Back in 2016, I was working with an executive coach (Alisa Finerman – check her out, she is amazing!) to develop certain leadership skills to help improve myself professionally. Immediately we started working on Gallup Certified Strengths coaching to focus on identifying and leveraging strengths for greater success. Three of my top five strengths were focus, competition and analytical skills.

A basic overview of the process can be described as the ability to utilize one’s strengths in a mature way (e.g., maximizing focus to achieve a particular objective) or in a raw way (e.g., tunnel vision focus hindering ability to see bigger picture/objective). This exercise, albeit relatively simple to perform, was mind opening to me and adjusted the way in that I operate – both professionally and personally. It allowed me to take a step back and look at each goal or task and direct my energy in a way that would maximize my efforts by exploiting my strengths.

A perfect example of this was in triathlon training – specifically my goal of qualifying and competing in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. In order to qualify, I had to place in one of the top slots within my age group at a qualifying Ironman 70.3 event. I set out quickly and raced Ironman 70.3 Arizona in October 2016 – missed by three qualifying slots. Then it was two weeks later at Ironman 70.3 Austin – missed by two qualifying slots. The 2016 season had ended, and I was and 0 for 2, disappointed but had my eyes on Ironman 70.3 St. George, Utah, in the early part of the 2017 season to give it another crack.

Thinking about my work with Alisa, I needed to reengineer my training and approach this endeavor in a particular way. In addition to the type of training (hills, terrain), one critical adjustment I needed was the time of day I would be training. St. George was going to be hot, windy with no shade. My previous routine was early morning training sessions, with my work day following. Instead, I needed to rearrange my schedule for mid-day runs or cycles – not every day but definitely establishing a routine.

Being an advisor and servicing clients, sometimes my days are not in my control with meetings, proposals, calls and just getting work done. Part of what is great about our firm, GHJ, is we advocate our team to maximize their schedule to fit their professional and personal needs. It took a learning curve, but soon I completely integrated my specific training needs with the demands of our business. Some people call it work-life balance. I disagree with that term completely. The term is and should be “work-life integration.” That is, I do not live two different lives – one at work and one outside. I live my life, and I integrate every facet within my life to work together in synergy. Like many cogs within one machine. It requires openness and willingness to put all one’s cards out there to maximize time, energy and passions.

Fast forward six months and in St. George I qualified finishing in four hours and 51 minutes and getting a slot to race at the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Goal accomplished and now re-focused to run my absolute best race possible four months later in Tennessee. It was amongst and against the best in the world, and again, the need to maturely use my strengths were a must to continue to raise the bar.

The race was Sept. 10 – not exactly the ideal time to “be away” given tax busy season. But again, I refined that work-life integration model, and off I went to work remotely and prepare for the race in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A day before the remnants of Hurricane Irma came through, I competed amongst approximately 2,500 male athletes (men and women race on different days) placing 867th overall and 198th out of 400 in my age group. With a sub five-hour race – it was a perfect day, and I am not sure I could have raced a better race. Sure there were many people that raced faster than I did that day – and competitively; it was brutal to see them pass me (most with ease). But it was an absolute success looking back at my progress over the last two years.

So anyone still reading this might ask – how on earth does this relate to accounting and my role in the firm as a principal in the tax practice and the Health and Wellness Practice leader? On its surface, this endeavor is spending countless hours to simply be a better swimmer, cyclist and runner. Sure, that does happen. But it is much more than that. Triathlon training has taught me how to utilize my strengths in an effective way.

So, am I a better tax advisor and leader within our firm as a result of these efforts? Without a doubt. Could I have done this without the support the firm and my fellow colleagues? No chance. Could I have done this without integrating work and life into one synergetic operation? No way. Do I have more energy now than I did yesterday to take on a goal that seems unattainable? Yep.

Now at the end of 2017, I am reflecting on this process of goal setting and using it to consider my 2018 priorities, passions and work-life integration.

My story here is just one of many #BeMore stories of GHJ. We believe that excelling in all areas of life will allow our people to maximize themselves and in turn we will excel at servicing our clients.