Libman Tax - September 2018




A Story of Recognizing Strengths and Moving Forward How I Mastered the Art of 'Failing Up'

H i, everyone! Welcome to my awesome monthly newsletter! You know it’s going to be awesome because the title says so. For this first edition, I am going to tell you the enchanting story of how I gained success by being perfectly mediocre. Yes, you read that correctly. This isn’t going to be some unoriginal, romantic story about a young man who recognized his life’s dream, worked assiduously to reach it, and now spends hours of the day reflecting on how happy he is to be working a job that he’s passionate about and truly loves. No, my story is not one of those. This may surprise you, but when I was a little kid, I didn’t dream of pursuing a career in accounting; I didn’t dream of being a cop or a firefighter either. My childhood dream was to sit on a beautiful, sandy beach gazing out at the serene, blue ocean in front of me … surrounded by a giant heap of cash. I never really had a plan for earning that cash in this hypothetical situation (some days, I’m still not sure I do), but I knew that the beach and the money were crucial.

your aspirations. This means that you can always strive to be better, but you should never forget that a person can only have so many talents.

I’ve worked for various accounting firms over the years, and I seemed to get fired from almost every one of them. In fact, before I took over my father’s business in 2009, I was fired from another firm for moonlighting on the side. There weren’t any conflicts of interest, but my manager didn’t necessarily like my entrepreneurial nature. Shortly after that, my wife, Maria, and I found out that she was pregnant with our first son, Evan. At that moment, my career plan was somewhat decided for me. My father, Arnold Libman, was retiring from his own firm that year, and I decided to take over. As with any new venture in life, there was a bit of a learning curve initially. But the two best parts of running my own firm were that I got to be my own boss and I got to use my tax-strategy and creative-thinking abilities. The downside was that, while I knew how to help my clients, I had no idea how to run a business. For the last 11 years, I have spent ample time researching best marketing practices, operations management, and office technology systems. Despite the fact that I lost about half of my clientele in the first two years of running the firm, I have gained them all back over time. I recognize that my firm doesn’t grow unless I do, and that mindset has helped me gain substantial knowledge, guide my clients with the best of intentions, and ask for help when I need it. My favorite work memory over the last decade occurred in 2012, when I was able to teach an entrepreneurship class at Clairbourn School in San Gabriel, CA. In the classroom, I spent time sharing trade values. I helped the students generate their own business plans and models, and then the firm funded $1,000 toward each student’s project to help get them started. I remember one student in particular had the innovative idea to use the school’s 3D printer to make candle molds in the shape of the school’s building, logo, and mascot. He would then peddle the candles to parents at PTA meetings to help boost school pride. That kid already had life figured out. Thinking about that student reminds me of my own money-filled childhood aspirations. In fact, just this summer, my wife and our four boys traveled to Mexico for a relaxing beach vacation. While I watched my boys splash in the ocean water, I dug my toes deep into the sand. I may not have been surrounded by a gigantic pile of cash, but I definitely felt happy. I may have started this article by warning you that my life story isn’t some romantic narrative about a guy following his passions, but over the years, I’ve realized that being the guy who “failed up” is an equally awesome dream.

“I’ve realized that being the guy who ‘failed up’ is an equally awesome dream.”

Although I didn’t dream of becoming a tax strategist, that is exactly what I am and what I do. I’m damn good at it too, and I’m not afraid to admit it. From my perspective up here on this soapbox, I have to say that one of humanity’s major flaws is that people build their lives around the notion that they have to achieve some fantastical goal in order to be successful. For me, success stems from recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and by being realistic about

-Adam Libman

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