up with a concept called Structure, which I would bet some of your listeners know about.

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  And so we still use ExpressionEngine today.  It’s our go-to CMS for almost everything.  Today it’s interesting because I guess it was 2010 when we took a huge shift from being a traditional company and a traditional hierarchy and going more to an opt-in model where people got to kind of pick and choose what they want to do.

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  So today while we are still doing a lot of marketing sites and things like that, we also have like a lot of the offline stuff we do and actually a lot of original development all the way up to enterprise level like accounting software nonsense. 

Lea Alcantara:  Oh wow.

Carl Smith:  So it’s been a wild ride the past few years, in the whole ten.  It’s kind of weird to see the company turn ten. 

Lea Alcantara:  Wow, congratulations.

Carl Smith:  Thank you so much.  It feels more like we’ve turned six and then we turned two and then we turned two again.

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  Because it seems like we just keep changing so much.  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  Well, is that notion of changing something that you think drives your perspective on balancing work and life?

Carl Smith:  I think it absolutely does.  The thing is, our team has changed from time to time, and I’m so focused on not doing anything in terms of the day to day, but making sure that I’m keeping up with what everybody needs and who they are.  So when somebody leaves the company and somebody new comes on, it really shifts that whole dynamic and that means that you have to kind of make tweaks and adjustments to make sure everybody is still able to have that freedom and flexibility that we pride ourselves on.

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Emily Lewis:  So let’s just talk about the basic idea of balancing work and life. 

Carl Smith:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  So I struggle with this every moment of every single day.  [Laughs]  I have to admit, it sounds good, but it feels very hard to bring into practice so I wonder if it’s just like a nice thing to say.  Is it a myth, or is this the reality?

Carl Smith:  I think the idea of balance is probably a myth.

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  I think the idea of focus is a reality.  I actually was talking with Brian [Zmijewski] from Zurb a couple of days ago, and it was weird.  We had very similar philosophies and completely different executions, but I actually have a list of three goals that I just keep in Trello account.  One is personal, one is family, and one is business, and when I get up in the morning, I kind of just give myself a few minutes to figure out what feels the most out of sync right now.  What am I most worried about is one way to put it.  But I look at those three options I have and I kind of prioritize my day around where I need the help the most.  If I find that my wife has got a really crazy day and I know that the company is doing fine, I will figure out how I can help her, right?

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  Or if my kids have something they need … Because ultimately I know if I have done a good day or not by how easily I fall asleep, right?  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  Sure.

Carl Smith:  So interestingly, Brian at Zurb … so I have just these three columns that I organize, he has this concept of a triangle and he had the exact same categories though, personal, family and business, and he says, “I can only focus on two a day.  So he rotates the triangle so that two are pointing up and those are the two that he will focus on. 

Timestamp:  00:10:00

But to give just a quick story, I was at Future Insights and it was the tail end of a two-week trip I do every year.  I got to Columbia, South Carolina for Converge and then I go to Future Insights in Vegas, and towards the end of that trip I always get really sad and I just miss my girls and I miss my wife and I miss my dogs.  I’m not saying they are equal missing.  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  But I miss all of them. And I called my wife.  It was the day before I was coming home.  I told her.  I was like, “I just feel so sad,” and she said, “You know, if you would just be here more when you’re here, it’s not as big of a deal when you’re gone.”

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  So when I got back, I sat down with my family and I said, “Look, I want to make an effort to be here more, what do I need to do?”  And my youngest daughter, Alyssa, she said, “When I come out to talk to you, if you could just close your laptop, that would be awesome.” 

Lea Alcantara:  Oh.

Carl Smith:  And so I was like, “Okay, okay,” and we’ve even gotten to a point as a family now where somebody will say, “Can we leave our phones in the car if we’re going out to dinner,” things like that, and all of those things help so much. Because the flip side of that is sometimes you’re worried financially and you want to make sure that, I mean, I’ve told each of my daughters to get one wedding.

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  And if there are two, they get to pay for the second one.  But the same thing with college or this or that.  So there are days where I wake up and I’m a little stressed on the money and I’ll just tell my wife, I’m like, “This is a work day, right?” 

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  And she gets it and I’ll make sure I leave the house.  Normally, I work in my backyard, but some days I’ve got a little office that I’m at right now, and I’ll just go to that little office and focus there.  But to answer that, I think the idea of a balance is probably a myth and it probably stresses people out tremendously.

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  But I think the ability to focus on the thing that needs you the most, I think that’s critical and letting every element of your life know when they are not the focus, I think that helps a lot too.

Emily Lewis:  Yeah, almost, I mean, it seems like it is a concerted effort, and it does require a shift in thinking to sort of take three priorities like the ones you described, personal, family and business.  But I like what you say about letting those other parts of your life know when they aren’t the focus because almost, I suffer from guilt all the time.  I always feel like I should be doing something, but if I can articulate that I can’t do something today, it will get done in a different time, and that guilt might feel a little bit less and make it easier to prioritize and focus.

Carl Smith:  I think that’s absolutely right, and you’ll be surprised how often those other elements of your life, they appreciate that you told them and they say no worries, we’ve got this.  We had a situation, one of the engineers, his wife had to have hip surgery. And we’re very open with personal things in the company because that’s the only way we can know what somebody is going through, and it was very much a, “Hey, take the time, don’t worry about working, just be there.”  Because you don’t want her hopping in the house by yourself while you’re trying to make a call.  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  Right.

