If you read the SEC filings for publicly traded companies, there is a portion called “Management Discussion & Analysis”. In this section of the filing, management interprets the financial statements and sometimes they discuss off-balance sheet liabilities that are not otherwise documented or possibly assigned to a footnote in the filing. This information isn’t exactly hidden, but it can easily be overlooked. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) allows for off-balance sheet liabilities to be disclosed in this manner.
In November of 2009, I’ve implemented a new Generally Accepted Accounting Principle: I am scouring the footnotes of my life and the lives of my friends and family (aka “clients”) for off-balance sheet ASSETS.
Off-Balance Sheet Assets are the things that matter the most but are measured the least, if they are measurable at all.
This has not been a fun year for anyone that I know. Some have lost jobs, others have lost companies or gone into bankruptcy, and all of us have seen our personal balance sheets suffer. It’s easy to get depressed and discouraged by these personal tragedies and struggles, and I have slipped into that abyss several times over the course of the past year, but not anymore. Now, all I feel is gratitude.
I’m grateful that our clients are O.K., that they weathered the financial equivalent of a category 5 hurricane (aka Hurricane Freddie and Fannie). I’m grateful for my family and friends. I’m grateful for our health and for this season. I’m grateful for the roof over my head. I’m grateful for the opportunities I have to help others, even if it’s just smiling at them.
Sir Winston Churchill wrote, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” I’m not suggesting that we all take a Pollyanna world view and ignore the legitimate struggles that we face. Rather, I am acknowledging that I am not in control of the stock market or the economy or government policy. The only thing I can control is my attitude and I have chosen to be grateful because I really should be. Life is a miracle and we’re surrounded by miracles every day. We’ve conditioned ourselves to ignore them by being busy, and when we fail to recognize them, we lose perspective.
Apply this new Generally Accepted Accounting Principle to your own life. Take out a yellow pad and write down the things you are grateful for, especially the little things. After five or ten minutes, or two hours, it starts to really sink in. It will not materially change the struggles that we are facing, but it does put them into perspective, and that’s what helps us to make it through them. Some of the best things that ever happened to me were the worst things that ever happened to me at the time they were occurring. If we gain the proper perspective while getting through these tough times, then they become fruitful, and they could become the best times to ever happen to us and our families.