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“How To Develop Resilience” with Fotis Georgiadis & Author Tom Wheelwright

My bipolar/autistic son who refuses to be a victim and refuses to give up. He continually searches for ways to improve himself and his life. He would never let me claim disability for him as he never saw himself as disabled. He comes to me every week with his successes and his ideas for improvement. […]

My bipolar/autistic son who refuses to be a victim and refuses to give up. He continually searches for ways to improve himself and his life. He would never let me claim disability for him as he never saw himself as disabled. He comes to me every week with his successes and his ideas for improvement. I have never met anyone who refused to give in the way he absolutely refuses to let anything get in his way.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Wheelwright . Tom Wheelwright, CPA is the visionary behind WealthAbility®, the Best-Selling Author of “Tax-Free Wealth” (Rich Dad Advisors Series), a leading expert on tax law, partnerships and corporation tax strategies, and a well-known wealth education innovator who speaks around the world to thousands of entrepreneurs, business owners and investors. His goal is to help people achieve their financial dreams faster by permanently and legally reducing their taxes (everyone’s biggest expense), make a difference in the world, and leave a positive legacy for everyone.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

My 40+ year career has included being an entrepreneur, educator, business leader and global tax and wealth expert. After earning a BA in Accounting from the University of Utah, and a Master of Professional Accounting from the University of Texas, Austin, I worked for Big 4 Accounting firms. During the last major tax reform in 1986, I worked for Ernst and Young’s National Tax Office in Washington D.C., where I managed and led professional training. I also was an Adjunct Professor in the Masters in Tax Program for Arizona State University for 14 years where I was asked to create a new class on multi-state tax planning.

In 1995,I took a leap of faith and started my first accounting firm with only two clients and confidence that if other people could build successful accounting firms, so could l. After the first 9 months, I had built up $40k in credit card debt and had only 4 clients. I was 100% dedicated to building my own business. With encouragement (and a loan) from a mentor, I purchased a small tax practice. 25 years later, I’ve purchased, built and sold 4 accounting practices, started 4 new businesses, published the bestseller “Tax-Free Wealth: How to Build Massive Wealth by Permanently Lowering Your Taxes” (updated for the new tax law in 2018), and contributed to “Why the Rich Are Getting Richer” (2017) and “More Important Than Money” (2017). As a global speaker, I’ve spoken to over 100k entrepreneurs, small business owners, investors and CPAs on six continents. In 2018, I started my most recent company WealthAbility® with the mission to help people “make way more money, pay way less tax, and achieve financial dreams faster.” I currently own 4 companies, work with high-end 8 and 9-figure clients, and teach financial education programs to help people achieve their financial dreams faster.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

After purchasing my first accounting firm, my business grew very quickly. I soon had more work than I could handle. I brought in a partner, one of my close friends with whom I had worked at the Big 4 accounting firms. When we got together, we decided on a buy-in formula for him. There was one piece of work into which he didn’t want to buy. This was some contingent-fee work I was doing for a big client. I agreed that he didn’t have to buy in and I didn’t have to share the fees should they ever materialize.

Four years later, a big check came in on the contingent fee work. I immediately withdrew it from the company, as this was our agreement. Two weeks later my partner came into my office and accused me of stealing and being “the most dishonest person” he had ever met. I had no idea what he was talking about and told him so. He explained that I had “stolen” $50,000 from the company. I reminded him that in our original agreement, he had declined buying in to this part of the business and had agreed that this would be my money. Rather than apologize, he stormed out of my office.

I immediately decided that this partnership was not going to work. I couldn’t have a partner who would accuse me of stealing instead of asking me what had happened when he didn’t understand my actions. We broke up the partnership, with some clients going with him and some staying with me. Interestingly, all of the staff stayed with me. Several of them came to me and told me that he had treated them poorly. One, our receptionist, told me that she went home crying every night because of his abuse.

What I learned was that I had not been paying close enough attention to my partner and how he was working with the staff and others. This despite being told by a friend that she would not bring her business to us if she ever had to see my partner, he had been so rude to her in a business dealing. We are often blind to the actions of those we love. Other people are afraid to tell us what we should know because they don’t want to offend us or think we would never believe them. And I should have explained to my partner why I was taking the money out of the business rather than assuming he remembered our deal. Communication and transparency are a key to good business.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes WealthAbility really stand out is that we believe everyone can reach their dreams. There is a process to creating the wealth needed to reach those dreams. Following that process, which includes a plan of action for building wealth and reducing/eliminating taxes, you can have the time and money to do anything you want.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am most grateful to Robert Kiyosaki, who has been a mentor, client and supporter. I met Robert when I broke up with my early partner. Since all of my staff had stayed with me, I had more staff than work. My new partner and I (one of our managers who, 18 years later, is still my partner) decided we needed to acquire another accounting firm. I received a postcard in the mail from a broker who said they had an accounting firm for sale in Arizona. I called, we met the seller and acquired the practice. It turned out, Robert and his Rich Dad company was a client. We started serving Robert and Kim (his wife) and attending the Rich Dad events. Soon, Robert had me on stage speaking to thousands of people.

