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EPISODE #001

#1 How a Car Accident Led me to Hit the Reset Button

Reset Button

Craig Willett:
Sitting at my desk a few days following the car accident, I called out to my office manager, “Help! I can’t move my arms or legs. Call Carol, have her come take me to the hospital.” I’ll always remember this day. This is Craig Willett, the Biz Sherpa. I remember that day because it allowed me to hit the reset button in my life and provided a great opportunity for me to pursue something. I’ve gained a lot of satisfaction, fulfillment, and many rewards from the decisions I made following that car accident.

Most recently, we have experienced a pandemic in our country, and many of us have had the opportunity to try to sit down and figure out what we’re going to do differently when we’re able to get back to work. Now, whether you believe this pandemic was essential or not, or whether your business was considered essential or not, or whether the shutdown and reaction was necessary, we each had an opportunity to reflect on how we’re going to be better.

I look at it like a computer, sometimes hitting the reset button. You need to be careful that you don’t do it too often, but there’s times to make adjustments. In Macworld one time I read that resetting a device can clear problems out that cause it to get stuck in a loop, appear sluggish or otherwise impaired performance. Now you may feel that things are going along fine in your business before the pandemic, or you may feel that you’re stuck in a loop or that you are sluggish or that your performance was impaired, that you weren’t achieving to the levels that you would like. Many of my business owner friends took time during the pandemic to reflect on their lives, to reprioritize some things. I like what Newt Gingrich said during the pandemic, when he invited all Americans by saying, “Americans should be encouraged right now to start thinking about the next four or five years. What do you want to be doing? What do you want to achieve with your life? What have you learned from this experience that can lead to a more productive and fruitful life?”

I’d like to spend today’s episode talking about hitting the reset button and how that can lead to a more fruitful and productive life. Sometimes we don’t need to completely start over again. Other times we do. At times, we just seem to lose the rhythm. Recently I watched one of the only live sporting events that’s been broadcast during the pandemic. And that was match 2 between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. They each had a football player as their companion golfer in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. It was an interesting match. I was all excited to finally watch some live sporting event only to see that quickly Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady fell three strokes behind in the first four holes to Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning. As they were down three strokes, I could see that Tom Brady was really struggling with his golf game. Phil was playing okay. And you know how you can watch people when they perform and notice that they’re not doing well. And we’ve all experienced this in our lives. When they walk with their head hanging down, their shoulders sagging and not very much pep in their step.

Anyway, Tom Brady was hitting onto a par five and he was on his fourth shot, still hadn’t been on the green yet when one of the color announcers Charles Barkley said to him that he should… He kind of got into his head. Charles Barkley was really razzing Tom Brady, and you could tell it kind of miffed Tom. You could tell Tom reached deep down inside and took the next shot from over 150 yards out. It hit the green, spun in, and went into the cup for birdie. Now this turned the game around. From there, the match became closer. No, Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson didn’t win as you know, if you had watched it, but it made it a much more interesting tournament because they only lost by one hole. This to me is an example of sometimes getting a rhythm or having a chance to reach down mid game and hitting the reset button.

Back to us business owners, as you sat back and looked at your life during the pandemic and your business, if you found yourself stuck, how did you see yourself resetting your game? How do you see yourself adjusting your rhythm and resetting your mental focus in the middle of your game? For me, it’s looking at business ownership as freedom. It’s pretty simple.

One of the great benefits of being a business owner is that you have freedom to do what you want, but more importantly, freedom to do what you enjoy well enough to bring satisfaction and fulfillment along with the financial rewards of doing it well. This shutdown, I spent time volunteering to help fellow business owners figure out how to get PPP loans. Now, for me, the last time we had a major financial crisis, I was in the throes of it because it costs me over 80% of my net worth and forced me to shut down my business over three years, as I felt the impact from the bank failures in our country. That will be more for episode number two. But today I’d like to focus on an opportunity I had to kind of reset my game and change my career and trajectory in life dramatically.

During my early days of owning a CPA business, I still remember that day very well. I woke up on a Saturday morning. I had a leadership meeting that I was going to teach and train young men and young women, future leaders, leadership skills. When I finished that seminar, I went home to find Carol there with our three sons kind of wrestling with them. They were a little bit out of control and she was pregnant with our fourth child. And I could tell that she needed a little bit of a break.

So I took our two oldest, Paul and Mike, tossed them into the car and took them to McDonald’s. I thought, “McDonald’s has a play land. Let them kind of get rambunctious there rather than tear apart our nice clean house.” As we were going there, I stopped at a light only to look in the rear view mirror and see a car who didn’t stop quite fast enough in the snow and slid into the back of our car. It dented the back of our car, but more importantly, it gave me a bit of whiplash. Paul and Mike were fine. That was on a Saturday morning.

