Meaning to Share Podcast: Ep 003 - Ben German
6:58PM Jun 29, 2021
It comes down to why, why and why? You just keep asking why? Because if you can't answer why we're doing something, then I question, then should we be doing it at all? What's the benefit?
This is Meaning to Share, the podcast where we explore the amazing gifts of seemingly average individuals, proving that everyone has a meaningful skill, talent or strength that is unique only to them, and which they are destined to share with others during this lifetime. I'm your host, Meredith McCreight. I spent decades painfully trying to fold myself into the boxes that other people, the media and society created for me, until I realized there's only one authentic version of me. And that is more than enough. In fact, it's divine. I want to show my guests and you, the listeners, that each of us is meant for greatness. It's already in you, you just have to choose to see it and embody it. Now my guest doesn't know ahead of time which gift of theirs we'll be discussing, so please enjoy this unscripted, honest, delicious conversation with one of my favorite people. This is Meaning to Share.
Today I'm sitting down with my brother from another mother, Ben German. Together with his wife and their two children. A dog named Deefur (D for dog, get it?). Ben resides in Charleston, South Carolina. With a background in web design, Ben works with many nonprofit organizations to design an online presence that empowers and connects people to drive impact for social good. He's especially passionate about aquatic wildlife, and is a regular volunteer at his local aquarium. This was probably one of my favorite episodes, because Ben was so sure we were talking about something else, a different talent that he has, which we do touch on a little bit, but he was so sure that he didn't even wait for me to ask before he launched into talking about it for about 20 minutes. So I edited that part out and we kind of started fresh, but he was super surprised about the gift I chose. And that was a real win for me because I like my guests to be unrehearsed. So this was a joy for me. We talk about the origins of Ben's gift while he was living in a tiny home with his parents in what he calls the center of the universe, his hometown in England, we talk about his new children's book company, which has branded with the image of his dog Deefur, and how his career path has taken him on a journey from designer to developer to headache reliever in a sense. He's an expert at simplifying even the most complex things. And we're talking about all of that and more today. Please join me in welcoming my friend, Ben German.
Thank you. Thank you.
Thanks for coming on my podcast. I'm so glad you're here.
Yeah, I'm excited. I'm a little bit nervous, but I'm excited.
Nothing to be nervous about. Well, Ben, tell us about you. Where are you from? And what is your cultural background and upbringing?
So I'm from a town in England, I always think of it as the center of the universe, or the middle of the middle. So it's the town furthest from any coast in England, called Northampton. I live in America now. I came over here in 2009. I am a dual nationality individual now. I got citizenship in 2020. But I consider myself dual citizen and an immigrant. Yeah.
My background is in, uh, my degree is actually in Product Design. Ever since school, I was good at art and design. I really excelled in both of those classes. And I pretty much sucked at everything else. So when I see my kids now going through and worrying about grades and really fretting over it, I keep reminding them, remember, it's a bigger picture, you know. This is just the first lilypad you got to jump to to get out of there to see what else is out there. But this is just don't worry about it, which is very difficult to tell kids these days who are fretting about that.
But anyway, yeah, so from art design, I managed to get a on a product design course like I said, that is all based on coursework. So I'm very much a grafter. I see myself as a grafter like I put in the work, but I always used to suck at exams. And a little fun fact the first test that I passed, that wasn't all coursework was my driving test in America. It was quite, quite something so you know, I was never good at like exams.
But anyway, I came to work in America for a company based in Indianapolis who had PepsiCo among other companies on their books. So one of my claims to fame was doing the design for the first Tropicana mobile site. So this is back in the day when there was Blackberries and you know, or Nokia, you know. So just trying to try to break into that space, because I just loved all that interactivity and all that kind of stuff.
But when you look at web design, I found quickly that I was lent more on the development side of it that I did the art side of it, because I found that there was so many opinions about the design, and so much dare I say pixel pushing in web design, it got to be a little bit exhausting. And at the end of it, I was like, Oh, just tell me what you want, I'll build it, I don't care anymore. And I kind of lost that fun creative bit kind of went away. So I wanna go down the development route. Because either it works or it doesn't, right. So I went down the path of designing, uh, um developing and know enough to be, you know, dangerous, just really enjoy making big buttons like that. I mean, it came down to that. I just like a big hollow button that lights up. That was there's something to be said for that. And I enjoyed doing that.
