Episode 100 – Tony Nitti

September 20, 2017


Tony shreds his way to better connections

 

Tony Nitti has been pursuing passions outside of work since before he even started his first job out of college. Having graduated a semester early, he had extra time before needing to report to the Arthur Andersen office, so he moved to Vermont to ski nearly every day. This lead to him pursuing other passions over the years, including racing mountain bikes, back country skiing, and climbing – all reasons he moved to Colorado. After narrowly surviving a brain aneurism several years ago, he’s now more committed than ever to these passions and maximizing his time here.

In this episode, Tony and I talk about how important it was for him to realize that he was completely removed from the things that made him happy by working longer hours and being stuck in a never-ending race to get the most billable hours. He says, “If I let the passions part of me die then everything in my life is going to suffer.” Professionalism preaches a false hope that grinding out more hours is the path to success. It’s much better to feel satisfied in all areas of your life, realizing that your hobbies and passions are much more a part of you than your job is. These are also the ways that we’re able to connect with others in a stronger way. “The real skill I have isn’t my understanding of tax law but that I have the ability to communicate it with people because I am an actual person.”

Tony Nitti is a Tax Partner in WithumSmith+Brown’s National Tax Service Group and the founding father of the firm’s Aspen, Colorado office.

He received his MST, Taxation from the University of Denver.


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Other pictures of Tony

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Tony on his way to winning the 2017 Bailey Hundito 50 mile MTB race

Tony competing in the Leadville 100 MTB race.

Tony standing on the summit of Triangle Peak near Aspen, Colorado.

Tony skiing the Crystal Couloir outside Carbondale, Co.


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Transcript

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    Welcome to Episode 100 of the Green Apple Podcast. We did it, everybody. Triple digits. This is crazy. Every Wednesday, I interview a professional known for a hobby or a passion and because just by being themselves they standout like a green apple in a stereotypically boring red apple world. Because so many of us are taught a false hope by professionalism that to standout you need to get another certification or another degree or memorize all the tax code or be the best technician in your field. But this simple isn’t true.

    If you want to get ahead in business it’s still a human to human interaction because professionalism preaches that people with passions outside of work are less dedicated to their job yet when people ask this week’s guest Tony Nitti what he does, his answer could easily be I’m an accountant and a mountain bike racer. I mean they’re both really important and make up who he is but it’s the ‘And.’ His mountain bike racing and actually several other things that make a lot of people turn their head and be like say, “What?”

    And if you’re listening to this and think, “Hey, I’ve got a hobby or passion I love to talk about at work.” Please reach out to me because I’d love to have you on us as guest on the show or maybe you know someone else in your office or a colleague or a friend who’d be a good fit to share their story, just go to greenapplepodcast.com, send me a quick message or follow us on Twitter @GreenApplePod.

    But today, it’s all about Tony Nitti. He’s a partner at WithumSmith+Brown, speaks regularly at conferences all across the country, and is a tax writer for Forbes. I know you’re super busy, Tony but I’m so excited that you’re able to take time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Tony: John, thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to it.

    John: Oh, absolutely, man. I’m so excited that you’re able to make time and I’ve been stalking you on Twitter for a little while. So you’ve probably been feeling me breathing down the back of your neck. Now, we’re finally able to connect and share stories with everybody. It’s going to be really exciting, man. Really exciting. But yeah, you’re the only accountant I know with a mountain biking picture as your profile for Twitter like is that on purpose or just a calculated decision?

    Tony: Yeah. I mean, I think they’re are always to some extent calculated decisions. We all got to sit there and decide what’s going to represent us in our profile pic and I’m an accountant, what am I going to do? I want to show what I’m passionate about so that people know that there’s more to me than just tweeting archaic Simpsons references and Forbes articles and so I thought a mountain bike pic was app to apropos.

    John: Absolutely, absolutely. That’s like the trifecta right there, to be honest with you. Forbes article, Simpsons quotes, and a mountain bike you pick, it’s a Yahtzee! You win.

    Tony: I got you all I know.

    John: Right, right, exactly. I guess I gave everyone a little introduction of where you’re at now but your story is so fascinating so maybe a little bit of how you got there I guess is the cool part.

