The Happy Engineer Podcast

052: Why to Celebrate Change and Disruption with The Tao of TA-DA Joel Zeff

Let’s talk about change and disruption in the workplace as an engineering leader.  But first consider this, engineering leader.

Harmonicas are magic, did you know that? If you were live on stage, doing improv, and someone handed you a magic harmonica… What would you do with it?

How often do you celebrate in your career and life? Monthly? Weekly? Daily? HOURLY?

In this episode, enjoy an incredibly fun and mindset-shifting conversation with workplace expert, speaker, author, and humorist, Joel Zeff. For nearly 25 years, Joel has entertained and helped transform countless leaders at over 2,500 events through his unique blend of hilarious improvisational comedy and essential ideas on work and life.

>> In 1991, Joel made the news with his magic harmonica. I know you’ll love his story.

The Tao of TA-DA is here to celebrate with you. More importantly, he’s going to teach you how (and why) you need to celebrate the “TA-DA” moments of your daily life. Joel understands that change is not optional, and learning how to thrive under the immense pressure of sudden disruption will accelerate your career.

It will lower your stress levels too.

So press play and let’s chat… because your biggest TA-DA of the day is right now!


The Happy Engineer Podcast




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Franco Blanco

Back in 2012, I was at Whirlpool corporation building my engineering career. 

I was in a Six Sigma Black Belt Training program that Whirlpool calls OpEx, operational excellence… A world-class training program for engineering talent to develop new tools, new skill sets, new mindsets around data and design and engineering. 

So, I’m there, engaged in this training, and one of the things that they asked us to do with our small groups that we were sitting with during the training is to create a skit using all of the six Sigma terminology and concepts that we had been learning throughout the training.

Accuracy. Precision. Heart control charts. You name it… 

And we were challenged to come up with a skit where we somehow integrated all of these terms into a fun skit and you got graded based on how well you integrated them without just flat out saying them.

So our team put together this skit. I don’t even remember the actual plot or content of our skit, but I remember adopting this alternate ego, this alternate persona named Franco Blanco. 

For those who don’t know, my name is Zach White. So we got the Blanco from my last name, and Franco just rhymed.

So, Franco Blanco was my OpEx skit character name, and I acted like a complete goober. 

Off the wall, tons of energy played the comic relief character for our skit. And the whole thing was pretty hysterical. And most people who were part of my OpEx training class remembered that character. 

For the entire training and for years after that, people who were a part of that group with me would come down the hall and refer to me as Franco Blanco. 

It stuck with everyone because the energy, the excitement and the passion and how many people felt it was memorable. 

Define your Own Character

Here’s the point. I made a choice to show up as a character who was funny, crazy, frivolous, passionate, loud. And in that moment, playing that skit, that character that I chose to put on, I was able to impact everyone in that room in a way that for years they remembered that moment you are choosing.

And creating the character that you play in life, you are waking up every morning and making a choice, even if it’s a subconscious one to show up as yourself, whatever that means. 

But you have the choice to create that character. You have the choice to show up differently. You have the choice to bring more energy, to celebrate those Ta-Da moments, to really become a leader at the next level. 

To become a pack high energy, high enthusiasm leader. 

And I love what Joel said that doesn’t have to look the same way for everyone. It doesn’t mean you’re the person playing the harmonica on the back dock after a tough situation. But it does mean that you don’t have to simply do what you’ve always done because you’ve always done it.


That is the percentage of your mind that is the subconscious. You think that you’re choosing every day, but the truth is that you’re not, you’re letting yesterday choose for today. Your thoughts, the subconscious patterns and habits that are built into your nervous system are making the same choices day in and day out that you made yesterday.

For example, how do you respond when your name is called? 

How do you respond when you’re given an opportunity to present to a bigger group? 

How do you respond when you receive an email that calls you out for something that you didn’t do? 

How do you respond when there’s a conflict with someone else at work?

How do you respond when you’re not going to meet the deadline that your boss has given you? 

How do you respond? You might think that you’re choosing those responses, but I’m telling you 95% of your thinking and therefore your habitual behaviors and actions are automatic because it’s wired into your subconscious and you are allowing yesterday to choose for today.

If nothing changes, then nothing changes

Think about your goals and dreams. Think about the progress that you are or are not making towards those. You have a choice in what character you play in your own life. 

We talked a little bit with Joel in this conversation about how you become the kind of person who’s able to drive that change and create something; how you become more passionate and more powerful in your career…

And this is why top performers in every domain of life have coaches, because you can’t see what you can’t see. And if nothing changes, then nothing changes. 

I’ll say that again, because it’s so simple, but it’s so important. 

You can’t see what you can’t see. That’s why they’re called blind spots. These patterns of your subconscious mind that are holding you back every single day. They are living in the area of Johari’s window.

That is your blind spot. You’re not aware of them. You think you are, but you’re not. 

I know it’s true because it’s true for me. This is why I have a coach. And my coach helps me to see my blind spots. 

And if nothing changes, then nothing changes. 

If we don’t intentionally interrupt those cycles, those habits, those things that are programmed into the 95% of your mind, your subconscious, if you’re not actively intentionally interrupting that cycle, then you’re going to stay stuck.

If nothing changes, then nothing changes. 

