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Member Spotlight: Josh McLean

June 20, 2024 / 12:56 / E15

In this special episode of the CFI Member Spotlight, host Anna Talerico sits down with finance professional Josh McLean, a Finance Director at Nike and currently participating in their innovative Finance Leadership Rotational Program.

Anna explores Josh’s high-impact career, including his roles as an author, board member, mentor, startup advisor, and investor. His dedication to lifelong learning and professional development is demonstrated by his incredible achievement of all three levels of the CFA and his FMVA from CFI.

Josh shares his inspiring journey, from overcoming significant challenges in high school and college to achieving professional success, where he blends his finance expertise with a passion for personal growth. He emphasizes the importance of intentionality, balancing professional and personal life, and his philosophy of continuous improvement.

This episode provides inspiration for anyone pursuing a fulfilling career in finance and professional development. If you’re seeking motivation to stay committed to your professional and personal goals, this is a must-listen.


Anna Talerico (00:13)
Welcome back to another CFI member spotlight. I am thrilled to be here with Josh McLean. This is a conversation that is a long time coming. I have been wanting to sit down with, yes, I’ve been wanting to sit down with you for so long to share your story with our members. And so thank you for being here today.

Josh McLean (00:23)
Long time. Long time.

I’m really happy to be here and I’m glad that our calendar is finally aligned. I think it’s been since last summer, so super happy to be on.

Anna Talerico (00:40)
Thank you. Thank you. So I can don’t think I could do an introduction of you justice, but I’m going to give it a try. You are a finance professional having what many would say is, you know, a dream role and a dream, you know, path to this role today and wherever the role takes you in the future. But on top of that, you are an author. You are a board member on several boards. You are a startup advisor. You are a startup investor. There is, I think not

too many things you don’t do and probably most importantly, you are a dad, a father, a person very devoted to your family. So there’s not much that you don’t do, Josh, except maybe sleep. But I don’t know, you take such good care of yourself, you probably sleep too.

Josh McLean (01:13)


No, it’s crazy when you put all that together. It does feel like a lot sometimes, but I am very thoughtful about what I want to invest in is how I view it. It’s an investment of time.

Anna Talerico (01:33)
Yeah, and I’m excited to talk to you about that today too, because that’s one of the things I think that you share your story so generously, you share your philosophy and your approach to your own personal development and how you think about your life. And I think it’s so inspiring. So I want to make sure we spend a lot of time on that today too. But I have to first say how we got connected, because it’s always so interesting to me, you know, just these connections that we make even through LinkedIn.

You at one point last year shared that you received your FMBA from CFI. And I see a lot of these shares, but yours was notable to me because you are a person who’s had so far really rich and rewarding career in finance. And to see somebody being a lifelong learner at this stage of your career, I was compelled to reach out and connect with you. And then from there, I learned there’s so much to Josh McLean.

Josh McLean (02:25)

Anna Talerico (02:26)
And again, somebody you just share your wisdom and your story so generously. So I’ve just been really excited to sit down and without further ado, I’d love to get started. Okay, let’s do it. So I’m gonna probably take this a little bit in two paths because there’s so much going on with you in terms of your personal development and how you are intentional about your time and your energy and just how you progress. But just on the career path, tell me first,

Josh McLean (02:36)
Yeah, let’s do it.

Anna Talerico (02:54)
Did you set out to have a career in finance? Like what’s your origin story, you know, going back to before you ever landed your first role in finance?

Josh McLean (03:00)

Now I would say if you looked at Josh today, you’re like, okay, he’s at Nike, he’s in finance, I have some fancy letters after my name, MBA, CFA, now the FMVA, like these things that externally, you have these preconceived notions about what you think Josh might be like, or how did Josh get there? Rewind the clock coming out of high school and college, I had no clue. I was aimless.

You know, as I shared on LinkedIn recently, I spent more times, in the, unsober area, if you would rather than apply myself. I didn’t have a clue. I had a political science undergrad. So I came out of college with political science, stumbled into my first career. And it wasn’t until somebody told me, Josh, you seem to be really good with numbers is when the light bulb, that first light bulb really went off for me. I’m like,

I was working on a business project related to some inventory management and I was just really having fun. And so that question propelled me to go explore what finance was, what does it mean to be members? And so I’ve done kind of the advisory space with Ameriprise financial advisors. I got into a small company, it’s kind of software development space. I’ve worked at healthcare, now in that consumer goods space with Nike. So I certainly did not start out with

business or numbers back in the day.

Anna Talerico (04:25)
This is so important for people to hear because just like the preconceived notion somebody might have about you, given just the letters after your name and the path that you’ve had, I think there’s a preconceived notion in general that you have to follow this very orderly, very specific step -by -step to get any role in finance. And yet, when I talk to professionals, so many kind of stumbled into it or found it. It found them in some ways.

And in your case, somebody wise enough in your life to say, hey, you’re pretty good with numbers and you may be connecting the data of like, yeah, I really like this actually. So what were some of those first roles in finance? Like, what was, how did, and how did you get that first role in finance once you decided you were going to go after it?

