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Episode 210: Getting Creative About Your Path to Financial Health—with Mark Willis

Deb Zahn: Hi. I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. So, on this podcast we're going to talk about financial health and what it is in particular that you want your money to do for you, and then how do you make choices to make sure it actually does that? And I brought on an expert in this, Mark Willis, who is going to talk through, and he actually using me as an example, some of the ways that you can make very deliberate choices about the financial vehicles that you pick so that you make sure that it at least doesn't run contrary to what it is you ultimately want to achieve financially, but that it actually supports the life that you want to have. So, let's get started.

Well, hello, I want to welcome Mark Willis to the show. Mark. So, delighted to have you here.

Mark Willis: Thanks Deb. Thanks for having me on.

Deb Zahn: So, let's start off, tell my listeners what you do.

Mark Willis: Well, over the years I've had the great privilege of working with clients all over the country. Mostly business owners, real estate investors, even some NFL Super Bowl champions. But most people I love to work with are just interested in having a financial future that they can count on, that they can have some sort of control and agency over their financial life. They're sick and tired of feeling like a tennis ball just floating down the gutter of life. They want the capacity to have some control, certainty that all their hard work in building their business is not for naught, but it's going to provide some kind of financial security for their future. So, I'm a certified financial planner and I own the firm Lake Growth Financial Services. That's a bit about me and the work I get to do all day long.

Deb Zahn: That's great. And I love the tennis ball analogy so much. So, we're going to talk about how this relates to consultants, and particularly when I think of solo consultants, they start and they're just focused on, "I got to get clients, I got to get clients." And sometimes well into consulting, they're still thinking, "I got to get clients, I got to get clients," and not necessarily thinking about their financial health holistically and long term. So, I want to start off and get sort of the bad stuff off the table first. So, if you are talking to a solo consultant who's just started and they're trying to get their business up and running and they don't want to be the tennis ball, what would you encourage them not to do?

Mark Willis: OK. Wow. There's a lot not to do, that's for sure. And you know, you might call me not your average financial planner. So, we're not going to go down your typical routes of telling you not to buy your lattes and investing that into 12% a year mutual funds that don't exist. They don't exist. All right, so where can we start? Well, it starts first by a simple consulting question. What do you want it to do for you? What is money to you? If you're like most solopreneurs, I'm betting you didn't get a 401k that just dropped out of the sky into your lap when you went solo like this. It didn't happen for me when I started my business. I'm betting it didn't happen for you. There is no 401k machine in the sky that's going to just drop one in our laps. So, the future is an unknown and we have irregular incomes, especially when we're just getting started in any business, and there's a lot to just decide, what are we going to pay attention to first?

And I get it, I get it that hey, we need to put food on the table this month. Why are we thinking 30 years in the future? So, I'm with you all the way on that. Traditional retirement planning says, put it into something you can't touch for 20, 30, 40 years. Invest it into something you can't control for 20, 30, 40 years and hope and pray that it all works out. Oh, by the way, it'll be taxed when you get it out. And we don't know what the tax rate will be in 20 or 30 or 40 years.

Now if that just doesn't sound like a heaping bowl of fun, I don't know what does. And this is maybe why so many solopreneurs are delaying their future retirement planning in favor of the here and now. "I need to get some income in my pocket, I need to get some clients on my board, and hopefully I'll be able to save for that retirement-y stuff in the future." So, that's what we can't do, even though that's what most of us are doing, but it's for good reason and I get it. So, that's a bit about kind of the lay of the land. Any feedback or aha moments there?

Deb Zahn: Yeah, no, I mean I love it because I've always been retirement minded, right? So, I've saved since I was 25.

Mark Willis: Good going. Congratulations.

Deb Zahn: I'm one of those. But yeah, people become a consultant because they think of it as their next phase of life. Well, what about your next phase after that? What about your next phase or your partial next phase, or something along those lines. So, I love that, think about the life that you're ultimately creating now, and that life has a long horizon. So, I think that's beautiful. So, again, there's a whole lot of not to-dos, but let's sort of jump to the to-dos. So, I'd love to hear, and we'll limit it to three because I know you've got more than that, but three. If you're going to look at your long-term financial health today and into the future, what are some of the must dos that you think that a solo consultant should be considering?

