Try to sit in a room and listen to people speak about current and proposed accounting standards and stay awake. I dare you.
It’s not easy. Accounting rules are not fun or exciting. In fact, they are pretty boring.
That being said, I love public accounting because continual learning is necessary and expected. No, I’m not necessarily talking about the class room setting above. Instead, I’m talking about learning in other ways.
I loved school. I loved to learn. There were, of course, classes that did not keep my attention. Overall, though, school was very enjoyable.
Do you like to learn? You probably do but maybe you don’t know it.
If you like to read, you like to learn. Even if you read fiction, you’re learning something. Either you’re learning about human relationships or something else.
In my public accounting career, I’ve discovered the opportunities for continual learning are prevalent. I get to learn about banking rules and regulations, accounting standards, writing and editing, human personalities, etc. I learn something new every day.
For example, today I learned about a different thought process for proposing on new work from prospective clients. Yesterday, I learned about the importance of making sure everyone in an audience can hear me when I speak. Every day I learn something new about how companies operate and the business reasons decisions are made. These may be little things to learn, but they make each day different.
Do you crave to experience continual learning each day? Did you even realize you learn each day? If not, you learned it now (hopefully).
p style=”text-align: justify;”>Continual learning is not specific to public accounting. Every career, every industry, every person learns every day. You can appreciate your opportunities to learn or you can ignore them. How do you choose to react?
You spend eight, or maybe even 12, hours a day working and that doesn’t even count your commute. You’re lucky to see your children for four hours a day, much less spend quality time with them. You are a good and charitable person so you spend your weekends helping people in need.
Does this sound like your life?
Where is the time for you? You need to spend time on yourself. Sitting on the couch watching the football game doesn’t count. You need to INVEST in yourself. You need to make YOU better. How can you do that?
Here are five areas I’ve invested in me. They should also be good for you.
1. Spiritual – Even though this is not a religion-based blog, I will speak of religious matters from time to time. My faith and relationship with God is the most important thing in my life. It outranks my family and my career. Without having God in my life, my life would be empty.
I’m not perfect; far from it actually. I definitely have much to improve. One thing I’ve noticed though is that the more I focus on my relationship with God, the better my life becomes. My relationships with my wife and children improve (which is difficult because they are already pretty strong), I’m happier in my career and my health improves.
Again, I’m not perfect. However, I try to read some scripture on a daily basis. In fact, I’m attempting to read the Bible, in chronological order, in a year. I’ve read through it in a year several times in the past but there is so much to discern from studying scripture that I can’t read it too much.
I also attempt to pray multiple times a day. This is the weakest aspect of my faith but I’m focusing on getting better. I’ve got to pray more often and more sincerely. It has to happen in more than really bad or really good times. I need to pray multiple times every day.
How is your relationship with God? Can you improve it?
2. Intellectual – Even though I live a very hectic life, I have several hours of downtime each week. Unfortunately, this isn’t downtime in which I can do whatever I want. I’m usually stuck in a car, hotel or airport. I can improve intellectually during these times.
My mode of intellectual investment is in the form of podcasts. There are around 30 podcasts I have set in iTunes to automatically download. And, I listen to them all. I listen to business, entrepreneurial, self-help, sales and marketing and blogging podcasts.
You may like to read or watch videos. I like those methods of intellectual investment too but they are not as easy to consume when on the move. In fact, I’ve been in the middle of two books for several months now. I’ll finish them eventually.
How do you invest in your intellect?
3. Emotional – Your emotions will drive your activity. We tend to “feel” more than we “think” and we react more based on those feelings. Sometimes that can be good; sometimes not so much. My wife was just told by her mentor that she “thinks” too much. It is possible to over think an issue or problem.
Are you feelings in line with your actions? If not, what can you do to change? Maybe you need to spend more time with your spouse, kids, family or friends. My feelings are most in line with my actions when I get to spend quality time with my wife. We are so close that when I travel a lot or we are too busy to have extended talks, my emotions suffer.
Just this week, my wife and I were both traveling. Unfortunately, she left when I was headed home. In fact, we passed each other on the highway. I like to travel and I’m glad she gets to do the little bit she does but it still isn’t easy. When she finally came home, I made sure that we could spend time together. It was nothing uniquely special. We talked and that made my emotions whole.
How do you invest in your emotions?
4. Physical – Your physical health can have a drastic (good or bad) impact on all other facets of your life. If you don’t invest in your physical health, you may not have the energy or drive to do anything else.