Carl Smith:  Make sure that you are where you are at that moment.

Lea Alcantara:  What I’m curious about in practical sense, especially as a small business owner, how do you communicate that to your clients, because I think for me I know it’s insane, but I feel so guilty when I get sick.

Carl Smith:  Yes.  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  And like I literally cannot be on the computer, and I tell my clients and they are fine with it, but I feel so guilty that I have to say, “It needs a couple of more days or whatever before you get a deliverable simply because I am physically unable to do so.”

Carl Smith:  Yeah.

Lea Alcantara:  How do you balance that type of thing?  Especially when you’re working in a team, do you communicate that to your client immediately or do you just pass the responsibility to somebody else on your team?  How do these realities of making sure that your team and yourself is taken care of personally, while also taking care of your business and your clients?

Carl Smith:  I think a lot of it is different based on the context.

Lea Alcantara:  Sure.

Carl Smith:  We start the conversation with clients and prospects about who we are and how we work.  They know that our team, if they select to be on that client’s project that they are going to do amazing work because they opted in, because they committed to it.  Our clients get to know everyone on the team pretty well.  We do have project managers, but they still work directly with a lot of the people who are producing or developing, and there is a relationship there.  But there can come a time … so we have one project that has about nine people on it, for the most part, full time, and there is always going to be somebody that has something every couple of weeks when you have that many people.

Lea Alcantara:  Sure.

Carl Smith:  And if you start continuously communicating to the client, “So and so’s dog is really sick,” I mean, it sounds silly but it’s a real thing, and eventually the client is like, “Look, I don’t want to go to camp with everybody.  I just want this site getting done.”

Emily Lewis:  Right.

Lea Alcantara:  Yeah.

Carl Smith:  Now, generally, we work in two-week increments, so we will do sprints, and so if somebody is sick for one day or needs one thing for one day, they can make it up. So it’s not like we have to tell the client.  A lot of times you don’t even have to tell the team because we are completely remote.  I encourage people to let everyone know because if you feel like you’re a little short that day or you’re replying a little curtly, it’s good to know that there is something else going on, because we all envision that it’s us.  We’ve done something or there’s something wrong. 

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  But ultimately, I think for the team as I watch it, they make sure they have coverage.  So Greg Aker just went to Mexico last week and he made sure that there was somebody that was looking after his stuff while he was gone even though the client knew and the product manager knew.  I mean, everybody provided that coverage for him. 

We had a situation with Travis and Rachel Gertz who actually are from Calgary, so it’s funny when you guys were doing the intro because one of the things that happened to Basecamp was people started asking, “Are you guys okay?  Was your family okay because they are in Vancouver now?”  But Travis had a situation where he had to leave quickly because his mom had gotten in a car accident or accident on a three-wheeler and he had to leave, and so really quickly the team rallied and I told him, “I will contact your clients and let them know.  You let us know if you need anything financially or time-wise.”  Because he had to travel to Costa Rica where his mom was and make sure that Rachel, his wife, was able to go as well, and then the team kind of filled in.  The clients totally understood, but we had to cover it, but I think a lot of it gets to the team dynamic, not just the individual.

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  And size definitely plays a role in it.  There’s a lot of science around the number 16 where if you have 16 or fewer people and somebody is in need, somebody will step up to help.  If you have 16 or more and somebody is in need, somebody will say, “Shouldn’t we have someone who helps?” 

Lea Alcantara:  Interesting.

Carl Smith:  It’s a concept that their business becomes an entity that should have things, as opposed to a bunch of us trying to accomplish something and we have to help each other.

Emily Lewis:  Now, it sounds like at nGen you’ve created a culture where there is openness and communication and ability to shift a focus to a different priority is encouraged, but what about if you work for yourself, there is no one else who can cover or you’re working for an employer who is a real ball-buster when it comes to clocking hours?

Carl Smith:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  Is there something you can do individually, mentally to at least release the stress of it?

Carl Smith:  I would say at the very least try to find a social group, if it’s through Twitter, if it’s through Google group, if it’s through a Meetup, if it’s something like that.  I would say if you’ve got the client that’s the ball-buster, then you probably need to figure out where you should be because that’s not it. 

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  Also, depending on where you are in your career.  Like early on, money is a huge thing and you’re worried, you’re trying to prove to yourself that you can survive and so you take a lot of things that you probably shouldn’t. But at the time you need that base of money to stand on, I totally get that.  I’m not there anymore, but I remember it very well.  But when you’re working just by yourself, and I’ve never had that experience, so it could be total BS for me to reply. 

I would say the most important thing is to have someone.  I would recommend it’s not a spouse.  I would recommend it’s not a girlfriend or a boyfriend.  I would recommend it’s somebody else that you know that’s a professional, and maybe even like a mentor and a few years ahead of you that you can just say, “Am I crazy?  They just asked for 17 revisions, but want me to keep the delivery date?”  Or whatever it might be, or if you’re sick and you’re a single person, a solo flyer, I would say you just have to tell them.  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  I don’t know how, but there’s nothing else you’re going to be able to do except for being blatantly honest.  If the relationship is a good one, if you’ve done everything to date to establish credibility and deliver a really good product and communicate well, then you’re kind of cashing in on some of those points that you’ve earned already.

