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The Word Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett Use to Measure Success – Episode 159

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This single word can help you build your wealth. Do you know what it is?

On this episode of Dentist Money™ Reese and Ryan reveal what it takes to get on, and then stay on, your optimal path for wealth creation. There’s one critical word that both Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett said will give you powerful decision-making confidence. In today’s competitive climate, you need to know how to make a pivotal career and investment decisions with clarity.

Learn how successful entrepreneurs eliminate wealth-building distractions. 

Podcast Transcript:

Reese Harper: Welcome to Dentist Money. I’m Reese Harper, your host, and I’ve got a great episode in store for you today. What do James Bond, Michael Corleone, Han Solo, and John McClain have to do with investing? You’re about to find out on this episode of the Dentist Money Show.

Reese Harper: Life offers us an optimal path to happiness, as well as an optimal path to wealth creation. And both of these paths are filled with really critical decisions that keep us chugging along. Today, Ryan and I are going to talk about one critical ingredient that can help you make the very best decisions at the right time, to keep you focused on your unique path.

Reese Harper: Make sure and visit us at, and check out our education library. You’ll find a lot of videos, podcasts, and new articles that we’re releasing every week. Also, when you go to the website, don’t forget to book a free consultation, clicking the Book Free Consultation button, where you’ll be paired with one of our dental-specific financial advisors on a day that works for you. We book appointments on off days, lunches, even on some Saturdays. Just check out the calendar, and find a time that’s convenient. Call us anytime at 833-DDS-PLAN. You can also text us at the same number. Don’t forget to submit your financial questions on our free Facebook group, at We take the questions from the Facebook group and use them in the podcast. Thanks again for listening, and enjoy the show.

Speaker: Consult an advisor or conduct your own due diligence when making financial decisions. General principles discussed during this program do not constitute personal advice. This program is furnished by Dentist Advisors, a registered investment advisor.

Speaker: This is Dentist Money. Now, here’s your host, Reese Harper.

Reese Harper: Welcome to The Dentist Money Show, where we help dentists make smart financial decisions. I’m your host, Reese Harper, here with my trusty old co-host, shortly after the Christmas day special edition, Sir Ryan Isaac.

Ryan Isaac: I feel like I need a Christmas holiday nickname now.

Reese Harper: I hope you all had a great Christmas. We brought bells in today. Yes, we did. And, we have a Christmas fuchsia tree. We have Santa’s stockings.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah. Candy cane… We have a giant oversized Santa toy bag that I will be standing in while you wear a Santa hat for a photo op.

Reese Harper: And, any time that I like what we’re talking about today, you’re going to hear the bells.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah.

Reese Harper: Instead of the C for Chi today, we’re doing bells.

Ryan Isaac: What key is that bell in? Music, right?

Reese Harper: Well, you can’t … A note, Sir.

Ryan Isaac: A note?

Reese Harper: Can be in any key.

Ryan Isaac: What note is that? That would be a better way of asking.

Ryan Isaac: It is?

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: Jeez, I just offended the music guy.

Reese Harper: You know-

Ryan Isaac: Did he just really ask me that terribly dumb question? What note is that though?

Reese Harper: I think that’s a G sharp.

Ryan Isaac: A G sharp?

Reese Harper: If I had to guess right now.

Ryan Isaac: I’m just going to tell the audience a quick story about Reese’s tone deciphering abilities. When the building we’re currently in was being built out, before we moved in, this was how many years ago? Five years ago, maybe, when we moved in?

Reese Harper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ryan Isaac: There’s a big office on the main floor, and we all said, “That’s Reese’s office.” And we went in there with the construction crew, and it was summer time, and the AC outside of the window was on. And we’re all talking, we’re like, “This is a great office. Reese, you’ll be able to meet people in here, because it’s a little bit bigger.”
And all of a sudden, he stops. He cocked his head to the side, and he goes, “Nope. I can’t be in here.” And we’re like, “What’s going on?” He’s like, “That air conditioner is resonating to the tone of whatever, G.” And you’re like, “That’ll bug me every time it kicks on. I’ll just know… I can’t. I’m going to go upstairs.” And, you picked a different office based on, not the key, the tone?

Reese Harper: Yeah, probably the hertz.

Ryan Isaac: The hertz of the… I don’t know, of the air conditioner. And so I’m really glad you have that ability, because now the bells are in G sharp.

Reese Harper: They are. Ready for a great episode today.

Ryan Isaac: G for great. G for great.

Reese Harper: And I’m excited about this one.

Ryan Isaac: Well, I’m going to start off by listing some famous movie characters, and some famous movies. And some of us in the room know what this comes from. You might not know. Those listening though, might probably not know.

Reese Harper: And I have no idea. I just want to list one of my favorite movies and characters so I can participate.

Ryan Isaac: Start first. All right, just randomly throw it out there.

Reese Harper: Just saw National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation yesterday. That was-

Ryan Isaac: Clark Griswold. As a dad-

Reese Harper: My kid’s kind of said multiple times during the show, they’re like, “Dad. You’re a lot like that guy.”

Ryan Isaac: My wife tells me that all the time, because I have high expectations for family stuff, and I want it to go perfectly. And I just get frustrated when it’s not. It’s just such a dad move.

Jenni Colborn:: Do either of you have, like your house is just covered?

Ryan Isaac: Yeah.

Reese Harper: Yep. I put lights up.

Ryan Isaac: Do you?

Reese Harper: Yeah, and I’m in a rental right now, and I put lights up on my rental.

Ryan Isaac: That’s so good. My kid-

Jenni Colborn:: There it is.

Ryan Isaac: The only year in my entire 16 years of marriage, which is… our anniversary’s tomorrow. Sixteen years that I’ve decorated, put lights on the house was the one year I lived in a warm place, because otherwise I’m too cold and I don’t go out and do it.