But I realized that my work visa at the time was starting to run out and the company that I was working for weren't really making the kind of sounds that I wanted to hear to say, Yeah, we will keep you going, you know. And at that point, a good friend of mine who worked for that company, he moved on to work for a nonprofit, and he was loving it, hey, I really, really enjoyed working in the nonprofit space. And he was like, yeah, you should do it. I don't even know how to apply for it, you know, and he says, basically just go into I think it was like Indeed, or one of those type of websites and just type in nonprofit, interactive designer and see what comes back. And then the the searches all came back. And I clicked on it. And I had an interview with that company. And I still work for that company now. I don't know if I say that company. But I and that's where I met you, Meredith in back in 2012.
Yeah, so I was gonna ask you about that. So for our listeners, Ben said he moved to America. He was in Indianapolis, or near there for a while. And now he's in the Charleston, South Carolina area, which is where we met. And what do you remember about our first—so we started at this company on the same day, and we had orientation for like, way too many days to have 30 adults in a small room. That's what I remember mostly about it. But what do you remember about those first few days working together?
So well, just for context the idea that I was to be a remote employee and work out of the Indianapolis office, and I was to do training for three weekends on the bounce, and the first weekend, the company that I worked for, is very, it seemed that they were... the purse strings were pretty tight. So we didn't go off site any more anytime. So then suddenly to work for a company that was like, Yeah, we'll just fly you down. And Yeah, just pop down. I was like, Wow, they're willing to pay for a plane ticket? I couldn't even get a soda. This is crazy.
So we I came down here three weekends on the bounce, and then it was palm trees and blue skies. And then I'd go to Indiana to shoveling snow and being freezing cold. So I told my wife, Yeah, they demand that we moved down there and when Okay, and then we moved down under these rouge to stay warm. We've been here ever since. So, yay mosquitoes and sweaty pits.
Anyway, when we first met my, my, I was a little bit overwhelmed with the building that we were in. And it just seemed colossal because I was working at a small office and then suddenly to go into this massive building where there was a couple of 1000 people working out, it was daunting. And we went into this little like coffee area, and everybody was just looking at each other with the same kind of green, green look on their face. And I remember thinking how everyone else looked put together and I was just winging it. That's what was going through my head the whole time. I was I remember people will just say, Yeah, I know this product. And they could just recite all the products the company made when we did this, this and this and yeah, and they knew what business unit they're in and I was like, I don't know what any of the products are. I don't know what business unit are. I don't know any of these acronyms. I think we're on the same team. And when people said, What do you do? I said, I build websites. That's what I do. I make them look pretty. So they work. And they're like, Okay, let's move on. I was like, Oh god, I don't think I'm gonna last a week, but when I actually found my feet and got to know Meredith and our good friend Aga, we went through the same new employee orientation or NEO as they called it, and we took the you tried to use the products once we figured out what we were doing, we were all like, Oh, yeah, this is the same stuff we use, you know, it's the same code underneath. You just have to know where to click. And so I felt a little bit better about it, then. I think we both I think we all had kind of similar mindset that were there for the design and we were there to work for nonprofits more than we were there for products and how the company made money, that's how I felt.
I forgot it was even called NEO. But that was one of my memories of the first few days there in orientation was that there was a million acronyms. There was an acronym for everything. I mean, the company itself is an acronym. Yeah, that was kind of ridiculous. But a lot of...
My role has changed. My, my focus has changed. I kind of went in as a interactive designer, I think was the title. And they had a grade, interactive designer II I think it was, and then that went up to II, III, IV, Principal, Team Lead, and now I'm a Manager. And I think that a couple of years back, I kind of just got, I don't wanna say bored is the wrong word but I got frustrated with coding. I knew that it was changing so quick. And I knew there were smarter people at coding than I was. And I enjoyed seeing their success, and setting them up for success. Because some of the processes and the systems and the way that people go about things, it was different, there was no consistency and people were running into the same challenges. So I know I see myself as more of a blocker to get all the busy and the noise out of the way so they can get up and get on create some amazing looking websites. And I get a kick from that now.