Robert has taught me how to control a room of thousands from stage and how to simplify our message. He continually pushes me to get better, sometimes in front of thousands of investors. He never holds back because he truly believes in his mission to elevate the financial well-being of humanity and believes I can contribute to his mission. He certainly has contributed to our mission. I am eternally grateful for his relentless determination to make me a better speaker and educator.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is just a matter of getting back on the horse after you have been thrown from it. It’s not letting failure turn you into a victim. As the youngest of six children, I have never liked being told what to do. If someone says, “you can’t do that here” I say, “watch me.” Failure is just a lesson from which to learn. We always learn more from failure than from success. So relish your failures. I have lost my job when I was the sole provider for a wife and two small children. I have loss all of my wealth and built it back up. I have divorced a wife of 34 years because I couldn’t make it work. I have watched a bi-polar/autistic son as he struggled for life in an emergency room. And I have watched that same son get up again and again determined to succeed in life. I define resilience by my son. So get up, no matter how many times life gets you down.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My bipolar/autistic son who refuses to be a victim and refuses to give up. He continually searches for ways to improve himself and his life. He would never let me claim disability for him as he never saw himself as disabled. He comes to me every week with his successes and his ideas for improvement. I have never met anyone who refused to give in the way he absolutely refuses to let anything get in his way.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Two years ago, I approached the partners in my CPA firm at the time that I wanted to build a network of CPAs to revolutionize the CPA profession. I offered to have their firm be the first member. They laughed at me and asked why they should ever share what they know with their competitors. Since then, we have built a network of 25 accounting firms that is growing every day. They are not a member and never will be. Our WealthAbility Network will fundamentally transform how CPAs do business.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

Divorcing my wife of 34 years was one of the hardest things I have ever done. She and I had been best friends for many years. I only left when it became clear to me that I could no longer exist in such a toxic environment. Only a few months later, I was talking to Louanne, one of my CPA friends who had also recently left her husband. Within a few months we were dating and two years later we were married. My life has completely changed as a result. My children are happier, including my bipolar/autistic son who is much healthier. I have grandchildren, the son and daughter of Louanne’s daughter. And my business has thrived. Our income has more than doubled in both my CPA firm and our education company. This is a result of my energy being open to success. Something I never could have done in a toxic relationship.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

When I was a teenager, I had a very quick tongue. One day when I was a sophomore in high school, I was in the cafeteria and a bully was taunting me. I didn’t back down and gave him the full benefit of my quick tongue. He was much bigger than me and came up to me with his guys and threatened me, pushing me down on my knees. I was scared to death. One of the seniors, a head cheerleader and someone I had known for many years, came to my defense. He called off the bully and helped me up. I was forever grateful to that friend and determined that I would never again be bullied. I learned that sometimes we need help from others to be resilient. And sometimes we need to be the friend that helps another become resilient. This has fueled my desire to help people not be bullied by Wall Street and the IRS. I’m not physically imposing, but I can use my skills and my talents to lift others up.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Step 1 — Fail Fast and Fail Often — Don’t be afraid of failure or making mistakes. I was an “A” student and making mistakes was not easy for me. Getting fired by Price Waterhouse after being a star at Ernst & Young was devastating. Since then, I have learned the value of failing and particularly of failing fast, so the mistakes aren’t so big.

Step 2 — Get Up — Don’t let others convince you that you are a victim. You are never the victim. You are the student. When we refuse to give in and always get back up, we build the muscle called resiliency. Resiliency will never develop unless we continually fight back and never give in.

Step 3 — Know Yourself — Discover who you are and what you are meant to be to the world. You have a singular mission. Most people never discover themselves or their mission. They allow others, teachers, family, companies, to dictate who they are and what they do. I did that for many years, hiding behind a spouse, or partners, or bosses. Over the last 15 years, thanks in large part to Robert and Kim Kiyosaki, I have spent much time developing myself and learning who I am and my own genius. Own Your Genius!

Step 4 — Build a Great Team — A team that is mission-driven will always be your greatest asset. A great team makes you more successful and in turn makes your team more successful. The more people you serve, the more effective you become. So continue building your team and upgrade whenever you can. Remember that you are the average of the 5 people with whom you spend the most time.

Step 5 — Keep Learning — Most people stop learning the day they leave school. Continuing education is a must for building resilience. Invest in your personal education every year to learn new skills and be prepared for change. The singular requirement for a CPA firm to become part of the WealthAbility Network is that they hunger to learn. They realize that the more they know, the more they realize they don’t know.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Our WealthAbility Network is a movement to transform the CPA profession, and to enable people to become the genius they were born to be. We are starting with CPA’s because they influence entrepreneurs who in turn influence the world. Entrepreneurs are dreamers who just need guidance to reach their dreams. I would like everyone to see their own genius and feel free to be who and what they want to be.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Yes, I would love to have a private breakfast with Elon Musk. He is changing the way the world looks at energy, which drives all economic activity. And talk about resilience. From being bullied in South Africa to the brink of bankruptcy with SpaceX, he is the most resilient person I have every seen.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/user/tomwheelwrightcpa

Website

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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