You may or may not have an interest in signing up for improv classes, but I want you to know that you have the ability to make a new choice, to show up in a different way, choose the character that you’re going to play in your life. 

And when you have more fun, more energy, more passion, more enthusiasm, however that looks for you, making those little changes in your environment is what gets you to make the shift.

And if you want to accelerate a transformation in your career and in your life in a way that yields real results in the quality of your life, but also your income and your impact and the results that you care about to leave a legacy and create a lifestyle that you love, then get a coach, get help, whether it’s with OACO or someone else, it doesn’t matter.

I just want you to take action, but we would be absolutely thrilled to support you. We’ve helped hundreds of engineering leaders to break through in their career and in their life in ways that before working with us, they didn’t even think were past. 

Hey, last reminder. If anything here really triggered a question for you, shoot it over and we’re starting our Q&A episodes.

So, shoot me a note or a voice memo. You can email it. It’s [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you. It’s always a pleasure to connect with each and every one of you out there. until next time.

Keep making those choices live in the spirit of improv. Get present, and as always crush comfort, create courage and let’s do this.


Previous Episode 051: Q&A #1 with Zach White – How to Be More Productive and How to Make Tradeoffs Between Company Size and Title




Joel Zeff creates energy. He is a dynamic speaker, improvisational humorist and author. His interactive performances invite members of the audience to participate in hilarious improvisational exercises that illustrate Joel’s central message:  That organizations and individuals should CELEBRATE every day successes to increase collaboration, productivity, passion and innovation.

Since 1997, Joel has inspired audiences from Wells Fargo to Samsung to KPMG and even the IRS. Yes, the IRS. Joel is a masterful public speaker and a nationally renowned motivator, lifelong humorist and improvisational actor. 

His career is a search for fun and passion. He quickly realized the importance of both at his first jobs delivering the hometown newspaper and cleaning up trash at a suburban movie theater. 

He started his professional career as a newspaper journalist and public relations executive. In 1994, Joel went out on his own as corporate communications specialist. He helped clients with their employee communications, media relations, strategy and customer marketing. Throughout the consulting process, Joel realized his clients – many of them high-level technology and telecommunications firms – needed more than marketing and public relations strategy. Many of his clients’ employees were starving for fun, passion and new perspective on finding success. 

At the time, Joel was having fun on the weekends as a comedian. Through friends, he discovered improvisational comedy. One of his clients (a large technology company) knew Joel performed comedy on the weekend. The client asked him to play some improvisational games before dinner for a group of high level executives. He brought a fellow comedian and a corporate speaking career was born.

He connects to his audience with humor that has them laughing so uncontrollably that their mascara runs, their cheeks hurt, and their bellies ache. And he doesn’t do it alone. Volunteers from the audience join him on stage and play an integral role in an improvisation game in front of hundreds or thousands of people—something the audience members have never done. He expects nothing less than their success. He expects the volunteers to focus and work together as a team; communicate effectively; positively support each other; and take responsibility. 

Joel makes his audience laugh so hard that they forget about the corporate nonsense of conference calls, “strategic deliverables,” PowerPoint presentations with upside-down triangles, or “paradigm shifts in a cross-functional organization.” Make the Right Choice is conversational, funny, and very informative. Yes, Joel will make you laugh, but he’ll also make you think. This presentation delivers a combination of inspiration, essential business knowledge, and significant ideas to help audience members reconnect with their own passion and success. 

As discussed in his book, Make the Right Choice, Joel believes that we all encounter choices in our careers. We always have the opportunity to make the right choice to live a more creative, passionate, and productive life. How do you “make the right choice”? You can choose to provide opportunity. You can choose to provide positive support. And along the way, you can choose to have fun. It’s really that simple. Joel teaches us just how easy it is to make these choices.

When he is not speaking, Joel expresses his creativity as an actor, writer and comedian.  He started performing professionally in 1992. In Dallas, he was co-host of The Movie Zone on UPN 21.  He has appeared in dozens of commercials for numerous clients, including the Dallas Cowboys, Harrah’s Casino,, Time Warner Cable, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Eagle Country Markets, and Extraco Bank. He has appeared in hundreds of corporate videos. He has also appeared on CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch. He has been featured in The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle, The Kansas City Star, and many other media outlets.





Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: Joel, welcome to The Happy Engineer Podcast. I can’t thank you enough for making time to be with us. Awesome to have you on the show.

[00:00:07] Joel Zeff: It’s my pleasure. I’m ready. Let’s talk happiness and engineers!

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:09] Zach White: Yes. Happiness and engineers. Joel, I want to start in a place that is near and dear to your heart and your message, which is celebration.

[00:00:17] And I’d love to know, man, what are you celebrating today?

[00:00:21] Joel Zeff: I think when I talk in my keynotes, I talk about the “Ta-da” the energy of “Ta-Da’, and that came from. watching my kids. And even before that, when you’re three and four, everything in your life is a, today you celebrate everything, you eat a cheese sandwich, you know, and the kids today, you know, they do a little drawing.

[00:00:40] I mean, any drawing, right? Just like to. Uh, blue, just tune blue marks cut up. You know, my kids had artists, I need, we need to get our lessons. We need to get her in training. they throw one ball, the kid throws one ball and you’re like, oh, he’s a genius. He’s a, he’s a, he’s a champion.