Well, that's good, because we're going to talk about some of that today. But I also, before we like dive into your gift that I want to talk about today, I wanted to, I do this with all my guests. So I'm just gonna ask you a question. And I just want you to answer with the first thing that comes to mind. And that is, what is something that you've been meaning to share?
So the thing that I've been mean to share is the kids book that I wrote. I've been wanting to do this for a while. And I felt that even though I'm a manager now and all this kind of kind of things that I get up to, I felt that my creative outlet has been kind of I don't want to say drying up, but wonting let's put it that way. I've always had an eye for design and stories and that kind of thing. And I was I guess triggered by it by watching of all things TikTok is the time circle that is TikTok, right. And there was a user on the called Jennifer Singer, and she was writing about how you can self publish using Amazon.
So anyway, I um found out you could self publish on Amazon. And I was like, so the only person I've got to really impress is me. And I I've got I would say pretty high standards in the way that I see things. I guess one of my hidden talents is seeing patterns. But that's why I was always good at coding, I could see how everything was laid out very, very quickly, I could find something in code and see it straight on the screen. So like I can always kind of step back and squint my eyes and say, yeah, that's not right.
Okay, well, you obviously have some guesses as to what I was going to talk about. But it was hard to pick one thing because there's so many strengths that you have, I mean, you're such a good friend, you're so good at like keeping in touch and checking in, you know, you'll text you'll give me a call, you'll send me a Marco Polos of your dog, which is the best. You're a husband and amazing dad to one dog and two kids who are now teenagers, which is hard to believe. And they're very confident, independent, self aware, smart teenagers at that. Gosh, what else... you just remodeled a kitchen nearly on your own. And you just wrote and co-illustrated a children's book.
So there's so many things that I think we could talk about. But there's one thing about you that I think is just so underrated and you kind of alluded to it earlier, and it's that you have this ability to simplify things. You can take something that is so incredibly complex and confusing and just a hot mess, and you can make it simple. And I watched you do this in your job. And I know that that's sort of that became part of your role. But it's just such a gift, because you also have a way of explaining the way you've simplified it in a way that is really compelling for companies or management to adopt your suggestions, which I think is very rare. I think a lot of times people are like, We could do this better. And they're like, Yeah, whatever. So that's the gift I want to talk about. How do you feel about that?
I don't honestly think about it very often. It's probably not the answer you're looking for, I think the devils in the detail for sure, for a lot of things I do for quoting and that but I think to your point, it's showing what needs to be shown. Like even at work, I'm on a lot of meetings and you know, I always think to myself, is the team that reports to me going to go, Oh, wow, that's really going to make my you know, that's going to help me or is that going to just be like, So that's an hour of my time I'm not going to get back then I guess. You know, I ask myself that question about everything I say. So I'm very strategic about the meetings that I have for the ones that I'm leading.
So I I guess it's hiding, hiding's the wrong word. But it's showing what's important. When I look at my living room is a good example of showing what's important, right. So when we moved into our first house here that we owned, I spent a lot of time designing the way that the layout is. And what I mean by that is that I put some design rules in place. And if you know the design rules, you would see it around the house. But if you didn't know them, you would probably be oblivious to them. So for example, no wires. It's a really stupid thing. But I don't want to see a wire ever. Right? So so there's no lamps or anything in our house. Everything is built into cupboards and shelves and floating shells and things like that. If you again, you see the light, you don't see the lamp. And if you see all the mess and wires and all that behind the scenes, it's there has to be there, but to your point, the simplicity of switching the lights on and it's all Siri and you know, cuz I'm home kit and home automation fanatic. Yeah, I just put something in place, figure out what the rules are. And then and then keep going it and say, Well, how can I strip it back even more?
I think you were one of the first actual people that I knew in real life that had like a full smart home. And I still only know like one or two others. So I've always thought that was really cool. How did you first realize you were good at simplifying things? Because you can simplify processes, you can simplify, like you said, even the design of your home. What's your earliest memory of using that?