Reese Harper: I get that.

Ryan Isaac: I put lights on a palm tree one year, and I was fine doing that. But my kids every year, they’re like, “Dad, everyone else has lights, and we don’t.” I’m like, I’ll just pay someone to do it one of these years, because it’s cold.

Reese Harper: Deal with it, kids-

Jenni Colborn:: Why aren’t you making your kids do that?

Reese Harper: I should make my kids get on ladders.

Ryan Isaac: Your expectations are too high.

Reese Harper: Why do you want lights on Christmas?

Ryan Isaac: You and your light goals.

Reese Harper: Gosh. Light goals. Okay, so Clark Griswold. Good call. All right, I’m going to name some movie characters from famous movies. The activity here is try to figure out what’s the connection here. Okay?

Ryan Isaac: All right.

Reese Harper: The first one would Roger Moore as the great James Bond. I don’t know if you were like, were you a James Bond guy?

Ryan Isaac: Not really.

Reese Harper: I love old James Bond movies.

Ryan Isaac: I just know the new James Bond stuff.

Reese Harper: It’s cool.

Ryan Isaac: I watched it the last decade, but-

Reese Harper: I have a big connection to… When I think of Bond it’s just Connery and Moore, when I think about James Bond.

Ryan Isaac: All right.

Reese Harper: I love watching old classic Bond movies.

Ryan Isaac: You’re classy.

Reese Harper: Yeah, thank you. Thank you, I appreciate that. Michael Corleone, The Godfather, Al Pacino. Han Solo, needs no introduction. No one really knows who this is, except for… It’s Richard Gere’s role in Pretty Woman.

Jenni Colborn:: Is that his name?

Reese Harper: Well, that’s Richard Gere. Who knows his name, by the way? Richard Gere, Pretty Woman, was… What’s his character’s name?

Ryan Isaac: I don’t know.

Reese Harper: Edward Louis. Remember that? You have Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. You ever seen that show?

Jenni Colborn:: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: He’s crazy in that one.

Reese Harper: Won an Oscar for that.

Jenni Colborn:: He’s incredible.

Reese Harper: Won an Oscar for that. Jack Nicholson again in Terms of Endearment. I never saw the show, but an Oscar again.

Ryan Isaac: Big musical score on that one.

Reese Harper: Really?

Ryan Isaac: The soundtrack, it was in every music book from the ’80s.

Reese Harper: Really? Terms of Endearment, John McClain, Diehard, speaking of Christmas shows. Is that a Christmas show? Is that controversial?

Ryan Isaac: It is, somewhat, I would say.

Reese Harper: One of the greatest Christmas shows?

Jenni Colborn:: We’re going to have to take this offline.

Ryan Isaac: I wouldn’t say it’s in the greatest.

Reese Harper: Jenni Colborn: wants to fight that.

Jenni Colborn:: I will fight you over this.

Ryan Isaac: What did you say?

Reese Harper: Is Diehard a Christmas show?

Ryan Isaac: If we’re going to get in to Christmas, I can’t help but think of Will Ferrell in Elf.

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: Vintage. That, to me, is more Christmas than Diehard.

Reese Harper: Thirteen years old, now, this year.

Jenni Colborn:: Fifteen.

Reese Harper: Fifteen years old.

Ryan Isaac: If you haven’t seen Elf, the musical, it’s-

Reese Harper: Oh, really?

Ryan Isaac: It’s quite a trip.

Reese Harper: It’s a musical?

Ryan Isaac: Yeah.

Reese Harper: Oh, that’s kind of cool.

Ryan Isaac: It’s pretty cool.

Reese Harper: Okay, a couple of other-

Ryan Isaac: Watching them actually live eat spaghetti and-

Reese Harper: Oh, they do that?

Ryan Isaac: And syrup, and M&Ms burped.

Reese Harper: Stop, that’s so nasty. I want to go see that. Okay, I want to go see that. A couple of other famous shows. MASH, remember the TV show, MASH?

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, I do..

Reese Harper: I’m old enough to remember the MASH theme song is… brings back bad memories because it was always, like, 9:00 bed time.

Ryan Isaac: Okay.

Reese Harper: You want to sing the theme song? Do you know that?

Ryan Isaac: I mean, I-

Reese Harper: Whistle it?

Ryan Isaac: Something I remember visually, but you’d have to remind me, honestly, because I can’t remember it.

Reese Harper: The MASH theme song?

Ryan Isaac: Yeah.

Reese Harper: Can we do this really fast?

Jenni Colborn: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: Oh, we can’t play it. I don’t think you can.

Reese Harper: We have copyrights.

Ryan Isaac: Plus we’ve been… We’ve got a-

Reese Harper: Just think of MASH. Anyone that’s over like, 35, will remember the MASH theme song and it’ll probably remind you of bed time.

Ryan Isaac: Okay.

Reese Harper: When you’re a kid. The Batman TV show. Who’s the famous actor? What was his name?

Ryan Isaac: Adam West.

Jenni Colborn:: Adam West.

Reese Harper: Adam West. Okay. So, Adam West, TV show about Batman, and Rocky, the movie Rocky. Okay? So, all those things I just listed, they’re pretty random. What’s the catch?

Ryan Isaac: I’m lost trying to figure out the catch.

Reese Harper: Yeah, you threw in a few of your own.

Ryan Isaac: Okay.

Reese Harper: This had nothing to do with that. So Elf has nothing to do with that, or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Ryan Isaac: Number one, you didn’t include any women, so that’s what I noticed.

Reese Harper: Okay. Well, that would actually make sense for the tie-in here.

Ryan Isaac: All right.

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: It’s like most, was all men.

Reese Harper: It was all men. What these have in common are these are all roles that the famous Burt Reynolds turned down over his career.

