What It Means To Be A Smarter Accountant
Welcome to the first episode of The Smarter Accountant. I’m so happy that you’re joining me. If you haven’t listened to the trailer for this podcast, let me quickly share a little about me and this podcast.
I am Dawn Goldberg. I am a CPA. I’ve been a CPA in public accounting for over 30 years. I have worked for some of the big firms like Deloitte & Touche and Ernst & Young. I am the CEO of The Smarter Accountant and the author of my book, “The Smarter Accountant.”
The reason why you’re going to want to listen to this podcast each week is that I’m going to cover subjects that affect every accountant, whether you’re in public or private accounting, an employee or an entrepreneur, or just starting out or ready for retirement. I’ll be discussing things that every accountant can relate to, like:
- Stress and overwhelm, especially during deadlines.
- Working too many hours.
- Better time management, specifically for accountants.
- Improving your productivity without burning out in the process.
- Making more money
- Improving self-confidence and dealing with imposter syndrome
- Setting better boundaries.
You’re going to learn from someone that has been there, done that. I’ve had horrible bosses; I’ve worked with the difficult clients; I’ve been on the verge of burnout; I’ve questioned whether I wanted to continue being a CPA or not. I promise I’ve had all the struggles you’re probably going through and more.
This podcast will be like having your own personal mentor, but what makes me even better is that I don’t work for the same company as you. I have no allegiance to anyone other than you, the listener. I have no hidden agenda other than helping and supporting you to get what you want.
Since I was born and raised in NY, just outside of Manhattan, I’m bringing a no-nonsense, telling-it-like-it-is approach. In other words, I’m not going to sugarcoat things. This podcast will be direct, intelligent, and incredibly informative.
I’m going to teach things on this podcast that no one is teaching accountants in any classroom, CPE seminar, or accounting webinar. Unless you’ve read my book or heard me speak somewhere, you haven’t heard what I teach and coach accountants on.
The truth is that I’ve walked the walk, so now I’m going to talk the talk. I decided that a podcast is the best way for me to share what I know and what YOU need to know.
The good news is that no one is teaching what I teach, so you’ll be hearing things that no other accounting podcast is discussing. Besides being a CPA, I am also a Professional Certified Coach for Accountants, so I’m not ashamed to say that every accountant needs to know what I’ll be teaching, so make sure you share it with your fellow accountants.
Let’s face it; accountants need help. Accounting is not a profession for the faint of heart. It’s for smart people who want to do smart things. I’m going to show you how to be smarter. And what accountant doesn’t want to be smarter?
That is the perfect segue into my topic for today – what it means to be a Smarter Accountant.
The reason I chose this as the first episode is that when you become a Smarter Accountant, you’ll see through the lies you’ve been telling yourself about what is “normal” for accountants. You’ll be able to have the accounting career, business and life you want.
Once you learn what I’m going to teach you each week on this podcast, you’ll gradually be able to see how much control you have over things in your work and personal life and how to achieve any goals you’ve set.
Time and time again, my coaching clients tell me, “You do know that this is life-changing, right?”. To which I answer time and time again, “I know! That’s why more accountants need to know this”. And it’s why I believe this podcast will be so helpful for you.
The truth is that no one is teaching you how your brain works and how you are underutilizing it. If you haven’t taken The Smarter Accountant Quiz on my website, I would suggest after listening to this episode, you go over to www.thesmarteraccountant.com and take the quiz.
But for now, let me explain what you need to know.
Let me first say that before understanding what I’m going to share, I had no idea how much control I had over so many things in my professional and personal life. Like you, I had normalized many of the issues accountants deal with.
I’ve been in public accounting for over 30 years so I’ve had decades of the same issues that you’re probably having – never-ending stress and overwhelm, working too many hours, feeling like there’s never enough time, having difficulty setting boundaries, dealing with imposter syndrome and more. Thankfully, all that changed once I understood how to manage my brain.
To provide an overview of what I learned and what I teach my coaching clients, it’s important to understand something about your human brain – we have two main operating systems going on in our brains that you need to get familiar with. Knowing the difference between the two and understanding how to manage them is going to be the starting point to help you become a Smarter Accountant.
In Nobelist Daniel Kahneman’s bestseller, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” he describes the two systems in our brain as simply System 1 and System 2. I was taught that System 1 is your primitive, lower brain and System 2 is your executive functioning higher brain.
In the simplest terms possible, System 1, your primitive brain, runs the show more than 80% – 90% of the time. This part of your brain is referred to as the reptilian brain and has anatomically been with us since before we were cave dwellers.
One of the key elements to understand is that this primitive part of your brain is motivated by three things (also referred to as the Motivational Triad):
- Seek pleasure;
- Avoid pain;
- Be efficient/save energy;
System 1’s job is to keep you safe and alive, and it takes that job very seriously. It releases feel-good chemicals when it interprets that pleasure is present, it releases fear-based chemicals when it senses danger is present, and it likes things to be in familiar, comfortable patterns.