Really tough question. Because I'll be honest with you, it's quite flattering for you to tell me that because I don't, now you point it out it's obvious, but I don't really think I don't really think like that. I don't think, Oh, how can I simplify this? I just think, What's the thing that I keep tripping over that everyone else just is used to stubbing their toe on, right. It's the minutia that annoys me. I think it's more to do with that. I don't think of it as, Aha! Suddenly something I'm good at! I think, damn, I've stubbed my toe one more time. Let's get rid of that thing!
Yeah. So what's what's an early memory you have of something annoying you and you're like, I have to fix this.
That's a real tough one. I guess I'm a tidy person. Oh, you know what? I tell you exactly what it is. So, okay, so Wayne's World, right? So back in the UK, the houses that were living or lived, generally smaller, tiny compared to America, and I my closet is about the size of my bedroom growing up. Tiny. I think it was probably about maybe seven foot by eight foot, right, which is mind blowing. And I had that box room growing up. So it was just my space. My mother is I don't want to say hoarder, because that would be impolite, but she was a collector of everything.
So it seemed like I needed to carve out a little bit of space for myself. So in this room, I managed to it there was a wardrobe and a bed. And that was it, you couldn't move that you'd have nowhere to walk around. So that taught me to put my stuff away. And then I thought to myself, well, if I need to put my stuff somewhere, this is going to be my space, I'm going to basically create this bedroom. So I built all these shelves and cupboards and wardrobes and made a desk and I must have been, looking back at it, I must have been 12 at this point, which is fairly young to be... maybe is that young to be sort of building out your own bedroom? I guess it is. And then I've got a fold up single or twin as they call it here, couch thing that I could just skid into the corner. So when my friends would come around, they're like, Oh, look at the den or like, well, they wouldn't say that, that's an Americanism, but it's like, Oh, this is Ben's pad, you know? And then I I'll be like, Yeah, I'll put TV in my room and they're like, yeah, whatever like this. And people would come around and hang in my tiny little box room and just sit around watch TV and like that. And my dad would walk in and he goes, Where is everyone? Oh they're hanging out in Ben's room. Really, why? Like that... and we would all fit because I was just so conscious of the space, and because I guess I was a little bit embarrassed about how some of the house was cluttered, I guess thinking back to it. So I guess that's my efficiency, I guess that's where it stems from. It's just surviving and being able to live in a very small space.
That makes a lot of sense. I mean, needing to like have a little place where you could collect yourself and find a little bit of peace within that house. That makes a lot of sense.
And so it sounds like perhaps your mother is not also blessed with this gift. Is anyone else in your family like really good at simplifying stuff or organizing?
Well, my dad is to a certain extent, yeah, he was he came from his youth worked as an engineer. So we had a bench in his little workshop at the end of the garden. And I remember everything being in its place and the different, all the different screwdrivers were all in its place, and I used to kind of always warm to that. And then my grandfather, he was a carpenter, and he had a workshop and he had all these planes and files and everything in his workshop. So I just remember thinking like having a proper workbench where everything has its place makes sense to me now.
So even now, even now, as we're recording this, I'm at my workshop bench. And as I look at the items on here, everything is like stripped down again, no wires, like I even bought a wireless keyboard, just to get in here because I just can't get distracted by the clutter. Because I'm so thinking about the wires more than I am the work, which is kind of crazy. I lose attention because I'm thinking about this stuff, so I have to hide it.
Is it the same for like non-physical things? So like when you're at work, and there's like really dumb part of a process that just requires extra energy that isn't necessary, is that the same thing? Like do you feel that that's in your way, and it's like an obstruction and it bothers you?
Absolutely. I just keep asking, Why are we doing this? And sometimes you don't know the reason why. And, you know, you have ways like the finance department requires we update these numbers. Okay, why? Because they needed them by Thursday. That's not a why. But even so in the systems that we have, you're meant to go into one by one and update the data, and I found a way of doing it on mass. So even in software that you know, I'm always looking for quicker ways to do something and efficiencies. Yeah.