Ryan Isaac: Oh, really?

Reese Harper: These are all things he said no to, over the course of his career, which is fascinating. I have some statistics on Burt Reynolds. I think anyone, maybe over, in their forties or above, will easily recollect the fact that Burt Reynolds was a legend. He passed away this year, in 2018. He was a mega star at the top of his game. Top of his industry.

Ryan Isaac: No question.

Reese Harper: Here’s some things about Burt Reynolds. He had a 60-year career. He amassed a huge net worth. So, what’s interesting is if you took his peak of his career, it would have landed him in the top 10 highest earning actors in Hollywood in 2017. He was-

Jenni Colborn:: In 2017?

Reese Harper: He had estates and real estate everywhere, private jets, helicopters. He had 150 horses, which I know you would really appreciate.

Ryan Isaac: Wow.

Reese Harper: He had 100 grand worth of toupees by a famous toupee designer. The point is-

Ryan Isaac: When did he have to start wearing that? I mean, later on in his career-

Reese Harper: I’m fairly interested in this toupee discussion. We can get to it later.

Jenni Colborn:: Well, you didn’t know because he looks so good.

Reese Harper: Exactly. I have a dog in that time period.

Ryan Isaac: When I think of that period, I think of Duke’s of Hazard. That’s what I think.

Reese Harper: Smoky and the Bandit? Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: I just think of… Well, I just think of Dukes of Hazard.

Reese Harper: Yeah, like era, and… yeah. I guess the point- Okay, so the point-

Ryan Isaac: Driving cars and flying off things, and-

Reese Harper: Smoky. And the Bandit. Well, he owned that. It was a Trans Am. Yeah, he owned that Trans Am that was in Smoky and the Bandit. If you Google him, one of the most famous pictures is sitting in the Trans Am.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah. It’s interesting. He’s been super successful, but those were big roles that he turned down.

Reese Harper: Yeah, so what’s the point of bringing this up as we start this? The point is that this guy… This is a person who became in… He got himself to the top of the top of his industry, of his career, in an industry that’s insanely competitive. Where the vast majority of people never do anything, let alone become one of the top stars in the… He was nominated for an Oscar once for his role in Boogie Nights, as the director in Boogie Nights. But he passed up both Jack Nicholson roles that were Oscars. And it’s funny, because you can go back to some interviews and read why he passed some of these up. Some of them, were he was legitimately just like, that’s not me.

Jenni Colborn:: Han Solo.

Reese Harper: There’s a few regrets, though.

Jenni Colborn:: Can you imagine?

Reese Harper: Like Han Solo, he was like, that was really stupid. James Bond, he said that was really dumb to turn down. But he didn’t, at the time, you’re just in the moment and you’re like, “I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel like I should say yes to that, so I’ll say no to that. I’m going to pass.”
Today here on the show, that’s the theme, that we’re going to be leading in to, is just this path in our lives, whether it’s life and career, whatever it is, that all the things that we have to make a choice. Do we say yes or we say no to these things? Some of my takeaways from this Burt Reynolds story is that there isn’t a perfect path. You only know that perfect path… He only knows these things in hindsight. He didn’t know Jack Nicholson was going to win Oscars for both of those roles, or Pretty Woman was going to turn out to be… He should have known Han Solo.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah.

Reese Harper: I mean, Gosh. But he said no to all these things and still ended up with a very optimal path for his career. Interestingly enough, what took him down was his lack of financial organization. There’s this great quote where he says he just didn’t pay attention to anything. And his lack of liquidity, because he… What’s crazy is he said no to huge roles, but he didn’t say no to some insanely speculative investments that wiped him out completely of all of his cash.
So let’s transition in to today’s topic, if you want to introduce a little bit. This concept of building your optimal path. Saying yes or no to certain things in your life to get there and what the role of liquidity and saving money has to do with all this kind of stuff, kind of opportunities it affords us.

Ryan Isaac: Well, I think one of the things that’s really important to me, is liquidity Is the result of learning how to say no, right? If you can train yourself to say no in your life on, it might be a career direction, it might be a purchase, it can be consumption, it might be investment, it might be a business expansion, it could be another location, it could be opening another type of business. If you can train yourself to say no, the result of that is, usually, you start building up liquidity. And no matter how much money you make, if you don’t learn to say no, you’ll never really have liquidity. And liquidity is a really powerful signal to me. It gives you… It’s the result of saying no, but it’s also what gives you confidence that you can say no again. If you don’t have it, you’re getting forced to say yes sometimes, because the lack of liquidity makes you take on projects or do things that you wouldn’t otherwise do because you’re worried about the outcome of what… you need to do something new.

Reese Harper: Yeah, and you end up getting rushed and forced to do it.

Ryan Isaac: The liquidity is the result of saying no but it’s also the ammunition, or the power that you need in order to say no again to be able to do again.

Reese Harper: To say no again.

Ryan Isaac: . I don’t know, there’s a few quotes that I just love about saying no, and we can share those in a little bit.

Reese Harper: Yeah, we’ll get to them. Here’s a… Let’s start here. There’s this thought that the big choices… There’s these big choices that influence our entire life, right? And we were talking about these a little bit. You were saying, sometimes we go home at the end of the day, we sit down on our couch, we’re relaxing somewhere, maybe it’s a porch, maybe it’s a hill in the top of a mountain.

Ryan Isaac: Maybe it’s on the saddle of an old…

Reese Harper: Donkey.

Ryan Isaac: an old brumby, an old, wild brunby.

Reese Harper: A brundy?

Ryan Isaac: That’s like an Australian word for a wild horse, a mustang in the woods, if you will.

Reese Harper: I have two Australian friends at my gym. I will ask them immediately today what a brundy means to them.

