Episode 55: Maintaining Focus During Disruptive Times

You know those times in your life that you wish you could control, but you can’t? That’s the current state of my life. That’s the current state of my family’s life. That all of my friends, the entire country seems to be in this issue of self-isolation. Good morning! I’m Jimmy Williams with Live a Life by Design your Monday morning moments of motivation to help you live life in a bigger, better, and bolder way.

Today is especially a difficult time for all of us that are gregarious, that enjoy going out and meeting friends. Having dinner in a restaurant where you can sit and enjoy a great meal. Perhaps even going to your most favorite theater or listening in a concert and having a good time. We are stricken with this pandemic that has changed our lives forever. But here’s the point I want to make today. You do not have to allow disruption to control your life. You must still lead your teams. You must lead your family. You must lead your life because we only get one life. And whether or not we can control the atmosphere around us is irrelevant. We must take what we can control, as I mentioned on the previous episode, and take those items of control and utilize them. The biggest problem I see right now is we have a lot of people on social media far too much or perhaps watching TV news far too much.

The whole point about that is planting those seeds of, ‘oh my gosh the world’s coming to and end’ or ‘I can’t live my life as I used to’. You know, that doesn’t serve us well in our lives today. We must live in the present. That’s what we do at Live a Life by Design we take each minute and we make it our own. And that’s what’s great about today. I have a special guest today, a dear friend. I hope she counts me that way. But she is in my top 1% of people I just love and adore. Her personality is outstanding. She’s just a professional to the nth degree. Like to do this morning the best way I can, it is a privilege to have you as a guest today, Amy Welch.

AW: Good morning Jimmy, thanks so much for asking me. I’m flattered.

JW: Well, I’ve got to tell ya. This was hard too folks, but she’s in such high demand that I had to place this call like months ago to get through her agent, I guess, to get her on this show. So, Amy how are you doing?

AW: I’m good. I’m good. I’m going a little stir crazy, but you know, you’ve got to look at the bright side of things, and that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to get outside a little bit, because Oklahoma does has some beautiful spring days. So, it’s nice in the middle of the day to be able to just walk outside, you know, take some fresh air in, take the dogs for walks. Whatever it is, you know, just to break away from the office because as you know I work in an office building where, you know, it’s about 15 minutes to get outside.

JW: Absolutely, now you work with a team. I want to fully explain. Amy serves as our Vice President of Communications for the Oklahoma Society of CPAs. This is Oklahoma’s only CPA association. And Amy, you have a pretty difficult job. You’ve got 6,000 plus members always demanding something of you. In terms of communication, marketing and so forth. My goodness, just tell me what’s a typical day like for you nowadays?

AW: That assumes there is a typical day.

JW: Good point.

AW: Every, I think we start every, I start everyday like most people and that’s pretty much making sure, going through all of your messages. Making sure you haven’t missed a fire. Which these days, it’s probably more likely for the past two weeks we’ve missed important messages that need to go out. And just as soon as we can roll out of bed and get to the computer to get them up. So, I think before where you would get up, get your coffee, get ready and then go into the office and then sit at your computer and then start working. Now it’s, get up, check your computer. You know, check your messages, just make sure that you haven’t missed something that is just imperative to get out as soon as possible. And then hopefully by 8 o’clock you’re ready, and you’re still sitting in front of your computer. But you’ve been checking it every ten minutes. The commute, I’m glad I don’t have that any more, but I mean, if you, I’m not really saving any time because I’m still working during what would have been my commute. I’m still checking my messages, checking my computer. Checking my emails, just making sure that nothing has slipped past me.

JW: You know, you are an incredibly busy person. So I’m glad you said that famous word that I actually espouse, is getting up early. I like to beat the crowd before they start coming on board with all their questions and the teams needing something from me, and the phones ringing and so forth. I would really say, getting up about 5:30 in the morning is how I get the head start on all of my days. What time of day do you normally arise and start your day?