Mark Willis: Well, the first thing you can do is for free, sit down and decide what do I want my money doing for me? Get that thought clearly down on paper, it's 15 minutes of thought. It could save you hundreds of thousands if not millions over your lifetime. I've met people who were very successful, but they were putting their money in all the wrong places and it was acting counter to their beliefs. Here's an example. They wanted to have their money put into a tax deferred vehicle like a solo 401k or a SEP IRA, but they believed, when I asked them, "Hey, where do you think taxes are going over your lifetime? Down or up?" They believed that taxes were going up, and yet they're deferring a tax into a future that is likely going to be more expensive for them. So, this is counter to our beliefs, and we act against our beliefs all the time.

I mean, I want six pack abs, but I had a nice bowl of ice cream yesterday. So, I act against my beliefs all the time, but it creates stress when we do that in our bodies. And it bears in the journals of medical associations like JAMA. JAMA, it's the Journal of American Medical Association, and they recently came out with a diagnosis called a wealth shock. A wealth shock. It's where on average in this pool of data that they were looking at, patients lost $100,000, but it meant a significant chunk of money. So, whatever that number is for you, a significant chunk on average for them was $100,000in the markets. And they noticed that there was an uptick in heart attacks, strokes and deaths after the markets had taken from them a higher, a wealth shock event. They followed these folks and all of them had a propensity for dying early after they experience a wealth shock.

So, again, if you want to live, if you want a healthy life, then putting money in things that can give you that wealth shock runs against our beliefs. So, again, the first thing you can do is for free, sit down and just write out, what are the verbs, what are the attributes, what are the characteristics of my money? If it was a perfect financial vehicle, if it was working for me 100%. If it was doing all the right things, what sort of characteristics, functions would we want our money doing for us? And in fact, we could have this little conversation right now if you want, but what are some examples of this? So, that's something we could do.

Deb Zahn: Actually that's exactly where I was going to head because, so as soon as you said, what do you want your money to do for you? I'm going to be honest, a picture of a tractor popped into my head, which I actually just got, and I thought, yeah, I want a tractor because it supports my lifestyle, which is essentially, I have a mini farm and I don't want to give my chiropractor all my money, so I'm going to make it easier. But I think you mean something much more detailed than that. So, can you give an example of what that would look like?

Mark Willis: So, did I hear you say you want a tractor?

Deb Zahn: Oh yes. I actually just got one.

Mark Willis: Oh, wonderful. Well, congratulations. Here, I'll translate that into CFP speak. You want liquid access to your cash. where there are no prohibited transactions, meaning it's not tied up or unable to be used for things like a tractor. You want it to be accessible to you where you can get access to it without a bunch of red tape or taxes due. I'm putting words in your mouth, so don't let me do that.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, no, this is great. This is great.

Mark Willis: I assume you want some sort of predictable value of that asset so that you know what it is when you open up the box, how much is in my account? It's not, flies aren't coming out of the box. You know what the value of that asset is before you need to tap it. We could add to this. How about tax free? Let's make this thing tax free.

Deb Zahn: I like tax free.

Mark Willis: Why not make it private, so that creditors can't come after it and lawsuits can't touch it and it doesn't show up on credit reports? How about we make it private so it doesn't show up for kids? If you want to send your kid to college, let's get it off the financial aid formulas so that you can get the best grants and scholarships. What about a juicy rate of return? I'm just going to kind of load this thing up with all of our characteristics. Anything else you'd add?

Deb Zahn: Yeah, no, those are good. I'll make a tractor joke. Those are good implements to add to it. And so to me that's supporting the lifestyle that I have right now and I want to have for the next 20 years. I want to be able to do the things that bring me meaning and joy, and I need to have some liquid assets to be able to do that. I also want to retire early, so I want to do a partial retirement, and then I want to do a full retirement, because my husband is 16 years older than me and I want us to generally retire at about the same time. So, to me, I need my money to support me doing that.