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Lea Alcantara:  Yeah, because you mentioned when I attended your workshop at Converge, you talked about finding that one person that gives you that straight no BS advice.  So why don’t you tell our listeners who that person is to you, and how did you find this person, and how can others find theirs?

Carl Smith:  You know, it’s interesting, I found mine at Converge actually.  It’s Leslie Jensen-Inman.

Emily Lewis:  Awww.

Carl Smith:  With Leslie, I don’t know what it was that day.  Shaun [Inman] was there, her husband, and the three of just kind of bonded and Ethan Marcotte was there, and I kind of felt like it was a coming out party, because even though some people knew who I was, I rarely went places, which is kind of fun to suddenly find a group of people. And Leslie and I just started talking about really serious personal things like family and business and relationships and all of these types of things.  She told me everything that was going on with her at the university.  When somebody does that, you just have this urge to share something personal about yourself, and I don’t’ think it’s ego driven.  It’s almost like making sure you got skin in the game.  You want them to know that you’re going to open up as well. And she was just really good at listening and helping. And it’s funny because my wife and Shaun both think that we’re total wimps. 

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  That’s not the word my wife used.  My wife uses a certain word that I will not say on the podcast. 

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  But Leslie and I will be like 11:30 at night and we’re both crying.  We’re just in tears on Skype like talking about something that’s going on. And since then, actually I had another friendship that’s developed… Where Leslie has never run a shop so she didn’t have that kind of experience, but Greg Storey of Happy Cog in Austin is now actually one of my best friends.  We’re like … weekly we talk.  We have plans for doing things together with projects and stuff, but the big thing is I have this amazing opportunity for nGen Works came in two week ago, and I could have called Leslie, but she wouldn’t have understood like the implication.  I mean, she would have a great perspective, but she wouldn’t have ever faced that demon head on, and so I just called Greg and we talked for quite a while, and it was just amazing.  So I’m very fortunate to have these two people now.  I would never get on the phone at 11:30 at night or Skype and cry with Greg.  [Laughs]

Timestamp:  00:20:13

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  That wouldn’t happen. But yeah, I think the most important thing is that it’s somebody who understands the context and they are not too closely connected to you.  Because if it’s a spouse or a loved one or a family member, they may lie to you, not even meaning to, but they just want to see you feel better.

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  They don’t necessarily, or they don’t want to deal with it if you’ve been married a long time, you know.  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  But I think that’s one of the critical things.  I mean, for example, the two of you may actually be that for each other in some level if you started this podcast.  I hear the banter at the beginning.  You guys obviously care about each other and like each other and love each other, but yeah, so that’s pretty much that.

Emily Lewis:  I like what you’re describing.  I do feel that way about Lea.

Lea Alcantara:  Awww.

Emily Lewis:  In fact, I think I feel often that it was for fortuitous that we did the podcast together because it’s since become one of those things where if I’m just venting, Lea is a good person to vent to about business stuff. But also Lea inspires me.  There is just that good connection.  I think that’s what it comes down to, you want to connect with someone who, like you said, has that same context and it’s not your spouse or close friend.

Carl Smith:  Yes, yes.

Emily Lewis:  But I want to just take a step and return to a point you brought up earlier, particularly in the early years, about money being a huge priority with starting a business and keeping it going.

Carl Smith:  Yeah.

Emily Lewis:  So money is frankly it’s what I think about every single day all day long.  I’m always worried about my bills getting paid.  It doesn’t feel good.  I don’t like the way it feels.  I feel like it leads me to make decisions such as you described, taking on a project that maybe isn’t the kind of work I want to do or working with a client who’s not ideal, but I cannot not think about the money part.

Carl Smith:  Right.

Emily Lewis:  So is there like a way that you can shift from the money focus to quality of client and project focus?

Carl Smith:  I think there is, but it is a leap of faith.  So to just give a little financial background.  I had a fair amount of money before starting nGen Works.  I was very high up at a full-service agency.  I made about a $130,000 a year in Jacksonville, Florida back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, so that’s like having a million dollars.  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  So I had a lot of money, and it was my wife who told me to quit my job because I was miserable and she told me the kids wouldn’t know that we were poor for like five years when they started comparing other kid’s shoes and asking questions. And so I quit that job and started nGen Works, and within five years, I was at $180,000 in debt.

Lea Alcantara:  Wow.

Emily Lewis:  Wow.

Carl Smith:  Yeah.

Emily Lewis:  Did you have an ulcer?  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  No, really, I became a very not nice person.  I was an ugly person.  I didn’t sleep well.  I was drinking too much.  I had all these problems coping with it.  I would wake up in the morning imagining everybody that I owed money would ask for it at the same time, and I would start my day that way.  I had to sell my house to family to get the equity out, to pay off $80,000 in credit card debt and all these other things, but I have that support mechanism.  My wife was there.  My two business partners were leaving and very much of this was because they knew that I love the company and not that they didn’t, but I that would it keep it going. 

They had other dreams that they wanted to pursue, and so I was so far down that I just kept going and going and going, and finally we got out of it.  I would say that the big shift for me though, and it sounds little silly, but when I started just studying philosophies and studying other things and realizing that the more I stared at the debt, the more the debt was going to grow, right?