Ryan Isaac: Brumby.

Reese Harper: All right. Anyway, we all do it. At the end of the day, we’re relaxing and thinking about the day, but our brains don’t shut off, right?

Ryan Isaac: No.

Reese Harper: There’s like… Dentists will go home and they’re still asking these huge questions. The wheels are still turning.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, it sounds like this.

Reese Harper: That was the sound of wheels turning in the dentist’s brain during the holidays. And the questions are, “How much dentistry should I be… How much dentistry should I do myself? Am I a clinical producer my whole career? Am I a manager of multi locations?”

Ryan Isaac: Am I an associate? I just want to dial in my-

Reese Harper: “Do I just add an associate, do I just focus on higher income procedures,” and then there’s the question like, “I know money isn’t everything, but I do want a comfortable lifestyle. Should I focus on building a lifestyle practice, or should I push towards multi-location growth and sell to a big firm one day?” So really, this question then is, are we clear on what we’re trying to build, or are we being thrown around by the volume of opportunities coming at us? That’s kind of like his first main thought, you know?

Ryan Isaac: Yeah.

Reese Harper: And then, how does that play in to how to build our optimal path. What is the optimal path? How do we do that?

Ryan Isaac: I think for each person, there is an optimal path. And the optimal path for you is a combination of your background, your intellectual, maybe, acumen, your aptitude to tackle business versus clinical versus art. There’s a lot of different aptitudes in life, and not all of them lend themselves well to every path in dentistry. And also, your age matters, your background, your interests, like what you end up being happy doing, what drives you. The optimal path is not going to be the same for anyone, but finding that optimal path is really critical. In order to find it, you have to say no quite a lot in order to get in to the place that’s optimal for yourself. And I think that a lot of the most successful people are the people who have said no a lot more than they’ve said yes. They continue to narrow down their focus. Really, really, really successful people say no way more than the average person says no.

Reese Harper: Yeah, we’ve got some quotes on that. I’m kind of interested in this concept of the timing of choices in this optimal path, too. Sometimes, there’s a great opportunity but it’s just presented at the wrong time, right? And how does timing play in to whether or not a dentist is trying to figure out if he’s the single location lifestyle practice, or the ten-location owner?

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, let’s take an opportunity like real estate owner, for example. Let’s take a second home, or a cabin, or a vacation property. That’s an opportunity that pops up that you have to learn how to say yes or no to at the right time. And for a lot of people, if they tackle that really early in their career, let’s say they tackle that in the first three or four years. What it does is it takes a precious amount of liquidity that you needed for a down payment, some types of improvements, some additional cash flow, at a point where your business is probably starving for the money more than it will ever…
If you invest more money in your business, in your practice at the beginning of your career, as opposed to the latter part of your career, it means exponentially different in terms of what your net worth will be, right? Because your net worth is a product of the value of your business, plus all the lifetime earnings you get from working each year. And the faster you get your income up, and the faster you get the value of your practice up, the higher your net worth is going to be over a lifetime.
But if you do things at the beginning of your career, maybe your…. whether it’s consumption or investment. Whether you open a second location too early or you add an associate too early, or you add real estate, lifestyle real estate to your portfolio too early. I’m not talking about rent replacement real estate in your single or primary location, because either way, it’s sixes in that scenario. We’re talking about excess real estate that you… it’s a luxury.

Reese Harper: It is a path.

Ryan Isaac: That’s a choice. It’s not a bad choice. Buying real estate is not a bad choice at any point, but buying it really early in your career might not be the right time and learning how to say no to a good opportunity, even if it’s a good deal, even if it’s a good market, even if it’s a deal that’s once in a lifetime deal. The timing of that really could throw off some better options, or some best options, which would be maximizing your income, growing your practice, or getting in to the right practice as an associate even.
If you’re an associate trying to get in to the right long-term ownership situation, or the right long-term employment role with the highest possible pay-out and the best lifestyle, it may actually require a relocation, or it may require you to take less income up front. Or it might require you to be more flexible in compensation.

Reese Harper: You have to build the foundation of getting to that point of ownership.

Ryan Isaac: Employees or associates who sacrifice a little bit up front have bigger long-term opportunity. And it happens in every business. And so, I just think that… But if that associate said yes to maybe buying a practice too early, the wrong location, or-

Reese Harper: Wrong partnership or-

Ryan Isaac: Wrong partnership-

Reese Harper: Just for the sake of getting the ownership

Ryan Isaac: Or about the lifestyle going too high. If you didn’t say no enough, then you can’t say yes when it matters. So every day, when I wake up, I try to ask myself the question, “What am I going to say no to today? What good thing am I going to say no to today? Because there’s always something I’ve got to say no to, every day.

Reese Harper: Like a burger?

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, you know, usually it ends up being something that’s on my calendar, or some activity that I committed to, right? What good thing might I say no to so I can say yes to the best thing today, because there’s got to be a best thing today that I’m going to do, and that’s going to come at the cost of saying no to a good thing.

Reese Harper: Yes.

Ryan Isaac: And sometimes that’s like spending time with my kid. Sometimes that’s like making time to write an article. Sometimes that’s making time to record a podcast as opposed to a networking appointment with a really good vendor that’s flying in to see us. And it’s hard to say no to good things sometimes, but by saying no to good things, you leave yourself open for the best thing. And that’s where people find real success.