Mark Willis: So, we can't have a retirement account then in your case. Now you're, everyone's different, but it would be against our desires to have an account that forced you to wait until it was a very special age, like 59 and a half or whatever. And so waiting until a specific age to take that money out might keep you from reaching some of those goals. If it's in traditional retirement plans, there are prohibited transactions. There's no access to the money. We have to wait for a specific age. It's taxed in the future. It's tied to things that we can't control with not really any outcomes that we can control. These are, this is, I'm painting sort of a dire picture, but candidly, this is where most Americans put the majority of their net worth, in IRAs, 401ks, home equity, and they keep a little bit of money in their savings account and then they run credit card bills to cover the difference.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Mark Willis: And unfortunately, that's why so many businesses go belly up, and especially for solopreneurs, and this is unfortunately why we see a failure rate. It's not so much the current conditions. I think it's really the banking system that keeps many businesses from being successful. So, I mean, nothing's guaranteed in life, but could we do something that builds, I don't know, a more secure platform that your business will succeed? And part of that, I think is putting our money in things that give us a wind at our back rather than having to face all those headwinds.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah, that's very helpful. I love that example. And one of the things I also want to dig into that has been a conversation. I have a membership of consultants, and one of the questions came up about if you want to have a new marketing campaign or something like that, should you basically do it off of debt or do you do what a lot of other solo consultants do, which is they don't spend any, they hope that clients come in and then they spend a little. And it ends up being sporadic, and you kind of have both of those continuums. What advice would you give for someone who's trying to think about spending money wisely to build a business, but not necessarily banking on a future that they don't know when it's going to come?

Mark Willis: Yeah, it's a hard call because everyone's got a different scenario, different life stage. Is your spouse working to help support you here? Do we have any cash reserves set aside for this move to consultancy? It's hard to say, but I would encourage you to look before you leap when it comes to leaving the W2, if you have one right now, and build for yourself a nice cushion that you can leap from. Build yourself a platform that you can feel confident is going to help you with that run rate and maybe expect two years before you're really funding yourself with this business. I mean you know better than what that timeline might be, but oftentimes the business needs a good two, three years to run itself and be profitable. So, yeah, I don't know, if I would go into debt for that I would be very careful with that debt. Maybe have a strategy and a plan to have that debt paid off before we go taking debt from other banks.

Deb Zahn: So, yeah, I love that answer because I heavily discourage consultants to assume debt, particularly if they don't really have a concrete plan, as you said, for actually paying it off. And to your point of how long can it take before you can rely on the income that you need? Yeah, some consultants, it might take a couple years for that to happen. Others, sort of depending on good decisions and good actions, can speed that up much more. But there's enough uncertainty that it's worth planning for.

So, I can understand, now using your language now that I understand your language better, that if you don't have a whole chunk of money set aside when you're first starting consulting and you don't have liquid assets to be able to support you in building your business, and all your assets are tied up in something you either can't get to or you get financially penalized if you try and withdraw it, then you find yourself in a whole different kind of a pickle. So, is sort of one of the pieces of advice you talk about is a mix of things, or it really does just depend on what somebody wants to do with their money?

Mark Willis: Well, I want you to imagine three pounds of rocks in your hand. A lot of little pebbles, rocks of different shapes and sizes. And I want you to imagine like maybe you've got 50 pebbles in your hand weighing about three pounds, and you want to break through a glass window. Maybe you're like me, a degenerate teenager trying to bust through one of those old factory downtown building windows, and you throw the pebbles as hard as you can at that window. No matter how hard you throw what's going to happen. They're all just going to bounce off, right? Why? Because of dispersion of energy. And most people's financial lives are a dispersion of energy. They've got a crypto account, they've got a traditional IRA, they've got a Roth IRA, they've got a brokerage account, and they've got a bunch of money tied up in their house.