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  And if I started staring at the good things like the ability to get work, or have people that wanted to work with us, or the quality of what we delivered, that those things would grow.  For me, it’s been very true and it ties back to Buddhism and it ties back to other things, but the things that you focus on will flourish and the things that you take your focus away from will die because they need that energy from you, but until you see it and until you see it work, it’s really hard to flip that switch. 

The other thing is for most of us, especially I’m a testament to this, if I did only what I have to do each week, I’d probably have 15 hours worth of work.  That’s just the truth.  I still put in like 30 or 35 because there are so many things I want to do and I just focus on them.

The one thing I told the team a long time ago was that money is just a byproduct of awesome. And if we sit there and we focus on money, we will make decisions based on fear or based on greed, and neither of those two are going to take us to the place we want to be so let’s focus on great work and happy people, both internally and externally and that will get us where we want to be. And honestly over the last two years, our revenue has come close to almost quadrupling. 

Now, our profit dropped a little bit, but it wasn’t that big of a deal because the overall amount got up so high, and honestly if I just sat there and kept looking at the money of it every day like doing P&Ls and cash flow analysis… You can watch the grass grow, but it didn’t help it grow faster.  You can watch your cash flow, but it didn’t help it flow better. 

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  I know I was theater major so what the hell am I doing trying to be a business guy, but yeah, I think it’s a leap of faith, but once you see it work a little bit, you really can turn that corner.

Emily Lewis:  Now, when it comes to that leap of faith and not focusing on the money but instead focusing on the awesome, did you know the passion pursuit when you made this drastic shift to step away from your salaried position, or did that evolve through that five years of struggle of where you wanted your focus to be, what your passion was?

Carl Smith:  I love that phrase passion pursuit.  I haven’t heard that before.

Emily Lewis:  I totally just made it up. 

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  Trademark that right away because I own … passionpursuit.com, I got it.

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  When I was at my full-service job, I was working 80 hours a week, occasionally a 100 a week and so there’s not many hours left when you’re working that much, and a friend of mine worked at an ad network called DoubleClick, and I was talking to him.  He lived in Chicago, but the company was in California, and I said, “Well, I don’t understand why you’re there.”  And he said, “Well, I only have so many ‘god years’ with my kids,” he goes, “and I want to be working from home.  I wanted to be at home as much as possible because as soon as they hit 12 or 13, you go straight from ‘god years’ to your ‘idiot years’ and there’s no buffer.  It’s like one day there’s an eyeroll and the next day they walk away from you, and so I always wanted to make sure I was home while I was a ‘god’.”  It’s like you don’t have those times where you catch a lizard, and they’re like, “How did he do that?”

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  And my kids are right now, my oldest is turning 12 on July 9th and my youngest is 10, and I’m not an idiot yet, but I’m starting to get the eyeroll a little bit.

But once I dove in, I think the biggest thing that pushed me was when you run your own company, there’s nobody left to blame.

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  When I was at the other agency, and my boss’ name was Melanie.  She’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life, I still blamed her for things, and obviously, that’s not how I would approach it, “Why have you done that, or why did you put that person on the project?”

Once you do it yourself, there’s nobody left to blame. And I couldn’t believe that if we were nice and we kept our commitments and we responded and did good work that we were going to fail, and so I kept leaning back on those things and saying, “I know we’re in the hole.” 

One of the biggest things we did out of the gate that hurt us was we undervalued ourselves, and I think that’s a big problem for a lot of people that come out and they just don’t charge appropriately for what they can do.  We started estimating everything at a $100 an hour when we started and it was strictly because it was easy to estimate it.

Emily Lewis:  Right.

Carl Smith:  So I think that’s the other thing when you first start out, don’t undervalue yourself. And this is something I told somebody last week.  I was like, “Consider if you’re a freelancer, a small shop or whatever, consider every opportunity an opportunity to tweak what you do and think of your company or your service as a prototype and try something new and to test this to the next person that comes in if it works or not.”  I think it might have been Andy Budd, but he said, “Just double your rate one point when you estimate and see how many people start saying no.”  If it’s less than half, you’ve won.” 

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  You know?

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  So I think those types of things are invaluable.

Emily Lewis:  Now, when someone is … whether it’s taking a step to run their own business or take a job with a company or leave a job at a company, basically looking at their career, what do you think is the greatest mistake people make when they are trying to decide the path they’re going to follow?

Carl Smith:  I would say that their reason for moving to the new location.  It’s very well documented that money is not a great motivator unless somebody is underpaid.  If somebody is paid in the correct range, then everything else matters like the sense of autonomy that they have a choice in the direction they go, and the ability to master whatever they are good at and they love. And then really purpose and collective action, being able to put that into play so that it helps others and it helps the group that they are with and the people that they love. 

So I think one of the issues is when, let’s say, somebody gets an offer, and this is something we deal with all the time.  We are on Apple’s radar and we are on Google’s radar and Facebook to a degree, and so these offers come in.  If somebody wants that offer because of the money, then there’s something else that’s wrong.  If they want it because there is this idea that they are going to be on the frontlines of building the future, that’s totally cool.

Timestamp:  00:29:51

I tell everybody when they first come in like if they worked once as an FrinGeneer or an NGeneer, or if they are part of the core team, or if they are playing a support role, I tell them, “You’re going to leave one day and it’s totally natural.  I just wanted to be for a good reason so never feel that you can’t share with me when these offers come in and I will be completely honest and tell you if I think it’s a good move for you or not.” 