[00:00:58] He’s a little. Everything’s a celebration. And as we get older, we lose a lot of that. And especially in our work lives, we lose that, energy of “Ta-Da”. We’re not celebrating. Maybe most companies have an event once a year. They give out a few awards, but I believe that we have to celebrate every day. We have to have those “Ta-Da”moments every single day, because that’s our fuel in our fuel for our passion, our fuel for innovation, our fuel for productivity.

[00:01:25] Everything’s about that. so many, people are just they’re drained. They don’t have any fuel. And part of that is that lack of celebration, that lack of having those two down moments and realizing they have those moments every single day, 

[00:01:41] Zach White: being on this call with you as a to moment, Joel, no question, but I’m curious as you practice this in your own life, like what are the things you’ve celebrated already, even before we got together?

[00:01:54] Joel Zeff: I celebrated calling the plumber. Cause my toilet was running. I got a big tit out for my wife. She was like, we got to take care of these things. This is a priority this summer. So that’s a big, so I just checked that off the list today. So that was my big tonight today. but everything, you know, just that energy and that celebration that you are moving forward, Are succeeding and that fuels us. That’s an energy, I have a job where I get around of applause. Most people don’t have a job where they get around applause. I’m sure your listeners, no one comes into their office and just wow. Engineered 

[00:02:38] Zach White: so 

[00:02:38] Joel Zeff: true. Nobody does that. Right. But they.

[00:02:41] Right. Yeah. Lucky. I have a job where I get around pause. And what does that do? That fuels me to want to produce, to want to be a better leader, a better communicator, a better speaker. in my keynotes, I use improvisation and I bring people up on stage and they’ve never done an improvisation game.

[00:02:58] What happens is whatever they do, the audience reacts, they celebrate, they applaud, they laugh and you could see. What happens? They do more, they produce more, the more laughter applause they get it’s the same. I’m sure with every engineer your listeners, they want that positive support.

[00:03:16] That’s going to fuel them. 

[00:03:18] Zach White: Joel, you made a great point that when we’re kids, this comes next. And then at some point we ended up being taught, trained, conditioned by culture and society and people around us. Maybe our parents who intended well to become good citizens or to be what they think is successful.

[00:03:36] We lose our connection to this Tata celebration, spirit that you’re talking about. So can you tell me, as, as you’ve been doing this work and you’ve been helping people reconnect to it, where do you think. We go off course, like what actually pulls us away from the spirit of celebration. And tonight as kids.

[00:03:57] I think some of it is certainly you mentioned several things, just the, social aspect, we don’t celebrate, you know, when you’re a little kid, you celebrate everything and then it would be get older. They just kind of start slowly going over.

[00:04:09] my kids were young and they went to the bathroom by themselves for the first time. Huge today. When’s the last time you went to the bathroom, Zack by yourself, walked out and went. Yeah, I wash all by myself and people, your mom was right there going Zack wait ago, so you lose some of that because it’s expectation.

[00:04:30] Joel Zeff: We’re expecting you to go to the bathroom by yourself. You don’t need. Celebration every time now, but when we lose some of that, we lose all of it. And then at work, we’re doing great things each and every day. And we’re not taking the time to celebrate, to give that appreciation. And one of the things that I talked about, one of the challenges that I talked about is every day, when you go home for work, think about all the people that you had contact with people on your team.

[00:04:58] Partners vendors support, leadership, whoever you dealt with, did you give the people that deserve it, that positive support? Did you give that appreciation? That’s what, so we’re thinking about it on the way. Probably you forgot, which is totally cool. Totally understandable. a lot of things going on.

[00:05:17] So that’s why we’re thinking about it on the way home. So tomorrow let’s give that positive support. Let’s give that appreciation and I don’t care how you do it. You can call them up. You can text. You can email them. You can mail a letter and wait, seven days doesn’t matter. They want to hear it. There’s no expiration date on that.

[00:05:35] Thank you. We want to hear it. And when you send it out, it’s going to come back and you start creating that energy in that culture of appreciation and positive support, and it’s going to affect how you work, how you produce, how you view your day to day. And it’s, I think it would be very powerful. and how that fuels you and how that increases your passion and reduces your stress.

[00:05:58] Zach White: No question. I’ll testify, you know, with our clients and in my own experience. So what you’re saying is a hundred percent true, and Joel, I’ve, I’ve never connected the dots this way, but you said something really interesting, and I’d be curious for your perspective on it that we come to simply expect that this is what’s required or this.

[00:06:17] How I’m supposed to behave, you know what, Zach, of course you can use the restroom on your own wash your own hands. Like duh, instead of , it becomes duh, like that’s obvious that’s expected. And I think engineering leaders feel this way a lot. Like, Hey, what I do from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, for some of the people out there, they’re not forget the nine to five, it’s the seven to seven or the eight to eight.

[00:06:38] Right. but all of that is that’s my. That’s what’s expected of me. It’s not worthy of celebration until we cross some big finish line or actually get over the hump and all these things happening all day, every day, it was like, well, why would I celebrate that? That’s expected of me. How do you help somebody deconditioned this idea?

[00:07:00] That just because it is expected, doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of selling. 

[00:07:05] I think it starts, you don’t have to do everything today. just little things, just like what I mentioned, just that little, thank you every day, sending that appreciation out, figuring out what opportunity you need.