    Tony: Yeah. Man, it’s not been a quick path for sure. There was a lot of stops along the way but it can all be traced back kind of on a one thing here. When I was in college I think like most people, I didn’t daydream about being an accountant certainly. I kind of backed into an accounting major like I think a lot of people do because I had intended to go to law school and one of my — I played soccer in college, and one of my teammates said to me one day, “Oh, you want to go to law school, you should be an accounting undergrad because the law schools, they’re all loving the accounting grads these days.” I thought, “All right, cool, I’ll give it a shot.”

    But when I would sit in my accounting class, I’d sit in the back of the room and I would have this dog-eared copy of POWDER magazine’s top 50 ski resorts and all I ever daydreamed about is living in the ski town, skiing everyday. And so I graduated in December and when I was planning on going to law school, I went through the interview process, and I interviewed with Arthur Andersen and they offered a starting salary which at that time seemed like more than I would ever imagine making at 22 years old.

    And so I scrap the law school plans and thought I’ll give Andersen a shot but the thing here is graduating in December, Andersen wanted me to start with all their other new hires in September. I had the winter to kill and so I moved up to Sugarbush, Vermont and just lived at the ski resort about 500 feet from the chairlifts and basically, skied 70 to 80 days that year. Just kind of got a taste for mountain town life and doing what I was passionate about and that’s just kind of ruin me for life because again, sometimes you’re better off not knowing what’s out there.

    Just living in a place where I didn’t need a snow report to tell me if it’s snowed last night. I could just look out the window or I didn’t need a bike rack on my car because I could just ride right from my front door, that just spoiled me and then the next you know, it’s September and I’m going to work for Arthur Andersen. I’m wearing a suit and tie everyday and riding the subway into New York City and I knew I was not long for that world.

    John: Right. Yeah, I mean and it’s so cool how you know now that you’re with Withum that they were flexible to allow you to not lose your mind basically and to explore that side.

    Tony: Yeah. What happened there to kind of fill in the gaps in between Andersen and Withum is like I said, one year at Andersen, New York and I was just cooked, I was burned out. I’ve gone from skiing 70 days to basically two days, my first year at Andersen, and I just took a shot. I quickly realized and I think this has been the most critical part of my career development, I realized that I was never going to be the employee I could be, a professional I could be if I would spend in all my time daydreaming about some other life.

    And that’s all I did. I sat in that office for 70 hours a week just dreaming about being somewhere else and I kind of extrapolated that out and just thought well, someday I’m going to be a dad and I’m going to be a husband and what kind of husband and dad am I going to be if I’m just miserable all the time because I’m not doing what I love to do?

    And so I actually transferred with Arthur Andersen to the Denver office and got a little bit closer to the life that I wanted but I wasn’t in the true mountain town but at least now I could ski on my weekends and things like that. I thought I’d be surrounded by more like-minded people in the Denver office that would say, “Hey, let’s not measure our self-worth by how many charge hours we put in but let’s also be a little more balanced and enjoy some of the amazing opportunities that this city could offer.”

    John: Yeah. Because you can see the mountains from downtown. So you know it’s right there.

    Tony: Yeah but John, they may as well been 2,000 miles away.

    John: Oh, no, man.

    Tony: What I learn pretty quickly is with Andersen it wasn’t a geographic thing, it was a culture thing. I mean you could’ve put that group of people move the offices to the resort itself. You could’ve put it at the base of the Aspen Mountain. People would still be trying to outdo each other as far as many hours they could accumulate in a week. From there, I said I got to find just a different group of people and so I switched over to PricewaterhouseCoopers in Denver and definitely found a little bit more balance there.

    That’s when things kind of started to turn around in my career because for the first time, I wasn’t just spending all my time daydreaming about some other reality. Everything was kind of going according to plan at PWC and then I made a trip back home to New Jersey while I was in grad school and met the girl, Loren, who’s now my wife. I don’t know what you know about Jersey girls but the majority of Jersey girls are never intending to leave New Jersey.

    People always ask me, “How did you live in Aspen and work for Withum when Withum’s an East Coast company.” Well, I started with Withum in New Jersey, right? When I met Loren and knew I was going to marry her, I kind of rushed back to New Jersey and we got engaged and I took the job with WithumSmith+Brown and I actually spent my first two years with Withum in their Princeton, New Jersey office.

    But I had come full circle. It was like being back in Andersen because now as much further ahead of my career, I was a manager at this point, but what was I doing again? I was miserable. I was removed from the things that make me who I am, the things I’m passionate about, that mountain life and now it wasn’t just, again, my career that was suffering but now, I was with the girl I was going to marry and were going to start a family and it was pretty clear to me that I couldn’t be the husband and father I wanted to be if I just was so kind of down on my day-to-day life because I was so far removed from the things I’m passionate about.