The list goes on and on, and they feel like it's just sort of a bag of rocks basically, that they're carrying around with them all the time and no one really understands why they're holding the assets that they're holding. Not to mention they're holding student loans, car loans, credit cards, all that mess too. And it oftentimes works against itself. And again, the dispersion of energy. And it's no wonder that we feel like we're running as hard as we can just to stay in place with our financial lives, if not move backwards due to inflation and other things.

So, what if you had a three-pound rock in your hands, one singular rock, and you use that rock to launch it at that glass window? What's going to happen? Well, we're going to break through, right? We're going to break through. Sometimes we use this cover. The word diversification comes to mind here. And you know Warren Buffet says diversification is actually just insurance against ignorance. But honestly, and it's true, I think most of us don't know what we want our money doing for us. So, we just throw it at everything and accomplish nothing as a result.

So, if you had your money, safe, liquid and growing at a competitive rate, you could use it for whatever you want. There were no taxes or red tape to get access to it. If it was completely private and courts couldn't get access to it if you got sued or went through bankruptcy and it was usable for your business, would that take away any of your options or would that help you accomplish your goals faster? To me, the answer is yes. If my money was doing exactly what I wanted it to do, I'd want to focus that energy rather than spread it around like manure all over stuff that I can't really use or enjoy. So, that's my counterintuitive. Bold opinion maybe, but that's my thought.

Deb Zahn: It's definitely a bold opinion and definitely counterintuitive. So, let me dig into that a little bit. So, let's say you're someone like me, so we'll use me as an example. So, I got my tractor. I paid cash for it because I had the liquid assets to do that, but I'm still planning on partial retirement at 57 and full retirement at 62, which is the plan. Then I have, I'm one of those people that's been saving and enjoying the benefits of compounded interest, which…

Mark Willis: Congratulations.

Deb Zahn: Thank you. I think I might have included compounded interest in my wedding vows.

Mark Willis: Good to hear.

Deb Zahn: So, that's how much I like it. But if somebody doesn't have that, how should they be then looking at retirement to try and say, "OK, I'm not going to have to work forever. I'm going to get to make choices in my life, and ultimately what I'm doing in consulting is going to help me do that." What advice would you give them?

Mark Willis: Well, the Employee Benefit Research Institute says that for the average 55-year-old in this country, the average balance of a 401k is 160,000 bucks. For a 55 year old. Now, some people hear that and they say, "Wow, that's a lot." But the reality is, that's not a lot. If you calculate that out, that equates to about 300 bucks a month of after tax money. Now, how are we going to live on 300 bucks a month? And again, that's not liquid until you're a certain age or you get penalized and taxed. And what if tax rates go up, and aren't they likely to?

So, again, putting our money, as you said in safe liquid buckets, gives you options. You had the option to buy your tractor. I'll give another strategy that's been helpful for a lot of our clients, and this is again, a counterintuitive strategy for a certified financial planner to even talk about, but more modern forms of dividend paying whole life insurance can be a interesting asset that most business owners don't know about.

I didn't know about it. I had always been sort of taught to put my money in the markets and hope and pray. And there's nothing wrong with investing. I do it too. But let me explain how this particular form of whole life insurance is different than what maybe Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman talk about. And then maybe how it relates to our consultants and those listening.

So, if it's designed a specific way, I'm going to call it the bank on yourself design, it does a few things really well. First it is life insurance. So, we can go ahead and set that on the shelf. It is going to leave our family something when we pass away. But we're trimming down the insurance part. We're cutting that part down. That's where most of the expenses are. That's where most of the commissions are. So, if we can reduce the death benefit down to what we want, no more, no less, then the rest of our money can be really fueling our wealth creation.

