Ep. 192: Nick Davies – Building Your Achiever’s Mindset

Nick Davies is a former Wall Street executive who now provides expert business and performance coaching to other professionals seeking to reach their full potential. He joins Adam to discuss the transformative power of the achiever’s mindset and shares insight for how management accountants can put it to good use.
Connect with Nick: https://www.achievers-mindset.com/tools           

Full Episode Transcript:
Adam: (00:05)
Welcome back to Count Me In, the podcast that explores the world of business from the management accountants perspective. I'm your, host Adam Larson. Today we are joined by Nick Davies, an executive coach to leaders and other professionals looking to take their expertise to the next level. At the heart of Nick's coaching philosophy is what he calls the achiever's mindset and how learning to harness that powerful mental tool can lead to transformative results for management accountants, and other go getters in both business and in life. I hope you enjoy the show today. Let's start the conversation with Nick.
 
Adam: (00:42)
So Nick, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. We really appreciate you spending time with us. And today we're gonna be talking a little bit about the achiever's mindset, but before we get there, I'd like you to kind of give a little bit of your background for our audience today and how you got to the point where you are today.
 
Nick: (00:58)
How long have I got? You know, it's interesting. I was having this conversation yesterday with someone about talking about their story and fantastic story this lady had working in a business and it's something that I made a distinction of a long time ago that I had a resistance to share in my story. And I thought, well, who wants to hear my story, it's my story? And then what I realized was that, yeah, it's boring to me because it's my story, you know? So I always like it when people can share, because even if it feels like it's just your thing, it's like, well, other people haven't had that experience, you know? And so for me grown up in England, I worked for almost 20 years in the banking world all over the world. I've lived in three continents and five locations and been a long time doing something that I didn't really want to be doing and kind of went outside this personal development journey about 10, 12 years ago.
 
Nick: (01:51)
I asked myself like what did I wanna do when I grew up, you know, eventually moved to states and lived in Florida, worked on Wall Street for a while and, and decided that's it like I wanna, I like working with people. I wanna work with people working on what's most important for them, whatever it is, whatever industry, industry agnostic, but use my experience working in the corporate world and understanding how things work, but also work for people's goals that are most important to them. And so I'd ask to become a coach. And it's been an amazing journey over the last six or seven years. This point, coached hundreds of people, people walk different walks of life and a corporate setting, every different industry, business owners, non-business owners worked on more people's part of life. And it's something I get very passionate about now. And I'm privileged to do every day.
 
Adam: (02:35)
As you were talking, it kind of made me think about a lot of us are we may feel successful where we are in our careers, but despite having a pretty good handle on it, we feel like we're missing something, right. We feel like we're missing. We wanna be a top performer. And, but how do we get to the next level? So maybe that's kinda where we're gonna focus in on the conversation is how do we boost our skills and wherever we are, you know, this podcast is for folks, affecting the accounting and finance world. So accountants and folks in the accounting and finance world, how do we get to that next level? You know, we're not talking about specific accounting things right now, but it's just that, you know, how do we become successful in the next moment?
 
Nick: (03:12)
And I think that you talked about skills and you talked about, yeah, we don't wanna talk about the technicalities of mechanical and finance. That's not the point. And so what I found out, what I believe is that right. It really starts with, well, where do you wanna go? What type of person do you wanna create within yourself? What type of life do you wanna create, rather than looking for skills or practices or best practices or strategies it's like, let's start with the best version of what it could be. What if you could have it anyway, you would want it, like, what would that look like? And really start from that point. And oftentimes that comes with a resistance, like, well, what do you mean? I wanna get 10% better this year. I wanna get 20% better this year. It's like, well, that's great and good for you, no judgment. But what if you could flip it on its head? What if you could get a hundred times better? What would that mean? What actually does that look like for you? And if you're thinking with that end in mind, then you tend to find the path to get there.
 
Adam: (04:12)
So if you're thinking with that end in mind, how do you get to that, that change of mindset because you're here and you're like, I just wanna improve like 10% you said, and you just mentioned a hundred percent better. Like those seem like very drastically different numbers
 
Nick: (04:27)
Yeah, absolutely. Right. And some of it starts with being willing and something within, could you start to, to talk about, right? Like some of us consider ourselves successful, but maybe there's something niggling inside you go, well, maybe it's not quite what I want, or maybe I could be doing this in a different way. And it's really kind of leaning into some of that. And I believe that we all have it. And a lot of us go through a life scene, a little bit of a fog, sometimes a lot of a fog just doing what we think is the right thing to do. You know? And I think about when I got into banking, I felt was like, well, that's good. They wanna pay me to do this. All right. And I'll play your game. And then they're gonna pay me some more and I'll play some more, I'll get paid some more.
 