So I would say that the biggest mistake people make is not really taking the time to think about what it’s going to be like in the new place and to really give them a chance to sit down and slow down and feel, “Does this feel good or do I feel scared?”  And then address those feelings because it’s rarely about the thing we tell ourselves it’s about because we hate confrontation so much for some reason, that they will bury the real reason and chase what’s an excuse for getting out.  Dime store psychology and again theater major, but that would be my guess.

Emily Lewis:  Now, if someone wants to make their career more satisfying, and I mean, it’s already clear that money probably isn’t the area you should be looking at to get greater satisfaction, but what would be some of the key areas that people should take a look at?

Carl Smith:  I’d say it’s anything that can give you energy back, and we all take energy in different ways.  For me, for example, doing this podcast with you and knowing that other people are listening and I’ll probably get a few emails or some people reaching out, knowing that I touched somebody and either they disagreed with me but made a decision or agreed with me and made a decision, but either way I influenced them, that makes me feel so good, like I’m not just here at my little world doing my little thing and carving out my part.  So for me, it’s giving 29 talks this year, right?

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  It’s having a podcast.  It’s trying to blog intelligent things because that brings back positive energy from me.  For some people money is positive energy, I mean, and there are people out there who they just want to make a certain amount of money.  I personally think that’s misguided and it won’t give them happiness and mental health, but my recommendation would be find the thing that just feel so good that may not even be related to the skill that you have. 

I mean, it could be that you’re a designer, but you just want to talk to other freelancers and help them avoid the mistakes you’ve made.  Anything like that where you can reach out and help the industry or even help your community, I think those things come back tenfold.  I just think that the goodwill that you put out brings the goodwill back in.

Lea Alcantara:  One of the things that I liked about your workshop at Converge, you spoke about this type of focus, but one way to continue to pursue that is getting rid of things that are in your way to pursue that goal, and one of that was the time-wasters.  What do you believe are the most common wastes of time that people do thinking it’s going to advance their career, but it really doesn’t?

Carl Smith:  Again, let’s hear from my perspective being the only one that I have.  I think the biggest time-waster is trying to respond to everything at the same time.  You’re never able to get those blocks of uninterrupted time, and we’ve all read the books by different people or heard it on podcast that you need those three-hour blocks and this and that.  I actually got to a point two weeks ago where I was just exhausted, and I analyzed it.  I backed up and I looked.  On average, I get a 140 emails a day.

Emily Lewis:  Oh, my God.  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  Of the 140, 90 are internal.  Of the 90, about 10 need my attention, so I seriously was able to cut more than half out by just telling everybody, “If you’re going to put me on the CC line, I just wrote a rule that’s going to put that in the folder and mark it as read.  If you really need my attention, then send me a text.”  And I told this to the core team, and what I did was I did two major shifts that have had huge impact for me.  One is I only check email three times a day.  I check it on my second cup of coffee.  I check it when I get back from lunch and I check it before I call it a day. 

The other thing that I did was I now only use my phone for communicating so unless it’s a video chat, I only send and receive email on my phone or things of that nature.  I use my iPad for consuming.  If I have my iPad, I’m training myself that means I’m reading, I’m educating myself or whatever. And only use my laptop for creating.  So if I’ve got my laptop, I have all of those other mechanisms closed and it’s just an experiment.  I don’t know if it’s going to work, but just the idea that if I can get my muscle memory to know to tell my brain, “Okay, we have the phone, we’re talking to people.  Okay, we have the iPad, now we’re supposed to absorb.” 

Because for me, it was this, I had all these devices which meant anybody can contact me at any moment, and even though they can’t see if I’m out on a bike ride or if I’m staring at their message, we’re compelled to reply immediately because we don’t want it to build up and so I think with inbox zero, even though I strive for it and maintain it, I think that kind of thing can be a huge time suck. 

I would also say responding to every inquiry right away, business inquiry.  I think one of the best things you can do is just shut things down and give yourself time to think and breathe and then come back to it.  I use Mailplane which connects with Gmail. 

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  It allows me to actually create emails but not have them go out right away, and it also allows me to use this thing called Boomerang, which means if I want to reply to something later, I can just put it into the future and it will come back. And I think that helps a lot too because I’m not ready to answer somebody’s question, I know if I send it away, that my brain will work on it in the background and there will come a time when it comes back and I will be able to answer it quickly whereas if I tried right there, I may spend an hour and a half trying to get the words right, and then when it comes back later, I can knock it out in five minutes because my brain has just gone through it.  So I think the biggest thing is just don’t get caught up in the trappings of technology and go for a walk.  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  When it comes to like managing your time or making the most of your time, I too have tried that Boomerang thing for Gmail, which I just love because it sends it away until I really can focus on it. 

Carl Smith:  Yeah.

Emily Lewis:  But I also find myself wanting to spend time on things that I think will help my career, but it’s only because I think that.

Carl Smith:  Right.

Emily Lewis:  For example, and I don’t want to discourage anyone from this statement because I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities I’ve gotten out of speaker at conferences or writing for different publications … But for example, I was asked recently to contribute to an online publication and I’m a writer and it’s not something that’s typically very difficult for me, although it can be time consuming, and my first inclination was to say yes because I’ve been doing that for years. 