[00:07:16] Joel Zeff: That’s going to reward and fulfill you, you know? And I think you’re going to be. you really ask yourself, what do I need to be fulfilled? what is that opportunity is the opportunity. A different role is a different responsibility. Do you want to be, give ideas? Do you want to have more training?

[00:07:32] Do you want to have the opportunity to go to a conference? there’s a lot of different opportunities. What’s going to reward 15. And if you answer that question, you’re going to be surprised. I think twice, once by the answer, it’s not more money. We all want more money. That’s a given, but what is that opportunity?

[00:07:48] That’s going to fulfill a reward us. And then the second opportunity for the second surprise is when you tell the person to report to, Hey, this is what I need here to be happy. And for. And you are going to be surprised how easy it is for them to give you that opportunity. What do they get back and return a passionate, energized team member.

[00:08:07] And if they don’t give you that opportunity, that’s a big clue that you might be in the wrong place, but I guarantee you, someone else is going to want a passionate, energized engineer like yourself. Them reach their goals and another thing you mentioned, you think, well, this is my job.

[00:08:25] This is what I’m expected to do. you forget how incredible it is, what you do every day as an engineer. I don’t have the mind to be an engineer. I barely can balance my checkbook. numbers are foreign to me. and so it’s incredible every single day, you know, you think about drive by and you see, bridges, how did they engineer that?

[00:08:48] How did they figure that out buildings? How did an architect engineer that to figure out, to make that. anything, the technology, you know, it’s incredible what they do every single day, really incredible that gives us so much in our lives and they should be celebrated.

[00:09:07] And every person who’s listening to this should be really. It’s not an everyday occurrence. It is an everyday occurrence for you because you’re skilled in what you do, but you should celebrate that. And the people around you should celebrate that. And if you’re not getting that appreciation, if you’re not getting that feeling of worth, then you’re in the wrong place.

[00:09:27] And believe me, everybody’s hiring right. There’s plenty of opportunity for great people. And you should not have to feel like you’re unwanted or not appreciated or not saying that’s not going to fuel you and make you happy and create great work. 

[00:09:45] Zach White: Really powerful. So Joel, you, you may not have the numbers mind, but you’ve got.

[00:09:51] Magic happened with engineering audiences in the work that you do. the improvisation as a tool, as a vehicle to get people into this spirit of the energy and the celebration and the, I use the phrase get out of their comfort zone. And what I’d love to kind of understand from you is I think about myself.

[00:10:12] Like I agree with what you’re saying, but I remember the days as an engineering. in my career before I was a coach where the idea of going for. Yeah, especially in that corporate environment where nobody else is acting this way is pretty scary. It’s pretty uncomfortable. Like everybody’s in that status quo, low energy, no celebration there.

[00:10:32] that’s not a part of the culture here so talk to us about what has to shift inside a person to be willing. To step out of their comfort zone. Maybe you can relate to us on stage, getting an engineer out of the audience to come to improv on stage is a big leap for a lot of people.

[00:10:48] Zach White: How do you do that? 

[00:10:50] Joel Zeff: It’s a lot of industries, not just engineering. Uh, last week I was with a pharmaceutical firm and they were all scientists. These are people that problem solve, creating drugs that are going to solve problems and are going to work there. They’re engineering a problem as well, from a scientific medical.

[00:11:05] Totally, totally. World And I say it right up front. I know this is out of your comfort zone. I’m asking people to do improvisation games, to interact way out of their comfort zone, but that’s where we learn. Right. That’s where we grow. That’s where we learn. It’s a really special. you try to create an environment that’s positive and supportive.

[00:11:25] We talk about the applause. We talk about that energy. That’s a huge part of being successful out of your comfort zone. And then it’s also about realizing we’re all in it together. I do this little quick, little extra. Where I had the whole audience put their hands up like this and say, bunny, bunny, bunny.

[00:11:43] Now, if I, any group of engineers, if I asked you individually to say, put your hands up, like this go bunny, bunny, bunny, 

[00:11:51] Zach White: just for those who are only getting audio, Joel has got his thumbs on his temples, basically hands on like the Bullwinkle position. He does. Look, we both, if you’re watching this on YouTube, you’re seeing it be like, we, we look pretty stupid right now.

[00:12:02] So got it. Yeah, there it is. 

[00:12:05] Joel Zeff: That was, that was the most descriptive bunny bunny, uh, that I’ve ever, that was very descriptive Zack. but you know, if I asked you to say, look, put your hands up like this, and then I would ask you to just go to your next meeting your next, you know, were in the conference room.

[00:12:19] Everybody were trying to figure out, second quarter and just look at everybody and just go, buddy, buddy, buddy, people would look at you like you’re nuts. Nobody would do. But when I do that as a group and ask them to do it together, everybody immediately puts their hands up like this. Somebody always does this and I go, you’re not, you’re not being arrested, sir.

[00:12:37] You just put your hands like this. Inevitably someone always does it. I don’t understand where to put my thoughts. Where do they go? Um, and so everybody does. When I was last week, just because it’s the most recent with the pharmaceutical, you know, they did it totally out of their comfort zone.

[00:12:55] but because we did it together, we didn’t judge, we support each other. It was easier to take that risk, easier to get out of our comfort zone and with everything. It is hard, especially like you said, that first step, it is hard, but it’s also really. To get out of our comfort zone to learn and grow. And when we say get out of our comfort zone, that means we’re dealing with.