There's this other asset with whole life insurance, not just the death benefit, but there's a living benefit called cash value. And Deb, that cash value is where I'm most interested because that's the money you can spend while you're alive, and it's way more fun to spend money when you're alive, in my opinion. I'm not sure I guess. But so the cash value grows very interestingly. Every single year, the cash value will grow on a predictable and even guaranteed basis, getting bigger and bigger and bigger regardless of what the stock market does. Regardless of what the real estate market does, the cash value grows contractually guaranteed. On top of the guarantee there are dividends paid if the company is profitable. I like to pick companies that have never failed to pay a dividend on top of the guarantee for over a hundred years. So, I'm a huge fan of the predictable growth, right?

Second, the cash value is liquid and accessible at any age. I don't have to wait for some magical age for the government to say I'm finally ready to use my own money, like a 401k. I can use the money when I'm 29 and a half or 59 and half, and it's my cash. I can use it to buy the tractor. I can use it to buy kids' college. I can use it to enhance my business. I can use it for a marketing campaign or fixing up my kitchen for renovation. I can use, there are no prohibited transactions for that cash. So, you're starting to see how maybe this would help a lot of business owners make it through that startup phase.

So, the third piece is, it's tax free. If we design it right, the tax law says we can get all the money out of that policy, totally income tax free, and live on it as a stream of income in our retirement. Some people refer to this as the rich person's Roth. So, it's a nice feature because there's no restrictions on how much you can put into whole life insurance, no government restrictions on what you can put in. You can put in 500 bucks a month or 50,000 bucks a year, or 500,000 bucks a year. We've got clients doing all three of those.

And then finally, we can use it like a bank. It's not a bank, it's life insurance. But we can use it as a line of credit to ourself. The policy allows for a loan to our policy. Our own policy has a loan feature, so you can borrow against the cash value in the policy, and there's no approval process. There's no credit check. They don't make you even set up a repayment plan when you borrow against it. And then this is the craziest part, but I've seen it work for over a decade now. When I borrow from the policy, it continues to compound. You said compound growth. There's uninterrupted compound growth even on the capital I borrowed, as if I didn't touch a dime of it.

Deb Zahn: What?

Mark Willis: Yeah. Isn't that crazy?

Deb Zahn: Yeah. As opposed to a 401k, which you can borrow against. That's how I got my first house. But then that reduces the amount that compounded interest is doing this magic on.

Mark Willis: Exactly. Even when we pay cash for things, how much interest do we earn on money we withdraw from our banks? Zero. It breaks compound growth even to pay cash. That's why I tell folks, you finance everything you buy. Either you pay a banker interest payments for the car or tractor or whatever we bought, or we pay cash and we pass up the interest we could have continued to earn on that money had we not bought the ice cream cone or the tractor and left that money invest instead. That's opportunity cost. And the only ways I've been able to find that help us get access to the cash without liquidating the asset is using this type of policy, with any kind of guarantees. So, it's been a game changer for me personally. It's been a game changer for a lot of our business owner clients. I mean, again, when you have your money liquid and accessible to use for whatever you need, does that take away any options?

Deb Zahn: Wow. So, if I'm hearing anything, I'm hearing, aside from the particulars, don't default. There are other vehicles through which other than solo Ks or 401ks or whatever other vehicles, there's other ways that you can make your money work for you in the way that you've defined. So, define first, don't assume, and then know that there are other options.

Mark Willis: That's right. If I had a choice between Tiger Woods' golf clubs or Tiger Woods' golf swing, I'd choose the swing. I could sell his clubs on eBay maybe, but I'll have a much better career if I have his swing because I can use any tool I want if I know what I'm trying to accomplish. And so many people, they're swinging a very dull ax... Sorry to mix metaphors here, but they're swinging a very dull ax against a tree. And if we just figure out what we want, we can oftentimes achieve our goal with half the effort.

Deb Zahn: Oh, I love that. So, what else? So, you're kind of blowing my mind here, which I like. So, what are some of the other must dos for financial health, both in terms of immediate needs that consultants might have or some of their long-term life needs?