Nick: (05:09)
It's like, and it just goes and goes and goes. And that's really all, you know, and it's not often you just get to chance to step back and go, well, hang on. Is this really what I want? Like deeply to my core. Do I get excited to do this every day? Does it keep me up late? Not just because I'm told to, or that there's deadlines or is it cuz I want to, am I getting up early to go and practice to be the best version of this? And that's a question that like hand on heart that I believe most people can't answer. And I believe that that was just something that wasn't available for me. Like that wasn't the sort of person that I was. I thought that stuff was preserved for small stars or, you know, people that are in a creative field, but I believe it's available for everyone if you're willing to look.
 
Adam: (05:52)
Hmm. So if you're willing to look, maybe we can start talking about, can you define the achiever's mindset for us? And we can discuss that a little bit more.
 
Nick: (06:01)
Yeah. I think that, you know, the achiever's mindset is really about knowing that like there's always something else. There are no limits to what we can achieve. The baseline, the achiever's mindset for me is that I believe that anything's possible. If you think about what humans have achieved, just watching, me, my wife sat down last night to watch Netflix. We were watching the SpaceX documentary that was on there. And that what a great example, that is about what we could achieve. You know, even Elon Musk said, when we first started out, I thought there was a 10% chance. We'd get someone to orbit and it just comes from a place of look, I'm willing to move forward. I'm willing to throw the other paradigms out. I'm willing to think a little bit differently.
 
Nick: (06:50)
I'm willing to just explore. It's not like I'm gonna be committed no matter what. I'm just willing to explore. I'm gonna go from the baseline that anything's possible. And if you think about it, that's one example, but think about what we've achieved as human race, but just in the last 10, 20, 30 40, a hundred years. It's ridiculous. And so pretty much I believe that human possibilities is pretty much endless capabilities there. So we're all human. So what's the difference. The difference is deciding that you want to go and get some of that or get more of that. And the more that you play in the sandbox, in that space, the more that your mind starts to expand. And then you start to see other possibilities, you start to play with it, right? So it's more like it's a starts from that baseline that anything's possible. That's what really the human mindset is as a starting point.
 
Adam: (07:40)
So that sounds wonderful in theory. Can we maybe focus in on maybe some more practical application of that, and maybe you can share some examples of, you know, we don't know if you give any names of folks who've been able to take this mindset and do something great with their careers.
 
Nick: (07:57)
Yeah, absolutely. And that's part of it, right? Like it's like, well, the theory and translating it into the strategy, right? Cause as soon as you get to the strategy, you're back to the how, when you're in the how it's like, what come on, I need to see the actual practical steps right now. It's like, well, that kind of defeats the purpose. It's a balance, right? To balance going, okay, well here's the part where like anything's possible. And those people oftentimes get called dreamers, playing the sky, blue sky thinking. And those people that are working on the practical things are looking at those people going well, come on, man, come down from a cloud. So you need to make that practical. You need to make that actionable. And you, those people are actually absolutely right. But these people up here without these people who wouldn't be able to create things that aren't available right now, we wouldn't best dream.
 
Nick: (08:46)
So where's the right place to be. It's like both, right? Cause if you're up here, you can't do the action. And if you are down here in the weeds, you can't see where you're going. I love the something I thought of a long time ago, Adam. I just love the thought of like being in a jungle. Like let's say you're in a jungle and you're with a bunch of people and you've got like a machete and you're hacking through the jungle and you can only see what you hack down in front of you. And you are heading towards a camp for the night. Let's say a direction. You're gonna try and find something. And you've been doing this thing for hours, just hacking away, hacking away going, are we in the right direction? And everyone in your group's getting a bit fed up and tired like, Hey leader, Hey boss.
 
Nick: (09:20)
Like, where are we going? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? And everyone's getting a bit uptight cause they're not quite sure. And they're like, you're going the right way, going the right way, hacking, hacking, hacking more and more effort. And you know, this helicopter comes past, right? And you're like gives you a rope to jump on. You, jump on the rope and you get wood up to helicopter from the helicopter and you see everything and you see the whole jungle you're in and you see exactly the whole place of where you're supposed to go. And you can notice that, look, you know what? I'm 200 feet from where I wanna be going. And so you can come back down into the jungle. You go, Hey guys, we've got it. 200 feet. Now the mood completely changed.
 