[00:13:18] Joel Zeff: And I’m sure you’ve had many episodes talking about change. And, there’s been some very minor, very small changes in the last two years to all of our lives. Very, very, almost almost not even worth mentioning. 

[00:13:32] Zach White: It’s easy to overlook. 

[00:13:34] Joel Zeff: It is so easy to overlook and, you know, literally we changed the last few years.

[00:13:39] You’ve changed everything, how we work, how we committed. How we shop, how we entertain ourselves, how we eat, how we order food. I mean, I can go on and on. Everything has changed. And change is hard and it’s difficult. and that’s why, there’s so much pushback.

[00:13:54] It’s too much. For many people. Change is very difficult. Improvisation is awesome. Is all about change and disruption and finding that second. Through that change in disruption. And it’s about certain things, making choices to deal with that change. The first choice that you make that improv teaches you is to be prepared for.

[00:14:16] Change is going to happen, whether you like it or not, and most changes completely out of,your control and every person. And I know lots of different all the listeners, lots of different companies. And I know at every single one of those companies, your engineering audience is dealing with tremendous change and disruption, and you’re going to deal with change next week.

[00:14:36] And next month, there’s never going to be a day where we get together and go, we’re done. We, we took care of everything on Friday. we are good to go. It’s gotta be constant. And it’s how we deal with that change that determines our success, that determines our passion, how we reduce our stress, our leading.

[00:14:55] And so improv teaches us to be prepared for change, to be open and flexible, to change, and more importantly, to be present. And in the moment during change and these choices help us react to change because that’s the true power change out of our control, how we react to change. That’s our. And I’m going to react and be passionate and be positive and be supportive and be patient and be understanding.

[00:15:23] And it’s going to change our whole energy change. Our whole tone. 

[00:15:26] Zach White: Joel, if someone is hearing this and saying, I I’d like to start developing that skill, but maybe they don’t have. bandwidth or the opportunity to do improv once a week, you know, yet maybe they’ll choose to after hearing this, is there an exercise or a place that you would encourage someone to begin that introduces them to the mindset and the heart behind improvisation and the relationship to change that you just 

[00:15:52] Joel Zeff: talked about?

[00:15:53] Are you trying to set up my book? Is that what you’re trying to do? Zack, are you trying to set that? Because that was really 

[00:15:57] Zach White: good. I wouldn’t say that it’s my intention to perfectly lob up the book, but no. Yeah, I actually, there was a genuine question. Come on, man. Yeah. Great. Next 

[00:16:10] Joel Zeff: level. Uh, I do have a book.

[00:16:14] We’ll bring it closer to the. Make the right choice, Korean upon innovative and productive workloads. And so it’s just my thoughts on improv and, going through my filter of working with so many different companies and industries and my business experience, and then taking it back to thoughts on how we can move forward and how we can use some of these improv skills in our work lives.

[00:16:37] And I tell everybody just, start small. You don’t have to do everything. start with throwing out a little positive support and appreciation, start with thinking about what is going to fulfill and reward. You start with maybe just thinking about how you react to change and how can you be more prepared for change or how can you be more open and flexible change another, improv tenant that I like to use, which is very simple is asking the question, how do I help the people around me basically?

[00:17:09] When people see an improv show, they, how, how does that happen? There’s no script, there’s no rehearsal. There’s no plan. how do I, as a speaker, bring three people from three engineers from the audience on stage, they play an improv game and they’re creative. They’re hilarious. they make a great team.

[00:17:26] They take responsibility, they’re accountable. They take ownership. How does that happen? Improv is an art form and it forces you to make really great decisions. And one of the decisions it forces you to make is that you want to help the people on your team. And so if we extract that and take that the work lives of your listeners. Ask that question. How do I help the people around me be successful? That’s an easy question. Easy to answer there. Your listeners are very smart. They understand what people around them need to be successful. The hard part is to act on it. And when you send it out there, it’s going to come back tenfold a hundred bold.

[00:18:06] How do I help the people around me be successful? I could talk all day about teamwork. But it’s really, to me, just it’s drilled down to that one sentence. you know, take it simple.

[00:18:17] What works for you? Is it asking that question, answering and acting on it just a little bit each day? Is it giving that. Appreciation each day, is it thinking about what opportunity they want to fulfill them and go out there and ask and demand that opportunity, little things start adding up. It’s, finding what works for you and what’s going to help you be passionate and energized because that to me is the most. There’s no reason to go to work. And not be passionate, energized. And I even mentioned the book, one of my first jobs. I worked at a movie theater.

[00:18:55] I have you ever worked at a movie theater? Zack? 

[00:18:57] Zach White: I haven’t worked in one. I, I did consider it. It sounded like one of those jobs that would be so easy and fun, but I also thought I’d get bored. It’s a lot of 

[00:19:06] Joel Zeff: cleaning. It’s a lot of cleaning up trash Zack. It’s a lot of cleaning up other people’s trash.

[00:19:10] And it’s also, you smell like popcorn, 24, 7, um, popcorn 

[00:19:15] Zach White: and hot dog. Uh, I would gain a lot of weight. I like popcorn. That’s that’s not 

[00:19:19] Joel Zeff: good, but you know, I was making minimum wage, I’m cleaning other, people’s cleaning up other people’s trash, popcorn machines are greasy and nasty but I always was.