    My wife, she could see that I was struggling and she just really put her faith in me when I told her, “Hey, you know, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with New Jersey, it’s just that where I need to be for my soul to kind of flourish is not here.” She rolled the dice and did what was kind of unthinkable and her family which was pickup and move across the country with me and we decided we’re going to move to Aspen. Of course, I assume Withum would tell me, “Hey, look it’s been real but you’re going to Aspen, we’re all back here. Go find yourself a new job.” But that’s not what happened.

    Probably just a function of right place and right time but I had made my career at that point on being what we either affectionately or derisively referred to as a code head, someone who really makes their living in the Internal Revenue Code and the bowels of the tax law. Withum just didn’t kind of have, at that point, its evolution a ready-made code head replacement for me.

    So even though I wasn’t a topnotch employee that time because I wasn’t fully engaged, when I said I wanted to move they just kind of said, “You know, we think you can do for us what you do from out there just as easily as you can here.” So I give Withum a lot of credit, they were forward thinking and they just thought this can work from 2,000 miles away and so my wife and I packed up and we moved to Aspen in 2006.

    John: That’s awesome, man. I mean and that’s so cool that they were on board with that and that you’re able to admit like “Hey, look, I wasn’t superstar because I wasn’t really that engaged, because I was dreaming of not New Jersey.”

    Tony: It’s 100% true. I mean I have the evaluations to prove it. I was a C+ professional at Withum at the time I left. I mean, again, if I had left five years later when Withum had grown and built a better tax practice, they would’ve said good riddance, but at that time they were rolling the dice on me because I had a specific skill set that was kind of hard to replicate. I’m kind of forever grateful because it wasn’t until I got out to Aspen and until I found that balance that I’ve been looking for in my life, where everything just found a place, right job, right town, right girl. All of the sudden everything falls into place and sky’s the limit kind of thing.

    John: Yeah, yeah. That’s an interesting insight there is how much is it on just being really good at your job versus showing that personality and your hobby and passion? Does one have to come before the other necessarily?

    Tony: I mean in my opinion, yeah, okay. Because in my opinion, at the end of the day, the opportunities that you want in life to have flexibility, to chase things that you’re passionate about even within your profession let alone personally, you first have to have substance. I mean you got to bring value to the table. Again, admitting that I wasn’t engaged, that really is the best word to describe it because I did my work and I did it well. I mean I’ve always taken tremendous pride in trying to know as much about the tax laws as possible but I just wasn’t, you know, what we think of it as a team player.

    I wasn’t dressing up in the funny outfits on Saturday with everyone else and I wasn’t going to the after party, work parties and things like that. I just wanted to go do my own thing. My own thing was kind of far removed from that. Despite that, I was still delivering in terms of work product and so if I didn’t do either, if I wasn’t passionate about bringing something to the table as far as my understanding of the tax law, then there’s no way the firm affords me the opportunity to go pursue things.

    You got to have substance first. You got to bring something to the table that makes you irreplaceable, invaluable and that’s what I tell people all the time when they ask me about how to make their career what they wanted to be, how to get where they want to go? I said first, you’ve got to invest in yourself. You’ve got to build the skill set that one, not only gives you some negotiating power, some bargaining power, but two, the reality of our industry, I could say my industry, John, is we never know and it’s not just our industry, life, right? The reality of life, you never know where you’re going to end up.

    Turn on a dime, I mean I never dreamed I’d be moving back to New Jersey to marry a Jersey girl when I was living in Denver but you need a skillset that’s transferrable. You need to have substance that goes with you. To me, I think that that’s the more critical part is you got to have value if you’re ever going to be able to pursue the things you want to pursue. I mean you don’t know how many times someone has said to me like, “Oh, you work for New Jersey firm but you live in Aspen, it must be nice.” And I think yeah, it is nice but I work really hard for a number of years to build the skill set that encourage my firm to let me go do my own thing.

    John: Right, yeah. And had the cajones to ask, you know? Really, when you get down to it. Also, just being able to show your value and what you can provide but that is more than just those technical skills because I mean certainly, your personality and who you are and yeah, you weren’t necessarily dressing up in the Withum gear everyday but certainly, you were good at what you did and could relate to people and they understood you and why this move was necessary, more than just what it was but also the why behind it.