This is another case of my underperformance and needed improvement. I’m doing well if I make it to the gym two days a week. It’s just tough to make it with my schedule. However, if I can’t make it to the gym, I become very cognizant of what I eat. In general, I have a very healthy diet and I watch my weight religiously.
Sleep is also a part of your physical health. You may not require a full eight hours of sleep to be productive each day. I function very well on seven hours of sleep but prefer eight. Anything less than six hours of sleep, I know I won’t be as efficient or effective the following day.
What do you do to invest in your physical health?
5. Social – Deep down, I’m an extreme introvert. Being around other people used to make me very nervous. Thankfully, being in public accounting has forced that introversion to the background. I’m now much more social.
I love to spend time with friends, co-workers and clients. I like to meet new people with common interests. But, put me in a room with no one I know and I’m going to be the most uncomfortable person there. When is the last time you’ve been in that situation? I was just last week. It took a few minutes before I was able to walk up and start talking to someone.
If you’re a social butterfly, you’ve probably never experienced that feeling of introversion. You’re just as comfortable with your best friend as a complete stranger. What if you didn’t get to spend as much time with your close friends and family as you desired? Would it wear on your emotions?
What do you do to invest in your social influence?
The Financial Bloggers Conference Story
Last week was one of my most productive and enjoyable weeks of the year. I had decided early in the year to take vacation the week of my wedding anniversary. I would use that time to invest in myself in each of the five areas just discussed.
Spiritual – I had committed to co-teaching a Sunday morning Bible class on personal finance so I could use part of my vacation time to study and prepare lessons.
Intellectual and social – Pat Flynn, one of the two podcasters who inspired me to start intentional employee announced on his podcast that he would be delivering the opening keynote at the 2013 Financial Bloggers Conference in St. Louis. Since it was local and I had already planned to take vacation, I signed up.
I wanted to attend the conference for two primary reasons. One reason was to learn more about blogging and how I could improve what I was doing. The most important reason, however, was to meet like-minded people with whom I could create lasting relationships. Both of these were realized.
Great information was shared during the conference and I took pages of notes. The conference ended on Saturday evening and I spent the following Sunday afternoon applying many of the lessons I learned.
I also met some great people such as Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com, Jaime Tardy of EventualMillionaire.com, David Siteman Garland of TheRisetotheTop.com, Dustin Hartzler of YourWebsiteEngineer.com, Philip Taylor or PTMoney.com and Steve Stewart of MoneyPlanSOS.com, among many others.
This was a conference I will never forget.
Physical – The first day of my vacation week was spent on my physical health. It was a day of appointments: annual physical, dentist appointment and haircut. Thankfully, the results of the dentist and doctor were good. And, I still have hair…
Emotional – As said earlier, I decided to take off this week because it was my ninth wedding anniversary. So naturally I spent time with my wife to celebrate. We also both got to chaperon my daughter’s first kindergarten field trip. Working as much as I do, I wasn’t able to attend any of my oldest daughter’s field trips so this was very special to me.
I challenge you to find ways to invest in YOU. If you aren’t willing to invest in YOU, nothing will change in your future. We all can improve in all areas of our lives. I’m not excluded; neither are you. Are you willing to invest in yourself?
I’m just a normal guy, in a usual (albeit exceptional) marriage with normal (albeit wonderful) children. I went to a quality Christian school (Harding University), graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and have a normal career in public accounting. We live in suburbia, drive an inexpensive domestic car, the kids go to public school and I drink my coffee black. None of this is out of the ordinary.
My wife and I are in the top one percent of the people in the world. We did something that very few people have ever or will ever do.
What did we do that is so unusual? You’ll find out in just a minute. First, I’ll give you a little back-story.
Right before my wife and I got married, we started thinking of basic estate planning needs. Basic is an understatement though. We knew we needed wills and other such basic documents but we just bought life insurance coverage for me. In the short-term that is all we had the money to do. We’d do everything else sooner rather than later.
The day this is published will be our wedding anniversary. Nine years and three children later, we still haven’t finalized our estate plan. We did finally meet with an attorney a few weeks ago and got all our estate planning documents in order. We’ll call the attorney today and tell her the changes we’d like to have made. Then, our estate plan will finally be complete.
You might think estate planning wouldn’t be very important for a married couple with a minimal net worth. What’s the point right? There are two very important things to consider besides just minimizing death taxes. The first major consideration is the continued care of our children. The second is having our durable healthcare powers of attorney complete.
