KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Today I’m actually going to be interviewing my cohost Jim Waszak on the topic of finding work that you love, because Jim is doing something new. He’s now with Zeal Financial, and I want to talk a little bit about his new venture and the topic of finding work that you love. So, Jim, thanks for being with us today.
JIM WASZAK: Thanks, Kevin. It’s a pleasure to be here.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: So, tell me about Zeal Financial and what you’re doing with them.
JIM WASZAK: Well, here’s the story. Some years ago my sister-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, and her last year and a half was spent primarily in bed in agony. And my job as the business person in the family was to try to manage her finances. And I go to her periodically and say, “Cathy, we got to pay your mortgage. Do you want me to cash in your IRA? Do you want me to sell your car? What do we do? We need money.” And that would always put her into a higher stress state. So in addition to all the other things, she had to deal with that. So, and there’s a good networking story I’ll share with you as well.
So, recently I met this company Zeal Financial that offers a product called cancer care plus. And what cancer care does is it pays you money based on what treatment you have and what condition you have that’s over and above whatever your health insurance is going to pay.
There’s really two types of expenses you have when you’re fighting cancer: there’s the medical expenses, which doctor, hospital. But there’s also the indirect expenses a lot of people don’t realize. There could be loss of wages. I mean, if there’s two parents and one of them is not working, they lose wages. If they’re a business owner, they can’t run their business. There could be out-of-town travel. If you want to see the best specialists, you might have to travel to another location. There could be child care while you’re getting treatment.
And even the best health plans don’t cover every single thing. The money that our plan provides allows people to maintain their financial well-being while fighting this disease. The really unique feature of it is if the person or persons covered stays healthy, they eventually get their premiums back: They have to stay healthy for 20 years. So it’s really, really a win-win program. If you need to coverage, it’s a godsend. If you don’t, you get your money back. The only loss really is if you need it and you don’t have it.
So, I feel I love it because I’m helping people, which I love to do. I’m meeting all kinds of different people, which I love to do. And it’s a pretty short sales process, and I usually don’t have a long attention span.
But in terms of how I found this, which, like I said, was interesting networking story. I met a fellow about it’s probably been 15 or 20 years ago. And we did a little business together back then, and then didn’t see him a lot. But once in a while, we’d see him at an event. He wound up moving down to Texas, and he calls me one day out of the blue and says, “Hey, I’m back in Chicago. I got to tell you what I’m doing. I think maybe you want to do it.” And he explained the program to me, and so now I’m doing it. And the lesson there I think is stay in touch with people. You just never know when a person that you maybe never expected anything from is going to show up with something’s that’s pretty cool.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: That’s another benefit of networking too, because you’ve been doing -- Now I’ve known you for probably 4 or 5 years now.
JIM WASZAK: Probably, yeah.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: You’ve had a lot of different ventures. But always throughout, the common thread throughout the different things you’ve been involved with is you’ve always been looking to help people out -- finding ways to bring value to people, put people together, add network. And that didn’t really change regardless of what current idea you were pursuing. And that’s probably what led to -- I mean, it led to us doing this podcast together. It led to what you’re doing now with Zeal Financial, so that’s just a good way to be regardless of what your actual job role is. And you’ve had a lot of life experience in different job roles. I mean, you were in the corporate world. You were doing improv for business, which you still doing. You were doing business coaching, and I think you’re still doing that too.
But when you talk about finding work that you love, tell me a little about that, because I’ve been a lawyer the whole time. And lately I’ve gotten a chance to focus more on the marketing thing, which is a lot more fun for me. But I haven’t had the life experience you had from bouncing from different opportunities. And how is it different when you’re not in love with what you’re doing and…?
JIM WASZAK: Well, it obviously becomes difficult, and I think there’s a lot of people who, for whatever reason, they know from a very early time they want to be a train engineer, or an attorney, or whatever, and whatever causes that to click in, it makes it a lot easier for them. I think -- and not to necessarily blow my own horn -- but I think people who are very creative and really curious, they find everything interesting, and they seem to be able to do reasonably well at a lot of things.
