Eight Life Lessons from a Spiritual Accountant

BeanCounters1Hmmm…a “spiritual accountant.” Just what the hell is a spiritual accountant? Well, in my book we are all spiritual, or “connected” — to each other and to something greater than ourselves. But many of us may not see ourselves and others that way. Some may hold the opinion that so-called spiritual folks are nothing more than new age-like, “woo woo” patchouli oil enthusiasts with a penchant for bad 70s music, Birkenstock sandals and fanny packs. Well, drop the labeling and let me introduce you to my friend JP.

JP’s family is of Indian descent. He was born in England more than 45 years ago. His mother died when he was very young, and JP’s Dad had limited financial assets. Rather than struggle in the UK, his father decided his family’s best opportunities for material success existed in the States. So he moved a very young JP and his two sisters to San Francisco. After working for a number of years his Dad somehow accumulated the savings to buy a small walk-up hotel. JP and his siblings lived in and shared one room at the hotel. It was a family-run business, meaning everybody worked regardless of their age. When JP came home from school he had daily chores and plenty of them. Nothing happened in JP’s life until he  completed his daily chores.

Here is a great “teachable moment” from JP’s youth. Apparently one time the pipes backed up in the hotel. JPs father called a plumber who came in and snaked the lines. JP’s father watched the snaking process very closely. After he shelled out $400 for the job, he asked the plumber, “What’s that thing called you just used?” When he found out it was a $600 snake, he spoke with a few of his friends who also owned small walk-up hotels in San Francisco. They each chipped in $100 or so and then took turns using the snake as they needed it. No more shelling out $400 for a plumber. Brilliant! JP frequently deploys this uncommon level of common sense in all his life endeavors. It’s also worth noting that JP is one of the kindest, calmest and most consistently upbeat people I’ve ever met.

After graduating from college, JP joined one of the big accounting firms and worked there for many years. He later worked at Oracle in project management. When he transitioned to CRM product marketing our paths crossed. Although JP made frequent humorous references to his lack of product marketing experience, his positive and unflappable attitude, passion for learning and growing, willingness to work hard, and ability to simplify complex problems set him apart.

Unfortunately when Oracle made massive staffing cutbacks in its CRM business back in early 2012 due to its ass getting handed to it by Salesforce quarter after quarter and year after year, JP ended up being a casualty through absolutely no fault of his own. I was the person who had to dole the news to JP. He harbored no ill will. If anything, that event brought us closer together. I left Oracle only a few months after JP did.

In the months following JP’s departure from Oracle, he ritualized his daily life to focus a two hour section of each day on exercise, professional development and networking, spirit, and contribution. JP got into great shape, running several half marathons in the course of a year. In fact he graciously slowed his pace way down to run the 2012 Santa Cruz Half Marathon alongside of me. And he spent more time with his wife and two children. Here’s what JP didn’t do. He never worried nor did he obsess over what would come next for him. Instead JP largely focused on his daily ritual.

Through a weekly hiking group he had arranged with some older, semi-retired and very financially successful friends and business acquaintances, JP ended up offering to do some accounting work for a few of them who owned hotels. During a period of several months this led to JP growing his customer base. Fast forward to 2015 and JP now works with 20 different clients. He achieves this scale by training the hotel management staff at each of the properties on how to run their accounting process. Then JP comes in each month and closes their books.

Somewhere along the way more than a year ago, one of JP’s clients offered him an equity interest in one of his hotels, provided JP would invest some money in the property and project manage a massive renovation for a small stipend. Since JP is a lover of complex projects and of Microsoft Excel, he took on this new endeavor — again in an area he knew little about — with tremendous enthusiasm.

Three-plus years after JP left Oracle, he is now making more money than he did there, with more to follow when his hotel investment comes online and is cash flow positive. His accounting business is sold out, meaning he can’t take on any more clients. He enjoys an abundance of work/life balance and lives by his own rules, which include spending a substantial amount of time volunteering. And he is still the same JP — calm, unflappable, humorously self deprecating, and consistently optimistic.

One of JP’s greatest skills is in rapidly and constantly reframing seemingly negative situations into more positive perspectives. And as mentioned he is a lifelong learner. When it comes to reading for spiritual enrichment, JP is a devout student of everything from the Bhagavad Gita to “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.

Here is the code that JP, just your ordinary left brain frugal accountant who may be a lot like the boring dude who lives next door to you, lives by. To begin with, he suggests that everyone become a “Life Enthusiast.” How do you do this? Boom! You wake up every single morning and say out loud, “It’s another great day and today I choose to be a life enthusiast!” I’m not kidding. It sure beats whining about how tired you are. Now let’s get into the nitty gritty with JP’s eight tips for being a life enthusiast.

  1. Strive each day to uplift all those around you by focusing on helping and serving them in some way every day. Taking continuous action like this is the best way to cultivate a gratitude practice.
  2. Prioritize your physical health. it’s your base. You can have a liquid net worth of several million dollars and without health you don’t have much at all.
  3. Frequently tune into your energy level as an indicator of how abundant you are. You want the ability to generate a lot of healthy vibrations within and around you in order to contribute more.
  4. Focus on staying centered and calm, particularly when you are surrounded by negativity. Do not ever behave defensively as it is energy draining.
  5. Live with balance and perspective. Step outside of yourself and strive to become more responsive and less reactive.
  6. Take life one day at a time. And cultivate patience, taking life as it comes.
  7. Let your inner signals guide you as you live your life. It’s between you and God, i.e., whatever you believe in, which ideally is something outside of yourself.
  8. Remember that you and only you are in 100 percent control of your thoughts and emotions. Therefore, don’t let anything in life bring you down.

If it’s not obvious by now, JP is not ordinary or left brain or boring. He is most certainly not defined by his profession, nor should you be! The moral of the story? Don’t judge, don’t label, don’t stereotype. There is so much under the surface of every person to learn from once you “connect” with them enthusiastically.

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