Reese Harper: Yeah, I’ve been really interested in this topic of maximizing your optimal path. I was reading this study recently. There’s this guy named Barry Schwartz. He’s a psychologist that wrote this book, and he takes these two concepts. He didn’t invent these. It was a previous psychologist who was a Nobel prize-winning psychologist, these two concepts of maximizing a path, or this term that this previous psychologist coined called satisficing. It’s a combination of those two words. You can maximize or satisfice. And maximizing means you’re literally trying to find the highest, most optimal, perfect outcome and solution, maximizing the most money you can make or the most network you could have, or the most lifestyle you can have. The other one, satisficing, is lining up all the things that work for you, knowing that you’ll have to give a little here and give a little bit there, but the combination of all those things will end up putting you on the path that is most well-rounded. And this book, and this study has found that people who take the approach of satisficing, taking some sacrifices here and there, and not trying to just make one thing-

Ryan Isaac: One optimal highest…

Reese Harper: Yeah, the highest optimal thing, that those decisions ended up turning out the best in all these studies. And it’s kind of obtuse, how you think about… I guess that’s what you’re saying with this associate example, is maybe this associate has to take the satisficing route, which is, “I may have a little bit less pay right now, or my ownership is going to get delayed for two years. Or I’m going to work in this city knowing that I’m going to move to another place, but this is the best path to optimize all those things.”

Ryan Isaac: I guess the only advice I would give is if you’re not in the habit of saying no, then it’s not likely that you’re even satisficing. You’re not even getting any kind of optimization, right? Now, saying no to an extreme level doesn’t make sense, but I don’t think-

Reese Harper: Like a two-year old. That’s all they say.

Ryan Isaac: The ratio of no to yes has got to be significantly higher. You have to say no ten times the amount of time you say yes in order to be consciously constructing your path. Because alternatively, you’re just going to be a product of your environment, like whatever gets thrown at you, you just take and go with it. And that won’t result in any kind of optimal path for yourself, and so I think the whole point is, no matter what kind of proactive plan you’re trying to create in your life with your finances and your career, saying no at a higher level than you say yes is critical to arriving at that.

Ryan Isaac: You just posted a graphic that you drew up yesterday. So a little shout-out to Reese Harper’s social media accounts. Hit him on Insta at ReeseHarperCFP.

Reese Harper: ReeseHarperCFP. It’s wild there.

Ryan Isaac: It’s pretty crazy.

Reese Harper: You could be my fifth follower.

Ryan Isaac: It was compared to Britney Spears earlier.

Jenni Colborn:: Cat Battles, to make sure we battle cats.

Ryan Isaac: Cat battles. Reese Harper on LinkedIn, he’s everywhere, guys. I mean, that’s the point. [crosstalk]Yesterday, you posted this graphic that was just a bunch of, No,” period. And it was repeated, like 50 times, and there was like, three green little yeses in there. All the nos are black and the yeses are green. It was good visual of what you’re saying. There’s a few her but the majority was like, No, no, no, no, no, no.

Reese Harper: I think in life, that’s how you proactively create a path that works for you. That’s how you find your own unique path, and all of us have it. You’ve had it. I’ve seen you make that in your career. The choices you’ve made have been very different. We’ve both had to say no a lot.

Ryan Isaac: Oh, yeah.

Reese Harper: In different ways to create the unique path that we wanted individually for our own lives.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah.

Reese Harper: And those nos are critical. It’s very empowering when you finally say no. And you finally say, “This is the definition of my path.” And you don’t get there by saying yes every time. It’s not all… Some of us think that… I think there’s a quote that I wrote down I wanted to read and it’s by Steve Jobs. Can you read that one?

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, actually, I was going to… Yeah, that was our next little segment here. I wanted to talk about what these opportunities even look like. The Steve Jobs thing, he said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. Focus means saying no to the hundred good ideas that are there. You have to pick carefully.” I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to a thousand things.”

Reese Harper: Yeah. Steve Jobs, being proud of the things he hasn’t done.

Ryan Isaac: It’s really cool to see that.

Reese Harper: It makes you wonder, what did he create that never got built?

Ryan Isaac: Yeah. Well, I think it’s probably what did he say no to that actually let him create the thing he created?

Reese Harper: Yes.

Ryan Isaac: It’s like, they would have been… they could have been on a wild tangent looking like another Microsoft that had… they were selling their software or they were selling their hardware to software providers, but they eventually… He was relentlessly focused on a mesh between software and hardware and he had to say no to a thousand opportunities in order to arrive at that, and he didn’t even get to see the realization of…I mean, Apple’s trillion dollar market cap was many, many, many years after his death. The real fulfillment of his vision didn’t even happen until a few years ago. And it’s just cool to see I’m saying no for so long.

Reese Harper: And it’s probably like… I’ll bet in those thousand things he was talking about, there were so many mundane things, like no to that manufacturer and no to that part. No to outsourcing [crosstalk].

Ryan Isaac: Well, think about no to his career at Pixar, indefinitely. No to his career at Next. No to his career in a hundred other job offers that he got.

Reese Harper: Well, you were saying this, too, no… Saying no just isn’t just the obvious stuff. Like, your brother-in-law has some unrelated side business he’s pitching you. Do you want to be in with me here. Do you want ground-level with me? That’s some of the more obvious things, right? But it’s saying no to the hard things, the opportunities that are legitimately good. Like you’re saying, Burt Reynolds said no to Han Solo and James Bond. It’s not like James Bond was a new series when he was around. Sean Connery had just retired from James Bond. It was James Bond, Sean Connery, but you’re just saying there are some legitimately good opportunities. Those are the hard ones to say no to. But those are the make or break nos.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, because alternatively, maybe… It’s hard to criticize someone’s path, because there will be some mistakes you make along the way.

Reese Harper: Well, hindsight’s a curse, man.

Ryan Isaac: I think I’ve had a lot of people come up and tell me, “You’ve missed this investment.” I should have done this. I should have invested in Facebook pre-IPO, I had the chance to do this start-up. Just last week, I was talking to a mentor of mine. He’s like, I had the chance to invest in this start up and I can’t believe I passed up on it. I had to walk him through that logic because to me, that’s a unhealthy way to think about it. I’m like, well, why did you pass up on it?