Josh McLean (05:13)
I think we’ll get into it in a little bit, but you know the early on it was well numbers. What does that even mean? So I had to figure out, you know, try to what are careers? numbers kind of means finance. Okay, well literally going on a search browser, but what are careers in finance? I had no idea. I literally was just at squared negative a hundred. I wasn’t even in precursory. I just didn’t know and so.

I ran into financial services as something that I’m like, I did somewhere deep inside me want to be of service and value. And so financial services and numbers seem to be something that I could do that helps people. So that’s kind of how I got my journey into Ameriprice financials. Started out as a advisor and then got promoted to the youngest district manager. And so there was some traction there, but I realized that I…

I enjoy the tangible nature of helping people and sometimes financial services is such a long game relative to you probably provide some advice, they take action years past and I really was interested in kind of seeing those short -term victories and so that’s where I got into more of the corporate finance space. What I call, which we probably will impact is the choose your own adventure advice that I give to anybody that I mentor is I really leaned into

once I got a few years in finance to say, hey, there’s something here. And most people get really lasered in on I have to do X and it’s a job title focused. I zoomed out and said, what are three paths that are totally different within finance? So I kind of widened my aperture and I said, what are three different paths? And I said, I don’t know which path is going to be true or which one will actually come to fruition, but each one, one, two, and three, I will be wildly excited if they’re true. And so I did that.

And that opened up more creativity and a little bit less resistance to just go test, explore, hypothesis, fail, do another hypothesis. And so that’s really how I’ve gotten from a mirror prize to Nike in my journey.

Anna Talerico (07:13)
And what’s interesting about that is it’s this blend of being open to the path, revealing itself in some ways, but yet being so intentional and thoughtful about it at the same time, right? Which is an interesting balance because I think a lot of times people have this very rigorous idea or they just kind of go with the flow, but you in some ways married that to say there are these paths and I’m going to be intentional and thoughtful about them, but any of them would be.

Josh McLean (07:27)
It is a balance.

Anna Talerico (07:41)
Something that you would be interested in open to, right?

Josh McLean (07:44)
And it’s always a balance of people tend to say, I’ll, I’m looking for something and it’s so broad that people can’t really help. And it’s so broad. They don’t really, they’re overwhelmed by the choices in front of them. And so the other alternative is, well, it has to be X role at X company and X timeframe. And so the sense of heaviness and rigidity comes in and then when that doesn’t happen or it happens in, you know, layoffs occur or something happens where they’re no longer there, then they feel a sense of

shame or some feelings that become disempowering. And so getting to that spot of creativity and a hypothesis really starts to open up for people, I can have fun in my career is one of the things that I try to encourage people of careers don’t have to be soul sucking. They can actually be rewarding, fulfilling, and you don’t have to, as I told you before in the intro, love your career, love your job,

thrive without the ritual sacrifice of your family or core values, I believe that can be true anywhere.

Anna Talerico (08:45)
Anywhere and you are paving the way and showing people that’s true. You’re dropping lots of Easter eggs to topics I cannot wait to come back to. I cannot wait. So let’s go. You say, Ameriprise this role might not be right for me. I want some more tangible, quicker wins. So what was that next role and how did you get that then going from financial services and advisory to that next thing?

Josh McLean (08:52)

Yeah, yeah. So rewind the clock. I’m in Ameriprise. I love what I realized in hindsight. I love teaching frameworks. Like that’s my zona genius of trying to help teach frameworks and then having those aha moments go off for people. That’s actually what I loved about financial services because you can see those light, the eyes go, the light bulb goes off and like, I can do this. And I now know my next step. That’s where.

Josh starts to go amplified in terms of impact. You get me in a room teaching a framework, all bets are off. But at the time, I realized that I actually did relatively well in math class back in high school. And I didn’t have anybody to really, somebody told me that I should go explore that, but I didn’t have a support network. I didn’t have mentors that really helped me walk through my self doubt, walk through uncertainty and the fear. And so I chose alcohol over education

is the honest truth. And so at a Ameriprise a light bulb went off and I said, there’s something here. And so I looked at all the people, you know, researching, LinkedIn was kind of relatively new back then. And I realized that I saw a common thread of MBA and CFA. And so I said, well, I do things a little bit intense. When I go, I go all in. And so I decided to work full time

and go pursue my MBA in finance and my CFA. And so fast forward, I completed a pass to all three levels of the CFA tests simultaneously while getting a 3 .9, which I would say is an achievement, but I don’t even know how I did it. It was kind of the zombie years of a lot of studying too much coffee. And that, getting through that allowed me to open the door to say, okay, now there’s three different finance paths. There’s…

For me, it was like venture capital, private equity, and then corporate finance. Those are my three choose your own adventures. It just so happened that corporate finance was the first door that kind of opened. And I’ve just been opening more doors ever since.

