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From clowning to DJing: Where successful business leaders find inspiration

Clowns wave to the crowd along Sixth Avenue during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

By Kathryn Vasel, CNN Business

(CNN) — Chuck Tatelbaum is a bankruptcy lawyer — and he always carries an emergency clown nose with him.

“I can be in a meeting where it can be very intense, and the lawyers are getting a little haughty and I will turn around at the conference table, put on the nose and turn back around and say, ‘let’s stop clowning around.’ And it works.”

Tatelbaum has been an attorney for more than 50 years, but the nose represents another part of his life: performing as a clown.

Given the amount of time many of us spend at work, it’s common to let what we do for a living define who we are. But having a hobby or interest outside of work can not only bring a better sense of work-life balance, it can also make us more productive and creative workers and better leaders.

Bankruptcy attorney, and clown

Tatelbaum has walked in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as a clown since 2011. His first year he was dressed as a giant piece of toast, this year he was a “Cornycopia.”

He says the clown training and performances have made him a better lawyer.

Not only can he read people more accurately, which helps in court and conference rooms, he’s also a better presenter. “I can look at people’s faces and judge their reaction. That’s made a big difference. I am also more animated.”

Tatelbaum starts training for the parade on Labor Day. “It’s very physically demanding,” the 75-year-old said. He practices walking, jogging and waving. “I look a little silly — that’s why I do it early in the morning.”

He says his clients have reacted positively to his clowning.

“They say it’s wonderful and nice to see something in your life other than being a lawyer.”

His hobby has also helped bring more balance into Tatelbaum’s life. “I am a bankruptcy lawyer, I never meet happy people,” he said. “They are wonderful and professional, but they aren’t happy. When I do this, I am dealing with happy people or making them happy.”

PR founder, and helicopter pilot

As the founder of tech public relations firm BAM Communications, Beck Bamberger found herself being pulled in many different directions.

“As the boss, you have your hands in all of it,” she said.

In order to escape and focus on one matter a time, she heads 1,000 feet off the ground as a helicopter pilot.

There’s no checking emails, responding to text messages or pinging over Slack.

“The physical and mental inputs are extreme,” the 33-year-old said of flying. “You can’t get distracted, there is nothing that can bother you. It’s a nice escape in a lot of ways and helps drill in extreme focus.”

Bamberger has been flying for three years now and finds having a side passion gives her more dimension when meeting and connecting with people — a big part of her job.

“It makes you more balanced and interesting and more relatable to people,” she said.

CEO, and diver

Andrew Mayfield, CEO of Optimal Workshop, has found sometimes not thinking directly about a problem or decision can be an effective way to solve it.

Mayfield has been diving for 15 years and has had a lot of aha moments underwater.

“There have been occasions where there has been something tough and I decided to go for a dive. You manage to solve it subconsciously when you are off doing something else. For me, diving works,” he said.

He once closed an acquisition over a diving trip. “Off we went and the deal was done.”

Tech CEO, and mountain biker

When Daniel Farkas, CEO of language learning app, Drops, is looking for inspiration, he turns to Mother Nature.

He’s been mountain biking since he was 18, and finds that ideas can really start flowing when he’s going 37 miles per hour down a hill.

He even calls his bike an idea machine.

“Every time I hop onto it and ride in the woods, I am coming back with a whole list of ideas,” the 34-year-old said. He uses Siri to keep track of his ideas as they come to him.

Fashion co-founder, and DJ

On days when Corey Epstein, cofounder of clothing company DSTLD, can squeeze in an hour with his guitar during lunch, it’s a win for his company.

“It creates fireworks in your brain, and I come out refreshed with new ideas,” he said.

He’s been playing guitar since age 10 and started DJing as a pre-teen. He still DJs in Los Angeles once or twice a month.

He said he is always striving to learn new things to keep his brain active.

“It can be painful to learn a new instrument. But the challenge and the reward, that never gets boring. Being an entrepreneur, it’s the same thing,” he said.

The-CNN-Wire
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