[00:19:30] About what I was doing. I, maybe my youthful, just being naive and being youthful, being a teenager, but, I saw, I could either be frustrated and cranky picking up people’s trash, or I can try to incorporate fun and passion. And I knew from an early age, if you incorporate that fun, incorporate that.

[00:19:52] a lot more enjoyable and your energy and your passion and what your outcome is, is much better. And I’ve just built on that my whole career whether I was a, newspaper reporter worked in advertising PR, or when I started my own agency or as a keynote speaker at MC it’s about just creating that inner.

[00:20:10] I still have stressful situations. I still come upon people that are hard to work with. Like use Zack. You’re very difficult. Yeah. And so, but it’s still, you know, realizing you have to be open and flexible, but you have to be present in the moment and you try to. And environment that we can be successful and passionate and energetic.


[00:20:32] Zach White: love this. So Joel, you know, people like me, engineers were skeptical and one of the things funny, right? one of the things I have encountered skepticism around as I’ve coached engineers and done the work that we do at a Waco is this idea that passion, energy, enthusiasm, zeal, all of what you’re describing, translates to.

[00:20:57] Real results in the business. There’s this skepticism about that? It sounds nice, but a lot of times an engineering leader will say, that’s just not me. I’m an introvert. I’m a low, low key person. I’d rather just stay. desk, do my work, build my intelligence, use my brain to get the job done. And I’m really not for this high energy, high vibe thing that Joel is talking about because that’s for other people.

[00:21:23] And it doesn’t really matter. I’ve had a lot of interesting dialogue with people to say, you know, Hey, but what if, what if, what if those labels you’ve adopted, aren’t the case? Or what, if you could go drive a differentiated level of results and impact through the technology that you love, if you showed up that way.

[00:21:40] So could you just talk about your experience, you know, with people who come from that analytical, logical, maybe introversion bias, what would you say to them? What evidence is there that this isn’t just for the extroverts of the crazy. It’s really about results and everybody can benefit by showing up this way.

[00:21:58] you have to understand happiness and fun means something different to everybody. I’m not, I don’t want everybody to walk through the door and I’m like,

[00:22:11] Joel Zeff: are you writing? But it 

[00:22:13] Zach White: would be kind of fun if everyone did. Y’all just going to say that, but no, I hear ya. Yeah, no. Perfect. 

[00:22:20] Joel Zeff: Some people, uh, you know, happiness and fun is different for lots of, lots of people. And so what is your happiness? What is your, fulfillment let’s work toward that. I want you to be passionate, energize.

[00:22:33] I don’t need you to jump off your desk and yell to the, and throw confetti. but what’s the happiness look like for you? you know, let’s go back. you know, I always take the example of, math. Let’s think about math class. you know, the person in math class, they solve that problem.

[00:22:51] that’s amazing. Right. they solve that calculus problem and they feel like they just conquered the world. That’s just, just an amazing feeling. My daughter has that. She’s great at math. and that to me is like,you’re torturing me. you might as well just take my fingernails with pliers.

[00:23:08] Joel Zeff: It’s like,you’re in a Liam Neeson. Right. You’re out for events. You’re out for revenge. That’s not my fun, but it’s fun for somebody else. It’s happiness for somebody else. So let’s figure out what is that happiness for you? your introverted, you’re analytical.

[00:23:27] you don’t want to be bothered. I get it. But what is that happiness fulfillment for you? And let’s work toward that. What opportunity do you think. That’s good to fulfill you. what’s going to help you be happy? Do I need to bring donuts? do you need a better lighting?

[00:23:44] Joel Zeff: Do you need a better chair? those are all opportunities as well to have that happiness and fulfillment is a wide spectrum. And what I believe. Is that when you are happy and fulfilled at work, you’re energized, you’re going to produce more and you’re going to be more innovative. You’re going to be a better leader, a better teammate, a better communicator, and the product is going to be better.

[00:24:08] And that’s what should be everyone’s goal, whether you’re an engineer or any type of industry and as leaders. what does your team. And what do they need as individuals? That’s going to create that energy and passion, and it’s going to be different for everybody, but, I’m about that spirit and that to de and that celebration, but celebration might be a little different for other people, but it’s still a celebration.

[00:24:33] I really appreciate this. And I agreed. You know what I tell all my clients is the quality of your life. Depends on the quality of your work life. and to think that you can be low energy and depressed or frustrated or angry at work all the time and then love your life is a completely false notion.

[00:24:51] that they really are integrated. And so maybe someone listening to you, you are a high energy guy and it’s comes through in your voice and in your body language. And you’re just so much fun to be around. But Joel, I’d love to know what happens when you find yourself.

[00:25:06] Zach White: Disconnected from the it’s a rough day or something external happens that really derails, you know, your life or someone that you love is in a tough situation or. What is that side of the coin? How do you, you know, balance the spirit of celebration and high energy and enthusiasm and passion with some of the realities of life that can just be hard or feel negative?

[00:25:29] What do you do when you’re in that place? 

[00:25:31] I try to search out what is going to make me happy. and maybe it’s, it’s as simple as. reading, an email or I try to put a file together of client, positive thoughts or positive, notes that they’ve sent me.