Mark Willis: Well, I do think having a ready supply of liquid cash is maybe the most important thing you can set up for yourself before you take the risk. I think it's OK to be patient. To learn and have the mindset of patient capital is going to be huge for you. Many of us entrepreneurs, we're get it done yesterday kind of folks. But the more you can have ready a patient source of cash that's ready for you, you're going to be happier as an entrepreneur. And you might even just survive the headwinds that we're faced with right now in this economy. That's one piece.

I'd say another is, have an accountability partner or a spouse or someone who believes in you and is willing to call you on the carpet when you're doing less than your best. So, having somebody who's like, "Hey, you're way over target on your operating expenses, and we really need to dial in your marketing budget right now," or, "We really need to expand your marketing budget right now." Someone who can give you that kind of guidance, who's not going to be afraid to talk it to you straight. I think that's another key piece to the success formula there. What would you add to that list?

Deb Zahn: Yeah, I would add on to that. So, one of the easy things to do, I think when you become an entrepreneur is, there's so many shiny things now that you could spend money on. Much more than when I started consulting 12 plus years ago, where there just wasn't as much. And now you can get this system and this system and this system, and you can basically rack up thousands of dollars of monthly expenses without having a real plan for how is that truly going to serve your business, and are those reasonable expenses? I see that a lot. And sort of the impulsivity of, that looks cool, let me get that because that's going to be the latest marketing whatever. But you don't have a real strategy behind it of how is that actually going to give you business and bring you income.

Mark Willis: Yep. Another bag of rocks, right? If we've got 17 different streaming services and tools and AI this and whatever else, but is it really helping us break through that glass window to our goal, whatever it might be. A tip I like to do is the sleep on it strategy where I'll find some really cool, must-have right now software to help bring my business to the next level. I put it on a list and then I hit the snooze button.

My free tool, Trello, lets me snooze anything I want for 30 days, and then it pops back up 30 days later. And if I still desperately need it, I know it's coming back and I might use it and buy it at that point, or get the free trial at that point before I pay for it. But give yourself that cool off period. You can also do the same with anything that you're going to buy. Don't buy anything the same time you put it in your cart. Make a habit of only buying every other Friday, for example, everything in your cart. Then you can dump stuff out of your cart or buy it if you still need it.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And if you haven't thought about it since you put it in your cart. Yeah. I used to keep, and I actually still do what I called the “I hate this” list It was an Excel spreadsheet, and anytime I was doing a repetitive task that I didn't think it made sense for me to spend my time doing, I threw it on the list. And I did that for a good long while before I decided to hire a virtual assistant, before I decided to spend money on any fancy systems. Because then it gives you something to look at and say, "What is the most cost effective way that I can solve these problems and offload from myself so that I can focus on revenue generating activities, and what's the best way to get that done that's going to be cost efficient?" But if I just, every time I had a pain point, every time I was annoyed that I was doing something, I immediately went and tried to chase a solution, I'm going to end up spending a lot of money.

Mark Willis: Well said. Yeah. The perennial question we like to ask is, what would this look like if it were easy?

Deb Zahn: Oh, I like that.

Mark Willis: And give yourself that permission to ask that question. And what would this look like if it were easy? And I've certainly heard it for, I think Tim Ferris shared it with me on one of his podcasts. So, what would it look like if it were easy?

I'll tell a quick story. There was a guy who had a million dollar line of credit with the bank, million dollar line of credit, used it for his business, used it for his sales guys and gals traveling and everything. They used that line of credit all the time, and then, you know they had a low interest rate, but they also had two full-time people on their staff paying a full-time salary just to keep in compliance with the bank's regulations and requirements. So, you have to add that person's salary to the expense of that bank loan.

And then they got the call. You know the call I'm talking about. "Hey, Mr. Client, I'm sorry you've been a great customer of ours, but we are exiting your business. You need to give us the million dollars back over the next X years." And he got punched to the gut there, but he started thinking, "Well, I want to fire my banker. I never want to deal with these banksters ever again." What would it look like if it were easy? This banking thing has been around for millennia. There's a great book out there called Debt: the First 5,000 years.