Carl Smith:  Yeah.

Emily Lewis:  But I actually talked to Lea about this and I was like, “I’m not sure if this is actually a good use of my time because I’ve never gotten a client from writing something for an online publication.  I can’t recall of a referral from a colleague that may have come through that.”  And so it’s not really a time-waster because I’m contributing to the community, but I contribute in lots of ways, so I need to cut back on one or two and it started to feel like these things that used to be contributions are actually time-wasters that are keeping me from having the time to find the right project or find the right client.

Carl Smith:  Yeah.

Emily Lewis:  So what do you think about things like that?  It’s not really like a time-waster in terms of like plowing through email, but it’s a bigger time commitment.

Carl Smith:  You see, I think you’re making the right decision by not doing it because what’s going to advance you towards your goal today may not tomorrow, and it doesn’t mean you made a mistake getting to this point, it just means you’re at this point now and there is a different direction to go.  Anything that doesn’t advance you towards the goal that you have and a lot of people don’t have goals except to survive, but when you put those goals down and you write them down and you really shouldn’t share them with other people, I’ll just tell you that because those people will dissuade you [laughs] really quickly.

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  For example, I speak all the time, and this year I was like speaking all the time and really getting me where I want to go.  I do get work from it.  The industry probably feeds us a good half of our leads.  I haven’t done the research recently, but it was always around 45% of our stuff somehow came in through the industry.  Because we shut it down one time and things started to tank and I was like, “Turn it back on.  Turn it back on.”  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  And so for me, I know that those things work, but you have to have some sort of a metric to see.  Will [Reynolds], who runs SEER Interactive, he told me something over the past couple of days where when he gives a talk, he’ll go into Google Analytics and just search on his name for the one hour that he spoke and see if there is an increase in people searching for his name because they were in the audience and they wanted to find him or find out about him.  So those types of metrics to see if something is really advancing you or not I think is important. 

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  But if you feel it’s not, I would go with that feeling more than any metric.

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  Because if you don’t believe it’s advancing you towards what your goal state is or your next accomplishment that you want to do, then it’s not right.  I firmly believe in it, and this is how I start my days generally and the reason why email is the second cup of coffee.  The first cup of coffee is just sitting there with complete silence as much as my family will allow it, and I’m just having 15 minutes to think through what is it I’m supposed to be doing and how am I going to get there, and then I’ll write down the steps I can take that day and then I compare it to my to-do list, and if those two lists are out of sync too often, I will start to revise things that I commit to because I know that I’m just being nice instead of actually furthering myself and the people that I love.

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  So I would go with Emily and just say don’t feel bad about not writing or don’t feel bad.  The other thing is when you first started, you’re just so happy nobody cares. 

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  It sounds so real.

Carl Smith:  I wrote for .net [magazine] a few times and oh God, I love Oliver [Lindberg].  He just sent me another email and I’m like, “Oh, I don’t know.”  But it’s one of those things you have to.  I think as soon as you can stop worrying about what other people think, and I know we hear that from grade school on, and what other people think doesn’t just mean what you are wearing, but it’s how you reply or if you say no.  I think you can be really nice and say, “I think you’ve got a great publication.  I’m not just in a place where I have anything I can contribute of value.”

Timestamp:  00:40:10

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  And that’s a very honest thing because you’re going to force it, so I would listen to that inner voice and it would give yourself a chance to hear it and for me, it those 15 minutes every morning.  I wish it could be 30, but I’ll try to work up to that, but by then if something hits me that goes, “Oh God, that’s going to fall apart, I better jump on that.”  So you have to be good.

Lea Alcantara:  So this kind of leads me to the next question.  It feels like there are always advocates of either answer, but I feel like some people say that the more powerful answer is saying yes more often while others say you should say no more often, and at least the way this conversation has turned is, correct me if I’m wrong, leaning more to saying no than yes.  What is it for you, and why?

Carl Smith:  Actually, for me, if there’s a big decision that I have to make, and again, I do have long hair. 

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  I am becoming a hippie.  But for me, I have to just find a quiet place and just sit in the sun if at all possible and give myself like 15 or 20 or 30 minutes to think through the way through the decisions I’m going to go and what’s the story I can tell at the end.  Envisioning the story I can tell at the end is huge for me.  We have Microsoft try to come in the front door and the team kind of wanted it, but didn’t and all of these things, and so I had sat down and I gave myself the time to think it through and I said, “Okay, well, how does this story sound?  We were hired by Microsoft and we hated it and we made a lot of money.  Okay, I don’t like the sound of that story.  It’s not a good one.  How does this story sound?  Microsoft called us and we thought about it and we didn’t need it and so we told them no.  That sounds pretty damn good.

Lea Alcantara:  Yeah, yeah.

Carl Smith:  It’s like I still got the story.  I don’t have to take the work and put a logo on my website.  So what I would say is it’s about saying yes more to the right things and giving yourself a chance to understand what they are, and the same with no.  I’ve read a book called How To Do Nothing.

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  I really tried to follow the advice in this book and it basically says, “Just become an enabler for all the people around you.”  And there were four people who have been whatever they are doing longer and they have other people around them, and it really takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to do nothing, and it just sounds hilarious, but it’s so true.  So for me, I truly try to just help everybody else accomplish their stuff and sometimes that means I have to go and give a talk so that I can get more of a certain type of work for them to do what they are doing.