[00:25:46] and I really needed that the last two years when everything was virtual and we weren’t live, sometimes you feel like, well, am I forgotten? Do any, does anybody need me anymore? and you have maybe these slow times where you’re not out there speaking, you’re saying, well, maybe I’ve lost it.

[00:26:01] Joel Zeff: And then you go back and you read comments from attendees. For me, you read those notes. you know, that to me is my fuel to realize, okay, I’m on the right path. I gotta, you know, gotta keep moving. Yeah. what is it for each individual, that positive support, that mechanism that helps you refuel.

[00:26:23] Maybe it’s as simple as, taking a moment just to take a walk outside. And I always say, you know, when you have those moments where that negativity or, you’re trying to figure out a problem, an issue, try to take that walk and sit there, or walk no, no technology, no phone, no music and think, your mind, knows what it needs, and it’s going to send you those ideas. That’s why so many times you have great ideas, right before you go to sleep or in the shower is because, it’s quiet. You don’t have that technology. There’s nothing trying to compete and your mind is really focused.

[00:27:01] And when you do that, every single time, you’re going to come up with an idea. And that idea is going to fuel. And that fuel’s going to be positive supportive, and it’s going to overcome that negativity find what little things can you do to kind of overcome that negativity? Is it asking a co-work to go to lunch, or have a.

[00:27:20] Going to get an ice cream, Korean a file of positive thoughts, you know, for me, for, for my, clients, I have a whole folder. I mean, I have everywhere email folder, you know, what are those little things that are going to help refresh you overcome that negative challenge that, causes stress.

[00:27:40] Zach White: I love that. So be intentional to create. Access easy access to a mechanism that allows you to reconnect to your fuel. I 

[00:27:48] Joel Zeff: love that. I’ll give you an I get, can I give you another example? Yeah, please. Okay. So I have, uh, by my desk, I have a magic harmonica, but do you have a magic? 

[00:27:59] Zach White: I don’t even have a regular harmonica.

[00:28:02] Joel Zeff: You got to get them.

[00:28:06] So anytime that I’m having a. Or there’s something going on? I just pick up my magic harmonica, not one lesson, Zack, not one, not one. And I have no musical ability whatsoever, but how can you not be? How can you not smile when you get a little of that? And this, can I tell you a quick story about the measure karma?

[00:28:31] Zach White: It is. Yeah. Wait, when did you get this magic harmonica? 

[00:28:35] Joel Zeff: My senior year in college. Which was 1990 along, goes galaxy far away. And here’s the deal. I don’t necessarily remember. I went to a speaker, I’m guessing it was a harmonica player. And I bought this harmonica. I don’t remember anything about the situation other than I bought this harmonica.

[00:28:54] so I would always have it with me. And I guess, I felt really good about buying harmonica. And so in 1990, I was in Dallas, working as a newspaper reporter for a newspaper called the Dallas times, Herald, excuse me. And so they call me on a Sunday and this is we’re coming up on the 31st anniversary.

[00:29:13] Joel Zeff: Last year was the 30th anniversary. And they said, um, the paper’s closing, you need to come clean out your desk. You don’t have a job. So when we talk about negativity, like you just mentioned, right? We talk about this wave of emotions of negativity, failure, challenge obstacles. And I just started this job six months ago, so, okay.

[00:29:35] everybody’s been in a situation where they’ve lost their job. This is how I reacted to losing my job. they called me up and they said, I need you to come clean out your desk. Tomorrow is the last paper you’ve lost your job. Remember, I’m living in a, I’m living in a one bedroom. With literally no furniture.

[00:29:51] I just moved to Dallas six months ago. So I walk out the door. I grabbed this magic harmonica. I don’t know why I didn’t have a preconceived notion of what I was going to do with this harmonica. So I get down to the newspaper, clean out my desk, kind of survey the situation, host of emotions.

[00:30:09] Joel Zeff: You know, people are sad. People are angry, people are confused, depressed, angry. Scared, everybody has a range of emotions. I’m not young, I think I’m 22 at that time. and I find myself on the back loading dock all the media was there. radio.

[00:30:27] Other TV stations, other newspapers. And for some reason, I picked up my magic harmonica and this is what happened.

[00:30:38] I lost my job. I got no money. They told me to clean out my desk.

[00:30:50] I just moved here six months ago.

[00:30:55] For a little bit, nothing. This was not planned and I don’t have, and it’s not like I do this all the time. I don’t even know. I can only play one blues note. That’s it. I have no musical ability. I have no idea why. There was never a preconceived thoughts and it just happened and the cameras went like this.

[00:31:17] You could actually

[00:31:20] write. And someone actually pulled me aside by my elbow and they said, You will never work in this town again, it was like a, it was like a film to our movies. You will never work in this town again. And I don’t remember if it was a man or a woman that said that I have no re no memory of that, but I just remembered that being said.

[00:31:41] And so how did I react to losing my job? How did I react to that negativity? I chose my attitude and my attitude was good. I’m going to be passionate. I’m going to be energized. I’m not going to give up, I’m going to be present. And I’m going to look at this as an opportunity. So I chose how I was going to deal with that chaos and disruption, that negativity.