AW: I like to be up by 6 o’clock. I have a favorite radio program I like to listen to, and that kinda eases me into my morning. And you know, that makes me feel like I’m not quite so alone. I’m sure a lot of people may feel that way when you’re listening to something that just kind of maintains normalcy. It feels, you feel a lot less alone.

JW: Well, now, Amy explain something to me. I’ve known you a long time, as I said. But now, give me a little picture of your childhood. Are you an only child?

AW: No, I have an older sister, but she’s six years older than me.

JW: So that would put her about 35?

AW: Bless you.

JW: She’s six years older than me so we weren’t terribly close growing up. And we’re not terribly close now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love her any less, we just grew up with different responsibilities. Different sets of expectations, I think, because we lived our lives differently. Which is not to say one is better than the other, it’s just we have very differing opinions of what we want our own lives to look like. And sometimes our paths coincide, and sometimes they just don’t.

JW: So, you were raised near the Oklahoma City area, I understand. One of the suburbs, right?

AW: Yes, yes.

JW: What was the mascot of your school, if you don’t mind me asking.

AW: We were the Midwest City Bombers.

JW: Bombers, oh wow, well, that’s pretty cool. Cause you’re next to one of the largest Air Force bases in the United States, by the way. For those that don’t know the Oklahoma City area. So let me ask you this, how in the world did you determine that you wanted to be in journalism and communications?

AW: Well, Jimmy, I grew up really, I loved Barbara Walters. I thought, I had a lot of admiration and respect for her. I thought she was amazing. She just always fascinated me, really fascinated me. I kind of leaned into the marketing just a little bit because my mom said that growing up I would never sit and watch a TV program, but I was fascinated by the commercials.

JW: That’s interesting.

AW: So I guess you can always say I kinda knew I needed to be in the communications/marketing area from a very early age.

JW: Well, that’s interesting. You attended a university that’s near and dear to my heart, and I don’t mind giving them free press here on the Live a Life by Design podcast. What would you say is the name of the university you gained your degrees from?

AW: Well, I have a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from the University of Central Oklahoma and I have a masters degree in Public Relation Management/Journalism from the University of Oklahoma.

JW: We want to make that clear folks, that is The University of Oklahoma on this show. Been a long time student, I’ve been a long time season ticket holder, my daughter graduated there with Honors, just like Amy. I tell you what, a lot of talented people came from that university, in my opinion. But I digress.

AW: It was great, it was fun.

JW: So Amy, who are some of your mentors. You mentioned Barbra Walters, now for some of our younger listeners, they’re probably going, who? But who are some of your mentors that you have in your career?

AW: I think career wise, my first mentor probably would have been someone like Barbara Walters. I also loved, I don’t know if anybody would remember the TV show, Murphy Brown?

JW: Oh, absolutely.

AW: But my friends and I, when we were in high school, watched her all the time. Just loved loved loved her. She was great. So, you know, that kind of shaped it a little bit. I had teachers who believed in me from a very early age. I was recruited into journalism when I was in junior high, actually. You weren’t allowed to just sign up for it as an elective. You had to be invited to join the newspaper and yearbook staff. And I was one of two people in 7th grade invited to join in 8th grade.

JW: Oh, wow.

AW: So, there were only two 8th graders on the entire staff, and then once you got past 8th grade then you could choose it as an elective for 9th grade, but you still had to be selected. But I was kind of recruited in. And I just kind of stayed on that path the entire time. I did stray a little bit in college, and I took, I changed my major for one semester. That didn’t last long.

JW: Got back on track.

AW: I had teachers who believed in me and, like my PR teacher at UCO, Jill Kalthie, she was a great mentor to me. I really admired her. And right now, believe it or not, I would say one of the biggest mentors of my life is my immediate supervisor right now, Patty Hurley, she’s the COO of the OSCPA. And she’s been there for 30 years and I have a tremendous amount of respect for her.

JW: You and I are in good favor with her, I hope, at this point. That lady has got a tremendous impact on a lot of us, in that association I assure you that.

AW: She’s fantastic. She’s the epitome of customer service and dedication, in my opinion.