It’s the part of the brain that I often refer to as the “Toddler” because, just like a toddler, it throws a temper tantrum whenever something doesn’t fall into one of those 3 categories – it needs to be pleasurable, not painful, and familiar, or else. This toddler part of the brain is all about immediate gratification and doesn’t think in terms of the “big picture” or in the long term.
System 1 sees many of the challenges that accountants face as life-threatening and will typically throw up huge warning flares. Since its job is to keep you safe, and most of the challenges accountants deal with do NOT fall into the category of pleasure (i.e., deadlines) or efficiency (i.e., needing to learn new things constantly), then they must be avoided, according to System 1.
On the other hand, System 2 is the prefrontal cortex, a higher-level part of the brain that is only present in humans. The superpower of this part of your human brain is that it allows you to think about what you think about, and it can manage the primitive brain of System 1.
I like to refer to System 2 as the “Supervising Parent” because this part of your brain can think rationally and can see the big-picture benefits that the Toddler can’t. System 2 is the part of the brain you use to make decisions and is one of the most underutilized parts of your accountant’s brain because you’re often reacting with the primitive brain, or System 1.
The good news is that you can use System 2 to override System 1, allowing you to face and conquer any challenges that arise and helping you deal with the negative effects of the Motivational Triad. This is why brain management is incredibly important, especially for accountants.
Brain management is understanding how these two systems can be managed and mastered to become a Smarter Accountant. The best part is that once you understand how these two systems operate and how to manage them, nothing is standing in the way of you having the accounting career and the life you want.
When you can take charge more often and be the Supervising Parent, as opposed to the rambunctious Toddler, that’s when you can become a much Smarter Accountant.
The issue for most, if not all, accountants is what the authors of the book “The 15 Commitments Of Conscious Leadership” refer to as “living below the line .” Most accountants let System 1, their lower Toddler brain, run the show more than 80% of the time without being aware that they’re doing it.
They unknowingly let System 1 dictate things, creating an unmanageable life. When you are living below the line, you are letting the Toddler decide for you.
I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want is a Toddler running my accounting career, my business, or my life. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what most accountants are unknowingly doing, and it’s also where accountant’s tendency to argue for their limitations comes from.
In other words, as accountants we tend to believe that if something is “normal” for us and other accountants, then there’s nothing we can do about it and in a warped way, we want to argue for our problems. We let the Toddler part of our brain run our lives without realizing that’s what is happening.
For example, I just had a free 30-minute coaching call with an accountant who started out by saying they had a “healthy skepticism” about coaching but also didn’t think that their time management was that bad even though they worked over 80+ hours a week. When I asked whether they wanted to work 80+ hours a week, they said they never questioned whether they wanted to – they just assumed that that was expected.
I explained that the key to time management that no one is teaching accountants is that you first have to understand how to manage your accountant brain before you can better manage your time. They said they just weren’t convinced that anything could be done to better manage their time than what they were already doing.
Therein lies the problem – they were using their Toddler brain to argue for their right to keep working 80+ hours. Their Toddler brain was running their life and convincing them that that was just the way things had to be.
To be a Smarter Accountant, you need to learn how to start “living above the line.” You need to start using System 2, the higher part of your human brain, the Supervising Mother/Father, more often and more intentionally.
Every week I’ll be sharing more about taking charge of your accountant brain, but for now, just know that becoming a Smarter Accountant matters:
- If you want to reduce or eliminate stress dramatically
- If you want a competitive advantage
- If you want to create more time for what matters to you – the things and the people you love
- If you want to achieve any goal you set, whether it’s personally or professionally
- If you want a sustainable career and a balanced life
- If you want to ward off burnout
- If you want to create a legacy that you can be proud of
- If you want to make a positive impact on others
- If you want to be an example of what’s possible (my personal favorite!)
- If you want to change what’s not working
- If you want to make a difference
If you are an older-generation accountant, my hope is that you are open to challenging your limiting beliefs. You earned it.
If you are at a mid-career point in your accounting career, I hope you begin to create a vision of what you’d like for your life and career moving forward. You deserve it.
If you are just starting your career or still an accounting student, I hope that you forge your unique path and do things differently than those who have come before you who are experiencing many of the issues most accountants deal with. You are the future.
Here’s the last thing I’ll leave you with – the world needs Smarter Accountants, not burned-out, stressed-out, frustrated accountants that dread going to work, who are overwhelmed by everything happening both professionally and personally, and who are considering walking away from the profession.
That’s what I have for you, but make sure you check back each week as I help you go from being a stressed accountant to a Smarter Accountant.
Make sure you go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com and take The Smarter Accountant Quiz. You’re going to want to know if you’ve been underutilizing your accountant brain so that you have a starting point for becoming a Smarter Accountant..
Also, I would appreciate it if you could get the word out to other accountants about this podcast. The more accountants find out about it, the more we can begin to change the narrative in the accounting profession.
The truth is that you’re already smart, but this podcast will show you how to be smarter.