When I was focused a lot on getting consulting work, that was a huge issue because people would say what do you do. I said, “Well, what do you want me to do?” Because I’ve worked with people in sales. I’ve worked in operations. And I facilitated meetings. I’ve done coaching. So it can be tough. And my advice would be to just don’t give up, and keep talking to people, and meet as many people, and get as many ideas as you can, and eventually one will manifest itself.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: And you can find different -- It doesn’t necessarily break down to a job that you love or a career that you love, but you can find different roles and different hats to wear within your career that you like more than others.
For example, me, personally, I started off just as an attorney, which I like. Then I started managing people, which I hate. Then I moved more to networking, which was okay, but it can be exhausting. And lately, I’ve been focusing more on blogging, and podcasting, and Internet marketing, which I really enjoy doing.
And when I used to have to work on weekends, it was because I had to either because clients had a deadline, or I needed to just bring in more money. But now when I work on weekends, there’s a very long twisted long golden thread to that actually making more money for me. But it’s something that I -- “Oh, I really want to accomplish this next big project. I’d like to do an eBook, and I don’t want to wait.” And so I can’t wait to get to work. So, that’s all within the same title of lawyer. It’s just finding the role that I like within that.
JIM WASZAK: Exactly. Exactly. And I think you touch on an interesting point that you can work on something because you can see it as a worthwhile goal in itself, and the money is kind of secondary. Obviously we all need a certain amount of money to eat and pay the bills. But I think that’s what’s really cool is when you can find something that you really kind of throw yourself into.
And I think you, in my experience, are a little bit different than most attorneys. Because a lot of attorneys are very I would almost use the word stiff. They know the law, and it’s all about details and how to position things. But you’re a very personable guy. And I can see where you’d enjoy the marketing as much as anything. So, yeah, you’re right. Within any field, any endeavors, there’s different roles on my plate.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: So, when were you ever in a situation where you were just, “I hate this job. I got to get out of it. I need to find something else. I feel like it’s soul crushing.”
JIM WASZAK: Oh, sure. Absolutely. Early in my career, I was CFO at a manufacturing company, and good news, bad news I had put a great staff in place; the company had grown. In a way I was pretty comfortable. Although, I always had a frustration that we weren’t making the money we should because we just didn’t focus on it enough.
So, we ran into problems in the manufacturing end of the business. So without knowing anything about manufacturing, I told the owner he should let me run manufacturing. And he said okay, and for a while that was really exciting. And I fixed a lot of problems and put some good people in place, and I would say it’s not too often we see a business owner who’s embarrassed about how much money he made. But he made way more money than he ever thought he would.
But then after a few more years once the challenge of the newness of it wore off, I was again pretty frustrated. And so that’s when I wound up leaving.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: What frustrated you about it? Because that seems like a lot of people’s dream job to be directing operations and --
JIM WASZAK: Well, I think it was -- I think it was that when I got things fixed, there was no more challenge. I was always strong at developing other people and letting them do the work. And some of the differences I had with the owner continued. So it just got to be -- After a while you just need to change.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: What’s the biggest thing like the characteristics of a career path that fulfills you or that you’re looking for? What makes you happy, regardless of whether it’s doing improv or coaching? What’s the thing you’re looking for?
JIM WASZAK: I think it’s mainly the interaction with people. I like being around people. I like teaching people. The success I had in management positions was because I know how to work with people. So that to me is -- If I could help somebody or make them laugh or teach them something, that, for me, is what it turns me on.