JW: I don’t think she sleeps. Now I hope she listens to this podcast, cause I swear that woman never sleeps. If you go to a conference or a board meeting, she seems like she’s spot on, always prepared, ready to go. Like you said the epitome of a professional, but she’s such a great leader in that regard by living by example.

AW: She does, she’s very impactful on my life, as a professional. And I couldn’t thank her enough.

JW: Since we’re on that goal of talking about leadership at the Oklahoma Society of CPAs, how are you keeping yourself engaged and productive while working remotely away from your team?

AW: Personally I have a lot of responsibilities and I’m not the kind of person that likes to drop the ball, ever. And I also don’t like to leave things setting, you know, waiting to be done. The longer my to do list, the more stressed I become. So, personal motivation is pretty easy, it’s just knowing that you have a lot of things to get done. You know, the quicker you can get them done, the quicker you can turn it around, the more things you can tackle. And I like to be able to accomplish a lot of things. So, I’m not one to just sit around and wait to be motivated. I’m motivated personally by setting goals and achieving them, which I know a lot of people are. Team wise, I would say our strategic team we keep the entire staff involved. We’re all, we all have a project management software called Basecamp, for those of you that don’t know, it’s a lot like Microsoft Teams. Where it allows you to set up projects, set up tasks, communicate with each other in different groups based on what you’re working on, what your project is and what your level of involvement in that project. So, we’ve got a headquarters, which is all the staff. We’ve got a management team, which is a few members of the staff and then we’ve got a strategic team, which is five members of the team. So, we meet regularly, every single week. We communicate almost every single day, whether that’s, yesterday I was not near my computer most of the day because I have a family member who was in the hospital, and I was still able to communicate with them just using my phone. It didn’t require being next to a laptop. In order to let them know what, you know, weigh in on certain publications, or certain other projects that we’re doing. So I think project management software is something that everyone should take advantage of. Especially if you’re having to work from home, it helps keep people stay engaged with each other. You mentioned conference calls that kind of have a fun theme or a way to make people laugh, you know, first thing in the beginning of the week. To try and make sure that everyone understands that we’re all in this together, just kind of lighten the mood a little bit, make sure everyone gets that you’re not alone, even if you do live alone.

JW: You know one of the things I do try to take pride in as a leader is trying to influence my team throughout their emotions during times such as this that can be very stressful for people. We have some people on our team, Amy, that have small children. And they’re expected still to take care of their responsibilities, of course, but we give a lot of latitude this time of pandemic suffering, if you will. We give them a lot of latitude, they can get that work done whenever they need. You know, one of them has an infant child, for example. They may want to let that child sleep in and do their work early in the morning, and then they have to be up all afternoon with the child taking care of business. That’s the priority we believe in. But you’re right, we still believe in having fun where we work. I guess the day comes, Amy, when there’s no longer any way to have fun with it. I’m probably gonna switch gears, you know, pivot somewhere else and do something, I don’t know. Maybe a nightclub act. What are you thinking?

AW: Oh, I think that’s great. Let’s do it.

JW: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, I got a couple more questions I’d like to ask that’s gonna be a little touchy, perhaps. If you could, enjoy dinner, now just dinner, no whole night out on the town in Vegas or anything, but just dinner. If you could enjoy dinner with just one celebrity, who would that celebrity be? And this might give you a hint plays Bon Jovi in the background Do you recognize that song, Amy?

AW: Was it Bon Jovi, by any chance?

JW: How did you know? Folks, I got to tell you, this lady has got, didn’t you get a guitar signed by somebody that’s famous?

AW: Yeah, yeah, I have an autographed Jon Bon Jovi guitar on my wall. A gift from one of our members.

JW: Wow.