Anna Talerico (11:09)
Okay. We have to take one minute moment and talk about passing all three levels of your CFA, getting your MBA and working a full time job. And I, you had a family at that point or you were married, right? Okay.

Josh McLean (11:13)

No, I was married. Actually, I joke, I went from like two degrees to two kids, because we had kids back to back. They’re 14 months apart. And so there was a season of life that I don’t know that I fully remember what happened or anything, because it was really all in on education. And then we went all in on kids. And so there was definitely the zombie years for sure.

Anna Talerico (11:29)

I’m going to go to bed.

Yeah, yeah. What do you think, and I know we’re gonna spend some time on this, but what do you think got you through that intense period for your education? That’s such a commitment. Many people would wake up in the morning and say, I’m gonna go do that. Many people probably before you have said, I’m gonna go do the CFA, I’m gonna get all three levels, I’m gonna get my MBA, and then fizzle at some point.

What do you think is it about you or how you are approaching things that had you commit to that and then actually finish it?

Josh McLean (12:14)
That’s a good question, one that I spend a lot of time, you know, coffee shop conversations or informal virtual coffee chats. Like how did you do it? And that was the genesis of my book actually is those questions. I’m like, I can do one to one, but I wanted to go one to many and say, hey, here’s how I did it. It may not be the right way for you, but I can just share my personal experience. And I would share with your audience two things. One is you got to find a goal that is…

so ambitious and so crazy and then you just go, you just say, I’m gonna get to it. Like this is the goal and you say whatever it takes. And so for me, I had people, my boss at the time, everyone told me I was crazy, but I knew that this was a goal that was possible and this was, this felt crazy and something that I was willing to commit to. So I made the commitment and that phrase, whatever it takes, okay, great, check you have the goal.

One of the things that I like coaching people on is to what I call reverse engineer success, meaning, well, you can’t just pass, let’s say level one. That’s actually, that’s a goal, but it’s actually not an action you take. You have to reverse engineer to say, well, what does it take? Well, you got to go through and then there’s so many different books and chapters. And so I basically broke it down and I just had a daily roadmap of here’s what success looks like today. So passing level one felt impossible along with everything else, but I knew that

these were the three actions that I needed to take today. If I did those, then I knew that I was one step closer and I was on the right track. So I basically defined the mountain and then I reverse engineered to say, what needs to be done today? And I just kept on looking down to say, one more step, one more step, one more step. And so that actually released a lot of the anxiety or stress of like, well, I don’t know, how’s this all gonna happen? And so by doing that, I just put the blinders on and said, here’s my MBA actions.

Anna Talerico (13:52)

Josh McLean (14:03)
Right, here’s my CFA actions. And so I really did CFA in the morning and I did MBA in the evening. And that’s as simple as it sounds. That was my, that was my success path.

Anna Talerico (14:15)
Well, it does sound simple only in that this is true for personal goals as well as I find executing plans internally and organizations is you have to have a plan. And when you really look at things that somebody doesn’t achieve the goals they set out to or a company has a plan, but they don’t actually, or they have a goal or a strategy, but they don’t actually execute against it. It’s usually because there’s a lack of a detailed plan

of just one step in front of the other, right? And that can feel like at work, it can feel like really in the weeds or something, but that isn’t the work, you know? So I think it applies both at work and in our personal development and personal goals setting too, yeah.

Josh McLean (14:58)
As you notice in my background, there’s a bunch of books and some of those are actually on the science of progress. And one of the things that intrigued me the most was it’s not, people don’t shy away from hard work, they actually want goals that are meaningful and exciting to them. What really drains people is feeling the lack of progress. And so as a leader, either it’s in the family, like leading yourself or leading your family or your team.

It’s about helping the team define meaningful progress in short bursts so they don’t feel this future goal is unattainable and you’re just grinding every day and you’re like, not sure. So celebrating the progress and the victory is really what helps you feel energized because people want to go get after big goals is what I believe.

Anna Talerico (15:41)
Yep, absolutely. So before we move on, you touched on your book and you touched on the books behind you. So I have to just say, I really recommend everybody read Catalyst. It’s available. You can find it on Amazon or your bookstore of choice. But I say that because it’s inspiring, but it also provides a framework. And true, Josh, you know, kind of a way of being like it gives concrete steps and actions and ways for people to think about their own goal attainment and what’s going to work for them. So,

I had to stop and say, you are a published author and the book is both inspiring and actionable. And so I think I love that you took what you went through and put that down in writing. So, okay, so really let’s, I want to finish up a couple other things on your career path and then we’ve got to take some steps backwards. But so you, you have those three choices, your private equity venture, corporate finance, you get your MBA, you get your CFA.

So you get your first role in corporate finance. What was your first role in corporate finance?

Josh McLean (16:42)
I’ve worked, I’ve kind of switched jobs during my MBA program. So I was in a healthcare software, basically a VAR, so value added reseller for GE. So GE had their medical practice software and we had an analytics package that went around it and did some support. So I was working there when I graduated and the economy, it was 08, 09 and the economy was less than great at the time. And so I really sat.