    Tony: Yup. And that’s to Withum’s credit because they did recognize that this was something I was truly passionate about and given a lot of thought too and that I wasn’t going to be the best employee I could be if I was going to continue to grind out my days in Central New Jersey. The one thing they could tell about me is that, yeah, maybe I wasn’t as fully engaged as other people but I really cared about being good at my job.

    It was really important to me to continue growing, to continue learning and I was willing to share what I’d learned with the younger generation. Yeah, I mean there’s more to that not wanting to lose me than just kind of my ability to recite code section 351 or something like that but that’s stuff had to come first. But give Withum credit because a lot of firms, it’s almost having outside passions. It can be a detriment to your career. That’s certainly what I experienced at Arthur Andersen.

    John: Right, right. Yeah, I mean I have to imagine, I mean just when you went from Andersen to PWC was that a difference? I mean like a night and day difference?

    Tony: It was. And there’s no rhyme or reason why it was. I mean Andersen was famous for its culture, I mean it really was and everyone even told me that before I even started there. I think it’s all part of the St. Charles indoctrination that we all had. Yeah, when I got to PWC for whatever reason just the right mix of people where I didn’t feel like I had to kind of hide why I had moved to Denver anymore. That’s what was so silly to me about going to Arthur Andersen in Denver, it’s like look, clearly I transferred here for a reason. And it’s because I’m passionate about those mountains outside the window so why do I have to spend all my time pretending that’s not why I’m here?

    John: Yeah. No, that’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. I mean and how much do you think it’s on the organization to create that culture versus maybe an individual can round up a little posse of people that are also passionate like that or sometimes the organizations create that culture but not everyone’s willing to buy in sort of a thing?

    Tony: Yeah, it’s delicate balance in our industry, right? Because let’s be honest our industry and if there’s one thing I could change about it, this would still be it is certainly during your formative years a lot of what you’re measured on is simply your commitment to grind that hours, right? It’s almost like if you’re with the group of new hires, the five of you start on the same day and someone gets a sense that you love surfing or skiing or whatever it may be, it’s like they can smell the weakness in you like I’m going to be able to outwork this person, you know.

    And so I’m telling you, I know new people and I know I was this way when I started where you almost don’t want to let on that you have any outside interest. I do think that Withum does a great job in and I think in today’s world, it’s incumbent upon all firms to approaches where you want to extract the personality out of your people. You don’t want your people scared to let on that they like running 10K’s in the weekend or things like that. You don’t want to have a staff full of one dimensional people whether it’s real or perceived.

    I do think it’s a delicate balance because I think firms are going to increasingly make it a point to express the people that they can be individuals, that they can have outside interests but I think the reality of our industry is the default setting when people start their job, particularly in larger firms, is going to be hide who I am and just prove that I could sit here the longest. That’s a shame but that’s something that’s going to have to change over time.

    I’ve always said this and unfortunately, it’s true. But you know, when I was at Andersen, again it was an office of 80 people that all measured their success based on how much they work. But in our industry, what I found is it doesn’t matter if there’s 80 people in your office or four, there will always be at least one person that still thinks that way. As long as there’s always that one person it’s going to make it hard for people to feel open about stressing the things they’re passionate about outside of work because some people take a very simplistic view and that’s anytime you spend being passionate about things outside of work is less time you’re being useful to me. And that’s a shame.

    John: Yeah. No, that’s an excellent point. I mean that’s exactly right. I mean when started with PWC right out of school I mean it was maybe four or five months later that I started to just do a couple of open mics for stand up and yeah, people, “Hey, what did you do this weekend?” And I was like “Well, I went into the comedy show at this place” and like, “Wait, what?” Well, you asked, I mean you know. So I never looked at it, I guess I was too stupid or ignorant or what but I accidentally fell into it to where a partner remembers me 12 years later, a guy who I never worked with, and it’s just like that she’s mind-blowing to me.

    Tony: That’s how it should be. You know what it is, John? It’s a must-be-nice industry and what I mean by that is if you come to work on a Monday and you’re at a big firm and it’s a fairly busy time of year and someone says, “What did you do this weekend?” You in your example, you said you did standup comedy, if I said I went skiing, you know what the person’s going to say back? “Must be nice, I had to be here.” Yeah. I get it, I get it, you know. You’re very, very busy I understand.

    John: To which I would reply, “Why?” Why are you so inefficient at your job?