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  If you are to draw or chart NGen Works now, it would be me standing on the ground holding up this line that has everybody else on it, right?

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  Because all I’m trying to do is support this entire group, and it’s very exhausting sometimes because some people have more skills and experience, and then you have some people who have much more experience and when they are working together, it’s like I don’t understand why you would think that or why you would do that, and so my job becomes let’s facilitate that conversation and figure it out and be stronger at the end, and at the end of it, I haven’t really done anything or contributed to what they are trying to accomplish, but I have allowed them to be smarter and help each other.  So back to the original question though, I think it’s just about instead of being a pre-bundled response, instead of something that over the years somebody says you’re ugly and you say I hate you, if somebody says you are ugly and you sit there and think about it for a minute and you go, “Well, that’s fine.  It doesn’t bother.  I don’t even like you.  I am not going to the prom with you.”

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  But it’s just that thing, when somebody offers you an opportunity, you don’t have to jump on it.  You should take the time to think.  I won’t say who it was, but I received an email from somebody who’s super crazy and popular in the industry, and they wanted to have a few minutes with me to talk to me about something, and I looked at it and he was like muscle memory I’m typing, “Yes, anything for you, sir.”  I’m just like so excited, but then I stopped and I deleted it, and I said, “I’ll answer this tomorrow.”  Right?

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  Because I need to give myself the space to think about it, and you know what, the reason was, because initially they wanted to have a conversation while I was on vacation with my family, and I told my wife about this morning, and she said, “You can totally do that.”  I was like, “No, no, you have to understand if there’s a little crack in the fortress, [laughs] I might fall right back into my old ways which is sneaking off to have a business call.”  Some people sneak off to have a drink or an affair, I sneak off to have a business call.

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]  Yeah.

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  So yeah, it’s one of those things where if you just give yourself the time, eventually your body, the way you feel, the story you can tell, that gives you the guidance for a yes or no, and it’s important to think about how it impacts everybody around you that you care about too.  It’s not just about you. 

Emily Lewis:  So before we finish up today.  I kind of want everything you’ve described today, it really does sound wonderful, but on some level it sounds a little idealistic in the sense that it really requires, one, a leap of faith, two, a very thoughtful mindset that you really need.  It sounded like you need to maintain at all times.  But what about when you have a problem, a problem client, a problem employee, or a problem project?  Like when everything goes to hell, can you afford to be calm and patient and thoughtful, or do you have to be responsive before a problem becomes a disaster?

Carl Smith:  You see, I think it’s more important to be calm when that real problem shows up because if you try to force an answer, then you break something else.  That’s my belief.  We had a real situation that happened last week.  We have a fairly big client.  The project is about, to tell you, an $80,000 project. 

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  We are about 60,000 to it and we’ve been paid for the 60.  The client insider got fired, our internal contact, and there was this urge from the team to say, “We need to talk to the CEO right now.”  And what will happen is they’ll ask me my advice, but then they’ll do what they feel is right. 

Lea Alcantara:  [Agrees]

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  I never tell anybody to do something or not do something.  I just ask that they talk to me about it if they feel that there is some sort of a liability or an exposure or something that can hurt the whole team, and so we’re having the conversation and I was like, “What do you think is going to come out of the conversation with the CEO?”  “Well, we just need the CEO to understand that we have to finish and this and that.”  I was like, “Okay, what is the mindset of the CEO right now?  He’s just let somebody in an internal department go?”  “He’s probably in a shit storm.”

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  Yeah.  Because he maybe letting other people go.  It could be the financial health of the company is bad.  It could be the internal culture is bad.  What is his response going to be when somebody that he considers a vendor with a lower case V, what is his response going to be if somebody charges in there and says, “We need to finish, or we have an agreement, or something like that.”  It’s not going to be good.

So they took the time to think about it and came back and said, “You know, we think we should just walk away.”  I was like, “Yeah, I think that’s a good choice.  We’re at an even keel point financially.  We’ve done good work that we like, but we know that their board of directors doesn’t like it, and in fact, their board of directors is always a red flag, and the other part is we’d get our lives back, and we don’t have to contribute.”  And to your point, Emily, I mean, maybe that is just a bad judgment call from the beginning if it was fast or slow.

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  But because we were calm and we talked about it and we just said, “What’s the best the result,” we ended up in a much better place.  I used to fly off the handle all the time.  That’s the other thing that’s tough for me.  To communicate sometimes is I’m an absolute control freak.  One of the reasons we went distributed was because I couldn’t stand to watch other people work.

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  Like if I see them work, I do the walk by.

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  So what is going on?  I’m just getting coffee.  What are you doing?

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]  Office Space.

Emily Lewis:  Yeah.  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  Exactly, and really it was kind of at that level, although I tried hard for them not to feel it, but I know that they did.  We had a situation where a client basically told us that the work we were doing was crap and that they weren’t going to pay a bill, and at that point, the team pulled the rip cord and asked me to step in, and I just got on the phone with the client and said, “Well, what’s crap about it?  Like walk me through the situation and how you’re feeling.”  And he was like, “Well, it’s taken me too long.”  “Okay, well, let’s look at that.  Let’s look at why it’s taking too long.”