Not knowing what to do, honestly, I’m like, I have this vision, this dream, and then the economy didn’t match my expectations. And I do want to say that I encountered my first mentor after that. And that person really helped me change the trajectory of my life. And so people ask me like, why are you so motivated with catalysts or your book or anything else? And it’s really, I didn’t have anybody that really sat down and said, Josh, I’m for you. There was always some kind of ulterior motive or

something or they didn’t want to give me the time. And so having somebody in your corner that just is for you without any requirements is something that’s valuable. So that’s my sidebar. I really was looking for roles. My first job that I got that was really in corporate finance was with Cambia Health Solutions. They’re a Regents Blue Cross Blue Shield provider in the local Oregon area. So I went into there doing strategic finance, so a blend of kind of

corporate FP &A budget forecasting along with business case. And it was really around digital transformation was like my area of specialty.

Anna Talerico (18:13)
Okay, and then from there, did you move that into your current role or was there some other stop in between?

Josh McLean (18:19)
No, I applied for Nike. Nike was always the tallest mountain I could see as a little kid. I was like, you know, what can you do? And so I want to get some goals. I want to go after big things. And Nike, Nike was the biggest mountain. And so I applied for Nike. There were some some interviews that were occurring, but then this company in the local area called Kinder Care Education, you may be familiar with them. They they called me based on my LinkedIn profile. So as a little

sidebar, your LinkedIn profile is your best marketing tool for anybody looking for, how do I look for a role? Kid or Care reached out to me and said, hey, would you be willing to talk to us about this finance role? And at the time, they gave me an offer before Nike could. So I thought Nike was packed away in the suitcase, in the closet, and I went with their after school line of business called Champions. Kind of acted in a line of business CFO type role doing full P&L

capital allocations, some &A activity, kind of really everything in that goal, partnering with their brand president. Three years passed, it was a best role, best company, they were really like textbook, engaged leadership, it was all wonderful, but Nike was still gnawing at me. So I was actually in the airport in Las Vegas, and I just couldn’t get out of my head, so I reached out to my Nike recruiter and I said, are you still with Nike? And they said, yep, and about three days later,

It was a Saturday morning when she sent me a text message saying, hey, check your email. And there was two job descriptions of people that wanted to talk. So that quickly turned into two job offers with Nike. And that started my journey with really engaging with Nike around their digital and direct transformation.

Anna Talerico (20:02)
And see this is, you know, when things don’t always come right away, when we keep our sights on them, you know, sometimes the door is not closed, it’s just closed for right now, or, you know, a left ajar Wow, incredible.

Josh McLean (20:10)

Well, let me connect those dots super quick because I had always been knocking on Nike’s front door. Nike, hey, look at me, look at me. I didn’t know wholesale, I didn’t know supply chain. I went to not a fancy school, I went to kind of a local university. On paper at the time, was Josh really exciting? Probably not so much, but I was still passionate. I never stopped knocking. Well, my journey through Cambia,

Anna Talerico (20:18)

Josh McLean (20:43)
which I worked through agile methodology and financial forecasting and through Kindercare, those two things actually allowed me to stand out on my application for Nike because they were looking for somebody who understood agile methodology and financial forecasting. And so that was for me like, I’ve done that. I can do this at Nike. And so that journey that felt windy path actually helped me get the thing that I wanted to. So never, never doubt to your point.

You never know how the dots connect.

Anna Talerico (21:13)
You never do, and a windy path gives you exposure to things you wouldn’t necessarily otherwise see, which in your case was how you kicked the door open. Amazing. Okay, so it’s hard to talk about our professional careers without talking about the personal side. And after we connected, because again, I was just, wow, here’s somebody who’s kind of

on a dream path and clearly has progressed in his career and he’s sharing that he got the FMVA and I wanted to know more about being that lifelong learner. So that was our initial connection. But after that, then quickly I saw this whole other side of Josh and one that was just humble and fully present and so generous with sharing his life. And so let’s just talk a little bit about that and maybe.

You shared your origin story. You glossed over high school and early college. Let’s share the origin story going back to your high school and early college years.

Josh McLean (22:14)

I do and I do want to make sure that we come back and I actually didn’t describe why the FMVA was the right decision. So I do want to come back to that because I think it is important for people to know on, hey, you reached the mountain, right? You were at Nike. So why continue doing something else? I do think there’s an important lesson that I’d love to share. But for the origin story, so my mom was a single parent. She was literally told,

Anna Talerico (22:31)

Josh McLean (22:42)
Women don’t belong in the workplace. And so there was a lot of stress in the house and just in terms of trying to survive and make the ends meet. And so I grew up with this connection that work was stressful and then not meeting my dad. There’s a lot of things that as a kid I was just trying to figure out. And so to mask that anger and self doubt, I was playing basketball, but I blew my knee out. And so I really turned to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism

to just get through the day. I was, as I shared on LinkedIn recently, I was actually, my school admitted me to drug rehab when I was a sophomore, right? One of the most embarrassing or shameful moments if I choose to let it be. So I was admitted. Luckily, my mom took me out and moved down that path, but then actually went to college and dropped out after my first term. I was like, okay, I had got back into the cycle. And so I was clueless. I was absolutely clueless.