AW: That same member also, I guess he’s gone to, he gets a lot of autographed memorabilia all the time, so I’m very blessed that when he gets something from Jon Bon Jovi or the band Bon Jovi he thinks of me. A different member from Tulsa got me a BOK Center coster that says ‘Bon Jovi SOLD OUT’. It’s framed on my wall. I mean, I’m actually standing in a room where I’m surrounded by autographed memorabilia, so I’m very blessed. But, yeah, absolutely, I am a huge Bon Jovi fan, and I had floor seats to see him in June, I don’t know if that’s gonna happen.

JW: Now, what she’s saying folks, is our life has been augmented somewhat, because I gave up tickets to a great concert as well, for my birthday from a friend. And it got postponed til September, so I’m hoping that your Bon Jovi concert, along with floor seats will be sometime later this fall.

AW: Oh Jimmy, my whole summer tour with Bon Jovi, that’s the June one, they’ve already postponed Collective Soul in May, Bon Jovi is still on the list, but Black Crows is right before that that I’ve got seats for, oh gosh I forgot the name of the band.

JW: Well, when you’ve seen so many.

AW: Maroon 5!

JW: Maroon 5, yes.

AW: Maroon 5, yeah. I mean, just you know, concert after concert. I feel sorry for the people who bought, you know the arena tour.

JW: The VIP tickets, yes.

AW: Yea, the, my goodness, those were such expensive seats, I can’t imagine being told now that you’re not going to go get to see that concert.

JW: Well, or even though they had those, I understood at the time this pandemic hit our state. The concert I was going to see was actually on March the 12th, the day after my birthday, and they called the show off literally that afternoon before the show cause we had to drive a little ways to get to Tulsa for the show, and they even announced before that, even if they have the show the VIP ticket holders couldn’t go back and talk with the band for fear of, you know the contagious issue of having perhaps this asymptomatic fever and didn’t even know you were sick, but you might get the band ill. So, I tell you, it’s just a whole different world, right?

AW: Right

JW: So, I want you to know, I like my old rock n’ roll the old fashioned way. You know, without coronavirus, but anyway.

AW: I think most of us would agree with you.

JW: I like just good old rock n’ roll where I can understand the lyrics, and they jump around on stage with no fevers, no issues, ok?

AW: Right, right.

This episode of Live a Life by Design is brought to you by the Oklahoma Society of CPAs. In times of crisis, Oklahomans have been known to come together. That includes CPAs. Recently passed legislation for individual and business relief call for the guidance of financial pros. Whether you’re filing taxes, qualifying for maximum stimulus payments, or applying for emergency loans or grants, your CPA can offer the best advice for your situation. Get a free referral and consultation at findyourcpa.com, that’s findyourcpa.com. The Oklahoma Society of CPAs, accounting for everything.

JW: So, hey, let’s get serious for just a moment. And you know that’s not really my palette, I’m much more of a fun guy, but I do want to ask a few serious things. We have a lot of great listeners that have overcome some very challenging times in their lives. And they’ve always come out and said, ‘hey, going through this valley really made me see the highest of peaks on the mountain top in front of me and then I achieved whatever that goal was after that valley’. What’s been some of the most challenging periods of your life and how did you feel when you overcame them?

AW: Gosh, that’s a really tough question. I really don’t know anybody who hasn’t faced adversity. But I will say that for a stretch there, I was really tested. Really tested. I went through a divorce, and then within, oh gosh, 8 months my mother passed away unexpectedly and suddenly. Which that was probably the most devastating thing I had to deal with. And then, probably 11 months after that, I think, maybe a year later, I was still kind of struggling there, and I ended up getting involved with somebody that’s just not a nice guy and I let him, you know, kind of be a very horrible person to me. I didn’t keep my standards high enough for myself. I didn’t love myself enough to make him go away because he wasn’t the best person for me. I think when you go through a lot of that, you really feel low. You feel like it can’t get a whole lot worse. And there are certain personal struggles you deal with trying to figure out how you could have not seen certain things, or not been better at other things. And I think it just takes, it takes someone else, and it takes a village, really. And I am very fortunate that I am surrounded by a village of extremely professional, very smart, very wonderful women, and we all support each other. We’re all friends. It’s the, you know, somebody could call you in the middle of the night and say ‘I really need your help’, and you’d drop everything to go to them, because they need you. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by just some really smart, funny beautiful lovely women. Who are just, we support each other, 100%, support our career goals, support our personal goals. We’re there for each other. I just cannot imagine overcoming all of this, or all of these things without having the support of other people to show their love and support for you. It can be very hard to see the mountain tops when you feel like you can’t get out of the valley. So I’m grateful for that. I think that is a blessing that God has given me. Just kind of understanding that he knows what is necessary to help you, and having faith that it will happen.