Maybe the difference between rushing in versus being non-confrontational is a little different too.  I’ve always had a lot of success with asking a client who is upset, “What do you think we should do” versus pointing you something or being the dog that’s been kicked so many times, I just assume this person is going to be jerk too.  It’s because nobody hires you to fail.  Nobody gives you that deposit to try to ruin the next three months of your life.  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  Right.

Carl Smith:  They want you to win.  They want you to succeed, but the last one I’ll say in terms of when something really goes wrong, we are working with the Girl Scouts, and I keep waiting for them to call because I use this example and say the name every time because it was that bad.  Never work with the Girl Scout’s kids. 

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  We had somebody on a call say they didn’t give an F what was agreed to, what was signed off on, what was in Basecamp, that we were there to do what they told us to do, right?

Lea Alcantara:  Wow.

Carl Smith:  And somebody who is one of my good friends and have been with the company for a long time called me crying.  She was just like, “I don’t know what to do.  I want to do great work, but I don’t like these people, blah, blah, blah.”  If you want to talk about a time where I wanted to just rush in there and tell them what they could do with their cookies.

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  That was the time, but instead I just backed up and sent an email out to the entire Basecamp thread.  It should have been a phone call.  That was a tactical error on my part, but I wanted everybody to hear it and basically I just said that we were nice people and we were good people and that we wanted to fulfill our commitment to what we had agreed to, but if the things were going to get abusive and they were going to get confrontational on the level that people didn’t like working every day, that we weren’t going to be able to finish anyway so we would rather just sever ties, and the CEO pretty much removed the people that had been working and put a new team in place and we went forward.  We worked with Facebook, it didn’t work quite so well.  We said they were very confrontational and angry.  Just really you shouldn’t work with nGen Works is what I think I’m saying.

Lea Alcantara:  [Laughs]

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Carl Smith:  So I think there are times where you have to act quicker.  I think silence is the enemy. 

Emily Lewis:  [Agrees]

Carl Smith:  I think you don’t want somebody to fill that void with their own response, but I think you ought to know inside if you’re ready or not, and you know in your stomach if you’re really nervous, right?

Emily Lewis:  Right, right.

Carl Smith:  Until you have that confidence, and I even script things out.  I think when you’re doing damage control, it’s just as important to sit there and ask yourself what’s the outcome, what’s the story, how does this play out versus just charging in.

Lea Alcantara:  You know what I find interesting is I wonder if that’s partially due to the fact you’ve got that theater arts background.  You’re dealing with stories all the time so you’re kind of writing a script in your head perpetually. 

Carl Smith:  Yeah, I think you’re right.  I was a duet improv person.  I competed around the States and won a fair amount.  Actually, I had an amazing partner, Brian, and I encouraged, when I was at this owner camp which is this getaway for owners of shops and one of the other owners said, “What can I do to be better on dealing with employee situations and when I get into these client situations?”

I wasn’t the only one who said it, but take some improv classes or get an improv group to come in to your location, and it sound silly to role play, but when you do it, it helps train you how to respond.  It’s no different than taking martial arts or yoga or anything else.  All these things train you how to react to your environment, and when you get, not even good at improv, but just comfortable with improv, suddenly there is real world situations that show up that allow you to play things out in your brain a little bit before they come out.  I think it’s just critical to success. 

Daniel Pink in his new book, To Sell is Human, he talks through the importance of improv and how it can really help people, so I think you’re probably right the theater background helps. 

Lea Alcantara:  Awesome, Carl.  This has been a fire hose information. 

Carl Smith:  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  But we got to cut it off because that’s all the time we have for today. 

Carl Smith:  Well, no worries.  Well, I hope it was helpful and if there’s anything else I can do, I love the ExpressionEngine community and I love the Podcast so just let me know.

Lea Alcantara:  Awesome.

Emily Lewis:  In case our listeners want to follow up with you, where can they find you online?

Carl Smith:  Oh, on Twitter, I’m just @carlsmith, and actually if anybody wants to email me, that’s fine too, it’s carl@ngenworks.com.  Just realize I’m only going to respond one of three times during the day.

Emily Lewis:  [Laughs]

Lea Alcantara:  Awesome.  Fair enough.  Thanks Carl.

Carl Smith:  Oh, you’re welcome.  Thank you so much for having me on the show.

Emily Lewis:  It was fantastic!

[Music]

Lea Alcantara:  Now, we’d like to thank our sponsors for this podcast, EE Coder and Pixel & Tonic.

Emily Lewis:  We also want to thank our partners, EngineHosting, Devot:ee and EE Insider.  If you are interested in supporting the podcast through sponsorship, please visit ee-podcast.com/advertise.  We have some spots open this July and August.

Lea Alcantara:  Also, thanks to our listeners for tuning in.  If you want to know more about the podcast, make sure you follow us on Twitter @eepodcast or visit our website, ee-podcast.com.

Emily Lewis:  Don’t forget to tune in to our next episode when Angie Herrera is joining us for our Get to Know #eecms series.  Be sure to check out our schedule on our site, ee-podcast.com/schedule for more upcoming topics.

Lea Alcantara:  This is Lea Alcantara…

Emily Lewis:  And Emily Lewis…

Lea Alcantara:  Signing off for the unofficial ExpressionEngine Podcast.  See you next time!

Emily Lewis:  Cheers!

[Music stops]