Dan Nicholson has rigged the game. Not only has he created a certainty app that helps us identify the solvable problems in our lives, but he’s also the Founder of CertaintyU.
Being able to support thought leaders to share their point of view effectively, is an honor and I got to sit down with Dan to talk about what to look for when you are looking to hire a financial advisor.
How did you go from accountant to entrepreneur? And why did you make this decision?
I’ve always had what I call serial entrepreneur tendencies. Even when I was a kid, I was constantly cooking up new ideas and interested in business and numbers. After graduating with degrees in Accounting and E-Commerce Information Systems, I started my career with a fellowship at the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. Eventually, I put what I’d learned to use at Deloitte and with various Fortune 500 companies.
But I got tired of corporate drudgery. Meetings about meetings, that kind of thing. I decided to harness that entrepreneurial spirit I’d had since I was a kid and founded Nth Degree CPAs
to help other purpose-driven entrepreneurs and small business owners achieve financial certainty.
Not long after I started Nth Degree, I was speaking at a CFO conference with over 300 service providers, and I realized everyone in the room had commoditized their offer. Accounting, bookkeeping, and tax preparation are all important, but really, what distinguishes you in the market? Reputation certainly plays a factor, but price takes priority in the decision process when choosing between financial service providers.
Dan, you talk a lot about certainty and open mindedness, how do these two things co-exist when it comes to our finances?
I define certainty and financial certainty as getting what you want, on your terms, without compromise. To do that, you need to figure out what you actually want and how you want to play your game. That requires some soul searching and an open mind to look at unconventional paths.
I also believe everyone has biases that affect their decision-making process. That soul searching I mentioned helps bring those to light. To achieve financial certainty, you need to understand your biases and preferences and use them to your advantage. This means being open-minded about different opportunities and not being afraid to take risks.
We actually built open-mindedness into our core values at Nth Degree. You don’t often find words like “creative and innovative expressions” in an accounting firm’s purpose, but I wanted to create something unconventional in order to play my game and get me closer to my unique definition of certainty. Again, that’s open-mindedness.
How much do you get into values when you are advising someone?
A lot. Values are a core and crucial part of my philosophy.
The most successful business owners are the ones who make moves that bring them closer to what they prioritize. These people have established their own core set of values and behave in a way to get closer to what they want without getting knocked off course.
What I’ve found is that there’s often a gap between espoused values and values in action. What someone says about themselves might be different from what they are actually doing.
To recognize that gap between our espoused values and values in action, we need to design and implement our own actions. With an operating system (like the one I teach at CertaintyU) and a little bit of awareness, you can start to recognize the inconsistencies in your behavior and put your espoused values to the test.
To stop playing against ourselves or getting in our own way, espoused values and values in action must be aligned. When they are, we will always play by our own rules. And when you play by your rules, you win.
I’ve heard you talk about not being a fan of a vision board. Why is putting our financial goals on our vision board a bad idea?
Many entrepreneurs are told by their coaches or mentors to create a vision board in connection with finding their why. While I’m not totally against vision boards and am obviously a proponent of finding your “why,” I do find the vision board approach simplistic at best and problematic at worst. For many entrepreneurs, the vision board and whole notion of their why create more anxiety. In fact, they can be almost paralyzing.
When you start contemplating your vision board and trying to articulate your why, that risk iceberg is floating in your mind. The internal dialogue is some version of: How can I possibly map out my manifest destiny when there’s so much I don’t already know?
That’s why my longtime mentor, Randy Massengale, says, “First we start with frequency (doing the work); from the frequency, we increase our intensity, and from our intensity, we find our purpose.”
To figure out how to keep your pursuits aligned with your unique disposition, we need to combine what I call a phenomenological archaeological dig—digging deep into your own psyche to understand what motivates you and what you truly care about—with a more rigorous, objective process. That process is the kind of thing Nth Degree helps our clients do to achieve certainty, and the type of philosophy and tools our Certified Certainty Advisor graduates learn.
Dan, I have also heard you talk about how we get mired in always solving as entrepreneurs. Can you speak to the solvable problem and how we can create more freedom for ourselves and families not only time freedom, but financial freedom?
I came up with the Solvable Problem™ a few years back. The best way I’ve found to think about the Solvable Problem™ is by identifying it as your own personal definition of wealth.
We’ve created a Solvable Problem™ when we’ve turned what we want into life—both tangible and intangible—into dollar values that have an assigned date to them. For example, someone might say, I want a $1 million house in three years, and I want five more hours of free time per week within a year at a cost of $5K per month. That’s a Solvable Problem.™
Absent a Solvable Problem™, we can never answer the question: Do we need to make more? And, if we don’t know if we actually need to make more, then our tendency will be to default to “more” as the singular solution to our problems. That’s where we run the risk of getting trapped in someone else’s game.
But once you’ve identified and understand the Solvable Problem™, you have the freedom to leave options open. You see you don’t have to value more, and you most certainly don’t have to play by anyone else’s rules.
Where freedom comes in is that These are the priorities that are unique to you. You have the freedom to list whatever you want. It is your life after all.
is the author of Rigging the Game: How to Achieve Financial Certainty, Navigate Risk and Make Money on Your Own Terms, deemed a best-seller by USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, among others. In addition to founding the award-winning accounting firm Nth Degree CPAs, Dan has created and run multiple small businesses, including Certified Certainty Advisor, a professional certification he runs through CertaintyU. CertaintyU is a program that teaches business owners methods for increasing financial certainty, minimizing risk, and engineering cash flow. Dan also developed the Certainty App, a financial tool built for entrepreneurs based on the ideologies he teaches.