Just the fact we have gone this far with our estate planning puts us in the minority of Americans. That’s great. But this isn’t what put us in the top one percent of the world’s population. So what did?
A Family Strategic Plan
After we had met with the attorney to discuss our estate plan and get our documents drafted, we took a Friday night and all day on a Saturday to have a family strategic planning meeting. Businesses go through strategic planning processes all the time. It’s a common practice. Why isn’t it common with families?
Our family strategic plan is not as detailed or as formal as a business strategic plan would be. Instead, it is informal but it is documented. Documenting the plan and reviewing it often are keys to its success. Here is the informal process we went through in our family strategic plan.
1. Brainstorm – Denise and I sat across the table from each other and blurted out ideas of what we wanted to accomplish in the short and long-term. Nothing was out-of-bounds. Brainstorming is about coming up with ideas, not deciding the merit or achievability of each idea.
We wrote items related to material goals (such as a new house or car), spiritual goals (such as our daughters obeying the gospel and marrying Christian men) and career-related goals (such as promotions and salaries). We included everything we could think of and then some.
2. Timelines – We went through our list of brainstorming ideas and put each into a timeline. We simply used a word processing software so the items could be easily moved or copied. As we went through, we discussed whether each item was viable enough to put on the list.
We discovered several of our strategic planning goals were really short-term and could be achieved quickly. All we had to do was do them. These items would have remained on the “back of our minds” to-do list if we didn’t go through this strategic planning process. Other goals were action items that will re-occur at normal frequencies.
3. Action Plans – Once we figured out when we wanted to achieve these goals, we created a detailed action plan for accomplishing each goal. The action plans have to be detailed. If we didn’t explicitly state how we were going to achieve a goal, that goal would never be achieved.
It also required that we set shorter term goals to build toward the shorter term goals. For example, paying off our mortgage loan in three years required that we achieve certain milestones as far as a balance in savings.
4. Periodically Review – As addressed earlier, it is imperative for your family strategic plan to be documented. Within the timeline, we set six-month review dates. These dates are on our calendar and we will review and revise our family strategic plan at each of these dates.
There is our four-step process for our family strategic plan. We may be a normal family with normal lives but we’ve done something extraordinary (in my mind at least). The value we gained from the planning process was tremendous. It gave us not only peace-of-mind as to our futures but it ensured we were aligned in our thoughts.
Marriages and raising children are difficult enough. I can’t imagine not being in alignment with my wife regarding material, spiritual and career desires. We are one. We think as one. We rarely differ in our opinions on how to deal with what life throws at us. The family strategic planning process just reinforced how perfect we are for each other.
Do you see the benefit of a family strategic plan? What else would you include? If you appreciate this type of content, enter your email address in the subscription box above so you can receive other free articles related to this topic.
A preacher making comparisons to the seven churches in Asia talked about in the book of Revelation said:
“Reputation is what people think of you. Character is what you actually do.”
What a great comment that was! We all have witnessed the differences in reputation and character. They should be the same but that is rarely the case. Why is that so?
Both a person’s reputation and character are developed over a lifetime. They may begin as one thing but change over time. It would be great if both reputation and character would reach a pinnacle and then never change but that does not happen. They will change.
Public relations firms are often referred to as reputation management firms. They try to minimize the damage done by a person or company’s poor actions and maximize the goodwill gained by a person or company’s good actions. These companies make a lot of money because people are not good at managing their actions.
The closer your reputation is to your character, the fewer problems you will have. You want your reputation to be based on your character. When someone interacts with you, your desire should be for that person to experience what your preceding reputation portrays.
How you handle each experience in your life will help impact your reputation. In other words, your reputation is the average of your character. Think about that. The better your interactions with others, the better your reputation will become. It’s like that proverbial emotional bank account. The more deposits you make, the higher the account balance will grow.
What do you want your reputation to be? I want my reputation to be the best it possibly can be. I want what someone thinks of me to be the exact image I see in the mirror. If it’s not, I have work to do.
It isn’t good if your reputation is better than it should be. If it is, people will be disappointed when experiencing your character. In contrast, if your reputation is not as good as it should be, you may unfairly lose opportunities. You won’t be given the chance to prove your reputation is false.
Does your reputation equal your character? If not, what has happened to make it so? What can you do to get the two more in line with each other? Do others question your character? I hope not but if that happens, what can you do about it.
I don’t necessarily have the answers because each situation is different. However, I’m confident in saying that if your actions benefit others more than yourself, your reputation will grow to match your character.