Matthew's Mind

Your wings already exist. All you have to do is fly.

You know those items that remind you of the past? Photos, keepsakes, books, notes, all those objects placed in drawers that you just couldn’t throw away? I know I do. I have plenty. And recently it was time to move past one of them.


Over the years I kept adding to my tie collection. A tie from my wedding rehearsal, ties from the first trainings (at the Chicago O’Hare Holiday Inn) Advisors Excel ever conducted, ties from our boys’ baptisms, family pictures, friend’s weddings and unfortunately a few funerals. I had ties that were gifts from my wife, colleagues and friends. And looking inside my tie drawer, I saw ties that brought me back to meeting dozens of my top clients and best friends to this day.

But it was time to move on; and end to this era. I haven’t worn a tie in over 2 years; it’s just not me any more. Ties haven’t felt right for awhile and I can own, and love, that fact at this point in my life.

In addition to that, a group of underprivileged, and deserving local high schoolers were asking for help. Their mentors needed for clothes (and ties) these students could wear when the situation was right – on athletic game days at school, for job interviews, graduations and school dances.

The universe was speaking; 2+2 was coming together…

Opening up my tie drawer, 33 of them stared at me like this:


But not any more. If you came to my home today, the tie drawer would look more like this:

no ties

And all of those ties are being put to better use, with students and young adults who will use them in this phase of their lives!

giveaway ties

It’s the end of a personal era. One I’m proud of. But recognizing that fact still didn’t make giving all those memories (of my last decade plus) away any easier…

Most of the successful entrepreneurs I coach run their cash flow like this:

  1. Fixed costs first – Building, utilities, maintenance and upkeep.
  2. Staffing second – Competitive pay, usually benefits, sometimes bonus plans, rarely deep engagement. Some with more effort here than others.
  3. Marketing third – Client acquisition is mandatory. The methods, means, effort and metrics vary widely and the results show.
  4. Profit last – Whatever’s left, Lord I hope there’s something left, comes home. Usually this is pretty good, but there are plenty of shaky times too.

Recently I studied with one of the fastest growing, most elite financial advisory firms in the country. And they flipped that model on its head.


Their cash flow model (very simplified) looked like this:

  1. Profit first – They were determined to take home 40% of gross cash flow. It’s why they built this business and top priority. If that was going to happen without fail, this was essential to be the first step.
  2. Marketing second. In their world, this number is 20%. Client acquisition was a massive priority and needed to be treated as such. That means multiple marketing funnels running efficiently and simultaneously. It also ensured a healthy enough marketing budget to scale alongside them and facilitate growth.
  3. Staffing third. This was another approximate 20%. Looking at this element, you clearly saw how they planned to deeply engage with current clients, carry out their marketing vision and build an incredible culture – filled with competitive pay, benefits, intentional engagement and culture building activities.
  4. Fixed costs last. This represented the last 20% and rightfully so. A few variables change year to year, but not much. There’s a reason this area is called fixed costs. While you should never make people uncomfortable or give them an undesirable work environment (that sabotages the other parts of this pyramid), if a copy machine can wait to be upgraded, your staff can find a better deal on WiFi or the cleaning crew comes by once a week instead of twice, that should happen – as to not sacrifice the other priorities in the pyramid.

Pay yourself, find clients, take care of staff, lock in fixed costs. In that order.

Sounds simple, but will you adopt it?

It’s not that I don’t care what you think… Because I do.

It’s also not that I don’t care what others think… I do.

But if you add all that up, the sum of all the opinions of everyone I trust… well, the thing is… I just care a little more about what I think. And you shouldn’t take that as rude or self centered; it’s not where I’m coming from.

But understand that I’ve witnessed most people entirely too tied up in someone else’s opinion about them. What will Sue, Greg or Malik think about that? What will they say?

If you’re true to yourself, who cares?!?

Most people act everyday based on how they’ll be judged. Putting on a fifty pound vest to walk through the day with an incredible burden; that’s self limiting and weighs down what you believe you’ll accomplish. (Unless Sue, Greg or Malik think you can do it, right?) It’s insane! Most times, other people aren’t thinking about your decisions to begin with, and the amount of time they are is infinitely smaller than the time you’ve put into it.

So give me your opinion, I sincerely want it. I’ll take it in and soak it up. But that doesn’t mean I’m moving ahead because of it.

Thank you to everyone who disagrees with me; your thoughts open my worldview.

Thank you to those I collide politically with; that’s the beauty of being blessed an American.

Thank you for the people who have different priorities in life; it strengthens my own.

Thank you to anyone who looks different, dresses different, talks different or acts different than I do. Without you, the world would be a very boring place.