Come Monday morning, I went to the doctor feeling a stiff neck and he gave me one of those big cowl- like collars to where to kind of give me some neck support. I kind of felt like a fool. I thought, how am I going to sit in interviews of my tax clients wearing this big ugly brace around my neck? So anyway, I decided that I would wear it, but it got uncomfortable. I took it off. A few days later, I found myself sitting at the desk, calling out to my office manager saying, “Help! Call Carol. I can’t use my arms and legs. I need her to take me to the hospital now.” As I went to the hospital, had an MRI only to find out that they found some compression fractures, and whatever swelling was causing me not to be able to move my arms and legs had subsided. They sent me down to the therapy pool in the hospital and had me start walking on an underwater treadmill.

As I sat there, walking on the underwater treadmill, I started thinking, “Well, what can I do? If I’m going to have this much pain sitting down or having impact on my back from this accident, how am I going to continue for the next 30 years meeting with my tax clients and small business clients feeling this excruciating pain?” As I was reflecting on that, my mind was caught back to a time as a teenager when I saw myself standing in the middle of a dirt lot, looking at a building being built, it was being framed, and I was wearing a shirt and tie and I had a hard hat on, but I knew I wasn’t a general contractor.

That picture of me was always so emblazoned upon my mind, but I could never define what it was. My father was a real estate broker. I grew up around the kitchen table, learning real estate, the jargon and language of real estate. I had received my real estate sales license when I was 17 in the state of Maryland. My dad taught the class at the community college at night. He had a decent size residential brokerage firm, but I don’t think to that point in my life when I had that image, that I knew what a real estate developer was. In fact, it wasn’t until I graduated from college, received my master’s degree, worked for an international accounting firm where I met real estate developers, and then when I set up my own firm did I meet real estate developers. In fact, I had a great number of them as clients.

As I sat there that day, seeing that picture, I thought, what am I doing stuck behind a desk? If this is really what in my mind’s eye I saw myself doing, how can I get there? As I move forward, doing my best to get through that tax season, I got a phone call from a college friend. He said to me, “Craig, I just lost an investor for this property I’m supposed to buy. And I was wondering if you have X number of dollars.” And I laughed. And I said, “Well, how do you think I have that much money?” “Well, I was just visiting you and your family and you have a really nice house. I thought maybe you’d have that much money.” And I said, “Well, I don’t have that much money free to be able to buy that property with you. But why don’t you fax over,” telling you how long ago this was, right? “Fax over to me, to my home fax, where I can sit there and look at what you’re talking about?”

I went home that night. I studied it. A few days later when I was back in the office, a client called and they said, “Craig, we’ve been trying to do some real estate investment. We have Y number of dollars from this trust. And we haven’t been doing very well. Do you happen to know something that might be able to help us?” And I said, “As a matter of fact, I think I do.” I jumped in my car, went to their offices, sat down and explained to them the financial opportunity that might be a potential for them. They liked the concept. We bought plane tickets and flew to where my college friend was and I introduced them. We went and looked at the potential project property and then went to lunch. Over lunch, they struck a deal.

We flew back to our hometown, and while we were on the plane, I was sitting between them right in the middle seat between my two clients. And they both turned to me and they said, “Craig, all right, now we’ve got this opportunity to develop this. This is how much money we have, but we don’t have enough to do the development. Can you help us get a bank loan? We know that you’ve helped start a bank and are on the board of a bank.” And I said, “Well, that bank’s in another state than this property. So we’ll have to go somewhere else. But I do have contacts.” “If you can get us a bank loan, we’ll let you in as a one-third partner without having to contribute any money.” I thought, what a great opportunity. “All right, I’ll do it.” So I arranged for the loan and I’ll tell you more about that someday.

But the important part today is that I was able to see in my mind’s eye what I did as what I could see myself doing at a rather young age, but I didn’t have the definition well enough ingrained into my mind, nor did I have the maturity or the economic exposure to what a real estate developer is or what a real estate developer does. But as a CPA, which I never really wanted to do, and that’s for another day, was never my dream, but it gave me the tools to learn and to get clients because of my real estate background and experience. Having learned the jargon at the kitchen table with my father, I was able to watch the inner workings as a CPA and see what they did well and see what didn’t go so well. And I was able to use that and leverage that to my benefit, to be able to say, “Hey, I think I can do this.” And when the opportunity came, my eyes were wide open because of the vision that I had.