Reese Harper: It was a good process that he went through to figure that out, right?

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, it boiled down to liquidity being a factor. And he’s like, I didn’t want to violate… I felt like I couldn’t part with the cash at that point in time without getting really stressed out. And I’m like, that’s the point of my over-arching concept around no, is I’m primarily worried about people’s lack of liquidity. I’m not worried about you missing out on your… I know that paying down your student loan right now at a faster clip might be mathematically saving you more interest expense and building up cash in liquid savings, but I wanted to bridge from this no idea to why liquidity plays such a… How does this relate to liquidity and cash and why it’s such an important financial planning [crosstalk].

Reese Harper: And what’s the role that being liquid plays in being able to build your optimal path, which is a slow, you’ve described it as it’s more puzzle pieces than an a-ha thing that just gets brought to you. I think about it like in, you’ve got these… You know how you build the corner… I bought this puzzle for my kids for Christmas. It was a gradient puzzle on Oprah’s favorite things.

Ryan Isaac: What is a gradient puzzle?

Reese Harper: You know like on Adobe Illustrator or a design program, you see gradients, where a color… [crosstalk]On your computer, you see a gradient wheel, so these puzzles are just-

Ryan Isaac: Giant gradients?

Reese Harper: Just a picture of gradient. It just goes from yellow to green, or red to orange, or gray to black. But it’s just really slow and no individual piece is actually one color palette, right? They’re all gradients.

Ryan Isaac: Oh, my Gosh.

Reese Harper: It’s a thousand pictures of gradients. In my experience-

Ryan Isaac: That’s terrible.

Reese Harper: That’s more of what building the optimal path feels like, when you put down the next puzzle piece.

Ryan Isaac: And it’s frustrating, and it’s difficult, and it takes time.

Reese Harper: And we’re all different colors, right? We don’t… You shouldn’t… Your puzzle shouldn’t be like, there’s a red, and then a blue, and then an orange because those are very different things, and in my experience, the right puzzle piece to build for your own career path is one that is closer to a slow fade-in. It feels more similar.

Ryan Isaac: Next step.

Reese Harper: Yeah. And so you might be the red, and I might be the blue. Some of us might be gray, and we have totally different paths, but you adding should feel more like an organic, next step as opposed to bringing a whole new color in to the picture that doesn’t mesh with that gradient. It reminded me… When I was going through this, it reminded me of a quote from your guy, Thomas Edison.

Ryan Isaac: Oh yeah, my boy.

Reese Harper: When you were talking about these opportunities to build your optimal path are not necessarily these big, obvious things, but they’re just next steps and next puzzle pieces. His famous quote was, “Opportunities are missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
What does liquidity do to someone’s psyche? When they have decisions that come out of it. Someone who’s got multiple, six figures in the bank versus someone who’s got ten grand in the bank, or 50 grand in the bank.

Ryan Isaac: It changes everything. You talked about how it was partially responsible for where people like Burt Reynolds or another example I’d written about before was John Elway, and you see these people with really successful lives, they have one or two big bets that they made on something with a lot of their liquidity that didn’t pan out, and they are typically in things that are unrelated to their gradient puzzle. They’re not… They grabbed a red piece in a gray puzzle and they’re trying it out. It’s like, “Whoa.” Not only is that not your optimal path, but you knew nothing about that and you took a big risk on that thing. That’s where this whole thing falls apart. That’s where this thing meshes. This concept of no and liquidity come together.
In my experience, if you feel stressed out with money… And I’ve been there, many times. That’s why I know that this is true, is that when I feel stressed out, or when I feel worried, that’s because I’ve gotten myself in to a position where I’m a little too liquid. I’ve over-committed to some investments or lifestyle purchases or expansion goals, either in my business or personally, and I’m in a spot where I feel like I don’t have as many options, right?

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: And I feel like I’m having to say yes in a way that feels unnatural. And I think that’s a good, general rule of thumb. So a lot of people are listening to this are going to probably be able to relate to that idea of feeling a little bit stressed out, because when you have liquid, even if all your money… When we say liquidity, we’re talking about cash in the personal or practice checking account, which shouldn’t exceed a certain amount, but once you have, we’ll call it six months worth of personal, and you have between one and a half and two times business overhead in the practice. If you’re growing really, really fast, I’d say you need a little bit more than that, maybe as much as three or four times monthly overhead. If you’re in stagnation mode, and we’ll call it organic growth, three to five percent of your end collections, maybe you can stay at that one and a half, maybe even as low as one, and a quarter times your monthly overhead. That’s your cash amount you need to feel like generally stable.

Reese Harper: For your business.

Ryan Isaac: And personal, right? Six months. But outside of that liquidity means it’s every… it’s not real estate, it’s not your practice equity, it’s not… the 401 K kind of liquid, but not really.

Reese Harper: You can get it, but you’re going to pay half of it in tax and penalties.

Ryan Isaac: So to me, that also doesn’t feel the same, and I know it doesn’t because I felt that way. Those don’t feel like assets that you can emotionally feel comfortable grabbing. So most people are kind of-

Reese Harper: No one steals from their 401ks.

Ryan Isaac: They don’t. It’s just going to… unless they’re really desperate. So it’s all your investments, and that’s why they’re so powerful to build after tax investments, mutual funds and ETFs, bond stocks, CDs, whatever your comfort level is for risk, just having an investment portfolio that’s liquid, it’s so powerful psychologically, because it gives you the power to say no and build your own constructive path. And when that liquidity starts to decline, you’re forced in to unnatural, unorganic, forced paths that you can’t get… You don’t know that they’re really the thing you would have chosen, had you had-

Reese Harper: Choice.

Ryan Isaac: Options. Because you don’t have choices when you get to that point.