And as I mentioned before, that light bulb went off after graduating. It’s like, there’s actually something more just inside me burning to just contribute. And so that really ignited my own personal development path. And most of my early work was external, meaning, hey, let me go read, you know, 80 -20 and figure out how do I be more productive or…

I need to do this skill or this hack And so it was all trying to be externally better, but it never actually worked on kind of the internal Josh and the stuff that I had tucked away in the closet and never talked about. And then in 2014, I was rear ended, suffered a traumatic brain injury, which had body pains. I laid on the floor for many months straight, just couldn’t get out of the pain.

I had headaches, I had to learn how to read again through vision therapy. So there was definitely many years that were just a dark season and I really lost the will to live. And I had to dig deep to figure out how do I get past that. And that’s really where you see pre -car accident, I had this cardboard facade of what I thought success was, who I thought Josh had to be based on other people telling me. Post -car accident, in the book I talk about kicking down that cardboard facade and be like, hey,

I need to show up authentically and find a way to not play somebody else’s game. And so what you see, whether it’s on LinkedIn, this conversation or elsewhere, it’s really me just being authentic and finding that true voice. And so there’s the Nike Josh, there’s the corporate finance Josh, then there’s the catalyst Josh, it’s all about growth and advancement. And for a while I actually held those two separately. I had this like firewall, I’m like, well…

Anna Talerico (25:25)

Josh McLean (25:27)
Corporate finance, Josh can’t really talk about catalyst Josh. And so I kept it a secret because I didn’t know how to bring them together. And over the years I’ve, through some, some assistance and great coaching figured out how do I bring those and say, Hey, it’s all one person. That version shows up at Nike through finance, through advising business partners. I’ve taught Gallup strength finders workshops. I’ve taught career mentoring sessions at Nike, right? I bought external people in to speak. So that’s

still true and then externally I do things even today later today I’ll be on Nike’s campus giving an entrepreneurial presentation to some high school students so it is who I am and I just it shows up in the corporate workplace and it shows up externally and once I realize this is just who I am then it become much more easy to show up authentically and actually do the things that give me energy and that’s what I hope that everyone finds.

Anna Talerico (26:21)
Yeah, I want to come back to being authentic in personal and professional lives. But I want to first say, you know, just even sharing your struggle in high school and coming into college and then dropping out, I think is so important for people to hear because there is this, you know, external preconceived notions we have about paths to success or paths that, you know, are fulfilling. And I think even

Josh McLean (26:46)

Anna Talerico (26:49)
So many young people don’t realize you can be a mess and you can be way off track and not know what you want to do. And that, you know, there is a path out of that, right? To fulfillment and to the things that are important to you or finding those things that are even important to you when you don’t know. And I think it’s so important to hear those stories because so many people are a mess.

Right? At some point in their lives. And we don’t know it though, because they’re not authentic about it when we kind of come out the other side. So we keep the facade looking like everything’s always just been perfect. And then people don’t get to hear the stories that might inspire them or help them kind of come out of those moments when they don’t know what to do next or don’t know who they are. So how did, yeah, please.

Josh McLean (27:13)

Yep. Yep.

So here’s the, hold on one second. So I think that one of the biggest -has too was I didn’t realize it until kind of after the car accident, but as I really reflected on, okay, what journey am I on? I can no longer hold up the cardboard facade. I just can’t do it. I realized that somewhere along the way probably all implicit, like nobody actually told me

this to my face, but I had attached my identity, who I am at my core, to my job title. And I thought my job title equaled my identity, and I’ve just realized, I do a job, I have a job title, but it’s not who I am. And so then I could take, I was so freeing for me to say, well, I’m a problem solver, I solve problems with numbers, I drive insights, I could do that across any industry, any job title, and so knowing who I am,

allowed me to break through this job title identity stigma. And that’s where I see a lot of people when they lose their job or they’re looking for a new industry or career, there’s this subconscious attachment to, well, I’m in X, whatever it is, financial analyst or manager. And it’s just, once people see that fallacy, then the light bulb goes off and there’s so much more for you.

Anna Talerico (28:49)
Yeah, it’s freeing, right? And yeah. So how did you, I think I mentioned this in an email to you recently, like I hate to use the word brave about being authentic at work. But it’s the word that comes to mind. Like how did you decide or go through that process to say, I am going to be authentic and open and not.

Josh McLean (28:52)

Anna Talerico (29:11)
compartmentalize and have this cardboard. Like what was that? Was it a light bulb moment? Was it a process for you? Was it difficult those first few times you got vulnerable and real? Like share a little bit about that.