JW: You know, that is a very powerful story. There may be a book in you Amy, that you don’t realize, that needs to get written at some point. That is very, very powerful.

AW: Thank you.

JW: Let me ask you this, though, you’ve been in your career for how many years now?

AW: Oh boy.

JW: She’s only 29, folks, so it couldn’t be that long.

AW: Ah, 25 years.

JW: 25 years, wow. I will say this for full disclosure. Amy and I have shared radio interviews, TV spots, she even had the ability to get me to Oklahoma City, a two hour drive from where I reside, and be there like some crazy time of 6 o’clock in the morning, I believe it was one time, or something for an early show. And all she had to say was, “Jimmy, I really need somebody”, and boom, I’m up there. So it didn’t take much. So, let me ask you, what does the next phase of your career look like, for Amy Welch?

AW: I’m very excited that I’m going to start looking at new challenges, and one of those challenges is going to be fundraising for our educational foundation. I’m embracing this opportunity to learn more, to get more involved, and I think the thing that I’m most excited about is that I will be learning how to do something that I know is going to benefit myself and my community later. I’m very, very big into giving back to the community. I volunteer for several organizations and if I can learn how to be just the very best fundraiser. If I can be as good at that as I am at PR I have no doubt that I’ll be successful. So I really am just looking forward to this new challenge, this new chapter, if you will. And looking forward to how I can eventually use that to benefit the organizations around that are doing such great things in Oklahoma now, and you know, in the future.

JW: You know, that is powerful. And I will say this, anytime you can take yourself out of the norms, or what I like to say is always keep yourself comfortable with discomfort. Does that make sense?

AW: Oh, yeah. And if nobody understands that now, I don’t think they ever will.

JW: Absolutely, I think it applies very much for right now and the time we see us in our ecological environment. Just going to restaurants, and having to be handed your food in your car in front of a four star, five star restaurant. It’s so funny, we, our family has made it known to the community that anyone that has closely held family owned restaurants, or franchises in our community, Amy, we are ordering three nights a week, because those businesses have been so decimated from this, and their traffic is down so large. Is that we’re trying to help keep them afloat in this time of pandemic. And like you said, helping others really is what drives our growth within ourselves, wouldn’t you agree?

AW: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think anytime you can do that, give a piece of yourself and try to help other people, it boosts you up too. It lifts your spirit. You know, you understand that you’re not the only ship on the ocean. And you need to be there for other people as they’ve been there for you.

JW: So one of the things I’m encouraging our listeners to do today is just do that, in your local community. Find some family owned business that really is suffering through this time and reach out to them in some form. I promise you if they’re a sit down restaurant they will do curbside service, they may even do delivery. Whatever’s necessary to make certain that they can still stay in business and provide the great service they always have for their communities, and that’s all they want to do is to continue the tradition of what they’ve been doing. And we’re doing that for the Oklahoma Society of CPAs members, are we not, Amy?

AW: Oh absolutely, we’re trying to make sure that our members are available to help their businesses in their communities. To help with the new legislation, to help the businesses stay afloat. To give the very best, you know, business advice and tax advice that is out there. They’re available. So if you’re looking for someone, it is absolutely free to anybody to go to find yourcpa.com and you can find somebody who can help you in your area who will give you a free consultation. So, the referral is free, the consultation is free. Just get out there and find some help if you need it, because they are members, 6,000 strong, are out there and willing to help.

JW: Did I mention folks, that she’s a professional. She said findyourcpa.com, did I say that right?