Deb Zahn: That's a great title.

Mark Willis: Yeah, great title, scary title. But you think about it like, the millions of people who've been impacted by that four letter word debt, both on the debtor side, but also on the creditor side. Banks have been some of the most profitable business. If your consulting business is not working out just yet, start a bank instead. Just kidding, of course.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. There are some fire sales right now on banks.

Mark Willis: That's right, yeah. That's right. I think there's some up for sale right now, as we're recording this.

Deb Zahn: They're like $4 or something like that.

Mark Willis: So, what could you do to become your own line of credit to yourself? Again, what would it look like? If this banking thing is causing you trouble, what would it look like if it were easy? How many people have banks on the I hate this list, and how can we fire our banker and not just default into, yeah, we've got to have a line of credit, we've got to have a business line of credit, we've got to have a mortgage, we've got to have a student loan, we've got to have four car loans, for goodness sakes.

No, it's not necessary. What would it look like if you controlled the banking function in your life? That's part of what I believe as a financial planner solves the... It's the smallest hinge that can swing the biggest door in your life, financially speaking anyway. If you have the banking function under your control, you're going to win the money game by default, more so than what you got on your mutual funds last year, more so than what your interest rate is on your mortgage. If you control the banking function, you're going to win by default.

Deb Zahn: So, you're saying some wild things, which I love because I don't think anybody should ever default when they're making choices in their business or their life. So, if folks want to dig a little deeper into what you're talking about, where can they find you?

Mark Willis: Well, thank you. Yeah, it's been a privilege to be on and thanks for your help in making the final episode piece together here. Thank you very much for a great conversation too, Deb. If folks are looking for a way to add to their financial strategy without taking a bunch of unnecessary risk, if you want a counterintuitive way to think about money and also implement a plan that doesn't rely on things you can't control, we can help. Go to That's kickstart with Mark with a Our podcast links are there. It's all there. You can also hop on my calendar and we can have a 15 minute strategy session at

Deb Zahn: Fabulous. And we will have that all in the show notes. Now, I'm not letting you off the hook yet. There's one other question that I ask everybody. So, how is it that you bring balance to your life, however it is you define that?

Mark Willis: That's a great question. I've thought a lot about the word balance, and I'm going to go a little bit past the word balance, if you will. So, balance is so important, but it's a means to an end. I want balance to bring me somewhere. You think about when you're on the high wire, balance is actually just over correcting your last mistake. Think about what you're doing there, right?

So, we're just over correcting the last mistake we made. That's balance. I mean, that's pushing and pulling against yourself. And the goal of balance, to me is abundance. I want to get to abundance through balance. So, balance is important, but abundance is what I'm going for here. Ultimate equilibrium or balance is actually death if you think about it. When all of our body is equivalently in balance with nature, we're gone. We're dead. We're at the same temperature and everything.

So, I want abundance. I want the balance of my heart, mind, soul, strength, all of it. My relationships with people, my relationship with money. I want it to be toward abundance through balance. So, how do I do it? I don't know. I, it's over correcting the last mistake I made, basically.

Deb Zahn: I love that.

Mark Willis: I work out a little too much and then I eat a bunch of potato chips. Then I go for a run, then I try to get back on the horse again like all the rest of us. But it's all about always paying attention. And there you have it. That's maybe one of our best currencies beyond the dollar is our currency of attention. That's why we pay attention. If we can pay attention to what we're really wanting, that abundance, whatever that looks like for you, then our balance can get us there. Sorry for the scuba gear answer to that question. I kind of went deep.

Deb Zahn: No, I love that.

Mark Willis: But hopefully that helps.

Deb Zahn: No, deep is good. Deep makes me happy. So, I love that answer. Well, Mark, it has been a delight to have you on the show. Thank you so much for joining us and taking us on this wild, unexpected ride.

Mark Willis: Thank you. Thanks for having me on.

Deb Zahn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up and a lot of other great content, and I don't want you to miss anything.

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