Josh McLean (29:23)
Yeah, you know, I, I would say it was it was really as traumatic as a car accident was and the recovery was really I use an analogy of it’s a it’s a you’re either an egg or a bouncy ball. And for me, I realized that I was thrown against the pavement. And some people crack, right, and they crumble like an egg and they just splatter. And others are a bouncy ball and the harder you throw them against the concrete, the higher they

they rise up and it really comes down to it’s a choice. And so for me, I realized I have a choice on how I choose to show up and actually share with people. So it really started with my individual one -on -ones. I had a team and I was like, hey, I’m going to bring authenticity into my one -on -one conversations. I don’t really know the larger team structure or corporate. I don’t trust that yet. So I’m just going to start with one-on-one and

the feedback, you know, just the actual real conversations and asking people, well, what are they dealing with and how can I support them as a leader really started to get some traction and energy. And so that started with larger groups. And then eventually, like the next step is to be courageous, kind of in that digital space and share more on LinkedIn. And so it was really a step of even people reading my book, like, Hey, that was encouraging. I’m going through X, Y, Z. And you gave me the courage to do, to do something that they didn’t know how to do.

So seeing those little glimmers of hope really helped me understand that my purpose on Earth is much larger than whatever spreadsheet that may be fancy, whatever PowerPoint deck. What I can do is much larger than that. So that’s kind of the overall kind of quick story.

Anna Talerico (30:58)
Thank you. And this is gonna be a big broad question so that you can answer it in whatever way feels right right now because you mentioned your purpose, you know, your purpose. I love your LinkedIn bio right now talking about loving your career, loving your life, thriving. You do a lot of work around your purpose and you’re very intentional about where you put your time and your energy and just give us a sense of, I don’t know if it’s your framework or how you think about these things. You’ve shared some of how you think about these things and do them on LinkedIn, but

just tell us a little bit about the work that you do on yourself to show up in the way that you want to show up and achieve the things you want to achieve or spend time where you want to spend time. How do you think about that?

Josh McLean (31:37)
Might need a whole week of just going through the workshop. But I think somebody made a comment to me, I think it was last week or week before, and they’re like, you do everything. And this, once again, preconceived notions based on what I’m sharing, they have this sense of almost, they were acknowledging some element of like, hey, you’re doing good work, but also this sense of like, I’m not doing enough. And I’m like, hey, I.

Anna Talerico (31:38)
I know, we do, I know.

Josh McLean (31:57)
I’m not doing everything. What you see is a very, it’s very intentional. And so I have a couple of things that I do. One is, if you think through finance, right, ZVB or zero -based budgeting, I have a kind of a zero -based budgeting prioritization for my activity. So my family kind of energetically gets my first fruits of energy and being present. And so while you may see me on LinkedIn or like, you must be so busy and XYZ tomorrow, which will be a Saturday, I’ll be sitting on the couch playing Nintendo Switch with my kids.

I’ll be playing Mario Kart, probably losing, but that’s okay. Cause I, the family gets the first part of like, Hey, here’s, here’s what you need for me to be there, to be present as a dad. Nike gets number two in terms of kind of that corporate because they’re, they’re my bread and butter. That’s, that’s what I do in a day to day basis. Number three is actually mentoring and serving kind of that pro bono work. So people that want to meet with me, they’re in high school or college. And so number four,

Anna Talerico (32:30)
I’m gonna go to bed.

Josh McLean (32:54)
on the list, which seems pretty low, is actually the work I do under Catalyst Ignite. I get really a lot of energy from it, but it is sequential. So I know that on some days I just can’t do anything with Catalyst or Mentoring because Nike and family takes priority one. And so I have a really clear prioritization list. And then I’m also clear on what gives me energy. One of my early mistakes was trying to do everything that everybody else was doing. And so I looked at…

You know, what Joe was doing, what Sally was doing. And I was like, well, that’s good. Therefore I should be doing it. And I realized that I need to find what gives Josh energy. And so that allows me to say no to a lot of good opportunities because it’s not aligned. So if I tactically, well, what does that mean tactically? I was approached recently to join a couple of board positions and they were good organizations, super interesting work

but I want to spend my energy more on the youth space. And so their mission and purpose wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t really aligned to my core activity. And so by saying yes to them, I would have been saying no to the things that actually give me energy. And so you have to get really good about what is the absolute yes aligned to energy because everything else is going to drain you. And then you get frustrated that shows up at work, that shows up in…

family and so those are my two big kind of frameworks.

Anna Talerico (34:25)
That’s helpful. And because so many people just do what they think they’re supposed to do or, somebody asked me to be on a board, of course I have to say yes or should say yes. But if you’re thoughtful about where you want, where do you want to direct your energy and what gives you energy, then we make such better choices, you know? So one more big broad question and then I’ve got a couple little ones. I think that answering this could also take us a week. We could just sit here and talk about this all week. But if you had to give advice, which you do, I know a lot.

Josh McLean (34:32)

Anna Talerico (34:53)
To somebody who is saying, I want to have a fulfilling, energizing, successful career in finance, what kind of advice of somebody with it starting out and just getting started would you give to them?