So let me share with you an idea I have about hitting the reset button. Many times we have opportunities that come to us, but we don’t see them because we’re too busy stuck in the loop. I got knocked out of my loop based on a car accident and some time to have to reflect on where I was really headed. I have an exercise I’d like to recommend to you. You can do it in about a half an hour. And then over the course of the next five business days spend about 15 minutes at the end of each day and evaluate.

What I’d like you to do is go do something that you enjoy first. So maybe this will take a little bit more than a half an hour, but if you like to golf, go play nine holes of golf. If you like to play tennis or a ball, go play tennis or pickleball. If you like to bowl, go do that.

In fact, by the way, a great friend of mine, when I was early in my career said to me, he goes, “Craig, what’s your hobby?” And I said, “I don’t have a hobby. I’m just busy. I’ve got a family. I’m trying to get my CPA firm going.” And he said to me, he goes, “Craig, you’re going to burn out. You’re going to burn out if you don’t have a hobby.” And I turned to him and I said, “Kent, what are your hobbies?” He says, “I bowl in a league and I also golf.” And so I ended up taking up a number of hobbies and I’ll share some of those with you over the course of various podcasts, but some of mine are equestrian activities and golf, and I love to swim. Anyway, we can talk about that another time.

So what I’d like you to do is go find something that you enjoy doing. Maybe it’s playing a video game. I don’t know. Do that for about a half an hour, clear your mind, from the pressures of business, the news cycle that you’re trapped in. And then I want you to go get a nice drink of whatever you like and go find a quiet place if it’s outside, or if it’s in a quiet corner in your home, or if you’re on vacation in your hotel room, I’d like you to sit down with a pad of paper, and I’d like you to just make a list, just wildly make a list of all the dreams you had as a child. It may take you a while to go back into your mind, but look for those images that you saw in your mind’s eye of what you thought you might be doing or might would like to enjoy.

Then when you’re done with that, turn the paper over. And on the other side, I want you to make a list of everything that you’re passionate about today that drives you, that gives you excitement, that brings you satisfaction. What I’d like you to do when that’s done is sit and compare the two lists and look for commonalities. See where those visions and see where those passions intersect and where those passions and vision intersect, you’re going to find things that combine energy and vision that will give you motivation to be more successful. Once you figure out what those are, and there might be one, or there might be two, there might be five. I would doubt it. But if you find one or two commonalities, what I’d like you to do next is to set an objective for the next week each day when you go to work to spend 80% of your time at that intersection.

So let’s say for instance, right now you go to work and you find that there’s some taxes due, and the bank needs in an accounting report to renew your loan. And you spend all your time trying to clean up the accounting records or get some documents to your tax accountant, and you get frustrated and you spend a whole day doing that, versus maybe you really enjoy selling and interacting with your customers or training your sales force. Spend your time doing what you do best. Let those other things go for that day or two. And try to look back and see that you spend 80% of your time in that. Now you may find it may take you the whole week, all five days that you may start at 20% and then go to 40 and then 60, and then 80%. the key is to hit 80% and then to sustain that for several days.

When you do that, look at the difference that it makes. But I want you to sit down at the end of each day and kind of write some notes to yourself. Here’s what I did. And here’s how I felt about it. Here’s some things that I left aside that I think dragged me down or bogged me down or caused me to get stuck in the loop or cause me not to function well. And then once you’ve been able to document that, I want you to know that that’s the beginning of your reset.

Jack Nicholas used to say that he practiced each shot in his mind before he took it. So I want you then to figure out if you’re only at 20% after one of the days, figure out how you can get to 40 or 60 or 80% the next day. It’s going to take some envisioning. Let me give you an example. When I was in high school, I took an advanced placement English class and I laugh about this. And the reason I’m laughing about it is because I never got advanced placement credits for any of this. My friends were taking those classes. So I took them with them. I was dumb enough to take advanced placement history, English, and some math classes, but not test out for when I went to college. How crazy, right?

But anyway, I remember our first advanced placement English test that was coming up, and I was never really good at English. And so the teacher said, “Look, what I want you to do is go home and study. Do whatever you do to study, study. And then when you’re done studying, turn off the lights in the room and sit back in a comfortable place and close your eyes. And close your eyes and I want you to envision yourself walking into class tomorrow, opening up the exam, writing the essays that you envision or that answer the questions that you envisioned that are there. And then turning in the exam. Then spend another couple of minutes and imagine yourself coming back into class when the exam is graded. And I would like you to imagine when you get your exam back, looking at the exam and seeing what your score is, what your grade is.”