Nick: (09:53)
The outlook completely changed. What they believe is possible, completely changes. Cause you go 200 feet in that direction. And then you're there. It's like from the place in the helicopter, you can't do the work. But if you haven't got the outlook and know when to get back into helicopter, you're gonna quickly drive yourself into place where all you believe is all you doing is go around in circles, go around in circles. And that's the balance to get to. Right? It's like, there's no, here's another way to think about it. Right? Oftentimes in life we think binary it's yes or it's no, you're in and you're out, but really life is more of a scale, right? It's like one extreme to the other. There's so many stops along those ways. So it's just, what's the right balance. And so if you find yourself bias in a particular direction, which most of us do, everyone has their biases. No good or bad. Just that's just our, and you might say, okay, how might I lean get a place to perhaps open up some more possibilities?
 
Adam: (10:47)
Yeah. Everything you said kind of helped me think about in lot of different directions, but it's great for leaders to be able to take that, you know, helicopter trip up to be able to see everything and say, okay, this is where we need to go to help your team, understand the why and what we're doing and get that morale going. But what if you are standing there watching your leader go up and you're like, wait, but I wanna see up there, how do you get from where you are and go up there because maybe you're a staff accountant and you're just in the numbers every day. But you want to get to that CFO level so that you can see all the things. What's that first step you need to take?
 
Nick: (11:23)
Beautiful question. Thanks Adam. Thank you for contextualizing that, that's really powerful. Yeah. You you've got to, especially in organizations, you've got to make sure that you're still playing your own game. Right? So for instance, I worked with the quite a few financial advisors. There's a guy that I worked with this morning and like here's a particular goal that his company's given him for a certain amount of transactions and dollar value for the year, of course. And that's the goal that they've given him. And so, okay, this is what you need to go and produce. Now that's based on what they think that they need in totality. There's some general generalities to it as well. Cause it's spread across many different people. And what we work on is what's his actual goal within that? What does he own? Right?
 
Nick: (12:07)
So if you're the junior guy looking up to the CFO, you've gotta go look, where do you wanna be going? You've gotta get your own helicopter. And you wanna make sure that either it is in line with where the helicopter's going for the CFO, for the company. And you've gotta know that. And if it is awesome, then you can plot that path within that. Or if it's not, then you wanna know that as well. Then you can take a different path. It's really knowing where you are going either inside of someone else's game or creating your own game. And again, that's part of the fog of it. It's like, all I can do is I've gotta wait for the next person to move up, to move up again. It's like, are you really playing your own game? Or are you playing someone else's game?
 
Adam: (12:45)
I really like what you're saying, there is you have to get your own helicopter. You can't use your current CFO's helicopter. You have to get your own helicopter so that you can start to see where you need to go. You can't focus on his journey. I mean, you can learn from their journeys. You can learn from steps they've taken, but you can't jump on their helicopter and expect to go the same place.
 
Nick: (13:05)
Yeah. Like, and if you are good with that, then that's fine. But it's having the awareness to know that you are on someone else's journey. Yeah. Like if you haven't got a plan for your life, you'll end up fulfilling someone else's plan. You'll be part of that. And there's nothing wrong with that. Again, just having the outcomes or the awareness to know what that is. I think it's really, really powerful.
 
Adam: (13:25)
Yeah. That is very powerful. And I think the other thing that I was thinking about too, is if you're sitting there, you know, you've gotten your own helicopter. You may recognize that my journey will not continue at this organization. Maybe my journey needs to go to another organization. And so, you know, that's a scary place to be because you, you may be just early in your career. And you're like, if the place I want to go is over here, but I see that my journey is not gonna stay here. And you don't know, like there's a lot of unknowns there. And the unknown is very difficult, especially when you're trying to, you know, trying to change your mindset.
 
Nick: (14:02)
Yeah. We are people, all people are driven or not as the case may be by fear. And whether we wanna admit that or not, that's really what it is. And certainly true for me. I can tell you that for nothing, right? Like it's something that's always coming up. But what we do is we tend to optimize for the fear of taking action. What we don't tend to think about is the fear of inaction. And that's for me, the biggest opportunity cost. It's like if I take this, my journey is not at this place, it's like, oh no, like now I'm not in a place where I wanna be. That's scary. I've gotta make some change. I've gotta like, get uncomfortable. I've gotta move to somewhere else. I've gotta figure some stuff out. True. But the alternative is that you don't make a change.
 