Josh McLean (35:07)
I think the first advice, there’s a lot of, I will say, buzzwords in there, right, that are fulfilling and successful. I think it comes down to understanding, like, what does that mean to you personally? And then the double click that I usually do is to sidestep kind of the job title conversation. It usually is the first, I want to be, I got to be this job title. I really think it comes down to, well, tell me,

who you are, where are those moments where you’ve done the highest point of work, the project you’re most proud of, it doesn’t have to be in finance at all, but it’s really taking those moments to say, where were you at your best? Where did you have the highest energy? And then trying to translate that and to say, well, what type of finance role or career path would that mean? Because some people are really good, like there’s finance people that all they wanna do is be heads down in the spreadsheets, they’re…

They’re the macros, they’re the coders, they’re the people that are just like, give me a headphone, give me a venti, Starbucks, and leave me alone and I will make the most beautiful spreadsheet that you’ve ever seen. Right? Those people don’t really enjoy the human interaction. They want to get to like the technology engineering side of things. There’s other people that like me, I actually want to be sitting at the table with non-finance leaders and helping visionaries translate their vision

into actionable executing plans. And so those, you have to understand where do you do your best work and that really defines the type of roles, the companies, the industries. And then once you have that knowledge, you’re no longer looking at a job title saying, please choose me, please tell me that I’m okay. You actually have the strength to say, hey, this is who I am. For Josh, I solve problems using numbers.

Anna Talerico (36:36)

Josh McLean (37:01)
Okay, well, tell me about the role. And if they want somebody to be, you know, sitting solo on a spreadsheet, talking to just other finance people all day, I’m not your guy. Like, and I, that’s not a bad thing, but you need somebody who actually wants to do that, and gets energy from that, and would rather do anything else but talk to a leader. So really owning who you are helps define finance careers. And so that would be my first advice.

Anna Talerico (37:25)
I love that. I love that. And you hit on something actually that I need to come back to really quickly, which is, you know, the phrase like, you know, strategic finance or finances strategic is so overused, but you talked about it in a way that shows what it really means, which is there’s certainly the number cruncher side of, you know, that people can go down that path and just stay in a spreadsheet all day long. And, but there’s this finance today is around

helping business strategy actually take shape, right? And actually get done. And so much about the role. Somebody recently said like, finance is sexy. And when I was trying to say, well, what do you mean by that? You know, there’s this, it’s that it touches all the parts of the business and it helps the business, right? Get things done and executed and stay focused and stay…

true to what the strategic direction of the company is. I think that’s a side that people don’t realize. Like, finance is out meeting with the cross -functional teams. Yeah, yeah. Okay, well, let’s go back to what on earth possesses Josh who has all three levels of a CFA and his MBA to get his FMBA? Because I love it. I love that you’re a lifelong learner. But just, yeah, what tells us about that choice?

Josh McLean (38:28)
Totally. Totally.


Yeah, you know, that’s definitely one of the biggest stories I was hoping to share. Like, well, what does that look like? Because sometimes you’re trying to figure out how do I make a decision or what do I do? And I think it ties. I’ll tell my story. And then definitely, I think it ties to some of the earlier conversations around, well, how do I break in if you’re looking to get into finance or if you’re in finance, you’re like, I want to be on this other side of finance. So we went in the clock through and it’s actually one of those things where publishing my book opened up.

Anna Talerico (38:52)

Josh McLean (39:15)
An entirely different world of people and connections in terms of being on podcasts. Before COVID, I was on podcasts and that kind of opened up this, ooh, this is a different world that I never saw just by sitting at my desk, cranking on a spreadsheet. And that door, so post -COVID, kind of put my head back up saying, okay, where’s the world at, where I’m at, what I wanna do. I knew that the kind of,

non-corporate side or that startup side was still there. And so I had people in my network that we would meet and I would talk about, here’s what I’m, I’m still interested in. I don’t want to lead corporate at this point, but there’s other things that give me energy and excitement. And so that connecting with somebody who was looking to do a kind of business case, a pitch deck for a startup that was around a part of finance that I had never dealt with.

And so he was asking me, would I come on and advise him to do a golf course &A deal? So I had done some &A due diligence, but I’d never been kind of on that side. And nor did I know anything about golf courses. I have purchased a set of clubs, but I have not really gone, I’m just, I’m not a golfer. And so it was one of those things where,

Anna Talerico (40:25)
That was my next question.


Josh McLean (40:36)
but the problem was interesting. It was actually a really cool course. And I talked with him, I was like, well, here’s the deal. I, because I was giving him business advice and strategies, like, well, will you be kind of my, you know, pseudo CFO on the deal? And I said, we can do that. But I knew I didn’t have kind of the brass tacks mechanics of how to take it kind of start to finish. And so when I looked around, I said, well, the CFA is great. In some cases, it becomes more

theoretical and there’s not as much application. In my corporate finance experience, it didn’t go through VC or private equity. And so for me, there was a sense of, I know it, but I haven’t actually done it for 10 years. And so there was a little bit of imposter syndrome, if I’m honest. And so I looked at companies, organizations, training, whatever it may be, that who can help me up -level my skills? Because I knew exactly where my gap was and I knew what I wanted. And so I researched.