Yeah, that's so interesting to me. Because I think that a lot of people would sort of roll their eyes and be like, I don't know why we're doing this. But like, most people would not actually ask, Why are we doing this? Let's stop doing this. And I also remember working with you, we had all these different reporting things we had to do with our hours. And then there was all this way that stuff was calculated for bonuses, or whatever. And it was just kind of a tedious system. And I remember you found out you found some ways to like streamline it to where you're like, yeah, I can put in my time and like two seconds. And I don't know, you had some like algorithm or something to like, calculate your bonus, you just you knew all these things that none of us, like none of the rest of us had figured out. And it was just so you didn't have to spend any additional time thinking about it, which I thought was so brilliant.
It's crazy. I still do that now I think, yeah. I think I think about what I'm thinking about, which just sounds really stupid. I often ask myself, why am I thinking about this? And also, will I care about it in three years time? That's a big question I ask myself a lot. I think with age you prioritize. And growing up, like I struggled with urgent versus important, because everything's urgent, right? And that one, that one's a, that's a, that's a hard thing to learn. I don't think they learn that at school or anything, you just have to figure that one out. And you have little tells, I guess, to figure out what is important, and what is urgent, because if it's urgent then great, but do we even need to do it by tomorrow? You know, what's the big payoff? Will it matter in three years? I just keep saying that, you know, and it just helps me manage my time a lot better, I think.
Yeah. And I think that that's really a part of why I see this as such a gift. It isn't just organizing stuff and cleaning up processes, you really do see what's important and what's not. You talked about before you kind of see patterns and like where is something not working? Where is there a block? And how can we pull that out? And yeah, I just find it so fascinating, because I just don't see things that way. I definitely get annoyed by that stuff. But I can't propose a solution like you could,
Ah, that's interesting.
What's your favorite way that you've used this skill in your work or your career?
I think the my favorite one was when we this is going back aways, so I'm on a completely different team now. But one of the main complaints is that this is the way we should do something we should deliver this and it'd be we have a concept and now we're going to now we're going to everyone's going to do it this way. And the biggest challenge you have with that is buy-in because that change management, that's what they call it in business terms, right, people saying, well, I don't want to do it that way. I'm used to the way I'm working and all that kind of thing, unless you tell them, or not just tell them but show them the benefit of it and the advantages of it and kind of make them want to do it, you're going to have an uphill battle.
It comes down to why, why, and why? You just keep asking why? Because if you can't answer why we're doing something, then I question, then should we be doing at all? What's the benefit? And I just I see that all the time. So one of the things that we had, where my place when these new ideas would come out people were saying, So what what statement of work is this? How are we delivering this one? Or is t his like the other one? And there was no system to track it? Or how long we should spend it? Or who does what in fact? Is that my responsibility? Was that your responsibility? Do I have to wait on you for that? Or do I just do it? And there was just nothing in there. So I built something that listed out all the steps in order to deliver it, and the questions that should be asked, the assets that you'd need, any stoppers. And it was just one big system that people could say, Well I'm a project manager and they'd click it and it would filter out all the noise. And it would show me everything that a project manager would do when they do it. Right. Oh, I'm a designer, click that, oh, I've got all these design tasks to do. Or you'd click 'em both and you can see where they worked together in this one long process. That was a big success. People were like... And it even went down to client correspondence. What should we be telling the client at this point in the project? And why did that person say something different to that? So it was that was that was cool. And you just copy and paste it and added the client details.
Yeah, I would imagine that the feedback you got was that was just a game changer.
Yeah. And then I built it just for, well first of all my own sanity, then my team started using it, saying this is great. And other people looked at it and they was like, Oh, my God, can we have this for other products? And people started wanting to have it for their products and how they implemented their processes, and it kind of grew from there. So that was, that was quite rewarding. But again, it all comes down to enablement. I just love seeing people succeed and get on with what they're doing because they're not worrying about what comes next. You know, it's that noise that, again, you're just stubbing your toe on it, and stopping you gettting, people doing what they're good at, you know.