    Tony: Right. That’s why so many people in our industry when you ask them what they did or what they do, the response will always somehow revolve around work or the need to work or the need to work more than they did work. It’s because they still carry that mindset that should be almost dead within our industry that the only measure of who they are as an employee is how long they’re willing to sit in a chair.

    John: Right. It’s almost like those contests where everyone puts their hand on the car and whoever is left with the hand like wins the car.

    Tony: That’s what my first few years at Pricewaterhouse and Andersen was like to some point. I can remember being a manager at PW and being in an evaluation meeting for seniors and we’re going through this one guy and he had this truly ridiculous, unhealthy amount of charge hours and I’ll never forget one of the partners said, “That’s really impressive.” I thought to myself impressive? If you want to impress me, go and get a girlfriend or pick up a hobby or do something other than sit here all day. But they were talking about the kid like he was ready to skyrocket to the top because he’s willing to sit there the longest. You had just mentioned efficiency but the question is what kind of value did we get out of those 3,000 hours or whatever it was?

    John: Yeah, that’s true too. No, that’s exactly it.

    Tony: What kind of example does that set for the rest of the people? That if they want to move ahead, they’re going to have to sit there for 3,000 hours.

    John: Right, right. I mean because that guy’s going to become a senior and then a manager and then a senior and then he’ll become a partner and then it’s going to just trickle down and it’s just reinforces itself. Then it spirals out of control. No, that’s exactly right. One thing that I completely glossed over but because we were just going so well here but I like to throw a wrench into it because I’m like, “Oh, this is going well, let’s row with it.” But no, but just from your skiing days, I mean do you have any cool experiences or stories or your favorite mountain type of thing?

    Tony: Yes. Again, skiing was kind of the biggest passion of my teens and early 20s and that’s what led me to Aspen. Aspen’s got four ski resorts and so there’s no shortage of resort skiing to do. But soon after I got in here, I became obsessed with what we call back country skiing. Back country skiing is much more simplistic. You drive past a mountain that looks like it’d be fun to ski down and you go climb up it and reach the summit and then ski down.

    I mean it carries with it a host of risks and dangers because avalanche has become a very real thing. There’s nothing quite like climbing uphill with skis on your feet at 13,000 to 14,000 feet and a big pack on your back, I mean the air is so thin but you get to that summit and you strip the skin’s off your skis and lock down the heels and start skiing down and there’s nothing that can replicate that on a resort, I can promise you.

    John: Right, right because I mean that’s untouched. You’re the only one.

    Tony: Yeah, and you earned it.

    John: Totally, you totally earned it. Yeah. Would you say that this these from skiing and maybe the mountain biking as well that translate to the office make you better being a CPA?

    Tony: Well, yeah, I think for really kind of two reasons why. First, as far as my job, again, I’m a code head, I make my living understanding the tax law. There’s a number of us that do that in the tax world, right? People may not realize this but you can carve out a very nice career for yourself in tax without actually knowing much about the tax law. But that’s not where I make my money, right? I want to understand the law.

    The problem is the people that understand the law very well typically have a damn hard time communicating. They do, I mean some of the smartest guys I’ve met in this industry, they have all this great knowledge in their head but it’s useless because they can’t express with anybody else. I think being someone who’s passionate about doing other things, being out there, being multi-dimensional, you know I deal with people all the time. Mountain bike races with a hundred other guys and communicating before and after the race, I’m climbing a peak with four or five buddies. We got to make critical decisions that could — without the hint of hyperbole, be the difference between life and death. You learn to communicate with people, you learn to deal with people.

    And so I think the real skill what I have in my industry is not my understanding of the tax law but that I actually have the ability to communicate it with people because I am an actual person. I do more than just sit behind or sit in a cubicle reading books all day. I get out in the real world and experience things and that makes me relatable to clients. I mean I was just on a conference call right before this where the client and I spent three minutes talking about what he wanted to talk about for work and the next 20 minutes talking about mountain bike racing because he’s passionate about it, he knows I’m passionate about it.

    That’s the kind of thing that’s cements a client relationship that all the knowledge in the world about the tax law simply can’t submit. But then the second element, John, more so than skills I take from bike racing or skiing to make me a better professional, it simply goes back to what I said before, I was never going to be the best professional I could be until I was in a position where all of my passions in life were right outside my window because the craziest thing that happened when I moved from New Jersey to Aspen is my charge hours went up. Everyone would think, “Hey, you take this guy who’s not fully engaged here in New Jersey –”

    John: Right, you can drop him in his happy place.