[00:32:05] It was my choice. Not somebody else’s choice. Did I control that the newspaper closed or I lost my job? No, but I controlled how I reacted to that choice. I wasn’t going to let them. That you’re going to choose for me to be angry or depressed or sad. I’m going to choose what my emotion is and my emotions going to be.

[00:32:25] I’m going to be energized. I’m going to be passionate. And so that really, I think, hit a note because, the next day or star telegram had a huge picture of me playing the harmonica to, uh, broadcast local news had me playing the harmonic. I had people from all across the country. Remember this is 1991.

[00:32:44] This was before social media all across the country were saying, I saw you on the news. Playing harmonica is a big deal for clothes. Yeah. What happened? So it resonated because they saw someone make a choice in that negativity make a choice in that moment of chaos and disruption.

[00:33:04] And that choice was different than what was. And so to all the engineers that are listening, it is always your choice, how you react to whatever negativity, challenge, obstacles, stressful situation. It is your choice. And I think. Really taught me that in my choice, when I’m positive, when I’m passionate, when I’m energized, when I’m helpful and supportive and patient, the end result is going to be much more successful and much more, energizing and make me happier.

[00:33:41] It’s always your choice. No matter what the situation is in every situation, it’s your choice, how you react.

[00:33:51] Zach White: Perfect exclamation point period, whatever punctuation it deserves, from that storage. All, I love it. And too often I find myself. Falling into the subconscious pattern of the choice being the automatic choice that I may have made once. And I’ve allowed myself to make it again and again, and again and again, and you mentioned it earlier in the spirit of improv, it’s about being fully present and conscious to the choice in this moment and letting yourself be an agent, be at choice in.

[00:34:27] Situation and what an encouraging reminder. So for, you know, for the engineering leader, listening to this, just take that to heart. What choice do you need to get conscious and present to right now in your situation, get your magic harmonica out and go make that choice. I love it, Joel. I always ended the same place.

[00:34:47] I’m super. To see maybe where you take it after this conversation and knowing your heart, around energy and passion. I believe great engineering, like great coaching, great improv, has in common, this element, that questions lead answers, follow. And if we want great answers in our life, we want to ask great questions, ask better questions.

[00:35:11] so if someone’s listening to this conversation and they’re saying, yeah, I want. Have that happiness, that fuel that passion in my life. What would be a question that you would lead them with today? 

[00:35:25] Joel Zeff: What is your two dumb moment today? Let’s start with that. What is your tub moment? Everyone has done some and actually you started out the whole program.

[00:35:34] See it’s like full circle. Next level. 

[00:35:38] Zach White: We should do improv together. Ready. I love it. What is your tip moment 

[00:35:44] Joel Zeff: to today, today? And you’re going to realize, man, I accomplished a lot already today. it’s almost noon central time. I’ve called the plumber. I’ve done a podcast. let’s see what I got out of bed.

[00:35:59] I cleaned up, I showered. Those are big things, man.

[00:36:06] Zach White: During COVID-19 a shower was a big tough for me. I’m just going to say that, 

[00:36:11] Joel Zeff: you know, I’m not wearing socks and shoes right now. Like I’m not even put on socks for this podcast deck, but, uh, what is, we’re not at that level where, what is your to dub moment? And I think everyone listening is going to realize, man, I have had it to that moment.

[00:36:27] You take the kids in school, tell them that you love them. That’s a big ta-da moment, you know? accomplish something this morning with work, did you solve a problem? Did you, make somebody smile? Did you hold the elevator for somebody? those are all too dumb moments.

[00:36:42] What could you do? And then let’s just build on that. Let’s have more to them moments and realize that they are today moments and they’re. And it should be recognized. 

[00:36:55] Zach White: I love that. Joel, thank you so much. If someone wants to get more to in their life, they want to connect with Joel and the work that you’re doing and just discover more.

[00:37:05] Come listen to you, speak or wherever. Joel, where can people find you and get more? 

[00:37:10] Joel’s is my website. I’m updating it. That’s a big goal this summer. That’s going to be a big Fidel moment. that has links to everywhere. LinkedIn is my big social media. I’d love to connect with your listeners on LinkedIn that’s how we connected.

[00:37:23] and that’s how I discovered the podcast was via LinkedIn. It’s a very powerful, platform. So, you can find me on LinkedIn. you can also follow me on face. Joel Zeff my book, I appreciate you mention it is available on Amazon. Make the right choice, creating a positive, innovative, and productive work life.

[00:37:39] Joel Zeff: And if one of your listeners, a leader out there, that’s interested in having me speak at their conference, please. So. reach out. I would love to talk about, what I can do and how I can bring the, to de to their conference. 

[00:37:50] Zach White: Amazing. So for you listening right now, I can’t say enough about Joel’s energy, his ability from the moment we first messaged each other on Lincoln.

[00:38:00] So obvious that he has not only an incredible degree of experience and professionalism, but knows how to tap into the hearts and minds of the people that he engages with. And so please reach out to him, definitely buy a copy of his book, make the right choice. We’ll have all the links to his website, the Amazon page, where you can buy the book in the show notes, you know where to find that it’s the happy engineer, and Joel, thanks again for making time to be here today.

[00:38:26] Tremendous. 

[00:38:27] Joel Zeff: It’s my pleasure. And this was my big tuna moment today. just having a conversation with you, Zach, I love your podcast. I love what you’re doing. And it was just an absolute pleasure, talking with you this.