And then there was 1…

Thai water village

It’s official: I have one active tax resolution client.

I can already hear your confusion: Why is that a GOOD thing???

The dream that I created for my own life several years ago never involved getting filthy rich. I wanted to continue working long enough to pay off my remaining debt (bankruptcy doesn’t erase everything), and have a tiny nest egg set aside.

Well, this year I finished paying off old student loans and some medical bills left over from when I got hit by a car in 2011. And I’m close enough to my nest egg number to call it good.

For the past two years, I’ve been traveling quite a bit, and doing super fun things, while gradually decreasing my case load. Just over a year ago, I set a cap of 8 active cases… Then it became six.. And for most of 2013 it’s been four.

I wouldn’t have been able to spend the summer in Europe if I hadn’t done this. I wouldn’t be in the land of Twilight scuba diving right now if I hadn’t made these controlled changes in my practice.

From here on out, the goal of my U.S. tax practice is simple: Earn enough to fund my travels while slowly but surely growing my nest egg. To accomplish this, I only need one active tax resolution case at a time.

Now of course, I’ve got the new tax practice I’m starting in Europe, but I anticipate plowing all profits from that enterprise right back into the business.

What’s my point in telling you all this? Quite simple: Choose what you want your life to look like, and build your tax practice to support it.

Now I’m no Tony Robbins clone, so I make no claim to being very good with all the ra-ra stuff. To be completely honest, I don’t have much room to talk when it comes to the motivation arena. I’m actually one of the laziest people I know.

The secret to success isn’t much of a secret: Just pick what you want to do and do it. I’d like to think that if a lazy guy like me can go from bankrupt and living in a van (down by the creek…) to building a somewhat successful business that supports a jet-set lifestyle, then surely you can, too.

Spend some time today asking yourself one important question: What do you really want out of your business?

If you have kids and want to send them through the most expensive Ivy League universities, then great. If you want $2 million in the bank and then sail off to Tahiti, awesome. If you just want a big house in a gated community with a new Mercedes in the driveway to keep up with the Joneses, then that’s perfectly acceptable, also (I’ll make fun of you for it, but it’s still acceptable!).

Money can’t directly buy happiness, but it sure can be an accelerator to getting there, not to mention make the journey more comfortable.

For example, I actually know for a fact that I could simply lay low and work the tax season at another firm, and earn enough money in those three months to go live in a thatch hut in a southeast Asian nation for the rest of the year. I could do that, and thus live my dream of traveling the world, right?

No. If I lived like that, it would be a massive cop out. I’d be denying myself what I really want in life. Yes, I want to travel and experience new cultures, embrace human history and anthropology, acquire language skills, and all that — but I’m not interested in dirt floors. That’s a choice, and with it comes other choices (such as working year-round, doing marketing, etc.).

Whatever it is that you want your tax practice to support — travel, early retirement, bigger house — it’s within your reach. But you have to make the conscious decision that you’re going to go after it, and take the necessary actions for making it happen.

I’m not going to tell you to “dream big or go home”, because I don’t actually believe in that myself (see, that’s my lazy side talking).

But I am going to tell you to pick somethinganything…and take action towards achieving it. Life is a lot more fun with goals, and working towards something greater in your life helps give your tax practice a purpose.

Comments on And then there was 1…

  1. Gabe says:

    “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up somewhere else” Yogi Berra

    I’m not sure if it is a generational thing or not, but I find many of my younger profesional friends feel the same way. What good does it do for someone to make all the money in the world if they don’t know how/can’t enjoy it because they work all the time.

    I’m working towards being a renaissance man myself. Life is too short to work all the time!

    Even though I’m not into the fluff Tony Robins stuff, I think this was a really good article!

    Mind sharing about how much you’d like to net each year to enjoy this type of lifestyle? 🙂

  2. DennisBridges says:

    As I told you via personal email, this was an excellent summary reminder that we’ve all been blessed with the brains as well as the information to get or achiever whatever it is we want within reason. You have given your members–me included–the keys to the vault between the marketing and the technical “gold” that you’ve laid out before us.

    It almost makes me squirm uncomfortably, because I realize there’s nowhere to hide–it’s all on me. But the whole flip side of that is that you’ve given me the tools, all clean and sharpened, to build and operate the practice I want. And that’s what gives me the freedom to be selectively “lazy”, rather than be a slave to my practice.

  3. Jassen says:

    Dennis, very well said. I like the “selectively lazy” idea, that’s an excellent way of thinking about it. A big part of the entire mental process as a business owner is the realization that it IS all on you — it’s your choice to do or not do certain things.

  4. Jassen says:

    Gabe, it’s definitely a generational thing! There is, however, a fine line between the “working in order to enjoy life” crowd, which I feel part of, and the “work is for suckers” crowd, which I see way too much of in the youngest generation coming through college. I’m not a fan of entitlement mentality, and I see a LOT of that in the millennial generation. Success still requires hard work — we should just be choosy about what we work on and when. 🙂

    As for my net, I always preface income conversations with the reminder that I’m single with no kids and no debt (due to bankruptcy in 2008). I also grew up on the other side of the tracks, and therefore I’m not used to an extravagant lifestyle. Thus, meeting my personal needs isn’t really much of a challenge these days.

    With all that said, 2013 will end as a low six figure year for me, which isn’t bad considering the fact that in reality I will only have actually worked about 8 months this year. In 2014, I expect to earn significantly less, probably netting less than $50k for the year. But that’s because I’m shutting a LOT of things down entirely, and scaling everything else back. I’m basically taking next year “off” in order to travel and volunteer overseas.

  5. Gabe says:

    Yeah, I sure wasn’t advocating the lazy mentality. There is indeed a fine line… But as long as a person isn’t depending on others to support him, let him make whatever he wants. For you, that might be $50K. For others, they might need more. Some folks make it fine on far less. It really is crazy the different amounts of money needed depending on where you live in the good ole USA.

    Anyways, thanks for the good article and taking the time to respond!

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