Nick: (14:51)
Even though it's something in you that tells you, that's not quite right. You don't make a change. You follow the beaten path, you do the things that you're supposed to do. You take the next part up, you take 10% and 10%. And then somewhere down the line, 10, 15, 20 years, goodness could be, you go, oh man, I've just spent 20 years in a place I didn't want to be in. And that's what I get so passionate about what I do. Now I honor my journey. Cause I did spend 20 years doing something I didn't wanna do. And it gave me a lot. And that's exactly what my path has been is supposed to be. And now I get to share with people, right? Let's come back and compress some of that time. Cuz deep down. I knew if I'd really ask myself the deep questions, at any of that spot, I could tell myself that like this isn't the right thing. Gotta start thinking about doing something different and figuring something out. And it doesn't have to be a huge change, but just be honest with yourself.
 
Adam: (15:42)
So if you're being, I like the idea of being honest with yourself, cuz that's something that I think a lot of us kind of struggle with and just growing in our careers and our personal lives is being honest with ourselves. And I think something we need to remind everybody is, is that these journeys, this getting to these mindsets is not something that happens like today I'm here and then tomorrow I'm gonna be at a hundred percent. No it's an actual journey that takes time. So yeah, you may be taking those incremental steps, but eventually that helicopters and you gotta grab on. Right?
 
Nick: (16:14)
Absolutely. And that's why playing up at this place, which feels like it's pie in the sky and going what's that difference between 10% is that what's a hundred percent, it's it's opening possibilities. It's saying, well look, what if I could have it any way I want it to be? And if you let's say, you're just starting out in where you are in your accountancy career, let's say you're like, okay, what do I wanna do? What's the best version of this. If everything went exactly as I wanted it to go, if I could snap my fingers and create that, what would it be? And you might say what for because I can't get there yet. There's no point, but the sooner you can do that and create something, you have a place to move towards and your life will start to optimize for that just naturally cuz you'd be thinking about it and then you can take actual action, make it real, take those steps. And you might also say, well, I don't know yet. Well, part of that is also a game of just doing what's the right thing for right now. Oh and by the way you could also say I'm not prepared to do anything on that yet, but either way, you're being honest with yourself and being intentional about what you're doing.
 
Adam: (17:23)
Yeah. That's so important is that you may not be ready for the next step. And this idea of like, you can't always be in the clouds obviously, because you'll never get anything done, but you can't always be in the weeds cuz then you'll never see the big picture. Right. So finding that balance. So we've talked about the person who is early in their career. So maybe let's talk about leaders. You know, I'm a leader and I have a team of 20 people and I'm like, okay, I wanna have this achiever's mindset. I wanna see the big picture, but also see the practical. I wanna find that balance for myself and then also teach it to my team. How can leaders help get their team to a place where they're starting to find that balance as well?
 
Nick: (18:06)
Yeah. Great question. Thanks Adam. And so first things first it's knowing as a leader, where are you going? Can you specifically articulate super quick, what is success for you by the end of this year or the next relative point that you're looking at in your career or that business line or that area of focus. And then when you know what that is and what you are doing every day to get you there, even without sharing it, people gravitate to that because that's the guy that looks like he's got everything figured out, right? It's like, you can tell it when you even look at people, right, when you're walking around the office, if we do that anymore, right? And you see people and the people that know where they, you can look at people and go, that person knows where he is going.
 
Nick: (18:48)
And because he has an in intentional outlook of what success looks like to him or her that day, that week, that month, that year. So that's the starting point, right? And that will create people will naturally follow you anyway, people in your team. That's what leadership is. Management is the sorting it out and figuring it out. The leadership is just doing the thing and people follow that people will gravitate towards that. So it's, first of all, knowing what it is for you and as a leader, likelihood your goal, your vision is something that's bigger than you. Anyway, you need to enroll other people in it. And part of your power as leader and part of your requirement, your responsibility as a leader, is to be able to share that, share what that is and articulate in a way that we can attach to it.
 
Nick: (19:29)
Right? And sometimes people will share that. Like, I'm not thinking about this emotionally. I'm not thinking about it in that way. I just need to do these things, do that. And I get that. It's like, alright, cool. There's a practical sense to it. If I do that, I do that. And now I get that, but everything has emotion tied to it. Everything is tied emotionally. And if you don't think yourself as an emotional person, and then there's a reaction to that, no, I'm definitely not an emotional person. It's like, well, that's an emotional reaction. We can't get away from it. Right. And then we should honor those feelings. And however, that means to you, how it show up, everyone's a bit different, but that's part of it, knowing, be able to articulate that to your team is a really good step.
 