Yeah, that's amazing, is there so you talked about kind of using this within your new home, when you moved in, and kind of streamlining everything. Is there another way you can think of that you've used this just in your general life outside of work that's been really cool?
Yeah. Again, it's another home project, always, always looking for efficiencies. I want to put the Christmas lights up, like I love looking at Christmas lights, but I loath putting them up. So I managed to figure out a way that I could get this plastic tubing and then add these clips to the side of the house that go under the gutters, so you can't see them the rest of the year. So now putting the lights up there, they just click in these massive tubes just click into the rafters of the house, and I can get the whole lights of the house up within probably about 15 minutes. So no more Clark Griswold going on the roof. So that I mean, I did that for the house.
But everything. LIke I'm always looking for efficiency, even like the route that I take to get anywhere. Like this is the quickest way, you know, can I cut through there. Is that light... I often think that if I can time the lights, the traffic lights, it's time to move house, because I can time the light to get through the traffic quicker than everyone else just knowing when to change lanes. And so I'm always thinking that way. And I don't mean, like grossly cut people up. I just know that when certain lights change at a certain time, if you're at the same, if you're at the right place, you can get through quicker. Always looking for efficiency. I don't know it's just built in I can't help it. It's very annoying.
It's not annoying. It's I think it's such a gift. I mean, I just I think that some of that is a general skill that some people have. I mean, like I know how to open the Waze app and try to find the fastest way. But that's not the same thing as like having a brain that literally is calculating that stuff. You just see it, you know, it's almost like you have this Beautiful Mind thing going on as it relates to like decluttering not just physical spaces, but your life and your processes and how you move through a day. I just think it's so cool.
I'll tell you one thing that's quite interesting. So I now when I'm not doing this stuff, is I'm actively looking for ways to get out of it, which is a weird thing to say. So I sometimes go riding on my motorcycle. And I just pick a direction and I try my hardest to get lost. And it sounds stupid, because because if I could go the same way, the most efficient way every time, you don't see anything. So how can you... How can you, you know, experience the world if you don't get lost? So I actually enjoy I enjoy doing that kind of purposely going out of my way to get lost, so then I can find myself find my way back without maps and all that kind of stuff. Because once you get to certain highway markers your like, Oh, I know where I am from here. But I purposely do that to kind of, I guess counteract this efficiency thing that I have going on in my head.
Yeah, that's so interesting. Do you find yourself having to like purposefully do different things just like that, like if you're on your motorcycle, that's one example. But are there other areas where you're like, I have to find a way to turn this off because it's actually making my brain go overtime?
Yeah, I think I think I do. I think I do. I need to more, especially for work and things like that. Yeah, I think I don't I don't as much for work, but I do my personal. The other thing I'm conscious of is that if I'm always finding efficiency, and other people are wanting to see other things, I don't want to be the guy, No, we gotta do it this way. You know and ruin ruin it for everyone else, because that's the last thing I want. But I'm also a believer if you don't have a plan and, just have a plan and then just throw it to the wind if it's going well. You know, if you said Oh, we're gonna do this, we're gonna do this, we're gonna do this. And if the first stop, you have any good time doing whatever you're doing in the first one, I don't want to stop that good time just to, Oh, we've got to do this one next. This is the next pub we got to go to, everyone drink up. I'm not going to be that guy. You know.
Are you using this in your job right now? I think you said it's not technically part of your role anymore but are you are using it just because it's something that you kind of default to?
I am actually use it in my role now. It's not part of my job description. I always think of it as side hustles. Um, so when people are going I'm having this problem with this. I just, Oh, Ben, you're the guy that does that kind of thing. So I, it just kind of lands on me and I kind of love doing it.
