Jim McCarthy is the CEO of Goldstar, the world's biggest ticket booth making live entertainment a part of everyday life for millions of people. To accomplish this and make it easier for people around the country, the new Goldstar App just launched. He is also an organizer and curator of TEDxBroadway, the annual event set for February 24, 2014, that brings together experts from a wide range of fields to create, share, and stimulate dialogue about making Broadway the best it can be. Jim loves to go out but he is very happy today to be On The Couch.
What do you consider to be your best asset?
Storytelling. I can make one up on demand that will keep a group of any age entertained. Unless I'm tired, in which case the stories tend to end suddenly with magic or plane crashes. In a way, being an entrepreneur is a process of dreaming up a great big story about your business and its customers and talking about it to enough people long enough that it comes true.
What was your proudest moment?
My kids do things that make me proud all the time, but when my son was 10 or so, we were touring the palace of a noble family in England, and we were toldthat we were there on a special day because the Duke of Such-and-Such was there that day. Many people oohed and aahed over this, but my son said, “I don't see why I should care about that. He's just a regular guy like us.” I gave a big fist pump and said, “Washington and Jefferson would be proud of you, son!”
What is your favorite drink?
A good Italian cappuccino is pretty hard to beat, preferably with about a half a foot of foam at the top of the mug. I'm not even self-conscious about getting foam on the tip of my nose. If we're talking adult beverages, I'll have a 16-year-old Lagavulin on the rocks, with a crazy straw.
What is your favorite food?
I'm not fussy about food. Usually, I just get annoyed around lunchtime because I get distracted by being hungry. I know that some people just can't relate to that at all, but the bottom line is that I'd probably be just about as happy with a really tasty taco or In-N-Out Burger than with something super fancy. I'm a cheap date, when it comes to food anyway.
What is your favorite condiment?
Wasabi, because if necessary it could double as a weapon. Someday I'll weaponize wasabi. Also, I once almost drove a pick-up truck over a cliff at a wasabi horseradish farm in Japan. Almost.
What is your current obsession?
Mobile technology and its impact on our behavior. I love all the new tech, but I'm afraid it's turning us into drones. My current obsession is trying to figure out how to help humans master their phones rather than the other way around.
If you could give up one of your vices, what would it be?
I'm in the market for a new and interesting vice at the moment, preferably one without any long or short-term negative consequences. If you've got any ideas, let me know.
What is the one professional accomplishment you long for most?
I've always kinda wanted one of those line drawings of myself in The Wall Street Journal, hopefully for something good.
What is the one thing you waste too much money on?
Upgrades on things. I'm a bit of a sucker for paying a little more to get something better. There are the big obvious ones like airline seats and tickets to shows, but you could probably sell me upgraded shoelaces or chewing gum if you thought about how to make me believe they were better.
What is the one activity you waste too much time doing?
Watching “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” I've seen some episodes four or five times, but Kaitlin Olson and Charlie Day are the funniest people on TV, and the chorus of “Day Man” is stuck in my head permanently.
What is the single best trait you inherited or learned from your parents?
Manners. I grew up in the South (South Carolina), and I was raised to be polite. When I moved north for college, it was weird for people when I'd say “sir” and “ma'am” all the time. It's easier in California, because where I would naturally say
“sir” or “ma'am,” I just say “dude.”
What is the single worst trait you inherited or learned from your parents?
Corny interjections. I reflexively say “gee whiz,” “dang” and “holy smokes.” I manage to avoid “my word” and “my stars,” which I recall my grandmother saying.
What in the world most thrills you?
Seriously, nothing makes me happier than seeing people prosper, living the lives they want to live and making the world a better place at the same time. Prosperity doesn't suck.
What current trend in popular culture most irritates you?
I don't get the “Real Housewives” thing or I suppose the entire genre of reality shows about horrible people who argue with each other all the time. I'm probably not the target audience, but I think we'll all be better off when that trends fades.
What was the single most embarrassing moment you've ever experienced on the job?
When I was teaching English in Japan, I asked a woman in my class to marry me when I meant to ask her if she was married. She said no, and I'm still not sure if she was rejecting me or just answering my question.
What is your favorite place in the world?
Southern California. You learn to work around the traffic, and then it's perfect. The weather's the best, and you can find your choice of lifestyle no matter who you are because there are dozens of little centers of activity, each with its own pace, culture, and feel. And you can visit the snow an hour or two away if you just can't live without it.
What is your personal motto?
I don't really have one, but now I'm thinking I should create one. When I was in High School, I used to write little slogans on my headbands and sweatbands in soccer, and one I wrote a lot was “Ain't Life Grand?” which I like. It's about abundance and the way that life can be what you want to make it, which goes back to the prosperity thing. The grammar's incorrect, but I like the sentiment.