Nick: (20:09)
And then again, going back to being honest, this is where we're going as a team. And this is where I wanna go overall, are you on bull face? So you are helping them. You are in your leadership helicopter to extend the analogy, looking back at the other helicopters, going, Hey guys, or looking back down on the fit, down in the jungle, going, Hey guys, are you in your helicopter yet? You wanna hit your ride on mine? Cause I'm going over here. So you are creating a way of, so some people might not be ready to get in their helicopter yet, but you're saying I got mine. Are you willing to get into it with me? Cuz we are going this journey as well. Right? So that's really what it is. Now, once you're aligned, all the things that are part of it, which is basically communication will figure themselves out. We can't go anywhere until we're aligned.
 
Adam: (20:53)
I like that picture of there's times where we, as leaders have to pick people up and carry them with us and saying, Hey guys, come with me. See what it's like up here. And then here look your helicopter's right there. Jump in. Right.
 
Nick: (21:08)
Yeah. Absolutely. And all done with like no judgment. And it's like, this is where I'm going. I'm all in. I'd love it for you to come. And if not, then I wanna know that as well.
 
Adam: (21:17)
Yeah.
 
Nick: (21:18)
Because it can be, and I've been in leadership positions where it's just like, what's wrong. Like this is what's laid out like this is, which is what you signed up for. Like why can't you do it? What are you doing? And there's so many things to pick out of that. Like they might not have signed up for that. Where do we have the explicit conversation about this particular thing, we might not have done! And I'm judging them in that moment. I'm saying like, what's wrong with you? Or I'm implying what's wrong with you. And when people feel like they're being judged, they're gonna shut down. They're not gonna play. And so the goal always is to think about things like, okay, well where do you want to go, and put yourself in their shoes and create the opportunity for people to step into it. Right. Rather than close things down. And so that's a real big part of it.
 
Adam: (22:03)
So as we wrap up our conversation, I think this has been really great. Just kind of understanding this achiever's mindset. It seems like there's one word that you may have said it already, but there's one word that seemed, or it's a hyphenated word I should say, that seems to be very important in this whole thing is self-awareness. You need to be aware of self, of how you're feeling of how, where you are in your journey, because that's where we have to start. Maybe we can talk a little bit about self-awareness and how it connects to everything. Cause I feel like that's a real connector for a lot of this that we've been discussing.
 
Nick: (22:38)
Absolutely, absolutely. Adam. Yeah, self-awareness is great. I just call it awareness because it fits within the model, which I think that we live in and everything starts with awareness. Without awareness, you are nothing. It's not everything by itself, but it's a place that we need to start. Right. Cuz when you can understand where you really are and be honest with yourself and like, if you're gonna build anything, you wanna dig down first, make sure you've got the right foundation. So that's what awareness is. It's like taking stock. What's really true. What's really important for you. Where are you? Yeah. And then that awareness then allows us to jump off to action. So I call this the Triple A approach, right? And I believe, I mean that's semantics, but I believe we're always in this Triple A approach, it's a cycle of life.
 
Nick: (23:23)
So awareness knowing where you are jump off to the action, which is actually creating a plan right back down to the very specific roadmap of where we're going. Like that's the actual strategy, the tools, skills, all that stuff is very important, but we can't do that until we start with the awareness part. So we move off into the action plan and the action is now, okay, this is where I'm specifically going over this particular milestone, this timeline I've defined, here's the action I'm gonna take. And then that last A of that Triple A approach is achievement. And the achievement part is the checking in part. That's how we know whether we should be up on the helicopter or down in the weeds because it constantly changes. And so every week can say I work with my clients every week we come back together, go, did you do the things you said you were gonna do?
 
Nick: (24:09)
Oh, great. What results did you get based on that? Good, bad, different? Again, again, again. And you know, life happens or sometimes it'll be like, I didn't do anything. Okay. Where do you wanna get back to now? Cuz without that last ADA achievement, even if, here's the scariest part, Adam, perhaps is that you see some self-awareness to call it your way and you start to go, yes, I'm committed to this. I've thought about something that's completely different. You start to take action, you have a little plan in place. And then something happens. Life happens, you get smashed in the face, emotion and you get hit down. You forget it. And you come back to it a month later six months later. A year later. And it didn't happen for you and you think, oh man, it must be me.
 
Nick: (24:52)
So it must be wrong with me. Maybe this isn't on the cards for me. And it's just the process. And that's like the scariest thing, cuz the next time you get yourself back up again, you're gonna be a little bit less certain than you can. And that could have been a year gone by. But that's why it's so important to have something around you with that accountability and that place where you can check in every week. Cause the maximum you can lose is a week. I get very passionate about this because I know how powerful it can be to keep in that space.
 
Outro: (25:19)
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