And I thought to myself, “Well, that does sound kind of crazy, but you know what? If it helps me not study so long and there’s some secret to this, I’m going to try it. It’s a shortcut, right? A trick.” I did what he asked me to do. And I actually did fairly well on the exam. I don’t remember my grade, but it certainly wasn’t a C or a D or an E. So for me, it was good. But anyway, he taught me something to be able to create in my mind a situation where I can perform well. That’s what I suggest to do to do the reset button. Just like Tom Brady in the golf tournament, he was able to kind of take Charles Barkley’s ribbing, close his eyes, be a little bit frustrated, but then I think he could envision himself hitting a better shot. And boy, was it a great shot? And so that’s the objective here is to be able to do just that.

Now enough about analogies on golf. Even though I am talking about golf with a football player involved, I do want to stick with football for a minute. And it just so happens to be I want to stick with Tom Brady. Often in life, you might have a passion for a certain aspect of your business and whatever that is, right? A quarterback doesn’t make a good lineman. A quarterback doesn’t necessarily make a good kicker. A quarterback doesn’t necessarily make a good receiver. But you might be a great business owner, but also have a passion for sales. But you don’t do well in doing accounting work, or you may do well in the finance aspect of your business and terrible at sales, but you don’t have a good sales person in your business. So you find yourself spending your time doing that.

So what I’d like you to consider is this, and it’s a statistic about Tom Brady that makes me reflect. Tom Brady has an NFL record for the most wins in a game when he has passed over 50 times. His winning percentage is 19 to 9. Peyton Manning on the other hand is 4 and 13. So you may ask yourself, “Well, Peyton, Manning’s a great quarterback.” Yes he is. And so is Tom Brady. Why did Peyton Manning only win four of the games that he threw over 50 passes? And Tom Brady wins 19.

Here is what I suggest is the answer. I think that sometimes things work really well for us, and we need to learn what they are. Some teams in football have a balanced approach to running and passing. And so they don’t need to throw over 50 times and can win many games. And you could be a great quarterback with a great record not throwing over 50 passes in the game. But when quarterbacks start throwing more than 50 passes in the game, the reason they have a losing record is because it’s not their top game. They’re desperate. They’re behind. They’re trying to throw those Hail Marys to come from behind. And I would suggest that sometimes we get desperate in business.

And what I don’t want us as business owners to do as we come out of this pandemic is to get desperate and start throwing Hail Mary’s thinking we’re going to do something great, and we actually ended up getting ourselves in a bit more trouble. So I want you to think about that balance of what you do well, and I think that reset exercise I gave you should lead you to doing more of what you enjoy because doing what you like is freedom, but liking what you do is happiness. And at the end of the day, is it really the financial rewards that make us happy? I think they provide some means, but next week, we’re going to talk about that. How to gain true happiness in what we do.

So I appreciate you being with me today. This has been a great opportunity for me to share with you some small experience in my life. And you know what? I chose the Biz Sherpa as the name of this podcast because I’m not here to teach. I’m here to help you carry your load to the top of your game. This is about you. I would hope that you would take a few minutes and then realize that this is a rookie starting out in my very first episode, but that you would subscribe to this so that you get notification for episode two that will be out in two weeks, and that you also would share it with business owner, friends of yours who are also coming out of this pandemic and give them the opportunity to hit the reset button.

If this helps you, I would like you to rate, honestly, for me, of course I would like five stars, but I prefer honesty as well. And your feedback and your input on our Facebook page, the bizsherpa.co, also on Instagram bizsherpa.co, and on Twitter bizsherpa.co. We would certainly welcome any feedback or questions that you may have.

Now, also, this podcast is about you. I want you to understand that. I do not have any advertisers. I’m not seeking any or any sponsors. This is my opportunity to give back and to inspire. What I would like is for you to be able to share this with as many people as you can so that it can make a difference in their lives and help me achieve that dream. So I don’t have to spend all my whole budget for this on advertising to try to get the reach that I need.

I hope that this has been productive for you. I look forward to joining you again next week. And because this is so much about you, I look forward to hearing stories of how you reset your life, reset your business during this pandemic, because I’m looking for those to interview on my podcast, and I’m not looking to interview famous businesses and famous people. My life has been about 700 small business clients as a CPA. My whole life has been about small business, and I think it is the heartbeat and the backbone and the engine of the American economy. You may not believe it when you read the headlines every day and the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. But believe it. You are the backbone of that economy. I honor you. And for this reason, I focus my resources and time to helping you get to the top of your game. This is Craig Willett, the Biz Sherpa.

Speaker 2:
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