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: And that’s why I don’t like rushing the investment decisions with your liquidity. I don’t like rushing your business goals, because there’s… even though you might feel a little stressed out if you have too much cash on hand, which I agree, once you get-

Reese Harper: There is a point.

Ryan Isaac: There is a point of too much. But having… You’ll notice your decision-making ability and your temperament change with liquidity. And liquidity is a relative measure. When you’re small and you don’t spend a lot, you don’t need as much as when you’re bigger. But if you’re feeling stressed out, it might be because you’ve grown a lot and you’re spending more, and your business is larger. You don’t… You have the same amount of liquidity as you used to have and so you feel more stressed out now. Well, as you get bigger, if you’re going to commit to a seven, eight million dollar 15 million dollar operation, even a three, four million dollar operation used to be a one million dollar operation, or if you’re going to spend 20 grand per month and you used to spend 10, or 15 and you used to spend eight, you’re going to need more liquidity in order to feel like you’re not stressed out.

Reese Harper: Yeah. And relatively because you doubled in size and double in spending.

Ryan Isaac: These metrics need to grow. That’s what we call… In our practice, we have measures for how we quantify this, so I guess… I don’t know if I’m answering your questions. I don’t want to steal your agenda, either.

Reese Harper: No, I have a couple more for you. This is great. Having seen our business grow from day one, over the last decade, I’ve seen decisions being made when we’re bootstrapping with pennies, all the way to having quite a bit of liquidity to make big hiring and growth decisions. How is that felt emotionally or psychologically as a business owner when we… you’re trying to make a big hire from meager profitability versus, “Okay, ‘I’ve got a little liquidity in the business, we can make this.” How has your decision-making process changed?

Ryan Isaac: This is where I want to relate this to a dentist. The average person listening to this podcast is not a large DSO and they’re not an associate. The average person owns a practice, and they’re one to three locations, and most of them are a single location.

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: Because that’s still the vast majority of the United States dental population. And everyone wants to get bigger. Everyone does. Everyone wants to grow a little bit. Better than they were last year. They want to make progress, and they don’t want to be the same thing. No one’s going, “I just want to stagnate and watch this thing decline, so I can fade out into the sunshine.”

Reese Harper: I’d jingle a bell to that.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah. So no one says that. And so, what I’d like to emphasize here is, I know you want to grow. I’m just concerned that for most people that are not willing to… As soon as they have a little bit of cash, they feel like they’ve got to do something with it that is permanent in nature. It’s like they’ve got to pay off their building, or they’ve got to pay off their house, or they have to put it into a 401 K. What about the option of consciously say, “You know what?” I’m just going to let this liquidity grow a little bit. I’m going to put it into a really good investment portfolio, but it’s not for long-term purposes yet. I’m just going to let my liquidity build for a year or two and see if that changes what I want to do? See if I want to make a change. Would I hire a better office manager? Would I bring on an associate if I had more cash? What would I do if I had more available cash?
Because if you don’t ever give yourself that option, you’ll never know what choices you would have made and I think you miss out on a lot of business growth. And going to dental school and getting $500,000 of student loans and getting out and doing with that entrepreneurial opportunity, meaning just like, not even trying to attempt to grow beyond yourself. I’m not convinced that’s worth it anymore. If you don’t add some meaningful hygiene department,

Reese Harper: Student loans being what they are, yeah.

Ryan Isaac: Or you don’t add, even try to add an associate to your practice to continue to offset some of those fixed costs, it’s not going to be worth the money if you’re not going to do that. And DSOs are growing the way they are because they realize there’s a huge entrepreneurial opportunity in dentistry, but… And they’ve got the liquidity and the resources to focus on that, so if you want to be able to maximize the opportunity for yourself, you have to continue to build a little bit of liquidity and see how… It doesn’t mean you’re going to want to expand and grow and add that associate, but you’ll never know.

Reese Harper: Give you the option.

Ryan Isaac: And the most successful people are the people that continue to say no, and find that optimal path. And I think you have to… All liquidity does is give you the peace, and the separation from your emotions to be able to say, “What do I legitimately want to do? I have multiple options now. I can do a lot of different things. I could pursue a lot of different paths.” And you shouldn’t be afraid to deploy some of that liquidity towards your optimal path. You shouldn’t be afraid of that. That’s just the choice that at some point, you’ll have to make.

Reese Harper: Yeah, what you’re saying, though, is having it on hand and having the ability to be patient because you have it on hand, that’s the key to building an optimal path, because that optimal path takes some time and patience. You’ve got to wait for that puzzle piece, that little gradient.

Ryan Isaac: And I don’t want to project how you have to build your practice, but you’ll never know how you would have built it had you not said no enough to where you can build up a decent amount of liquidity and then say, “You know what, I just would rather invest this for retirement. That feels the best to me. Or, you know what? I’m going to take half, and I’m going to try something that’s pretty tax efficient, which is, I would try to expand my practice a little bit.
And that, one year or two years out of 30 years, if you took the amount of money that you would have saved toward retirement, and you put it towards growth, and you found out and you learned some hard lessons or you actually doubled the size of your practice, just having those kinds of options, I think you have to play this entrepreneurship game a little bit because you took the risk of the cost to get in to that position.

Reese Harper: It’s a big cost. And a lot of time in your life.

Ryan Isaac: And so liquidity allows you to be able to have that option.