So right now what I'm working on is a scoping calculator, which sounds as thrilling as you'd like. But we're currently upgrading from one system to another. And the work effort changes depending on depending on the content that's in it and the type of data and the question comes up, well, how long is it going to take. And you ask one person and they say, Oh 10 hours, another one might say, 100 hours. So I said, Okay, we've got to put something to be consistent in there. So then I come up with a calculation and a formula. So then now what I'm currently working on is changing that into like a spreadsheet and then validating it and all this kind of stuff. And I kind of just geek out about, I'm like, Oh, this is so cool. You know, how many of these things do you want? Three, five, look, [indecipherable]. There's your number. And I'm like, why am I getting so much joy for this? I don't want to be like, I don't wanna be this guy. My background is in are and design and I'm getting excited by a spreadsheet. That doesn't seem right. But you know, this is this is where I am I just enjoy that at the moment, for sure. Yeah. I love it.
Yeah, I think there almost is a design element to it too. Because it's just like you were saying, you know, when you were designing your home, and even the room when you were a child, you know, like making that space for yourself. It's almost like you are designing a life that is less chaotic. You're designing a more peaceful life for yourself that's less stressful.
Yeah. Less is more.
You're a life designer. That's what you are.
I'm a life designer. Yeah. Yeah, you can use that hashtag for this, if you like, #lifedesigner.
I will do that.
I don't know. The other thing is I like is symmetry as well. So when just the way that things sit, again, it comes back to the patterns thing in code, I can spot it, but even the way I just someone pointed out to, Your room is so symmetrical, and I was like, Is it? Oh my god, it really is. Like all the shelves to the like the the 16th of an inch, you know, symmetry, you know, the way that everything is lined up. And I was like, Oh, it is. And it's when I think about it now when I sit and relax and watch TV or whatever. I'm looking around the room knowing that everything is lined up. And if there's one picture that's not in the right place, you know, it's not symmetrical, at least, I'm thinking about it more than I am watching the TV. I guess it's just taking my mind off it, you know?
And have you ever thought about using that gift for simplifying things or making things easier, have you ever thought about using that in a way that you're not currently using it? Like for a different job? Or is there a project you really want to do?
Not really, not proactively? Maybe I should. Maybe I should. I mean, it's something that just comes when it's needed, you know, in everything that I look at, it will be there running in the background and then when the task presents itself, it moves to the foreground, but I'm not proactively looking for, Well that's inefficient. I don't actively look for it. It's like the thing that's just bubbling behind, you know?
Yeah, I mean, I could just see you being so good at going into like other companies or consulting for small businesses, or you know, anyone who's trying to streamline stuff, and they just can't wrap their head around it. I just feel like you see stuff so quickly. And you'd be you'd be you know, you'd be designing other people's lives, like helping them live a better life.
Yeah. But yeah, maybe something I should think about a little bit more.
So Ben, I want to talk about your book, you, you wrote and co illustrated this children's book, Wendy and Naomi Fly on a Plane. Did I get that right?
Yep. Yes you did.
And you're working. I think you're working on a second book, too. And so I want to hear about those. And I also want to know, would it be fair to say that that is also sort of a means to simplify? Because you're kind of working on those like multiple income streams and trying to like organize that process to be something simple that runs in the background? Is that fair?
Yeah, yeah. So Naomi and Wendy Fly on a Plane was a, like a pet project that I wanted to do for a while and talking about efficiency, knowing that it can be published on Amazon without all the talk of publishers and getting book deals and all that kind of stuff. Knowing that that was something I wanted to do. That was kind of a way to get my creative juices going, but also to honestly create a stream of passive income.
Now, people talk about passive income and they describe in a different way, but honestly, it's setting something up to earn money while you're sleeping. That's the way you gotta think of it. So I enjoyed the process of doing it just as a creative output, but also just knowing that that thing has been set up in motion has been good. It was a big learning experience as well I will say. The illustrator I worked with knew way more than I did and I was definitely out of my depth. But I learned so much by getting it wrong, honestly, the first few times and the first few revisions.
But she managed to do a couple of illustrations for it. And then I because I've got a background in design and illustration, I could do more serious, but I wasn't very good doing faces and hands and things like that. She kind of did those. And then I could take those drawings and then modify them and reuse them on different pages. That was good fun. But now, I'm going to be looking at doing the next one in the, well, actually doing something a little bit different. My brand is Room25 Books. And there's you can go to Instagram, Facebook, tik tok, even Twitter, Room 25 Books is where I'm kind of posting all the stuff about it. And the logo is a dog's head, right, which is my dog Deefur. So that's the next book that I'm working on. And that's for, that's a low content book for really, really young kids. So um, I've got to figure out how to get that printed on boards. So that's the next thing that I'm working on. I'm gonna be building up that and then I'm going to be hopefully writing the next one with Wendy and Naomi, Naomi and Wendy, gotta get it right. And I think it's gonna be a book about going to the aquarium is the next one I've got in the in the works.