Anna Talerico (41:22)
Let’s go.

Josh McLean (41:33)
probably for a couple of weeks looking at different places and that’s when I stumbled across your organization looking at the value proposition and the actual training. And I would say CFI was for me, head and heels over other organizations that allowed kind of that a holistic view of what is it? What are we doing here? But also giving you the tools and the practice step that was actually real life,

use case type examples that kind of blew me out of the water. And so I did that before I jumped into doing some of the golf course &A deal.

Anna Talerico (42:05)
Incredible. Thank you. I’m really thank you for sharing that. And I what I and what fuels all of us at CFI is hearing people say, you know, it was so practical and I could do it and then I could go actually sit in the chair and do the work. And that’s what we want people to feel like empowered, drop some imposter syndrome that everybody has at some point, you know, and just feel like I see sometimes, you know, a kid comes out of college and they’ve been studying finance even and they say, well, I’ve never actually

Josh McLean (42:26)
Total it.

Anna Talerico (42:34)
built a model or don’t even really know what, you know. And so I think what more than anything fuels all of our instructors is that, you know, wanting people to feel empowered and confident in their skills. So I’m, thank you for sharing that. I appreciate it. And.

Josh McLean (42:35)

And I’ve used some of that even, I was like, okay, fast forward. And then I got approached about this AI fintech startup and I was like, I now have a little bit more confidence because I had done the golf course. And so we talked about it and I was like, yeah, I know exactly what templates I’m gonna go look at because I’m just like, what could I use for my tool belt? Because now I have this toolbox of, I may not use everything. People have talked about some real estate. I’m like, I’m not gonna go that route yet

or now and so I’m like, I don’t need that in my toolbox, but I still have it. It’s still a tool in my toolbox, but I’m gonna use this tool today and so that’s where the breadth of tools and I would say just the actual practical examples definitely blew me away.

Anna Talerico (43:32)
Thank you. Thank you. That’s very good to hear. That’s exactly what we want. So I appreciate that. So, you know, Josh, if I, I think anybody listening is going to pull what they need to hear from this, but some of the things I hope that they pull is,

Being intentional about where we put our time and our energy and what we prioritize is important no matter what stage of life you’re in. That when, that people, I love going back to our first few moments together, you talked about these external preconceived notions. You know, you look at somebody and we see them just digitally or we just see them kind of on the outside.

And there’s this idea that it was this perfect path or that it was very tidy and linear steps. And I hope that people hear that it’s not like that for most people, you know, for many people. And we just, people don’t share their stories the way that you do. You’re so generous about that. So I hope that this people hear and pull from that it’s not always perfect. It’s not always a perfect path, but there is a path forward

you know, and going back to being intentional and thoughtful about it.

Josh McLean (44:46)
100%. I think the…

Wherever you’re at today, your adversity doesn’t define you. Whatever you’ve been through, it doesn’t define who you are. And I think one of the biggest things that it’s kind of, it’s almost, I expect to see it now, even though before it was a little bit surprising, is people tend to think whatever they’re at today, whatever circumstances they’re today, are gonna be permanent.

And so they get a little bit of disempowered and they think, well, this is never going to change. And they start using language that reinforces it. But if you look back, life is about seasons. Some seasons are going to be great. It’s warm. It’s nice. You’re in the pool. Some seasons are going to be cold. It’s snowy and I don’t like snow. So that’s the worst season ever. But it’s a matter of realizing that your circumstances aren’t permanent and they can change. And you have this ability to decide which mountain you want to climb. And

go forward and it’s not going to be straight path. You’re going to have get kicked off. But if you pick a goal, pick a mountain that is so like no matter what I’m going to meet, meet to that goal. I didn’t get to Nike in the timeframe I wanted to. I didn’t get to my goals in the timeframe I set out initially, but I still got there because I was persistent and I knew that this is what I wanted to do. And so that would be the biggest thing is understand that you, you can change the trajectory of your life. And it starts with defining what stuff do you take today?

To create a new path.

Anna Talerico (46:10)
And what a perfect place to end this on. So I can’t, I can’t know where to go from there. Really thank you for doing this. And I want to tell people to get Catalyst. I really mean it. Inspiring and yet also actionable. You know, it’s just a perfect blend of that, but also LinkedIn is a great place to get to know you and just follow along and see what you’re up to. A man of many hats that you wear.

Josh McLean (46:13)

Totally. Yes.

Anna Talerico (46:37)
So thanks for sharing your time and energy with us today. We appreciate it. I’m so grateful to have you on and I hope that you have a great Mario Kart day tomorrow. Thank you.

Josh McLean (46:49)
Thank you. Thank you very much. It was awesome.

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