    Tony: Yeah, happy place, we’ll never hear from him again. But what shocked everybody including myself is that when I got out here to Aspen, I didn’t have to daydream about a different life anymore. I didn’t have to spend every minute of my job going, “When is the next day I’m going to be on skis? When is the next day I could be on my bike?” Now, I could sit here in my office in Aspen knowing that my lunch break, I can go make some turns? Before work I can climb up the mountain with my dog. I mean I can ride my bike any day, before, after, during work and when you can do that, the time you spend at work, you are 100% plugged in.

    John: Right. That so observational, yeah.

    Tony: It’s the reality I live through where suddenly I’m dropped in the middle of my daydream and I’m actually working more because I know that I can maximize the time I’m not working. I know that everything I live for in my life is right outside the door and so when I’m not doing those things I’m passionate about, I can be 100% plugged in and giving my best effort to work. That is really what was critical for me is just knowing that, look, everyone’s wired a little differently but I’m a very, very passionate person about a number of things and if I was going to let that part of me die then everything in my life was going to suffer.

    John: I can’t agree with you more. It’s such an interesting insight of, yeah, you would think you’re taking this disengaged employee, dropping them in his happy place, see yeah. I mean you’re likely to get one hour out of this guy a day. And yet the exact opposite happens and I wonder what would happen if there were firms out there, companies that made it mandatory that you had to spend so many hours doing your hobby and passion.

    The opposite instead of the chargeability rate of the amount of work you had to do, it was the opposite. It was we’re going to judge you based on your output and the value add but we’re going to count your hours that you’re actually doing hobbies and passions. I would imagine you would be the best firm out there by a mile but you know no one’s ever going to do that because that’s like super weird.

    Tony: Yeah, but future generations are going to force accounting firms hands a little more in that direction. I mean the younger generation, they don’t come into this measuring their self-worth by the number of hours. As the older generation moves on, we’re going to see more of what you’re alluded to which is something Withum does a great job of which is, again, really embracing the buzz word of culture but saying, “Hey, live your life passionately, go out and do some other things and come back and share it with us. We’re not going to hold it against you.”

    There may be an individual in one or two or three offices that’s still hangs on to that old school mentality but other people are going to be eager to promote the 10K you ran over the weekend or the charity fundraiser that you’ve been a part of or my bike racing, they’re always quick to say, “Hey, this is a guy that is a partner of the firm who’s balancing a heavy workload with passions and telling the younger generation, it can be done.”

    John: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s so awesome how Withum does that and embraces it and encourages it and you as a partner it’s showing an example for the new generation, the new staff that are coming in, you know that hey, not only that it’s okay but it’s almost required.

    Tony: Well, yeah, I mean I think that I’m living proof of maybe why it should be required because my career really didn’t turn into the right direction until I was at peace with the other aspects of my life.

    John: Yeah. Because, I mean yeah. So many people think those hobbies and passions are throwaways. It’s not true at all. I mean it’s more of a part of you than your job is, really when you think about it.

    Tony: Absolutely. People always say when you’re on your death bed, you’re not going to wish you had worked more and that is 100% sure.

    John: I mean you just made that quote about being on your death bed and a lot of people can’t relate but your story, you definitely can.

    Tony: But you obviously emerge from something like that with only a renewed commitment to your passions. And that’s where the mountain bike racing got involved in. I recognize how silly it is to be raising profession at a mountain bike at 42 years old, when I got a wife and two kids and a fulltime job that treats me really well. But ever since the brain aneurysm, I have just been hell-bent on really maximizing my time on the planet and realizing as much potential as I can and however that reveals itself whether it’s racing bikes or playing guitar or the writing that I do and stuff like that. It’s just all about knowing how lucky I am to have a second chance and saying, there’s just no way I’m going to waste this.

    John: Yeah, man. What an unbelievable story all around. I mean golly, man. Inspiring and yeah, you’re the green apple to the nth degree. It’s your hobbies and your passions that really are what makes you who you are and when it all falls into line then you’re on rocket ship.

    Tony: And I hope that’s what younger people that listen to this podcast take away from it is that life is just a total package. It’s about leaving no stone unturned. If there’s ever anything you wanted to find out if you’re good at, go find out if you’re good at it. It’s not going to hurt your job. If anything, it’s just going to help if you feel like you’re satisfied in a number of the different areas in your life.