I love that cause you volunteer at the aquarium with your son, right?
I do. Yeah, my son's well, he's approaching the last year in high school now, but we've been volunteering there for about four years and just love it. It's fantastic just to know, all these different facts about the different animals and interacting with the public who you think, I don't know, this guy looks a little bit scary, you know, I wouldn't really I wouldn't really approach him in real life. And then they're just like, Whoa, is that a snake? You know, tell me about the snake and you rattle off a few facts. You're just so engaged with them. It's just so rewarding. We were only gonna do it for a year originally, now we're on year four, and I just don't want to give it up.
Yeah, it seems so fun. I love it when you post pictures, even though they scare me when you're holding those big snakes, but very, very impressed by you guys. I'm gonna misquote you here. But you said something about, like, you learn so much by getting it wrong. And I think that's so important, because so many people, like never start doing the thing because they're afraid to do it wrong. And but that is honestly like the only way to do it right? Because you are going to get it wrong. And that's how you learn how to get it. Right.
It's so cool that you got to experience that. And I'm I know, it was a ton of work. So congratulations that it's finally out!
And now you have momentum.
Yes. Yes. I again, the next challenge I have is marketing. That's something that I have zero experience in and getting people to find it. And unless you're looking for it specifically, how do you get people to find it? What channels do you use? How do you keep people interested? What is your user base? Because really, it's not kids. It's kids parents? Right?
And it's how do you how do you engage that audience when you have not very many followers and you're brand new to the game? You know, that's that's the bit that I'm struggling on. I mean, I know there's ways of paid doing it. But at the end of it, I still want to break even. Ya know. So.
Well, the good news is now that you have been featured on this podcast, both listeners will be going right to your Amazon. So, yeah, I mean, I think you're set.
Appreciate that. Yes, Naomi and Wendy Fly on a Plane. Available at Amazon. Go get it!
And it will be in the show notes. Ben, after our conversation today, do you feel any differently about this gift or just like knowing that it is a gift? How do you feel about this conversation today and what you'll do with that gift moving forward?
Well, I didn't even realize it was a gift until you mentioned it. I just figured that was my makeup. Honestly, I thought everyone had that. So I'm flattered, first of all. I appreciate your kind words. But it's given me food for thought for sure. Things I should probably pursue a little bit more than I am. And maybe being proactive about it rather than reactive and see what opportunities there are for people who need this kind of consultation. And how do I find those people that'd be the next thing to figure out. Just knocking on doors and saying, Hey, you want to be efficient? Sign here. I don't know if that's how that works. Yeah. No, it's food for thought, for sure. I think I'll look into it.
Awesome. I love that. Well, Ben, thank you for being on today. I love you so much. I'm so glad we're friends. I can't believe it's been almost 10 years.
Yeah. 10 years.
Yeah, I just so appreciate you being on today and I will share all of your links in the show notes so that listeners can grab a copy of your book and follow along with your journey. Yeah. Thank you.
Thank you for having me. I look forward to listening to the others as well.
Aw thanks. All right, bye.
I hope you loved that conversation as much as I did. If you want to follow Ben on social media, you can find him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok with the handle @room25books. That's the number 2-5 and you can visit his website at room25.com. If you want to purchase his children's book, Wendy and Naomi Fly on a Plane, you can find it on Amazon and Kindle.
If you want to follow me, Meredith McCreight, you can find me on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook with the handle @createwithoutbounds. You can visit the podcast page at meaningtoshare.com and check out more stuff from my brain at createwithoutbounds.com. You can find all of Ben's info, my info, all the social links and more in the full show notes where you'll also find some photos of us hanging out together as a chosen family.
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