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Better Every Day: We become what we think about

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I had the opportunity to sit down with Roman Kepczyk of Right Networks to record a “Better Every Day” podcast episode. Roman has always been an inspiration to me — one of those unique individuals who truly lives his life, both professional and personal, with intention. A person who maintains a conscious focus on learning, improving and clearing the clutter to gain greater clarity.

During our discussion, Roman introduced me to Earl Nightingale, an American radio speaker and author from the 1950s who dealt mainly on the topics of human character development, motivation and meaningful existence. Nightingale has long been an inspiration to Roman, specifically in the area Nightingale was most known for: “Defining your own success.”

As we delved into this topic, I asked Roman what success really means (at least to him), and his answer struck a major chord with me.

Success is: “The progressive realization of a worthwhile goal.”

As I thought about this definition (taken directly from Nightingale’s work), I started to look back on my own path to success — how I got here, what it means to me, and how I can continue to improve. For me, I have several “worthwhile goals” that span my personal, professional and spiritual lives. And like Roman, I have a repeatable process that keeps me on track and focused. This process is what I want to share with you here.

The state of the profession

Before diving into the process, I want to take a moment to discuss what I see in many firms today. Mainly, because it offers a glimpse into where I started, before I really got intentional about building a Modern Firm and living the life I wanted.

Many firm owners I talk to are stuck in what Roman Kepczyk defined as “the vortex” — that whirlwind of chaos that is created by serving the wrong clients, performing the wrong services, and/or adhering to outmoded practices. It’s everything that keeps you operating within a traditional business model — simply working the way things have always been done.

I was stuck in the vortex for years until I sat down and really thought through what I wanted in life — which helped me define my business model. Did I want to keep churning out tax returns and working nights and weekends, or did I want to build a business that offered me far more freedom? I wanted freedom. I wanted a business that would run and be profitable whether I was tied to my desk or not. This became my main goal. It was what I thought about every day, until it was what I achieved.

The road to freedom

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that you have to put a sound plan in place if positive change is to occur.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I ended another chaotic tax season, having logged hundreds of hours, and again sacrificing sacred family time for nearly four months out of the year. Enough was enough. I decided to get away (far away) and plot out my plan for much-needed change.

I escaped to a beach in Florida. I sat in the sun and took inventory of my life. I reflected on years past — the ridiculously long hours, the weekends at the office and the missed games and events of my children. From there, I created my bucket list — all the things I wanted for myself professionally, personally and spiritually. I gave great thought to how I could become what I thought about.

This became an annual ritual for me in my quest to continually improve my business so that I could have the personal and spiritual life I desired. I had finally become intentional about my future, instead of simply going with the flow and following the traditions of the profession. I haven’t looked back since, and today, I operate a true Modern Firm that affords me the freedom and fulfillment I was seeking so many years ago.

I know how good this feels, despite the painful road I traveled to get here. I don’t want to sugarcoat it — it will take time and patience. But I also know that if I can do it, so can you.

Moving out of the vortex

Changing your business model to achieve your “worthwhile goals” is not an easy road. I’m here to tell you, however, when you do the work, there is nothing more energizing than to see and feel the fruits of your labor! Start here. Start today.

  • Plan your getaway and go. If you are serious about realizing your worthwhile goals, then you have to get away from it all. Plan a long trip to a relaxing destination — whatever that means to you. A few of Roman’s choice escapes included the Grand Canyon and a rental house on the beach. For me, it was Longboat Key, Florida. I did all my planning on the warm, white sands. You can’t begin to really think through your wants and the life you truly desire unless you move away from the vortex that has kept you spinning in the same place for so long.
  • Make your master bucket list and keep it close. Dedicate chunks of time each day to create your master bucket list. Roman structured his list with the following categories: mental, physical, professional, social, spiritual and family goals. I had many of the same categories on my own list. The ultimate objective is to record absolutely everything you want to change. This helped me devise a vision for meeting these goals and a to-do list to keep me accountable. Creating my master list was the first step in moving out of the vortex.

I also recommend keeping this list close to you. Revisit it often during the year, and review it at the start of each new year as a jumping off point to brainstorming new ideas. Building a firm for the modern age is an ongoing process.

  • Start to clean house. Your master list will house several goals in multiple categories, but I found that my work goals served as the core — the heart of where change was required in order to meet my other goals. For example, if I planned to attend most of the children’s events (family goal) or train for a marathon (physical goal), I had to build a business that offered me the freedom to do so.

My first task was to take inventory of my current clients — to sort them from best to worst. I classified my ideal clients — those I both enjoyed and was great at serving — as my A and B clients. I classified my problem clients as C and D. My C and D clients were those that were difficult to deal with, caused the most issues with staff or simply no longer fit my business model (e.g., a once-a-year tax client). I made a promise to myself that I would let go of my C and D clients over the next year, while focusing on recruiting more A and B clients.

This can be a difficult task for some accountants. Letting go of business is scary. However, Roman posed a thought-provoking question during our podcast discussion. He asked: “Would you rather serve C and D clients or have your competitors deal with them?” My thought: Send them down the road. Getting rid of my less-than-ideal clients also afforded me the time to hone the skills and develop the products required to support only ideal (A and B) clientele.

  • Let go of the fear. As I mentioned above, letting go of anything (be it clients, staff or services) is a scary thing for accounting professionals. But you have to let go of the fear to move forward. You can stay stuck in the vortex or make changes and achieve all those worthwhile goals.
  • Be intentional in every aspect of life. I’ve been saying this throughout the article, but I’ll state the obvious again here. If you are going to make real change, you have to be intentional about every move you make. Make your bucket list, ask yourself the hard questions about what you need to change, move past fear to clean house and stay true to your list throughout the year and beyond. Where there is intention, positive change will follow.

If you are tired of living in the eye of the storm, where cycles repeat and chaos is a constant, start your journey to the life you want to live today. Create your list of worthwhile goals and then move forward to become what you think about!

For a deeper dive on the topics discussed in this article and more, subscribe to the “Better Every Day” podcast on iTunes or listen at rootworks.com/podcast.

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