AW: That’s exactly right.

JW: And then you said, free, the word free folks, about four times. So, I think what we’re trying to say here is folks, reach out to findyourcpa.com if you have any assistance needed for getting some aid from the disaster relief, whatever’s necessary to keep your business afloat. I believe that we need to start putting more unity in our community, Amy, that’s the phrase I’ve been using during this pandemic. Because it’s so hard to be together, but we can certainly be together by heartstrings, by emotion, and by supporting each other as needed. So, one of the things I do want to follow up with, before we close out. If you could leave our listeners today with one word, or one statement of advice about their career, about influence to others, about serving others, what would that be?

AW: Tough one, I’m a never give up, never give in kind of person. I believe that your challenges are always going to be there. Your mountains are always going to be there to climb. It’s real easy to give up. It’s much easier to give up than it is to keep going or to find a way around or to find a way up. I really think that everybody has it within them to overcome. But, taking the easy way out is giving up and finding a way to overcome will just continue to build your strength and continue to build your character. So never give up, never give in.

JW: Wow, I like that. I gotta tell you, you sound like a much prettier Winston Churchill. And what I mean by that, your hair, much better hair, I promise you that, but Winston Churchill, Sir Winston Churchill, as he’s known know, former Prime Minister of England, is one of my heroes that I love to read about, Amy, in historic fashion, he is the premier leader I read the most about from that era of about 1933 to 1945, just during the time of WWII and the decisions he had to make had to be gutwrenching to send those young men into battle and to basically find himself at a point in his career that he is now the heart and soul of his country and he had to dispense himself out to keep others motivated. What do you do to help motivate those around the Oklahoma Society of CPAs office? How do you keep them motivated?

AW: I think that the best thing you can do for motivation for anybody on your team, on your staff, or a member of your organization, like any of our members, is remind them how wonderful they are, how much they have to give and ask them to just give, you know, a little bit more, or can you give me just a little bit here. I think making sure people feel appreciated, and knowing where their strengths are so you can best put them to make the most impact, is the best way to keep them going. There have been a lot of people who have been put in a wrong situation, or it’s been the wrong fit, and maybe that happened here to any of your listeners. And when you’re in that situation, and it’s the wrong fit, then sometimes it can feel like this is nothing I do is going to make any difference here because this is the wrong fit. So, I encourage people to constantly find the right fit, and find where the giving is natural, and your talents and abilities are respected and appreciated. And that’s where you need to be.

JW: That is excellent advice to end our interview on. Thank you, so much, Amy Welch, Vice President of Communications for the Oklahoma Society of CPAs, at findyourcpa.com for any of our listeners, just tell them the Live a Life by Design host, Jimmy Williams sent you and Amy Welch said they better do it, cause that’s how that works. Amy, thank you so much for joining us today.

AW: Thank you.

JW: Thank you for joining us today on Live a Life by Design. One of the things that we want to do is to help bring some community to all of our listeners across the planet. We’re now heard in 25 countries and thank you for that. We’re hoping we make an impact in someone’s life every day. So part of that communication process, during this time of disruption will be some short videos that will hopefully inspire you to continue seeking your highest level of performance, even when the outside world looks a little different. Even if you are in between positions, for example, I know many people have been either furloughed, or terminated from their positions in their careers. I understand and I empathize with those people. But we are going to provide you some thoughts that’ll help you rise above your current situation and remember that the darkest valley generally has right behind it, one of the tallest most magnificent mountains of which you climb and feel victorious. Take care of yourselves out there and join us next Monday as we visit here again, on Live a Life by Design, and until then keep smiling. Keep touching others’ lives.

You can get a complete transcript of today’s show online at livealifeby.design. If you like the show, please tell your friends and family about it. Also we would be very appreciative if you would leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts. This has been a LifeMasterKey production. The program is copyrighted by Jimmy J. Williams and Company, all rights reserved. Our recording engineer is Happy Design Company. Our production assistant is Amy Cotton, our intern is Brinlee.

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