Reese Harper: So you’re referring to this thing we measure. It’s part of our annual elements process. This one’s called liquid term. If you go to our website,, click on that elements tab at the top under services, elements tab. You’ll see it’s part of our bottom row of elements, which all has to do with your personal net worth. And it’s just a simple calculation of, out of all your net worth, how much of your net worth is liquid? And we measure this once a year, we spend a whole month measuring it for every person and giving it some accountability on progress you’re making in that area, and spending… Just slowing down and spending some time to just talk about it.
And what’s funny to me is subjects like this. Every time we run a month that is a month like this, for example. This is not like in a typical financial planning relationship. The amount of liquidity someone has relative to their net worth is not an emergency item. It’s not a typical thing you’d see an advisor reaching out about and having a discussion about. What I find, it’s really awesome when you’re forced in a system to slow down and think about some of these things. It would normally get skipped, because they’re not emergency fires to put out.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah.

Reese Harper: What kind of things are you noticing when you see reports come across your desk for your clients and it’s showing this percent of your net worth is liquid? And here’s what it used to be a year ago, and two years ago, and five years ago. What kind of insight does that give you or what kind of conversations does that open up that might not ordinarily happen if that system didn’t exist?

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, well I think a lot of times, it’s lending itself to the conversation we’re having right now, which are more, what is the optimal… The higher someone’s return becomes, the conversation starts focusing around, “Are you happy,” are you living-”

Reese Harper: Now you can think slow down. Now you can think about this.

Ryan Isaac: Is this your optimal path? Because without a high enough liquid term, you’re just basically in survival mode. You’re forced to say yes to too many things. And I don’t think people realize that it’s this simple. It’s like, if you can basically… If you can be a general good physical condition, meaning that you’re totally on zero sleep, eating crap and never getting any movement, if you’re getting some physical sustenance-

Reese Harper: Tobogganing.

Ryan Isaac: General exercise, like basic stuff, and you have a lot of liquidity,

Reese Harper: That’s like 80% of life.

Ryan Isaac: That’s like 90% of being successful, right there, because you’ll be able to just make good decisions that is an optimal path for you. Because there is no volume of money that you have to accumulate to be happy, right? There really isn’t. But there is an amount of liquidity you have to preserve to be happy, in my experience.

Reese Harper: And it’s relative to your net worth. And all the other things going on in your net worth.

Ryan Isaac: So there’s this kind of point of financial security and then there’s financial independence. Not everyone’s going to reach financial independence, which is work is completely optional, but almost anyone at any stage along the way can reach financial security and be working towards financial independence. And once you get to financial security, which is plenty of liquidity personally and in the practice for your size. It’s a moving target, but it continues to increase as you grow, and then continue to build liquidity on your personal balance sheet beyond that level, to the level you build that LT, or liquid term to the level you continue to build that, in my experience, people just get more and more and more content with their life’s work. The way this happens is by saying no.

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: That’s the only way that you end up getting to this point. Warren Buffet said in one of my favorite quotes is, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” And in my experience, it isn’t, saying no is a combination of saying no to consumption-related items, a car that is too expensive for you, a home that’s too expensive for you, vacations that exceed your budget, food and entertainment budget that exceeds your income. You have to say no in that vein, you also have to say no in the practice overhead, you have to say no to excessive amount of training, team training, so you can say yes to consistent team training. Consistent team training is essential. But excessive once a year trips is not essential if you’re not getting consistent team training and it’s part, you know, kind of-

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: Or having an associate too early might limit you from having an associate ever. If you… Saying no to the wrong thing, that’s why it’s so important to have advice from friends, mentors, like a fee-only fiduciary.

Reese Harper: Yeah, bounce ideas off…

Ryan Isaac: Someone at Dentist Advisors, if I can throw a shameless plug in. For me, our guys are-

Reese Harper: Qualified.

Ryan Isaac: Here to make sure that, on every one of these decisions you’re knowing, “Is this a yes moment or a no moment, and does it work with my overall plan?”

Reese Harper: Yeah, and what would someone who is unemotionally involved in the situation, who just knows the facts but has no emotions there, what would they say?

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, and we’d just be one… You’ve got to have at least one voice like that, and I’d say you should have one person who sees the whole picture, like a fee-only advisor, who can look at your picture and say, “Yes,” but you should also ask a friend, and your CPA, and maybe a trusted mentor, on top of your advisor, get two or three opinions and then synthesize those three before you make a choice.

Reese Harper: Yeah.

Ryan Isaac: And I’m convinced that it’s the big choices that people take lightly, whether it’s as simple as a car or as complex as opening a third location or expanding to multiple states. It’s these big choices that really make or break someone’s liquidity and consequently take away their ability to choose their own path.

Reese Harper: Future choices. I’m going to end with a Burt Reynolds quote, which is the other side of some of this financial security. He said, “We’re only here for a little while, and you’ve got to have some fun.” And I love that. Because that’s the other side of this whole thing is it builds a lot more security and ability to be patient in your business and financial decisions but also add some fun to your life.

Ryan Isaac: Yeah, you can’t have fun without liquidity.

Reese Harper: You can’t. You can’t enjoy getting that drink on vacation because you’ve got to order water every time because, “The plane ticket’s busted me. So I can’t get the drink now.”

Ryan Isaac: And you should feel okay taking a nice vacation with your family while you still have student loan debt and while you still have practice debt. Well, the invitation then, is everyone listening? Thanks for listening, by the way, this is great. It was a great holiday episode. We have bells jingling. We have visions filled, very merry, yuletide feelings are abounding in the room. A couple of invitations here. Go check out our free Facebook group, a bunch of smart dentists and then me and Reese poking around every once in awhile.
Go to Free group. Go post questions. Post questions about your liquidity. What do you do when some certain things, go participate in a poll, give some feedback to other dentists posting questions. So that’s the Facebook group, If you’d like to talk one-on-one with one of our financial advisors, just go to our website, Just click the button that says free consultation and set up a time on your lunch break, between patients, day off. We’d love to talk to you. Have a great end of the year, we love all of you. Thanks for listening.

Reese Harper: Carry on.

Income, Cash Management

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