    So even within your career, if you’re just going along, kind of the normal path that your firm’s prescribed for you and you always wondered could I be a writer? Do I have any talent for that? Find out. Give it a shot. Draft up an article. If you wanted to speak, give it a try. You may find something that you’re passionate about, you didn’t realize you’d be passionate about and then you start redefining your career as far as what’s going to make you happy and what’s not.

    John: Yeah. No, that’s exactly right. Before I fly out to Aspen and climb a mountain with you and go skiing down, hoping that an avalanche doesn’t happen, because with my luck that’s how things go.

    But before we do that I do have my 17 rapid fire questions I like to run you through just to make sure that we can hang out although I think you’re going to nail it. This is going to be fun. But let me fire this thing out here and we’ll run you through this. The first one, starts you out easy. Cats or dogs?

    Tony: Dogs in a landslide.

    John: Dogs in a landslide. There we go. How about your favorite toppings on a pizza?

    Tony: Oh, I’m a peppers and onions, guy.

    John: Peppers and onions. Okay. Alright, alright. How about do you have a favorite color?

    Tony: Blue.

    John: Blue, there you go. Least favorite color?

    Tony: Black.

    John: Black. All right, all right. More Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Tony: Wars.

    John: Star Wars. Yeah, absolutely. How about when it comes to computers, more PC or a Mac?

    Tony: Always been on a PC but I got to say Macs don’t have nearly the problems that PC have but my comfort level with PC is much greater.

    John: Yeah, yeah. How about when it comes to your mouse, are you more right-click or left-click?

    Tony: I’m left-click-y.

    John: Left-click-y. Yeah, yeah. I’m not a tax guy but for you, just for you, Tony. Would you say are you more code or regulations?

    Tony: Regulations because you get examples.

    John: Oh, that’s good. Because to me, it’s all gibberish. I’m not going to lie to you. But do you have a favorite Disney character?

    Tony: You know what? My whole life been a huge fan of that Aladdin movie so I’m going with my man, Aladdin.

    John: You know what? I get that quite a bit. That’s a pretty popular answer. How about more pens or pencils?

    Tony: Pens.

    John: Pens, alright. Sudoku or crossword puzzle?

    Tony: Crossword puzzle by far.

    John: Oh, wow. All right, all right. How about do you have a favorite number?

    Tony: Do I have a favorite number? Seven.

    John: Seven, and is there a reason?

    Tony: Yup. Because I grew up in New Jersey and spent far more time than I should have in college shooting crabs in Atlantic City.

    John: Right. There we go, there we go. How about are you more boxers or briefs?

    Tony: Neither.

    John: Neither. You just go —

    Tony: No. I’m kidding. Boxers.

    John: That’s awesome. How about do you have a favorite actor or actress?

    Tony: Give me Val Kilmer in Tombstone seven days a week.

    John: Oh, there you go. Yeah. Now, that’s a solid answer. Solid answer. How about are you more early bird or night owl?

    Tony: Early bird. Yeah, I’m very much an early bird.

    John: Early bird? Yeah. All right, two more, two more. You have a favorite band or musician?

    Tony: I do, yeah. Far and away. Not one that a lot of people probably familiar with but a singer song writer name Butch Walker.

    John: Nice, nice. And the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?

    Tony: Man, I always tell babysitters when they come over to watch the kids, in the event of a fire at the house, cleanout my garage first of all the bikes and skis and then come in and check on the kids. There’s an arsenal of bikes and skis out there in the garage. It’s like arrows in a quiver, each one has a very specific purpose and all of them have value. Save all of those first.

    John: That’s so fantastic, man. That’s so fantastic. Well, Tony, this was awesome like honestly, this was so, so good. Thank you so much for being with me on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Tony: Oh, John. Thanks so much for having me and I love what you’re doing.

    John: That was really, really fun. I particularly love how Tony said, “If I let the passions part of me die, then everything in my life is going to suffer.” That is so great. That he recognized that and that WithumSmith+Brown also understood that. Because it’s hard to remember that firms hire the whole person not just the accounting or law or technical part so it’s important to take time to nurture all sides of your team.

    If you’d like to see some pictures of Tony racing his mountain bike or about to ski down some crazy mountain and connect with him on social media, go to greenapplepodcast.com. And the show us his own Twitter handle at @GreenApplePod so follow us there. Thank you so much for sharing this with your friend so that they get the message that we’re all trying to spread which is to go out and be a green apple.

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