Now, by contrast my wife has a more of a technical job. She works from home. She works with that all day. And she’s totally content doing that. She’ll get mad because most of the time I would go out for lunch. And she said, “What are you going out for lunch for? We got food here.” And it’s not about the food. I just need to get out and see people. Where see doesn’t have that need. So, you got to figure it out kind of for yourself.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: I think it helps to boil it down to a characteristic, not a job. Because I used to think that I wanted to be in a punk band professionally. That was my plan. Law school was my plan B. Making it in my band was plan A. But after a while of playing in bars, I found out what I liked about that wasn’t playing music or having people like my songs. What I enjoyed was the building of something. And once I hit the point where I started having a family and saying, “Well, even if I made this, I don’t want really want to be going on tour,” there was nothing to build there anymore; and it lost its fun. Even though I was playing music -- And I thought being in a music was what I wanted to do, and I initially thought being a lawyer -- that’s a good fall back thing, but what I like about what I’m doing right now is -- and why I like the marketing aspect -- is the building up of something -- laying foundation that’s not going to go away.
And that’s what kind of drained me about networking. And I still do a lot of networking, but when I made the shift from networking to marketing, it was mostly because after meeting a certain amount of people, you hit a point of diminishing returns. And you go out and meet more people, and it can be transactional. But at a certain point, you’re not building something as much anymore. Where if you’re kind of building systems in your business, you’re actually creating something that’s lasting. And that’s what’s fun for me. It’s almost like an empire building video game or something like that.
JIM WASZAK: Right. Right. I think that’s really important. I think there’s a lot of things that we like or enjoy maybe as a hobby. And sometimes it works as doing it as a full-time career, but a lot of times it doesn’t. For example, I’ll give you an example for myself.
One of my hobbies for a number of years was old cars -- classic cars, mostly Corvettes and muscle cars from the 60s. And that, to me, was great. I’d go out on the weekend and try to find one that was priced right, and I made some money doing it. But at one point I explored getting into the car business full time. And I said, “Well, wait a minute. Do I want to do every day?” It was fun because I’d make some extra money. It was not as much fun with the pressure of you’ve got to do something today to make a living.
So, I think those are good things to start with to explore, but ultimately you have to find something that’s going to kind of sustain you emotionally on an ongoing basis.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: What’s the biggest piece of advice that you can give someone that’s not really sure where they’re going to find happiness in their career or where they can find the intersection of making money and enjoying their day? You’ve been around the block. Any bits of knowledge or wisdom that you can pass on?
JIM WASZAK: Well, I’ll give you two bits of knowledge. Number one, that you can talk to me. Because I do career coaching at the Community Career Center in Naperville. And I seem to be pretty good at putting those pieces together. But the other piece of advice is to keep searching, talk to people, get their story, try different things. It’s almost like it’s a bit of a trial and error, and with some help you can maybe get pointed in a direction. But you just got to go through -- They say -- Somebody told me once -- Let’s see… How did that say? Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment. So you got to be willing to make a couple mistakes along the way and pursue what you really want.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: And I think you can’t keep reaching for a golden ring or a unicorn that’s not there either. Because I’ll tell you owning a law firm has made me happier than any career would be, but it’s also made me at the very same time sometimes in the same day more miserable than anything else. And there’s ups and downs, but you have to weigh it all and say, “Well, is this the best option for me?”
JIM WASZAK: And that’s a good point. Because nothing is ever 100%. Anything you think about: your vacation, or your golf game, or your business, or your marriage, whatever. There’s always going to be some sort of compromises.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: You go on vacation for two weeks, and you get sick of it and want to get back to your routine.
JIM WASZAK: Right.
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Kevin owns O’Flaherty Law, a general practice law firm with locations in Downers Grove, Elmhurst, and Naperville, Illinois. O'Flaherty Law's attorneys have expertise in many areas of law including but not limited to divorce and family law; civil litigation; estate planning; business and corporate representation; commercial and residential real estate law; elder services, probate and guardianship; immigration; bankruptcy law; and dui, traffic and criminal defense.
Jim owns Success Enhancement, Inc., which is geared toward helping you solve management problems in a way that is fun and engaging by using improv comedy techniques and role plays.
Participants will see how to behave differently in the type of situation identified as an area for improvement.
Please feel free to e-mail Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (630)272-3895
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