Thank you to everyone who reads this and is open to new perspectives. That open architecture is we collectively move forward.

This Thanksgiving we’ll all experience gratitude toward those items we value most – family, friends, health and happiness. That’s par for the course, and worthy of pause. But the same last year, this and next. Yet if you feel the way I do, a second order of thanks (in thought and most importantly action), to everyone who’s not in our immediate circle is needed more than ever. Inclusion, not division. Bridges, not walls. Humanity at its core is something to intentionally appreciate.

Happy Thanksgiving.

You’ve heard “Give credit where credit is due”, right?

Well forget it. It’s wrong.

Let me give you something that’s better, that’ll become your recipe for invincibility.

  • If it’s bad/wrong/failed/negative – it’s me. (extreme ownership)
  • If it’s good/right/worked/incremental – it’s us. (collective win)
  • If it’s great/proven/breakthrough/monumental – it’s them. (culture king)

Me, us, them.

When you internalize this “credit formula”, you’re unstoppable.

We’re all about growth.

The next accomplishment, busting through our goals, bigger, better, stronger, higher, faster, louder. More.

I’ll own up to that too. The words, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying” have flowed from  my mouth hundreds of times. And to a large extent, a growth based mindset is vital to success.

But what if the goal itself is wrong?

What if you’re climbing to the top of a 3 foot ladder?

Recently I’ve seen a lot of people charging hard, who haven’t paused to ask themselves WHY enough. Growth is good, success is good, but make sure you’re clear about the reasons why.

Then climb that extension ladder, and leave your 3 footer at home.

This week I was having dinner with my sister

Melinda’s in her early 30’s and was telling us how this is the best decade of her life! In her 20’s, she didn’t have the experiences, perspective or the resources (money and other) to really appreciate life. Now that she’s into her 30’s things are different. Melinda can enjoy herself more, she can put life experiences into perspective, and she can decide what belongs in her life and what doesn’t.

Melinda also shared another insight:

Now in her 30’s, she stopped caring what other people think.

And she’s serious. In an incredibly positive way, I’ve seen Melinda become much more self aware over the last couple years and independently own her decisions, trajectory and impact. From a brother’s perspective, from the outside looking in, it’s a beautiful thing.

We laughed at that comment for awhile, but then I mentioned how he comment fit into a narrative I heard years ago and still believe today.

In your 20’s, you care what other people think.

In your 30’s, you stop caring what they think about you.

In your 40’s, you realize they were never thinking about you to begin with.

The punchline?

The sooner we all get to living our own lives, on our own terms, for our personal reasons, accountable to ourselves – the better we’ll be. In the end, that’s what everyone else is doing. They’re not sitting around, thinking about you. Better we realize it now and feel the freedom and empowerment that brings.

Every couple months my wife forwards me something from the website Shutterfly. We do a lot of photo work there and periodically they send us emails that say “Your memories from this week two years ago…” (here’s the last one).

Then I brace for the unimaginable.  Because opening Alice’s forwarded email, I have the same thought. Every. Single. Time.

I can’t believe that was two years ago!

It seems like yesterday.

Then I smile looking at the pictures, feel a pit in my stomach and move forward into the day. Today that means a morning routine that started at 3:50 am, an hour commuting, finalizing a presentation for a 40 client lunch, confirming tomorrow’s travel details, reviewing a new hire training calendar, 6 scheduled coaching calls, packing for tomorrow’s trip, cancelling a baseball tournament, one child’s swim practice tonight, three children’s bedtime routines (two needing medicine, longer stories there) and countless other duties! That’s not considering the dozens of items happening at home and the boy’s school, while I’m at the office.

All adding up to my thought:

How can the days feel so long, but the years so short?

It doesn’t make sense. But it does. But it doesn’t. And I don’t know what to do about it.

It’s 5:30 am and I’m walking from my car through a parking lot, down an embankment and onto a high school track. And it’s dark. Not like kind of dark, with a few lights sprinkled here and there. But really dark, like you can barely decipher five feet in front of you and you’re merely hoping not to fall.

It’s 5:40 am and I’m through my warm up. I’ve also noticed that somehow, without any lights turned on or sunlight yet, I can see everything much better.

It’s 5:50 am and I’ve ran the first couple intervals. Looking around myself now, still without sunlight, I can see across the entire field and recognize anyone else on the running track with me.


You put yourself in situations where you feel completely blind (literally and figuratively). However, somehow you adapt and thrive.

Then the next time … the next morning or situation … you encounter “darkness”, you internally know that you’ll move forward and crush it – never allowing that blind feeling to stop your progress again.